June 30, 2013
Elephant Walk (1954), a film starring Elizabeth Taylor, Dana Andrews, and Peter Finch was one that quickly left the theaters. To a reviewer that had never seen the film my interest in listening and reviewing peaked when I saw the title of the film. My thoughts quickly drifted to one of the best songs of all time; that being Henry Mancini’s “Baby Elephant Walk” from the movie Hatari. As part of a new release from Kritzerland (KR 20025-3) the surviving tracks are presented in a pretty high level quality of stereo tracks.
The main melody “Many Dreams Ago” is a Victor Young style melody that appears in five of the remaining six tracks that survived. It is quite a romantic melody. Along with the Waxman collection I also had a very schmaltzy sweet band arrangement of it from Laurie Johnson that I’ve not listened to for at least 25 years. Part of it was available on the long out of print Franz Waxman collection as a nine minute re-recorded suite, the OST offers four additional minutes including one of the very best underscore tracks ever written “Elephant Stampede.” A slow build up on the lower register of the orchestra leads to a bassoon motif with tuba and growling dissonant brass mimicking the sounds of the elephant, giving you a feeling that your right in the center of a herd of elephants. The pounding timpani are the lumbering of the elephants while the horns depict the elephant calls.
Botany Bay (1953), starring Alan Ladd, James Mason, Patricia Medina, and Cedric Hardwicke was a seafaring film dealing with establishing a penal colony in Botany Bay Australia. This lower budget film from Paramount is best known for the violence portrayed filming something known as keelhauling where you’re dragged underneath the keel with a rope. Most of the original mono score, nearly forty minutes, has been made available on this soundtrack release. The opening scene begins with a brief prelude and quickly announces the main theme which is a series of motifs from the horns, as majestic as the ocean and the clipper ships. I’ve included an audio clip of the main title.botany bay You’ll hear all or part of the motif on several of the tracks and while it isn’t your typical memorable tune it is present. The track also makes reference to the love theme which you will also hear on other tracks. “Cat with Nine Lashes/ Start of Voyages” cleverly uses a short staccato burst from the orchestra nine times to mimic the lashing. As Bruce Kimmel said in his liner notes this is a study on how to write for the high seas and I heartily agree.
Stalag 17 is a good example of a film that really didn’t need that much of a soundtrack. The “Johnny Comes Marching Home” theme with its variations worked quite well in the film. Collectors looking for everything of Waxman will want this without evening listening to it. For the regular collector this is just extra toppings on the sundae as this release has made new material available to all.
The CD is limited to 1000 copies so I’d hurry and get your copy before Bruce puts the sold out up on his website.
June 26, 2013
Coupled with “Lost Continent” previously reviewed https://sdtom.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/3062/ and part of a double bill from MMM “Hellgate” is a Commander release (there only one) which was under the umbrella of Lippert and made little impact on Hollywood. It starred Sterling Hayden, Joan Leslie, and James Arness and was loosely based on a John Ford film Prisoner of Shark Island (1936) which told the story of Dr. Mudd who unknowingly treated John Wilkes Booth. In this version a veterinarian aids an injured member of a gang of mercenaries and is sent to prison for his good deed. The film had a good cast of ‘B’ actors which included Sterling Hayden, Ward Bond, James Arness, Joan Leslie, and Peter Coe. This is definitely a film that should be watched as I consider it a step above the typical ‘B’ western.
Paul Dunlap, who also did “Lost Continent,” took this film somewhat seriously, something he didn’t always do, and the result is a very listenable soundtrack as long as you keep in mind that this came from an archival source and will win no awards for sound quality. What you will get is an opportunity to hear one of the forgotten composers whose talent was far greater than the films he wrote scores for. He once commented about his endless horror scores as being “ugly music.”
Work with a 36 piece orchestra Dunlap created the “Main Title” that opens with a majestic statement from the brass that is nicely complemented by the percussion and a dirge like quality from the strings.Track 2 I’ve included this track as an audio clip to give you an idea of the overall style as well as the archival quality. Halfway through the track the mood changes and we hear an Americana stately theme which identifies the old west setting. Making extremely effective use of the brass with harmony from the strings the dissonant chords depicts the action and tension of the scene. Dunlap chose to return to the main title in “We’ll Follow You Jumper” in this scene where the prisoners are rock climbing in an escape attempt. This is another example of making effective use of the brass. Dunlap used strings and brass to create a feeling of movement as the scene is depicting people leaving. A good example of effective underscore that is a step above today’s generic material which could fit a variety of different films. There is no melody but it has a feel of one as the dissonance of the brass is given a holiday. “Neil Closes the Door,” Ellie’s Letter,” and “Ellie at Mailbox” are the simple love theme melody that Dunlap created. This is in sharp contrast to many of the other cues. Some of the tracks are bugle calls and drum rolls, strictly source material for the film.
I like the score and the fact that Dunlap has his first official CD release. There are more soundtracks and one can hope that the people at MMM who specialize in this sort of thing will release additional material. I’m including a sound clip which will give you what you’re going to hear from in this archival recording as well as an idea of what Dunlap is all about.
June 25, 2013
After fifty years of listening to music I thought that I had heard it all until I listened to Boiling Point (2002), a new release of music from Kenji Bunch. This is the first compilation of his material. Imagine sitting in a symphony hall and before they start playing someone brings out a teakettle and begins to heat the water. The chamber ensemble begins to play, translating the sounds of the teakettle into musical sounds. The work in part is based on graphic novel material as well as experimental music from Victor Feldman. The unusual composition is without any melody but depends on the percussion and cells of sound that conjure up all kinds of thoughts. You’ll hear the teakettle sounds at the end as it rises to a boil followed by the whistling effect. You can also hear the rumbling of the water as it escalates to a boil. The work ends when the water boil which is roughly six minutes and the pot is removed from the heat. If you’re interested in experimental type music this is going to be right up your alley. Repeated listens will lead to further understanding of the material.
String Circle (2005) was part of a Delos 40 year celebration of their releases and this one got my attention completely. It is music that is country, fiddling, and classical in nature. While I couldn’t classify it as strong in the melody area there are cells of melody and rhythm. “Ballad” is a quiet tune based on the folk song “Wayfaring Stranger.” Quite elegiac it has a feel of a slow movement one might hear from Charles Ives. “Porch Picking” is unique in that it is played entirely pizzicato with the strings imitating the sound of both the banjo and the ukulele. The final movement is “Overdrive” a fast dance that moves from country to a more modern sound. This approach is not new as the 20th Century composer Bela Bartok did the very same thing with his work. “Drift” begins as if it is a duo for clarinet with piano providing the harmony of simple repetitive chords. The viola makes its entrance two minutes or so into the work making it a trio. The melodic line shifts between the three instruments making it a satisfying listening experience. “26.2” tells the story of running the New York marathon. It begins very quietly offers a brief but noticeable country reference but the outstanding French Horn playing of Leslie Norton quickly takes over and offers a majestic melody suggesting patriotism. From there the style switches to various sounds including a couple of Herrmann horn notes, an Irish melody from the French horn, and ends on an upbeat note with a restating of the melody. “Luminaria” is a duo for harp and violin which depicts a flickering Mexican votive candle displaying its unusual light.
This CD offers many styles of music thus it should have a wide appeal to classical, folk, and experimental listeners. It is a compilation of Bunch material written between 2001 and 2012 and repeated listens have revealed the fact that he is high on the list of 21st century composers. Definitely one to be explored and comes with my recommendation.
String Circle (Tracks 1-5)
1… Lowdown (4:29)
2… Shuffle Step (3:11)
3… Ballad (7:34)
4… Porch Picking (3:36)
5… Overdrive (3:36)
6… Drift (10:28)
7… 26.2 (11:41)
8… Luminaria (8:17)
9… Boiling Point (6:36)
Total Time is 59:29
June 24, 2013
Winner of 29 awards for her films Susanne Bier directed this fluffy and light comedy starring Pierce Bronsan and Trine Dyrholm about a hairdresser who loses her hair to cancer, discovers her husband is having an affair, travels to Italy for her daughter’s wedding, and meets and falls in love with the groom’s father who had lost his wife and carried a chip on his shoulder. Filmed in Denmark this filmed turned out to be an international effort as other European countries also became involved.
To set the record straight the Beatles pop hit has absolutely nothing to do with the Johan Soderqvist score. There are no vocals. Soderqvist begins with the famous “Amore” song offering a guitar which provides the harmony for the mandolin, the guitar offering a bass line and the mandolin the upper register. The contrast between the two instruments is striking and the introduction of the accordion puts the Italian connection into the track. “The House” introduces the official main melody with a mandolin offering the melody and the harmony is provided by a clarinet and the strings.I’m including this track as an audio clip. The House It is later picked up by a solo violin and accordion. Delicate and real easy on the ears to listen to, you’ll hear this again on other tracks. “Philips Breakfast” introduces yet another theme, a light and bouncy melody featuring the piano. “Moving In” is a South American theme with trumpets leading the way in this very danceable melody. “The Wig” has a Thomas Newman type sound in this touching track. It ends with a re-statement of the main melody. “Taxi” is a return to another danceable track this time without the brass but dominant on the percussion. “Ida’s Dance” begins with the theme from “Philip’s Breakfast” but mid track changes to a quiet romantic interlude. “Theme from Love is All You Need” is a delicate handling of the main theme with a simple line from the piano. “Family Matters-Opening” is a new melody with a solo violin, accordion, clarinet, and piano all contributing to the track. The track is from another film but really fits in nicely with the “Love Is All You Need” material “Family Matters-End Title” is a continuation of the other track offering the same melody lines and styles.
If you enjoy laid back easy to listen to music this score will definitely get your attention. In a day and age of louder is better this will take you back to George Duning and David Raksin. Available right now in the US as a download the CD is set for release on August 6th available from SAE and other dealers. I like the approach that Soderqvist takes and approve of the laid back style. Recommended.
1… Amore (1:44)
2… The House (2:22)
3… Philip’s Breakfast (1:24)
4… Moving In (1:35)
5… The Wig (1:30)
6… Taxi (0:55)
7… First Night (2:18)
8… Ida’s Dance (2:06)
9… After the Speech (1:55)
10. Elisabeth (1:10)
11. Looking for Patrik (1:30)
12. No Wedding (2:38)
13. To Italy (2:18)
14. Mattress (0:38)
15. Theme from “Love is All You Need”
16. Family Matters-Opening (3:56)
17. Lily and Jan (2:40)
18. The Adoption (1:32)
19. Mother and Father (2:05)
20. Family Matters-The End (5:40)
June 23, 2013
Many of the films featured in this compilation from BSX (digital download only) are not noir films but all of them do feature a nice laid back arrangement featuring the piano and synthesizer, with trumpet and sax solos when called for. My template for a noir film is “Out of the Past” or “Gun Crazy,” films that I own and have seen many times. This release is your classic ‘elevator’ background music that is a lot nicer to listen to while on hold while you’re waiting on hold than some of the music, if you can even call it that.
While this compilation includes some of the ones you’d expect to hear such as “Body Heat,” “Chinatown,” “Laura,” and “Basic Instinct” it also includes an original composition “Film Noir Suite” by Dennis McCarthy, the other Laura theme by Henry Mancini from “Remington Steele.” I’ve included this track as an audio clip. https://sdtom.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/15-remington-steele-lauras-theme.mp3 Hank does his usual fine job with a laid back trumpet introducing the melody which is eventually taken over by the synths. Jerry Goldsmith offers the theme from “The Detective” a haunting melody with strings, xylophone, trumpet, and piano, a good example of a bar song that you might pay attention to. The Christopher Young composition from “Jennifer Eight” is performed by Dennis McCarthy with the staccato notes from the right hand blending in perfectly with the chords from the left hand. In my mind it is one of the better melodies from Young. A second Mancini selection “Physical Evidence” was arranged for solo piano by Mark Northam and hardly sounds noir at all in fact it plays out like an etude with a nice melody as well as harmony from the left hand. “Eastern Promises from Howard Shore is another selection that doesn’t fit the noir mold but does offer a duet for piano and violin. This reviewer was so taken with the trombone work on the OST of “Farewell My Lovely” that I didn’t recognize it in the prelude portion. As it turned out it was another lovely piano solo from Mark Northam. “Dirty Harry” was performed by Northam but this time the offering came on the synth, which was a good choice for the Schifrin main title.
Selections that do fit the mold of noir include “Body Heat,” “Basic Instinct,” “Chinatown, “Shamus,” and “Laura.” The Laura theme is played quite nicely again in a classical style in parts along with a laid back style.
This release is not going to be for everyone with its overall ‘elevator’ style as I explained before. The digital file sounds fine at 256kps for the type of arrangements that were used. I would say that it was designed to be listened to on an MP3 player or computer which isn’t close to audiophile quality.
1… Body Heat (Barry) (3:18)
2… Jagged Edge (Barry) (2:14)
3… Basic Instinct (Goldsmith) (2:21)
4… Chinatown (Goldsmith) (2:01)
5… Physical Evidence (Mancini) (2:28)
6… Blade Runner (Vangelis) (4:57)
7… 2 Days in the Valley (Goldsmith) (2:26)
8… Blow Out (Donaggio)
9… Eastern Promises (Shore) (4:39)
10…Jennifer 8 (Young) (2:55)
11…Farewell My Lovely (Shire) (3:32)
12…Dirty Harry (Schifrin) (4:57)
13…Laura (Raksin) (4:30)
14…Bodyguard (Silvestri) (2:45)
15…Remington Steele (Mancini) (2:11)
16…Shamus (Goldsmith) (3:38)
17…Still of the Night (Kander) (3:19)
18…Detective (Goldsmith) (3:10)
19…The Unsaid (Davis) (2:54)
20…Film Noir Suite (McCarthy) (7:23)
Total Time is 70:34
June 9, 2013
“Lost Continent” is coupled with “Hellgate” which will be released as a separate review, both works composed by Paul Dunlap in the early 50’s. Offering an all star cast of ‘B’ supporting actors which included Cesar Romero, Hillary Brooke, Chick Chandler, John Hoyt, Acquanetta, Sid Melton, Whit Bissell, and Hugh Beaumont, the dynamic duo of Sigmond Neufeld and Sam Newfield produced and directed it for Lippert. I’ve likely seen most of their pictures, at least 150 of them as they were Producers Releasing Corporation at one time. Neufeld was considered to be “America’s most prolific sound director who also went under the name of Sherman Scott and Peter Stewart as he did so many pictures that people wouldn’t believe it was possible for one man to do so many films.
“Lost Continent” was loosely based on the Conan A. Doyle novel “The Lost World” as it told a story about a rocket crashing on a remote desert island filled with prehistoric creatures. By todays standards the special effects aren’t very good but it was stop motion animation and when your only a few years old as I was it made a big impression on me. Today when I watch the film I get bored at all of the rock climbing sequences and wish they would end.
Paul Dunlap who worked most of his life in the ‘B’ movies was actually given a budget to work with for this film and he compiled a 47 piece orchestra. He truly did write and orchestrate a score that enhanced the low budget film to the point of making it a watchable (without rock climbing) film. The story of how the recorded material came to the surface is nicely explained in the liner notes. You’ll notice and understand why there were no end titles. The notes as is always the case with a MMM recording are superb, in fact better than the music sometimes. You realize the great care and number of hours that go into one of his releases.
The Main Title, a theme which is used in several cues throughout the soundtrack begins with a brass statement that is somewhat dissonant and brash but does offer a melody that is recognizable. I’ve included this cue as an audio clip. The clanking percussion, pounding drum, and strings enhances the mood of the theme. Steel Giant produces more of the main title melody with more activity from the brass which lead the way in this track. Trek Introduction, and Mountain Approach, are organ chords and definitely in the category of underscore material. Taboo Mountain’s beginning has a sound similar to some of the “Star Trek” material written 25 years. It is a brass statement that is coupled with the main title again. Familiar sounding chords from the brass are featured in Briggs Death around the main title until the finale which is a swirling dissonant statement from the orchestra. Animal Fight features the brass with a plodding sound. The main title is hinted at but the dissonant motifs from the brass are featured. Erotica conjures up images of a quiet tide until the piano takes over and introduces a new melody. Not the Les Baxter that you might be thinking of but very pleasant and almost out of place on this CD. Exotica conjures up a bar scene with couples dancing to a South American beat.
This limited edition of 500 is an archival mono recording and you’ll hear little pops and hiss in the background. Be grateful that MMM made the time and effort to bring to CD a nearly forgotten exposure. I like it.
Love Theme, No. 1 (00:28)
Love Theme, No. 2 (00:38)
Tracks 38-54 from LOST CONTINENT (1951), Total Time – 27:39
Music composed by Paul Dunlap
June 4, 2013
I was first introduced to David Raksin with his classic theme to the Otto Preminger film “Laura” which I played in high school band. It was a favorite of many including myself. In 1968 I purchased DOT LP #DLP 25844 which featured music from the film “Will Penny” as well as tracks from the film “Too Late Blues” starring Bobby Darin, a musical talent in another style (“Mack The Knife among many) and was quite taken with the melodies and arrangements. To my knowledge this LP has never been remastered onto a CD. The titles of cues are different such as “Sambalero” becomes “Flugelhorn Samba” on the lp and “Mother Time” is “How Shall We Begin” on the lp. Like Henry Mancini did David extracted the main material from the soundtrack and arranged the orchestration in an easy listening sweet band format. It had a jazzy touch but the dance template arrangements were very evident. Kritzerland’s latest release is the original soundtrack material as well as many of the jazz outtakes, source music (written by Raksin), long takes, short takes, and alternate takes. Again like Henry Mancini David Raksin liked to write original material for source music such as a radio or jukebox. It results in a smooth continuity of the material as the orchestral style is the same from track to track. His style, especially the underscore, has an edge to it almost instantly recognizable to the Raksin fan. The minor string chords at times remind me of Andre Previn (both worked for 20th Century Fox under Al Newman). “Wither Thou, Ghost” is a good example of his style. “A Song After Sundown” is the featured melody and is heard with lush strings, sax, and trumpet in “Theme from Too Late Blues.” It is included as an audio clip. Please remember that these clips are fairly low quality to save space on the web site. It is also heard as vocalize sung by Stella Stevens in “Recording Studio Part 2.” The opening music “Seal One Part 1-Sax Raises Its Ugly Head” as described by Bruce Kimmel in his liner notes carries on the jazz tradition that was established by Alex North, Elmer and Leonard Bernstein, Andre Previn, Johnny Mandel and others. It is improvisational sounding with staccato stabs at the piano with an exchange between the sax and trumpet with no apparent tempo. “Bass Canard” features the bass of Red Mitchell doing a little bow work as well as the fingers with guitar harmony and nicely placed percussion. This is a jazz piece that could easily be extended into a long improve arrangement perhaps adding other instruments. For your information the re-arranged version on Dot uses four basses some of them being slapped. A very nice track that stands with the wonderful Sundown and Too Late Blues themes reinforcing the fact that David Raksin was an influence in Hollywood. The CD is part mono and part stereo and has a typical sound so something you might hear from the 60’s. I would classify this as a nice little gem something that I’ll return to on a regular basis. Still haven’t seen the movie but I enjoy the music. Like most of Kritzerland releases it is limited to 1000 copies so it is better to act sooner rather than later.
| Track listing