September 26, 2009

informant artwork

Opening in the theaters on September 18, 2009, the Steven Soderbergh directed film The Informant starring Matt Damon is based on a true story by Kurt Eichenwald of a whistleblower who worked for Archer Daniels Midland. The dark comedy also stars Scott Bakula, Joel Mchale, and Melanie Lynskey. It’s opening weekend at the box office (9-18-2009) saw a return of $10.5 million.

Marvin Hamlisch, a three time Oscar winner and a veteran of more than 40 years of composing film scores, chose a retro-style score from the 60’s that certainly brought back the memories of the big band sound with melodies that get stuck in your head and you can’t seem to shake it loose. Both the main theme “The Informant” and “Trust Me,” performed as a vocal and instrumental fall into that category. “The Informant” starts out on the dark side with a bassoon solo but it quickly turns to a lush and a little schmaltzy melody with a piano, trumpet, and harmonica offering solos. This same theme is also repeated in “Boxes,” “Triplets,” and as a honky tonk piano solo style in the last track “The Informant.” “Trust Me,” offers nice lyrics from Marilyn and Alan Bergman and a very nice vocal from Steve Tyrell in a Las Vegas style big band arrangement. There is also an instrumental version of the same melody in a two-step dance style, which has the lounge piano, wa-wa muted trumpet, and a nice contribution from clarinet and sax. “Meet Mark” is definitely a muzak style theme from the 60’s complete with organ. This same theme is also repeated in “After Car” with the addition of a nice lead in bass solo to the main melody. “The Raid” is a Neal Hefti type tune complete with cool flutes, bass and regular trombones, and a kazoo. “Multi-Tasking” is a muzak type track with a sudden change at the end repeating the spy spoof in “Car Meeting.” “Polygraph” is a banjo-picking hoe down style with a foot stomping violin. “Car Meeting” definitely falls into the category of spy spoof style music. “Sellout” is a South American style dance number. “Golf” is another spy music track leaning more toward a Mission Impossible style of jazz/spy material. If your looking for a variety of styles and types in your music look no further.

However, this music will not appeal to everyone. Some will find this material to appear corny and out of date. This is a good score from Marvin Hamlisch, which will interest those who’re interested in older style lounge, big band, and 60’s type music. In this reviewer’s opinion it was exactly the type of material that the film needed. A newer style score would have taken away from the film. Currently the material is available via digital download. Silva UK will release the CD on October 12th, which can be purchased from SAE and other outlets. Recommended.

Track Listing:

1.… The Informant

2.… Meet Mark

3.… Car Meeting

4.… The Raid

5.… Multi-Tasking

6.… Polygraph

7.… Boxes

8.… After Car

9.… Trust Me (instrumental)

10.. Sellout

11.. Triplets

12.. Golf

13.. Trust Me (vocal by Steve Tyrell)

14.. The Informant (solo piano)

Metropolis Symphony/Daugherty

September 18, 2009

metropolisInspired by the 50th anniversary of Superman in comics, Michael Daugherty began composing his (5) movement work in 1988. Its premiere performance was given in 1994 at Carnegie Hall, performed by the Baltimore Symphony conducted by David Zinman. While it has been around for 15 years this new Naxos release is my first introduction to this intriguing work, which even includes comic book font on the outer sleeve of the CD.

The talented Daugherty received his doctorate from Yale, teaches music, theater, and dance at the University of Michigan, and has conducted many of the major symphonies of the world. Not only is he involved in orchestral works but he is also known for his chamber and band compositions.

While each of the (5) movements of Metropolis are works in their own right and can be performed individually, according to the liner notes from the composer, this reviewer enjoys the work in full. “Lex,” a diabolical foe of Superman, is presented on the violin in a frantic devilish fashion. One could find it similar to what Herrmann did with his music for Mr. Scratch in The Devil and Daniel Webster or Danse Macabre from Saint Saens. “Krypton,” where Superman was born and escaped from, is a dark movement that begins with strings, a fire horn, and the ominous sound of the clanging of bells, with a main theme that has a similar style to the theme from Sunset Boulevard. The trombones let one know that the end is near in this movement. “Mxyzptlk,” was a comical character, and a scherzo that features two flutes on either side of the stage one trying to outdo the other! It nicely represents the mischievous 5th dimension demon. “Oh, Lois!” is not a romantic encounter but a modern sounding slapstick style played as the composer puts it “faster than a speeding bullet.” “Red Cape Tango,” the highlight and finale of the movement, features the often-played Latin death chant Dies Irae, one of the more recognizable melodies of all time. Given a tango beat part of the time featuring castanets and generous selection of percussion, the movement of 13+ minutes is given ample time to develop. Setting aside the Superman character one could easily see how this could be part of a ballet. This reviewer was extremely impressed with Daugherty’s effective use of percussion in this symphony.

Deus ex Machina, God from the machine, is a work for piano and orchestra about the impact that the coal burning train had on our country. Divided into three movements each one tells a story through paintings, the funeral train of Lincoln, and historic photographs, rather than following the structure of a typical piano concerto. “Fast Forward,” uses the piano not as a source of melody but rhythmic chords and tempos which complements the percussion and the orchestra to create the sounds one might think of with a train. “Train of Tears” is a eulogy that also features “Taps” in the slow, sad, and moving piece of the (7) day trip the train took from Washington D.C. to Springfield, Illinois for the burial of Abraham Lincoln. One can hear the sound of the trains on the tracks in the final movement “Night Steam.”

This will make a nice addition to your hopefully ever growing collection of American Classics on Naxos. Superman collectors will also find this a welcome addition to their collections.

Track Listing:

Metropolis Symphony (1988-93) for Orchestra

1.…Lex (10:01)

2.…Krypton (6:46)

3.…MXYZPTLK (7:02)

4.…Oh, Lois! (5:05)

5.…Red Cape Tango (13:41)

Deus ex Machina (2007) for Piano and Orchestra

6.…Fast Forward (7:40)

7.…Train of Tears (14:17)

8.…Night Stream (11:22)

Total Playing Time is 75:55

Performed by the Nashville Symphony conducted by Giancario Guerrero

Piano by Terrence Wilson in Deus ex Machina

Naxos CD# is 8.559635


What do you get when you mix the novelist H. Rider Haggard of She fame, Clinton, Goldsmith, Linn, Chamberlain, Stone, James Earl Jones, and Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson with the Cannon Group? You get a so-so film and a patchwork score to the Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold film. The real star of this show has to go to music editor Virginia Ellsworth who dealt with 137 music cues in the film. She worked with “King Solomon Mines,” music by Jerry Goldsmith, “Avenging Force,” music by George S. Clinton, original material from Michael Linn, and unnamed cues from other Cannon films. She also had to deal with an 80-piece orchestra, a 40-piece orchestra, and who knows what size ensemble. Put all of this together and make it sound like all original OST material and she likely should have been nominated for an Oscar. Liner notes writer Randall Larson called it a “sonic stew” and a “difficult one to analyze.”

Michael primarily worked in Hollywood as an orchestrator and music editor thus his discography as a composer is rather thin with only two additional listings in the soundtrack collector database. Couple this with the fact that he died of cancer at the young age of 43 and he didn’t start in Hollywood until he was 30 didn’t give him a lot of opportunity to compose.

For this La-La Land release #1099 we get another editing job of 32+ minutes of the OST material written for the film by Michael Linn along with a couple of cues that contain the Goldsmith theme to “King Solomon Mines.” The primary theme from Michael first appears in “Don’t Fool With Quatermain” and the melody is used several times throughout the release. It is a nice one, romantic and upbeat with a catchy melody played smoothly by the strings. While it is never really permitted to be fully developed you’ll hear it enough times to recognize it as the theme to this movie. Linn loves brass, especially trombone, and being a former trombone player I absolutely loved the bawdy trombone play alone, and with the trumpets and tuba in “Umslopogaas.” The slide of the trombone comes in quite handy in “Worms,” continues in “Love Scene,” which is not your warm and fuzzy music at all but more of an exercise in tone and technique for trombones. “Jessie Fingered” is a fun comedic track with the Don’t Fool with Quatermain theme and good brass harmony to back it up.

Overall I like the score. The theme along with the orchestration, especially the brass, is strong enough to give this a recommendation. Anyone who collects everything Goldsmith is going to want this as there are brief cues from “King Solomon Mines” included. If nothing else it will likely be the only score that Larson calls “sonic stew.”

This release is limited to 1200 units

Maintitle rating is ***
Produced by Thaxton, Gerhard, and Verboys
Edited by James Nelson

Track Listing:

1. Train Delivery / Don’t Fool With Quatermain * (01:48)


2. Quatermain Shows Off (01:53)


3. Quatermain Meets Swarmi / Dumont Dies (03:20)


4. The Ruse (02:53)


5. Jessie Fingered (02:07)


6. Umslopogaas (03:27)


7. Earthquake (02:57)


8. Quatermain Leaves Akawi (01:40)


9. Worms (01:12)


10. Love Scene (03:02)


11. Agon Wants Revenge (05:04)


12. Dumont’s Gold City / Coda * (03:11)

* = Contains theme from “King Solomon’s Mines” composed by Jerry Goldsmith

Total Duration: 00:32:34