Quiet City/Copland

July 31, 2011

On first listen to this world premiere recording I quickly recognized the theme from the film Our Town and immediately thought this isn’t new, what gives? When in doubt go to the liner notes and alto saxophone soloist Christopher Brellochs explains about the dress rehearsal in April 1939 for the Irwin Shaw (1913-1984) play that never saw an opening. Copland stated “My career in the theater has been a flop.” The original instrumentation an unusual combination of trumpet, alto sax, B flat clarinet (doubling on bass clarinet), and piano is a first experience unless you were there in 1939.

The first few notes, a jumpy statement from the trumpet makes it instantly recognizable as a Copland composition if you’re familiar with his work. The ensemble quickly joins and the trumpet offers the first melody followed by the woodwinds and piano. This is followed by a second melody the “Our Town” theme performed by the entire ensemble. There is a playful exchange between piano, clarinet, and saxophone the trumpet being quiet for the moment. The “Our Town” melody truly represents the work of Copland. A third theme is introduced on the saxophone a soothing melody short lived as the “Our Town” theme reappears. A loud staccato exchange takes place with a return to the original theme the trumpet repeating and it is brought to a conclusion.

The recording from Sono Luminus (DSL – 92135) is well done with precise and clear definition from the clarinet, sax, and piano. The trumpet was clean and crisp without the shrill one often hears. The CD also includes works by Ornstein, Aldridge, Hartley, Lunde, and Barab.

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The Sender/Trevor Jones

July 30, 2011

La-La Land Records (LLLCD-1137) is offering in a Limited Edition of 1500 units an older score from Trevor Jones to the paranormal film The Sender (1982) a film starring Kathryn Harrold, Shirley Knight, and introducing Zeljko Ivanek as the sender. Jones delivers a score that complements the unusual activity you see on the silver screen in such a way that he never resorted to shrieking violins, ear blasting dissonance, and other common practices by some of today’s composers. His sound was partially accomplished by the use of a waterphone (new to me), an instrument which is a resonator bowl with a circle of brass rods.

 

On my very first listen I was immediately taken with the melody in the “Main Title,” one that could easily have been written for a romantic or drama genre were it not for the creepy background.  It begins with a disturbing opening, leading the listener into the haunting theme first from the recorder then lush strings. A lonely trumpet plays the theme with a clocklike background before the track returns to its creepy style along with a bit of dissonant string work. This soundtrack is a monothematic one so you’ll hear the main melody in tracks 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. It is mostly written in a minor key except during some circumstances when Dr. Gail Farmer (Harrold) is on the screen. There are subtle references to Psycho in track eleven, Dies Irae in track one and other tracks. Summing this one up is simple. There are a lot of horror statements that work around a beautiful main theme. The well written liner notes by John Takis give a great cue by cue analysis far better than what I could do. He did his usual excellent job and adds to the release. The mastering is mono coming from a source at Paramount that is really unknown. Speculation that it could have been for an LP is one explanation. The score was performed by the English Chamber Orchestra and it is done nicely. Remember that 1500 units are only half of what La-La Land usually puts out so it is better to act sooner than later on this one. Recommended.

Track Listing:

1…. Main Titles (5:24)

2…. The Intruder (5:06)

3…. Attempted Suicide (0:51)

4…. Gail and the Sender (Main Theme) (2:22)

5…. The Necklace is Found (1:07)

6…. Night Time Medication (1:30)

7…. Journey to the Clinic (1:29)

8…. The Parting (1:18)

9…. Gail Returns Home (1:25)

10… Gail Encounters Jerolyn/Night Pursuit/Car Chase (6:21)

11… The Cabin (8:16)

12… End Credits (3:08)

Total Time is 38:17

La-La Land CD# is LLLCD1137

Milan Records, a label a bit on the quiet side lately, has announced a new release for the US on August 2nd. Sarah’s Key, starring Kristen Scott Thomas as a modern day Paris journalist uncovers a haunting story beginning in France in 1942 during the Vel’ dHiv Roundup. Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner who also wrote the screenplay effectively uses the past and present to offer a good film.

This is my first encounter with Max Richter and his soundtrack fits the film very well. Doing a little research I found that the temporary track that was used also came from Max that being “Nature of Daylight” from his album Blue Notebooks. After having a nice listen I can understand his style and composition. He uses simple but very effective chamber style strings very somber with long extended notes from the piano to enhance the track he is working on. In a single word one could describe bittersweet for his “Nature of Daylight” track.

“The Vel D’ Hiv” underscore is a good example of what many of the tracks are like. The piano chord notes open the cue offering an ever ending clock slowly moving. A cello offers a very somber dark funeral like melody a dirge which is some of the sadder material I’ve heard. The strings harmonize with the melody as the everlasting piano continues. “The Buses” is one of a dozen or so tracks that are in the one minute range. It offers urgency from the strings with well placed brass chords to enhance the track. “Secrets” and “Clouds 1” easily combine into one track with a divine inspirational feeling. A simple but very effective cue. “When She Came Back” begins with long chords from the piano which introduce a very slow adagio similar to what Barber did in his Adagio for Strings.” It ends as it began with the piano chords. “Clouds 2” and “Clouds 3” are both under a minute and offer that divine feeling that was heard in “Clouds 1.” A complete 180 degree turnabout is a big band composition “Easy Swing” which is very predictable if you’re into big band style material. A little bop with short solos from piano, muted trumpet, sax, and carried along nicely with the brass section. “A Different Kind of Love” from Dick Walter, a bonus track is pure easy lounge jazz music. The vocal which is pleasant, (no information is provided on the soloist) leads into a Miles Davis style muted trumpet solo with the guitar always playing simple chords backed by bass. If I didn’t know my big band material I would have said “Moonlight Magic” from Alain Moorhouse, another bonus track, was right out of the Glenn Miller songbook. This style is what is referred to as sweet band and a perfect dance cue for people with limited skills on the floor.

Limited liner notes are provided offering little or no information other than a brief paragraph from the director. It was recorded in Berlin by an unknown ensemble conducted by the composer Richter. The sound is crisp with excellent definition especially from the piano, solos being performed by Saori Tomodokoro. Being as somber as it is this is not one to listen to for background music. Somber and serious it is very well done.

Track Listing:

1…. La Java Bleue – Frehel (source music) (2:46)

2…. The Round Up (1:10)

3…. The Buses (1:18)

4…. The Vel D’Hiv (3:41)

5…. Julia’s Visit (0:42)

6…. The Camps (1:51)

7…. Time Piece (1:03)

8…. Secrets (1:00)

9…. Clouds 1 (0:59)

10… The Escape (2:32)

11… When She Came Back (3:34)

12… Clouds 2 (0:50)

13… The Tree, The Beach, The Sea (2:47)

14… Julia’s Discovery (1:14)

15… I Am Writing This Letter (0:35)

16… Clouds 3 (0:50)

17… Julie’s Journey (2:25)

18… When She Went Away (2:43)

19… The Journal (0:46)

20… Julia Walking (2:24)

21… All The Years Come Back (1:01)

22… Sarah’s Notebook (3:34)

23… Easy Swing – Loren Wilfong (2:23)

24… A Different Kind Of Love – Dick Walter (source music and bonus track) (5:18)

25… Moonlight Magic – Alan Moorhouse (source music and bonus track) (3:26)

26… Oif’n Veg Shtait Ah Boim (2:06)

Total Time is 53:54

Milan CD# 365492

The Chinese Ring (1947)

July 29, 2011

This film marks the debut of Roland Winters in the role of Charlie Chan for Monogram having replaced the deceased Sidney Toler. The Monogram Picture(12730) directed by veteran William Beaudine with screenplay by Scott Darling is a remake of Mr. Wong in Chinatown (1939) with very little changes. A little boy instead of a midget, Captain K instead of Captain J, the addition of Birmingham and #2 son, and a fleeing of the killer by water. It is still the story of Princess Mei Ling who comes to America to purchase airplanes for a northern province of China. She is murdered in the first five minutes at the home of Chan. Her maid and a young boy the princess befriended quickly follow. The president of the bank not only committed the murders but swindled his two partners. Warner Douglas as Sgt. Davidson and reporter Peggy Cartwright offers the humor as a Thin Man couple along with Birmingham and Tommy played by Mantan Moreland and Victor Sen Yung. The script is close enough that some of the exact same dialogue is used. The fun part could come from watching Wong and then Chan and picking out small differences. This film is available for free viewing on the internet as well as a recent four film package from Turner which also includes The Chinese Ring, Dangerous Money, and Dark Alibi. (**1/2)

http://www.archive.org/details/The_Chinese_Ring

 

 

 

 Silva SILED 4552 is now available for digital download from iTunes, Amazon, and Napster among others; there will be no PHYSICAL CD’S. For reference the Quatermass Xperiment is also known as The Creeping Unknown. Quatermass 2 is Enemy From Space and Quatermass and the Pit is also called 5 Million Years to Earth. All of the material has been released previously on Silva FILMCD 174, Silva SSD 1059, and all of it appears on Film Music Quatermass Collection on GDI Records #GDICD 008 as well as others compilations I’ve missed. The GDI CD offers a significant amount of additional material from three Quatermass films, with the fourth being Moon Zero Two previously released on GDICD #002.

From the very first notes that James Bernard wrote for Hammer his sound became a part of so many films and The Creeping Unknown (1955) fits perfectly. The only objection I have is that there is not nearly enough of it (not that much was written) and the quality of the sound which is less than. The tremolo from the strings with able backing from the percussion sets the mood for the film. Enemy From Space (1957) has more of a sound like his classic Horror of Dracula score offering a lot more tension and anticipation of what is to come for the viewing audience. Again, there is not enough and the quality leaves much to be desired. 5 Million Years to Earth is an entirely different style of score having been composed by Tristram Cary. It definitely has a far more modern sound; twelve tone in style. The “Open Titles” offer dissonant brass before giving way to creepy strings written Rite of Spring/Stravinsky like. It has a very modern sound and is one that will require more than one listen to absorb. “Scream in the Hull” is another cue lacking any sort of theme but offers tension with tremolo strings and synchronized percussion. “Bulkhead Disintegration,” “Hobb Disturbance,” Panic in Underground,” and “Crane Explosion offer more of the modern sound of dissonant rhythmic material. “Finale and End Credits (Unused) offer a very German classical offering; modern sounding but melodic to a degree. The used end credits from Dennis Farnon are a depressing cue called “Deserted Harbour.” The release concludes with an electronic track and an out of place pop track from Moon Zero Two sung by Julie Driscoll that belongs on a top 40 CD. Worth having.

Track Listing:

1…. The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) – Opening (1:12)

2…. Quatermass 2 (1957) – Opening Titles/Things in the Domes/End Credits (2:13)

3…. Quatermass and the Pit (1967) – Opening Titles (2:35)

4…. Quatermass and the Pit – Scream in the Hull (2:10)

5…. Quatermass and the Pit – Bulkhead Disintegration (1:10)

6…. Quatermass and the Pit – Hobb Disturbance (2:26)

7…. Quatermass and the Pit – Panic in Underground (5:00)

8…. Quatermass and the Pit – Crane Explosion (6:49)

9…. Quatermass and the Pit – Finale and End Credits (unused) (1:40)

10…Quatermass and the Pit – Deserted Harbour (Dennis Faron) (1:32)

11…Quatermass and the Pit – Electronic Music (2:37)

12…Moon Zero Two (1969) – Opening Titles (Don Ellis) sung by Julie Driscoll (3:30)

Total Time is 32:54

Dangerous Money (1946)

July 27, 2011

Dangerous Money (1946) was the 10th Chan picture that Monogram (#11824) produced and the next to the last one with Sidney Toler. The drama takes place on a cruise ship, the S.S. Newcastle from San Francisco that is headed to Australia. This is not a new idea in the Chan series having been done in Charlie Chan in Honolulu (1938). The plot involves a treasury agent who was on the trail of counterfeit money, stolen art goods, and valuable jewelry. While talking to Charlie an attempt is made on his life and within minutes he is knifed. The list of suspects is many and the help from his #2 son Jimmy (Victor Sen Yung) and Chattanooga Brown (Willie Best) make it a lot more difficult but the humor lightens up the picture nicely. The huge walkie talkies they use with their air names of Chop Suey and Pork Chop was hilarious. As the case unfolds there are two additional murders plus a blackmail scheme. Considering that it was 1946 some of the costumes were quite risqué! The murder weapon turned out to be a pistol/knife device and the killer Mrs. Whipple was really a man, a nice twist. Terry Morse, the director, used some great shots of eyes looking through blind stats several times during the picture. Available for free viewing on the net the picture and sound quality are acceptable. It is also available as part of a Turner Classic four film package which also includes The Trap, Dark Alibi, and The Chinese Ring. Above average entry. (**1/2)

http://www.archive.org/details/Dangerous_Money

Borodin was primarily a chemist and his composing was something he enjoyed doing in his spare time. As a result some of his material was not completed or in the case of his 1st Symphony it took five years to complete (1862-1867).

The work leaves no doubt as to its Russian heritage as the opening chords are a giveaway; dark and mysterious. The adagio leads the listener to an upbeat theme, backed by percussion. The development is slow and complete. Alexander was very detailed and the long period of time he spent is certainly evident. He was given help by Balakirev and while the initial offering was considered a failure upon revision it was given another premiere at the Russian Music Society and it was very well received. The scherzo is a lively one beginning with the strings offering the melody with the brass giving support. A second melody from the woodwinds, a delicate one, is developed before Borodin returns to the original theme. The third movement, his andante, is a beautiful romantic theme one to listen to when relaxing is the order of the moment. The finale is an allegro vivo filled with spirit and energy. The Borodin style of composition and orchestration is quite evident or I would say it could be German but his use of the brass and strings is a giveaway for this reviewer.

 

As far as 1st symphonies go this has to be considered an excellent effort better than most. The Seattle Symphony under the direction of Gerard Schwarz performs this to perfection. I’ve heard this work performed by many orchestras and this recording is at or near the top!

 

Track Listing:

1…. Adagio-Allegro-Andantino (12:34)

2…. Scherzo: Prestissimo. Trio. : Allegro (6:54)

3…. Andante (7:45)

4…. Allegro molto vivo (7:11)

Total Time is 34:24