The Raven/An Evening of Edgar Allen Poe/Baxter

January 19, 2012

In three plus years Intrada, La-La Land, and Kritzerland have released thirteen scores for Les Baxter (1922-1996) soundtracks. Quite an accomplishment for someone who was best known for his exotica albums he did for Capitol Records in the 50’s and 60’s. He has worked on over 100 soundtracks so at this time we are just beginning to scratch the surface. This latest release from Kritzerland (KR-20021-1) includes the comical The Raven which offers a lot of fun material and a very serious dark and dissonant An Evening of Edgar Allen Poe, a television special. These are two scores completely at odds with each other.

The Raven (1963) starred Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Vincent Price, Jack Nicholson, and Hazel Court starred in this spoof of wizards trying to outdo one another. I can remember going to the drive-in and seeing this expecting a horror film and being a bit disappointed that it really wasn’t but enjoying it anyway. The score from Les Baxter definitely reinforces the comical side using such instruments as a tuba to make this soundtrack quite humorous for the most part. It is just another side of the versatile Les Baxter. It is a mono source but as usual the sound is clear.

1… Main Title/The Raven (2:20) a clock ticking begins the track as a prelude to the creepy electronics (hammond novachord). There is no melody only a feeling of eeriness.

2… Dr. Bedlo/To the Crypt (1:30) uses a tuba, contrabassoon, and vibraphone to achieve a comic effect. Again there is no melody.

3… Not Quite Dead Dad (1:36) is back to the electronics in another somewhat creepy sounding track.

4… The Plan (1:20) woodwinds, harp, and electronics contribute to this underscore.

5… Wild Ride to the Castle (1:44) a traditional melody is turned into a satirical track. The sound is almost television like and reminded me of a program like Bewitched or cartoons.

6… Dr. Scarabus/The Castle/Lenore (2:49) offers a combo of orchestra and electronics. The tuba work is outstanding on this track.

7… Duel to the Death (4:41) contains a potpourri of material beginning with a horror statement that turns into a pentatonic one, a distorted Auld Lang Syne with mocking sliding trombones and a humorous Strauss Waltz. It is definitely a fun track.

8… The Duel Continues (3:58) as the title indicates more of the same follows with a reference to glow worm.

9… The Escape/Quoth The Raven: Nevermore (2:16) is more of a typical sound that you might hear in a horror movie.

10… End Titles (2:09) is the traditional theme from track 5 in a similar mocking style.

11… Raven Electronica (1:50) a bonus selection is another Raven version found in track one.

An Evening of Edgar Allen Poe (1970) was a one man television special for Vincent Price as he told four Poe stories. It was produced by American International who did an entire series of films with the Poe name in the 60’s. If you’re not familiar some of these pictures had little to do with the Poe stories. They offered very loose interpretations. The four tracks reveal another side of Les Baxter that is very much atonal and modern sounding. The recording is from a mono source which is not going to fill your room with surround sound ambience but is a clear one.

12… Main Title (0:20) is a very brief somewhat generic style of drama music that could fit other types of shows.

13… Tell Tale Heart (7:09) could very well have come from a Thriller episode as it has that sound from the violins an off key sound with urgency. This is very minor key featuring flute, tremolo strings, and harp. To my surprise there was no steady rhythm for the heart.

14… The Sphinx (5:01) does have some flavor of ancient Egypt, the mummy sound. It offers the tremolo modern day horror sound from the strings and a creepy flute.

15… Cask of Amontillado (4:46) are featured in an atonal offering more tremolo strings, harp, and flute.

16… Pit and the Pendulum (7:05) dark strings are featured that play frantic ascending and descending scales. The harp is also featured on this track which lacks any melodic material.

17… End Titles (0:40) a generic sound with snare drum and a brief reference to a melodic line ends the special.

The release is limited to 1000 copies as are most of the Kritzerland releases. While it is sold out at Kritzerland I saw that it was still available for purchase at Intrada and SAE.


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