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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

Drag_me_to_hell_LKS34091Directed and co- written by Sam “Spiderman” Raimi for Universal, “Drag Me To Hell” was not made for the target market that I’m in these days. However, as of this writing in August 2009, the box-office figures show it is a huge success, meaning they hit their target market just fine without my advice. I saw the poster, read the press release, and said to myself, why bother with this at all. This has all of the makings of yet another slasher horror film with the wailing, irritating slashing strings, and loud, louder, and loudest. I bothered because the music is from Christopher Young an excellent underrated composer of the first order. I wasn’t disappointed in anyway and quite pleased at what I heard from the first bars of the main theme. Besides, Young has such thought provoking interesting track titles such as “Muttled Buttled Brain Stew” it is hard not to at least have a listen.

“Drag Me To Hell,” the main theme, begins with a reference from Jaws and ends with a reference from Star Trek. In between is a theme that isn’t your standard horror one at all but a melody you might hear in any number of genre of films, perfectly complemented by a solo violin, which represents the devil himself as explained by Young in the CD liner notes. Immediately the sounds of the violin of Saint-Saen’s Danse Macabre began to fill my head with the vision of a skeleton playing the violin with both hands while the bow was moving on its own, also explained in the liner notes as impossible to do without overdubbing. It is the same theme that you’ll also hear in “Concerto from Hell” which features an extended violin solo complete with trills.

“Tale of a Haunted Banker” starts with a piano lead which segues to a patented classic Young melody performed on a toy piano. It is simple, elegant, and one of those catchy melodies that puts a small lump in your throat. Tempo and lead in are different but the same theme as Haunted Banker is used in “Familiar Familiars” and “Brick Dogs a la Carte.”

There are plenty of horror tracks with chorus, ‘devil’s horn’, on the edge of your seat excitement in such tracks as “Mexican Devil Disaster,” “Auto-Da-Fe,” “Loose Teeth,” “Lamia,” and “Black Rainbows.” While this is top drawer writing for the horror genre this overall style of music has never been my cup of tea and it was difficult for me to get my teeth into it. The horror fan will have no trouble listening to it over and over.

This release comes highly recommended to any fan of Christopher Young and horror genre music. Even the classical listener will enjoy the “Concerto to Hell” as the violin playing is quite good.

Maintitles rating is ****

Produced by Christopher Young and Flavio Motalla

CD# is Lakeshore LKS 34091

Track Listing:

1. Drag Me To Hell (02:33)


2. Mexican Devil Disaster (04:33)


3. Tale Of A Haunted Banker (01:52)


4. Lamia (04:06)


5. Black Rainbows (03:24)


6. Ode To Ganush (02:23)


7. Familiar Familiars (02:11)


8. Loose Teeth (06:31)


9. Ordeal By Corpse (04:35)


10. Bealing Bells With Trumpet (05:12)


11. Brick Dogs Ala Carte (01:46)


12. Buddled Brain Strain (02:51)


13. Auto-Da-Fe (04:31)


14. Concerto To Hell (05:59) Total duration is 52:29

Lonely_are_brave_MO06091094One could argue 1962 was the pinnacle of picture making for Hollywood with the likes of Miracle Worker, Lawrence of Arabia, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Days of Wine and Roses, Birdman of Alcatraz, Music Man, Mutiny on the Bounty, and Sweet Bird of Youth. Released in another year could have resulted in an Oscar or two for Lonely are the Brave including the outstanding score of a young Jerry Goldsmith. Screenplay by award winning blacklisted Dalton Trumbo, itself a story, the film starred Kirk Douglas, Gena Rowlands, and Walter Matthau in a modern setting western about an out of place cowboy. This was not your typical cowboy story and Douglas whose production company produced wanted it released to the art houses, which Universal refused to listen to. Yes it had a western flavor to it but the story went a whole lot deeper. With the above list of 1962 films one can see why it quickly came and left theaters, much to the disappointment of Kirk who felt it was his favorite movie, quite a statement considering the list of films he starred in.

Recommended for the assignment by Alfred Newman, Jerry turned in a score that ranks with the best of the best in the western genre. The main theme is quietly introduced to us 20 seconds into the first track by a guitar with soft harmonizing strings, extremely subtle. Then that theme again is heard first from the flutes and then the lonesome trumpet with some of that Goldsmith sound from the harmony of the brass, and the pizzicato from the string section. One can hear in track No. 3 “3M81” influences of Jerome Moross and Aaron Copland both well known in their writing of Americana music as well as a brief return to that wonderful theme. “Burns Returns” is more of that lovely theme Americana orchestrated. Again one can hear what sort of influence Aaron Copland had on a young Jerry Goldsmith and yet his sound was already being formed. “Bar Room Brawl” is a tense action underscore well orchestrated with guitar, pizzicato strings, blaring horns, and percussion. It ends with a short Mexican style marimba. “World’s Apart” is a longer version (5:28) of the main theme in a poignant lullaby style cue complete with the theme from harmonica, guitar, and a small string section. “On the Run,” “Sudden Intrusion,” “Wounded,” and “Closing In” is tension underscore cues mixed in with the main theme. “Catastrophe” begins with dissonant brass and then becomes a dirge between the brass and the lower strings. The lower register takes the spotlight by playing the theme in a lower key. The “End title” after a short build-up gives us the lonely trumpet and the main theme to conclude the CD.

Don’t let the fact that the recording is mono deter you from a purchase as it is a first class re-master all the way with some added stereo reverb to make it even better. I have absolutely no complaint with the recording at all.

While Goldsmith fans/collectors have already purchased this CD (perhaps 2) the average collector should also not hesitate and purchase this outstanding release before it sells out. It is a limited edition of 3000 copies. This western release ranks with “Tombstone,” “The Magnificent Seven,” and “The Big Country.” Highly recommended.

Main titles Rating is *****

CD# is Varese Sarabande VCL 0609 1094.2

Track listing

1. Lone Cowboy (00:53)


2. Main Title (02:55)


3. 3M81 (02:27)


4. Burns Returns (02:31)


5. 3M52 (01:19)


6. 3M53 (02:40)


7. Going to Town (00:30)


8. Barroom Brawl (03:41)


9. That Dog (00:41)


10. No Surprise / Escape (06:33)


11. Worlds Apart (05:28)


12. 3M96 (01:47)


13. On the Run (01:02)


14. 3M40 (01:49)


15. Resting Up (00:58)


16. Sudden Intrusion (02:03)


17. Closing In (02:56)


18. Anxious Moment (01:30)


19. Surprised Sadist (02:51)


20. Minus Whisky / Hard-Gained Ground (05:59)


21. Run For It (03:08)


22. Wounded (02:58)


23. Catastrophe (03:39)


24. End Title (01:17)


Total Duration: 01:01:35

Hard Contract/North

August 7, 2009


A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) was a style that Alex North developed and carried with him for his entire soundtrack-writing career. He has a slow west coast style cool jazz with dissonance in the right places to add some improv flavor to the bluesy tracks. Considered harsh by many, it is certainly a biting unique style that I’ve enjoyed over the years. If North had gone in the direction of a jazz artist who knows how far or where it would have taken him.

While Hard Contract boasted a stellar cast that included James Coburn, Lee Remick, Lilli Palmer, Sterling Hayden, Burgess Meredith, and Karen Black the story itself about a hit man who finds love and a conscious is all too familiar. One and done director S. Lee Pogostin who also wrote the script likely didn’t help matters. His career was mainly as a writer and it probably should have remained that way.

The new Varese Club release (VCL 0609 1097.2) is divided into two sections, mono and stereo surviving material, making the nearly 55 minutes of music misleading. Many of the tracks are exactly the same except for the mono or stereo difference. “Cunningham,” “Sheila,” “Rape,” “Number One Man,” “Number Three Man,” “Main Title,” and “End Title” are the same cue. However, there are a few cues such as “TorreMolinos,” “Fulfillment,” “How To Kiss,” “Number Two Man,” and “Skin” that are unique to the stereo/mono surviving material.

The “Main Title” begins with two piano chords followed by a Chinatown type theme without strings, slow and melodic, easy to listen to. You will hear this theme in different arrangements such as muted trumpet, guitar, flute, and other combinations. While Hard Contract is not a monothematic score there is quite an emphasis on this theme. “TorreMolinos” is a nicely arranged Samba dance tune for a source situation in the film. “Sheila” is a lush arrangement of the main theme that really cries for strings but the budget wasn’t there. “Number One Man” is a good example of the dissonant style North uses that some find difficult to listen to. “Skin” is a variation on the main theme with some good interplay between muted trumpet, saxophone, clarinet, and orchestra.

As of this writing (08-05-09) the limited edition release of 1000 copies is sold out. I would assume that most of the Alex North fans have already gotten their copy and are enjoying the music. However, http://www.moviemusic.com/ appeared to still have copies available at $24.99. As far as the average soundtrack listener goes I would pass on this one. There is just not enough additional music to justify the purchase price other than the outstanding main theme.

Maintitles Rating is **

Varese Saraland #VCL 0609 1097.2

Track Listing:


Track listing

1. Main Title (02:35)


2. Cunningham (01:43)


3. TorreMolinos (02:18)


4. Sheila (01:22)


5. Number One Man (01:57)


6. Gone (00:37)


7. Rape (01:08)


8. Rape (Alternate) (00:42)


9. Resurrection (00:43)


10. I Do Women (00:31)


11. Hands (01:15)


12. Rest Period (00:39)


13. Him Too (01:00)


14. Number Three Man (01:49)


15. End Title (02:44)


16. Main Theme Demo (02:06)

Tracks 1 to 16: Surviving Stereo Mixes

17. Main Title (02:37)


18. Cunningham (01:43)


19. Sheila (01:20)


20. Fulfillment (02:55)


21. Number One Man (01:59)


22. How To Kiss (02:34)


23. All About God (03:05)


24. Gone (00:36)


25. Number Two Man (01:07)


26. Skin (03:26)


27. Rape (01:07)


28. Resurrection (00:44)


29. I Do Women (00:39)


30. Hands / Hotel Lobby (01:34)


31. Rest Period (00:41)


32. Him Too (01:00)


33. Number Three Man (01:51)


34. End Title (02:44)

Tracks 17 to 34: Surviving Mono Film Masters

Total Duration: 00:54:51

Sky Riders/Schifrin

August 6, 2009


It is hard for this reviewer to imagine that this is the 43rd release of material on the Schifrin owned and operated Aleph label. With the exception of one release, The Enforcer by Jerry Fielding, they all feature Lalo material. His latest entry, Aleph 043, is Sky Riders a 1976 film starring James Coburn, Robert Culp, and Susannah York. It is the story of kidnapping and a daring rescue from an inaccessible monastery using hang gliders. I can’t comment too much on the film as I’ve never seen it and likely won’t but I’ve read enough to get the general idea of the film. The director Douglas Hickox never set the world on fire but he did choose his film composers well for his movies. ”Brannigan” with Dominic Frontiere, “Zulu Dawn” with Elmer Bernstein, and “Theater of Blood” with Michael Lewis were some of his other films, all good scores that I have listened to and have in my collection. We can now add Sky Riders with Lalo Schifrin to the collection.

The opening track, “Flying Circus” will take you back to your childhood when you rode the carousel or perhaps attended a carnival. It is divided into two sections, the first being a merry-go-round theme, a memorable one, followed by a circus/magician style theme. “Climbers” is also divided into two distinct parts. The first is a happy theme with pizzicato strings and flute. The flutes definitely giveaway that Schifrin sound and I could easily imagine this cue coming out of the Mission Impossible series. The second part begins with tremulant bars from the strings and follows with more tension underscore. If you are a listener of Schifrin the horn harmony is yet another giveaway for his sound. “The Riders” begins with a pleasant Greek theme but quickly changes to a few bars of the main theme and then it is back to the tremulant tension underscore again. “Gliding,” “The Terrorists,” “The Last Kite,” and all but the ending of “Copters and Gliders” are underscore material for the film. There is no melody and the majority is classified as tension type music, all with the trademark sound of Schifrin. “End Credits (Original Version)” restates the themes that are heard in ”The Riders.”

While this score is certainly not going to be an all time favorite it is Schifrin and for that reason alone there will be appeal to his fan base. The first track will have a huge appeal to anyone interested in circus/carousel type music, some of the best this reviewer has heard in a long time. Take a moment and check out the sound clips.

Maintitles rating is ***

Produced by Nick Redman

Score Restoration by Mike Matessino

Mastered by Daniel Hersch

Track Listing:

1…Flying Circus (6:21)

2…Climbers (4:08)

3…The Riders (8:31)

4…Gliding (4:43)

5…The Terrorists (9:14)

6…The Last Kite (6:23)

7…Copters and Gliders (7:13)

8…End Credits (Original Version) (2:09)

Total Time is 48:24

the-soloist21Originally scheduled for release in November 2008, The Soloist was subjected to delays and the Oscar buzz given to Robert Downey Jr. for his performance of journalist Steve Lopez was put on hold, as well as the Decca soundtrack. Now scheduled for release in the US on April 24th, the Joe ‘Atonement’ Wright directed film also stars Jamie Foxx as Nathaniel a classical child prodigy cellist who is living homeless on the streets of Los Angeles as a result of his mental issues. The ensuing story leads to a wonderful friendship as well as a best selling book, which examines our society and how we handle mental illness.Academy award winner Dario ‘Atonement’ Marianelli approached this soundtrack from a purely classical point of view, primarily featuring the work of Beethoven’s E Flat Major ‘Eroica’ Symphony. This release is not a series of compilation material that one could put together. Dario orchestrates the themes in a way you’ve never quite heard Ludwig before. While there really isn’t an original main theme, his use of the cello and how he blends the orchestra into the tracks is a work of art. The cello playing can be tranquil, vivacious, tragic, slashing, and dissonant; all reflecting the different moods of Nathaniel. “Crazy About Beethoven” is a solo, tightly miked, with the cello performing the opening theme of the ‘Eroica’ the theme with the full orchestra only coming in at the end of the track. “There is No Escape” is the ‘Eroica’ theme but this time the Cello is backed by The USC orchestra in a way you’ve never heard them before! The talented Ben Hong, in ways I’ve never heard before, performs the cello solos. I would urge anyone who doesn’t own his third symphony to obtain a copy. There are far too many recorded versions to recommend one, but if backed up against the wall this reviewer would say that he owns the 1939 Toscanini/NBC Symphony Orchestra recording. Mono and a bit scratchy but superb playing overcomes any shortcomings in the recording. In addition, there are also parts of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, String Quartet #12 and #15, Sonata #4 for Piano and Cello, Triple Concerto, and Bach’s Partita for Cello. Like his use of the typewriter in Atonement, “A City Symphony” incorporates the sound of the cello into the traffic noise of a LA freeway. The sound of the cello is made to sound like a horn from a car! This opening eventually becomes the theme from the third movement of Beethoven’s String Quartet #15 beginning with the solo cello and then the rest of the quartet. “Accordion Interlude,” an original piece from Marianelli is an accordion solos but made to sound like an organ of Bach style material, a very clever use of orchestrating! “Cello Lesson” is the Bach Cello Partita piece, and the concluding track is the third movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

If you’re not a fan of classical material it is probably one that you’ll want to avoid unless you really take a liking to the film. If you’re open to some classic material it is certainly worth a listen. If you’re a fan of the classical genre you should pre-order it. I can’t recommend it enough!

Track listing:

1. Pershing Square (0:46)

2. Crazy About Beethoven (1:58)

3. Paper Mache World (1:30)

4. A City Symphony (3:37)

5. This Is My Apartment (1:50)

6. There Is No Escape (1:33)

7. Falling Apart (1:07)

8. Four Billion Years (2:50)

9. Nathaniel Breaks Down (5:28)

10. Accordion Interlude (2:03)

11. The Lord’s Prayer (3:10)

12. The Voices Within (2:05)

13. Sister (5:31)

14. Cello Lesson (2:24)

15. Mr. Ayers and Mr. Lopez (11:08)

Total Time is 47:36

Featuring Esa-Pekka Salonen and The Los Angeles Philharmonic