Panic in Year Zero/Baxter

December 18, 2009

Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s I not only owned some of Baxter’s albums but saw many of his films he scored at the drive-in theater with Panic In Year Zero being one of them. Ray Milland, who won an Oscar for his role in The Lost Weekend, starred and directed the A.I. Film, which also starred Jean Hagen and Frankie Avalon. Expecting a science fiction style film, it turned out to be a social commentary on what happens to people after a nuclear explosion. It follows the Baldwin family from just before the explosion to the point where some law and order was restored by the military.

Since high budget isn’t in the vocabulary of A.I. Pictures don’t expect a large symphonic score for this film. Do expect to hear a jazz one from an ensemble of less than 20 consisting of the following unusual combination of 3 French Horns, Trumpets, and Trombones with a busy Gene Cipriano performing the Woodwinds: Flute, Clarinet, and Sax. Percussion, Guitar, and Piano round out the instrumentation. The closest thing I’ve heard previously came from Johnny Richards and Stan Kenton, especially the crisp biting brass, which is heavily featured in this soundtrack. For those who aren’t familiar Kenton was very brassy and Richards worked for Stan off and on over the years. The sound has a similar one to parts of West Side Story but from a much smaller ensemble.

The main title is a catchy one, well developed with his somewhat unusual combination of brass, pulsating percussion, and the single woodwind complemented with guitar. This is a theme that a jazz group could take and run with turning it into a 20-minute composition with each soloist taking his turn. The extended version of the main theme, the last track, gives a long lead in featuring percussion and bass before the theme takes over. “The Hoods” is another theme with similar but certainly a lot more ominous dissonant sound. The single woodwind, this time the sax, takes a prominent part in the cue. The very beginning of the cue sounds like it could be a track on one of his exotic albums. There is even a small amount of romance with a flute lead in “Vacation” and some quiet moments again flute lead in “Some Civilization but warm and fuzzy doesn’t describe this soundtrack. There are more than the usual suspects of tension and suspense motifs. ”Panic In Year Zero/End Credits” is a nice crisp summing up of the cool riff themes and has my vote for the best cue on the CD.

If you enjoy Baxter and jazz you’ll find the combination in a word, satisfying. Given a small budget and probably a difficult deadline to meet Les provided an effective score with a limited size orchestra. Repeated listens bring out more nuances from this 49-minute score. Each of the three releases from Baxter this year Dunwich Horror, Master of the World, and now Panic in Year Zero are all unique but very likable scores from a film composer whose been given little recognition. This release is limited to 1200 so a sell out is a possibility. Recommended.

Produced by Ford A. Thaxton

Mastered by James Nelson at Digital Outland

CD# is La-La Land LLLCD111

Track listing:

1. PANIC IN YEAR ZERO! Main Title (02:06)

2. Vacation / Radio Improvisation / To The Phone booth / Atomic Tonic (02:52)

3. Atomic Subdominant (02:43)

4. Atomic Dominant / Just A Thug / Traffic / The Wreck (04:26)

5. Trigger Happy (02:15)

6. The Hoods (02:07)

7. Stop Sign / Waiting / Wall of Fire (02:20)

8. Bridge / To The Cave / Atavistic (03:26)

9. No Girls / No Civilians / A Boy and His Gun (03:27)

10. Johnson’s Act / The Slip / The Rape (05:36)

11. Bang Bang / Marilyn (03:18)

12. Rabbit Traps / Rabbits Due / Some Civilization (03:08)

13. Chop Chop (01:44)

14. First Aid (01:54)

15. The Army / Five Good Ones / PANIC IN YEAR ZERO! End Credits (04:03)

16. PANIC IN YEAR ZERO! Main Theme – Extended Version (03:29)

Total Duration: 00:48:54

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Christopher Columbus/Bliss

December 7, 2009

Sir Arthur Bliss is known primarily for his score to Shape of Things to Come (1935), based on the H.G. Wells novel which is considered by some to be “the greatest of all film scores,” writes Giles Easterbrook for Chandos Records. Bliss also wrote an outstanding film score for Christopher Columbus (1949) starring Frederic March, recently released on the Naxos label #8572226. While this isn’t the original soundtrack (Rank only issued a 78 rpm of two tracks), it is a nicely arranged 10 track 24+ minute suite by Adriano (edited from 140 pages), who also conducted the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra for this recording. Muir Mathieson and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra recorded the original soundtrack. Mathieson was responsible for promoting and recording so much film material from the British major composers like Alwyn, Bax, Vaughan Williams, Walton, and so many others, making this material available to the British public.

“The Overture” is an opening majestic fanfare giving us the main theme, using castanets for a Spanish flavor followed by the middle section that is a delicate theme played by the oboe, woodwinds, and a somber horn. It returns to the proud majestic theme to conclude. “The Commission,” is in three sections all very classical period sounding and non-cinema. “Dona Beatriz,” the love interest is quite romantic and Bliss turns up the romance with solo violin passages. “The Voyage Begins” does as the title indicates musically depict the open freedom of the ocean. “Return To Spain” is also a return to the main title in “Overture” with the majestic horns and the violins participating nicely. “The Messenger,” “Mutiny,” and “Columbus Put in Chains” can stand alone as cues to a film but don’t contribute to the flow of the suite. However, as an overall listening experience, this suite is a pleasant one and a nice additional work to have from Bliss.

Men of Two Worlds is the story of a man who studies music in Europe and then returns to Africa having to deal with witchcraft and sleeping sickness. The opening track “Baraza” is a 7-minute concert work for piano, orchestra, and chorus. The elements of tradition from Europe and Africa is blended nicely together although you won’t find much in the way of technically challenging piano material. The remaining (4) tracks also try to blend traditional European music with Africa although there is little in the way of drums or material you would associate with African music.

Seven Waves Away (1957) (Abandon Ship) was the last of the (7) films that Bliss did for the silver screen and most of the material has disappeared. Starring Tyrone Power, the film directed by Richard Sale and distributed in the U.S. by Columbia, was a psychological drama dealing with living and dying centered around a lifeboat that had 50 people and could only support 20. Three parts remain and it has been orchestrated into an 8+ minute suite. The First section is a frantic almost chase like, the second is a disaster cue, and the final that of funeral march. It is a shame that not more of the material survived as it is well orchestrated.

Another nice entry in the Film Music Classics series from Naxos. It will most probably introduce you to material you’re unfamiliar with at a bargain price.

Naxos CD# is 8.572226

Performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Adriano

Produced by Martin Sauer

Track Listing:

Christopher Columbus (Suite, 1949, arr. Adriano)

1.…Overture (4:46)

2.…The Commission (3:25)

3.…Dona Beatriz (3:07)

4.…Struggles (1:30)

5.…The Messenger (1:05)

6.…The Voyage Begins (2:23)

7.…Mutiny (2:19)

8.…Land at Last! (1:14)

9.…Columbus Put in Chains (2:17)

10..Return to Spain (2:12)

Seven Waves Away (3 Orchestral Pieces, 1956)

11..Allegro con fuoco (1:57)

12..Allegro (2:05)

13..Maestoso quasi Marcia funebre (4:20)

Men of Two Worlds

14..Baraza (6:58)

15..Return to Tanganyika (2:46)

16..The Challenge-The Wrath of the Evil Gods (2:05)

17..Kisenga’s Family (2:34)

18..Village Fire and Finale (2:16)

Total Time is 50:11

I.Q./Seconds/Goldsmith

December 2, 2009

The two styles of scores offered on this newer release from La-La Land Records would be the equivalent of offering a Mozart and Mahler work on the same CD. I could also say that they were two somewhat shorter scores and nicely fit onto one CD allowing the purchaser a 2 for 1 promotion. Let us also say that it shows the diversity of a talent that Hollywood was fortunate to have for so many years. Just remember as you listen your going from comedy to suspense and in this case Rock Hudson isn’t in the fluffy one but Tim Robbins, Walter Matthau, and Meg Ryan are.

I.Q. is built around the childhood theme “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” a musical characterization of Einstein in the movie, played by Matthau the wacky matchmaker in the film. Twinkle is performed complete or part of in several of the cues and in different musical styles. Also included in the mix of cues are doo-wap, some romantic piano/harp/synthesizer material, violin fiddling, as well as acoustic piano and regular percussion. “The Riders” is a nice example of the doo-wap material complete with sax and chorus followed by the romantic theme. Both of these themes along with “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” are used as motifs for the major characters in the film. “Wahoo/ End Credits” includes a reprise of the love theme that could bring a tear to your eye, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star performed solo and then a little more complex, with doo-wap, brass, counterpoint, and doo-wap with sax in a 6+ minute cue. Nice wrap up! While very few will rate this as a must have it is still a nice addition to your collection.

Seconds, from the very beginning, with its devil like trill followed by some pretty eerie organ chords is not something to play for a first date. You could say it has a Danse Macabre and Toccata and Fugue reference which shows the classical study of Jerry to make points but on this CD I might just play the end credits of I.Q. The main title also introduces the haunting theme, which is used throughout the short score. It is a memorable one that you won’t likely forget very soon, if ever. In fact this reviewer is surprised that the main title, which includes the main theme, hasn’t ever made it to a Halloween or scary CD of some type. The love theme as part of “Reflections” is not the romantic whistling theme that we’ve heard of some but more of one of solitude. The drawback with this score is the dialogue bleed into some of the tracks. As explained in the liner notes by producer Dan Goldwasser the three split channel mono source (the only thing available) contained dialogue, music, and sound effects and there were situations in editing that a choice had to be made between cutting music with the dialogue or letting some background remain. Given the brevity of the score to begin with (31 minutes), the choice was to give the listener as much of the music that remained. While the bonus tracks are clearly marked to contain dialogue bleed there are still a couple of tracks in the main body of the score that you can also hear something. Don’t let this influence your decision to own this fine CD, just be aware of the drawback.

This edition is limited to 3000 copies so act while there is still time to enjoy this fine release. Recommended

Produced by Dan Goldwasser

Edited and Mastered by Mike Matessino

Track listing

1. Campus Morning* (01:56)

* Contains “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”

2. Fundamental Order* / First Sight / Chance / Craps (03:00)

* Contains “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”

3. The Riders (01:23)

4. The Watch / I Fixed It (01:20)

5. Ideas / Dress Up (01:44)

6. The Lecture (01:29)

7. Count the Stars* (02:07)

* Contains “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”

8. First Exam (01:20)

9. Signals (02:20)

10. Equations** / A Little Smile* (01:02)

** Not used in film / * contains “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”

11. Caged Fun (01:15)

12. I Really Do (01:08)

13. Years Ago / Practice (01:10)

14. Don’t Panic (02:29)

15. April Fool (01:01)

16. The Compass (02:22)

17. Wahoo / End Credits* (06:23)

* Contains “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”

18. Dress Up (alternate) (01:36)

19. Wahoo (with extension) (03:06)

Tracks 1 to 19 from I.Q. (Total Time: 38m 00s)

20. Main Title (03:00)

21. 39 Lafayette Street (02:17)

22. Quiet Isolation (02:14)

23. Nightmare (02:50)

24. Transformation (01:16)

25. Rehabilitation / Strange Arrival (02:16)

26. Restless Hours (02:53)

27. Reflections (01:59)

28. Begin Again / Peaceful Aftermath (02:24)

29. End Title (01:15)

30. Quiet Isolation (contains dialogue bleed) (02:27)

31. Restless Hours (contains dialogue bleed) (03:12)

32. Peaceful Aftermath (contains source) (00:52)

33. Begin Again (contains dialogue bleed) (01:44)

Tracks 20 to 33 from SECONDS (Total Time: 31m 13s)

Total Duration: 01:08:50