December 29, 2014
During his years with 20th Century Fox probably wrote his most unique store “The Day The Earth Stood Still” creating a sound that will forever be associated with Science Fiction movies. Reading the liner notes I discovered that not only did Herrmann use two theremins but used for the very first time in a score the electric violin which was played by Felix Slatkin (his son Leonard is a world renowned conductor). Add to the mixture the lack of strings and woodwinds and you’ve got the sound which just reinforces the incredible creativity of Bernard Herrmann.
The film itself starred Michael Rennie (The Third Man) and Patricia Neal (Hud), was directed by Robert Wise, and told the story of Klaatu and Gort who came from another planet to warn us of the danger of using nuclear bombs and the consequences that will happen to us if we continue. It was well received and is popular to this day.
There have been several releases of this score but none that includes all of the studio rehearsals, outtakes, and extra theremin tracks. If this is one of your favorite films you’ll definitely want all of this extra material in addition to the 38 minutes of soundtrack. The sound quality is fine but I’ve not compared it to other recordings. If anything I assume that the quality might even be better.
The opening track which is the prelude and outer space/radar I’ve included as an audio clip and is likely the track that you remember the most from the film. It oozes the feeling of eeriness and worldliness enhanced of course from the theremin which has become associated with science fiction even though Miklos Rozsa used it most effectively in his films “The Lost Weekend” and “Spellbound” a few years before. This melody is also repeated throughout some of the tracks such as “Escape” along with an urgent repetition of chords that have come to be associated with Herrmann. The “Finale” is also a repeat of the main theme with the organ being prominent in the arrangement. Other tracks of interest include a fine somber military dirge in “Arlington.” This is a good example of music for the brass section that is complimented by the organ in place of strings which many composers would have used. “Gort” is the introduction of the theme for the robot and is as you would expect one that is plodding lower register lumbering music. The music makes it quite evident the death and destruction that Gort can havoc upon the world. Track 9, a compilation of 6 different cues offers an early on stereo technique of a sound going from only one channel or moving across from left to right.
This soundtrack is limited edition of 1200 units so it is better to act sooner than later. It is highly recommended to Bernard Herrmann fans along with lovers of the film itself. In addition it offers fine liner notes to round out an attractive package.
December 26, 2014
METACOM NO NUMBER
Rumor has it that Tchaikovsky wrote this on a wager with a friend or that he wanted to write a ballet based on a fairy tale. While Tchaikosky was not overly pleased with the work it has gone on to become extremely popular with parts being used in films, television, and commercials. While the ballet is 85 minutes Tchaikovsky created a suite based on 8 selections as an orchestral suite. They are listed below.
I. Miniature Overture
II. Danses caractéristiques
- a. Marche
- b. Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy [ending altered from ballet-version]
- c. Russian Dance (Trepak)
- d. Arabian Dance
- e. Chinese Dance
- f. Reed-Flutes
III. Waltz of the Flowers
This suite performed by the London Philharmonic conducted by J. Hollingsworth includes 11 tracks but all of the above are included plus the Coda Apotheosis, Mother Gigogne and the Clowns, and Pas de Deux.
Many of us have a favorite and I’m no exception with the “Arabian Dance” which offers a feeling of mystery with the reeds playing the melody and the tambourine with it’s distinct sound complementing the arrangement. That air of mystery makes think of Rimsky- Korsakov another of my favorite composers. Another of my favorite tracks is the “Russian Dance” a lively raucous tempo and orchestration that will wake you up without the aid of any caffeine! “The Dance of the Flutes,” “Chinese Dance,” “Waltz of the Flowers,” “March,” often confused for other tracks, and “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” are also fun to listen to and quite varied from track to track.
Everyone should have this as part of their Xmas music for the holiday season. I don’t know about you but I got rather tired of listening to Elvis, Kenny G., and Bing Crosby and this was a very nice change.
1…. March (2:27)
2…. Overture (15:22)
3…. Arabian Dance (2:55)
4…. Chinese Dance (1:07)
5…. Russian Dance (1:08)
6…. Dance of the Flutes (2:20)
7…. Mother Gigogne and the Clowns (2:48)
8…. Waltz of the Flowers (6:38)
9…. Pas de Deux (5:02)
10.. Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (1:49)
11.. Coda Apotheosis (3:07)
Total Time is 44:48
December 24, 2014
miracle on 34th st main title
In time for the 2014 Holidays is a new re-release of “Miracle on 34th St,” both versions along with “Come to the Stable” making this the most complete of all of the releases to date. While none of this is new to CD it was all put together by the La-La Land team in a 2 CD set.
This review is going to concentrate on the Broughton recording which is one of my favorite Xmas albums. Since Nutcracker is also one of my favorites it really goes along very nicely with it as many of the cues are variations and good ones. My real job is working in retail and I can tell you I’m sick of hearing the canned Xmas music over and over hour after hour. To be able to come home and listen to “Miracle on 34th St.” is sheer bliss. This is Xmas music without really being Xmas music. While the movie is very good and I’ve seen it a couple of times I do prefer the original 1947 film but the music is no match to the Broughton soundtrack. The booklet is filled with wonderful pictures of both films and I’d bet that Kirgo had a great time in being able to write the liner notes because it showed in her enthusiasm.
The “Main Title” is a lively festive theme which is blended with ‘Joy to the World’ is one that you’ll hear throughout the 60+ minute school. It will immediately put you into the holiday spirit. “North Pole Moon” introduces a new theme that is somewhat plodding but still pleasant to listen to. “The Secret” introduces yet another theme that we can call Susan’s theme which is a wishful one. “Susan at the Window” has more than a hint of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Arabian Dances’ my favorite from the Nutcracker. “Merry Mayfield” is a return to the days of Bach with a fugue using strings instead of a Harpsichord. “Charmin Armin” is a tribute to Mozart while “Love Theme” is a mini tribute to Kenny G. whose Holiday Album has graced millions of home and the theme is one that could bring a tear to your eye. “Completely Out of His Mind” recognizes ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ and the list just seems to go on and on. Another original of note is “The Bellevue Carol” which is complete with a wordless boys choir is an arrangement that is similar to the style that Mandel used in his version of ‘Silent Night’ for the Newman film “The Verdict.” It is quite a moving song and one that will be hard for you to forget. I could go on and on about this score but couldn’t do it the justice it deserves so I encourage you to go out and get this 2000 limited edition 2 CD set. Consider the other a bonus as it features all of the Xmas songs you’re use to hearing.
I give this score my highest recommendation.
December 22, 2014
ASV CD QS 6006
Third movement: Allegretto grazioso
At one time this symphony (old #4) was given the name ‘English’ the reason being it was given its premiere performance in England. Nothing could be further from the truth as this work like the majority of his work has a Czech sound. Dvorak used folk songs from his native country as a starting point for many of his works. This third piece in the series of $.99 specials I acquired at a thrift store is a good one as the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra was firing on all cylinders for this recording. I have far too many recordings of this work in my collection but I would rank this one near the top. The drawback is the recording. We have to keep in mind that this recording came from 1985 therefore it was an early on CD recording. The higher end has a haze to it like it wants to break through the clouds and burst out with a greater dynamic range but alas it doesn’t happen. The real 5 star part of this recording comes from the brass section in the fourth movement where they make their presence known with beautiful fanfares. I’ve never heard better in the recordings I have. The first movement begins with a somber melody lulling you into thinking that this might be an andante with the relaxing melody with a bird like flute. The tempo changes as does the melody and a second theme a lot livelier enters and we now have a true allegro. The two themes are used back and forth for the rest of the movement. The second movement is a slow paced adagio that offers a single theme that is played different ways from heroic to soft and tranquil. The third movement is a smooth flowing dance that is uplifting, delicate, and a good example of the writing of Dvorak. I’ve included this as an audio clip.
“Carnival Overture,” was a series of three overtures that Dvorak wrote in the 1893 with the concept of having them performed as a single work. The Carnival was the middle selection with the other two being “In Nature’s Realm” and the final piece being “Othello.” The description of the title is quite appropriate as this is a lively upbeat work with an atmosphere of hustle and bustle. It has one of those very brisk loud endings which is an excellent summing up of the work.
Overall this was definitely a nice find for $.99.
1. Allegro con brio (10:28)
2. Adagio (10:41)
3. Allegretto grazioso (6:08)
4. Allegro ma non troppo (9:51)
5. Carnival Overture Op. 92 (9:30)
December 18, 2014
Main Title The Great Jesse James Raid
After a long delay the explanation of which doesn’t belong in this review I received the new releases of MMM one of which was this 2 CD set Western Medley which includes the scores to three films: “The Great Jesse James Raid (1953),” “The Baron of Arizona (1950),” and “Last of the Wild Horses (1948).” The first two I have in my collection because of actors Tom Neal and Vincent Price. They are quite watchable ‘B’ movies. The third film down in sepia tone I can’t comment on either way. This release is somewhat of a departure for producer Schecter who is more known for his science fiction releases but of late has expanded his catalog with other types of genre.
The first CD is devoted to “The Great Jesse James Raid” composed by Bert Shefter (who did a lot of composing with Paul Sawtell). My first listen to it brought these thoughts to mind. This score was so well written that it could have very easily have been done for an ‘A’ picture it is that good. The “Guitar Opening,” more of a fanfare introduction to the “Main Title” sets the mood for the film and hints that it could be a western. The trumpets carry the “Main Title” theme and we are now definitely aware that this is a western. It is a pretty theme that gives a feeling of the expansive west with the sweet strings carrying the melody with aid from the brass section. I’m including an audio clip of the main title. Without warning the mood changes to one of danger, dissonance, and tension as the track quickly ends. The click clack from the percussion gives it even more of a western sound. This is the theme that you’ll hear throughout the score on many tracks being used under a number of different circumstances usually given to us by the brass. In addition there are source type situations that call for a harmonica, accordion, and can can dance music. All in all this was what you’d expect to hear from a western. The 30+ piece orchestra really makes a difference and I’m glad Lippert spent the money.
The second CD offers two films “The Red Baron of Arizona” and “Last of the Wild Horses” composed by Paul Dunlap and Albert Glasser with “The Red Baron of Arizona” being twice as long. Unlike the approach Shefter took Dunlap did offer a fine main title but it wasn’t featured throughout the score. It projects a feeling of a militaristic situation with prominent trumpets and snare drum adding to that feeling. The average cue time for the 37 tracks is less than a minute and you’ll hear gypsy music, religious, the melodramatic, but there is very little in the way of western style music. Some tracks of interest include “Outdoor Party,” “Monastery,” “Reunited,” “Claim,” and “The End.” If you watch the film you’ll get an idea how all of these ideas come together to make a superior soundtrack from the usual ‘B’ movie.
“Last of the Wild Horses” comes from Albert Glasser who is best known for his blaring shrieking dissonant music for science fiction films of the 50’s. Before he became typecast in that genre he wrote regular type music for ‘B’ movies and this is an example of one of them. Dramatic bars with tension filled material at times at a frantic pace is the “Main Title” “Chase” is more of the same style of music very appropriate for the scene. “The Ranch” is more what you think your ear should hear as far as typical cowboy movie stuff is made of. It is complete with the clip clop in the background, in fact if I told a soundtrack enthusiast about it he wouldn’t guess it was Glasser but any of several other composers.
Look at your track listings carefully as the last few tracks are bonus material for “The Baron of Arizona” and not Glasser material at all. While you’re looking at the track listing take a half hour and read the fine liner notes from David Schecter which provide material about the movie, other material about the film and composers in an easy to follow style. David always provides you with some track by track description of the music. He’ll relate the scene to the music which is important if you’ve not seen the picture. This fine CD is available from http://www.mmmrecordings.com or other sources that sell soundtracks. Giddy up to the phone (800) 788-0892.
DISC 1 [41:41]
THE GREAT JESSE JAMES RAID (1953) [41:41]
1 Guitar Opening :21
DISC 2 [53:15]
THE BARON OF ARIZONA (1950) [31:45]
1 Main Title 2:11
LAST OF THE WILD HORSES (1948) [16:58]
32 Main Title 1:14
The Baron of Arizona Bonus Tracks! [4:32]
Total Time is 94:56
December 17, 2014
Reference Recordings RR-907CD
Looking Glass Insects
The second special is a fine recording of works performed by the Minnesota Orchestra conducted by Eiji Oue and recorded by Prof. Johnson for Reference Recordings. The CD is recordings from previous releases from the Minnesota Orchestra with the exception of the first track “Don Juan” by Richard Strauss which is a premiere release. The selections not only display the fine quality of the Minnesota Orchestra but show the superior quality of a Reference Recording revealing the amazing dynamic range along with clarity that will rival a live performance. All of the CD’s that these selections were taken from are still available from Reference Recordings or your favorite seller and I will note them in the track listing at the end of this article. This particular $.99 purchase had the added bonus of being sealed and never played.
“Don Juan,” a template for Hollywood film composers Erich Korngold and Max Steiner and their swashbuckling movie soundtracks, runs the full gamut of emotions from excitement to romance to gaiety and sadness. While I own two other recordings I give an edge to this one for the superior recording.
Two new tracks to me were the Deems Taylor “Looking Glass Insects,” a clever work with several orchestra instruments assuming the role of insects and a tempo that is like well insects. I’ve included this track as an audio clip for you to enjoy. The Valentino Dances conjure up the Latin flavor very nicely with a buildup that enhances the track. You’ll hear some of the more popular works such as “Finlandia,” “Firebird Suite (excerpt),” “Appalachian Spring (excerpt),” and an excerpt from “Ein Heldenleben.” One of my favorite selections is Liadov’s “Baba Yaga” which exhibits exceptional tonal color. Another favorite is music from Tchaikovsky’s “Mazeppa,” the Hopak a well orchestrated and tuneful track.
While I’ve not heard any Reference Recordings in HDCD encoding process I can only imagine that the clear transparent sound would be even better. If you can find this CD at a bargain go for it and you won’t be disappointed.
1….. Don Juan/Richard Strauss FIRST RELEASE (16:42)
2….. Looking Glass Insects/Deems Taylor RR-92 (2:56)
3….. Valentino Dances/Dominick Argento RR-91 (5:20)
4….. Finlandia/Sibelius RR-80 (7:48)
5….. Baba Yaga/Liadov RR-82 (3:22)
6….. Firebird Suite/Stravinsky RR-70 (5:00)
7….. Mazeppa Hopak/Tchaikovsky RR-71 (4:12)
8….. Das Lied von der Erde/Mahler RR-80 (3:12)
9….. Appalachian Spring Suite/Copland RR-93 (2:59)
10… Candid Suite/Bernstein RR-87 (8:14)
11… Ein Heldenleben/Strauss RR-83 (4:29)
12… Alborada del gracioso/Ravel RR-79 (7:37)
Total time is 72:19
Tracks 3,6,9,10,11 are excerpts
December 11, 2014
La-La Land Records LLLCD1319
man hunt main title
If I were going to think about least likely things to happen one of them would be La-La Land releasing a 1941 score of Alfred Newman. “Man Hunt” directed by Fritz Lang for 20th Century Fox and taken from a British best seller “Rogue Male” by Geoffrey Household dealt with a story about an African game hunter Capt. Alan Thorndike (Walter Pidgeon) who stalked Adolph Hitler for sport he claims and is captured by the Germans. He escaped and the story title was on. Also appearing in the film were Joan Bennett, John Carradine, and George Sanders fine character actors in their day. The soundtrack was written by Alfred Newman, he did 15 that year with assistance from David Buttolph and orchestrators Edward Powell and Herbert Spencer, a team effort from the 20th Century Fox musical department.
There are three themes that are repeated throughout the score: “Main Title” or ‘thriller’ theme titled by liner note writer Julie Kirgo, who did an excellent job, “The Roast Beef of Old England,” giving a British feeling for the main character, and finally “A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square,” a song by Sherwin and Maschwitz which made the songbooks of Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, and Glenn Miller among others. It was the romantic theme for Joan Bennett.
After a short prelude the ‘thriller’ theme is introduced first by the orchestra and then by the bass clarinet, a good choice for the use of an instrument. You will hear this theme interwoven throughout the entire score. It is an excellent one and due to the bass clarinet playing one that you’re not likely to forget soon.
A full treatment of the nightingale song is given in “Night Comfort” while “Fish and Chips” gives us both the nightingale theme as well as a nice sampling of the roast beef tune. The 42+ minute score is finished before you know it leaving you with a lasting impression.
The transfer of the material, my older intersound speakers, the surviving sound from the film results in an exceptionally clear mono sound with only a hint of some distortion in it. I encourage you to watch the film and purchase this soundtrack which is a limited edition of only 1500 units. If this would happen to be a first introduction to the talents of Alfred Newman you will not be disappointed. Get it before it sells out.
1. Main Title (1:25)
2. German Headquarters (3;28)
3. The Confession (4:00)
4. High Places (3:25)
5. In the Ship’a Cabin (2:40)
6. Meeting Jerry (4:27)
7. Helping Thorndike (2:24)
8. Night Comfort (1:33)
9. Fish and Chips (5:21)
10. Stalking (1:23)
11. Murder in the Underground (5:03)
12. A Letter for Stokes (2:39)
13. Exchange (1:59)
14. War Montage (1:33)
15. Bail Out-End Title (0:40)
16. End Cast (0:36)
Total Time is 42:34