Flash of Genius/Zigman

October 29, 2008

“Flash of genius” was a test used for a decade from 41-52 in patentability issues with the theory that an inventor could in a short period of time come up with an idea as opposed to doing years of research. Flash Of Genius, the film, is based on a true story of Robert Kearns and his invention of the intermittent windshield wiper stolen from him by the Ford Motor Company. This flash of genius doctrine comes into play as he claims that the idea just came to him one day while driving in the rain. The Universal picture stars Greg Kinnear, Lauren Gilmore, and Alan Alda with directing by newcomer Marc Abraham. The David vs. Goliath story is of course stretched by Hollywood to make it palatable and more interesting to the viewer and has been a common template theme for them over the years. As of this 10-08 writing the film is playing at limited theaters in the US.

Aaron Zigman has been one of the busier Hollywood composers having worked on 28 film and television scores in just the past four years. Some of his more noteworthy films include The Notebook, Sex and the City: The Movie, Bridge to Terabithia, and Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. He seems to be at home in almost any genre having also done producing, and arranging for Tina Turner, Christine Aguilera, and wrote a symphonic piece for Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin.

A sad lonely trumpet carries the melody in “The Warehouse”, the main theme that will be featured throughout the 24 tracks of the soundtrack. The trumpet is complemented with a small string ensemble and soft delicate chords from the piano. Hearing it for the first time I was immediately reminded of the famous themes from L.A. Confidential, Chinatown, and Farewell My Lovely. It’s a theme of one voice standing alone against many and a memorable one that will be included on compilation recordings that I make for myself. In addition the melody is featured on a twangy guitar, soft blues with organ/synthesizer, and with a lush string ensemble on other tracks. While some might think the theme is somewhat overused Aaron makes it work as a monothematic melody effectively in the film. Another highlight albeit very brief is a soulful funky piece “Make Another Kid” featuring guitar, piano, percussion, and organ/synthesizer. “Get Out” and “Piece of Crap” follows in the same vein but are even shorter in length. These were piece’s that reminded me of some of the work Jimmy Smith and his jazz organ ensemble used to do in the 60’s. “It’s Not Over” contains some great soft underscore featuring the delicate piano and some tension building from the strings. “The Verdict”, the concluding track has the heart swelling buildup to a feel good ending.

Overall the score must be categorized as a soft easy listening style, very relaxing that you can close your eyes and put your feet up and just enjoy. There is nothing loud or obtrusive about any of the music in this soundtrack. This was written for a smaller ensemble likely in the 40-piece range. If you enjoy your music on the soft side this comes recommended.

Film Music: A Neglected Art rating is ***

Varese Sarabande CD# is 302 066 933 2

Track listing

1. The Warehouse (01:06)
2. Mustangs (01:39)
3. Drive to Peric’s (01:32)
4. Back Home (01:54)
5. Pray for Rain (01:16)
6. Losing It (05:00)
7. Dennis Returns (01:29)
8. Get Out (00:40)
9. Testimony Montage (00:52)
10. Take the Deal (00:44)
11. It’s Not Over Yet (02:22)
12. Breakup (02:11)
13. Patent Library (00:37)
14. Make Another Kid (01:09)
15. The Diner (01:57)
16. It’s Alive (01:07)
17. Phylis & Jean (01:00)
18. The Porch (01:11)
19. The Letter (00:48)
20. Dafao’s Final Offer (00:41)
21. Last Pill (00:38)
22. Piece of Crap (00:37)
23. The Verdict (02:42)
Bonus track:
24. Vis Vitae (09:43)

The chamber work Vis Vitae was performed by Robert Thies (Piano), Susan Greenberg (Flute), Phil Ayling (Oboe), Don Foster (Clarinet), Judy Farmer (Bassoon), Martin Chalifour (Violin), Carrie Dennis (Viola) and Ben Hong (Cello).

Total Time is 42:55

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Appaloosa/Jeff Beal

October 28, 2008

Sometimes holding off until you’ve seen the movie to write about the score is a good thing and this was the case with New Line Cinema Appaloosa starring Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris, Renee Zellwegger, and Jeremy Irons. Written by Robert Parker, who created the detective Spenser, the modern day Philip Marlowe for novels, and then a successful television series, handles this western story every bit as well as his page- turning books. This film had a lot of influence from Harris as he helped with the screenplay, produced, directed, and even sang a song in the end credits “You’ll Never Leave My Heart.” Hired peacemakers Virgil Cole (Harris) and Edward Hitch (Mortensen) are hired by the town of Appaloosa to take back the town from bad guy Bragg (Irons) who murdered the former sheriff and two deputies. Allison French (Zellweger) is the love interest for Cole as well as other men in the film, an interesting developed subplot. The entire story was most predictable but quite entertaining and the two-hour film went by quickly holding my attention the majority of the time.  It was filmed in Santa Fe, New Mexico and, having spent time in that area I quite easily identified with the locale. The blowing sand in certain scenes brought back real life memories!
Jeff Beal, a wonderful television writer, now appears to be getting involved with bigger and exciting upcoming silver screen projects such as Who Do You Love and Salomaybe? as well as this film. Known for his jazzy style such as the television series Nightmare And Dreamscapes, very little of that genre bleeds through in this western score, showing the extreme versatility required from these composers.
The “Appaloosa Main Title” is the theme you’ll hear over and over again and it is one I will remember several years from now, a classic western tune. Close your eyes and you can see the main characters Cole and Hitch riding off into a horizon of blue, slow and easy as the horses sway slightly. This reviewer would have loved to have heard a full symphony orchestra playing the theme in certain situations such as the one mentioned above, as the scenery just cried for it. Perhaps it is a bit of nostalgia taking me back to the days of Shane but it just seemed to be on the thin side. This could have been a director decision to not take away from the film at all and watching the film I can say that it certainly didn’t. The theme for Bragg is a low register theme played by the bass, dark and dissonant, as you would expect. The upbeat happy music heard in “Allison French” is exactly what your ear expects. You’ll also hear fiddling, cool cello solos, sad trumpet, proud Spanish guitar, Native American flute and percussion with a hint of traditional and Hollywood sounds mixed together, what we expect to hear- harmonicas- all good stuff. The percussion couldn’t have sounded better, doing nothing but adding to the soundtrack giving it a nice crisp sound. As pointed out by another respected reviewer there  are references given to both Danna in his work on Ride With The Devil as well as Morricone in a general fashion (hard not to).

This reviewer comes to expect a better than average score from this composer and I wasn’t disappointed. Highly recommended.

Main Titles rating is ****

Lakeshore CD# is LKS 340432

Orchestrated and conducted by Jeff Beal

Performed by members of the Hollywood Studio Symphony Orchestra

Produced by Ed Harris, Skip Williamson and Brian McNelis

 
Track listing
1. Appaloosa Main Title (02:12)

 

2. New City Marshal (01:47)

 

3. Bragg’s Theme (00:45)

 

4. Allison French (01:50)

 

5. Allie Teases Virgil (00:39)

 

6. Dawn in Appaloosa (01:45)

 

7. Cole and Hitch Stalk Bragg (01:21)

 

8. Bragg is Captured (03:05)

 

9. Apology Accepted (01:26)

 

10. The Kiss (02:31)

 

11. Readin’ and Writin’ (01:52)

 

12. Allie is Kidnapped (02:51)

 

13. Cole Ponders (01:03)

 

14. Hitch Rides (01:39)

 

15. Finding Allie (01:24)

 

16. The Indian Attack (01:38)

 

17. The Horse Trade (03:54)

 

18. Riding Into Rio Seco (00:47)

 

19. Ballad of Rio Seco (02:37)

 

20. Shootout at Rio Seco (02:27)

 

21. Allie Goes Upstairs (00:56)

 

22. Hitch Settles a Score (02:43)

 

23. Riding Off / Apaloosa End Credits (03:44)

 

24. You’ll Never Leave My Heart (04:30)

vocal by Ed Harris

25. Ain’t Nothin’ Like a Friend (03:15)

vocal by Ed Harris

Total Duration: 00:52:41

 

 

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

I’ve recently been paying a little more attention to my feelings and I’ve noticed over the past two days that because of our heat and a standard everyday run of the mill cold I feel completely different about the way music sounds and how it causes a completely different emotion.

I recently received the soundtrack to the just released film Flash of Genius by Aaron Zigman and have had the opportunity to listen to it before, during, and after the cold and each situation has been a different listening experience which brings up for me as a reviewer that my writing and opinion is going to be different depending on how I feel. Not only is my opinion different but also so is my hearing due to the fact that the congestion has backed up into my sinuses/ear canals. While on the subject of ears having the wax removed from your canals is an excellent idea and will result in a better listening experience. There is also the first and second listen, which has to be factored into the experience whether I feel good, bad, or indifferent. What I can tell you are the first listen was extremely positive given my upbeat attitude coupled with a style of music I personally enjoy listening to. The next couple of listens were extremely negative as this was during the not feeling so good time frame. The music was dull, uninspired, and quite muddy sounding. Whatever themes were present, two of them, weren’t there at the time of this listening. All I could tell you is that there was some synthesizer; strings, some trumpet, and the tracks were irritatingly short. My opinion was blah. The first listen was pre-cold and the second was during the full effect of it.

Today feeling like I am, on the mend, produced a fresh and exciting sound to my ears. I’ll leave most of the comment for my review but needless to say I really quite like the work on the whole, although the short tracks are irritating but then again I feel that way about Newman and Herrmann also known for their short tracks. This was quite a change in attitude from the muddy sounding material from the day before. If I had written and published that day it would have been a negative not a positive.

Your frame of mind can definitely have an influence on the way the music sounds. Having a nice evening with your significant other and the main theme from Prince of Tides will sound romantic and heartfelt. A bad mood can result in what did I ever see in this schmaltz. Tired and your brain can be on overload and hard to process any sort of information. Well rested and the sound is crisp and clear. Something to ponder the next time you listen to a composition. Your mood can and will effect the way music is heard.

 

 

Jim Brown, former star NFL running back, recently said on ESPN that it was an excellent film and depicted his life and the times in a positive honest fashion. Ernie, like Jackie Robinson and Jim Brown suffered racial barriers impossible to imagine in 2008. In spite of the obstacles he became the first African-American to win the coveted Heisman trophy as a record setting running back for Syracuse, not exactly a center for racial equality. The Universal film starring Rob “Finding Forrester” Brown as Ernie Davis and Dennis Quaid as coach Schwartzwalder is directed by relative newcomer Gary Fleder and opened in theaters on October 10th in the USA.

Veteran Mark “Black Dahlia” Isham, chose a mixture of orchestral, drum machine, and synthesizers for the score. The accomplished trumpet player offers little in the way of his chosen instrument with only 2 trumpet players in the orchestra and only a small sampling of trumpet solo from Jon Lewis. Don’t look for any jazz style riffs in this score, as you’ll find none. Another notable difference in sound in the score is the absence of woodwinds except for a single oboe and clarinet. No reed section or flutes are to be found. While one might expect some source music of marching band music, you’ll find none of that on this soundtrack.

What you’ll find from Isham is a very structured, high level of heartfelt, action, and suspense cues heard exactly where you would expect to hear that type of music in the particular scene. My first listen/impression is sometimes not a good barometer and this case was no exception. The first spin I heard nothing in the way of any thematic material, only cells of generic landscape music. That did change upon further spins and there are three themes, which are repeated through the score. The further playing also resulted in a lot more appreciation for this soundtrack. There is a very soft and delicate (6) note theme which first appears in “Elmira” from the string section with harmony from the horns and is also heard in “Ernie Davis” “I’m An Optimist” and “The Express.” Holly Palmer gives us a nice wordless solo in a mixed track of styles in “A Good Man.” “Jackie Robinson” is really a heart stopper melody that a variation of is also used in “Lacrosse” with a little more tension in the percussion area. “Rain” is one of those cues that you have to put into the elegiac category. If you enjoy your music depressing this is a must track for you. Cues don’t get a lot darker than this one. “Cotton Bowl” and “Prologue” are the action cues offered and are a nice blend of synthesizers, drums, and orchestral with some nice tension buildup.

This is a score that is going to have the greatest appeal to anyone who is taken with the film. It is well suited to the film and is instantly going to bring back memories of the wonderful and tragic story. Providing the Isham fan has an interest in his scores like “Miracle” there will be some appeal. Keep in mind that this is nothing like his jazz pieces such as The Black Dahlia. This is overall a sentimental and subdued score. If that description appeals to you it will have interest.

Main Titles Rating is ***

Produced by Skip Williamson and Brian McNelis

Orchestra conducted by Pete Anthony

Orchestrated by Conrad Pope, Nan Schwartz, and Clifford J. Tasner

Lakeshore CD# is 340302

Track listing

1. Prologue (01:31)

 

2. Jackie Robinson (02:06)

 

3. Elmira (01:57)

 

4. Lacrosse (02:07)

 

5. Training (04:17)

 

6. A Meeting (01:17)

 

7. A Good Man (05:45)

 

8. I’m Staying In (01:18)

 

9. Cotton Bowl (07:36)

 

10. Don’t Lose Yourselves (04:43)

 

11. Ernie Davis (01:37)

 

12. Heisman (01:12)

 

13. Draft (02:35)

 

14. Rain (01:51)

 

15. I’m An Optimist (02:46)

 

16. What Kind Of Bottle (01:49)

 

17. The Express (05:02)

 

Total Duration: 00:49:29

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Based on a true story by Betty Mahmoody, Not Without My Daughter (1991) stars Sally Field in a tale about a husband who takes his wife and daughter to Iran to meet his family only to force them to stay and adopt the ways of Iran. The rest of the story is the eventual escape after 18 months of captivity. The portrayal of the Iranian people was not well received by the country of Iran resulting in a lot of threats of racial profiling. This was also about the time frame of the breaking out of the Gulf War which was yet another strike. Let’s just let the whole scenario go at that as we are talking about the fine Jerry Goldsmith score.

Jerry Goldsmith along with John Williams and Henry Mancini are the most recognizable names in terms of film composers even to the most casual of listeners. Anything that Jerry puts his name on is going to attract a certain amount of attention to an avid collector. There are some in the hobby that would be quite satisfied if they could have every note he ever composed even material Jerry decided was unacceptable while recording a film score. Discarded material could be put in the collectible category. That is how popular Mr. Goldsmith is these days, and his death has enhanced that interest even more. 35 minutes (11 tracks) of the material was released in 1991 on the Intrada label #MAF 7012. This La-La Land Release includes all of the Intrada material with 9 additional cues including a 20-minute orchestral suite never before released, the highlight of the CD in this reviewer’s opinion. The five additional cues not included in the Intrada release are “Mistaken Identity” (0:32), “Street Call” (1:19), “First Break” (0:52), “The Basement” (0:40), and “The Recruiters” (0:55). In addition for the complete collector there is a Chopin prelude, a short rendition of “Joy To The World”, and an unused piano source cue.

Jerry chose to use no brass at all in the score instead making use of the synthesizer, and electronic drums for the underscore, danger, suspense, and action cues. The romantic/heartfelt theme is a good one from Jerry depicting the love and hope from the mother and child. The husband/Iranian theme is also typical Goldsmith especially of the 80’s and 90’s when the electronic elements became so much a part of ‘his’ sound. “No Job” makes a reference to the well-used Russian piece “Volga Boatmen” a 5-note motif known by nearly all before moving into the love theme. The real bonus, well worth the price of the CD, is the 20-minute orchestra only suite performed by the National Philharmonic Orchestra. It includes the major cues without the electronics and is performed in one single track with small pauses between the different parts of the score. This reviewer loves the use of the really sustained long notes of the string section for the suspense portions. While some merely seem to use filler material for underscore Goldsmith thinks out every portion that music is required to make his scores just a little bit better. Yes you can hear a bit of paper shuffling in the longer pauses but it really isn’t a distraction. Look at the suite as one 20-minute movement of a symphony, let your imagination wander a bit and enjoy it for what it is.

If you’re not familiar with but like Jerry Goldsmith this is a definite must to have in your collection. If you’re familiar with or have the Intrada release and like the material you’ll love the bonus of the suite, well worth the price of the CD. If you’re familiar with or have the Intrada release and aren’t excited about the theme then save your money for something else. If you want everything of Jerry’s as described earlier you already have it. Liner notes and mastering are up to the usual good standards especially when the source material is digital to start with. Recommended.

Rating is ****
Produced by Gerhard and Verboys
Performed Sidney Sax conducting the National Philharmonic Orchestra
Orchestrations by Arthur Morton
La-La Land #LLLCD 1075
Track listing

1. The Lake (02:37)

2. Night Stories (01:59)

3. The Promise (01:59)

4. Mistaken Identity (00:32)

5. No Job (03:14)

6. Trapped (02:46)

7. Street Call (01:19)

8. First Break (00:52)

9. Threats (01:30)

10. The Basement (00:40)

11. School’s Out (01:09)

12. Don’t Leave (03:30)

13. The Recruiters (00:55)

14. First Break (04:37)

15. Dry Spell (05:52)

16. The Flag/Back Home (05:43)

17. Piano Source (not used in film) (00:45)

18. Prelude – Chopin (02:29)

19. Joy To The World (00:27)

20. Orchestra Only Suite (20:07)(Never before released)
Total Time is 63:02

 

Boy On A Dolphin/Friedhofer

October 8, 2008

Starring Alan Ladd, Clifton Webb, and Sophia Loren in her first American picture, Boy On A Dolphin was ideally suited for Cinemascope and cinematographer Milton Krasner took full advantage of the Greek Islands as a subject for his photography. The ancient statue of a boy on a dolphin is being sought by good archaeologist Ladd, evil collector Webb, and found by sponge diver Loren. Love of course muddies the water of the situation. While this was decent picture this reviewer has never seen it on any top 100 lists. This reviewer strongly suspects the young Sophia Loren has more interest than the film itself.

 

Hugo had the honor of two Oscar nominations in 1957 for Boy On A Dolphin (the only Oscar nod for the film) and An Affair To Remember as well as composing the music for the film The Sun Also Rises. The 50’s were a good and busy time for Hugo with 40 pictures and 5 Oscar nominations and in addition there were another 42 films where he contributed stock music but was given no credit.

 

In the opening cue “Boy On A Dolphin”, the main title is sung by Miss Julie London (uncredited) in the film only. A rendition of London singing the song is available in the (3) CD Ultimate Collection…Julie (EMI Gold). Apparently Decca was aware of a conflict from the very beginning (Julie was under contract to Liberty) so Mary Kaye, Las Vegas lounge singer) does the vocal in this Intrada release, which came from the Decca LP. The Decca release along with OOP Japanese release is in mono. This release is in stereo with 6 additional cues one being a nameless male singer singing a “Boy On A Dolphin” demo. The Greek melody was taken from Tirafio music by Takis Morakis and was nicely adapted by Hugo Friedhofer (credit was given on the Decca LP to Morakis but no mention of his name is mentioned in the CD booklet). Paul Francis Webster provided English lyrics. While the lyrics are forgettable, the melody isn’t. A traditional Greek style statement starts the opening track giving us the Mediterranean location and then slides right into the main melody, one that is not easily forgotten. “The Café” is a lounge style version of the theme with guitar, piano, bass, and active percussion in a Latin rhythm, very danceable. The theme is once again used in “The Dive” with lush strings and a sultry romantic sax solo. While the underwater sequences use the harp (Herrmann used 9 in Beneath The Twelve Mile Reef) Friedhofer makes use of of a wordless female wailing making this track along with “Nocturnal Sea” quite effective. While Hugo makes use of Greek folk material in tracks such as “Street Music” because of the Mediterranean area his overall style with the assistance of his able orchestrator Edward Powell comes through loud and clear. Anyone who is the least bit familiar with Friedhofer will recognize it as one of his scores immediately.

 

In addition to liner notes from Julie Kirgo there is original album cover notes written by Hugo as a nice bonus. Now, the problem. Being a limited edition of only 1500 it has already sold out so aftermarket sources are the only way to obtain it, which can be quite expensive. At $20.00 it is a definite recommend adding to your collection but in the 50-70 dollar range money has to not be an issue for you. It is a nice CD but ‘holy grail’ or a top 100 soundtrack of all time it is not. While this reviewer feels it is a top 5 Friedhofer release there are others such as Broken Arrow, Best Years Of Our Lives, and Above and Beyond ahead of it.

Golden Score Rating is ****

Intrada Special Collection #78

Produced by Nick Redman and Douglass Fake

Lionel Newman conducts the 20th Century-Fox Orchestra and Chorus

Track listing

1. Boy On A Dolphin (04:11)

 

2. Phaedra Finds The Boy (04:03)

 

3. The Acropolis (02:09)

 

4. Jockey Boy (01:07)

 

5. The Café (03:00)

 

6. Instructions (01:37)

 

7. On The Road (03:39)

 

8. The Shawl (01:11)

 

9. Street Music (02:11)

 

10. The Dive (02:08)

 

11. The Search (02:27)

 

12. Mondraki Bay (02:39)

 

13. Nocturnal Sea (06:20)

 

14. Frustration (03:17)

 

15. Love Scene (03:02)

 

16. Disillusion (02:41)

 

17. The Captive (02:54)

 

18. End Title (03:12)

 

19. Boy On A Dolphin [Demo] (01:57)

 

Total Time is 53:45

 

 

Talk about someone being under the radar and you’ll certainly include the name of George Frederick McKay. Until the recent releases by Naxos, in their ever-expanding American Classics series, McKay had gotten little or no airplay since his death in 1970. Perhaps it was due to the fact that George spent most of his life in the Pacific Northwest, not exactly the same kind of exposure Copland received in New York. Known as the “Dean of Northwest Composers”, McKay was a Professor of Music at the University of Washington for 41 years leaving the area only for a short time to study at the Eastman School of Music and teaching positions in North Carolina, Missouri, and South Dakota.

Composed in 1935 Epoch: An American Dance Symphony was given an extremely favorable review at the premiere by both daily Seattle newspapers. The dance is based on American history as seen through the eyes of some of its greatest poets Edgar Allen Poe, Sidney Lanier, Walt Whitman, and Carl Sandburg, coincidentally all honored by the US Postal Service with stamps. The four sections of the work cover “Symbolic Portrait” (Poe), “Pastoral” (Lanier), and “Westward!” (Whitman), and “Machine Age Blues” (Sandburg) with the “Epilogue” the fifth episode unfinished with the comment from George that this is being prepared by time and will be written and enacted by us all.

“Symbolic Portrait” certainly touches upon the softer side of Poe as well as his curiosity of the ghastly side of life. The choreography ranged from romantic to the macabre (dance of death). While the music in parts is quite dark and dissonant (brass passages) George certainly maintained a melodic nature through the 14+ minutes with solos from harp, flute, and oboe, a struggle between good and evil.

“Pastoral”, featuring the University of Kentucky Women’s Choir, is a section of pure peace and tranquility. Lanier also played flute and composed, one of his works being Hymn of the Marshes (blackbirds) so the references to the birds could certainly have been one of the contributing factors when composing this second episode.

“Westward”, the third episode, is the Whitman section which depicts the beginning of the industrial age with timpani and brass type motif followed by the beckoning of the call of the mourning Cor Anglais to go west to the prairie to settle in the unknown and exciting new land. The episode also includes the movement of the wagons, a tom-tom Indian reference and a playing of the folk tune “Turkey In The Straw”, appropriate music as it was written in the early 19th century.

The fourth episode “Machine Age Blues” written about Carl Sandburg and likely in reference to his poetry in his book Smoke and Steel must have shocked the audience with its brash dissonant approach to the ’Steel Age’ of the early 20th century. Very much in the Gershwin style it includes riveting, jackhammers, and the sound of a very busy city. It also includes some slow blues, Charleston flapping featuring saxophones, and dance material of the era. Then it just suddenly builds to a loud crescendo and ends with the timpani motif, which started the beginning of the “Westward” episode.

Performed by the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra and Women’s Chorus the recording sounded fine especially given the fact that this is very likely made up of students. The music is overall very melodic, and very easy to follow after reading the liner notes from the McKay family. To hear the music is like listening to a separate soundtrack from a film never viewed and this reviewer would be very interested to see first hand a performance of the dance. One can hope that there will be future recordings from this excellent American composer. Recommended.

 

Naxos CD# 8.559330

Produced and Engineered by Tim Handley

Track Listing:

1… Symbolic Portrait (Poe) (14:16)

2… Pastoral (Lanier) (15:28)

3… Westward! (Whitman) (18:49)

4… Machine Age Blues (Sandburg) (13:47)

Total Time is 62:52