Marcus/Shaw

March 24, 2007

 

George Shaw, composer of Marcus, doesn’t look like a surfer or snowboard dude although this is one of his hobbies. In the same vein he doesn’t compose like one either. I don’t care about the fact that he secretly wants to be a rock star either! He is an excellent composer and if this reviewer has any say so in what he does he will remain one, save one difference. He can handle bigger blockbuster films if given the opportunity.

Marcus, is the 18th release of Movie Score Media, coinciding with the DVD release on Warner Bros. It is yet another low budget horror film, this one taking place at Christmas time and dealing with a night of terror and violence against a man trying to reconcile with his estranged sister. No comments on the movie as this is one film that I will likely never see. But the music is another story. The opening track, “The Main Titles”, begins simply with a wonderful musical box theme and piano which seques into the strings repeating the melody with very nice harmony. It then offers a solo violin with the music box theme. “Brooke I’m Home” features the melody again except this time it is featured on the flute. “Blood Bath” offers up some string like danger chords not unlike what Pino Donaggio has done in the past. “Brooke Comes To” offers some of that good old fashion dramatic Herrmann like harmony with a dissonant horn or two to put you on the edge of your seat. All modern horror scores have to have some of the swarming bee strings and this one is no exception with “Stabben In the Neck”. Fortunately its only one track and the following cues “Nose Bleed”, “First Punch”, and “Seizure” return to a more Exorcist style of music. “Carol of Death” is in reality the well known Christmas song “Silver Bells”. It starts out sounding like yet another version of the song with a small female chorus sung well enough but pretty mundane. But as the entire 4+ minute track unfolds his orchestration turns it into something that reveals a bit more of his true signature which makes the cue an interesting one, worthy of a place on a compilation CD.

The remaining (6) tracks feature selections from other films that George has worked on. Lochness Monster, is a typical Irish sounding theme with flute and oboe solos. In fact, from the one track, you’d never know it had much to do with a monster movie save the title. The theme isn’t nearly as strong as Marcus but it is still strong enough to come through as a melody one might remember. Chandler Hall is a short but sweet somber small string orchestra piece. Revengers is a 6+ minute suite with a far eastern style, music to yet another film that is unknown to me. Rounding out the recording are short selections from Spew, Under Pressure, and The Taking.

Doing a little research on IMDB revealed that the budget to Marcus was a mere 100,000. The score sounds like one that was done to a multi million dollar film! The other (6) selections are a nice addition as they reveal more about this fresh young composer who was introduced to us by Carlsson and his company or this reviewer would have never been aware of his existence. He is well worth checking out! Recommended. As with any of Mikael produced releases, you can find them at http://www.moviescoremedia.com available as a high quality download complete with artwork for a modest price. Take a moment to visit Shaw’s website too. http://www.georgeshawmusic.com. George has a couple of other CD’s available.

Track listing

1. Main Titles (02:32)

2. Brooke, I’m Home (02:26)

3. Bloodbath (02:08)

4. Brooke Comes To (02:18)

5. Stabbed in the Neck (02:03)

6. Nose Bleed (00:54)

7. First Punch (01:03)

8. Seizure (02:42)

9. Carol of Death (04:38)

Tracks 1-9 : Score From “Marcus”

10. Theme From The Loch Ness Monster (02:22)

11. Epilogue From Spew (01:33)

12. A Bad Man Did a Terrible Thing (From Under Pressure) (01:57)

13. Suite From Revengers (06:19)

14. In Serious Trouble (From Chandler Hall) (02:12)

15. Ending Title From The Taking (05:03)

Total Duration: 00:40:10

Track listing

 

Leave it to DRG to come up with something unusual in this double album Hollywood Collector Series. Upon a first listen to it this reviewer came to the immediate conclusion that the only tie in between the two remastered albums is that they fit on a single CD. They are about as different as chow mein and pizza and each of them has their good and bad points.

Music to be Murdered by was originally released in 1958 on the Imperial label and is loosely based on material from the long running series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Alfred presents each track with his witty off the wall sense of humor that had as much appeal as some of the episodes themselves. As an example he introduces “I’ll Never Smile Again” as ‘it is inevitable I would do a recording as my measurements are 331/3-45-78’. The music is arranged and conducted by veteran television composer Jeff Alexander, who also offers two original compositions “Music To Be Murdered By” and “Suspicion”. The “Alfred Hitchcock TV Theme”, based on the now quite famous Gounod theme, is an excellent arrangement with lots of good brass and just the right amount of humor. “Suspicion”, begins with a solo female voice that almost sounds like a theremin, and then it slides into a Les Baxter style of a bongo percussion exotic lush South American music. Since Alexander worked at Capitol with Baxter, Riddle, and May one can hear a similiar style of orchestration to each of them along with his own unique arranging. “Music To Be Murdered By” is a great track of underscore material complete with danger motifs and is one that was used in various episodes. There are also 6 standards which are arranged in such a way that they nicely fit the program. Overall Jeff Alexander offers us very professional arrangements, not big band, dance, or easy listening material but an acceptable experience that anyone with an ear for some of the golden age material would like. The issue is you have to keep listening to the commentary from Alfred Hitchcock between every track and while it is witty and puts a smile on your face the first time, it gets annoying after that. There is no way to program it out, that’s the way it is recorded so you have to live with it.

Circus of Horrors was an American International British made 1960 film that attempted to offer circus thrills, pretty girls, and horror all in one and frankly failed in all three areas. It was made as a ‘B’ film with a bit more of a budget than many but is still relegated to late night television. The theme from the film turned out to be another story. “Look For A Star”, written by Tony Hatch and performed by Gary Mills turned out to be a huge hit probably out grossing the film itself! This was the time when many producers insisted on a pop vocal hit for their film to help sell it. The song itself really doesn’t have a circus sound to it at all but worked fine in the film. However, “Russian Dance”, a spinoff on the Sabre Dance, does. Also “Waltz” is a very typical hire wire type of circus music. The music is by Muir Mathieson and Franz Reizenstein and there is no designation in the liner notes at all as to who did what with score. One of the most interesting things to listen for are the references that are made to other films. “Circus Mystery”, an overall dissonant track, does sound like some of the underscore that was done for the Sherlock Holmes Universal films. “Stillness” almost begins like Cape Fear before it goes into another direction. “Dance of Death” is a french accordian cafe style music while “Latin Love” is a typical castinet style South American rhumba beat. While there are some unique underscore tracks such as “Madness”, clarinet led, and “Circus Nocturne”(no its not a nocturne), there is nothing groundbreaking about this soundtrack at all.

There is an interesting useless bit of trivia that I found out about as a result of listening to it. Each of the featured albums offers a song that is used in Flags of Our Father! “Thunderer”, which is actually the Washington Post March of Sousa and not The Thunderer is also used in Flags as well as “I’ll Walk Alone” which Clint sings at the end of the film and is also played in the Hitchcock murder album.

The remastering by Alan Silverman is fine considering the age of the material. The liner notes with pertinent information that the soundtrack collector would like to have is non existent. The liner notes are the original lp ones and do not supply a lot of pertinent information. I suspect that both of these are straight transfers from the master tapes. Considering the obscurity of the material and the lower retail cost from DRG this is one that could be in your collection. There are a few worthwhile tracks that are worth having which outweigh the negatives I have talked about in the review.

Golden Score Rating (**)

Produced by Hugh Fordin

DRG-CD-19098

Track Listing:

1. Music To Be Murdered By

2. I’ll Never Smile Again

3. I Don’t Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You

4. After You’ve Gone

5. Alfred Hitchcock TV Theme

6. Suspicion

7. Body and Soul

8. Lover Come Back To Me

9. I’ll Walk Alone

10. The Hour Of Parting

11. Look For A Star

12. Thunderer

13. Russian Dance

14. Waltz

15. Stillness

16. Circus Mystery

17. Circus Of Horrors

18. Look For A Star

19. Circus Nocturne

20. The Kill

21. Latin Love

22. Madness

23. Girlie Tent

24. Dance of Death

Russian Nights/Kunzel

March 22, 2007

 

Russian Nights is the 83rd recording done by Kunzel and the Pops with their very first and this both having the common thread of being Russian. The first recording, a digital lp, was a rousing version of the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky which I remember very well. Surprise wasn’t the word to describe how I felt when the needle jumped out of the groove as the canon exploded. My turntable was replaced within a few days (still have it today) and I was able to listen to the wonderful dynamic range of one of the very first digital recordings. Today Direct Stream Digital is a state of the art recording techinique with dynamic range greater than 120dB and frequency response from 0Hz to over 100kHz. These figures are far beyond the capabilities of the equipment you might listen to this recording on.

The 15 selections that are offered on this CD are well known standards in the Russian repertoire of short showcase pieces. Beginning with Glinka’s Russian and Ludmilla Overture from (1842) and including Khachaturian’s Love Theme from Spartacus from (1955), the works span over 100 years. Soundtrack collectors, who don’t already have it, will love the Spartacus theme. From his 1955 ballet the theme is presented to us romantically on the oboe before the yearning strains of the string section take over. It is quite a different interpretation of what North came up with for the film a few years later. Russian and Ludmilla by Glinka, father of Russian music, is the standard which many Russian composers studied. It is vibrant and rousing steeped with the Russian tradition. Also included is the often played Capriccio Espagnol, from Rimsky-Korsakov, an orchestral masterpiece of arranging. Liadov, a starter but never one to finish much, gives us Enchanted Lake and Music Box. The lake piece was to be a part of an opera Kikomora, which he started and never finished. The Music Box piece was one he wrote for piano for his son and later it has been arranged for orchestra. “Strangers In Paradise”, from Borodin’s Prince Igor has always been a favorite as well as the quirky theme from Prokofiev’s The Love For Three Oranges. The ever popular Caucasian Sketches of Ippolitov-Ivanov and a selection from Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov along with two selections of Tchaikovsky from his ballets Nutcracker Suite and Swan Lake complete the 67 minute CD.

Compilation CD’s can be a difficult choice for the buyer, especially if you have already started a collection of Russian classical music. The selections and performances are excellent, great thematic material, but there is nothing groundbreaking on this CD except for maybe the Khachaturian selection. All of the other selections are available on any number of CD’s in a infinite number of combinations. However, if you are new to some or most of this material the CD provides an excellent introduction to the fascinating world of Russian classical music. It is enough to perk your ears, wet your appetite, and you’ll want to explore more material. Like golden age film music, it is so rich in melody and wonderful orchestral arrangements one could picture all of the composers writing for pictures other than just Prokofiev and Khachaturian who had limited exposure to the medium. Rimsky-Korsakov would have been a master and winner of many Oscars had he ever been in a position to do it. Enchanted Lake, could have been taken straight out of fantasy adventure film. Woody Allen has already figured out how effective Tchaikovsky is, using a lot of his music in his last film Scoop. Recommended.

Golden Score Rating ***

Telarc CD-80657

Recording Producer Robert Woods

Recording Engineer Jack Renner

I recently had the opportunity to watch and listen to Conversation(s) With Other Women ( http://www.goldenscores.com/?a=features&m=modern_scores&id=49) as well as speak to Starr Parodi, one of the composers. Needless to say I was quite impressed with the refreshing change Starr and Jeff had to offer the listener. Was Starr influenced by Miles Davis? In a word yes. She had the opportunity to meet with Miles and some of the band members when she was the keyboard player for Arsenio Hall and her responses to the questions invoked excitement and enthusiasm about a very special trumpet player. I was quite fortunate to have heard Miles, Dizzy, Bill Evans, and others in person but never did I speak to them. Gone from the music was this safe, non melodic, landscape middle of the road material. I felt like a teenager in a coffee house on the University of Minnesota campus in the 60’s listening to cool jazz.

Did the piano really come from MGM or was this just hype from the publicity agent? According to Starr it had the very difficult to duplicate silver inventory tag from the famous studio on it when she first took possession of it. It was a Steinway 1928 B. Had it been treated kindly? Nope there was a lot of work that had to be done to it before it truly became playable. Some of the keys were sticky and it needed a lot of tuning. But it had that wonderful trademark of an old Steinway and well just listen to it on “Common Places”, her solo improvisation CD. A funny story that she shared with me had to do with these little bumps that she felt underneath the keyboard. Starr has a habit of feelin underneath the keys when she is not playing while someone else is doing a solo in her group and finally one day she was curious enough to get down and take a look. To her amazement there were pieces of old gum from who knows how many years ago. As the piano was used for the MGM production of Wizard of Oz was it Herbert Stothart himself that had this habit? Well, we’ll never know.

It just has to be magical knowing that the likes of some pretty famous composers sat at this piano and composed. Again while we will never really know for sure it could have been used by Johnny Green, Miklos Rozsa, David Raksin, Andre Previn and many others and now it has been put in the hands of yet another young upcoming composer. It must be a source of inspiration just knowing who played it and where it came from. Does it have vibrations from the past? Do you feel the presence of someone else when your playing it?

How does it sound you ask? Take a minute and go to their website http://www.parodifair.com and check out sound clips from their films, trailers, and “Common Places”. Let me just say that the tone is superb and the classical training (I feel it is very important) that Starr received at an early age are all positives in my book. You can be a great piano player but if you don’t have a good keyboard to play your music on the sound is going to be less than. This is certainly not the case with Starr. Take a great piano and put a great piano player with it and you have something outstanding!

Who knows that perhaps the ghost of Herbert Stothart will influence something even better than The Wizard of Oz from this piano and upcoming composer.

 

Likely for at least 30 years or more these selections have been a standard in the American classical music section of many a collector and enthusiast. Falling into that category and having greatly enjoyed the Stokowski/Symphony of the Airs/Vanguard LP for a long time I never quite paid much attention to the fact that this music was written for two Pare Lorentz directed documentaries produced for the Federal government in 1936/1937. Simply put I never had the opportunity to view the films until this new release on Naxos DVD with a newly recorded soundtrack by Angel Gil-Ordonez conducting the Post-Classical Ensemble. This new recording includes music not used in the original soundtrack but has been reinstated for this DVD.

The Plow was praised by Aaron Copland for its “frankness and openness of feeling” and was the first film to be placed in the Congressional archives by FDR. It tells the story quite frankly of how the wheat fields through misuse turned into a “dust bowl” during a horrible drought in 1935. Completely the opposite of what Korngold and Steiner were doing with their lush romantic scores, Copland and Thomson were men of few notes Using harmonium, guitar, banjo, and saxophone with a standard orchestra the tone poem oozes pure Americana. Upon listening one can clearly hear how much Thomson influenced Copland in his writing. So impressed was Lorentz with the score, even though he only paid Thomson $500.00, he edited some of his footage around the music!

The River, the story of the Mississippi River floods of 1937, resulted in the Tennessee Valley Authority and the harnessing of its mighty power for electricity. Written using some of the hymns and cowboy themes of the time Copland credits it as “a lesson in how to treat Americana”. From dissonance to tender melodies to cross rhythms to kaleidoscopic scherzos The River is absolutely wonderful.

Also included on the DVD are interviews from George Stoney, film maker and director, composer Charles Fussell and Virgil Thomson who talks about the use of film music. Thomson will surprise the soundtrack collector with some of his comments about what he refers to as corny emotion music. Considering the time frame of his music it was really quite radical compared to others of the same time frame. While both films make you ponder The River makes one wonder how little we have learned about flood control given the recent Katrina disaster.

If you have never heard the scores before and you have heard Copland you will be surprised at the similiarity of the music style. If you haven’t heard either composer this is at least one way to introduce yourself to Thomson with two of his better works and always remember the good value that Naxos has to offer. Highly recommended.

Golden Scores Rating is (****)

Recorded and Produced by Steven K. Zakar

Engineer is Jim Curtis

Naxos # is 2.110521

 

My first experience with Dutton/Vocalion was with the recent remastering of the very classic Rozsa recordings of Quo Vadis and Ben Hur for London done in the late 70’s (CDLK 4332). Having owned the LP’s the job that Dutton performed was in a word outstanding. The same can be said of this mastering from 2003 but I can go a step further as I have heard the LP and the transfer that London did to CD. The improvement is significant in terms of clarity and depth in sound. Gone is that clinical sound of transfers and replaced with a very nice warmth and vibrancy that offers some of the qualities of vinyl. No it still doesn’t have that magical sound of listening to an LP but it is a lot closer than what it once was.

Both compilation albums date back to the 60’s with the Gold release being quite unique in its offering of themes from films such as Saddle Pals, and Pressure Point. His Oscar winning effort Exodus is included in a six minute suite as well as his Oscar nominated On The Beach and the extremely effective use of “Waltzing Matilda”. The Bernard Herrmann offering from 1968 with the exception of Vertigo were first time recordings of Psycho, Marnie, North By Northwest, and The Trouble With Harry. Hard to believe that none of them had any sort of OST release but true. Even more amazing are the liner notes written by Herrmann and are actually somewhat complimentary to a man (Hitchcock) who Herrmann had worked with for so many years and was suddenly fired on the stage of the recording of Torn Curtain by Alfred himself! Keep in mind that this recording was done three years after the firing!

Great Movie Thrillers is one of several recordings that Herrmann did for London (he left the United States after the firing) but to date is the only one Dutton/Vocalion has re-mastered. The key link to all of the concert prepared pieces is that they were all directed by Hitchcock and are orchestrated and arranged for a pleasant listening experience by Herrmann. The miking is of course designed for concert style presentation. Psycho (A Narrative for Orchestra) is a 14 minute piece for strings only that incorporates the major themes from the film including the opening, car sequence, shower scene, and the finale. The Trouble With Harry is the basis for the motifs for the piece “A Portrait Of Hitch”, a study of Alfred Hitchcock in music. Vertigo, not only includes the mystery but the often played love theme, something I might add that Herrmann wasn’t known for composing but in this case he nailed it perfectly. The main overture from North By Northwest and the main themes from Marnie in a 10 minute suite round off the CD.

Film Themes of Ernest Gold is like a best of his themes with the primary emphasis placed on his film work between 1958 to 1963. Somewhat unknown today the variety of different kinds of films seemed to make little difference to him. He seemed to be at home with comedy, drama, western, romance, or jazz which I mention because of the fine work done for Pressure Point. You name it and he would write for it! With the exception of his Exodus score, he would be a virtual unknown! His arrangement for Exodus features some awfully fine cello work and will likely tug a string or two in your heart. Having had to flee the Nazi occupation of his native Austria in 1938 one wonders how he felt doing the excellent score to Judgement At Nuremberg.

This (2) CD set is a wonderful introduction to anyone who has yet to discover Bernard Herrmann with the extraordinary bonus of being able to discover Ernest Gold. I am confident that it will propel you to want to discover more. Highly recommended

Golden Scores Rating is (****)

Remastered by Michael J. Dutton

Vocalion CDLK 4178

Track Listing:

CD1

1. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (2:11)

2. The Young Philadelphians (3:27)

3. Judgement at Nuremberg (2:48)

4. The Last Sunset (3:30)

5. Inherit The Wind (2:16)

6. Pressure Point (5:39)

7. A Child Is Waiting (3:07)

8. On the Beach (3:09)

9. Saddle Pals (2:50)

10. Exodus (6:30)

11. Too Much, Too Soon (4:19)

Ernest Gold Conducts The London Festival Orchestra

CD2

1. Psycho (A Narrative For Orchestra) (14:28)

2. Marnie (10:08)

3. North By Northwest (3:04)

4. Prelude from Vertigo (2:51)

5. The Nightmare from Vertigo (2:06)

6. Scene d’amour from Vertigo (5:33)

7. A Portrait of Hitch (from The Trouble With Harry) (8:19)

Bernard Herrmann Conducts The London Philharmonic Orchestra

Total Time is 87:09