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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

CD REVIEWS - Two new Directors Cuts

Directors Cuts Production Music Library DCD021
21 Tracks 54:36 mins

The first of two new releases from Extreme Music from their excellent Directors Cuts series is described as "disturbingly haunted fright-flick flinchcore scores" and features music to be very afraid by composers James Brett , Cody Westheimer, Michael Price, Matt Gates, Luca Antonini and Mike Shapiro, with Brett co-writing one selection with a colleague by the name of Walter, whose first name we are not given.
Overall, the music is very much a reflection of the type of scoring put into many low-budget, and some higher-budgeted contemporary horrors, with some very dark and eerie atmospheres, menacing action and mysterious piano. Frightening stuff and perfect for forthcoming attractions in this genre.

Light Drama 2
Directors Cuts Production Music Library DCD022
15 Tracks 50:58 mins

Composers featured on this second release, the music for which is described as "underlying scene-setting ambitonal backdrops," are James S. Levine, Michael Price and the Tillman/Vedvik team. Selections vary from sad and reflective, to warm and sensitive, to upbeat and rhythmic, often keyboard-lead and very much in the style created by Thomas Newman for the likes of American Beauty, and echoed by many a composer since. Very suitable for your "movie of the week" or indie drama.

Monday, February 27, 2006

CD REVIEW - The New World

The New World
Music by James Horner
Silva Screen SILCD1200
13 Tracks 79:37 mins

For this live-action telling of the Pocahontas/Captain Smith story, James Horner has written his customary wall-to-wall score, though parts of it were apparently sacrificed for classical compositions in the finished film - another episode in the "curse of the temp-track" saga, I suppose. Thankfully however, the score is preserved for our enjoyment on this lengthy album, even if its impact is slightly lessened by the annoying presence of birdsong over the title track and again during the vocal "Listen to the Wind," well-performed by Hayley Westenra, which closes the album.
Horner has written a score of delicate beauty for the most part, with his usual familiarity of style, but also with a hint of minimalism. Echoes of previous works can be found in the Titanic-like female vocals that subtly pervade the score, and there's also a touch of Braveheart to be found in the broad theme, first heard in the title track, after its initial awe-filled choral beauty. Pocahontas receives delicate romantic scoring, with tender piano and strings accompanying "Rolfe Proposes." Some of the tracks are perhaps over-lengthy and fail to sustain the interest throughout but, for the most part, this is another engrossing listening experience and a worthy addition to your Horner collection.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

CD REVIEW - Fun with Dick & Jane

Fun with Dick & Jane
Music by Theodore Shapiro
Varese Sarabande VSD-6711
23 Tracks 35:38 mins

The much-underrated Theodore Shapiro has been writing consistently good scores for some time now, mostly for comedies like Starsky & Hutch and Dodgeball but he also wrote a highly effective score for the thriller Heist. Unfortunately, none of these scores are commercially available, so it was with great pleasure that I approached this CD, featuring his latest effort for this Jim Carrey/Tea Leoni-cast remake of the 1976 Jane Fonda/George Segal comedy. And again the composer didn't disappoint, adopting a tremendously cool mix of urban rhythms, combined with standard orchestra. It's kind of retro-modern, if there's such a thing, sounding contemporary, but at times combining a somewhat Blaxploitation sound, with Bondian strings.
What the score has in spades is energy, and plenty of it, with some cool grooves and out-and-out fast, beat-driven action. One or two poignant moments for piano and strings feature, but it's the action writing that dominates, including a tremendous Mexican-styled cue "Illegal Immigration.
The music remains fresh throughout, due to the cues being somewhat brief, the longest being only 2 minutes and 39 seconds. Normally, I'm not a lover of brief cues, as a result, finding many of Thomas Newman's scores less than satisfying, but there's so much inventiveness and likeability about this score one can't help but warm to it.
I certainly hope that the availability of this score proves to be a breakthrough for the composer, resulting in all of his future work being available on disc.

Friday, February 24, 2006


Music by Mark Isham
Superb Records GUTCD55
15 Tracks 58:37 mins

Paul Haggis' Crash has been the subject of much critical praise for a long time now and has featured strongly this awards season, despite the film having been released a while ago. I thought it was about time I checked out Mark Isham's music, which has also been praised in many quarters.
Haggis has worked exclusively with Isham since 1996 when the latter scored the former's pilot for his short-lived TV series EZ Streets, and this score takes a similar approach to that show, featuring electronic atmospheres and haunting female vocals. There was however no soundtrack album for EZ Streets, more's the pity, so I could only judge by the music's effectiveness in the programme, and effective it was, especially the haunting Celtic-styled vocals. I haven't seen Crash, so cannot judge this score's effectiveness therein, and it may well be that when I do, I'll find it just as effective, but I doubt it. For a start, the uncredited female doesn't sing in English, which doesn't exactly warm me to her performances, though one Gladiator-styled song, first heard in the lengthy "Flames" is certainly uplifting as it builds powerfully to its conclusion, both in that track and the extended version heard in "Sense of Touch."
There's very little else to latch onto in the score, though "No Such Things as Monsters," has a lullaby-like quality to it. I'll definitely have to watch the film before I sign off on this score but, in the meantime, I certainly wouldn't advise anyone to buy the CD without first seeing the film.
Oh, by the way, the album concludes with two songs by Bird York and Stereophonics, for anyone interested.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

CD REVIEW - Gideon's Daughter/Friends & Crocodiles

Gideon's Daughter/Friends & Crocodiles
Demon DMGST 001
31 Tracks 76:13 mins

Last month the BBC screened Friends & Crocodiles, one of two new dramas from Stephen Poliakoff and Sunday sees the screening of the second, Gideon's Daughter.
Demon have done us a great service in releasing regular Poliakoff collaborator Adrian Johnston's scores for both productions on one CD, commencing with 15 tracks from Gideon's Daughter, which the composer admits is his favourite of the two. The film is set in the summer of 1997 and encompasses Labour's election victory and the death of Princess Diana. I would agree with Johnston's assessment - this is certainly the most enjoyable of the two scores here presented, commencing with the flowing piano and strings of "Flower Upon Flower, and underlining all the nervous energy of "Movie Premiere; whilst "Gideon's Youth" is a nostalgic piano-lead theme. "Jump in Jump Out" starts out easy-going, but becomes more purposeful and "Bicycle Lane" has an almost jungle feel to it. "The Great Meeting" is light and airy, a happy variation on "FUF". Actress Emily Blunt sings "Natasha's Song" at her last school assembly, with lyrics by Poliakoff, and the song returns in the emotional "Calton Hill."
Friends & Crocodiles spans 20 years from 1981 to the present and explores the relationship between a boss and his secretary over this period. The 16 tracks presented commence with the bright, flowing, guitar-driven "Colour Codes," followed by "Poolside," which has a laid-back, almost Reggae feel to it. "Room of Dreams" is, well, suitably dreamy, with "Picnic a brief, but flowing cue. "Swan Magic" is again; well, magical, whilst "Party Riot mixes strings with modern dance elements. "Book Ruined" and "Geometry Box" are sad and sensitive, with "Venture Capitalists" featuring laid-back guitar, but with a propulsive mid-section. The opening theme returns triumphantly in "All the Winners," and the upbeat mood is continued with the fast and flowing "Wedding" and the happy and excited "Takeover." "Bonfire" provides a delicate, reflective ending for piano and strings.
The accompanying booklet features a summary of the films' plots, plus an extensive and appreciative note on Adrian Johnston and his music by the director.

These films see Adrian Johnston make a triumphant return to TV scoring, following a busy year, spent largely working on big screen productions, including two "dog features," Lassie and The Mighty Celt. For the former his wrote a conventional orchestral score, with a subtle Highland feel, reflecting the film's setting. Lassie's journey is filled with sadness and Johnston's score suitably reflects this without ever going over the top with sentiment. Along the way there are bursts of action writing to be found, as Lassie makes various escapes, and the splendour of the scenery is duly and expansively noted. Unfortunately, no soundtrack release has been forthcoming, nor for The Mighty Celt, where the score has a folk-come-pop feel to it, with mystical elements. The racing scenes are largely guitar-driven and again the sentiment is subtly handled.
In the summer, Adrian worked on the horror film Isolation, which I don't believe has been released as yet. It concerns mutant cattle on a farm and was certainly a change of pace. "I loved doing it," he says, "with Jew's harp, percussion, a herd of double basses and violins, mikes swinging overhead, and me on metal rakes and barrows." The results are certainly a world away from anything I've previously heard from him and is easily the equal of many a recent low-budget Hollywood horror score, with much dissonance and suspense and appropriate menace where required.
Finally, his most high profile film assignment was for the very British comedy Kinky Boots. A soundtrack was released for this movie, by Hollywood records, but only three tracks featured Adrian's score. However, as much of the score consists of very brief (often under one minute) cues, these prove a good representation of his music, grouping together most of the best moments of the score, including the inspirational main theme, a magical choral, some urgent and more comical music, guitar and strings sentiment, and some cool sax-lead jazz.
Johnston's most recent assignment is the satirical TV film Coup - about the failed African coup, with Mark Thatcher.

My thanks to Adrian Johnston for making this review/feature possible.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

CD REVIEWS - Two from Monstrous Movie Music

Mighty Joe Young (and other Ray Harryhausen animation classics)
Monstrous Movie Music MMM-1953
66 Tracks 61:48 mins

It is no wonder Monstrous Movie Music releases take so long to appear when you consider the time and effort that goes into the preparation of each recording. Firstly, there's Kathleen Mayne's painstaking reconstructions of the music, then there's the actual recording by conductor Masatoshi Mitsumoto and the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Slovakia, excellently reproducing the feel of the original recordings, but of course in superior sound, and lastly the huge amount of research and writing that David Schecter puts into each booklet, so much information in fact that not all of it can be contained in each 40-page volume, the remainder being accessible through the label's website at
This first of two new recordings is dedicated to stop-motion genius Ray Harryhausen, now 85 but still able to clash some cymbals on a cue for this album, the bulk of which is devoted to Roy Webb's score for 1949's Mighty Joe Young, a film which producer Merian C. Cooper hoped would emulate the success of his famous King Kong of 1933. Sadly, as the liner notes on the movie relate, this was not to be, but I saw the film some years back and found it enjoyable enough in its own way. Webb's score opens suitably adventurous with a jungle feel, but soon softens when the infant Joe comes on the scene, becoming light and playful. Joe's favourite song becomes Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer," first heard on a music box, but later reprised orchestrally as source and as a glorious conclusion to the film. Along the way there is a bustling city theme, romantic strings for the film's young lovers, some exciting action sequences and a good deal of original source material for the stage show in New York, where Joe is of course the "big" attraction.
The second score on the album dates from 1957 and is 20 Million Miles to Earth, scored by Mischa Bakaleinikoff, with additional music plucked from the Columbia Pictures music library. This music comes from all kinds of films, even westerns, and from the pens of such illustrious composers as Frederick Hollander, George Duning, David Raksin, Daniele Amfitheatrof, Werner Heymann and Max Steiner, and works surprisingly well considering. Schecter's research is so detailed that you even get a history of each cue in his accompanying notes. Bakaleinikoff's original material includes some suitably otherworldly material, as well as some easy-listening Mediterranean music for the film's initial Sicilian setting. The film features a Venusian monster on the loose in Rome, ending in a big fight at the famous Colosseum, and so there is a good deal of exciting action music to be heard as well.
The final film featured on this disc is 1956's The Animal World, which featured prehistoric scenes, the music for which, by Paul Sawtell, is included here. Starting off mysteriously, the cue turns into some exciting action writing for scenes involving a battle between a Stegosaurus and a couple of Ceratosauruses.
A bonus cue features the complete version of Frederick Hollander's "Heaven," featured in 20 Million Miles to Earth.
The aforementioned accompanying booklet, in addition to its guides to the films and their music, features many behind-the-scenes photos and musical examples, and also includes biographical information on the composers, conductor Mitsumoto, restorer Mayne, the album's artist Robert Aragon, and of course Harryhausen, whose skill and imaginiation made these films so memorable.

This Island Earth (and other alien invasion films)
Monstrous Movie Music MMM-1954
47 Tracks 60:12 mins

This second new release employs all the same creative forces and is accompanied by its own splendid 40-page booklet, and features music from four films, starting with the "Main Title" from 1958's War of the Satellites by Walter Greene, a fast-paced brassy effort. Next up is the complete score for 1955's This Island Earth, probably best remembered for its stunning design of the mutant aliens, one of the more recognisable images of sci-fi of the period. Herman Stein wrote much of the music for the film, except for the final scenes, which were handled by Hans J. Salter and Henry Mancini. Stein came up with some pretty menacing material, and a good deal of otherworldly mystery, often featuring splendidly eerie use of Novachord, an early electronic keyboard. Balancing this, there is some pretty heroic material, like in the soaring "Jet West;" the energetic "Interocitor Montage;" and a love theme, at times warm and intimate, at others quite sunny, which concludes the score gloriously in the "End Cast," after the triumphant conclusion to the "End Title." Salter scores this cue, and the preceding action is very much cut from the same cloth as his music for the old Universal horror films, being somewhat at odds with Stein's contributions. Mancini fares better, although "Amorous Mutant" is straight out of "Creature from the Black Lagoon." It's a pity Stein wasn't given the time to finish the score, but such was life in the old studio system and, although he scored 75% of the music, it was, as was often the case at the time, Universal music chief Joseph Gershenson who received the sole credit.
Daniele Amfitheatrof's menacing "Main Title" from 1956's Earth vs. the Flying Saucers follows; with 20 minutes of Ron Goodwin's score from 1962's The Day of the Triffids concluding the album. The much-missed Ron Goodwin, a great raconteur, is best known for his memorable melodies for films like 633 Squadron, The Trap and Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, but none of his melodic gifts are present in this largely suspenseful and menacing score, though there is some sentiment in "Susan and Bettina," and some Latin swagger in cues like "Spanish Square."
So, two long-anticipated releases from Monstrous Movie Music again prove worth the wait and deserve the attention of every sci-fi fan and devotee of film music of a more golden age. Again, I would urge you to visit the label's website at, not only for further information, but to order your copies of these splendid albums. Let's hope the future holds similar delights from this enterprising label.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Carl Davis and James Dooley

A Christmas Carol
Northern Ballet Theatre
Music by Carl Davis
Choreography by Massimo Moricone
Arthaus Musik 101 193 (DVD)

This splendid 1992 performance, recorded at the Victoria Theatre, Halifax, features music by Carl Davis, a man who is best known for his many scores for film and TV over the years, a body of work which also encompasses original scoring and adaptation for many silent film revivals. But I must admit a ballet by the man was a new experience for me, but an enjoyable one, I'm glad to report.
This three-act work is principally a ballet of course, but the many songs, voiced splendidly by the Choir of artists from the Northern Ballet, make this work more a combination of ballet and musical. The subject matter, being Dickens' A Christmas Carol, gave the composer licence to incorporate several well-loved Christmas songs and carols into his score, some voiced, some played instrumentally, and some a natural progression from one to the other; and there are also some less familiar songs, like the opening funeral march for Marley, and Tiny Tim's song, which the accompanying booklet doesn't help identify. They may be original, they may be adaptations, I don't know, and if they are original, it doesn't say who is responsible for the lyrics.
Davis' score is particularly enjoyable in the livelier dance sequences, though, if you close your eyes, you could well-imagine he is accompanying scenes set in the American West, as there seems to me a definite Copland influence.
The composer also had to come up with some folksy, fiddle-lead music and various ballroom dances, as well as some bawdy tavern music, before wrapping things up quite joyously, reprising some of the key themes and songs that came before.
Although not really qualified to comment on the dance aspect of the production, I would just say that the Company and principals, lead by Jeremy Kerridge as Scrooge, acquitted themselves excellently, considering they were often performing in full Dickensian dress. Special effects for the ghosts that visit Scrooge were adequate, with Steven Wheeler's Ghost of Christmas Future being a particularly terrifying apparition.
The aforementioned booklet gives a background on Dickens and his famous work, a history of the various screen and stage adaptations, background on the Northern Ballet Theatre, composer Davis and choreographer Moricone, plus a guide to the Ballet's content, all this in three languages.
If you want to experience yet another side to Carl Davis' talents, I would heartily recommend this excellent DVD.

James Dooley and When a Stranger Calls

My thanks to Costa Communications for bringing to my attention that composer James Dooley, a long-time collaborator of Hans Zimmer, continues to take his own solo steps into the cinematic arena with his score for the new remake of the 1979 thriller When a Stranger Calls. I remember, as a young man, being reasonably gripped by the original when seeing it on release at our local cinema, and can't help but wonder if this latest version will prove a worthwhile venture or will follow in the steps of so many sub-standard remakes - we shall see!
As for Dooley's music, well, it is pretty much what one expects it to be, a mix of suspense and menacing action, but at least it's orchestral, and there are some more gentle moments for piano, though these are very few and far between. Sorry to report that here is no word on a CD release for the score at this time.
Forthcoming from the composer is Urmel Aus Dem Eis, or Impy's Island, as it will be known in the U.S., which is an animation, based on the German children's story about a dinosaur that hatches in modern times. I shall be very interested to hear Dolley's score for the film, which would seem an interesting opportunity.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Congratulations to John Williams on his BAFTA Award for Memoirs of a Geisha.

CD REVIEW - Age of Empires III

Age of Empires III
Music by Stephen Rippy & Kevin McMullan
Sumthing Else Music Works SE-2022-2 (U.S.)
27 Tracks 47:07 mins

This latest episode in the rel-time strategy game series by Ensemble Studios and Microsoft Games Studios features music by regular contributors Stephen Rippy and Kevin McMullan.
This episode covers the colonization of the Americas and therefore needed an epic sound, provided by the Northwest Sinfonia and choir, but also more intimate, folksy and even ethnic-styled tracks, featuring the likes of violin and guitar and even pipes are occasionally used to add a Celtic feel.
The score opens with its martial-based main theme, with the mysterious Celtic-feel of "Across the Ocean Sea" quickly following. Choir first makes its presence felt in "Felonius Junk" and continues in support of the action cue "Ruinon." A variety of moods follow; there's awe in "J. Menevro," a little comedy in "Scruffy and Underfed" and suspense in "A Hot Meal." "Of Licious" features a violin solo and the instrument returns to play a kind of lullaby at the end of "Best With Us." "Muptop" features a capella choir and a guitar solo as the action picks up. There's even a hoedown in "Old Timer," before choir returns for the doom-laden "Take His Toes." "Happy to You" has a distinct ethnic feel and "Camels, Straws and Backs" delivers more action writing. "Last Name Crane, Icabod" opens with choir before4 becoming a bouncy mover. Choir rejoins for a mystical ending.
The final three tracks on the CD are very different in style, starting with "Ludud Perditus," another a capella choral; followed by the Regency-styled "Niceterium;" then the easy-listening folk of the "End Credits."
A bonus DVD accompanies the disc, which features 6 minutes of additional cues, 7 minutes of footage from the recording sessions and the cinematic trailer.
For info on the game, visit

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Call of Cthulhu

The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society recently released on DVD a 47 minute silent treatment of Lovecraft's 1926 tale. Very much a labour of love, which shows just what can be achieved by a small but committed team of individuals, this stylish black-and-white production beautifully re-creates the feel of an original silent movie, with imaginative set design, good use of miniatures, and with stop-motion effects more akin to the original King Kong than to more recent efforts. The acting however, whilst a little larger than life is perhaps more naturalistic than the overblown performances found in the original silents, which is no bad thing, making the film more acceptable to a modern audience. A splendid, light-hearted behind-the scenes documentary details the production and there is also deleted footage to enjoy.
The film features a symphonic score by composers Ben Holbrook, Troy Sterling Nies and Nicholas Pavkovic, which is very effective and of course traditionally wall-to-wall. There is little I can add to Randall D. Larson review in his "The Song of Cthulhu" feature for, which I strongly suggest you visit. The feature extends into a full-length examination of the music composed for the many Lovecraft film treatments and those inspired by his stories. Whilst there, you should also check out his "Voice of Gojira: Remembering Akira Ifukube" - a splendid tribute to the recently deceased composer.
As for The Call of Cthulhu, I would certainly recommend the DVD to all Lovecraft fans out there and suggest you visit for further information on this and the Society in general.

Friday, February 17, 2006

News Just In

Again, I have been unable to get any reviewing done today, so here are a couple of brief news items. Hopefully, normal service will be resumed next week.

2006 Saturn Awards Music Nominees reports that this year's nominees for original music are John Williams for Star Wars: Episode 3 - The Revenge of the Sith and War of the Worlds; Patrick Doyle for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; Danny Elfman for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; John Ottman for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang; and Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard for Batman Begins. The winner will be announced on May 2nd.

New Release from Intrada

INTRADA Announces:

Composed and Conducted by MICHAEL SMALL

INTRADA Special Collection Volume 29

In 1987, the 20th Century Fox thriller BLACK WIDOW hit the screens, starring Debra Winger and Theresa Russell. A deadly seductress marries a series of wealthy men, murders them, collects their estates, and gets away with her crimes thanks to her assumption of multiple identities. But an equally clever female adversary from the Justice Department is soon on her trail and becomes as bewitched as she is repelled by the Black Widow.

Although Michael Small's score for BLACK WIDOW includes a virtuoso display of woodwinds, vibes, harp, and percussion, strings are the stars here: 22 violins, 10 violas, 10 cellos, and four basses. As Bernard Herrmann did with his score for Psycho, Small utilizes the strings to create a piercing psychological intensity. Small's dark, mordant music helped define the sound of thrillers in the '70s and '80s, and this release provides a generous helping of that ground breaking sound.

This Intrada Special Collection release, edited and mastered from the original stereo session masters, is limited to 1200 copies.

INTRADA Special Collection - Volume 29
IN STOCK 2/17/2005
For artwork, tracklist, and to order, please visit

Glad to see Michael Small is at last getting some attention. There's a lot of his music that deserves a release. Let's hope this is just the beginning.

Stop Press - New Releases from Film Score Monthly

The latest titles from FSM have been announced and they are a premiere release for Ron Goodwin's score for 1978's Harrison Ford starrer Force ten From Navarone and a double bill CD premiere for John Williams' Not With My Wife You Don't and George Duning's Any Wednesday. Go to for further details.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

CD REVIEW - The Magnificent Westerns

The Magnificent Westerns
Silva Screen SILCD1202 (U.K.)
Disc 1 - 14 Tracks 71:46 mins Disc 2 - 14 Tracks 72:39 mins
Disc 3 - 14 Tracks 65:59 mins Disc 4 - 14 Tracks 63:34 mins

Due to be released on 20th February, this 4 disc set features over 270 minutes of music, gathering together the best of the label's recordings of music from Westerns, whether Hollywood or European in origin and spans the history of the genre from John Ford's Stagecoach to Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven and much in between. I still wouldn't call it the "Ultimate Collection of Western Film & TV Themes" as it is subtitled, as I could easily fill another couple of discs with my personal favourites not covered here.
The music is performed by the label's usual forces of the City of Prague Philharmonic and Crouch End Festival Chorus, with guest soloists for the various vocal tracks. Much of the music is pretty faithful to the original recordings, but some, while still valid, is noticeably different and takes some getting used to. Regular purchasers of Silva Screen's compilations will probably have most if not all of the selections and so this is probably best recommended as a good overview, which would make a good birthday present for a young one you might wish to encourage on the trail to film music fandom, or maybe as a nostalgia trip for an elederly relative with a lifetime interest in film. All the big guns are here: The Big Country, The Magnificent Seven, How the West Was Won, Dances with Wolves, High Noon, Red River, The Searchers, Shane, True Grit and The Wild Bunch, plus familiar TV fare like Bonanza, The High Chaparral and Wagon Train, as well as Morricone's Italian takes on the genre with The Dollars Trilogy and Once Upon a Time in the West.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Not much time today, due to work commitments, but just wanted to point you in the direction of an excellent photo report on the "Maestros of Horror" event on 11th February, sponsored by La-La Land Records, where fans got to meet composers Tyler Bates, Nathan Barr, John Harrison, Christopher Young, Brian Tyler and Christopher Lennertz. Go to Looks like a good time was had by all.
For details of La-La Land Records' current and forthcoming releases, including the imminent King Kong vs. Godzilla go to

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

CD REVIEW - British Modern vol.1

British Modern vol.1
First Edition FECD-1904
13 Tracks 67:36 mins

Anyone wishing to hear another side of three British composers famed for their film work might like to check out this CD reissue of pieces first released on LP as played by the Louisville Orchestra. The composers to check out are Sir Arthur Bliss, Sir Malcolm Arnold and John Addison and the pieces featured are 1957's Discourse for Orchestra, 1962's Concerto for Two Violins and String Orchestra and 1958's Concerto for Trumpet, strings and Percussion. I would pick the latter as the standout, with its breezy opening, fanfarish then pastoral second movement and bustling finale. I can't remember hearing a non-film music piece by Addison before and, whilst very different from his work for the screen, it is still very accessible.
The Arnold piece is largely a dialogue between two violins, excellently played by Peter McHugh and Paul Kling. The first movement is episodic, the second has dramatic and romantic moments and the third is fast and furious.
The Bliss piece opens the disc and is in mono, but still very good sound. The music itself doesn't really grab me until the third movement, which has a lighter tone than what has gone before. The fourth movement again passes me by, but the fifth is busy and interesting, with the final movement beginning big and bold, but unfortunately not sustaining the mood.
There is a fourth piece on the album, Edmund Rubbra's Improvisation for Violin and Orchestra.
The accompanying booklet features notes on the composers by Marco Shirodkar and the original LP liner notes on each piece are also reproduced.

Monday, February 13, 2006

CD REVIEW - Seven Swords

Seven Swords
Music by Kenji Kawai
EMI 0094633695429 (Hong Kong)
17 Tracks 69:32 mins

This is the second recent score from Kenji Kawai I have reviewed on the site and another entertaining effort it is too, quite as enjoyable as Innocence. This Samurai adventure is filled with exciting, heroic and menacing action music, often featuring the propulsive main theme, which is given some good workouts throughout this album. Unike Innocence, the score features little ambient music. Most notable is the otherwordly Woman from Yonder. Ethnic dance music, with wordless female choir features in Mount Heaven Serenade; and romance is introduced in In Search of Beauty and Life.
The score is largely orchestral, with some traditional instruments, but does feature electronics to a degree, though these rarely intrude. The final three cues bring the score to a fine climax, starting with the fateful build then action of The Final Sword Battle-The Dragon vs the Transcience; quickly followed by the celebratory Children at Dawn, which does indeed feature children's choir; with Seven Swords' Victory reprising the main action material, with just a hint of the love theme in its midst.
I look forward to discovering more of Kenji Kawai's music in the future.

Friday, February 10, 2006

AKIRA IFUKUBE DIES + CD Review - The Legend of Zorro + Game Music News

Akira Ifukube has died at the age of 91. Japan's most celebrated composer will probably be most remembered for his scores for the Godzilla movies, but wrote many other film scores and classical works over many decades. Naxos recently released his Sinfonia Tapkaara, Ritmica Ostinata and Symphonic Fantasia No.1 (which was based on his music for the many monster films he scored), which was reviewed on this site, and La-La Land Records this month release his King Kong Vs. Godzilla.

CD Review - The Legend of Zorro
Music by James Horner
Sony Classical SK 97751 (EU)
15 Tracks 75:41 mins

This is probably James Horner's most enjoyable album since, well, The Mask of Zorro, largely because he naturally reuses material from that score, especially the wonderful main and love themes, one an extension of the other. All the same elements are brought to bear as in the first score, plenty of handclapping and footstamping, Flamenco guitar and Mariachi trumpets, giving the score that same swagger. It's another lengthy album but, unlike some, this one never outstays its welcome, thanks to the numerous action sequences and romantic interludes.
The 11-minute+ The Train is a real tour-de-force, a fabulous action cue, and My Family Is My Life ends the album perfectly with its variations on the main themes. Great stuff!

Game Score News




Composer/Producer records Northwest Sinfonia Orchestra for Blockbuster Military Action Shooter

New York - February 9th, 2006 - Following his work on Cold FearT and Ghost Recon 2T (main theme co-writer), Tom Salta has composed and produced the anthemic live orchestral soundtrack for Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced WarfighterT, the next instalment in the smash-hit squad-based action franchise. Scheduled to ship for March 2006, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter focuses on the deployment of the Soldier of the Future - the "warfighter," into the chaos of urban warfare.

Salta has written all of the original music for the game, including the Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter main theme, which enhances the drama and emotion of the epic storyline and intense tactical gameplay action. The score was recorded with the Northwest Sinfonia Orchestra at the prestigious Bastyr Chapel in Seattle. Combining his expertise in programming and mixing hit records with the highest production values; Salta also blended contemporary electronic sounds into the score to capture the modern, hi-tech feel of the game. Visit the Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter official website via to hear a preview of Tom Salta's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter main theme music.

Manu Bachet, Artistic Director at Ubisoft, said, "Tom Salta has created an explosive 5.1 score that mixes hi-tech elements, wild rhythms, and a live symphony orchestra. Not only was he able to find the perfect alchemy, but his music supports the action perfectly, and, most of all, it brings real emotion to the gameplay experience."

In addition to these recent videogame composing and recording ventures, Salta's hard-driving electronica and orchestral grooves grace many television shows, commercials and film promos. Recording under the artist name 'Atlas Plug' (, he is currently working on the follow-up to his highly acclaimed debut solo album 2 Days or Die. For more information please visit

In Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, players will embody Captain Scott Mitchell as he commands the Ghosts and Special Forces allies equipped with the IWS in the quest to save the president of the United States, recover stolen nuclear codes and eliminate a vicious band of renegade soldiers hell-bent on unleashing catastrophe. The game unfolds entirely in Mexico City, where numerous, meticulously researched and detailed environments will deliver complete immersion into the future of urban warfare. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter will also include multiplayer and cooperative gameplay with exciting new elements, continuing the Ghost Recon tradition of setting the bar for multiplayer action.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

CD REVIEW - Tex e il Signore degli Abissi

Tex e il Signore degli Abissi
Music by Gianni Ferrio
Rai Trade CRT 305 (Italy)
23 Tracks 52:06 mins

Gianni Ferrio was one of several composers writing top-notch scores for Italian Westerns of the '60s, and I am particularly fond fond of his score for 1965's Un Dollaro Bucato.
In 1985 he returned to the genre for Tex, which appears to have been a TV production, although with the booklet notes in Italian only, I can't be sure of any facts. All I do know for sure is that it starred one of my favourite genre stars Giuliano Gemma, and IW fans will of course also be familiar with William Berger.
As for the score, well, I have to say it is a pretty dull affair. The main theme, which first appears in Welcome Tex, has a good flow to it and gets plenty of workouts throughout the album's tracks - sometimes in pastoral mode, at others with dark undertones, but a good deal of the score is suspenseful and just not very interesting thematically. There are no great action moments, or showdowns, but then, judging by the occasional use of drums, I suspect it's more of a "Cowboys and Indians story." Frankly, it's a disappointment and not a disc that will sit proudly in my IW collection.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

CD REVIEW - Ballata per un Pistolero

Ballata per un Pistolero
Music by Marcello Giombini
GDM 2064 (Italy)
22 Tracks 47:00 mins

Unlike yesterday's western score, this one, from 1967, is much more in traditional vein, with a couple of typical themes for the genre - a galloping theme with electric guitar lead, first heard in Titoli, which is reprised throughout, and a dramatic trumpet-lead theme, which again features extensively, sometimes played by organ, as in the hushed Sepoltura dei Morti and Al Tramonto, with its tolling bell accompaniment.
There is quite a bit of variety in the score besides, with some suspenseful and dramatic moments, a couple of honky tonk barroom piano tracks and a Mexican dance. The album concludes with Peppino Gagliardi's Italian vocal of the title song (basically the trumpet theme I have previously referred to).
Attractively presented with full colour artwork, but again no notes, this is a worthy addition to any Italian Western music collection.
Again, I would suggest a visit to, where Lionel Woodman will be glad to help you with your Italian soundtrack requirements. Incidentally, for those of you who read my review yesterday, Lionel tells me that Alessandroni told him that Nora did her own whistling, so she must have listened and learned from the master, as she did a pretty good job of sounding like him.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

CD REVIEW - Clint il Solitario

Clint il Solitario
Music by Nora Orlandi
GDM 2063 (Italy)
15 Tracks 32:20 mins

Quite a brief CD this, but a quality score nevertheless. None of your galloping electric guitars or trumpet duels here. Rather, this is a score filled with beautiful, nostalgic music, which commences with the main theme, Stop Shooting, sung by Luciano Michelini, a nice easy-listening track. This is one of three themes given plenty of workouts in subsequent tracks, all of which are untitled, so I will concentrate on the track numbers.
Track 2 features the main theme, initially whistled, very much in Alessandroni style, though he is not credited on the album, and then taken up a capella by Nora Orlandi's choir, 4 + 4. Orchestra joins with the choir for Track 3, whilst Track 4 introduces an innocent, lullaby-like melody for solo child's voice. Track 5 commences with a very catchy travelling theme, which gives way to a glorious orchestral rendition of the main theme. As I said previously, subsequent tracks mostly feature these themes in various arrangements and combinations, the pick of which are Tracks 10, 11, 13 (which features harmonica - an uncredited De Gemini?) and the final track, which is an instrumental version of Stop Shooting, featuring harmonica again.
Packaging is colourful but lacks notes, so I can't tell you anything about the film, I'm afraid.
For this, and pretty much anything Italian, in the way of film music, go to

Monday, February 06, 2006

CD REVIEW - Munich

Music by John Williams
Decca 9879142 (EU)
18 Tracks 62:44 mins

John Williams' Oscar-nominate score for this Steven Spielberg thriller, which tells the story of how the Israelis hit back following the atrocity at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, is a mix of very dark, tense and suspenseful cues, some of them quite gripping, and passionate laments for the lost, beginning with the opening track Munich, 1972, which commences with Lisbeth Scott's passionate vocal, before descending into darkness. Ms Scott reprises the lament, even more passionately, in Remembering Munich and instrumental variations can be heard in Avner and Daphna and Thoughts of Home.
Another very passionate theme is introduced in A Prayer for Peace. This moving string theme is perhaps not quite as memorable as some past efforts like for Schindler's List, but is probably still destined to join the composer's concert repertoire, especially if the score triumphs at next month's Academy Awards. Avner's Theme presents the theme on solo guitar, whilst orchestra joins the same instrument for Bonding. Finally, the End Credits find cello and piano alternating as leads with the orchestra, bringing the score to a satisfying close.
It's been a bumper year for John Williams fans and I've just got to catch up with Memoirs of a Geisha to complete the picture.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

CD REVIEW - Good Night, and Good Luck

Good Night, and Good Luck
Featuring Dianne Reeves
Concord Jazz 0013431230724 (E.C.)
15 Tracks

George Clooney's film, which tells the story of legendary TV newsman Edward R. Murrow's struggle against Senator Joseph McCarthy and his Communist witch hunt, is featuring strongly this awards season. Murrow loved jazz, so the film's soundtrack consists of jazz standards of the time, performed by Dianne Reeves.
March 3rd sees the release of an album in the "music from and inspired by" category, which I guess means that not all of the selections feature in the movie. It's not really my bag, but if you like easy listening jazz standards and, let's face it, we probably all know a few of the chosen songs, this is a pretty undemanding listen. If I say some of the selections are "Straighten Up and Fly Right," You're Driving Me Crazy," "Pick Yourself Up" and "One For My Baby," you'll have a pretty good idea what I mean. There's also an instrumental version of "When I Fall in Love," which allows Reeves' supporting combo of Matt Catingub, Peter Martin, Jeff Hamilton and Robert Hurst, to take centre stage.

Friday, February 03, 2006

CD REVIEW - The Glass Slipper

The Glass Slipper
Music by Bronislau Kaper
Film Score Monthly Vol.8 No.19 (U.S.)
Disc 1 - 17 Tracks 71:10 mins Disc 2 - 13 Tracks 59:59 mins

M-G-M's attempt to repeat the success of their surprise box-office smash of 1953, Lili, was a live-action version of the Cinderella fairytale, The Glass Slipper, again starring Leslie Caron and again sporting a Bronislau Kaper score and song, with lyrics by Helen Deutsch, as well as three ballets. Needless to say, though well enough received, the film couldn't hope to match the success of its predecessor. But there's nothing wrong with Kaper's efforts. In fact, based on this splendid 2-disc set, which includes the complete score, plus alternate takes, often original versions, particularly of the ballets, before they were edited to fit the on-screen action, I would say this is the better score, certainly thematically more varied and interesting.
Save for the song, "Take My Love," which had a single vocal release by Eddie Fisher, and an instrumental version by David Rose and His Orchestra, no soundtrack album has previously been available, so this is a very welcome release indeed.
Disc One features the complete score, as heard in the film, and features the beautiful love theme, the aforementioned "Take My Love," in various arrangements, some within the lengthy and varied ballet music. It is a versatile theme, which can be played sad or gloriously happy and is almost as catchy as "Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo." It is sung once, by Gilbert Russell, subbing for Michael Wilding, and accompanied by Kaper on clavichord but, unlike "Hi-Lili," is best heard as an instrumental.
Whereas the Lili score was largely made up of fairground source music, this score has a number of excellent themes besides, including a melancholy one for Caron's character Ella's downtrodden moments, a versatile "Palace" theme for all things Royal, which is sometimes truly regal, at others almost comical and is also played as a tremendous marching band number in Parade; and comic material for Ella's stepsisters and her "fairy godmother." The ballets are inventive and run the gamut of emotions and, though a couple are lengthy, never outstay their welcome. There are also some fine source cues for the grand ball at the palace.
Disc Two features the aforementioned alternate takes, with even lengthier versions of the ballets, plus a brief impressionistic cue by Daniele Amfitheatrof and a solo performance of "Take My Love" by Bronislau Kaper at the clavichord again. Outtakes complete the dics, including a hummed version of "Take My Love" and a fascinating snatch of interraction from the scoring stage between composer Kaper and conductor Miklos Rozsa. Interestingly, although not credited with any composing in the accompanying booklet's cue-by-cue guide, Rozsa obviously wrote the cue I Don't Care, albeit based around Kaper's melancholy theme. His style is quite unmistakable.
Another excellent FSM release then, in fine stereo sound I might add, of the Golden Age Hollywood film music of Bronislau Kaper.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

CD REVIEW - Lost in Space - 40th Anniversary Edition and news of forthcoming London film music concerts + James Michael Dooley news.

Lost in Space - 40th Anniversary Edition
Music by John Williams & others
La-La Land Records LLLCD 1042 (U.S.)
Disc 1 - 22 Tracks 78:55 mins Disc 2 - 19 Tracks 76:41 mins

As a child of the '60s I was raised on the fantasy TV shows of Irwin Allen. I particularly enjoyed Lost in Space, though also watched Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Land of the Giants, not really caring for Time Tunnel (not enough monsters probably!).
To mark Lost in Space's 40th Anniversary, La-La Land Records have now brought out an excellent two-disc set of music from the show, accompanied by a splendid 16-page booklet, featuring Randall Larson's detailed notes on the show and its music.
John Williams wrote two different themes for the show, both excellent, but the second, debuting in Season Three, perhaps more propulsive and adventurous. He also composed the scores for four of the First Season's shows, including the first episode proper (the score for the pilot having been assembled by Lionel Newman using Bernard Herrmann's music for various Fox features). His music is still the best known from the show, although a number of composers made important and memorable contributions throughout its run. This is largely because his music was often tracked into subsequent shows and certain themes became synonymous with certain characters and situations. Although electronics were used, like his later music for the Star Wars series, his approach was largely orchestral, though very different in style from these later efforts, being more akin to the likes of The Towering Inferno. Limited orchestral forces lead him to be inventive, much of the time having to do without strings for instance, which accounts for the brass and woodwind-heavy music featured. There is much dark and threatening music, sometimes very dissonant, and some genuinely exciting moments, as well as delightful cues like the flute-lead Weightless Waltz. He also composed the familiar, lumbering theme for the robot and the comical one for Penny's pet (played by a chimpanzee with a domed headpiece and long, pointed ears, if I recall rightly). For the episode "My Friend Mr. Nobody" he came up with a truly magical theme, again for flute; and then there was also the adventurous travel music for the chariot, the Robinson family's overland transportation.
The first disc is devoted solely to Williams' contributions for all four episodes, much of which was previously released on two discs a few years back by GNP Crescendo, but it's nice to have this music readily available again, with the addition of new cues dotted amongst the familiar selections.
Disc Two, save for Williams' Third Season theme, is devoted to music created by other composers, as well as some tracked in library cues, some composed with the show in mind, others from the vaults. Much of these selections are released for the first time.
"The Derelict" by Herman Stein and Hans J. Salter features Stein's Family Theme, which became popular throughout the show's run - a warm and tender melody. There is also what I remember as a kind of semi-comic, pompous march for the Dr. Smith character. Stein also scored the menacing selection from "There Were Giants in the Earth." "Welcome Stranger," scored by Stein and Frank Comstock, was treated as a western, with a memorable theme, which could easily have come from an oater they might have worked on, played sometimes low-key and at other times, spirited. Leith Stevens had experience of sci-fi with features like The War of the Worlds and so was an easy choice to compose for LIS. His episode music for "Blast Off Into Space" features its share of menace and exciting action, as well as an alternate Family Theme. As the show got more zany and "hip" veteran Man From U.N.C.L.E. composers Robert Drasnin and Gerald Fried also worked on episodes, the former's score for "Curse of Cousin Smith" featuring a catchy comical western theme and some slinky jazz; whilst the latter's efforts for "Collision of Planets" feastured a comic march and some very U.N.C.L.E.ish sounds. Drasnin also contributed a comic promenade for "Forbidden World." Even Star Trek's own Alexander Courage contributed music for "Girl from the Green Dimension," for which he provided some slapsticky chase music and comical jousting material; and "Cave of the Wizards," for which he produced some overwordly suspense music and some regal sounds. And The Fugitive's Pete Rugolo wrote a typical '60s pop instrumental for "The Promised Planet.
Even if you aren't a child of the '60s, I am confident you will find something to enjoy amongst the over two-and-a-half hours of varied musical delights on offer here. A wonderful release, which deserves a place in any serious screen music fan's collection.

Concert News

The BBC Concert Orchestra have notified me of a couple of film music concerts they will feature in during March. Both are to be staged in London, the first, at 7:30 p.m. on 2nd March at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank, is a 70th Birthday Concert for Richard Rodeny Bennett, which "celebrates his skill as a film music composer," and which is sure to feature music from the likes of Far From The Madding Crowd, Yanks, Muder on the Orient Express and Gormenghast. And again at 7:30 p.m. on 17th March, as part of The Barbican's "Only Connect" series, Joel McNeely will conduct the Orchestra in "Nightmare Romance," a concert which celebrates the music Bernard Herrmann wrote for the films of Alfred Hitchciock, but will also include other Herrmann scores like Citizen Kane and Taxi Driver. It also features "rarely seen images and footage of the masters at work."

News from Costa Communications


Composer scores retelling of classic horror film

"The music is coming from inside the theatre!"
Having previously collaborated on the blockbuster, "The Ring," composer James Dooley re-teams with Hans Zimmer to score "When a Stranger Calls" for Screen Gems and director Simon West ("Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," "Con Air"). Starring Camilla Belle, Katie Cassidy and Tommy Flanagan, the film opens February 3. "When a Stranger Calls" is a retelling of the 1979 horror film that tells the story of a young high school student's nightmarish babysitting gig where she receives mysterious phone calls at the house to check on the children, only to find them dead. Dooley is well versed in the thriller genre, having previously collaborated with Hans Zimmer on the DreamWorks blockbuster "The Ring."

Dooley's recent credits include DreamWorks' animated short "A Christmas Caper" starring the penguins from the hit film "Madagascar," on which he previously teamed with Zimmer. This short was seen in theatres this past fall before the claymation feature "Wallace and Grommit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" for which Dooley provides additional music. Dooley also mixed and scored the new animated film, Urmel Aus Dem Eis, or Impy's Island, as it will be known in the US. The film is based on a German children's book about a dinosaur that hatches in modern times on an island where animals learn to speak. Additionally, Dooley has scored some of the industry's most successful videogames including "Socom 3, US Navy SEALs," which he recorded at London's Air Lyndhurst Hall with a 70-piece orchestra.

James Dooley is a graduate of New York University where he majored in Music Composition. After graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to study film composition with such composers as Christopher Young and Elmer Bernstein. He joined Media Ventures in 1999 and collaborated with Zimmer both as his Chief Technical Engineer and as a composer. In addition, Dooley has partnered with to donate the proceeds from sales of his "The Mars Underground" soundtrack to the Red Cross national disaster relief effort. "The Mars Underground" is a landmark documentary about renowned aerospace scientist and visionary, Dr. Robert Zubrin quest for Mars exploration.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

CD REVIEW - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland/Petulia

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland/Petulia
Music by John Barry
Film Score Monthly Vol.8 No.20 (U.S.)
28 Tracks 79:48 mins

A pairing of John Barry scores from 1972 and 1968 respectively, premiering here on CD, and a very welcome release this is too.
Over the years Barry and oft-time collaborator lyricist Don Black have had mixed fortunes with musicals. Despite this 1972 production of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland having an all-star cast of British acting and comic talent of the time, it sadly didn't catch on at the box office, but is a stable of British TV, being on again only recently.
The songs are actually quite entertaining, made more so, for the more mature British listener in particular, by the presence of the likes of Peter Sellers, Michael Crawford, Spike Milligan and Dudley Moore, although it is the three songs, Curiouser and Curiouser, I've Never Been This Far Before and The Me I Never Knew, peformed by the then young actress playing Alice, Fiona Fullerton, that are the most memorable, and all three are even better when presented as instrumental versions. The least successful songs are those based upon Lewis Carroll's own lyrics, but fortunately there are only a couple of these, and for the most part this is a highly entertaining and likeable album, with some classic Barry of the period on display.
Paired with this musical score is the score for the 1968 comedy Petulia, though from the music you would hardly know it to be a comedic film. The main theme, which is presented in a variety of arrangements is a melancholy affair indeed when played straight, despite the undulating winds that support it. It does however have the capacity to swing, as in one version with walking bass and fine trumpet solo, and to be slinky when performed slower with saxophone lead. Some dramatic score is included in the selections, mostly pretty bleak in feel, but the most effective music is that which the composer created as source music, like the dynamic Beat Girlish Highway 101; the cocktail lounge number Motel; the Mexican-flavoured Border Gate at Tijuana; and the laid-back Sax-lead Eat Topless.
As always, a colourful and informative booklet accompanies the CD, with a cue-by-cue guide to the scores. A worthwhile resurrection indeed for two neglected John Barry recordings.