Leroy Anderson…1

August 30, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

It isn’t often that this reviewer gets to talk about someone who had a No. 1 composition on the Hit Parade for 15 weeks but this is the case with Leroy Anderson and his very famous “Blue Tango” song, a melody that has been in lots of movies, commercials, and all forms of background material. Listening to this collection of 14 of his numbers certainly brought back the days in the band playing “Bugler’s Holiday” (actually I played trombone so this one was easy). Today it reminds me of a music assignment but the trumpet playing is a whole lot more than that. “Chicken Reel” and “Fiddle Faddle” are both standards of Leroy Anderson and his favorite orchestra the Boston Pops with Arthur Fiedler conducting, or his own orchestra on the Decca label. Both of these have also been performed in films and high schools and colleges all over the US. “First Day of Spring” will remind you of the sweeping beauty of a John Williams fantasy film score. “Classical Jukebox” mimics classical music standards complete with percussion for the dropping of the coins and even a stuck record that repeats over and over for a few bars. In fact on my first listen I immediately thought something was wrong with my CD player! These small touches certainly add to the arranging of his works. Leroy was quite the unique composer.

Anderson composed the majority of his work in the three to four minute range, primarily because he worked with the available media at the time: first the 78RPM and then the 45RPM. And even when he started to do recordings for Decca on the vinyl LP format, he was likely set enough in his ways not to want to change. As a result of this, Leroy has written 100’s of compositions and created some classic arrangements for the Boston Pops and other orchestras throughout the world all in this time range of three to four minutes. Major bandleaders such as Guy Lombardo and Hugo Winterhalter took his material and arranged them to the styles of their orchestras.

The exception to the three to four minute track is a recording of his Piano Concerto in C major (1953), a 19+ minute work performed by Jeffrey Biegel. The first movement could remind you of something that Sergei Rachmaninov could have written. While not terribly complex it moves briskly enough and keeps your attention with some interesting passages. The middle movement, the Andante is very melodic and soothing, simple and delicate. The final movement Allegro vivo, my favorite movement of the three, is a Gershwin like melody, very upbeat and well arranged in the Anderson style. The orchestra doesn’t take a back seat on this one as all sections contribute, save one section of a minute or so where the soloist is given his due with some grandiose scales. This reviewer can certainly understand the increase in the number of performances since its revival in 1989. It certainly is an audience-friendly work as noted in the liner material by Richard S. Ginell. It is not going to supplant any of the warhorse concertos but it should have its rightful place in the catalog of works for symphony orchestras.

I don’t think that I ever quite realized the popularity of Leroy Anderson. He seemed to be in that ‘twilight zone’ area of not classical enough for the snobs, too schmaltzy for the big band/jazz buff, and too promenade for others, yet his music is performed the world over to this day by pops, marching bands, and now symphonic ensembles with the revival of his piano concerto. This CD offers a little bit of everything to the listener and is part of a continuing series of recordings featuring Slatkin and the BBC Concert Orchestra. Recommended.

Naxos CD# is 8.559313

Golden Score Rating is ***

Track Listing:

1… Bugler’s Holiday (2:41)

2… Blue Tango (2:58)

3… The First Day of Spring (3:05)

4… Belle of the Ball (3:00)

5… Governor Bradford March (2:29)

6… Clarinet Candy (2:59)

7… The Captains and the Kings (2:46)

8… The Golden Years (4:10)

9… Chicken Reel (3:07)

10. Fiddle Faddle (3:43)

11. The Classical Jukebox (3:09)

12. China Doll (2:38)

13. Balladette (3:02)

14. Arietta (2:38)

Piano Concerto in C major

15. Allegro moderato (8:23)

16. Andante (5:12)

17. Allegro vivo (5:55)

Total Time is 61:54

 

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She/Max Steiner

August 27, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1935, following the huge success of King Kong, RKO’s Merian C. Cooper brought the H. Rider Haggard novel She to the screen starring Helen Gahagan (her only film role), Randolph Scott, Helen Mack, and Nigel Bruce. Gahagan, known for her fine soprano work, and married to Melvyn Douglas, was also the infamous ‘pink lady’ who ran unsuccessfully against Richard Nixon for a Senate seat in California. Originally to be shot in color, budget cuts (1/2) forced Cooper to film in black and white but as a tribute to Cooper in 2006 Legend Films/Harryhausen colorized the film. While the film had a $500,000 budget ( Kong had nearly $700,000) the initial release lost money. The blockbuster that it tried to be with a cast of thousands (used the Kong set complete with huge gate and wall) just couldn’t get passed the depression the country was going through at the time. Keep in mind that a quarter was a lot of money for people. Were it not for Buster Keaton who had a copy of the film in his garage and his donation to film historian Raymond Rohauer, the film could have been lost forever. Telling the story of an eternal flame of life and a 500 year old unfulfilled love, the film featured excellent special effects for 1935.

In 1935 Max Steiner, who was the head of the RKO music department, approached this score like an opera without words writing nearly 70 minutes of music. To sparsely score something wasn’t in his nature. And while he won his first Oscar the same year for his score to The Informer, this reviewer prefers the material in this soundtrack. Having taken on the project of King Kong in 1933 and really being allowed to hone and expand his craft with the marvelous score, She can be looked at as yet another improvement. The less than performance of the film at the box-office had nothing to do with the music but perhaps has contributed to the lack of popularity. The “Main Title” or She/Flame motif is one of those themes that Max used many times in different styles throughout the film. In the opening title it initially reminded me of King Kong but ended up going in a completely different direction. It appears in “The Queen” as a proud religious like theme with a female wordless choir. It is featured in a majestic fashion in the “Finale.” “At the Campfire” introduces the Tanya motif a heartfelt theme on the violin backed with strings and harp. “The Cave” gives us the She and Tanya motif as well as some really nice woodwind work from the bassoon (well played and recorded). The (3) Hall of Kings tracks together constitute a miniature overture incorporating the She/Flame motif into a creepy ritual with good brass, percussion, and harp. Even the bonus track, which is the main title from Frankenstein, fits nicely into the mix of the CD; the theme being composed by Bernhard Kaun, one of the orchestrators for She.On first listen the reaction to this score was neutral. Had its moments but King Kong was the superior score. Having had the opportunity to really listen and absorb the “entire work” into my being this is material that is certainly on the same level. Part of the reason, in my opinion, is the miking system that Tribute uses. The recording quality couldn’t be better. Part of it is the comfort level that the Moscow Symphony Orchestra now has with the Steiner material (improvement over the Marco Polo recordings). After many years of playing Steiner they seem to be just as at home with him as they do Tchaikovsky. This translates into a superior listening experience. James V. D’Arc, producer of the original motion picture from acetates (still available on FMA/MS 104 thru SAE), says it better than I. “This loving and meticulous restoration has given Steiner’s truly imaginative score a new and longer lease on life.” This recording now has a place in this reviewer’s top 100 list! Highly recommended!!!

Golden Scores Rating is *****

Produced by Bonn, Morgan, and Stromberg

Recording Engineer Alexander Volkov

Track listing

1. Main Title/Time Passes (02:07)

 

2. Uncle John’s Vision (01:06)

 

3. To the Northern Rim (00:35)

 

4. The Barrier (01:07)

 

5. At the Campfire (01:21)

 

6. The Saber-Tooth Tiger (02:19)

 

7. Avalanche (01:21)

 

8. The Cave (03:14)

 

9. Fight With the Natives (00:49)

 

10. Trek to Kor (03:39)

 

11. At the Gate (00:29)

 

12. The Queen/Tanya in Bed (05:07)

 

13. Tanya’s Unrest (03:21)

 

14. Leo Asleep (03:06)

 

15. Fanfares (00:40)

 

16. The Trial (05:10)

 

17. Forgotten Place (01:51)

 

18. The Memory Pool/Cremation (04:29)

 

19. The Terrace (07:46)

 

20. Hall of Kings Part 1 (03:55)

 

21. Hall of Kings Part 2 (03:35)

 

22. Hall of Kings Part 3 (01:19)

 

23. The Escape (03:22)

 

24. The Flame of Life (05:01)

 

25. Finale (02:39)

 

26. Bonus Track (01:27)

 

Total Duration: 01:10:55

Bottle Shock/Mark Adler

August 23, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

“Judgment of Paris” is the story given to the now blind Paris wine tasting of 1976 in which Napa Valley,California wineries proved the quality of their product to the rest of the world. Directed, produced, written, and edited by Randall Miller the film stars Bill Pullman, Chris Pine, Rachael Taylor, and Alan Wickman in the story of one man’s dream Jim Barrett (Pullman), his son Bo (Pine) and a girl Sam (Taylor) to produce the Chardonnay good enough to win the prize in the wine tasting test and put an end to the myth that the French always make the best wine. A bit corny, predictable and sentimental it is still a watchable film that will give you a surprise or two along the way. Alan Rickman (Steve Spurrier) is a joy to watch as the Brit who organizes this entire tasting test.

When was the last time you left the theater after watching a film and actually caught yourself humming the main title? Mark Adler, Emmy award winner for the HBO film The Rat Pack, not only created a great opening theme for the titles but at least two more I remember. “Bottle Shock Main Title” opens the screen with percussion which sounds like two bottles clinking followed by a wonderful hurdy gurdy melody on the synthesizer with accompaniment from piano and country like fiddling from solo violin. “L’Academie du Vin” is the theme written for Steve Spurrier (Rickman) a delicate European sound from the clarinet and violin. The clarinet reminded me of passages from Peter and the Wolf, that sneaky cat-like sound the clarinet can duplicate so well. “Spurrier Arrives” with its accordion sounding melody is a very french sounding motif which announces the arrival of Spurrier in Napa. “Sam and Gustavo” is a simple delicate love melody that brings out a romantic moment in the film that brings a tear to the eye. “Sam Kisses Bo” is guitar with words I can’t decipher but is a period sounding piece of the 70’s. “Bo Represents Napa” is a repeat of the main title theme with a little more guitar action and less percussion. The CD sent to me for review is marked ‘score highlights’ and only represents a little over 15 minutes of material (8 tracks). There is a possibility that it might be released on the Nicabella label in the future.

This was a score written for a smaller ensemble with some of the material being performed by Mark Adler. The main title immediately got my attention with the use of the bottles that became a part of the percussion. This humming theme which is used on many occasions in the film doesn’t seem to be the norm anymore; in fact the opposite is true. In fact this reviewer can’t remember the last time he was able to remember not one but three melodies from a film. At least in the writing of Adler one almost could get the idea that the motif is returning to the film score. A return of an old concept? One could only hope. Recommended

Track Listing:

1. Bottle Shock Main Title (3:01)

2. L’Academie du Vin (1:20)

3. Bent Axle (1:04)

4. Sam and Gustavo (1:46)

5. Spurrier Arrives (1:24)

6. The Wine Turns Back! (3:06)

7. Sam Kisses Bo (1:23)

8. Bo Represents Napa (1:10)

Total Time is 15:34

 

 

 

 

 

 

In glorious Smell-O-Vision (smells emitted in the theater during the showing) was the unique concept Michael Todd Jr. tried to use to carry on the Todd tradition with Scent of Mystery. The Todd AO (American Optical) system, “Cinerama out of one hole”, was co-invented by AO and Michael Todd in the early 50’s with the culmination being Around the World In 80 Days. Filmed on 65mm negative stock at 30 FPS and then contact printed to 70mm, with the extra 5mm being used for the multi channel stereo. The result was spectacular if you were fortunate to see it when it was initially released. Scent of Mystery was filmed slightly differently using a wider aspect ratio of 2.59:1 instead of 2.20:1 and offering 8-channel sound (pre Dolby) with a control signal that emitted sounds all over the theater as the script dictated. Along with various smells that provided clues to the mystery Todd Jr. truly created a most unusual audience experience. The problem was the “experience” didn’t go over well at the initial openings and with the editing, printing it to 35mm format, and eliminating the smells, the film just made no sense on its re-release. I think the entire cost of the Todd AO process was a huge stumbling block to theaters and caused changes that weren’t in the best interest of the concept. Starring Denholm Elliott, Peter Lorre, Beverly Bentley, and Diana Dors, the comedy/mystery story tells of a tourist who just happens upon a plot to kill an American tourist. The Oscar winning cinematographer Jack Cardiff directed it.

While the film floundered the Mario Nascimbene score didn’t. Kritzerland has just re-mastered and released this fine soundtrack to CD KR 20011 with a limited edition 1000 copy release. The “Overture” uses the early stereo technique of left only, right only, and showing movement by going from left to right. Mario incorporates the horns of the cars as part of the overture nicely melding them as percussion. He uses both the “Scent of Mystery” and “The Chase” themes in the compilation with a nice bridge hinting at the march of the toy soldiers. A very nice overture!

“Butterfly” is a playful adventure featuring some nice clarinet work backed with some strings, and then a brief interruption of a marching boy chorus complete with pan tapping percussion, which quickly fades away, and backs to the clarinet solo. “Organ Accident” is a brief hurdy gurdy theme while “Diana Dors Blues” offers some stripper style blues complete with a wa wa muted trumpet, vibes, and clarinet harmony. There is some Spanish hat dance flavor in “Guadix Guitar”, comical marching music in “Pamiona Stomp”, romantic solo guitar in “Party Guitar” and some playful underscore in “The Shadow Turns.” Eddie Fisher is well Eddie Fisher in his vocal versions of “Scent of Mystery” and “The Chase” written by Ramin and Adamson. If you like Eddie you’ll love it: if not oh well, there included as part of the package. The score offers a lot of different styles of music making for an interesting and varied 36 minutes of listening. You’ll hear little in the way of landscape music. Each track is unique.

The re-mastering done by James Nelson at Digital Outland was up to his usual high standards. Since this was a situation where I had the original LP, my own re-master with Adobe Audition, and the new release it was fun to compare. Let me just say that for nostalgia the LP might get spun once in awhile. The hiss, clicks, and pops do add something to the listening experience can’t explain that in a logical fashion but the older generation understands. I’m sure James could also teach me a thing or two about Adobe! I would like to hear one day the original quality of the 8-channel sound, which I was never able to hear, as few did, given the disaster of the release. If you like Mario and the European style of the early 1960’s you’ll like it. Recommended.

 

Track listing

1. Overture (03:20)

 

2. Butterfly (02:50)

 

3. Medley: Street Stroll & Malaga Shoe Shine Boy (02:59)

 

4. Organ Accident (01:25)

 

5. Diana Dors Blues (01:48)

 

6. Oh Yes, Beautiful (00:46)

 

7. Guadix Guitar (01:32)

 

8. Scent Of Mystery (02:31)

Sung by Eddie Fisher

9. The Chase (04:49)

 

10. Pamplona Stomp (01:40)

 

11. The Shadow Turns (03:03)

 

12. Party Guitar (02:42)

 

13. Flying Wild (03:40)

 

14. The Chase (02:54)

Sung by Eddie Fisher

Total Duration: 00:35:59

 

Golden Score Rating is ***

Kritzerland KR 20011

 

 

The Flock/Guy Farley

August 9, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

This is the third release that Movie Score Media and Guy Farley have collaborated on the other two being different genre. For this reviewer it shows the versatility Guy Farley is capable of. I nearly went into this score with a closed mind automatically assuming this is yet another score with the usual drone of the strings, synthetic loud noises in the background, and generally generic enough it could fit into a 100 different films. Gratefully I saw the name Farley and thought about the cleverness of the kazoo in Land of the Blind, and the heartfelt music in The Christmas Miracle of Johnathan Toomey and decided to give the press release a read and downloaded the material for a listen. MMM uses a high quality 320 lossy MP3 for near CD quality or a CD can be ordered from SAE or MMM. Nice to have a choice in this age of limited edition material selling out in a matter of hours to collectors who have little interest in the music. In fact all 48 of his releases are available on his website as downloads with many available on a CD as well.

Starring Richard Gere and Claire Danes it tells the unpleasant story of a missing child and a suspected prior sex offender. Babbage (Gere) is a 30 year public safety officer who is training Lowry (Danes) to take his position when the missing child is linked to his parolee. Filmed in Albuquerque New Mexico with a 35 million dollar budget by award winning Chinese director Wai-keung Lau, the film was released in the US to the DVD market in May of 2008. Lau who achieved some spotlight when Scorsese adapted his film Internal Affairs into the award winning The Departed seemed to be out of his environment in New Mexico.

The opening string only theme “The Flock”, for the main character Babbage, begins first as an elegaic style which transitions nicely into a dark foreboding theme accentuated with percussion and piano harmony. On first listen I was somewhat reminded of Julyan’s Insomnia (2002) which was a dreary written score that you were drawn into upon repeated listens. Some of the tracks such as “Scene of the Crime” have that disturbing unlistenable swarm violin droning but this seems to be the norm today and perhaps these ears will just never get use to those kind of cues. I would much rather listen to something like his “Midnight Meet” which places a much greater emphasis on the lower register in the string section. To this reviewer this is an excellent tension track. “Alison’s Destiny”, the last track, is a solemn statement with the emphasis on the lower register strings again but intertwined with a delicate piano passage to give a message of hope to the viewer in this bitter tale of the seamy side of life. The piano is one of the few upbeat passages in the entire score.

Keeping in mind the plot of the film, there is nothing in the way of uplifting music in The Flock. This is music that doesn’t come to the front of the film but is quite listenable if your taste runs toward the minor key and you like your music on the gloomy side. While Farley has yet to be given the opportunity to do a blockbuster type film, something he is quite capable of doing, this score is a step above many other of the same genre. Recommended

 

 

Track listing

1. The Flock – Titles (05:23)

 

2. Viola’s Story (01:29)

 

3. Errol Paranoia (01:28)

 

4. Edmund Predator (04:08)

 

5. Beatrice Belle (01:19)

 

6. The Abduction of Harriet (01:28)

 

7. Usual Suspects (01:42)

 

8. The Den (04:11)

 

9. Scene of the Crime (02:33)

 

10. People are Lies (02:03)

 

11. Gunpoint (02:09)

 

12. Harriet Captive (01:37)

 

13. Another Missing Girl (01:14)

 

14. Viola’s Apartment (01:29)

 

15. Alison to Work (01:41)

 

16. Midnight Meet (01:30)

 

17. The Farm (02:57)

 

18. Wolf Attack (01:50)

 

19. Trailer Park (04:07)

 

20. Out of Control (01:10)

 

21. Harriet’s Home (01:53)

 

22. Official Departure (00:46)

 

23. Alison’s Destiny (03:11)

 

Total Duration: 00:51:18

Movie Score Media MMS08014

Limited edition of 1,000 copies.

Main Titles Rating is ***

 

J-ok’el/George Shaw

August 1, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

It is really a pleasure to watch the growth of someone like George Shaw. Last year I had the opportunity to review his score to the ultra low budget thriller/horror film Marcus and it was evident then that there was a certain sound and level of talent a step above many young composers I have listened to since the start of my reviewing. What George did with “Carol of Death” is still one of the best tracks I’ve heard from anyone in a long time. This new release J-ok’el is a feature with 10 times the budget thus George had the advantage of 40 members of the Hollywood Studio Orchestra and the maturity comes through loud and clear. If you like to hear themes then a George Shaw soundtrack is one to listen to over and over and over!

J-ok’el,

” a weeping woman”, is based on a Mexican legend about a woman who kills her babies and comes back as a spirit to claim more babies as her own Directed by Benjamin Williams and filmed in Chiapas Mexico with an all Mexican cast except for Tom Parker and Dee “ET Wallace, the film was recently released to the video market in March of 2008. While the concept and idea could have produced a quality film, the budget limitations, too many holes in the script, and pretty much everything in general relegate this film to the DVD bargain bins. All except for the film score which was honored with a gold medal of excellence at the Park City Film Music Festival.

“Legend of La Llorona” is the first theme and a good one complete with a wordless female singer who is dominate in the first track. The brass has a different sound low and frightening due to the lack of trumpets. This legend theme is also used as a variation in “Fernardo Taken” in a brash dissonant cue. “Journey to Mexico” is the dominant theme that appears throughout the entire score, first appearing as a mournful motif on first the oboe followed by strings and flute. It will be one that you’ll remember as you also hear it in “It’s Jokel”, “Flashlight Cue”, “Nocturnal Abduction”, and “J-ok’el” among others. “Weeping Woman” offers a different theme with the wordless female voice again. This track is a lovely and soft yearning theme which segues to the journey theme on the harp. “Prayers for the Missing” is a nice elegiac hymn and in “Market Chase” there is a small but noticeable acknowledgment to the Superman theme. All in all this is an excellent effort in a dull film.

 

Marcus

, was the 18th release of Movie Score Media, coinciding with the DVD release on Warner Bros. It is yet another low budget horror film (100,000), 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 “Carol of the 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.This CD or download is a wonderful opportunity to be introduced to an exciting new composer in Hollywood. George is going places and look for his name on more and more films in the future.

Maintitles rating is ***1/2

Produced by George Shaw

Recorded and Mixed by John Rodd at Capitol Records

Track listing

1. The Legend of La Llorona (02:21)

 

2. Journey to Mexico (02:32)

 

3. Carolina Apparition (00:48)

 

4. Nocturnal Abduction (01:16)

 

5. Missing Child (00:46)

 

6. The Weeping Woman (01:48)

 

7. Prayers for the Missing (03:24)

 

8. Scaredy Dog (00:16)

 

9. Market Chase (03:25)

 

10. Siblings Snatched (01:30)

 

11. He Left Me (01:42)

 

12. Kids in the Dark (01:06)

 

13. Flashlight Clue (00:57)

 

14. Now You Will See (00:43)

 

15. Mistaken Identity (01:57)

 

16. Fernando Taken (01:28)

 

17. It’s J-ok’el (01:42)

 

18. The Search (04:03)

 

19. Cavern Confrontation (04:28)

 

20. Cemetary (03:19)

 

21. J-ok’el (02:57)

tracks 1-21 from “J-ok’el”

22. Main Titles (02:33)

 

23. Brooke, I’m Home (02:26)

 

24. Bloodbath (02:08)

 

25. Brooke Comes To (02:19)

 

26. Stabbed in the Neck (02:03)

 

27. Nose Bleed (00:55)

 

28. First Punch (01:04)

 

29. Seizure (02:43)

 

30. Carol of Death (04:38)

tracks 22-30 from “Marcus”

Total Duration: 01:03:17