OK, so you may have been wondering why I have been AWOL for the past week or so. Well, due to unfortunate circumstances, I have been shaken into re-evaluating my life. As you will know, if you've been following my blog, I have been struggling for a long time to keep up with the reviewing, what with work and health problems and the thing is, I've been putting so many other things off for a "rainy day" and have now come to realise that if that "rainy day" ever arrives, it might be truly "rainy day" and I might not then be in a position to do them anyway. So, the time has come to make changes and, after more than 30 years of writing about screen music, I think the time has come to stop. It's not that I've become disillusioned with the art or anything like that. No, there's still plenty of fine music being written out there, and an abundance of older scores are finally seeing the light, so times remain interesting and exciting.
So, it hasn't been easy to make the decision to quit, but I feel that it's no good continuing in a half-hearted fashion. It just isn't fair to anyone. So this is my final post and below you will see a brief roundup of all the things I have not gotten around to reviewing, just to alert you to the fact that they are out there.
I want to conclude by thanking all the record labels, composers and their publicists who have so generously furnished me with news and music over the years, and of course all of you who have taken the time to read my ramblings. I leave thinking, rightly or wrongly, that I haven't done a bad job for someone with a love of cinema and its music, but with no musical training. I don't know how it works, but hope Blogger will allow the site to remain open as a source of reference, for a while at least.
So goodbye and good listening!
After nearly a year of not hearing from them, KeepMoving Records have a couple of new CD releases now available. Firstly, we have St. George Shoots the Dragon, featuring Aleksander Randjelovic's music for this World War I drama, the most expensive Serbian film ever. It's a fine orchestral score performed by the Pro Arte Orchestra of Belgrade, though don't be expecting bombast, as the anti-war nature of the film demanded a more intimate, sympathetic accompaniment.
The other release is of Jorgen Lauritsen's music for Strings, director Aders RonnowKlarlund's 2004's puppet fantasy. It's another big orchestral score, performed by Danish Radio Sinfonietta, enhanced by ethnic voices, solo soprano and various instrumental soloists.
Both releases are accompanied by colourful and informative booklets and anyone ordering St. George will also receive a bonus CD of the video game soundtrack Genesis Rising. For further details of both these releases, together with samples, go to www.keepmovingrecords.com. If you haven't yet acquainted yourself with KeepMoving's releases, you should definitely check them out as there's some fine music to be heard, and just to remind you that reviews of many of their albums can be found by searching this blog.
I shall be sorry to miss out on La-La Land's future releases as they continue to resurrect many great scores from the past, often in wonderful expanded editions, with splendid accompanying booklets, as well as releasing great contemporary fare like their many Bear McCreary scores and music from animated movies. Anyway, their latest batch include expanded releases of Danny Elfman's Batman Returns, Jerry Goldsmith's Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and John Williams' Home Alone. Batman Returns features the complete score on disc one, continuing on disc two, with the addition of alternate cues and original album cuts. Whereas Elfman's original Batman score was largely straightforward, and often suitably bombastic and Herrmannesque, the inclusion of complicated characters like The Penguin and Catwoman required new and versatile material, including carnival-like music and a slinky string theme for the latter, whilst of course retaining the composer's original Batman theme. This album is limited to 3500 units.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier features the original film tracks on disc one, with the 1989 album release tracks on disc two, together with sic additional music cues. Goldsmith returned to the franchise, having composed the score for the first Star Trek movie and, as well as reprising his main and Klingon themes from that film, composed some memorable new themes, "A Busy Man" actually being reprised in his later scores in the series. There are 5000 copies available of this edition. Finally, Home Alone, showed John Williams' versatility as a composer (if anyone had any doubts). This was no sci-fi/fantasy blockbuster, but a comedy about a small boy beating up burglars and it's Christmas setting lead to one of the composer's most joyful scores, with new seasonal songs (written with Leslie Bricusse) that have taken their place in the repertoire, and plenty of energetic action scoring. This single disc presentation features much previously unreleased material, together with six additional music cues, in this 3500 unit edition. All three albums are of course accompanied by the usual splendid booklets, with copious informative notes and plenty of colour stills from the films.
In addition to these, La-La Land have also given first-time releases to James Horner's score for the 1995 noir Jade and John Morris's music for the 1986 Gene Wilder comedy Haunted Honeymoon. Jade is a fairly brief score at 26 minutes and mixes orchestral and electronic elements, with a small band of musicians playing ethnic instruments like Shakubachi, Erhu and Chinese Flute. The score is very east meets west in flavour, and the five bonus tracks that complete the disc mostly feature Chinese source music, though there is also an excerpt from Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps, and Loreena McKennitt's "The Mystic's Dream," which plays an important part in the score. This album is limited to 3500 units.
Haunted Honeymoon mostly plays it straight, though there are one or two moments of comedic writing to be found, with Morris employing a traditional Hollywood Gothic sound, including organ. This really is a previously unknown gem (to me) and a very welcome release indeed, but it is limited to just 1200 units, so you'd best hurry to grab your copy. Again, both releases are accompanied by the usual high quality booklets.
Go to www.lalalandrecords.com for all the above albums, where you can first listen to samples before ordering.
Silva Screen Records have announced the 7th February release of Martin Phipps' score for Rowan Joffe's adaptation of Graham Greene's Brighton Rock. Described as a"dark orchestral score," I would say that it is in fact much more interesting than it sounds, being really quite quirky and offbeat and quite a nice surprise to me. This is well worth checking out if you like scores that seem to defy convention. Will of course be available from www.silvascreenmusic.com.
It's rather sad that I have only just made acquaintance with composer Winifred Phillips, having reviewed her fine music for the Legend of the Guardians game but anyway, she kindly sent me links to two more of her game scores; firstly, for Sim Animals, which is really quite delightful. Although it is synthetically produced (with credit to Winifred's close ally Winnie Waldron), it mostly has a light and fluffy, woodwinds-based feel, which is very uplifting, even if the inclusion of bird and animal sounds on many tracks is slightly distracting. You can read a full review at www.gamertell.com. The second score is for Spore Hero and is much more of a conventional synth score, with, after a bright start, a good deal of dark, almost Gothic-styled material, before ultimately achieving Media Ventures-like heroics. You can read a full review at www.denofgeek.com. Both albums are available from www.ea.com. Keep up with Winifred and her music at www.winifredphillips.com.
Another composer I had only just connected with is Benedikt Brydern, he having kindly allowed me to review his score for The Pagan Queen. He has another album, out at cdbaby and shortly at iTunes and Amazon, featuring tracks from his score for an independent movie Out Patient, released a few years back, a mysterious drama featuring Justin Kirk of Weeds. Benedikt remains fond of the main theme he wrote, and describes the score as "dark, melancholic and melodic." I've given it a quick listen, and can highly recommend this strongly melodic work, with a versatile main theme, performed at times by piano and flute, and transformed into a lovely waltz at one point. There's even a dramatic aria, performed by solo soprano. It's well worth checking out. Follow Benedikt and his work at www.consordino.com.
Publicists Costa Communications have for several years been providing me with press releases, albums and links to their clients' works, for which I am very grateful, the latest score to have come my way being Christopher Young's music for The Black Tulip, directed by Sonia Nassery Cole, about a family who open a restaurant in Afghanistan following the fall of the Taliban, only to find themselves targeted by elements of the old regime. As one might expect, Young's score is very ethnic in character, and not to the liking of my western ears. But, if you like that sort of thing, this may well be your bag. Whatever, it certainly shows the composer's versatility. Unfortunately, I do not know at present whether the score will have a commercial release so, for now, you'll have to catch the film to hear it.
Finally, just to let you know that Tadlow Music have a new look website, so get along to www.tadlowmusic.com to check it out.
CD REVIEW - UNSTOPPABLE
So I took a few days off. This was partly because I was working on a personal project, but also because I did it - I finally caught up with the backlog of CDs and suddenly found myself with nothing left to review. Anyway, I've since received a number of releases, including a big batch of La-La Land's latest releases and this is where I start:-
Music by Harry Gregson-Williams
La-La Land Records LLLCD 1160 (US)
13 Tracks 42:22 mins
Taking brief time out from releasing all those excellent expanded editions and premieres of past scores, La-La Land Records here release Harry Gregson-Williams's music for the recent runaway train thriller Unstoppable, starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine (the new Captain Kirk), a film that my brother informs me ticks all the right boxes.
Utilising synths, samples and a handful of musicians: Heitor Pereira and Tony Morales on electric guitars; Martin Tillman on electric cello, Hugh Marsh on electric violin and the composer himself on piano; and with the assistance of Justin Burnett, Gregson-Williams' score is naturally largely propulsive, often in a tense, electronic-pulsed/percussive fashion, as can immediately be heard in the opening "Stanton, PA." For our heroes, Frank and Will, the composer offers sympathetic scoring for strings and piano, but even the quieter moments offer an underlying propulsiveness.
Amidst all the tension, the music does of course break free in the more action-packed sequences, where the guitars and percussion really come into their own, culminating in the lengthy "The Stanton Curve," with "Who Do I Kiss First?" providing the appropriate sense of relief.
To sum up, it's a very contemporary sounding score, not really my cup of tea, but I am sure it serves its purpose well enough.
Get along to www.lalalandrecords/unstoppable.html.com for your copy.
CD REVIEW - THE BOUNTY
Music by Vangelis
Arranged, Produced and Performed by Dominik Hauser
BSX Records BSXCD 8881 (US)
20 Tracks 68:03 mins
It's New Year's Eve and I'm bound and determined not to end the year on a sour note, so I'll temper my comments on this new release from BSX Records. Actually, what's to criticise really about the actual release? Vangelis' score for Roger Donaldson's 1984 version of The Bounty is one that many have wanted to hear on CD for a long time now, and so what if it is not an original recording? To the best of my knowledge, it's a pretty faithful recreation by Dominik Hauser, who has produced a number of re-recordings of themes for the label in recent times. Of course, I'm no expert on the score because, as with practically all of Vangelis' cinematic output, I have heard it once on film and once only. And I will not watch this or any of the period films he has scored again until they are appropriately re-scored. Granted, Vangelis is a talented melodist, as can be evidenced by this album, but electronic music does not and never will belong in a period film. Here, aside from some nice melodies, the remainder of his music comes across as B-movie sci-fi meets John Carpenter.
But that's enough. Be positive, I tell myself, and so, yes, the album is nicely produced, with an accompanying 12-page booklet, sadly lacking in stills and artwork from the film, but with informative notes by Randall D. Larson and profiles of Hauser, vocalist Katie Campbell, who performs the traditional shanty "She Moved Through the The Fair;" and violinist Elizabeth Hedman, who features on another traditional tune "Drowsy Maggie." There is also the additional attraction of suites and themes from three other Vangelis-scored movies, Bitter Moon, Francesco and La Peste - all again reveal the composer's gift for melody; the album concluding with the single edit of the "End Credits" from The Bounty.
Limited to just 2000 units, you'd best hurry along to www.buysoundtrax.com and grab your copy. If you're not a Vangelis fan and need some convincing, you'll maybe want to check out the samples there first.
It only remains for me to wish you all a very happy New Year, one in which you continue to find plenty of good screen music, old and new to enjoy.
CD/DIGITAL DOWNLOAD REVIEW - CUCKOO
Music by Andrew Hewitt
MovieScore Media MMS 10026
17 Tracks 31:17 mins
Yet another new name to me is British composer Andrew Hewitt, who has written the music for the recent thriller Cuckoo. Described as "essentially a musical study of inner claustrophobia," the score is written largely for strings and is basically an exercise in how many different ways one can present the "cuckoo" motif. Of course, there is a little more to it than that, with much suspenseful and mysterious writing, occasionally giving way to more uptempo passages. It's all very Herrmannesque, being especially reminiscent of his work for the Hitchcock classic Psycho, but I am afraid, for me, the whole "cuckoo" thing quickly grew very tiresome, and I was pleased the album has such a brief playing time.
Go to www.moviescoremedia.com/cuckoo.html for samples, a trailer for the film, and ordering suggestions for both CD and digital download versions of the album.
CD REVIEW - THE KING'S SPEECH
The King's Speech
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Decca Records 476 4198 (EU)
14 Tracks 45:17 mins
French composer Alexandre Desplat seems to have become the composer of choice when it comes to scoring films dealing with the British throne, what with The Queen and now The King's Speech, a movie that is already receiving much attention even in advance of its release on 7th January, thanks of course to its Golden Globe nominations, as well as its triumph at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, The People's Choice Award, Hamptons International Film Award and a Hollywood Award. The film stars Colin Firth as King George VI, who of course suffered a terrible stammer, and Geoffrey Rush as the speech therapist who helped him overcome it.
Desplat's score was recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios, utilising the very microphones through which the King used to give his speeches, bearing the royal coat of arms and insignia. Director of Engineering Peter Cobbin said of the use of these: "It was one thing for us to enjoy the visual presence of these rare microphones, but then quite another to hear the sonic tone and unique quality which wrapped and enveloped the score inside Abbey Road's Studio One."
For those of you who may be Strictly Come Dancing fans, you may be interested to know that piano is featured prominently in Desplat's score and the solos were performed by no less than Dave Arch, a name you will be familiar with for his excellent musical direction of the show.
The album opens with the restrained warmth of "Lionel and Bertie," tinkling piano joining strings to take it to its conclusion. The main theme follows in the title track, a flowing, happy and lightly purposeful piano-lead piece, which gives way to a much more uncertain, one could even say stammering conclusion. "My Kingdom, My Rules" follows, beginning uncertainly but then taking flight on piano. "The King is Dead" is suitably tragic, whilst "Memories of Childhood" is again an unhappy affair, full of self-doubt and uncertainty.
"King George VI" is no more confident to start with, but duty calls and the music assumes a certain nobility, for a time at least. The main theme, in its best and most complete incarnation, makes a welcome return in "The Royal Household," before more uncertainty in "Queen Elizabeth," despite some moments of warmth and sympathy. "Fear and Suspicion" follows and expands up on a John Barryish feel introduced at the conclusion of the previous track, with the main theme struggling to be heard and then eventually breaking free.
The penultimate track of Desplat's music, "The Rehearsal," builds expectantly to a quite joyous conclusion, but has to give way to darker matters and "The Threat of War," which closes the score in nervous anticipation of what is to come.
Another admirable effort from Desplat, who has overcome something of a gimmicky start to his international career to become a mature and dependable presence on whatever production comes his way.
In addition to Desplat's music, the album concludes with two pieces by Beethoven and one by Mozart, used to accompany especially dramatic moments in the film.
The soundtrack to The King's Speech will be released in the UK on 3rd January.
DIGITAL ALBUM REVIEW - THE PAGAN QUEEN
The Pagan Queen
Music by Benedikt Brydern
18 Tracks 63:07 mins
I hope you all had a very merry Christmas, so here I am again with the first of my final reviews of 2010, this a digital album from a new name to me, Benedikt Brydern, to whom I am thankful for this opportunity of acquainting myself with his music for last year's historical drama The Pagan Queen from director Constantin Werner. The film is based on the legend of Libuse, the 8th century Czech tribal queen, who envisioned the city of Prague and founded the first Czech dynasty with Premysl, the Ploughman.
Appropriately, the score was recorded in Prague with an 80-piece orchestra and incorporates quotes from Dvorak's Romance in F minor. It has since gone on to win a Silver Unicorn Best Soundtrack Award at the 10th Estepona Fantasy& Horror Film Festival in Spain.
The album opens with a sense of foreboding but the "Main Title" eventually blossoms romantically on strings, presumably the first quote of Dvorak (I am not familiar with his work), before ending pretty much as it began. "Libussa" follows, opening nervously, before attaining some nobility and then blossoming romantically again, a mood that continues into "Moonlight Love," which surges with great passion before melting away. "Autumn Prophecy" follows somewhat suspensefully before lightening and moving nicely to its conclusion. There's both drama and passion to be found in "Eternal Love," whilst "The King's Funeral" is suitably mournful to start, before ascending to more dramatic heights.
"Assault/A New Queen" presents the most exciting action music of the score, before reaching a triumphant, proud conclusion. More action of a darker nature follows in "The Betrayal" and then "Dark Passion" opens very darkly before reaching a passionate crescendo and then ending with something of a feeling of desperation. "Winter" is initially appropriately bleak, but ends in more surging passion, and, I suspect, yet another quote of Dvorak. By contrast, "Heavy Heart" is pretty dark and conspiratorial, with a big dramatic ending, whilst the initially anguished "Separation," eventually lightens, but only briefly, before an overwhelming and then almost tragic conclusion. "Kazi" follows, opening quite mystically and proceeding suspensefully. "Love and Sacrifice" is as passionate and dramatic as the title might suggest, with "Mythical Treasures" offering more mysticism.
The story starts to build to its conclusion with "Off to War" striding purposefully towards "Last Battle," which surprisingly is for the most part devoid of action, with only a short burst before a noble resolution. "Final Destiny" concludes the album with more Dvorak and then a big horns-lead finale.
The Pagan Queen soundtrack is available to purchase as a digital download from the likes of Amazon.com and cdbaby.com, and for information on the composer go to www.consordino.com.