Panic in Year Zero/Baxter

December 18, 2009

Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s I not only owned some of Baxter’s albums but saw many of his films he scored at the drive-in theater with Panic In Year Zero being one of them. Ray Milland, who won an Oscar for his role in The Lost Weekend, starred and directed the A.I. Film, which also starred Jean Hagen and Frankie Avalon. Expecting a science fiction style film, it turned out to be a social commentary on what happens to people after a nuclear explosion. It follows the Baldwin family from just before the explosion to the point where some law and order was restored by the military.

Since high budget isn’t in the vocabulary of A.I. Pictures don’t expect a large symphonic score for this film. Do expect to hear a jazz one from an ensemble of less than 20 consisting of the following unusual combination of 3 French Horns, Trumpets, and Trombones with a busy Gene Cipriano performing the Woodwinds: Flute, Clarinet, and Sax. Percussion, Guitar, and Piano round out the instrumentation. The closest thing I’ve heard previously came from Johnny Richards and Stan Kenton, especially the crisp biting brass, which is heavily featured in this soundtrack. For those who aren’t familiar Kenton was very brassy and Richards worked for Stan off and on over the years. The sound has a similar one to parts of West Side Story but from a much smaller ensemble.

The main title is a catchy one, well developed with his somewhat unusual combination of brass, pulsating percussion, and the single woodwind complemented with guitar. This is a theme that a jazz group could take and run with turning it into a 20-minute composition with each soloist taking his turn. The extended version of the main theme, the last track, gives a long lead in featuring percussion and bass before the theme takes over. “The Hoods” is another theme with similar but certainly a lot more ominous dissonant sound. The single woodwind, this time the sax, takes a prominent part in the cue. The very beginning of the cue sounds like it could be a track on one of his exotic albums. There is even a small amount of romance with a flute lead in “Vacation” and some quiet moments again flute lead in “Some Civilization but warm and fuzzy doesn’t describe this soundtrack. There are more than the usual suspects of tension and suspense motifs. ”Panic In Year Zero/End Credits” is a nice crisp summing up of the cool riff themes and has my vote for the best cue on the CD.

If you enjoy Baxter and jazz you’ll find the combination in a word, satisfying. Given a small budget and probably a difficult deadline to meet Les provided an effective score with a limited size orchestra. Repeated listens bring out more nuances from this 49-minute score. Each of the three releases from Baxter this year Dunwich Horror, Master of the World, and now Panic in Year Zero are all unique but very likable scores from a film composer whose been given little recognition. This release is limited to 1200 so a sell out is a possibility. Recommended.

Produced by Ford A. Thaxton

Mastered by James Nelson at Digital Outland

CD# is La-La Land LLLCD111

Track listing:

1. PANIC IN YEAR ZERO! Main Title (02:06)

2. Vacation / Radio Improvisation / To The Phone booth / Atomic Tonic (02:52)

3. Atomic Subdominant (02:43)

4. Atomic Dominant / Just A Thug / Traffic / The Wreck (04:26)

5. Trigger Happy (02:15)

6. The Hoods (02:07)

7. Stop Sign / Waiting / Wall of Fire (02:20)

8. Bridge / To The Cave / Atavistic (03:26)

9. No Girls / No Civilians / A Boy and His Gun (03:27)

10. Johnson’s Act / The Slip / The Rape (05:36)

11. Bang Bang / Marilyn (03:18)

12. Rabbit Traps / Rabbits Due / Some Civilization (03:08)

13. Chop Chop (01:44)

14. First Aid (01:54)

15. The Army / Five Good Ones / PANIC IN YEAR ZERO! End Credits (04:03)

16. PANIC IN YEAR ZERO! Main Theme – Extended Version (03:29)

Total Duration: 00:48:54