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

Friday, June 30, 2006

News from Costa Communications

Sorry, I didn't find time for the hoped for review after all - maybe tomorrow. In the meantime, here is some interesting news just in:-


Premiering November 22

(Paris, France) Film composer Mark Snow will score legendary French director
Alain Resnais' second collaboration with playwright Alan Ayckbourn, "Petites
Peurs Partagées" ("Private Fears in Public Places"). Resnais based the earlier film "Smoking/No Smoking" on a series of plays written by Ayckbourn.
The new film, adapted from the award-winning play of the same name, offers a darkly comedic glimpse into the lives of six lonely characters and the strange circumstances that connect them. Mars Distribution will release the film in France on November 22.

The 83-year old Resnais, known for his unique and innovative style, has directed more than forty shorts and feature films. Among them are "Hiroshima Mon Amour," a quirky love story, and "Providence," an intellectually stimulating story about a dying man's thoughts. He has received several French César awards for his work. Although this will be his first time working with Mark Snow, he has been a fan of Snow's work for years.

Snow has received numerous Emmy nominations and ASCAP awards. Last year, he became the first composer to receive ASCAP's prestigious Golden Note Award for lifetime achievement and impact on music culture. Past Golden Note recipients include Elton John, Sean "Diddy" Combs and Stevie Wonder. He has enjoyed great popular success as well. Mark Snow's iconic "X-Files" theme remains a worldwide phenomenon.

Classically trained at Julliard, he continues to blend his orchestral style with electronica influences. His impressive list of over one hundred television and feature film credits includes "Starsky and Hutch," "Crazy in
Alabama," "Disturbing Behavior," "Millenium" and "Ghost Whisperer."

Thursday, June 29, 2006


Sorry, no review today, but Leon Willett, whose score for Dreamfall: The Longest Journey was the subject of yesterday's review, has kindly pointed out that the link I gave to the soundtrack album is incorrect, and should in fact be Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Check back tomorrow when hopefully there'll be a new review.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

CD REVIEW - Dreamfall: The Longest Journey

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Music by Leon Willett
Funcom Limited Edition
22 Tracks 68:34 mins

Scottish born composer leon Willett has written a notable symphonic styled score for Funcom's fantasy game Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. Without the luxury of live players, Willett has nevertheless come up with a good orchestral sound, using synths and samples, including some ethnic instruments and subtle use of female voices.
There is much mysterious and quite mystical music in evidence, with some nice ethereal moments, but also music of power and menace, and not a little excitement.
Highlights include the lovely, drifting female vocal "The Hospital Room," featuring Vivi Christensen; the quite sunny "Casablanca;" the chase music of "Jiva;" the menacing action of "Northlands Forest;" and the ethereal "Meeting April Ryan," leading to the romantic, yet ultimately proud "April's Theme."
Star Wars fans may find this score of interest, as it takes a definite turn in that direction with the mysterious, then powerful "Necropolis." Willett seems to have been influenced by John Williams' scoring of the original trilogy, as a number of the more mysterious and otherworldly moments that follow are very reminiscent of the great man's scoring of such dark and mysterious places as the swamps of Dagobah; and there's some very Star Warsish action in "Wati Corp."
But just to show Willett still has a voice very much of his own, he comes up with the percussive mover "Sadir;" the heroic and determined march for "Kian's Theme;" and the pretty, keyboard-lead "Zoe's Theme."
Willett's contribution ends with track 16, the following six cues being various electronic and poppy movers, by assorted contributors, together with a dreamy ballad, "Rush," featuring Bjork-like vocals by Ingvild Hasund and a melancholy piano solo, "Faith," by Morten Sorlie.
You can order your copy of the Dreamfall soundtrack by going to - list, but hurry, as it is a limited edition; and if you want to know more about Leon Willett, you can visit his website at and also read a couple of interviews regarding his Dreamfall score at and

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

CD REVIEW - Rookie of the Year

Rookie of the Year/A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon/Bushwhacked
Music by Bill Conti
Varese Sarabande CD Club VCL 036 1047
31 Tracks 75:14 mins

Bill Conti has it seems become flavour of the month as far as the record labels are concerned, and not before time. What with first time releases for Escape to Victory and Broadcast News, as well as welcome reissues for F.I.S.T. and Slow dancing in the Big City, and just yesterday, in Varese's latest batch of CD Club releases, his much admired score for Gloria.
This compilation of the best of three more of his scores appeared in the last batch of Club releases and commences with 8 tracks from the family baseball fantasy from 1993, Rookie of the Year, which sports (if you pardon the pun) a splendid march as its main theme, heard in all its glory over the 6-minute opening track, but reprised, often triumphantly throughout the remainder of the featured tracks, but also in a tender, piano-lead variation in "Jack's Big Mistake." "The River" is a nice track, featuring a free, easy-going, piano-lead tune, with guitars. "Henry's Got a Plan" is quite balletic at the start, turning raucous, before ending in a determined march. The final cue, "Float It!" starts quite ethereally, before turning inspirational and ending satisfyingly in the march theme.
The version I saw of 1988's A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, sported a fine score by the late, great Elmer Bernstein, but the U.S. print featured Bill Conti's music, which is presented here, and so is a first for me. It's a completely different score from Rookie, very modern, often quite poppy, but with ethnic touches and even some classical sounding, period-styled music. The main theme is an easygoing affair, but also versatile enough to accompany Jimmy's romantic liaisons. The closing track, "Heredity," goes through a wide range of emotions, before ending in a triumphant version of the main theme.
The final score on the album is for 1995's Bushwhacked, a crazy comedic vehicle for Daniel Stern, who, on the run from cops and crooks, is mistaken for a scout leader. The score doesn't get off to a very promising start with "Whacked!" a poppy mover with wailing electric guitar, but "The New Girl," introduces a martial feel, amongst the comic capers, which pervades much of the remaining material, including "Max Meets Kids," which veers off into wide open spaces territory in the middle. The purposeful "The Swat Team" follows, then the dramatic action of "Danger!" "The Hike" sports a big and brassy opening, before developing the martial theme, with "Our Leader" possibly the most enjoyable track, with its rip-roaring western-styled opening and exciting action. "Big Finish" provides just that, with some tense action, before a fanfare leads into celebratory variations on the martial theme.
The accompanying booklet features colour stills from the films, plus Julie Kirgo's notes, supplemented by comments from the composer himself.
I can't tell you how pleased I am that Bill Conti is now finally receiving much overdue recognition for his fine cinematic work over the years, but it's really early days yet, with plenty more excellent scores just begging to be released. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he stays flavour of the month for a good while yet.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Hi folks! Sorry my blogs are not as regular as they have been. Hopefully, normal service will be resumed before long, but at the moment there are just not enough hours in the day.

United 93
Music by John Powell
Varese Sarabande 302 066 740 2 (U.S.)
10 Tracks 43:27 mins

In stark contrast to Powell's bombastic, exciting music for X-Men 3, for Paul Greengrass' account of the onboard happenings, leading to the crash of the hijacked airline United 93 on 7/11, which was shot realistically in real-time, the composer has delivered a score, which underlines the tension utilising the kind of ambient style Alexandre Desplat has made his own over several recent projects. That is to say, his score is mostly underpinned by a constant electronic pulse, with effective use of percussion in the more threatening moments. The orchestra however carries the dramatic weight of the score, with the strings effectively mournful or dramatic and powerful when they have to be, whilst brass underlines the more fateful moments.
One unusual element is the use of young Oliver Powell's voice over the opening "Prayers," the lengthy "Phone Calls" and the closing "Dedication." Presumably the boy is the composer's son, though I have no confirmation of this. The score closes with something of a string lament to the heroic passengers who perished in their successful attempts to prevent the plane finding its intended target.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

News from Costa Communications

Sorry that other commitments have prevented me from reviewing anything for the last few days, but at least here's some news that will hopefully reach you in time for you to react.

From Costa Communications

Composer and Editor
Featured on KGO 810 AM Radio Show June 25

(San Jose, CA) Celebrated "Superman Returns" composer and editor John Ottman will appear this Sunday, June 25th, on KGO 810 AM. Beginning at 1 a.m. PST, the five-hour radio show will focus extensively on "Superman Returns" and the Superman phenomenon, including music from Ottman's score for the film and a one-hour live interview with Ottman. The interview airs at 2:05 a.m.
PST. Those outside of KGO's Los Angeles to Canada coverage area can hear the broadcast live at The enhanced score
CD for "Superman Returns," release date June 27th from Rhino Records, contains behind-the-scenes video footage that includes Ottman's scoring session for the film. To listen to track samples, go to Rhino Records' website at

Having also scored "X-Men 2" and "Fantastic Four," Ottman is quickly becoming a musical voice for superheroes. For the Man of Steel, he wrote nearly two hours of score music, incorporating about fifteen minutes of John
Williams' original "Superman" score into the film. He has written the scores for and edited nearly all of "Superman" director Bryan Singer's films including "Apt Pupil" and "The Usual Suspects," for which his editing won him the British Academy Award. Collaborators since USC Film School, he and
Singer first teamed up on "Public Access," which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival. Ottman's diverse list of film credits also includes "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang"; the thrillers "Hide and Seek" and "Gothika";
"Urban Legends: Final Cut", which he directed, edited and scored; "The Cable
Guy" and "Goodbye Lover."

Thursday, June 22, 2006

CD REVIEW - La Morte Cammina con i Tacchi Alti

La Morte Cammina con i Tacchi Alti
Music by Stelvio Cipriani
Digitmovies CDDM056 (Italy)
18 tracks 49:07 mins

For a 1971 Giallo thriller concerning a nightclub singer being stalked by a serial killer, Stelvio Cipriani's accompanying score is surprisingly light and tuneful and really a very nice listen. OK, so there are some tense, often timpani-lead, tracks to be heard, but the vast majority of the score is very much in the easy-listening lounge style. The catchy main theme "Fantasia Tragica" is first heard breezily on the opening track, with Nora Orlandi's wordless vocal and receives a number of variations throughout the subsequent tracks, like the slow and dreamy "Attimi di Tenerezza;" the uptempo, organ-lead "Night Club Girl (versione 2);" the waltz-like "Shopping;" the lounge piano "Dopa Cena;" the exotic "Sensualmente;" with its jungle drums and vocal; the twin-speed bossa nova styled "Felicita (bossa);" and the reprise of "Fantasia Tragica," with Orlandi whistling this time.
Other standout tracks include the seductive vocal of "Night Club Girl;" the light-hearted march "Il Comandante;" the laid-back flute, organ and piano of "Al Pub;" the easy "Sola in Casa" and the tense, lengthy, western-styled action cue "Rivelasioni di un Assassino."
All in all a delightful album, presented in fine stereo sound, and accompanied by the usual colourful booklet, with poster artwork and some gruesome stills from the film, as well as Claudio Fuiano and Pierluigi Valentino's notes.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


The work is piling up and I'm just having no time to review CDs at present, so here's a few quick news items to be going on with:-

The Purcell Room at the South Bank centre in London is the venue for a screening of the 1926 German silent film Faust, directed by F.W. Murnau. Geoff Smith has composed a new score for the film and he and Rowland Sutherland will perform it live on Sunday 23rd July at 7:45pm. Smith further extends his pioneering approach to composition, first evidenced in his score for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. And if you get there early, there's a post show Q&A.
Box office: 0873 800 400 or

The BBC Concert Orchestra have notified me of their upcoming concert schedule, which includes a minimalist concert on 11th October at The Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, to include a pice by Michael Nyman. Anne Dudley's Shadowplay will be performed as part of the Red, White and Blue concert at the same venue on 24th November; with perhaps the star event being staged on 1st May 2007, again at the Queen Elizabeth Hall - a concert featuring Miklos Rozsa's Sinfonia Concertante, Erich Korngold's Sinfonietta and music from Gladiator by Hans Zimmer.
Box office: 0870 165 6677 or

Finally, I just received a message from Leon Willett, composer of the score for the game Dreamfall - The Longest Journey, which I thought I would pass on to you.

Hi all,

This week's Game Music Radio show "The Next Level" features an exclusive remix of the Dreamfall main theme, and they're giving away a signed copy of the album. Just click on "this week's show" at:

Game Music Radio is worth bookmarking if you want to hear what's new in the game music industry, and is the place to bookmark if you want to read the latest news -- who's scoring what games, what album releases are out this month, etc. It's a great site that is raising awareness on game music throughout the web.

By the way, if you listen through the show, there is an AWESOME, very
noisy, game music PUNK band that shout and scream and sound great. :)


Leon Willett

Watch out for my review of the Dreamfall album - coming soon!

Monday, June 19, 2006

CD REVIEW - Curse of the Werewolf

Curse of the Werewolf and Other Film Music by Benjamin Frankel
Naxos 8.557850 (U.K.)
25 Tracks 74:40 mins

Although music from Brenjamin Frankel's groundbreaking 12-tone score for the 1959 Hammer horror Curse of the Werewolf has been available before, this is a premiere release of the complete score and as such is historically important as it is credited as the first British feature film score to employ this method.
The film also introduced us to an intense young actor by the name of Oliver Reed, who skilfully portrayed the young man tormented by the curse of turning into a wolf at the rising of the full moon. As such, Frankel's score carries few light moments, save for the somewhat gay "The Beggar" and a charming "Pastoral." The rest of the score is mysterious, tense and anguished, with some genuinely powerful and menacing moments and a tour-de-force action "Finale."
Light relief however can be gained from the suite from 1950's So Long at the Fair, which is remembered for its popular "Carriage and Pair," but also features a regal opening and some nice romantic scoring. The "Love Theme" from 1953's The Net follows and is again suitably romantic with piano lead.
Frankel's score for 1955's The Prisoner, which deals with the persecution of a Catholic priest in a nameless communist state, closes the album and is even more intense and doom-laden than the score that opened the disc. Only brief moments of menace and action interrupt what is largely a very downbeat and dull listening experience.
With Carl Davis conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, performances are as excellent as one would expect, the package being completed by Dimitri Kennaway's notes on the composer, and the featured selections.
If you like your film music challenging and in a classical mode, I would recommend this disc to you, but if, like me, you like something melodic to latch on to, you would perhaps be better off looking elsewhere.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

CD REVIEW - True Grit + News from Costa Communications

True Grit
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Tadlow Music 002
22 Tracks 69:44 mins

Those of you, like me, who were a fan of the late, great "Duke" Wayne, and particularly his Western movies, have long held a disappointment that the score for his Oscar-winning performance in 1969's True Grit, has never been available in its proper form, save for a suite in a Wayne/Western compilation, conducted by its composer Elmer Bernstein. Sadly, although Bernstein did touch upon the recording of the score with album producer and conductor James Fitzpatrick, he died before any further plans could be made. Well, Fitzpatrick has now gone ahead with a recording of the complete score, performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic, with the title song being given voice by Keith Ferreira. Better still, as is detailed in Fitzpatrick's notes on the recording, it was done in such a way that it comes out sounding like a proper film score recording, and not a concert performance. The result is a resounding triumph, which is an almost perfect representation of the score.
The album kicks off with a laid-back instrumental of the title song, before getting down to business with the dramatic "A Dastardly Deed." This is followed by the sadness of "A Stiff Job" and then the pompous bravado representing "Businesslike Mattie" This however soon gives way to the bittersweet "Papa's Things" with its touching violin solo. "Pony Mine" is both innocent and comical, with "Rooster and Le Boeuf" introducing Bernstein's bold, handsome and bouncy secondary theme, which then mixes with a travelling variation on the main theme in "Runaway Races Away."
"Chase/On Their Way" and "Where There is Smoke" continue to vary these two themes, with "The Big Trail" introducing another bouncy new theme. The menacing villains' theme is introduced in "Dugout Stakeout/Shots Galore!" with the secondary theme returning for "Ruffled Rooster," which becomes increasingly comical before ending in a pratfall as Wayne's character "Rooster Cogburn" falls drunkenly from his horse. "Bouncing into Danger/Over Bald Mountain" is by turns sad and menacing, with the big set piece where Rooster faces down the outlaws in "Meadow Fight" receiving a suitably heroic rendition of the secondary theme. Naturally, after the dramatics of "The Snake Pit/The Lift Out," "Sad Departure" is suitably emotional as the Glen Campbell character Le Boeuf dies. The terrific "The Pace That Kills/A Ride for Life" follows as Rooster rides Mattie's pony into the ground to deliver her the medical care for her snakebite. "A Warm Wrap-Up" starts out with the violin from "Papa's Things," before developing into a surprisingly tender version of the secondary theme, as Mattie offers Rooster a final resting place in her family plot, but this quickly reverts to its best, bouncy self for the uplifting climax, as Rooster and horse jump the fence and ride off into the sunset. A straightforward instrumental of the main theme closes the score and then Ferreira gives a pretty fair performance of the song, originally performed by Glen Campbell (to be honest, it's pretty singer-proof anyway).
As a bonus for Wayne/Western fans, Fitzpatrick leads the orchestra in six tracks, starting out with a concert suite of Bernstein's music for The Sons of Katie Elder, which sadly is the worse track on the album, being very laboured. The "Opening Sequence" from The Shootist fares better, starting out dramatically, before warming up for a big finish. The Comancheros receives another pompous promenade for McBain, before Bernstein's splendid main theme closes out the track. Cahill: United States Marshall goes through various emotions before ending in another fine theme. The suite from Big Jake presents much of the score material, including variations on yet another fine bouncy main theme. As a bonus, the disc concludes with the original instrumental arrangement of the True Grit theme, which was less pop-based and included harmonica as well as the familiar trumpet.
Accompanying the album is a 12-page booklet, featuring notes from Eve Bernstein and True Grit lyricist Don Black, as well as short essays, by David Wishart, on the film, its star, the composer and the music, including a cue-by-cue guide. All this, with the aforesaid notes by producer/conductor Fitzpatrick. The only thing sadly missing from this fine package is any artwork or stills from the film.
In the absence of an original recording of the True Grit, this is as good as it gets and, as this is a limited release of 3,000 copies, I would advise you to pick up your copy now.


TNT premiere July 12

(Los Angeles, CA) Emmy award-winning composer Jeff Beal returns to the small screen to score "Nightmares and Dreamscapes," a series of eight one-hour episodes adapted from Stephen King's short stories premiering July 12th on
TNT. Each individual feature stars a major performer, including William H. Macy, with whom Beal worked on the films "Door to Door" and "The Wool Cap," and William Hurt. Explains Beal, "My scores tend to be very specific to the material for which they were created, that is why 'Nightmares and
Dreamscapes' is such an exciting project for me. It gives me the opportunity to score eight very unique films."

For the eight separate compositions, Beal drew from a range of musical styles, including a jazz-infused score for "Umney's Last Case" and gothic rock for "The Fifth Quarter." In the dialogue-free premiere episode titled
"Battleground," Beal's tribal, orchestral score tells the story of a cold mechanical killer attacked by an army of toy soldiers after murdering the CEO of a toy company.

Through his wide range of composing styles, Beal has made his mark in both television and feature films. He has won Emmys for the first season theme song on "Monk" and the documentary "Peggy and Dorothy," and continues to successfully compose for film and TV. Beal's film projects that include a collaboration with Academy Award winning writer and director Jessica Yu on
"In The Realms of the Unreal," a film festival favourite; and a pulsing and innovative score for Ed Harris' "Pollock."

Jeff Beal's upcoming projects include the documentary "Protagonist," another collaboration with Yu that offers a glimpse into the lives of a former bank robber, a terrorist, and an evangelist; and two fictional feature films,
"The Situation" and "Where God Left His Shoes." "The Situation" is a groundbreaking film about a female journalist in present-day Iraq. "Where
God Left His Shoes," by up and coming writer/director Salvatore Stabile, follows a failed boxer as he tries to find an apartment for his homeless family on Christmas Eve. In addition, the second season of the HBO series
"Rome," which Beal also scores, shoots this summer.

His musical endeavours go beyond TV and film. Beal has composed many concert pieces, including a full orchestral score for Buster Keaton's silent film
"The General" and a four movement work titled "Things Unseen" performed by the world renowned Ying Quartet. As a multi-instrumentalist, he places a strong emphasis on performance and has released several solo CDs.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

CD REVIEW - Scary Movie 4

Hi! Just before the review, just to say I shall be signing off for a couple of days to earn a crust of bread, but I hope to have a new review up and posted by Sunday night, so y'all come back now!

Scary Movie 4
Music by James L. Venable
Varese Sarabande VSD 6735 (EU)
28 Tracks 47:00 mins

James L. Venable follows the Elmer Bernstein path of writing a serious score for anything but a serious film, the latest in the spoof series that this time takes on such fare as War of the Worlds, Saw, The Village and The Grudge; and the result is a fine mix of suspenseful, menacing and sometimes very dissonant writing, and exciting action cues, with a few lighter moments thrown in, like the triumphant love theme for the film's equivalent of Tom and Katie and the weighty "The Big Mistake," with its angelic voices.
Typical for a film of this kind, some of the cues are quite brief, but this isn't really too bothersome as the score flows so well, and the only disappointing track is the token rap song by Young Huss, which is fortunately the last one on the album, so can be easily ignored.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

CD REVIEW - The Big Empty

The Big Empty
Music by Brian Tyler
La-La Land Records LLLCD 1038
24 Tracks 46:45 mins

Brian Tyler is certainly one of the brightest in the new crop of Hollywood film music composers, but this score to Steve Anderson's offbeat film from 2003 is a little different from what we've mostly been used to from him, namely large symphonic scores like Timeline, The Greatest Game Ever Played and Annapolis.
The score is what you would call "quirky," shades of Thomas Newman, but mostly I would describe it as the composer's own personal Twin Peaks.
It has an undeniably catchy main theme, which is something of a mysterious, bluesy mover, and is always welcome when it appears, as it does throughout the score - a score which is very atmospheric and mysterious, with surprising ethnic touches, featuring female voice and what sounds like the Duduk. Electric guitars, percussion and organ, as well as a tinkling piano motif are also in evidence.
It's certainly different than most Tyler scores I have heard, and he certainly proves his versatility here. But personally, I prefer his large symphonic output. Maybe I would think more of it if I actually had the chance of seeing this film which seems to have passed under my radar.
The accompanying foldout sleeve features an introduction to the film, as well as notes from the producer and composer.
If you do want to check this score out, you'd best hurry, as it's a limited edition of just 1500 copies.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

CD REVIEW - The Omen

The Omen
Music by Marco Beltrami
Varese Sarabande VSD 6736 (EU)
20 Tracks 54:06 mins

I've read mixed reviews of this reworking of the beloved classic horror film from the '70s (if beloved can ever really be the right term for a horror film). Frankly, although it looks a pretty faithful interpretation from clips I have seen, I find it hard to believe it can match up to the original, despite all today's advances in filmmaking.
At least, from the evidence of this album, the filmmakers made the right choice in Marco Beltrami for the score. Obviously, Marco already has a pretty fair pedigree in the genre, but in addition he is also a student of the original's great composer, Jerry Goldsmith, whose only Oscar came for his score to this film. But, whilst there are hints of Goldsmith's original score, they are just that, Beltrami coming up with his own still valid approach to the score - an approach that does utilise choir, but often very subtly, as opposed to his mentor's choir-driven approach.
Beltrami's music does indeed push all the right buttons. It is appropriately dark and threatening, but also has its necessary share of menacing action cues, often rhythmically driven in homage to Goldsmith. There are however tender moments, but the lullaby-like theme he introduces in "The Adoption," is surprisingly less like Goldsmith than it is like something John Barry might have composed.
To please fans of the original score, the final album track "Omen 76/06 is an arrangement, by Beltrami and Bill Boston, of some of Goldsmith's material, including his famous "Ave Satani," but they disappointingly choose to end the track in very modern electronic way.
A pretty fair effort then by Beltrami, one that Goldsmith will probably smile down upon, but he can be safe in the knowledge that his score for the original will remain a well-loved favourite of all of us who treasure excellent and groundbreaking film music.

Monday, June 12, 2006

CD REVIEW - Abominable

Music by Lalo Schifrin
Aleph Records 036 (U.S.)
21 Tracks 61:28 mins

When you're a first-time feature director, it must be a wonderful thing to be able to call upon your father to score your film for you - particularly when your father happens to be a renowned composer of film and TV scores over many decades, working in just about every genre one can think of. Such was the case with Ryan Schifrin, who, over the years sat in on his father's scoring sessions - his father of course being the great Lalo Schifrin.
Ryan's film breaks with traditions, in that most films featuring legendary creature Bigfoot have depicted it as a friendly sort, but for Abominable we have a creature of a very different nature, terrorising a man trapped in a remote mountain cabin.
For the score, father Lalo could call upon the services of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, and came up with a good old fashioned symphonic score, albeit enhanced somewhat by Ruy Folguera's electronics. The result, I'm glad to say, preserved on this latest release from Schifrin's label Aleph, is a truly terrifying score, far removed from some of the composer's more recent assignments. There are no memorable themes here - just solidly eerie, suspenseful and frightening music, with much building threat and powerful action, and particularly fine writing for strings at their most dissonant. The odd tender moments are very few and far between, with just a couple of tracks adding real lightness - the first, and concluding track of the score proper, being the '50s styled ballad "One Blade of Grass," written by Roy Bennet and Sid Trepper, and sung by Pat Windsor Mitchell; the second, the first of three bonus tracks at the end of the disc. "Girls Next Door" trips lightly along on piano and is in refreshing contrast to all that's gone before.
The accompanying foldout sleeve incorporates an introduction from the director, notes on the film and score by Nick Redman, storyboard artwork and a still from the recording sessions.
If you're a long-time fan of the horror genre, I would suggest you snap this one up. Not that there aren't new symphonic horror scores being composed these days, but there are few that can match the extra polish and class that a true Hollywood great can bring to such a project.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

CD REVIEW - The Wrong Man

The Wrong Man
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Film Score Monthly Vol.9 No.7
28 Tracks 41:30 mins

I have to say right from the outset, if I haven't already said it before, that although I rightly consider Bernard Herrmann one of the finest composers of film scores who ever lived, I just find much of his music, whilst perfectly supporting the images it was composed for, dull and boring on record. This is certainly the case here with this neglected entry in his fruitful collaboration with director Alfred Hitchcock.
Mind you, the film was a strange choice for the director, who also approached it in an untypical naturalistic way, with Herrmann obviously urged to do follow the same approach with the score.
Henry Fonda's wrongly accused character is a double bass player in a club, which affords the composer the opportunity to write a couple of source dance cues, that cleverly double up as underscore, and the quirky "Prelude" is probably the most accessible music on the disc. The character's double bass in fact becomes something of an extra player in the score, as much of the gloomy music that makes up the first half of the CD finds bass a constant element, supporting the composer's brass, flutes and woodwinds (in typical fashion, Herrmann chooses to omit strings altogether from his score - save for the bass). Things do improve a little with the lyrical "Bob" and the addition of harp gives later cues some motion. As the story winds down, Herrmann uses oboe to voice the tragic unhinging of Fonda's character Manny's wife Rose, culminating with the "Finale," though this does manage to end on an optimistic note just to send the audience home happy.
The film's trailer music is included in a couple of bonus tracks, added at the end of the disc, with the package being completed with the usual detailed booklet, featuring Christopher Husted's detailed notes on the film and its music, together with a cue-by-cue guide.
It's good that this overlooked score in the Hitchcock/Herrmann partnership is finally available, but if you're expecting another Psycho, North By Northwest or Vertigo, you'll be in for a disappointment.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

CD REVIEW - Poseidon

Music by Klaus Badelt
A & M B0006811-02
11 Tracks 41:49 mins

This is quite a brief album to start with, but there is in fact only just under 30 minutes of score on this soundtrack to the recent reworking of the popular 1970s disaster flick, the first three tracks being taken up with two songs from Fergie and one from Federico Aubele.
Badelt mixes orchestra and electronics, with just a hint of choir for his score, which commences with the big and impressive, rhythmic theme for "The Poseidon." This theme resurfaces (if you pardon the pun) in key moments throughout the subsequent score tracks. "The Wave" is suitably menacing and exciting, whilst "A Map and a Plan" is rhythmic and purposeful. "Fire Dive," after a low-key start, reprises the main theme, with the lengthy "Claustrophobia" moving along expectantly and suspensefully to a broad statement of the main theme, which then turns more reflective. "Drowning" is largely atonal and mournful, with "Don't Look Down" the most electronically driven track, at times sporting a Bourne-like rhythm, before rushing to a big climax features choir for the only time here. The album concludes with "Escape," which starts out reflective, before reprising the main theme in all its glory.
Whilst purpose not the epic work that Badelt wrote for his other recent assignment The Promise, this is nevertheless a thoroughly serviceable and entertaining score, whatever the merits or otherwise of the film it serves.

Friday, June 09, 2006

CD REVIEWSS - When a Stranger Calls & Breakheart Pass + News of an Inon Zur Podcast

When a Stranger Calls
Music by James Dooley
Lakeshore LKS 338592 (U.S.)
15 Tracks 60:40 mins

I have spoken before about James Dooley's music for the recent remake of 1979's When a Stranger Calls and have commented on it based on an advance I was sent by the composer's publicists Costa Communications. Now to coincide with the DVD release of the film in the U.S., Lakeshore Records have released an official soundtrack album, so that you all may enjoy the score - if enjoy is the right word. Certainly, there is very little melodic material to latch on to, save for a somewhat sad piano theme, presumably representing our heroine, and for the sunny start to the concluding track "Aftermath." Indeed, most of the early tracks on the CD are largely dark, threatening and doom-laden, with just the odd burst of chilling action.
The composer and Tim Davies share duties in conducting the Northwest Sinfonia, which give their usual polished performance, and are particularly fine in the string section, where Dooley produces some eerie and dissonant sounds.
For me, the score only really gets going on record at track ten "Inside the House," this being the first of four truly thrilling action cues, which are as good as anything you will hear in this genre. Exciting and, as I've said before, truly chilling.
So, in conclusion, the album is probably a little too long to sustain the interest in one sitting, but it's nonetheless a worthy effort and I am positive it does its job more than ably on film.

Whilst on the subject of James Dooley, the composer couldn't have done anything more different than having written the score for the Dreamworks Animation short film First Flight, which is showing with their animated feature Over the Hedge.
The computer-generated tale tells of a man and a bird's first attempt at flight and, thanks again to an advance of the music supplied by the composer's publicists, I am able to tell you it's a charming, if of course brief, score, largely electronically realised, but with piano the dominant voice. Early cues are quite balletic, though there's also a fair bit of movement and the music appropriately soars at one point. Naturally, there's comedy and also a dance-like passage, before the score turns wonderfully triumphant, winding to a joyful conclusion.
Having served his time in the Media Ventures trenches, James Dooley continues to impress as an up-and-coming composing talent in his own right, and I'm sure it's only a matter of time before he lands a major feature.

Breakheart Pass
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
La-La Land Records LLLCD 1044 (U.S.)
17 Tracks 46:43 mins

Not that I'm suggesting you would have one, but at last you can throw your old bootleg LP or CD away, for we finally have an official CD release of Jerry Goldsmith's score for this 1975 western of sorts. I say that because the story is by Alistair MacLean and is therefore as much a detective story as a western.
La-La Land Records have made an impressive job of releasing this much-loved score, presenting it in excellent mono sound, accompanied by a splendid 12-page booklet, featuring numerous colour stills from the film, as well as detailed notes on the film and its music, including cue-by-cue guide, by Jeff Bond.
The score is characterised by one of Goldsmith's most infectious main themes, a truly propulsive, energetic piece, which is given its head over the "Main Title," and then crops up all over the place during the score that follows, in both action and suspenseful variations, before concluding events in fine style over the "End Credits."
Much of the rest of the score is I'm afraid a very dark and suspenseful affair, with just one or two lyrical moments and, unusual for a score in this genre, but typical of the composer's scoring of the time, a menacing electronic motif for the villain of the piece.
La-La Land Records have indeed done us a great service in releasing this neglected score from Goldsmith's heyday.


Inon Zur featured in APM Film and TV Podcast

Award-winning composer discusses music for video games, trailers, film and television

LOS ANGELES, June 6th, 2006 - Renowned film, television and video game composer Inon Zur is featured in the third episode of the Film and TV Music Podcast, sponsored by APM, the largest provider of music for use in film, television, radio and new media productions.

Zur discusses his music background in film and television, how he got started in the video games industry, his involvement with the APM "Endgame" music library, as well as his music for the recently released movie trailer album "Dramatic Fantastic." The podcast is now available at

Internationally recognized as one of the A-list composers in the video games industry, Inon Zur's award-winning music features in blockbuster video game titles such as Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, Champions of Norrath: Realms of EverQuest and Men of Valor. His powerful orchestral scores have also been heard in the promotional trailers for films such as Annapolis (Touchstone Pictures), The New World (New Line Cinema), Kingdom Of Heaven (Twentieth Century Fox), The Pacifier (Walt Disney Pictures), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Walt Disney Pictures), and Fantastic Four (Marvel/Twentieth Century Fox).

Most recently Zur recorded a new collection of original orchestral music for use in Hollywood motion picture trailers. Entitled "Dramatic Fantastic," the library was commissioned by BMG Zomba and is released through their subsidiary label Bruton Music, distributed in the US by APM. The CD includes an eclectic collection of Zur's exhilarating and stirring feature film music cues and epic finale suites, each tailored with Zur's infectious and in-demand style. For more information visit

The APM Film and TV Music podcast is available at The program can also be heard on any computer desktop or portable MP3 player. Listeners can download and play the podcast on demand, or subscribe to the RSS feed to receive new episodes automatically as soon as they are released.

The podcast is also available through iTunes, Yahoo! Podcasts, Odeo, Podcast Alley and other podcast syndicates. Listeners are invited to send feedback and suggestions for future episodes to

Associated Production Music, a joint venture of EMI Music Publishing (the world's largest music publisher) and BMG Music Publishing (a division of Bertelsmann AG) provides the United States and Canada with music selection services and exclusive licensing rights to over 25 different music libraries specifically for use in film, television, radio, recording, and new media.

With more than 200,000 different musical tracks to choose from, APM's catalogue comprises one of the largest and most diverse collections of original music available to entertainment and media producers. For more information about APM, please visit:

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

CD REVIEW - The Da Vinci Code Game Score

The Da Vinci Code
Music by Winifred Phillips
9 Tracks 45:00 mins

Following her award-winning score for her first game God of War and then her equally deserving follow-up score for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the multi-talented Winifred Phillips was asked by Collective Studios to score the Da Vinci Code game from 2K Games.
With a brief to come up with music that was "drastically different from what could be heard in any other video game on the market," Winifred was given complete artistic freedom and came up with "a combination of classical and liturgical techniques, with an aggressive contemporary edge and all the orchestral power of the modern-day thriller." All this freedom was thanks to the demo she initially provided that convinced The Collective to put their faith in her - a demo that showed her ability to incorporate The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown's puzzles and mysteries directly into her music - music that is brimming with clues and hidden meanings, which can be especially appreciated by those of you who understand the Latin lyrics being sung by the choir in the game.
And as with her previous game scores, that choir is again amazingly all her own work, being a classically trained vocalist as well as a composer. Winifred sang all the parts, employing a recording technique pioneered in her score for God of War, so that you really will believe that there are male as well as female voices performing on the game's soundtrack.
So, what of the score? Well, first off I have to say that whereas Hans Zimmer's music for the film, beautiful though it may be, is pretty static, with surprisingly very little excitement to be had from a score to what is billed as a pretty exciting thriller, even in the more mysterious and suspenseful moments of Phillips' score, there is movement, as is of course necessary in a game score, either with or without choir. In fact, one of the more exciting tracks "Bank of Zurich" omits choir, but is nevertheless a fine piece of contemporary action scoring. That's not to say that Phillips doesn't provide beautiful moments of liturgical scoring, as in the opening track on the disc "The Louvre" and in "St. Sulpice Church," as well as the concluding "Rosslyn Chapel," but much of the music is indeed propulsive, with some pretty menacing choir-driven moments.
In conclusion, the game score is quite a different animal than the film score, though both are very valid in their own right. There is as yet sadly no news of an official CD release of Winifred Phillips' music for The Da Vinci Code game, so you'll either have to play the game to hear it or go to her site at to hear samples.
My thanks to Greg O'Connor-Read of Top Dollar PR for making this review possible.

Monday, June 05, 2006

CD REVIEW - Following

Music by David Julyan
Cinefonia Records CFR017
21 Tracks 44:46 mins

This compilation of film music by David Julyan is quite a contrast to the other Cinefonia releases I recently reviewed. Whereas they were filled with beautiful, accessible orchestral music, two of the three scores presented here are realised electronically and are quite experimental and challenging in nature.
Two of these scores are for collaborations with director Christopher Nolan, with the acclaimed Memento the best known, but the album starts with ten tracks from an earlier collaboration on 1998's Following. The score opens with a weird industrial electronic mover, which crops up several more times during the subsequent tracks. This is followed by the dreamlike "Theme," which features piano and synth strings over a persistent electronic figure. "Blond" is a melancholy tracks, again for synth strings. The remainder of the tracks largely consist of variations on these themes.
Two tracks from Memento follow. "Trailer Park Chase" is an electronic action and suspense cue, whilst "How Can I heal?" is a sad synth piece.
The final score in this collection is for Colin Teague's film Spivs, and is the most recent score, dating from two years ago. Thankfully, Julyan diversifies here, introducing live musicians and there is actually something warm and melodic to latch onto, starting with "Auntie Vee's House," with its tender piano and cello-lead theme. "Flirting" is a semi-comical, double bass and piano-lead walker, whilst "Jenny" is a brief beat-driven mover. "Victoria Park" develops the "Auntie Vee" music, whilst "Jack Leaves" is suitably sad, but things end on a high note with the hopeful piano and strings of "Goodbye to the Kids."
Magali-Niguyen-The provides a brief introduction to the music featured here in the pullout notes for this gatefold digipack presentation, which also features a filmography of the composer.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

CD REVIEW - The European Film Music Collection

The European Film Music Collection
Various Composers & Conductors
Mostly Performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra & Crouch End Festival Chorus
Silva Screen SILCD1207 (U.K.)
CD1 - 15 Tracks 55:05 mins CD2 - 15 Tracks 69:20 mins CD3 - 15 Tracks 71:20 mins CD4 - 15 Tracks 62:22 mins

A wonderful collection of themes and suites from European films, the majority of which have received popular acclaim internationally, mostly faithfully performed by the usual Silva Screen forces and largely drawn from previous recordings on the label, although new recordings of music from Les Choristes, Life is Beautiful and A Very Long Engagement bring things up to date.
You'll find many of your favourites here including Amelie, Cinema Paradiso, Cyrano de Bergerac, Diva, Jean de Florette, Jules et Jim, Last Tango in Paris, A Man and a Woman, Never on Sunday, Once Upon a Time in the West, Il Postino, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Zorba the Greek, plus a generous helping of Nino Rota's music for the Fellini films, as well as less well known entries like Camille Claudel, The Double Life of Veronique, Fort Saganne, Novecento, Providence, Queen Margot, The Red Tent, The Sicilian Clan and I Vitelloni.
At more than 250 minutes of some of the best film music composed away from Hollywood, this release is excellent value for money.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

CD REVIEW - The Promise

The Promise
Music by Klaus Badelt
Epic SB5004BC (Korea)
20 Tracks 73:10 mins

Klaus Badelt, normally associated with the Media Ventures sound, has produced a sumptuous orchestral score for this far eastern historical epic. A generous 73 minutes of music is performed by the China National Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Li Xincao and quite a few of the tracks are pretty lengthy, which normally makes for some lapses of concentration in the listener, but I must say I found Badelt's development of his thematic material constantly interesting and rarely did I find my attention straying.
The weighty main theme and sweeping love theme in particular dominate the score, though there are some exciting and powerful action moments, often drum heavy, but in amongst the sweep and power, there are always more intimate moments for solo violin and flutes, performed by Li Chuayun and Li Huanan respectively. And Hang Yue tellingly adds her vocals to the mix. Overall, Badelt has done a remarkable job of capturing an authentic far eastern sound and if you liked the scores for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero, I think it's safe to say you will enjoy this as well.
The CD comes with a highly colourful glossy foldout sleeve, with plenty of stills from the film and a note from director Chen Kaige.
There's some wonderful music coming from China, Japan and Korea these days as my reviews of The Promise, Yamato and Soul of the Ultimate Nation will attest to. I obtained all three from YesAsia, but I believe that, like Soul, The Promise can now be easily purchased from the usual soundtrack retailers.

Friday, June 02, 2006

CD REVIEW - Checkmate/Rhythm in Motion

Checkmate/Rhythm in Motion
Music by Johnny Williams
Film Score Monthly Vol.9 No.8 (U.S.)
24 Tracks 68:50 mins

For those of you out there who are John Williams completists, you may well want to add this pairing of albums which showcase the jazzy side of the great symphonic composer in his early days of composing. These two albums were released on LP by Columbia records in 1961 and have been remastered from the original stereo master tapes.
Checkmate was a CBS-TV crime show aired in 1960 and was Williams' first solo commission as composer, and though he had contributed here and there to other TV shows, he mostly worked as a session pianist up to that point. From Jeff Eldridge's comprehensive booklet notes, Williams' scoring sounds intriguing and I just wish what we had here reflected that but, sadly, as was often the practice at that time, the album was a re-recording. Not only that but Williams took five themes from the shows and arranged them for jazz band, composing another six cues especially for the album. So, though the album was nominated for a Grammy as Best Soundtrack Album, one can hardly call it that by today's definition. There's nothing wrong with the music. It is in fact a very tuneful and enjoyable listen (but not if you don't like jazz, obviously) and the show's theme is given a good propulsive arrangement, which puts it somewhat at odds with most of the source-like material that follows.
After the success of the album, Williams went on to record another jazz album for Columbia, entitled Rhythm in Motion, which makes up the remainder of this CD. Unfortunately, this is just a series of jazz arrangements of well-known tunes (and some lesser known ones) and is of no interest to film music collectors.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

CD REVIEW - Hitman: Blood Money

Hitman: Blood Money
Music by Jesper Kyd
Sumthing Else SE-2024-2 (U.S.)
16 Tracks 64:36 mins

Following the disappointing Hitman: Contracts which, like the more successful Hitman: Codename 47, was an electronic score, series composer Jesper Kyd is reunited with the Hungarian Radio Choir, with whom he much more successfully collaborated in Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. In addition, the Budapost Symphony Orchestra add their talents to a score, which is a combination of all three elements really - orchestra, choir and electronics. And, whilst Hitman 2 remains my favourite of this game series, this score goes some way towards repeating its success.
The generous album commences with a fine, rhythmic orchestra/choral mover in "Apocalypse, which is one of my two favourite tracks, the other being the "Main Title," which strangely closes the album and, after a flowing piano intro, becomes a propulsive electronic track, with choral touches. Other tracks of note are "Hunter," which begins somewhat reflectively, before moving along persistently. Some fine action scoring can be heard at the outset of "47 Attacks" and "Action in Paris," though both descend into rather disappointing electronics. "Amb Zone" is a somewhat weighty drum-driven, choral processional, whilst "Rocky Mountain" moves along nicely and is a fusion of all three musical elements. Apart from the aforesaid "Main Title," the only electronic track that does anything for me is "Trouble in Vegas," which moves along rhythmically.
A patchy listening experience overall but, as I said before, certainly an improvement on Kyd's previous Hitman score.
The accompanying booklet features notes on the game and its music, with comments by the composer, but if you want to learn more go to where you can read an interview with Jesper Kyd on his music for the series.