October 29, 2012
Victor Young was a prolific composer and arranger being responsible for over 300 films, the majority of them for Paramount Pictures where he was head of the music department. Recently there have been several releases of his material and this adds to the growing list of scores made available for the very first time. As a boy I remember seeing the film and being impressed at the wonderful flying photography shots. At the time I had no idea what VistaVisionwas all about and I may not have seen it with this wonderful process in place but it certainly didn’t take away from what I saw.
Based on a real-life general Clifford Schoeffler the film starred James Stewart, and June Allyson (their third film together the other two being Monty Stratton and Glenn Miller) and like many films of Stewart Anthony Mann was the director. Co-starring Frank Lovejoy, Barry Sullivan, Alex Nicol, and Bruce Bennett Paramount spared little expense and the film turned out to be one of the better grossing movies at the time.
While certainly not my favorite Young score (I prefer Around the World in 80 Days, For Whom the Bells Toll, and Shane) it is definitely one worth having in your collection and offers a wide variety of musical styles. Being made in 1955 it was one of the last scores that Young would do as he passed away the following year. My initial impression, especially with the “Prelude” is that it came right out of the pages of Victory at Sea.”
The opening “Prelude” begins with a short introduction which leads the listener to a male chorus singing the military style patriotic march, a catchy melody though a bit outdated. He chose to use this original tune instead of “The Wild Blue Yonder” and it was a good decision. It concludes with the love theme a melody that Young offers on many tracks and every bit as heartfelt as “Love Letters,” “Stella by Starlight,” or “My Foolish Heart.” A long introduction with references to “Around the World in 80 Days” (actually the other way around) leads to his famous singing strings style of the Sally theme making you wants to get up and dance and hold that special person. “S.A.C.” Security” begins with dissonant chords which are an introduction to a “Wild Blue Yonder” variation with chords of material that hint at “Shane” mixed in nicely with the “Prelude” theme. “Radar Bombing Run” gives an impression of an underwater sequence before it returns to the Sally theme. The bonus tracks include the “Prelude” without vocal and are a rousing version with harmony from the strings ending with the love theme. “Air Force March” is the main theme arranged for a marching or military band giving you a feeling of patriotism. The “End Title” is another version of the “Prelude” and conveys a sense of patriotism. I’ve included this track as an audio clip to introduce you to the two main themes. 17 – Prelude
Your first couple of listens is going to make it seem like this score is duo thematic but upon repeated listens you’ll grow to enjoy the subtle nature of the score as Victor uses endless variations and harmonies. Lately there seems to be several releases of Victor Young and we can no longer make the comment he is forgotten thanks to Kritzerland and Quartet records. Recommended.
1…. Prelude (2:22)
2….Sally’s Surprise (1:49)
3….S.A.C. Security (2:25)
4….Air Force Luxury (1:15)
5….First Flight (parts 1 &3) (5:40)
6… The First Flight (part 4) (4:43)
7….Who’s on Third (2:48)
8….Ill Fated Flight (parts 1&2) (9:50)
9….Babies and B47’s (4:29)
10…Radar Bombing Run (parts 1&2) (4:00)
11…Signs of Trouble (2:30)
12…Dutch’s Decision/Marital Rift (1:25)
13…Destination Japan/In Flight Refueling (6:07)
14…A Paralyzed Pilot (part 1) (4:28)
15…A Paralyzed Pilot (part 2) (2:56)
16…End Title (1:04)
18…Housewarming Piano (1:40)
19…Air Force March (1:32)
20…Sky Symphony (1:42)
21…End Title (1:02)
TOTAL TIME IS 67:20
KR20022-7 KRITZERLAND CD#
October 25, 2012
Before I begin the review I would like to introduce Howlin Wolf Records to my ever growing list of companies that have partnered with Film Music: The Neglected Art. I as a reviewer am anxious to explore their material and if this release is an indication of what to expect I am already looking forward to their next release.
While listening to the CD for the very first time, I read the liner notes authored by Gergely Hubai, who just published a book Torn Music that deals with the subject of rejected film scores and discovered that composer Penka Kouneva had a doctorate in composition from Duke University along with an impressive list of credits in composing and orchestrating over the last thirteen years. My first impression of the recording was here is yet another game sounding score minus the game with slightly less bombastic moments and a hint of a woman’s touch giving the quieter moments a nice feel. However, repeated listens produced a growing fondness for the entire work and I could begin to feel and experience at least on a small level the style of “Pictures at an Exhibition,” a work that Penka admired and patterned her tone poem after.
The prelude to the work is Waiting for Dawn to Break with its eerie sounding tick tock percussion and unusual sound from the strings. The piano enters creating a new layer of sound repeating the prelude theme with the tick tock still evident in the background. The prelude takes a turn to the dissonant with pounding pulsating percussion with harmony being supplied by the strings and brass. The first section tells the story of The Battle Begins with the attack “Storming the City,” a melding of synthesized and orchestra with the ever present percussion dictating the tempo. It becomes solemn in “Mission Fail 1” with the return of the tick tock layered with a sad cello solo. “A Soldier’s Odyssey is in two parts: the first offering a time of reflection offered by the quartet with harmony from the piano. It becomes heroic with horns and choir proclaiming a feeling of hope. Funeral is the key word o describe “A Soldier’s Odyssey” with a lonely trumpet in military style. “Sniper Attack” with staccato bars from the brass with harmony being offered by sliding trombones and backed by more pulsating percussion sets the stage for a dissonant track “Confrontation from a Lo-Fi Dimension.” The third section offers ethnic sound making use of Slavic folk tunes as well as percussion from frame drum, djembe, dumbek, taikos, and strings using tamboura, saz, and oud to complement the style of her heritage. The Battle Must Go On begins with a restating of the prelude theme before it begins a final series of contrasting styles. “Mission Fail 2 and Requiem” offers powerful bars from the piano before another somber funeral passage from the quartet making an ear opening contrast. “Broken Watch” is a return to the tick tock percussion and finale, “Airplane Bound for the Skies,” my favorite track is the perfect blend of orchestra and electronics. The brass section is center stage for the finale with an able assist from the pulsating percussion.
While I consider this material a 21st Century tone poem gamers will listen and envision a video game with victory and defeat. One should ponder what Liszt, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Mussorgsky might have done if they were vaulted a 100 plus years in time. To have the electronics and mixing capabilities in today’s world would open a new door to them. Penka has given this work many hats and repeated listens will reveal layers and tone colors that are rich and fulfilling. I heartily recommend this one.
Total Duration: 00:51:26
Howlin Wolf Records number HWRCD012 (www.howlinwolfrecords.com)
October 4, 2012
As a young lad “Shane” was the very first movie that made a lasting memory on me and part of that experience included the Theme from the Faraway Hills.” My father had purchased a 45RPM which I distinctly remember having a red label (Columbia). Later on when my hobby slowly began to take over my life I discovered it was Paul Weston. 45 years later it became part of my collection.
For years I had always wondered why no one had ever released the soundtrack to the film. The stories were many, ranging from severe damage to the audio, Paramount Pictures having no interest in releasing it, not enough market because it was Victor Young, the Ladd family, and the theories went on and on. I had resigned myself to the fact that there would never be a release. Victor Young didn’t have the interest that composers such as Newman, Waxman, Herrmann and others had. Time and time again I would tell people that Hollywood waited until Victor Young was dead before they finally gave him an Oscar. There was an occasional release but unlike Herrmann who seemed to have every note he had ever written published Young was ignored. Richard Kauffman offered a nice compilation on the now defunct Koch label and Henry Mancini did an excellent concert compilation he performed as a tribute to a man who at one time went out of his way to help him.
With little fanfare La-La Land has made available a 2000 limited edition release with wonderful liner notes by fellow hobbyist and editor of Film Score Monthly Magazine Jim Lochner. It was as much of a treat reading his take on the score as it was listening to it. It is a mono transfer and there is a certain amount of wow, flutter, and distortion that could not be cleaned up. Consider it an archival recording and accept the limitations and you’ll be extremely grateful for the release. If you’re picky you might want to avoid this one. To this reviewer this release is a dream come true. Each track selection was a reliving of the movie which starred Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Brandon De Wilde, Jack Palance, and Elisha Cook Jr. While it only one Oscar for cinematography it was nominated for several others and in my opinion a top notch effort for director George Stevens. The liner notes explain all of the details of how the cast was selected and how Stevens put this masterpiece together.
Highlights of the 66 minute score include the main title which includes”Theme from the Faraway Hills” and the love song”Varsovienne.” The main title is a lush one which enhances the beginning of the scenic photography of the film which was shot on location in Wyoming. The “Varsovienne” is a traditional Polish dance that has the sound of a delicate lullaby and compliments the other material in the score. Both melodies are repeated often. “Tree Stump” is underscore for Shane and Starrett removing a stubborn stump. Young chose to use a classical style which is proud and majestic (Bach would approve) and excellent counterpoint. This track certainly shows the versatility of Victor Young who seemed to be right at home in any type of genre. There is a mournful offering on the English Horn which is a eulogy for Torrey (killed in a gunfight) in “Cemetery Hill” and repeated again in “Apotheosis and End Title” Sprinkled into the score are traditional songs such as “Dixie,” “America,” and “Beautiful Dreamer.” “Fourth of July” offers a celebration march in the Sousa style along with an ominous few bars from the Bassoon which is a danger signal for trouble brewing.
Considering the material that digital mastering guru Doug Schwarz had to work with this is a very listenable CD that fans of both the film and Victor Young will enjoy. It deserves a place as one of the finest examples of the Western genre ever composed. Highly recommended.
Total Duration: 01:05:08