November 28, 2007
Considering the extremely busy schedule these days of both of these composers it is a minor miracle that the two of them were able to get together and work on this soundtrack. The film starring Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, and Eric Mills is written and directed by newcomer Zach “Stranger Than Fiction” Helm and can be classified as a definite kid’s movie. Mahoney (Portman) as manager of the Wonder Emporium is bequeathed the store by the 243 year old Magorium (Hoffman) and the story begins. Mostly a fantasy, with a lot good old fashion fun from Hoffman, the story as it unfolds does have an important message or two about life itself.
Since this score is a duel effort there has been discussion as to which composer did what part. Did Desplat write the themes and Zigman the arranging and some of the less thematic material? Who did what? Whatever the case, the score was composed in such a way that one cannot really tell where one began and the other finished. All we know for sure is that it was conducted by Zigman and there were no less than 9 orchestrators including Zigman, Desplat, two orchestra members Higgins (reeds) and Reichenbach (trombone). The “Main Theme” is a wonderful one beginning cartoon like using the tuba, saxes, and reeds before introducing the 8 note melody with the strings. Not only is this a great theme but a very good arrangement/orchestration. Same theme but much more lush and romantic is “Mahoney’s Debut”. The “Thomas Newman Sound” is offered in “A Substantial Offer”, that quirky sound he made famous, and the “Euphonium”, another reed solo sounding very much like Thomas. “Triscadecaphobia” is a classical sounding cue all too brief, written in allegro di molto tempo. “Magorium’s Apartment” is a statement to the Hawaiian music, “Love The World You Find” performed and written by The Flaming Lips is quite modern, “Bellini” a waltz, “Temper Tantrum Part 1” more classical, and “The Flight of Magorium” a new theme with the main title later on soft piano with romantic strings. The overall score is one of classical in nature with excellent themes from Desplat, our modern day Victor Young as far as tunesmith is concerned. Soft and romantic, bouncy and upbeat, are all words to describe this soundtrack.
Desplat fans have likely already purchased this and the up and coming Zigman has put his mark on this piece for people to take notice who haven’t already done so. Superbly performed by the Hollywood Studio Symphony and well orchestrated by many this is one for many of you to add to your collection especially if your taste lends itself more to the classical style.
November 19, 2007
With a budget in excess of 200 million dollars, New Line Cinema is betting that the first of the Pullman trilogy will be accepted like the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter films. Starring Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Eva Green, and 12 year old Dakota Blue Richards in her first feature film, the film is directed by Chris Weitz who is relatively new as a director but has a longer list of produced material. The film has not been without controversy, as Weitz started as director, resigned, was replaced by Anand Tucker, who was replaced again by Weitz. Further, the final three chapters of the first of the trilogy have been moved to the second novel The Subtle Knife and the Catholic League has called for a boycott of film citing “athesim for kids” in the story line. Nevertheless, it will make its debut in theaters on December 5th.
Desplat, one of the busier composers, having completed 22 assignments in only 3 years, as well as a wonderful classical CD, has still found more than enough time to craft a wonderful score. The opening track “The Golden Compass” is one of mystery and intrigue setting the mood for the fantasy adventure with all the design and orchestration techniques of Rimsky-Korsakov. As is the case with Desplat there is nothing loud and brash. “Sky Ferry” uses the same style of frantic violins that Desplat uses in The Queen as a background to introduce a theme in which the entire orchestra is used. “Letters from Bolvangar” is a tranquil melody that has become a trademark for Alexandre. Simple and elegant on the keyboard with wonderful delicate harmony from the harp and strings in the background. Not seeing the film (oh I will!) puts me at a disadvantage but the music indicates one of the more peaceful quiet times. “Lyra, Roger, and Billy” is a fun frolic with the entire orchestra participating in this cue which has a small reference to the Orient. The action cue “Battle With the Tartars” is a loud and brash cue, a modern day Night On The Bald Mountain with pounding percussion building to a victory crescendo and then the peaceful quiet of an Irish village with flute and soft strings. “Lee Scoresby’s Airship Adventure” is as the cue indicates, a wonderful soaring ride over the countryside. One of the favorite cues of this reviewer is “Iorek Byrnison”, the armoured bear, a dark mysterious cue with wordless chorus in the background to enhance the mystery even more. The delicate harp, which Desplat has become a master at using effectively plays a prominent role as the cue builds like a symphony movement to a rousing breathtaking conclusion. Another favorite cue albiet a bit on the unusual is “The Ice Bridge” a very modern dissonant classical sounding cue albiet way too short. Many of you will adore the final cue “Lyra” sung by Kate Bush the song which will be featured as the end credits are played. Its very cliche, complete with wind machine and predictable words and orchestration but no matter. It is well sung and will certainly be a hit in the appropriate markets.
This soundtrack is one of the very best to be released in 2007, which this reviewer can say in spite of my admiration and respect for Desplat, as many of you are well aware of. While many times more is not necessarily better in regards to soundtracks the 74+ minutes went by very quickly. All of the 26 tracks were of some interest albiet there were favorites as mentioned above. My highest recommendation goes out to this score. It certainly deserves an Oscar nomination! Whether or not it does is a whole other article. We in the soundtrack world are very aware of the recommendations of the Academy.
November 18, 2007
The Chapman Report was introduced when this reviewer was 15 and the subject of sex coupled with high testosterone levels made this a must see film for the teenage crowd of the 60’s. Based very loosely on the Irving Wallace best selling novel which further explored some of the work of Kinsey the film offered an excellent cast of Jane Fonda, Claire Bloom, Shelly Winters, Glynis Johns, and Effrem Zimbalist Jr. With Zanuck producing and George Cukor directing one would think all of the ingredients were in place for a blockbuster. Well, it failed miserably at the box office. The same cannot be said about the fine Leonard Rosenman score. Leonard who bears a striking resemblance to a young Leonard Bernstein, and is not be confused with Laurence Rosenthal, was to go on in Hollywood and win 2 Oscars, 1 Emmy, and be nominated for other film work. He had already introduced 12 tone music to Hollywood in the film for The Cobweb, written fine work for East of Eden, and Rebel Without A Cause and 14 other films. Being a piano teacher of James Dean gave him the opportunity to get his start in Hollywood and while concert work has always been an important part of his life, soundtracks paid the bills for him I suspect.
The opening “Main Title Theme” has the sound and flavor of a QM (Quinn Martin) production program to me. It features driving brass, loud bongos, and a good saxophone solo. The theme is solid, one that will be repeated throughout the film. “Naomi And The Water Man” is a good featuring a seductive reeds steady motif through the track with dissonant brass, sax, and piano. “Sarah’s Theme” is a romantic featuring a good flute solo one quite in style with the Mancini type tracks of the 60’s. You can almost see the hip swaying! Teresa’s Theme is a beatnik one filled with good quality jazz, offbeat and quirky. “Naomi And Musician” is a free form jazz track featuring a nice sax and drum solo with good brass calling from the trombones. The closet thing to a 12 tone atonal track can be found in “Naomi And The Mirror” until it reinstates her theme once again. As a nice bonus the listener is given the themes from his Dean films East of Eden and Rebel Without A Cause albiet they are arranged more for an elevator music album, strictly background material. Yes you can recognize the themes loud and clear but the 101 Strings come to mind if any of you are familiar with their style.
As this is a part of a 2 CD soundtrack, the other offering Sex and the Single Girl has a completely style and type of music. Chapman Report while romantic in spots is essentially jazzy and the other a Hefti composition is in Neal’s light, airy, and bouncy style, a sound he made somewhat famous for himself. While the two don’t mix both are excellent soundtracks and the coupling issue is one the purchaser can easily solve by listening to one or the other. This might just be the soundtrack to introduce yourself to Rosenman if one has no experience with his writing before graduating to material like The Cobweb. Both are nice change of paces to your CD collection!
Golden Score Rating is (***1/2)
Produced by Lukas Kendall
CD# is FSM Vol. 10 No.13
11. Main Title Theme (01:47)
12. Naomi And The Water Man (02:23)
13. Sarah’s Theme (02:26)
14. Teresa’s Theme (02:33)
15. Teresa And Paul (02:17)
16. Sarah Interview (04:26)
17. Naomi Meets Wash (01:34)
18. Naomi And Wash (01:26)
19. Naomi And Musician (02:28)
20. Naomi Interview (03:01)
21. Teresa And Ed (03:17)
22. Naomi And The Mirror (03:34)
23. Main Title Theme (alternate ending) (01:54)
24. Theme From “East of Eden” (02:37)
25. Theme From “Rebel Without A Cause” (03:30)
tracks 11~25 from “The Chapman Report” (total time 39:48)
Total Duration: 01:06:12
November 14, 2007
David Torn, aka Splattercell, hasn’t had much experience in the film composing field but is quite known as a guitarist, texturist, programmer, and record producer. The only films he has worked on of note are Believe in Me, Friday Night Lights, and The Order and this reviewer is sorry to report that he has had no experience with any of these films. Having said that he has fashioned a quirky soundtrack to Lars And The Real Girl, an MGM release, starring Ryan Gosling. The film deals with Lars Lindstrom a 27 year-old nerd living in anytown (Minnesota?) USA in the midwest, his difficulties with relationships, thus the purchase of a very expensive life like doll and a unique life experience. Don’t just push this film to the bottom of your to see list either. It is filled with humor and touching moments and isn’t about having sex with a doll, something that something that crosses the minds of a few I’m sure. Directed by a relative newcomer to films Craig Gillespie it also features Patricia Clarkson, Paul Schnieder, and Emily
Working with only a 20+ string orchestra plus guitar, accordion, piano and clarinet Torn has fashioned a relatively light Little Miss Sunshine style score offering good interplay between accordion, whistling, voice, clarinet and piano. This score offers some excellent effective orchestrations from Jennifer Hammond, who has worked on 16 films over the last three years. “At The Mall”, the opening track offers the main theme, light and airy, setting the mood for the film. Simply written but a strong melody to be remembered and whistled upon leaving the theater. The same can also be said about “Bowling With Margo” another good theme featuring accordion, piano, and a slow deliberate use of pizzicato from the strings. “Lars is Angry” is yet a third theme, a simple repetitive offering from the piano with strings in the background. “End Credit Suite” is a compilation of the three giving you a nice sampling of the themes before the CD ends with the source material L-O-V-E, a Nat King Cole classic written by Bert Kaempfert. It’s a nice swinging upbeat Ralph Carmichael arrangement and was the last album that Nat recorded. A wonderful way to end this CD!
If you enjoy soundtracks that are light and easy to listen to this is an enjoyable experience. I found that even having it on while working on other projects I was humming the various themes. Available through Milan M2-36319 this is one for you to investigate at the very least.
November 13, 2007
So different are the scores that FSM coupled together in their new release (FSM Vol. 10 No. 13) that they have to be treated as separate reviews. The topic of sex in both Sex and the Single Girl and The Chapman Report is of course the link that couples the soundtracks together but its more like nutmeg and cayenne pepper. Yup, there both spices but you likely wouldn’t sprinkle the pepper on your hot drink nor would you add the nutmeg to your favorite mexican dish! One is light, carefree, and happy while the other is serious and dissonant.
Neal has been a trumpet player, orchestrator, arranger, and composer from the big band era starting with Woody Herman and then graduating to Count Basie as well as having his own bands off and on along the way. Well known for the jazz standard Li’l Darlin as well as scores from Batman and The Odd Couple, Hefti has certainly made his mark on the music world. This 1964 film starring Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood was loosely adapted from the best selling Helen Gurley Brown book and marked Hefti’s debut into the world of writing soundtracks. Richard Quine, the director, also provided the lyrics to the title song “Sex and the Single Girl”, and ended up marrying the vocalist Fran Jefferies a fixture as a nightclub singer in Las Vegas for many years.
The soundtrack has to be classified as an easy listening one with some jazz and big band influence. “City Style”, gives quite obvious references to his classic yet to be written The Odd Couple, with a really cool riff from the flute and bass trombone and then continuing with a flute solo and harpsichord. This track is truly classic Hefti all the way. “I’ve Got Love” features the talents of flautist Buddy Collette and the harpsichord, a favorite instrument that Neal used often. This track is one that could easily be taken off with for a long jazz number. “Blues for Frank” is exactly what the title indicates featuring reeds and harpsichord. “Sex and the Single Girl” is a nice quite catchy theme featured on three of the 10 tracks, twice as an instrumental and once as a vocal. The lyrics are the style of the day and the light comedy words fit the film perfectly. Jefferies has the perfect sultry voice for this type of composition as well as singing a takeoff using a modern arrangement of the Jolson “Anniversary Song” for another track. There is nothing deep or thought provoking in any of this material. The minor key was certainly not in Hefti’s vocabulary for this score.
Hefti along with May, Riddle, Mancini, Duning, early Johnny Williams and many others incorporated this light jazzy style in to the in type of Hollywood films of the day. The style of Hefti for his yet to be composed Barefoot in the Park, and Odd Couple, were being formed and they are clearly evident in this soundtrack. While there are numerous choices of his material on the LP format his choices on CD are few and far between leaving this new release an excellent starting point to introduce yourself to Neal’s style. Still being involved in the world of LP’s allow this reviewer to have quite a modest selection of Hefti material and it was a lot of fun for me to be able to hear many references to newer yet to be written tracks from this his first film assignment for Hollywood. Definitely worth a listen. Recommended.
Golden Scores Rating is (***1/2)
Produced by Lukas Kendall
CD# is FSM Vol.10 #13
Track listing1. Legs (02:42)
2. The Game (02:20)
3. Sex And The Single Girl (02:52)
vocal: Fran Jeffries
4. Midnight Swim (02:25)
5. City Style (02:19)
6. Anniversary Song (03:00)
vocal: Fran Jeffries
7. I’ve Got Love (02:41)
8. Blues For Frank (02:45)
9. I Must Know (02:59)
10. Sex And The Single Girl (02:56)
tracks 1~10 from “Sex And The Single Girl” (total time 27:25)