Hollywood loves to make films about the stories of Mark Twain and for good reason. At least growing up for me and millions of others, Huckleberry Finn adventures were as well read as Superman comic books! Composers such as Bill Conti, Max Steiner and Jerome Moross have written wonderful scores all with their unique interpretation of Tom, Huck, and life on the Mississippi and now please add to the list William Perry, who in addition to Huckleberry Finn, has written works for (5) other Mark Twain stories.

While it was new to me, all of this material was previously released in the 1980’s on the Premier Recording Label (PRCD1015) entitled “Life on the Mississippi: The Film Music of William Perry”. Naxos, with a much wider distribution, has reintroduced this material and hopefully many more will have the opportunity to enjoy this material.

All of this material was done for television, released through PBS and other major outlets in the world, from 1980 to 1985 and starring the likes of Geraldine Page, Ken Howard, Lillian Gish, Robert Lansing, David Ogden Stiers, and many many others. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn features as you might expect an expansive main theme in “Opening Music, St. Petersburg”, bringing visions of America in its early days. The main theme, which is now known as When Out On The River, is also featured in the “End Credit Music” in a similiar arrangement. “The Raftsmen” features the fine harmonica work of Richard Hayman as well as an abundance of percussion and rhythm in a rollicking foot stomping melody. Don’t look too much for strings on this track as there is very little to be found. Pudd’nhead Wilson has only one selection but it is certainly a good one. Featuring the oboe d’amore and a wordless choir it is a lasting melody that easily puts one in a mood of tranquility. Life On The Mississippi, is a biographical sketch of a young Samuel Clemens and his learning how to pilot a Mississippi riverboat. Perry weaves a good story through his music depicting the splendor of this huge body of water. The (5) tracks range from a tranquil scene to a turn of the century waltz to a little disaster music albiet quite conservative in comparision to what is written today. The Innocents Abroad is a virtual travelog of musical styles that one could liken to Young’s Around The World In 80 Days. Italy, France, America, Greece, and Egypt are all represented in this 9 track suite. The Private History of a Campaign That Failed tells the story of the Civil War in a 4 track suite with a poignant flugelhorn solo in “Lorena”. The Mysterious Stranger, the final film on this CD features a bit of ancient mystic music along with the Vienna Boys Choir.

The majority of this music is written in a rather conservative style with nothing groundbreaking about it at all. Still, it is quite a pleasant listen which has grown on the reviewer with repeated plays. “The Raftsmen” is an exceptional piece and one that should be included in your playlist on your MP3 player. This is a nice CD to add to your collection given the exceptional value that Naxos is in the marketplace. Highly recommended.

Golden Scores Rating is ****

Track listing:

1. Opening Music: St. Petersburg (01:20)

2. Good Time by the River (01:12)

3. Escape from Pap’s Cabin (02:16)

4. Starting Downstream (02:23)

5. The Raftsmen (02:33)

6. Arrival of Royalty (01:05)

7. The Buggy Ride (01:58)

8. Rescuing Jim (01:32)

9. Closing Scene (02:13)

10. End Credit Music (01:50)

Tracks 1-10: Score From Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

11. Theme From Pudd’nhead Wilson: Roxy’s Final Walk (02:16)

12. A Pilot on the Mississippi (01:45)

13. The Romance of the River (02:09)

14. Courtship of Emmeline (02:05)

15. Disaster at Night (02:34)

16. The Majestic Mississippi (02:23)

Tracks 11-16: Score From Life on the Mississippi

17. Mark Twain’s Theme (00:39)

18. Paris: The Can – Can (03:32)

19. Gondolas in Venice (01:19)

20. Genoa: The Bathtub Rag (02:59)

21. Julia (01:27)

22. Welcome to Naples (00:57)

23. The Greek Chase (01:37)

24. Egyptian Caravan (00:52)

25. Closing Credits (02:14)

Tracks 17-25: Score From Innocents Abroad

26. Girls Along the Road (01:49)

27. The Games of War/Lorena (03:01)

28. Learning to Ride (01:17)

29. Title Music (01:30)

Tracks 26-29: Score From The Private History of a Campaign That Failed

30. River Scene and Main Titles (03:02)

31. 44 in Fancy Dress (00:51)

32. Fight of the Duplicates (00:39)

33. The Burial of 44 (02:48)

34. Love Scene (02:22)

35. Closing Music (05:21)

Tracks 30-35: Score From The Mysterious Stranger

Total Duration: 01:09:50

Naxos CD# is 8.570200

 

 

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Daktari/Shelly Manne

April 17, 2008

 

It isn’t often that one gets the opportunity to talk to one of the musicians who performs on a soundtrack recorded in 1968 but this was the case with the Daktari score. It just happened that Mike Wofford, the pianist, lives locally and this reviewer was fortunate enough to be able to ask and kindly receive the answers to a few questions.

Daktari

was a television show which aired from 1966-69, was based on a film Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion from 1965, and both starred Marshall Thompson. Developed by Ivan Tors, known for his nature programs, both the film and television series were based on the work of Dr. Harthoorn, a tireless campaigner of animal rights and the inventor of the capture gun used to sedate them.

Shelly Manne, drummer supreme from the jazz world, was likely given this assignment because of his knowledge of percussion and his study of African music. He was quite familiar with soundtrack material being the drummer of choice for Mancini, Bernstein, and others. There are only a handful of scores that Manne has his name on, but this one is by far his best endeavor due to the fantastic percussion sounds Shelly created. It certainly wasn’t the one word lyrics (they only say Daktari) to the main title! From the tack piano which was made especially for this session (yes they do use tacks on the hammers in the piano), to (5) percussionists who played ankle and wrist jingles, Thailand mouth organs, aungloongs, ocarinas, vibes, tympani, and wood blocks, to the solos of Shank on sax, Strozier on flute, and Candoli on trumpet, this is a jazz/african style score. Leaving no stone unturned the percussion instruments would not be complete without bell plates struck and then dipped into water to change the tonality and of course marimbas that Richards made from leftover pieces of wood that he had from building his patio! To complete the ensemble they had “nickel whistles” now called “mannehandled” ones which had 5 times the tonal range when Shelly got through with them. Seems like they had so much fun back then.

“Stay With Me” is a lush romantic track in the South American style of the time without any strings but with some very nice sax work from Shank and Strozier on flute. One could easily be reminded of something that Schifrin or Mancini did during the 60’s. Today it would be considered be lounge music but we thought differently back then. “Clarence” is a whimsical track where Manne let out all of the stops and used the full array of percussion available to him. “Out on a Limb” has some really nice flute work from Strozier in addition to a really infectious melody. Don’t think that there is anything wrong with your speakers on “Wameru” as unusual sounds abound from a variety of different locations and directions!

While all of the compositions are original Manne, he got excellent support from Dick Hazard in the arranging department. Richard, who was known for his fine string arranging, really did a nice job even with the lack of strings save the percussion and bass. This is not the typical free form of jazz from Manne but material that is a lot more structured. However if percussion has your interest this is one of the must have for your collection. The original Atlantic (SD 8157) LP is available on CD on the Collectable label (COL-CD 6834) which also includes (7) Peter Gunn tracks Shelly recorded with his ensemble in 1967. Recommended

Golden Score Rating ***1/2

Track Listing:

1. Daktari/Main Theme (2:14)

2. Out On A Limb (3:04)

3. Clarence (2:18)

4. Africa (3:11)

5. Stay With Me (2:48)

6. Elephantime (2:21)

7. Wameru (2:56)

8. Toto (2:44)

9. Galloping Giraffes (3:11)

10. Judy Judy (2:37)

11. Ivan (2:27)

12. Rhino Trot (1:51)

 

With the release of this solo piano material on BSX, the Lasse Hallstrom Unfinished Life film now has the distinction of having (3) releases to its credit. How many soundtracks do you have in your collection where you can make that statement? The original rejected Chris Young score released on Varese Sarabande (VCL 0706 1052), the replacement Deborah Lurie material on Varese Sarabande (3020666832), and now this original sketch material. Interesting for a film that really didn’t perform well at the box office considering that Lasse has had some very successful pictures such as Cider House Rules, Chocolat, and Shipping News. The cast of the film featuring Redford, Lopez, and Freeman certainly was a huge draw. Oh wait there was no exploding, car chases, excessive blood and gore, and it wasn’t a remake. That must be the reason!

The material on this CD is essentially a series of ideas that were presented to the director for possible consideration as main or secondary themes for the film. A word of caution! This is not soundtrack material. It is certainly icing on the cake if one is looking to complete all of the material for the film. But keep in mind that even Gone With The Wind started as a piano score. Each song in the three books, consisting of 21 tracks, are very easy listening, simple but good melodies, and basic harmony from the other hand. While there are a couple that are louder, upbeat, with emphasis on the staccoto, the majority of the material is softer and laid back. On repeated listens this reviewer found himself creating different types of scenes and scenarios for each of the tracks. Each track given the opportunity could easily be expanded upon and orchestrated into a whole lot more. The material is excellent to listen to when one wants to reflect or just rest and meditate.

My only complaint is the same one that Mr. Young explained in the liner notes which was a desire to have recorded the material in a larger studio. It is pleasant enough to listen to but a professional studio would have done a better job. This complaint is certainly not enough to prevent you from owning this recording.

 

 

 

 

 

gliere-redpoppy.gifGliere, unlike Shostakovich and Prokofiev who were condemned for their work, Reinhold caused little or no controversy during his lifetime. He was honored by the Communist regime during the 20th century with the People’s Artist award in 1938 and was given nothing but official praise. While he is quite popular in Russia he is somewhat unknown throughout the rest of the world with his third symphony ‘Ilya Mourometz’, championed by Stokowski and also reduced in time by 1/2, being the most known of his works along with the “Red Sailors Dance” included in The Red Poppy.

The 1927 ballet is steeped in rich romantic melodies filled with pentatonic material for the Chinese element of the ballet. It is also filled with communism as it has the Communist anthem at the end when Tao-Hoa dies and hands a red flower to a small girl which symbolizes communism which will bring freedom to the oppressed and hope for a better world. Tao-Hoa’s theme which is a leitmotif is performed throughout and upon closer examination sounds more like a theme from the pen of George Gershwin! If one is familiar with his third symphony you can hear similiar chords in “Introduction-Scene in the Smoking Room” as well as “Tao-Hoa’s vision”. “Dance of the Soviet Sailors: Apple” or “Russian Sailor’s Dance” is one that is included on many Russian Favorite albums and is quite Russian in style and flavor. Written in syncopation it is a series of theme and variations. For those of you who haven’t heard it before it has the sound and the style of the Volga Boatmen, the difference is that it is much quicker paced. It very much has the sound of Russia. “Scene: Procession” has the Native American sound complete with the tom-tom percussion beat. One can imagine the gathering on the hill preparing to attack the wagon trains. “Charleston” is quite appropriate as a style of dance music considering the time frame. A little slower paced than an American counterpart it is still features saxophone and brass and one can picture the swaying of the hips and kicking of the legs.

Overall this 108+ minute score is a fine extremely varied score blending Russian romantic, Chinese pentatone, waltz, charleston, and other dance pieces. Not having a lot of experience with this work it is difficult to judge the performance of the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra but the overall sound seemed perfectly acceptable to this reviewer. Even a (2) CD set from Naxos at approximately $15.00 is an excellent value and this composer and work are to be explored further. Recommended

Golden Score Rating is (***1/2)

Naxos # is 8.553496-7

Produced by Andrew Wheeler

Engineered by Seymon Shugal

Disc 1

Reinhold Gliere

The Red Poppy, Op. 70 (Complete Ballet)

St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra

Anichanov, Andre, Conductor

Act I – Introduction 00:02:22

Act I – Coolies’ Dance 00:02:10

Act I – Scene: Tao – Hoa’s Entrance 00:02:32

Act I – Restaurant 00:01:33

Act I – Malik’s Dance 00:03:32

Act I – Boston Waltz 00:02:46

Act I – Scene of European Dance – Captain’s Entrance and Sailor’s Dance 00:04:33

Act I – Tao – Hoa’s Scene 00:05:14

Act I – Variation with Gold Fingers 00:02:20

Act I – Coolies’ Victory Dance 00:03:36

Act I – Dance of the Soviet Sailors: Apple 00:03:35

Act II – Introduction – Scene in the Smoking Room 00:04:44

Act II – Scene 00:03:37

Act II – Dance of the Chinese Women 00:02:18

Act II – Adagio of Four Goddesses 00:03:59

Act II – Adagio 00:03:54

Disc 2

Reinhold Gliere

The Red Poppy, Op. 70 (Complete Ballet)

St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra

Anichanov, Andre, Conductor

Act II – Prelude 00:03:17

Act II – Tao – Hoa’s Vision 00:04:14

Act II – Scene: Procession 00:03:18

Act II – Sword Dance 00:02:10

Act II – Phoenix 00:02:22

Act II – Adagio 00:04:53

Act II – The Rose Ship 00:01:49

Act III – Charleston 00:02:50

Act III – Dance in the Restaurant 00:02:38

Act III – Preparation of the Chinese Theatre 00:02:07

Act III – Umbrella Dance 00:01:36

Act III – Puppet Dance 00:01:37

Act III – Chinese Acrobats’ Dance 00:02:05

Act III – Scene: The Conspiracy 00:03:33

Act III – Scene of Confusion 00:01:06

Act III – Captain’s Scene 00:03:03

Act III – Tao – Hoa’s Scene; the Departing Ship 00:02:09

Act III – Rebellion Scene 00:02:11

Act III – Tao – Hoa’s Death 00:05:54

Act III – Apotheosis 00:02:27

Total Playing Time: 01:48:04