February 18, 2011
First released in 1973 on the RCA label (ARL 0184) this series opened up a world of film music to the average person on the street. Gerhardt made them aware that film music was a lot more than musical notes in the background of a scene. His arrangements and the performance of the National Philharmonic Orchestra only enhanced his case to the public and these releases became very popular. The performances were a step above the pop arrangements as the participants involved truly had a feel for film music. Included along with Alfred Newman in the film releases were Max Steiner, Dimitri Tiomkin, Bernard Herrmann, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Franz Waxman, and Miklos Rozsa the hall of fame names in Golden Age Film Music. The USPS even issued a CD Celebrating the Classics in 1999 when they honored these six individuals with stamps.
The selection process for Newman was a good one as it included a wide range of different films he was involved in. His name is a household one to film like Barrymore is to the stage and screen. Today the tradition is carried on by nephew Randy and son Thomas but his two brothers were also involved in the silver screen at the same time Alfred was. “Street Scene” has become a standard for orchestra’s world over and is a wonderful Gershwin style composition that has found its way into many films, commercials, hold music for phones, and elevators. It has that New York swagger from the 30’s as Newman captured the feeling of the city perfectly. “Captain from Castile” with the lush love theme and the world famous “Conquest” march (University of Southern California theme song) played by every marching band in the world at one time or another has become as popular as any Sousa march. “Cathy’s Theme” from Wuthering Heights is another well known theme and an example of a love theme I’m confident that many composers have studied and learned from. To this day it can still bring a tear to my eye. Down to the Sea in Ships with the “Hornpipe” theme is a rollicking chanty depicting the sea instantly recognizable by film fans. Lovely, religious, and moving can only describe his Oscar winning Song of Bernadette score as he perfectly captured the mood of the box office blockbuster for 20th Century Fox who he spent over 20 years working for. Some of the same adjectives can be used for The Robe in the compilation of different themes selected by Gerhardt and Korngold. “Airport,” written in 1975 has quite a modern sound depicting the busy activity of an airport terminal. The style of music could fit any number of different pictures and upon first listen I can remember thinking about a television theme. In Bravados Newman created a western theme for the adult movie that departed from the Copland template with its staccato brass. The beautiful The Best of Everything and the tragic Anastasia complete this all too brief 45 minute recording. The 40 minute mark was 20 minutes or so per side of a standard vinyl lp as this was recorded in 1973.
This release is nothing short of a top 100 must have CD for your collection. It doesn’t matter that there are a couple of minor glitches in the transfer and it has slightly less dynamic range than your digital recording of today. A word of caution is to avoid the Dolby surround release from the 80’s that RCA released. The sound quality is somewhat less than compared to this new transfer. Newman is to be looked up to as one of the six who started the Hollywood sound and this release is not only a perfect introduction but one that can’t be passed up. Highly recommended.
Total Duration: 00:43:40
A Sony/RCA Red Release #88697 77936 2
Charles Gerhardt conducts the National Philharmonic Orchestra
Produced by George Korngold
February 16, 2011
As a soundtrack reviewer I pick up on some of the most worthless trivia information that has to bore even the best of my friends. As I’m quickly going through the liner notes to the 159th Intrada Special Collection Volume of House of Usher, limited to 1200 copies I came upon they shortened the title of the story so it would fit on a standard movie marquee. Could I remember a birthday or my next doctor visit unless I write it down? Not a chance. But this is a fact that is now permanently engraved in the brain forever along with the fact that this is the fifth release of welcome Baxter material in the last 6 months and perhaps the best effort of the lot.
Baxter, like me enjoyed Ravel and Stravinsky and you can hear some of the influence in this score. The difficulty Les had when he did pictures for AIP and he did over a 100 was time, budget, and small orchestra most of the time (Master of the World Intrada ISE1029 and exception). If allowed to fully explore his classical talent one can only ponder what sort of direction it might have taken him.
For the collector today a further problem is the archiving of his material. In the case of Usher there are no tapes as the material was recorded directly to the soundtrack. Any music tracks were thrown away or erased. I’m sure at the time, Corman, who loved to make money, would have exploited it.
The “Main Title” opening certainly doesn’t sound like a horror movie but a theme that could have come from any kind of genre. The theme is a memorable one, easily recognizable, and one that is used throughout the score. It can also be heard in “Tormented” as a yearning melancholy arrangement, a lush somewhat romantic version in “Reluctance” “Pallbearers” as an elegy and “Vault.” It isn’t until (audio clip included) Les shifts gears 45 seconds into the cue does the material become downright creepy. Baxter makes good use of the Lute in “Lute Song” and other cues to add to the horror of the score. The thirteen plus minute “Fall of the House of Usher” is the finale of the soundtrack. What horror movie wouldn’t be complete without at least a reference to Dies irae and he incorporates a contrabassoon to perform it. The wordless choir enhances the horror and the thirteen minutes passes by quickly.
This is a mono recording that has somewhat limited dynamic range and there are a couple of annoying spots but this is to be expected with the release of this kind of soundtrack. High quality speakers aren’t necessary for this one. It is a miracle it has survived as well as it has and we should be grateful for yet another release of our ever growing Baxter collection. As a fan of his material I heartily recommend this latest release.
Total Duration: 01:02:16
February 16, 2011
This is another Burt Gordon screenplay, special effects, producing and directing picture which is a sequel to the Amazing Colossal Man except he has stopped growing and is suffering from the fall and bombing he received to end the first picture. His sister is there to try and protect him from any harm. It doesn’t seem to matter that other people around him are killed only that he not be hurt or harmed. As a result he decides to take his own life at the end by electrocuting himself as there is no solution as to what to do with him. The special effects are quite dated but can really be overlooked if some kind of plot was written into the movie. I’ve included an audio clip (with sound effects) from the main title of the movie. If you can get a bargain( seen it for under $5) especially if it is coupled with Earth vs Spider it might be worth having in your collection. Otherwise pass.
February 16, 2011
There are three unique things about his Third Symphony. It was the only one of the six symphonies that he chose to write in a major key and the name given to it ‘Polish’ has nothing to do with Poland and their music in the least. With the dance structure one could easily say that this is a ‘Mozartean’ structured one. A more appropriate name would have been ‘German’ as one can hear plenty of it. It was given the name ‘Polish’ from the finale’s Tempo di Polacca marking after his death. What is somewhat ironic about that is the Russian Royal Court used it as an imperialistic style dance making it highly nationalistic in nature. Written in 1875 it has not gone through major revisions. Tchaikovsky seemed to like it and left it alone. It was the only symphony that had five movements with the extra movement fitting into the work quite nicely.
An ominous extended note begins the first movement which quickly moves into an allegro with one of Tchaikovsky’s proud majestic themes. Over the course of 15 minutes it is given time to fully develop with all orchestral sections contributing. The allegro moderato of the second movement is a woodwind driven melody with the flute clarinet, bassoon, and flute playing a part. The third movement, a slow waltz with the solos from the bassoon and then the horn are a very moving part of the symphony. The scherzo, given the adjective ghostlike by Richard Taruskin, is quite appropriate. The finale is a rousing upbeat dance used by the court as previously discussed. One can hear the influence that Mozart had on Tchaikovsky in the middle section of this 5th movement. It has a frantic conclusion.
The recording was done originally on the Philips label in 1965 as Igor Marketvitch (1912-1983) did the complete cycle of the six Tchaikovsky symphonies in the sixties. His set was the standard by many as the list of available recordings was considerable during that era. Reissued in the 90’s as part of the duo budget series from Philips it was a tremendous bargain as one could obtain three symphonies for the cost of one premium CD. This set continues the tradition of offering fine readings at a reasonable amount ($20-30 price range). The Ukrainian composer/conductor is right at home with this symphony and seems comfortable performing it.
1…. Introduzione e Allergo 15:18
2….Alla tedesca (Allegro moderato) 5:50
3….Andante elegiac 11:43
4….Scherzo (Allegro vivo) 5:38
5….Finale (Allegro con fuoco:Tempo di Polacca) 8:21
Total Time is 46:50
Newton classics #NC8802036
February 14, 2011
This 1958 film from American International film was written, produced, directed, and special effects by Bert Gordon. This could have been a decent ‘B’ movie if it had anything close to a plot. Going back to a cavern where you know there is a giant spider to retrieve a bracelet that is a matter of life and death is a little too hokey for me. Talk about having someone wrapped around her little finger it was this romance and she never kissed him. The good news is this film is coupled with another early Arkoff film War of the Colossal Beast and can be found for a few dollars. I’ve included an audio clip of the main title of the Albert Glasser score which is the highlight of this yawner.
February 8, 2011
As a reviewer I’ve been blessed to own all of the SAE/CSR releases and am grateful I’ve been able to write about all of them. Each one is a recording that likely would not have been a reality had it not been for the love of film music by Craig Spaulding and Ray Faiola. This is the case with the two CD set of Cyrano de Bergerac limited to 1500 copies.
Released through United Artists by the team of Kramer/Foreman the filmed starred Jose Ferrer who won an Oscar for his outstanding performance. Even with a budget of only 800,000 dollars the film failed to return the investment and Foreman and Kramer were let go with one more film to do under their contract, High Noon.
The musical score was somewhat of a departure for Tiomkin who had never tackled a project that took place in the 17th century. He certainly did his homework and produced a work that fit nicely into the time period. If one is familiar with his work one can certainly hear his style. Making good use of the Harpsichord as well as a smaller chamber orchestra resulted in a good accurate score.
The “Main Title” while certainly not indicative of the period is a rousing opening action cue denoting what is to come in this rollicking adventure of the man with the long nose. I’ve included an audio clip from this track, the theme which is used through the film. “The Servant Girl,” not used in the final edit is nonetheless is a fine musical cue giving one a feeling and longing with a hint of the harpsichord, baroque dance, and a feeling of Haydn. While the “Guitar Solo” is a nice track it sounds a bit out of place sounding more like a Italian Café scene from the 40’s. Out of place also is the track “Run Down” which sounds like a typical modern danger/action music cue from the 50’s.”The Covent” with female chorus is a moving religious track with a solemn harpsichord. This is quite moving and an excellent track. “Tiomkin Directs the Orchestra” is a track that Ray put together to show the separate takes of a multi-layered cue complete with dialogue of Tiomkin. Since this is really not a track I’ve included the whole cue for your enjoyment.
This is a mono recording taken from the original acetates and there is some surface noise as well as a limited dynamic range. Your speakers will not be challenged at all. The restoration, done by Ray Faiola, is well done considering the material he had to work with. He has always been based on quality not quantity and as a community we should be grateful for what was accomplished. As is usually the case liner notes are like small books and this one at 32 pages is no exception. It is extremely well researched and covers the movie pre and post as well as all the information you would ever want to know about the Tiomkin score.
Total Duration: 01:35:57
February 7, 2011
Ric O’Barry, trainer in the TV show Flipper, starred in this documentary about the killing of dolphins in Taijii Japan. The film won the 2010 Oscar for the Best Documentary film. The cove is an area where the dolphins are trapped and evaluated as to whether or not they are candidates for amusement parks. Some survive but most of the 23,000 are killed for their meat. It is a heart wrenching happening that few people are aware of. The scenes are pretty horrific so have an empty stomach and be prepared for a real downer. Well filmed. The music soundtrack was quite neutral as it really made no impression on me at all.