Dedicated to reviews and news of music for film, TV and games

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

OSCAR NOMINATIONS and News of another Game Score release from Sumthing Else

The following are the nominees for Best Original Score at the 78th Annual Academy Awards in March:-

John Williams for Memoirs of a Geisha and Munich
Alberto Iglesias for The Constant Gardener
Dario Marianelli for Pride and Prejudice
Gustavo Santaolalla for Brokeback Mountain




Original music composed by Bob and Barn, with performances by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir

New York - January 31st, 2006 - Sumthing Else Music Works, Inc., through a licensing relationship with Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Ltd (SCEE), is pleased to announce their first release of 2006: MediEvil ResurrectionT Original Soundtrack. The soundtrack album from the third title in the multi-million selling MediEvil series, developed by SCEE's Cambridge Studio, is now available at European and US retail outlets through Nile Rodgers' Sumthing Else Music Works label, the industry leader for licensing and distributing videogame soundtracks.

The MediEvil Resurrection Original Soundtrack encompasses an eclectic mix of styles that reflects both the gothic horror and the irreverent humour of the MediEvil series. Featuring original compositions as well as new arrangements of the previous MediEvil game scores written by Bob and Barn (MediEvilT, PrimalT), the re-mastered score was orchestrated by Nic Raine (PrimalT, Kameo: Elements of PowerT) and recorded by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir in the Czech Republic. For music samples please visit

Piers Jackson, producer of MediEvil Resurrection, said, "I've often heard Bob and Barn state that of all the games they have worked on MediEvil is their most requested soundtrack, so for all of you who have been waiting for it, and for all of you to whom this is the first outing, I hope you gain as much enjoyment from it as I have."

MediEvil Resurrection is a hilarious action adventure game designed exclusively for PSP that sees the return of the 'fearless' knight, Sir Daniel Fortesque. In his latest misadventure, Dan 'bravely' attempts to rescue the land of Gallowmere from the evil Zarok and in death, becomes the hero he never was in life. Inspired by the myths, characters, and environments of the PS One games, the beloved MediEvil franchise comes to the PSP with new characters, environments, mini-games, and more!

About Sumthing Else Music Works, Inc.
Nile Rodgers started Sumthing Else Music Works (SEMW) as a nationwide record label and creative outlet for independent artists and unique musical projects. Through its affiliated company, Sumthing Distribution, SEMW prides itself on its ability to rapidly and effectively deliver to the marketplace many innovative products. In view of the successes of its previous game soundtrack releases, the company is now recognized as the leader in this newly emerging musical genre. Accordingly, SEMW has bolstered its commitment to enhancing gamers' overall experience by acquiring many new titles to complement its current catalogue of releases.

Sumthing Else Music Works and Sumthing Distribution logos are copyright of their respective companies. All other names of products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Mark Griskey and the music for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe - the Game

If you are a regular visitor to the site, you will have seen how the music score for a game can be just as effective and excellent as that composed for the film it is based on. I am of course referring to Chance Thomas' music for King Kong. Well, the music for the film of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe has also been covered here, and a fine score it is too, but what of the game version of this film?
Having been a composer of game scores for LucasArts since 2001, including Jedi Starfighter, Gladius and Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, Mark Griskey decided to go freelance in March 2005 and landed the plum assignment with Beuna Vista Games.
I was first made aware of the fact when reading an interview with the composer at the excellent Music4Games site, where I learned that Griskey loves fantasy literature and therefore was thrilled to land this assignment. His enthusiasm is certainly evident in the music. Some writers have criticised Harry Gregson-Williams' approach to the film's score, likening it to a typical Media Ventures effort. I don't necessarily agree with this, but have to admit that Griskey's music is probably more what these writers were hoping to hear, namely, a traditional orchestral/choral score, more akin to Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings compositions than to Gregson-Williams' approach.
Utilising a 50-piece orchestra comprised of strings and winds from the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, together with virtual brass, percussion and choir, Griskey composed several themes for the game, coming up with the right mix of innocence, wonder and adventure for the challenges facing the Pevensie children. But before their adventures begin, he provides some pretty menacing moments for the horrors of the blitz. It's all pretty conventional until they discover themselves in Narnia, where the composer allows traditional winds like flutes, recorder and penny whistle to come to the fore, along with choir, often used subtly to add a feeling of awe, although they can provide their share of menace as well. Aslan has a suitably otherwordly quality to his theme and heroic moments are suitably underlined. As for the action, of which there is necessarily a good deal, there are some very exciting moments indeed, with an almost Celtic quality to the music representing the forces of good, and a menacing and often very percussive sound for the White Witch's horde. The great pity is that this fine score is not commercially available. You can however hear some of it playing over the game's official website, and of course can enjoy it where it is most meant to be heard - in the game itself.
Although also orchestral in approach, very much in John Williams vein, though with little reference, save for hints of the Emperor's Theme, to the themes from the Star Wars films, Griskey previously wrote effective music for LucasArts' Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, as previously mentioned. It's much darker scoring than for Narnia, with none of the accessible thematic material found in that game, but it still has that great brassy Star Wars sound, with dark marches, much suspense and powerful moments, together with some exciting action music and noble, heroic, and almost spiritual moments representing the Jedi Knights and the power for good. Again, the music is unfortunately not commercially available, but check out Mark Griskey's website for MP3s from this and other of his scores, and also visit the game's official site.
On the strength of these efforts, I am sure we shall be hearing much more of the music of Mark griskey in the future and I, for one, can't wait.

Interview at
Mark Griskey's Website at
Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - The Game's Official Site at
Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords - The Game's Official Site at

Friday, January 27, 2006

CD REVIEWS - Two from Chandos

The Film Music of William Alwyn Volume 3
Rumon Gamba conducting the BBC Philharmonic
Chandos Movies CHAN 10349 (U.K.)
29 Tracks 77:49 mins

A third splendid volume of film music by one of the most prolific British film composers, especially of the 40s and 50s, again expertly performed by conductor Ruman Gamba and the BBC Philharmonic.
Content this time is a 6-track suite from 1951's The Magic Box - pretty routine, but with some nice polkas and a waltz; variations on another waltz from 1953's The Million Pound Note; the lively march from 1944's The Way Ahead; a 4-track suite from 1960's Swiss Family Robinson, with its turbulent opening, romantic violin interlude, and comical capers with Ostriches and Waterslides, ending in a charming waltz; the Devilish Paul's Last Ride from 1949's The Rocking Horse Winner; the highlight for me - 6 tracks from 1955's Geordie, which utilises two well-known Scottish melodies in the splendid Main Titles, the second of which goes on to become the film's love theme. Along the way there are whimsical and jolly moments, some effective drama and a lively Highland reel; another waltz for piano and orchestra from 1949's The Cure for Love; a 5-track suite from 1941's Penn of Pennsylvania, almost regal at times and with some passionate Love Music; the heroic march from 1944's The True Glory; and a 4-track suite from 1962's The Running Man, a Spanish-flavoured score, which includes some romantic Spanish guitar and the lively dance in Spanish Gipsy Wedding.
Once again, Philip Lane deserves high praise for his arrangements, and the accompanying booklet, in three languages, features Andrew Peter Knowles' detailed notes on the composer and the films covered in this collection.

Malcolm Williamson: Orchestral Works, Volume 1
Rumon Gamba conducting the Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Chandos Digital CHAN 10359 (U.K.)
13 Tracks 57:13 mins

Film Music fans will know Malcolm Williamson for the four scores he wrote for Hammer Films at their peak, but they might like to check out this CD, which shows other sides to the composer, starting out with his 1956 composition Santiago de Espada, which features a very nice theme at its heart, after a rhythmic opening. There follows his Suite from 'Our Man in Havana,'
which is the true highlight of the disc and is taken from the 1963 opera of the same name. Prelude is suitably Latin in style to begin with, but ends in a glorious waltz. There's plenty to like in Passacaglia and Threnody, the former perhaps being an inspiration to Howard Shore when writing his theme for The Aviator, which it strongly reminds me of. Serenade is a wonderfully gay affair; whilst Intermezzo opens and closes busily as one would expect, but features a flowing string theme at its heart. Finale ends the piece reprising material from the Prelude, but also carries music of almost regal manner. 1965's Concerto Grosso, although I'm not familiar with the Hammer scores, seems to me, along with the folowing piece, more in the vein of what Williamson might write for those productions, a busy, turbulent piece, initially on strings, but then for full orchestra; with 1965's Sinfonietta featuring some mysterioso and threatening moments, but with an energetic string movement and a lively ending.
Lewis Foreman's booklet notes, again in three languages, provide a guide to the composer and the featured pieces.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

CD REVIEW - Ecologia del Delitto/Cani Arrabbiati/Gli Orrori del Castello di Norimberga
Music by Stelvio Cipriani
Digitmovies CDDM046 (Italy)
Disc 1 - 31 Tracks 65:28 mins Disc 2 - 17 Tracks 57:33 mins

This third volume of music composed for the films of Mario Bava presents three scores, composed between 1971 and 1973, by Stelvio Cipriani, featured in a double CD set, accompanied by the usual informative and lavishly illustrated booklet.
Ecologia del Delitto (aka Bay of Blood) opens disc one, and has a somewhat jungle feel about it, with the leisurely main theme accompanied by a percussive beat. Variations on this theme, sometimes predominantly percussive, appear throughout the score, as do variations on the curiously titled, classical-styled piano-lead love theme Evelyn. Curously because there is no character by that name in the film! A possible explanation for this is advanced in Tim Lucas' booklet notes. A number of very listenable source cues are dotted about, and the score proper concludes with the highly infectious vocal group-assisted Teen-agers cha cha cha. Another version of this is a presented as a bonus track, along with a slightly longer version of Evelyn, both of which shared a 45, available at the times of the film's release. Save for these tracks, this is a premiere release of the full score in fine stereo sound, as are all the scores presented in this set.
Disc One concludes with Cipriani's score for the cop thriller Cani Arrabbiati (aka Rabid Dogs). Much of the music is based on a rhythmic, harpsichord and percussion-driven ostinato, which is quite exciting and versatile, equally effective fugue-like, or in low-key, easy listening variations, with flute, trumpet of piano leads, and even jazzy with saxophone solos. A couple of alternate arrangements are included as bonus tracks.
Disc Two presents the score from the horror Gli Orrori del Castello di Norimberga (aka Baron Blood) and is quite a different animal from the previous scores, being largely tense and suspenseful, with much dissonance. Quite unexpected after the opening title track, a flowing, easy-listening, Latin-flavoured theme with piano and choir. This theme however shows its versatility, played mysterioso in Esplorando il Castello or as an organ solo in Nella Cattedrale. Cipriani includes another fine ostinato for Inseguita and a delicate love theme with female voice in Eva e Peter, but it is the creepy dissonance that dominates, and there's even a ritualistic piece, with tribal beat, in Magia Nera. A trumpet-lead version of the main theme concludes the score proper, with a bonus take of the theme without it's melodic line completing the disc.
Digitmovies are doing a splendid job in releasing so much fine previously unavailable film music. Long may they continue to do so.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

CD REVIEW - Aeon Flux and news of a new release from Mellowdrama Records

Aeon Flux
Music by Graeme Revell
Varese Sarabande 302 066 707 2
15 Tracks 48:48 mins

The music for this futuristic sci-fi thriller, starring a sleek-suited, dark-haired Charlize Theron, passed through the hands of various composers before finally landing in the lap of Graeme Revell, who came up with what was pretty much expected of him, a score blending electronics, percussion and a small orchestral presence, mainly strings; and featuring some genuinely exciting, pulse-pounding action moments, a fair bit of suspense, some poignant piano and a touch of the ethnic about his main theme, in its more reflective moments, but which can quickly change gears to kick-ass mode. There's very little more else to say really, except that Theron fans might enjoy the numerous pictures of her dominating the 12-page accompanying booklet, which comes with a brief note from the director on his composer's contributions.

Mellowdrama Records to release Enduring Love

Mellowdrama Records have anounced a March release for Jeremy Sams' 2004 Ivor Novello Award-winning score for Enduring Love, a film directed by Roger Michel, with whom the composer previously worked on The Mother and TV's Persuasion, for which Sams won a BAFTA Award. The music is beautifully performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and has been featured on Classic FM At The Movies on more than one occasion. The accompanying booklet will feature lavish artwork and extensive liner notes. Watch out for my review here at ScreenSounds.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

CD REVIEW - The Music of Henry Mancini

The Music of Henry Mancini
Arranged and performed by Richard Hayman and His Orchestra
Naxos 8.557825 (E.U.)
21 Tracks 74:55 mins

A welcome reissue of this 1991 overview of the work of the ever-popular and much-missed Henry Mancini, as arranged and performed by Richard Hayman and His Orchestra. True, film music purists will perhaps find fault with some of these "pops" arrangements, but this is undeniably a thoroughly entertaining and easy-to-listen-to album, which covers all the popular hits like Peter Gunn, Moon River, Baby Elephant Walk, Dear Heart, Days of Wine & Roses, The Pink Panther (what happened to the sax?) and Charade, as well as perhaps less well known pieces like The Great Race (both the march and pie fight themes are featured), Two for the Road, Lifeforce, The Glass Menagerie and The Thorn Birds. Some of the tracks presented do not originate from the screen, whilst some may, but are unfamiliar to me and, without benefit of some guidance from Peter Dempsey's booklet notes, which provide biographical info only, I can only name them in the hope that they may be familiar to you. Thus we have String on Fire, Dream of a Lifetime, Ballerina's Dream, Drummer's Delight and March with Mancini, all entertaining in their own way, whatever their origins. And we are also treated to Hank's precious Beaver valley '37 suite.
This is a great album to put on as background music, whilst you undertake some boring chore, or to just sit and relax to.

Monday, January 23, 2006

CD REVIEW - La Puta y la Ballena

La Puta y la Ballena
Music by Andres Goldstein and Daniel Tarrab
Mellowdrama Records MEL104 (U.K.)
19 Tracks 54:22 mins

I am so glad that Mellowdrama has so enthusiastically embraced this score, which was only previously available in Argentina and hard to track down abroad.
Composers Goldstein and Tarrab first came to my attention through Chandos Records' release of their moving score for 2002's Some Who Lived, which was nominated as Best Classical Music Album in Argentina's own Gardel Awards; and I remember thinking at the time that I hoped to hear more from them in the future. Well, this score was for a 2004 film, directed by Academy Award winning director Luis Puenzo, a tale which spans some seventy years in Buenos Aires of the 1930s to present day Patagonia. It is described as portraying "the spiritual re-awakening of a female journalist who is researching the passionate affair between a photographer, a prostitute, and a blind tango musician."
As such, tango is an important element of the score, featuring the traditional voice of tango in Argentina, the bandonean, expertly performed by Nestor Marconi, also with telling violin and viola solos by Luis Roggero and Gustavo Massun, with the orchestral score, particularly rich in the string writing, performed by the National Symphony Orchestra and National Philharmonic Orchestra of the Republica Argentina.
The dramatic score has a delicate beauty, with an overall melancholy feel, but with optimistic and romantic moments. The composers initially wrote two tangos, La Lamparita and Matilde, which form the basis for the main thematic material in the film, but they are also to be heard in their original form at the end of the album, where they are gathered together with other tangos by Julian Plaza, Francisco De Caro and Miguel Bucino, all played by a tango quartet.
With both composers nominated as Best Composer and Discovery of the Year for this soundtrack at the 2004 World Soundtrack Awards in Belgium, and then nominated again for Deuda last year, I hope they will soon make their mark on more internationally made films.
The CD is accompanied by an extremely informative booklet, with detailed notes on both the film and its score, together with biographies of the composers.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


BAFTA Awards Nominees

The nominees for this year's Anthony Asquith Award are:-

Gustavo Santaolalla for Brokeback Mountain
Alberto Iglesias for The Constant Gardener
John Williams for Memoirs of a Geisha
George Fenton for Mrs. Henderson Presents
T.Bone Burnett for Walk the Line

Forthcoming CD release

INTRADA Announces:

Composed and Conducted by Paul Sawtell & Bert Shefter

Composed and Conducted by Paul Sawtell

INTRADA Special Collection Volume 28

For this instalment of the Intrada Special Collection, Intrada presents a 2-CD set featuring the music from two Irwin Allen epics from 20th
Century Fox: THE LOST WORLD (1960) and FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON (1962).
Starring Claude Rains and Jill St. John, THE LOST WORLD chronicles the adventures of a professor on a perilous journey into the Amazon to investigate reports of living dinosaurs. In FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON, starring Red Buttons, Barbara Eden, and Richard Haydn, yet another professor embarks on another fanciful adventure -- this time taking flight in a balloon over Africa.

For THE LOST WORLD, Paul Sawtell & Bert Shefter provide colourful music ranging from soaring thematic ideas for the beautiful terrain to frightening action music for various dinosaur and hostile native attacks. On FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON, Sawtell (flying solo on this one) brings a rousing adventure-packed score to the action. At the centre is a rollicking theme song sung by The Brothers Four. Both scores are mastered from the original 35mm magnetic tracks warehoused at 20th
Century Fox. The elements were beginning to deteriorate so some minor wow is audible throughout. But for the most part, the audio quality remains satisfying. A very few sequences could not be salvaged but most of both scores has been preserved, including complete main titles and end titles plus all of the major set pieces.

This Intrada Special Collection release is limited to
1200 copies.

INTRADA Special Collection - Volume 28
Available Now

Web Roundup

Recent interviews you might like to check out, include Alexandre Desplat at, plus two with John Frizzell at and, who also carry a new interview with Jesper Kyd.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Command & Conquer Generals & Command & Conquer Generals: Zero Hour

Bill Brown's music to these Tom Clancy titles from EA Games are available for download from Nettwerk America at iTunes. Fans of Brown's music for other scores in the series will pretty much know what to expect. Generals is the longer score, clocking in at nearly 70 minutes and is best described as a little bit Media Ventures and a little bit Spy Game and Blackhawk Down. Basically there are 21 tracks, nearly all of which display forward motion of some degree, either suspenseful or action, or a combination of both. There is a heroic element, and some martial drumming, and also some big & bad moments for electric guitars, but a good deal of the music is ethnic in character, either with far eastern elements or the kind of North African elements utilised in Blackhawk Down and Middle-Easternisms of Spy Game. If you like propulsive action music, of the kind I describe, you're bound to enjoy this.
Zero Hour is basically more of the same mix, but is much shorter, only running for just under 22 minutes, which is why the availability of titles like these for download is so valuable.

Nettwerk America is also in the business of releasing film soundtracks and have made available the original soundtrack to the critically acclaimed TransAmerica, which has already seen its star Felicity Huffman take home the Golden Globe for her performance. The album is a mix of dialogue, Americana songs by various artists, the best known to me being The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Jim Lauderdale with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, Lucinda Williams and Dolly Parton, with just three tracks credited to the film's composer David Mansfield, one of which is an instrumental arrangement of Beautiful Dreamer, the other two being instrumentals very much in keeping with the folk/country feel on display.

Friday, January 20, 2006

CD REVIEWS - Blindman & Un Bianco Vestito per Mariale

Music by Stelvio Cipriani
Digitmovies CDDM044 (Italy)
17 Tracks 44:59 mins

Digitmovies have done Italian Western fans proud again, releasing for the first time, in full stereo, the complete score of the 1971 film Blindman, which starred Tony Anthony as the Old West's version of the Japanese samurai hero Zatoichi. The CD was edited and remastered from composer Stelvio Cipriani's own stereo mastertapes.
Cipriani's score is somewhat ethnic flavoured, particularly in its main theme, which moves along quite exotically with, among others, percussion and sitar, and Nora Orlandi and her choir
lending vocal support. The composer's secondary theme is a guitar-driven action motif, with elements of the main theme, sometimes with a somewhat eastern-flavoured pastoral bridge. The other principal recurring theme is an infectious Mexican dance, which is featured in a number of tracks, with various instruments taking the lead. A highlight of the score is the galloping action of neighbouring tracks Fifty Women for Blindman and Rescuing the Girls. The Finale & End Titles brings together all three principal themes to provide a satisfying close to proceedings.Another great addition to the Italian Western score catalogue.

Un Bianco Vestito per Mariale
Music by Fiorenzo Carpi
Digitmovies CDDM045 (Italy)
31 Tracks 71:40 mins

Although not scored by Bruno Nicolai, the music for this 1972 Giallo entry, was arranged and conducted by him, and very much carries that Nicolai sound.
An album was issued by Gemeli some three years after the film's release, which ran for about 37 minutes and featured a number of tracks not actually used in the film. These tracks are included on this disc as bonus material and are actually some of the most enjoyable of the whole album, but I digress. Digitmovies were able to find the complete stereo masters from the film and now release the complete original score, as well as the said album tracks.
At the heart of the score are two themes, the first, Mariale, initially heard as a light and delicate track with vocals by the great Edda Dell'Orso, and then developed for guitar and strings, with a popped up and very catchy bridge, is repeated in various arrangements, some quite brief throughout the disc, with the splendid concluding version, combining the best elements from all the arrengements. The second theme, Garden Party, is a sunny little mover, sometimes flowing, sometimes more laid back, and is again reprised in various lengthed tracks throughout. Much of the rest of the score is atonal and suspenseful, though there is some propulsion in tracks like La Vittima. There is also a typical '70s rock source number, which is given a longer arrangement in the bonus material, which brings me to those tracks, which include Beni Perdutti, a nice easy-going theme; Leggenda, an easy, harpsichord-propelled theme; the sunny Equinozio; and the romantic piano & strings of Pensiero Romantico.
As always, each Digitmovies release is accompanied by a colourful booklet, with notes on the film and its score, plus plenty of stills and artwork.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

CD REVIEWS - Firefly and Effects

Music by Greg Edmondson
Varese Sarabande VSD-6699 (E.U.)
25 Tracks 60:28 mins

I have never actually heard of composer Greg Edmondson, nor the short-lived sci-fi series his music was written for, but apparently it was created by Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Joss Whedon, who also wrote the theme song, a country music-tinged song, performed by Sonny Rhodes. The show underwent something of a revival recently in the form of a feature film version, Serenity which, unfortunately for Edmondson, was scored by David Newman (also available on Varese Sarabande).
Whilst there was nothing wrong with Newman's efforts, on the strength of this, it would perhaps have been more interesting if Edmondson had been given a go.
Firefly's score is certainly not your usual sci-fi effort - not orchestral and not entirely electronic, although synths and samples are used here, along with plenty of percussion, but it's the small band of musicians employed, including the composer himself, that really shine, with particularly noteworthy solos for piano, guitar and violin. Stylistically, it's a mix of west meets east, with tracks that could easily fit into a traditional western movie and more ethnic, Indian and Asian-styled music. Just about every mood is covered in one way or another within the score, and eight bonus tracks are included (though why they are listed as such is a mystery), including the Celtic-styled River's Dance and a very nice violin & piano theme for Inside the Tam House.
I'm pleased Varese Sarabande have released this disc, as Edmondson deserves recognition for his efforts and will hopefully benefit from the attention, as I'd certainly like to hear more from him in the future.

Music by John Harrison
La-La land Records LLLCD 1040(U.S.)
22 Tracks 40:25 mins

La- la Land Records continues its association with '70s composer John Harrison, releasing his score for the 1978 thriller Effects, which was made entirely in Pittsburgh, with local talent and local money, by three friends, one of whom, Harrison, owned a piano, which was how he got started in film scoring on this project. As such, Harrison was able to try out a few things, and also to enlist some of his musician friends to contribute. The results are interesting, if not entirely engaging. It's basically synths-based, with a flowing keyboards main theme, a somewhat disturbed keyboard variation, a lilting flute-lead love theme and some repetitive threatening keyboards and guitars for the various chases and murders. There is also an inventive synthesised vocal effect, which makes a few appearances, after initially opening the score.
'70s-styled source music, both instrumental and vocal, the latter featuring the talents of Ron "Byrd" Foster, plus a quirky bonus track, UBU (after Satie) round out the disc.
The accompanying booklet features a note from the composer, from which the above info is taken, plus pictures from in front and behind the camera.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

CD REVIEW - Capote + A Little News

First off, let me take a moment to congratulate John Williams on winning a Golden Globe for his score for Memoirs of a Geisha. It's been a phenomenal year for Williams fans, with the master showing he's still got what it takes, having written diverse and excellent music for three other releases during the year: Star Wars: Episode III, War of the Worlds and Munich. Long may the music of John Williams grace our screens!

Just received the following, which, in view of my recent coverage of the music of Alan Williams, I wanted to share with you:-

From: The Kaufman Agency Specializing in Film and Tv Composers Worldwide since 1986
Jeff H Kaufman Kaufman Agency
AIM: jhk12007
818 506 6013
818 506 7270
818 535 3536

Dear Friends,
In a year filled with many Goliath film scores and budgets, we are fortunate to have a
talented composer who out shines the budget with compositional ability and shows that a
composer can emerge and compete with many of his competitors because of his
understanding of film and quality writing . We would like you to be aware of Alan’s talent as
he is a hidden gem. Please visit his website and you will be able to
see a diversity that is hard to find in film composers today. Please enjoy our abbreviated
article and the websites listed below.
Best Regards,
Jeff H Kaufman
1. CRASH (Mark Isham)
2. MUNICH (John Williams)
3. STAR WARS EPISODE III (John Williams)
4. SIN CITY (Robert Rodriguez, John Debney, Graeme Revell)
6. BATMAN BEGINS (Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard)
8. MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA (John Williams)
9. WAR OF THE WORLDS (John Williams)
10.KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (Harry Gregson-Williams)
11.SERENITY (David Newman)
12.CRAB ORCHARD (Alan Williams, Silverscreen Music SMCD 017)
Alan Williams has provided an eloquently beautiful score for
CRAB ORCHARD, a gentle drama about a family torn apart
by the September 11, 2001 attacks on America. The score’s
instrumentation embodies a kind of American roots music
flavor – lots of nylon and steel acoustic guitars, woodwinds,
and piano. The gentle melodies are heartrending, providing
a subtle Americana background to the film while echoing the
human consequences and connections that lie within the
heart of the film. The music is at once reflective,
melancholy, hopeful, and resolute in its motif delineation of
a family that is determined to whether together the worse that life will bring. Williams
generates a convincing and immediate rapport with the American family, which is
exactly what this film needed) is clearly echoed in the music’s tonality and texture.
To see the top 20 scores of 2005 visit:

My congratulations go to Alan, and I look forward to reviewing more wonderful recordings of his music on this site.

Music by Mychael Danna
Sony Legacy BMK678151 (U.S.)

I should first explain that I am working from a promo disc of Danna's score only, and so have no details of the tracks, my only guide coming from James Southall's review at, a site I would incidentally highly recommend, due to its frequent updating and excellent reviews.
Bennett Miller's film relates the story of Truman Capote's writing of the book In Cold Blood, and features a fine performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman, for which he has already been awarded a Golden Globe.
Mychael Danna's music apparently only features on about 17 minutes of the disc's 77-minute playing time, the rest being given over to Capote's own readings of extracts from the novel, recorded in 1966. The promo disc features a little more score, coming in at just over 23 minutes, but, to be honest, 17 minutes is quite sufficient, as the score is pretty understated, featuring a lonely piano theme, with a more flowing secondary theme, and much suspenseful writing for sustained strings. It's also a frustrating listen in that occasionally the music builds as if it's finally going somewhere, only to leave one suspended in mid-air. A wholly appropriate score for the subject matter, but not one I shall be oft returning to.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

CD REVIEW - Gabriel Yared Film Music Vol.6 - Music for Comedy
Cinefonia Records CFY-006 (France)
30 Tracks 64:14 mins

The latest release in this series brings together two comedies, 1990's Tatie Danielle and 1983's La Scarlatine. The former takes up the first 16 tracks on the album and is a theme and variations score, which starts off with the theme, presented in waltz time, with a somewhat offbeat vocal by Catherine Ringer, who also wrote the lyrics. Ringer appears again a couple more times in shorter variations. The tracks that follow are quite delightful variations on the main theme, with Pierre Gossez and Eric Lamberger featuring strongly on saxophone and clarinets, giving much of the score a jazz/blues quality.
La Scarlatine features two principal themes, the "Alexandria" theme, which is first presented in Generique debut as an easy jazz band number and receives further jazz-tinged variations, plus an easy-going electronic variation in Roger Gaite, and a straight waltz-time piano performance by the composer in Photo.
The love theme Nicole et Jacques is a more classical piece for piano and cello quartet, which reaches quite passionate heights, and again receives further variations throughout. There is also a nice source track, La Casse, for jazz trio.
As usual, Gabriel Yared guides us through his scores in his notes for the accompanying booklet, and tells me the exciting news that two more releases in the series are expected to be released soon. In the meantime, visit, or Gabriel's own site at for further information on these releases and the composer in general.

Monday, January 16, 2006

CD REVIEW - Gabriel Yared Film Music Vol.5 - Music for Animated Film
Cinefonia Records CFY-005 (France)
33 Tracks 73:00 mins

This album presents music for Rene Laloux's 1987 animated films Gandahar and Wang-Fo, and as such is dedicated to the man, who sadly died in 2004. The former was a feature-length adaptation of Jean Pierre Andrevon's fantasy novel Les Hommes Machines contre Gandahar and the first nine tracks on the album present Gabriel Yared's music for the film.
Yared's admiration for the work of the likes of Scott Bradley, Carl Stalling, Milton Franklin and Oliver Wallace, is evident in his music for animation, particularly in relation to his score for the third production on this album, the TV series Ernest the Vampire. Having said that, the composer was denied the luxury of orchestra that those gentleman had, with all the music presented here being realised electronically. But, to return to Gandahar, the composer commences his score with a busy march theme, but the cue then turns somewhat ethereal, a quality present in other cues from the score, like the romantic Les Reves d'Airelle. Le Metamorphe is an interesting track, its initial atonality giving way to building expectancy, along with some strange breathing effects. There is plenty of movement, initially rhythmic, progressing lightly, then turning to conflict in La Bataille des crabes; whilst Airelle et Sylvain also features an airy lightness before becoming purposeful; and La Marche des transformes ends things with a light and busy march.
Two cues from Wang-Fo, Main Title, with its bombastic opening then airy lightness, and End Titles, with its piano-lead love theme, give a flavour of the score for this short film, which played as support for Gandahar.
In 1987 Laloux launched the TV animation show On the Other Side, which served as a showcase for French animation and its creators, like Francois Bruel, who came up with Ernest the Vampire, an unusual bloodsucker in that he had elephant ears and tusks. For his two-minute misadventures, Yared came up with a two-part theme, a catchy little introductory motif, followed by an equally infectious melody, first heard as a Joplinesque piano rag in Main Title. The composer proceeds to write all manner of entertaining variations on this theme throughout the subsequent 21 tracks presented here. The many different styles and settings are quite delightful and too numerous to go into individual detail. Suffice to say, that the music is a sheer delight and worth the price of the album alone.
Once again, the accompanying booklet features Gabriel Yared's fascinating notes on his music.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

CD REVIEW - Gabriel Yared Film Music Vol.4 - La Lune dans le Carniveau (The Moon in the Gutter)
Cinefonia Records CFY-004 (France)
16 Tracks 45:15 mins

Gabriel Yared's first collaboration with director Jean-Jacques Beineix, with whom he was famously to work with on 1985's Betty Blue, was for this 1983 film and again the composer commenced work on the score before the film was even shot, as the director planned to broadcast the music on the set, whilst shooting the scenes. Source music was required for the tango in the bar and Bella's erotic dance on the swing, but demos were also recorded of the main themes.
The film boasts two notable themes in particular, the first, for Loretta, is a rhapsodic love theme for piano, violin (sensitively performed by Lionel Gali) and large string orchestra, which is also transformed into the piano-lead Valse de Loretta; the second, for Catherine, is a magical, shimmering motif for strings, which receives a number of variations throughout the score. With Folie ouvriere, Yared again demonstrates his fondness at the time for unusual, repetitive, percussion-driven music, and there are other somewhat more conventional motion-filled tracks, like Fugue de la cathedrale, La Folie des docks, and the strident strings of Entree de l'hopital. Danse de Bella is a rhythmic, percussive dance, and Tango de L'Impasse, the splendid, if slightly quirky, tango previously mentioned. The final and title track presents fragments of some of the above, preceeded by bird sounds.
Five bonus tracks of previously unreleased cues, some the aforementioned demos, plus a brand new solo piano performance by the composer himself of Valse de Loretta round out the disc, which again comes with Yared's fascinating notes on the project in the accompanying booklet.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

CD REVIEW - Gabriel Yared Film Music Vol.3 - Hanna K/Les Petites Guerres/Invitation Au Voyage
Cinefonia Records CFY-003 (France)
29 Tracks 64:40 mins

This third entry in the series is subtitled "Les Orientales," bringing together as it does three scores written between 1980 and 1983 which, as the composer says, were "profoundly influenced by my re-discovery of Arabic music." It seems to me however that the more recent score, 1983's Hanna K, directed by Costa-Gavras, is the most influenced of all, exhibiting much of the sadness Yared says he found in popular Arabic music during his early years in Lebanon. This score is the first of the three on this album, and features typically ethnic instruments such as the Oud, the Kanoun, the Nai and the Kamanja, as well as percussion. There is indeed an underlying sadness, particularly in the early cues, and it's not exclusively ethnic in its makeup, as some passionate string playing is a feature of Les Camps de la mort - Fugue. Sur le pont d'Allenby features a tense, repeating figure and La Gifle a Hanna K features a nice piano-lead theme. La Circoncision appears to be source music, and is a lively dance; with the twlefth and final score track, simply entitled Hanna K, presenting variations on the sad main theme and is urgent and rhythmically interesting early on, with some genuinely passionate moments later.
Five tracks follow from 1981's Les Petites Guerres, scored at the request of the composer's friend, the late Lebanese director Maroun Baghdadi. The film follows Lebanese youths during the long war that tore the country apart. The music, written before the film was shot, was used mainly to propell the scenes without dialogue, and is often rhythmic, repetitive and percussion-driven, the composer using his own voice to unusual effect, noticeably in Bouts de souffle. Soraya provides some light and innocence along the way.
The final score on the album is for 1982's Invitation Au Voyage, which, as I understand it, something of a road movie, a doomed journey of discovery for its young heroes. The Fairlight is prominent in the score, giving the music something of an otherwordly feel at times. Repeating figures are again present, and once more the composer adds his vocalisms to the percussive mix, particularly in Sur la Route. There are airy, ethereal moments and others that are urgent and driven. The main theme has an oriental feel, without necessarily being oriental as such, but is typically sad and fateful. Theme pur piano et cordes presents it in its most straight ahead form, with the composer himself performing, as he does on all the keyboard in the score.
All releases in the series are attractively packaged and the accompanying booklets feature the composer's fascinating notes on each score, presented in both French and English.

Friday, January 13, 2006

CD REVIEWS - Two of Six from Cinefonia Records

Thanks to the generosity of Gabriel Yared, I am pleased to be able to bring you reviews of all six of Cinefonia's releases so far of music from the composer's earlier career, starting with the first two volumes and continuing over the course of the next few days.

Gabriel Yared Film Music Vol. 1 - Sauve Qui Peut La Vie/Malevil
Cinefonia CFY-001 (France)
18 Tracks 45:45 mins

The driving force behind this collection is the composer himself and each CD is lovingly produced by the composer in collaboration with Jean-Pierre Arquie, with each attractively packaged edition featuring an informative booklet with the composer's thoughts on each score presented.
Volume 1 features Yared's score for 1980's Sauve qui peut la vie, directed by the great Jean-Luc Godard. Yared's brief was to 'work around' an existing musical subject: four bars drawn from the opening of Act II of Ponchielli's La Giaconda, and the composer drew upon his apprenticeship in classical techniques to come up with a score that did just that, performing the entire score himself on different keyboards, with the help of friends programmer Georges Rodi and sound engineer Claude Sahakian. The results make up the first 9 tracks of this album and, although based on those four bars, are varied and interesting, ranging from light and ethereal to funky and even gothic, with some jazzy motion and even a classical piano variation along the way.
The second score on the album comes from the following year's Malevil, directed by Christian de Chalonge, the story of a group of friends in a small village, who are seemingly the only survivors of a man-made disaster, and their efforts to make a future for themselves.
The then newly-born Fairlight computer-sampler seemed the "ideal tool for creating an entirely new musical universe" and, armed with a variety of sounds, both musical and unusual things such as bird sounds, rain, wind and water drops, and even the composer's own voice, which he used as percussion, Yared proceeded, with the aid of collaborators Georges Rodi and Olivier Bloch-Lane, to come up with this unusual score, which has a marvellously catchy little theme, first heard in Prelude a la pluie, which ends with those bird sounds. This theme makes further appearances throughout the score, especially in Malevil sous la pluie, and is always welcome. The remainder of the score is sometimes desolate and otherworldly, sometimes menacing, but also has its brighter moments and even features something of a comic promenade in Fulbert's Blues. The radio source track Java de Malevil provides a return to normality with its little accordion tune.

Gabriel Yared Film Music Vol.2 - Camille Claudel
Cinefonia Records CFY-002 (France)
14 Tracks 49:46 mins

A personal passion of actress Isabelle Adjani, who portrayed the tragic heroin in this 1988 biopic of the French sculptor, whose passionate relationship with and ultimate separation from the famous Auguste Rodin, resulted in her internment for more than 40 years in an asylum. When Gabiel Yared was asked to score the film, director Bruno Nuytten had temped the film with scores by Bruckner and Britten, and the composer had 7-8 weeks to replace this music with 90 minutes of his own. Sometimes it seems that a composer produces his best work under such pressures and this was certainly the case here, as Yared came up with a simply wonderful accompaniment, predominently for massed strings, with telling contributions from a string quartet and sextet, harp and percussion. The music is passionate, haunting and filled with yearning, and is beautifully played by the London musicians, under the baton of Harry Rabinowitz. A lovely waltz appears in Banquet, with the sextet rounding off proceedings in the two previously unreleased tracks that close the album.
We are especially lucky to have this album in that the original magnetic tapes could not be found, resulting in the composer having to dig deep into his personal archives to come up with the tracks. I am certainly glad he did, as this music certainly deserves to be heard.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Hot off the press from Costa Communications comes the following news:-

Premieres January 25 at Sundance Film Festival

Prolific film composer David Kitay scores "Darwin Awards" for writer/director Finn Taylor. The film will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Wednesday, January 25 at 6pm at the Eccles Theatre. In addition, Kitay will take part in Music & Film: The Creative Process, a roundtable discussion featuring composers and directors Wed., Jan 25 at Sundance house at The Kimball Art Center. Showing remarkable innovation and creativity, Kitay created the score for "Darwin Awards" as the world's first retrograde reverse score, wherein the music was performed backwards and digitally reversed to play forwards, so the notes sound reversed even though they are accurate.

In addition, Sundance will premiere "Art School Confidential," Kitay's latest for United Artists and director Terry Zwigoff. The film, starring Max Minghella, John Malkovich, Jim Broadbent and Anjelica Huston, will premiere at Sundance on Monday, January 23 at the Eccles Theatre and open wide in February. This is the third collaboration of the composer and Zwigoff; they had previously worked together on "Ghostworld" and "Bad

"Darwin Awards," a dark comedy, is inspired by the award of the same name that "salute the improvement of the human genome by honouring those who accidentally kill themselves in really stupid ways." In the film, a forensic detective and an insurance claims investigator trek to investigate a potential winner. "Darwin Awards" boasts an impressive ensemble cast that includes Joseph Fiennes, Winona Ryder, Juliette Lewis, Julianna Margulies, David Arquette, Chris Penn and Wilmer Valderrama.

After solidifying his reputation in the teen genre with hit movies like
"Clueless," "Can't Hardly Wait," "Scary Movie," "Harold and Kumar Go to
White Castle" and "Dude, Where's My Car?" Kitay has expanded his repertoire to include black comedies like "Bad Santa" and "Ghost World." "Darwin Awards" is another in a series of adult-oriented, offbeat films Kitay has done for a variety of innovative directors.

Late last year, Kitay had Harold Ramis' "The Ice Harvest" in theatres, and he has completed scores for "Relative Strangers," starring Ron Livingston, and John Cosgrove's comedy ensemble "Caffeine," both set for release this year. His third collaboration with director Terry Zwigoff, "Art SchoolConfidential," starring Max Minghella, John Malkovich, Jim Broadbent and Anjelica Huston, will also premiere at Sundance on Monday, January 23 at the Eccles Theatre and open wide in February.

Among other honours, David has received four prestigious BMI awards, several for his scores for the hit TV series Mad About You. In addition to scoring,
David has produced records for such artists as Bonnie Raitt, Rickie Lee
Jones, Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram.

Premiering at Sundance January 27

Composer and producer Aaron Zigman has scored "Alpha Dog" for writer/director Nick Cassavetes and New Line Cinema. The film, starring Justin Timberlake, Dominique Swain, Shawn Hatosy, Ben Foster and Sharon Stone, will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, January 27 at 6pm at the Eccles Theatre and open wider in February. In addition, Zigman will, like Kitay, take part in Music & Film: The Creative Process, on Wed., Jan 25.

The film is a drama based on the life of Jesse James Hollywood, a drug dealer who became one of the youngest men ever to be on the FBI's most wanted list. To match the grittiness of the film, Zigman scored it to have an edgy urban feel, with a lot of rap, techno and rock. The composer created "source" music, a term for music that is somewhere between song and score, rather than underscoring emotion and creating traditional characters' themes. He co-wrote most of the songs in the movie, and layered them underneath the story to portray the pastiche of the music indigenous to violent world of the high school-aged characters.

Zigman is no stranger to the urban music. The composer made a name for himself producing and arranging for artists such as Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Patti LaBelle, Nona Gaye, the Pointer Sisters and Christina Aguilera. Known for his command of rhythm and different styles, he developed his knack for melody into his current scoring career.

Zigman's foray into feature film composing began when Cassavetes, familiar with his pop background and his orchestral works, offered him the opportunity to audition for "John Q," starring Denzel Washington. Zigman wrote an extravagant six-minute opening montage, recording it with a 55-piece orchestra and submitted it as a demo. The director, editor and studio were impressed, and he got the job. The two collaborated again shortly after on the critically acclaimed romantic film "The Notebook," starring Gena Rowlands and James Garner, based on the Nicholas Sparks novel. For that project, Zigman not only wrote in the musical style of the period, but also used vintage instruments and recording equipment from the 40s and 50s to create an authentic sound.

Zigman has since worked on "The Wendell Baker Story", the directorial debut of Andrew Wilson and Luke Wilson, starring their brother Owen Wilson, Eva Mendes and Eddie Griffin; and "Raise Your Voice," a vehicle for pop superstar Hilary Duff. Among his other upcoming film releases are "Flicka" with Alison Lohman and Tim McGraw, "10th & Wolf" with Giovanni Ribisi, James Marsden and Dennis Hopper.


Visit, where you will find new interviews with composers John Frizzell and Jesper Kyd; and while you're at it, drop in on, where you will find a new session report, featuring Shirley Walker conducting her score for Final Destination 3. It's always worth keeping an eye on the site as they regularly feature these colourful photoreports, allowing you to see the creative process behind the scores.

Sorry there was no entry yesterday - pressure of work again, I'm afraid. Tomorrow I hope things will be back to normal and that I'll have at least one CD review for you.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Today work has prevented me from reviewing any of the stack of CDs that await my attention, so I thought I'd just spare a few minutes to check out the websites for info on forthcoming film music concerts, and there are some that should be brought to your attention.
To save time you may as well just go to where you will firstly find info on Jan A.P. Kaczmarek's concert at the Royce Hall at UCLA on Friday 20th January, where the programme, entitled "Journey to Light," will chart the composer's career, and you can also have a stab at winning free tickets.
Secondly, check out the info on the Bernard Herrmann concert at London's Barbican Centre on 17th March. The programme is entitled "Nightmare Romance-Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Hitchcock," but although music from their collaborations is most prominently featured, there will apparently be other Herrmann scores featured.
And if you visit the News Archive for December, you will find info, initially announced by on an ambitious new event, The Madrid Film Festival, which will take place between 30th June and 2nd July and will include concerts by Harry Gregson-Williams and Trevor Jones, as well as conferences and seminars with invited composers.

After a long, barren patch, it's great that there are suddenly so many exciting events on offer, so get out there and support them - you know it makes sense!

Monday, January 09, 2006

CD REVIEWS - Syriana and Stargate Atlantis

Music by Alexandre Desplat
RCA Red Seal 82876-76121-2 (U.S.)
17 Tracks 45:54 mins

At the heart of Alexandre Desplat's score for the George Clooney political thriller Syriana is the sensitive and somewhat sad title theme, first presented on harp and strings, then given a very nice piano solo treatment, before ending in a more Easternised version, unfortunately with an underlying bass pulse, which appears all too often through the score, rather as it did in Birth, and spoils my enjoyment somewhat, as it did on that occasion. It could be the dreaded "curse of the temp track" again, I don't know, but enough already!
As one would expect, there is a good deal of intrigue along the way, but there are many exciting moments as well, some more Western in style, like the strings-driven Driving in Geneva and the minimalist Something Really Cool, but others driven by Eastern percussion and with the addition of ethnic instruments. I'll Walk Around, with its powerful timpani is particularly menacing, and Truce quite exciting.
Desplat is making quite a name for himself in the States and I look forward to his upcoming assignments, which will be hopefully free of that darn pulse!

Stargate Atlantis
Music by Joel Goldsmith
Varese Sarabande VSD-6700 (EU)
16 Tracks 42:18 mins

Glad to see Joel Goldsmith got to score the spin-off to the popular Stargate:SG1 sci-fi series, which sees a select group of scientists and soldiers sent to a distant planet which happens to be the location of the lost city of Atlantis. And, whereas much of his music for the original series was electronic, for the pilot of the spin-off at least, he got to use an orchestra and choir, which must have made a nice change for the composer, who is of course the son of the much-missed Jerry Goldsmith. I'm assuming pretty much all the music presented here is from that pilot, as the first season screened here in the U.K. recently and the episode music appeared mostly electronic.
Of course the title theme featured each week and is a fine, heroic piece for orchestra and choir, fragments of which crop up throughout the score, with a particularly nice reading in O'Neill Inbound. There is plenty of exciting action scoring throughout, some with a distinct martial element, some dark and menacing for the life-sucking Wraith, who our heroes unwittingly awaken from their slumber. Electronics are present in Atlantis Awakes, with its ethereal synthesised voices, and Tayla's Village, for the tribe of somewhat primitive humans the mission first discover, is suitably ethnic. The Rising, where Atlantis, at first submerged, is raised out of the water is suitably awe-filled and majestic.
Joel Goldsmith has been writing effective scores for the Stargate universe for a considerable time now, and it would be nice if the label could release some of the episode music at some stage in the future, rather like there was previously a Best of Stargate SG1 album released, albeit on another label.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

CD REVIEW - Jarhead

Music by Thomas Newman
DECCA 988 8461 (EU)
25 Tracks 61:33 mins

A kind of Full Metal Jacket for the modern age, I guess, from what I've heard, this new film apparently concentrates on a young grunt's experiences undergoing training and assignment during the Gulf War and stars Jake Gyllenhaal, who seems to be rather high profile at the moment.
Thomas Newman's score will I imagine be much to the liking of his fans. As often the case it is somewhat unconventional - a series of propulsive tracks, pseudo-ethnic in style, with a variety of percussion driving them, with more Western elements, particularly electric guitars, combining, reminding me a little of Hans Zimmer & Co.'s work on Blackhawk Down; mixed with largely atonal, atomspheric interludes. A number of the tracks are typically quite brief, which is merciful with regard to the latter, but there are longer, more developed cues to latch onto. Not much for this writer to get excited about, although I did quite warm to the catchy, somewhat comical Dickskinner.
Mixed in amongst the score cues are the familiar Don't Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin, as well as tracks by T Rex, Naughty By Nature, Public Enemy and Tom Waits.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

CD REVIEW - Ballets Russes

Music by Todd Boekelheide and David Conte
Intrada MAF 7097 (U.S.)
18 Tracks 31:33 mins

This documentary from Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine explores the history of the famous Ballets Russes Companies between 1909 and 1962 and their groundbreaking tours throughout Russia, Australia and America, and includes interviews with many of the dancers, now in their 80s and 90s.
The music is provided by Todd Boekelheide, who has written scores for more than 80 documentaries and dramatic films, including his Emmy-winning Kids of Survival: The Life and Art of Tim Rollins and the KOS for the same filmmakers in 1999; and David Conte, Professor of Compoition at at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and composer of three operas and over 60 works with the E.C. Schirmer Music Company.
Their orchestral score beautifully and sensitively underscores the documentary, giving much breathing space to individual instruments within the orchestra, with the emphasis on woodwinds, strings, French Horn, harp and piano. There is an overall sense of genteel nostalgia, with just an occasional more propulsive moment like in Into the Fray and On the Train. The album's final track Where Are They Now? with its soaring ending, leaves one with a positively warm glow.

Friday, January 06, 2006

CD REVIEWS - Doom and Where the Truth Lies

Music by Clint Mansell
Varese Sarabande VSD-6702
22 Tracks 60:23 mins

For this film of the popular sci-fi first person shooter videogame, starring The Rock, Clint Mansell has come up with an entirely suitable techno-based score, with much suspense and dissonance and some high octane, beat-driven action music. I have to say it's not the easiest listening experience away from the film and indeed some of the music is barely audible and it becomes quite frustrating waiting to hear something - anything. However, the kick-ass action moments certainly get the blood pumping, but if you're looking for another Sahara from the composer, you won't find it here. The final track on the album is given over to a number by Nine Inch Nails.

Where the Truth Lies
Music by Mychael Danna
Varese Sarabande VSD-6696
21 Tracks 46:37 mins

Once noted for his unusual approach to his film scores, often using ethnic instruments, Danna has of late been found mostly composing pretty conventional scores for his projects and this latest is no exception.
Where the Truth Lies sees a reporter trying to get to the bottom of the breakup of a successful showbiz partnership, perhaps inspired a little by Martin & Lewis and features some elegant, if melancholy and mysterious strings-based music, which can be likened somewhat to Bernard Herrmann in his Hitchcockian style, as well as more contemporary Jerry Goldsmith scores for the likes of Basic Instinct and Chinatown. There are also some "trippy" moments, representing the characters' excesses, and a good deal of source-like music of the time, like the jazzy mover Palace del Sol, co-composed with Rob Simonsen, and the easy-going, flute-lead The Chinese Restaurant, with its jazzy trumpet solos.
As a novelty, a brief track is included to give a flavour of the duo's cabaret performances of their heyday, where Kevin Bacon displays his singing abilities (Bacon and his brother do of course have their own band in reality).

Thursday, January 05, 2006

CD REVIEWS - The Brothers Grimm and Brokeback Mountain

The Brothers Grimm
Music by Dario Marianelli
Milan 301 728-1 (EU)
17 tracks 71:50 mins

Dario Marianelli seems to have suddenly burst onto the scene, what with his pianistic score for the latest version of Pride and Prejudice and now Terry illiam's latest fantasy The Brothers Grimm, and he shows a real versatility in that the scores couldn't be more different. Grimm is a large orchestral-choral score and is given a very generous presentation on this lengthy album. Not only that, but many of the tracks are quite lengthy, with the music going through many moods within a single track. This however doesn't always make for the best listening experience away from the film, where I'm sure the music works admirably. Here, there are some great moments, but often these disappear into dark dissonances just as they are getting exciting and interesting.
Some of those moments include the big, lumbering march of a main theme in the album's opening and closing tracks; a mysterious, waltz-like theme, which is seemingly at the heart of every cue and goes through many variations; some exciting and menacing action in various cues; the regal then propulsive opening to The Queen's Story; some effective ethnic Xenaesque female vocalisms; and a lovely string theme of serene beauty, which brings moments of calm to proceedings.
Not an easy listen then, but stick with it and you will be rewarded here and there; and on the back of these two breakthrough scores, it will be interesting to see what 2006 has in store for Dario Marianelli.

Brokeback Mountain
Music by Gustavo Santaolalla
Verve Forecast 0602498865859 (EU)
17 Tracks 43:30 mins

Known widely as "the gay cowboy movie," a label that may deter many from paying good money at the box office, which would be a shame in view of its critical receptuion. As for the score, well it only accounts for 12 minutes or so of this album, and it's all pretty unmemorable, scored for acoustic guitar, pedal steel and strings. The title theme appears in three variations, the best being the first laid-back version. "Snow" features a travelling motif and "Riding Horses" is a brief and light mover. The closing score cue "The Wings" is the pick of the score and is quite uplifting.
The remainder of the album is given over to country songs, the best known artists perhaps being Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Martina McBride and Linda Ronstadt. It's a nice selection, but is hardly likely to attract film music fans, just as Santaolalla's cues aren't going to attract country music fans.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

CD REVIEW - The Island

Music by Steve Jablonsky
Milan 301 724-1
15 Tracks 56:13 mins

To welcome the imminent U.K. release of the film on DVD, here is my take on the soundtrack album, which only recently arrived at my door after a long struggle and was it worth the wait? Well, put it this way, Steve Jablonsky's score for this sci-fi thriller, starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson, isn't a patch on his exciting score for the animated Steamboy, but it's still a very serviceable score, which despite many suspenseful moments, retains forward motion by means of an almost ever-present underlying rhythmic pulse. There are some exciting action moments, but these are usually frustratingly brief and no sooner has the foot started tapping than they're over.
Much of the score is in the typical Media Ventures style, with choir enhancing key moments, but a large part has a definite techno edge. A somewhat poignant love theme emerges a couple of times, with Jablonsky saving best for last with the concluding clebratory score cue My Name is Lincoln. Completing the content is a rap song by an uncredited male vocalist and the album concludes with a track by The Prom Kings.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

CD REVIEWS - The Essential Michel Legrand Film Music Collection & Tim Burton's Corpse Bride

The Essential Michel Legrand Film Music Collection
The Flemish Radio Orchestra, conducted by the composer
Silva Screen records SILCD1185 (U.K.)
13 Tracks 77:55 mins

Released in collaboration with The Reader's Digest Association, this album differs from previous releases in the "Essential Film Music" series in that, whereas they consisted of largely faithful reproductions of film score themes and suites, this is more like a concert recording in that it features the composer conducting, and at times performing on keyboards, specially arranged suites and themes from his catalogue of film and TV work, resulting in a less than satisfying album for film music purists, but for anyone just wanting to sit back and enjoy an album of beautiful music from one of France's greatest ever screen composers, this is a real treat.
Featured is a fine expanded version of Legrand's famous love theme from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg; a fine jazzy medley, with Legrand at the piano, from another the oft-underrated musical Young Girls of Rochefort; the memorable theme from Summer of 42; a trumpet-lead rendition of the theme from Never say Never Again; a jazzy arrangement, featuring sax of "How Do You Keep the Music Playing" from Best Friends; the famous theme from The Thomas Crown Affair, again with Legrand at the piano; a flute-lead fantasy on the song "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life" from The Happy Ending; a pretty faithful suite of themes from The Three Musketeers; the beautiful theme from Wuthering Heights; the inspirational theme from Brian's Song; the trumpet-lead jazz of Dingo; an abolutely gorgeous kind of harp concerto of instrumental versions of the songs from the musical Yentl; and a six-movement suite from The Go-Between, with the composer featured on harpsichord.
This is a concert I would gladly pay to see, perhaps with the addition of one or two omissions. But, unless that day comes, I guess I'll just have to lay back and imagine, while I let the stunning music of Michel Legrand wash over me.

Corpse Bride
Music by Danny Elfman
Warner Sunset/Warner Bros. 9362-49473-2 (EU)
24 Tracks 59:38 mins

Danny Elfman fans have really been spoilt, what with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (see my recent review) and now Corpse Bride, an animation from Tim Burton, very much along the lines of his previous A Nightmare Before Christmas. Both are delightful scores, very much in the old Elfman traditions and I would recommend both to you but, if I had to choose, it would be this one, as virtually every track sparkles.
It's a score very much akin to Nightmare, with quirky songs, featuring Elfman, voice cast and chorus; and magical, yet sometimes dark, instrumentals, performed by orchestra and choir. Sometimes the music is delicate and ethereal, sometimes menacing and suspenseful, and sometimes just plain fun, particularly when the composer employs a big band style.
The album features four bonus source tracks from Bonejangles and his Bone Boys, all great foot-tapping music, providing a most satisfying conclusion to a fine album.

Monday, January 02, 2006

CD REVIEW - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Music by Patrick Doyle
Warner Sunset/Warner Bros 49631-2
21 Tracks 75:57 mins

What - a Harry Potter film without a John Williams score? Well, for better or worse, depending on your point of view, it's true. But at least hearing that Patrick Doyle was to be his replacement and not, as first feared, Jarvis Cocker (though he and others does contribute some songs), set some minds at rest, though got us all wondering just what the results would be.
Well, I'm happy to say that Doyle hasn't let the side down, coming up with a very fine score for this latest instalement of the franchise, even if it isn't quite so consistently entertaining or thematically interesting as Williams' past work for the series. In fact, up until track 10 I was getting worried as, with the exception of the big, impressive Highland reel and action that follows in The Quidditch World Cup and Foreign Visitors Arrive with its anticipation-filled start and following Russian flavoured theme, I found proceedings up to that point pretty uninspiring. But things began to change with the impressive processional and exciting action of Golden Egg, even if the following Neville's Waltz appeared pretty lifeless. This was however followed by Harry in Winter, which I feel sure is destined to take its place alongside the best of Williams' best-loved Potter themes. It's a simply stunning theme for strings and celeste, quite operatic in feel. This is swiftly followed by the exuberant Potter Waltz and the interesting mix of tango and vocal refrain (by Doyle's daughter) in Underwater Secrets. The exciting The Black Lake follows, all turbulent action with a triumphant finish, and then we have the curious Hogwarts' March, scored for a typically Northern brass band, with a variation on Harry in Winter as its bridge. Plenty of dark, menacing conflict can be found in The Maze and Voldemort, with a moving lament following for Death of Cedric. Another Year Ends positively soars as the calm after the storm is duly celebrated, with another winning theme following, the noble strings of Hogwarts' Hymn. So all's well that ends well, after all, in that Doyle has done a fine job of following in Williams' footsteps. It now remains to be seen who will perform the duties on the next instalment.
By the way, do stop playing the album at track 21, because the Jarvis Cocker & co. material follows and totally spoils the mood of what's gone before. Thank goodness it's all saved for the end of the disc.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


CD REVIEW - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Music by Danny Elfman
Warner Bros. 72264
21 Tracks 54:14 mins

Now that the film is available in the U.K. on DVD, I thought I would just do a little retrospective review of the soundtrack album, which of course, being a Tim Burton film, is provided by Danny Elfman, who not only composes the music but sings the songs as well.
Rather than present the music in film order, with the songs intermingled with the score, the album opens with all five songs - the catchy Wonka's Welcome Song; the crazy big band arrangement of Augustus Gloop; the funky Violet Beauregarde; the flower-powered Veruca Salt; and the Queen-like rock opera number Mike Teavee - all of them very enjoyable fare.
The score follows and finds the composer revisiting, to a certain extent, the days of Edward Scissorhands and the PeeWee films. It's all very imaginitive, with much use of voices, females to the fore for the more awe-filled, ethereal moments and males for the more menacing ones, and also driving the River Cruise scenes. The disc ends with a suite of largely instrumental versions of the songs (lyrics for which, by the way, can be found in the accompanying booklet), making for a very satisfying conclusion.