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

Sunday, December 31, 2006


Thought I'd mark the passing of 2006 with a look back at the CDs I most enjoyed listening to during the year. The listings are in no particular order.

Best CDs of New Scores

The Greatest Game Ever Played - Brian Tyler (Hollywood 2061-62541-2)
Annapolis - " " (Varese Sarabande VSD-6709)
Myth - Nathan Wang and Gary Chase (Guts RXCD006)
Merry Christmas - Philippe Rombi (Virgin 0946 341978 2 3)
Yamato - Joe Hisaishi (FLME FLCF-4088)
The Promise - Klaus Badelt (Epic SB5004BC)
Medievil: Resurrection - Bob & Barn (Sumthing Else SE-2023-2)
M:I:III - Michael Giacchino (Varese Sarabande VSD-6733)
XIII - The Last Stand - John Powell (Varese Sarabande VSD-6732)
Dramatic Fantastic - Inon Zur & Various (Bruton BR451)
Superman Returns - John Ottman (Rhino R2 77654)
Blood + - Mark Mancina (Aniplex SVWC 7345)
Directors Cuts: Dramedy (Directors Cuts DCD026)
The Departed - Howard Shore (Silva Screen SILCD1225)
Eragon - Patrick Doyle (RCA 88697 04850 2)

Best CD Releases of Older Scores

Escape to Victory - Bill Conti (Prometheus PCR520)
Silverado - Bruce Broughton (Intrada MAF7096)
Ghostbusters - Elmer Bernstein (Varese Sarabande CD Club VCL 0306 1046)
The Swimmer - Marvin Hamlisch (Film Score Monthly Vol.9 No.5)
Tombstone - Bruce Broughton (Intrada MAF7098)
Breakheart Pass - Jerry Goldsmith (La-La Land LLLCD 1044)
Il Corsaro Nero - Gino Peguri (Digitmovies CDDM061)
L'Ira di Dio - Roberto Pregadio (GDM 2069)
Metello - Ennio Morricone (GDM 2071)
Farewell to the King - Basil Poledouris (Prometheus PCD 159)
The Life & Times of Judge Roy Bean - Maurice Jarre (Film Score Monthly Vol.9 No.12)
Guns for San Sebastian - Ennio Morricone (Film Score Monthly Vol.9 No.14)
I Viagliacchi Non Pregano - Gianni Marchetti (GDM 2073)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Complete (Reprise/New Line 44376-2)
I Giorni Dell'Ira - Riz Ortolani (GDM 2076)

Best Compilations

Charlie Chaplin - The Essential Film Music Collection (Silva Screen SILCD 1198)
Rookie of the Year/Jimmy Reardon/Bushwhacked - Bill Conti (Varese CD Club VCL 0306 1047)
Les Notes De Lecran Vols 1-3 - Georges Delerue/Vladimir Cosma (Cinefonia CDSAM001-3)
Franco De Gemini - The Man With The Harmonica (All Score Media ASM023)
Tom & Jerry & Tex very Too! - Scott Bradley (Film Score Monthly Vol.9 No.17)
The Spy With My Face - Music from the Man From U.N.C.L.E. - Various (FSM Vol.9 No.18)

See you in 2007!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

CD REVIEW - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Music by Hans Zimmer & Associates
Walt Disney 61447-7 (U.S.)
12 Tracks 58:36 mins

The score for the original Pirates of the Caribbean, though credited to Klaus Badelt, was actually composed by a multiple of Media Ventures composers, with Hans Zimmer himself more involved than the album's credits might have lead one to believe. The resulting music was hated by many critics, but I actually loved it. It was bold, adventurous and highly entertaining, even if it did sound a lot like so many Media Ventures action scores.
This time out, Zimmer takes credit for the score, though the booklet does still give credit to a number of additional composing contributors, the most well-known of which are Nick Glennie-Smith and Geoff Zanelli. The score is still very entertaining, though I didn't find it such a consistently good listen as the original. It's the usual Zimmer mix of orchestra, electronics and choral samples, and the album gets underway with the lively, adventurous "Jack Sparrow" theme. This is followed by more stirring stuff in the powerful and menacing "The Kraken," which utilises voices and organ to good effect. "Davy Jones" quiets things down briefly with a sad music box theme, which is joined by strings and than taken up by Zimmer's full forces, gaining in power, before reverting to the quiet opening. "I've Got My Eye on You" revives thematic material from the first film, before "Dinner is Served" bursts forth with tribal drums and voices, before turning into something of a Viennese Waltz.
It's at this point that the album takes a gradual downward turn, with only the folksy dance of "Two Hornpipes" and the lengthy action of "Wheel of Fortune" really standing out. The rest is sneaky, mysterious and downright gloomy, though the final track proper "Hello Beastie" ends with a brief statement of the opening theme. Tacked on the end of the album is "He's a Pirate - Tiesto Remix," a total waste of plastic, this!
So there you have it, a score with some very good moments, but which overall disappoints when compared to the original Pirates soundtrack album in my opinion. It will be interesting to hear what the final film in the trilogy has to offer musically - and just how many contributors there will be to it.

Friday, December 29, 2006

CD REVIEW - Casino Royale

Casino Royale
Music by David Arnold
Sony Classical 88697029112 (EU)
25 Tracks 74:20 mins

I haven't seen this re-imagining of the Bond franchise, and, despite its box office success and critical acclaim, I find the concept of basically forgetting everything that has come before a little hard to take. I mean, I enjoyed the girls, glitz and gadgets of the previous Bond movies, and therefore a stripped-down Bond will I imagine take some getting to grips with.
As for the music, well, again I very much enjoyed what David Arnold was doing, generously nodding towards the John Barry sound, whilst infusing his music with a modern sensibility.
For Casino Royale, Arnold is, thankfully, still on board, but he has obviously had to tone down these modern sensibilities so that, whilst electronics are still present, they are much more subtly used. The result is an enjoyable score still, but not so consistently entertaining as his previous Bond scores.
There are still some exciting action sequences like the opening "African Rundown," which mixes jungle rhythms with variations on the new Bond theme, a brassy, four-note motif, based on the song "You Know My Name," which is strangely absent from the album - the first time a Bond film song has been excluded from the soundtrack album. The other key action sequences are "Miami International," "Stairwell Fight" and "The switch," all of them generating some excitement.
There are also romantic, Barryish pieces for the two women who cross our hero's path - an airy string theme for "Solange" and piano and strings romance for "Vesper" - later reprised, suitably sadly for "Death of Vesper."
Much of the rest consists of largely mysterious and suspenseful scoring, though there are one or two Barryish scene-setting moments.
As the film deals with the origins of the Bond as we know him, the decision was taken to exclude Monty Norman's famous theme from the early parts of the score, though it is hinted at increasingly as it progresses, sometimes in tandem with the main theme. It is not until the end that the theme bursts forth gloriously in "The Name's Bond... James Bond."
It's great to have so much of the score on this generous disc, but if you're still not satisfied, you can supplement it with the rest that didn't make the CD by purchasing it from iTunes. As for the song, well I expect that it widely available to buy on CD or download.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

CD REVIEW - I Giorni Dell'Ira (Day of Anger)

I Giorni Dell'Ira
Music by Riz Ortolani
GDM 2076 (Italy)
27 Tracks 58:49 mins

Riz Ortolani composed one of my favourite Italian Western scores for 1967's Day of Anger (to use its English-language title), which starred my favourite non-American western lead, Giuliano Gemma, together with genre legend Lee Van Cleef.
At the time of the film's release, RCA put out an 11-track album in mono sound. This expanded CD release repeats the album content, but then premieres the film score proper - in fine stereo sound.
At the heart of Ortolani's score are two themes, the first and title track gets the CD off to a brilliant start with its big brassy opening and then propulsive electric-guitar and brass-lead theme. This theme appears in variations over four more of the album tracks, including the dramatic, electric guitar-lead "Violenza, Odio, and the sad strings of "Un Uomo Forte."
The second theme, "Una Notte Serena," first appears as a mournful, trumpet-lead track, and appears again four more times, all of them excellent variations. There are three tracks entitled "Fino All'Ultimo Colpo." The first is a rhythmic, fateful version, with poignant electric guitar solos. The second, is electric guitar-lead, without the solos; and the third is short and dramatic, and closes the album programme. The other version of the theme, again entitled "Una Notte Serena" is harmonica-lead, with some intrusive sound effects at the start. Sound effects also intrude throughout the whole of the dark and threatening "Senza Pieta."
The remaining 16 tracks on the disc feature the score. Many of the tracks are repeated virtually exactly as their album counterparts, though some of the timings vary a little. Those without album counterparts include a slow, electric guitar solo of the main theme, with a big orchestral build at its climax; a suspenseful variation on the same theme, with a peaceful resolution; a dramatic variation of the "Una Notte Serena" theme, with the main theme on sad strings to end; a couple of saloon source cues; an electric guitar solo, followed by another variation on the main theme; a suspenseful, electric guitar variation on the same; and a short, brassy rendition to end.
Attractively packaged, with original artwork and a poster gallery, though no liner notes, admirers of this fine score will I'm sure want to seek this CD out, and if you aren't familiar with it, but are partial to Italian Western music, this is definitely one to add to your collection. Order your copy from www.hillside-cd/

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

John Debney's score for Idlewild

From Costa Communications


U.S. DVD Release December 5th

(Hollywood, CA) Academy Award nominated composer John Debney features world famous trumpeter Arturo Sandoval on his score for "Idlewild," a ragtime-inspired musical starring Andre Benjamin and Antwan Patton of R&B duo Outkast.

The two artists, known in the musical world as Andre 3000 and Big Boi, play speakeasy performers in the Prohibition-era south that contend with gangsters who have their eyes on the club in which they perform. Brian Barber, who has built a career as a music video director for the Grammy Award winning pair, directs the film. It was released on DVD in the U.S.A. by Universal Studios on December 5.

With "Idlewild," the prolific John Debney once again proves his versatility and talent as he continues to compose for a diverse array of genres. His projects for 2005, encompassing thirteen features, include an elaborate full orchestral score for "Chicken Little" and a collaboration with superstar violinist Joshua Bell on the elegant and heartfelt score for "Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story." His upcoming projects include Christopher Reeves' last project "Everyone's Hero," "Barnyard," "Ant Bully," and "Evan Almighty."

In addition to his film projects, Debney premiered his "Passion of the Christ Symphony," a concert based on his Oscar-nominated score for the blockbuster film, to audiences in Rome and received a pontifical blessing from the Vatican. A later performance at Southern California's Crystal Cathedral raised funds for the American Red Cross' Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

Last year, Debney, in his 40s, was honoured with ASCAP's Henry Mancini Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his extraordinary scoring range. His credits include the hit films "Elf," "The Princess Diaries," "I Know What You Did Last Summer" and "Liar Liar."

For some strange reason, Varese Sarabande cancelled their announced soundtrack release of Debney's music for Idlewild, but Costa Communications graciously sent me an advance copy of the score, and the content would suggest it was certainly worthy enough for release. Running some 55 minutes over 26 tracks, some of the music has a traditional orchestral sound, with piano and strings prominent, particularly in the sadder cues, but Debney also composed some cool jazz, with Sandoval featuring prominently, and his music also weaves in and out of a number of cues that feature Outkast, resulting in a somewhat hybrid of jazz and hip hop, some of which is quite enjoyable actually.

With the soundtrack album cancelled, and the film swiftly disappearing from U.K. cinemas, I guess Debney fans will just have to wait for the U.K. DVD release, whenever that appears, to catch up with this interesting effort, for what, from clips I have seen, appears and equally interesting and inventive movie.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A MERRY CHRISTMAS to all you screen score fans out there. Check back after the holidays for plenty more CD reviews, including two more from Digitmovies, an expanded Day of Anger, Hollywood scores from John Debney, John Powell and Christophe Beck, and the latest releases from FSM - music from the Man From U.N.C.L.E. films and Scott Bradley's music for the Tom & Jerry and Tex Avery cartoons. And plenty more to follow - I hope!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

CD REVIEW - Odia il Prossimo Tuo & News from Costa Communications

Odia il Prossimo Tuo
Music by Robby Poitevin
GDM 2077 (Italy)
22 Tracks 50:53 mins

From the artwork of this premiere CD release of the score to this 1968 Italian western, one could be mistaken for thinking the film has something to do with the cowboy equivalent of Freddy Kruger, as a man with a clawed gauntlet is pictured. Curious, I looked the film up on the IMDB and found that it's just a standard revenge movie, with one brother seeking to avenge the death of another. The clawed hand bit is actually from a scene where peasants fight it out to amuse the cliched evil landowner.
Anyway, what of the music? Well, it's always a pleasure to hear Raul's vocals on a western and he voices the film's main title song, an English-language ballad about friendship. This theme is almost constant throughout the score's subsequent tracks, with numerous variations on either the more upbeat verse or the rather melancholy chorus, though sometimes the latter is presented in a more uptempo galloping arrangement, and solo trumpet gives it a dramatic feel at times.
There are no track titles, so I can only guide youas to what else is on offer by saying that track 2 does feature a rather pretty theme, before the main thematic material takes over, and there is another good galloping theme introduced in track 17. Some lengthy dark and threatening suspense tracks are dotted about, but there's still plenty of more melodic material to enjoy, like the muscular Mexican-styled theme introduced in track 4, the dramatic Spanish guitar solo in track 15 and the showdown music of track 21, which eventually leads into Raul's reprise of the song, given an appropriately big finish.
Whilst not a classic Italian Western score, this is still a worthy addition to any serious fan of the genre's collection. Get your copy at

From Costa Communications

Official Selection in "Dramatic Competition"

(Los Angeles, CA) Composer Michael A. Levine scores "Adrift in Manhattan," an official selection in the "Dramatic Competition" at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. The third feature from Hispanic writer/director Alfredo de Villa ("Washington Heights," "Yellow"); "Adrift in Manhattan" is an ensemble psychological thriller featuring William Baldwin and Heather Graham that intertwines the stories of three lonely strangers bound by their commute on a New York subway and the thematic motif of sight. "Adrift in Manhattan" premieres Thursday, January 18 at the festival.

In addition to writing the score, Michael Levine also performs throughout the film, accompanied by only two other musicians. Levine explains, "In scoring a deeply-personal story like 'Adrift in Manhattan,' it is important to keep the score on an intimate human level. So the instrumentation is much more contained rather than a typical big expansive 'Hollywood' film score." The instruments Levine plays on the score include guitar, mandolin, piano, violin and tenor violin (an octave lower than a traditional violin). Levine also co wrote with Carrolee Mann, the film's end credit song, "Through Your Eyes" performed by Heitor Pereira.

In addition to film scoring, Michael Levine was recognized last year by the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP) with a Top Television Series award for his music to the hit CBS series "Cold Case." He also continues to score the top-rated CBS series, "Close to Home."
Winner of two Clio Awards for his work in advertising, Michael Levine's ground-breaking combination of high-tech sound design with classical orchestration became his calling card. His music for the first of his two Clio Awards, the Mitsubishi Eclipse campaign, combined Japanese flute, an operatic soprano, world percussion, and electronically processed animal noises. His best-known ads are his jingles "Wacky Wild Kool-Aid Style," "Motts and Motts of Motts," and, most infamously, "Give me a Break" for Kit Kat, which is widely considered to be one of the most effective "earworms," a term used to describe a bit of music that you can't get out of your head.
Born in Tokyo, Michael was raised in the Midwest and schooled in Canada (McGill Univ.), Wisconsin (UW), and Boston (Berklee College of Music). He moved to New York City where his first job was playing violin on the streets. In the early 80s he founded the legendary No Guitars, one of the first bands to have a video on MTV. He later moved to Los Angeles to pursue film & TV composing.

In addition to his film and on-going television scoring work, Levine is also music producer for Nickelodeon's "The Naked Brothers Band," a mockumentary premiering in February 2007. All songs for the show are written by its star, 11 year old Nat Wolff. The Web site has already had 7 million plays of "Crazy Car," a song Levine co-produced.

Levine is also working with William Phillip McKinley on mounting a production of "Orpheus Electronica," a multi-media techno-opera which sets the myth of Orpheus in an underground dance party. McKinley directed the Broadway hit musical The Boy From Oz, starring Hugh Jackman, and also directs The Ringling Bros. Circus.

Friday, December 22, 2006

CD REVIEW - Spasmo

Music by Ennio Morricone
Digitmovies CDDM068 (Italy)
13 Tracks 40:57 mins

This is the most complete recording yet of maestro Morricone's score for the 1974 Giallo thriller, starring Suzy Kendall, in which the great composer combines a couple of repeated melodies with some lengthy and inventive passages of atonal suspense and thrills. The latter is not always easy to listen to, but one has to admire the way Morricone combines orchestra and electronics to provide some unusual, frightening and interesting sounds.
As for the melodic elements, "Bambole" is an easy-going, pop-flavoured theme, carried by I Cantori Moderni di Alessandroni's wordless vocals. The theme reappears over a further four tracks in different variations and arrangements, instrumental, once with organ leading, and again choral.
The title theme is a more classical-sounding adagio, at first strings-lead, but which appears a further three times in variations for organ and choir. Both themes never outstay their welcome.
The accompanying booklet is, as usual, a colourful affair, with plenty of stills and artwork, and also Claudio Fuiano and Pierluigi Valentini's guide to the film and its music.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

CD REVIEW - Il Soldato di Ventura & News from Costa Communications

Il Soldato di Ventura
Music by Guido & Maurizio De Angelis
Digitmovies CDDM070 (Italy)
21 Tracks 51:35 mins

Digitmovies continues its exploration of the music from films starring the popular Terence Hill and Bud Spencer with the premiere release of the complete stereo soundtrack for the 1976 MiddleAges-set Bud Spencer comedy Soldier of Fortune, which sees the bearded strongman as just that, offering his services firstly to the French army laying siege to a Spanish castle, but then switching his allegiances to help the underdogs win the day.
The music is by the De Angelis brothers and is in their usual light melodic style, dominated by a catchy main theme, first sung over the titles by a bass baritone (perfectly representing Spencer) and Nora Orlandi's male choir. Much of the tracks that follow consist of variations on this theme, which can be a bit wearing at times, especially in the inventive, but lengthy "Suite per Ettoire." You cannot help liking the theme, but I can also see how some may well find it irritating after a while. In its instrumental incarnations, sometimes it is played more laid-back and sometimes straight, often voiced by bassoon and flutes. At others, the choir joins in.
Apart from the theme, there are some good, brassy fanfares, as in the two "Fanfare per Ettore" cues, a couple of court music tracks, the first, a flute variation of the first fanfare, the second, a guitar-driven, flute-lead dance, some eerie suspense and the occasional appearance of church organ, providing a religious feel.
Among the three bonus tracks that close the disc are both sides of the original single, made available at the time of the film's release, featuring the main theme in both vocal and instrumental versions.
Accompanying the disc is the usual colourful booklet, with stills and artwork from the film, plus a brief guide to both film and music by Claudio Fuiano and Luca Di Silverio.
If you like the feelgood music of the De Angelis brothers, you'll certainly want to add this one to your collection.

From Costa Communications


Second Non-Fiction Film to Ever Open Prestigious Film Fest

(Los Angeles, CA) Award winning composer Jeff Danna scores Chicago 10, the documentary that will open this year's Sundance Film Festival January 18. Directed by Brett Morgen, the film takes a groundbreaking approach to documentary filmmaking by combining live-action footage with animation to recreate the trials of the anti-war protestors at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The animated segments, which illustrate the events of the trial itself, include trial transcripts read by Hank Azaria, Nick Nolte and Mark Ruffalo. Chicago 10 is only the second non-fiction film in history chosen to open the prestigious festival in Park City, UT.

The animated documentary, heralded as possibly the next step in animated films, tells the story of the infamous 1969 trial of the Chicago Seven. In 1968, eight student protest leaders and counter-culture figures were charged with conspiracy to incite violence at the 1968 Democratic Convention. Originally, the group was comprised of eight defendants including Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Black Panther Party activist Bobby Seale. It took two years and a series of appeals for the seven defendants to finally be found not guilty of the charges.

Jeff Danna, just honored with the SOCAN International Film Music award for his work on the #1 Sony Pictures release, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, has demonstrated versatility and adeptness as a composer. For example, in the epic film The Gospel of John, Danna painstakingly researched ancient instruments to create an authentic score and incorporated a full orchestra and a choir for the music. For the film The Kid Stays in the Picture, a look at legendary Paramount producer Robert Evans, Danna researched music of various time periods to create a score that would incorporate the eras of Robert Evan's personal journey. Other Danna credits include his acclaimed score to the Miramax Othello adaptation O, The Grey Zone, Green Dragon, and Roger Spottiswoode's The Yeltsin Project.

In addition to his busy scoring schedule, Danna enjoys a career as a recording artist. His collaborative orchestral Celtic albums with brother Mychael reached worldwide success and placed in the Top 10 on the Billboard charts. Jeff Danna has received numerous BMI and SOCAN Awards for scoring excellence.

His upcoming projects include Closing the Ring, a romantic drama starring Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer, and Mischa Barton, and Nimrod Nation, an eight-part documentary series about a Michigan town's obsession with high school basketball, also directed by Brett Morgen.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

CD REVIEW - Una Vergine Tra i Morti Viventi

Una Vergine Tra i Morti Viventi
Music by Bruno Nicolai
Digitmovies CDDM067 (Italy)
23 Tracks 47:44 mins

This is a premiere release of Bruno Nicolai's score to the Jess Franco film from 1973, which featured the director's blend of "erotism, esoterism, perversion, and mystery," as described in the CD's liner notes by Claudio Fuaino.
Nicolai's score was mixed in mono, but the sound is excellent nevertheless, and there are no track titles as such. The music is largely mysterious, threatening and often atonal, but with quite an exciting driving rhythm developing at times. Lighter elements are scarse, but there are some bright and gay piano source cues, as well as a nice bossa nova featuring a wordless Edda Dell'Orso vocal, which is also given a slower treatment in a couple of tracks. Some more unusual and noteworthy tracks include Track 4's warped fairground waltz, and towards the end of the disc there is something of a ritualistic rock music track, which is immediately followed by a cue for solo church organ.
In addition to Claudio's aforementioned guide to the film and its music, the booklet also contains a brief synopsis, and plenty of colour stills and artwork, some of it of an adult nature.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

CD REVIEW - L'Iguana dalla Lingua di Fuoco

L'Iguana dalla Lingua di Fuoco
Music by Stelvio Cipriani
Digitmovies CDDM069 (Italy)
16 Tracks 35:50 mins

Riccardo Freda is described in the accompanying booklet at "the father of Italian Gothic-Horror," but he also directed films in the Giallo genre, including this one in 1971, albeit under the pseudonym of Willy Parreto. From the colour stills and artwork illustrating said booklet, it looks as if this was a particularly horrific entry in the genre, with some shocking images on display.
Dublin is perhaps the surprising setting for the film and only one name stands out from the credited cast, that being veteran Anton Diffring.
The music was composed by Stelvio Cipriani and here receives its premiere release in stereo, courtesy of the C.A.M. archives, as supervised by the composer himself.
Obviously, as is typical of the genre, there is much mysterious and suspenseful scoring, and also some more urgent and menacing material. Piano, flute and harpsichord all make telling contributions, as does the voice of Nora Orlandi, who is particularly effective in providing the wordless vocal for the sunny title theme, another element often present in this genre, here first heard moving to a pop beat. The theme appears in variations throughout the score, sometimes in slower mode, with Orlandi and piano, and sometimes quite openly romantic, as in "Tema D'Amore."
The score ends satisfyingly, after the fast-moving menace of "Lotta & Morte Dell'Assassino," with the main theme, laid-back at first, then uptempo, ending in the poppy rendition that opens the album.
The aforementioned accompanying booklet, in addition to all the stills and artwork, features the usual guide to film and score by Claudion Fuiano and Pierluigi Valentini.
Visit to keep up to date with all the label's latest release news, and return to this site for more reviews of Digitmovies releases over the next few days.

Monday, December 18, 2006

CD REVIEW - E Ridendo L'Uccise + a mention for Torchwood

Before proceeding to today's CD review, I would just like to make mention of the latest episode of the sci-fi series Torchwood, which aired on BBC Three last night, an episode which featured no monsters and no special effects, just solid acting and an involving storyline. In my opinion it was the best episode yet, and no little contribution was made by the music score, which was beautiful and poignant - some of the best TV music I have heard for a while. It was credited to Murray Gold and Ben Foster. Gold of course scored the first two series of the revitalised Doctor Who,a soundtrack album to which has just been released by Silva Screen Records, and which I hope to review for you soon. I don't know the dynamics of his partnership with Foster on Torchwood, but whatever, this was quality scoring and, along with the acting, direction and script moved me greatly. If, like me, you are a romantic, don't miss this episode of Torchwood when it airs again over the next week. And let's hope Silva Screen, or some other enterprising label, decide to issue a Torchwood compilation CD in the not too distant future.
So to the CD review:-

E Ridendo L'Uccise
Music by Ennio Morricone
Beat Records CDCR 73 Gold Serie (Italy)
19 Tracks 48:57 mins

Veteran directorFlorestano Vancini's latest film is set in the early 16th Century and follows a humble buffoon, who finds himself at the centre of four brothers' intense rivalry following the death of their father, Ercole I.
The music is by maestro Ennio Morricone, who has scored a good many historical films in his time and if you admire his style of composition for these films, it's a fair bet you'll enjoy this fine effort. He utilises flutes, harpsichord and both solo and choral vocal forces, along with orchestra, and provides plenty of enjoyable, melodic material, so that there is seldom a dull moment in the score, from the catchy main theme, first heard to its best advantage in track 2, where it is voiced by flutes and harpsichord, before developing into an uptempo theme for trumpet and strings; to the purposeful "Cannoni a Ferrara;" to the harpsichord duet, then a capella choir, taken up by flutes and harpsichords in "Alla Corte Degli Estensi." A capella choir returns to open "Canzonetta di Corte, before a flute-lead theme develops, which is subsequently taken up by stings. Next up is the lovely, bittersweet melody for "Dolce Donzella," which is followed by a gay piece of source dance music "Sull'aia si Danza." The melancholy "Seconda Canzone" follows, then the happy little mover "Si Divertivano a Ferrara." "Di Burla in Burla di Notte" ticks along suspensefully, followed by another vesion of the main theme "La Ferrara delle Burle," featuring solo female voice and choir. Another variation follows in "Grazia piu che Virtu," then the religious-styled choral "Tre Voci Sole." "Nella Casa delle P..." is a catchy little mover, followed by the dramatic drumming and dissonance of "Li Tagliavano a Pezzi." "Violenza e Massacro" is a mix of urgent strings and march-like, trumpet-lead music. Some light relief is then provided by the easy listening harpsichord and strings of "Alla Corte degli Estensi," before the score closes with "Grazia piu che Virtu," with female voice, and a flowing choral leading to a reprise of the main theme. As a coda, a brief rendition of the beautiful "Dolce Donzella" plays us out.
The disc is accompanied by a fine 20-page booklet, which features colour stills from in front and behind the camera and, in Italian and English, there are detailed notes about the film, as well as a note from both its director and composer.
As Morricone gets older it seems to me his melodic gift only increases, and this is another worthy addition to his recent, most excellent catalogue of scores.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

CD REVIEW - Planet Earth

Planet Earth
Music by George Fenton
BBC EMI 0946 381891 2 1 (U.K.
Disc 1 - 19 Tracks 60:42 mins Disc 2 - 22 Tracks 72:59 mins

The wonderful BBC natural history series Planet Earth has just finished its second run and, along with the incredible photography and David Attenborough's narration, another important element is George Fenton's music. At the time of the series' first run, I enquired about a soundtrack release, and was told that there was a possibility of something happening when the series returned for its second run. Never however did I dream that we would be blessed with a double CD set, featuring more than 130 minutes of music.
Fans of Fenton's music for The Blue Planet will have loved his accompaniment for Planet Earth. The former concentrated on life in the planet's waters, whereas the latter took in just about every environment one could imagine and, with so many natural history documentaries appearing over the years, it was amazing how the filmmakers still managed to come up with plenty of things we had never seen before. Of course this provided Fenton with the opportunity to diversify somewhat, whilst keeping the core of the music orchestral, courtesy of the very fine BBC Concert Orchestra. However, some ethnic elements were obviously going to be required and vocal work from the likes of Belinda Sykes, Catherine Bott and Michael Ormiston was also added to the mix.
There really is just too much music on the two discs to cover in great detail, where it is arranged in a series of three, four or five tracks from each episode. I offer a brief gide to some of my favourite tracks: - The disc of course commences with the brief fanfare that opened each episode, which builds nicely to an awe-filled conclusion. From Pole to Pole's "The Journey of the Sun," features a variety of styles, from noble, to tender, to majestic, whilst "Hunting Dogs," flows rhythmically at its best. "Elephants in the Okavanga" becomes a happy little waltz. From Freshwater, we have the majestic "Angel Falls;" "River Predation," which moves along lightly, then becomes dark and dangerous with brass and jungle percussion; "Iguacu," which is proud and triumphant and sounds a little like Nimrod at times; and "The Snow Geese" soars beautifully. From Deserts, there is the rhythmic mover "Fly Catchers." From Shallow Seas, Fenton, as he did with The Blue Planet, comes up with another fine piece of music to accompany "Surfing Dolphins," a real adventurous mover this. Then there is the menacing "Dangerous Landing," and "Mother and Calf-The Great Journey," which is a varied piece, warm at the start, turning noble and purposeful, before coming to a satisfying conclusion. From Jungles, "The Cordyceps" stands out for me, though it starts out none too promisingly, with some weird and atonal music, but then it develops into something like a fiarytale waltz. From Seasonal Forests, "The Redwoods" soars majestically; whilst "Fledglings" provides an opportunity for the composer to inject some comedy into the score, although it does take flight adventurously later on. Finally, "Seasonal Change" is a beautiful piece, the strings almost singing at one point and flowing piano carrying it on. Ice Worlds sees the busy and slightly quirky "Everything Leaves But the Emperors." And to conclude, Ocean Deep features a fine action set-piece in "A School of Five Hundred;" the mysterious, then waltz-like "Giant Mantas" and the gentle promenade of "Life Near the Surface."
A fine musical souvenir of the series then, and it remains to be seen if this music gets the same treatment as has The Blue Planet, which Fenton is still conducting live, the next dates being at the M.E.N. Arena, Manchester on 28th December; the Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle on 29th December; and Nottingham Arena on 30th December.
Visit for further details.

Friday, December 15, 2006

CD REVIEW - The Nativity Story and news of an expanded 50th anniversary release of Victor Young's Around the World in 80 Days

The Nativity Story
Music by Mychael Danna
New Line Records NLR39074 (U.S.) Silva Screen Records SILCD1227 (U.K.)
24 Tracks 67:20 mins

We've seen the end of Christ in Mel Gibson's The Passion, now we have the birth in The Nativity Story, which finds Mychael Danna, who is always at his best when not moving in conventional musical circles, taking a much different approach than John Debney did for the former. Here he takes his inspiration from European musical styles and instrumentation from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. He says: " My approach is not about a story set in the Middle East, it's about how The Nativity changed history when Europe really flowered under Christianity." Using ancient Christmas melodies, carols and Gregorian chants, as well as instruments such as Gamba, Oud, Recorder, Harp and Vielle, alongside more conventional orchestral forces, plus plenty of solo and choral vocal work, he has come up with a very fine score indeed, which is suitably reverent and awe-filled at times, but also more uncertain and intimate as Mary struggles to come to terms with her fate, whilst the forces of opression, Herod and the Romans, are mostly represented by powerful percussion.
From the appearance of the star in "A Star Shall Come Forth" through to "Silens Nox" (Silent Night), the score becomes nothing short of inspirational. It's just a shame that the brief "Rosa Aeterma Floret," nice as it is, ends the album somewhat anti-climactically.
Accompanying the disc is Doug Adams' brief guide to the score, plus there are full musical credits, which are well deserved, as this is a beautifully played and performed score, with fine solo and ensemble work throughout.
Having obviously poured his heart and soul into this work, Danna can be justifiably proud of the results.

Around The World In 80 Days (Deluxe Expanded Edition)Original Motion Picture SOUNDTRACKHit Parade CD #13502 (available January 23, 2007 at all national one-stops such as AEC/Bassin, Baker & Taylor, etc.)(Dist. by City Hall Records, San Rafael, CA. 415-457-9080)UPC 73053 13502 29




(December 13, 2006) – On the 50th Anniversary of the film’s release, Hit Parade Records, the imported audiophile-quality reissue label, is proud to announce the release of a greatly expanded edition of Victor Young’s Academy Award™ winning score for Around the World in 80 Days. Unavailable in any form for many years, this soundtrack CD contains over 70 minutes of sparkling stereo sound, including almost 30 minutes of previously unavailable music. Hit Parade Records is exclusively distributed by Eric Records in the United States (

The winner of 5 Oscars™, including Best Picture and Best Score, Around the World in 80 Days was the first mega-blockbuster, starring a veritable who’s who of Hollywood’s greatest performers of the time making cameo appearances in the film. An adaptation of Jules Verne’s beloved novel, the film told the story of Phileas Fogg (David Niven) and his manservant Passepartout (Mexico’s favorite comedian Cantinflas) on their breathtaking journey across the world in 80 days. The production included close to 69,000 extras photographed in over 13 different countries, utilizing 140 actual locations in addition to the stages of 6 major Hollywood studios.

Paramount Pictures called upon famous studio composer Victor Young to create the score for this larger-than-life film. In the 20 years he spent in Hollywood, Young worked on an amazing 300+ films as conductor, arranger, songwriter, composer and music director. His résumé included some of the most popular films of all time like For Whom the Bell Tolls, Samson and Delilah, Sands of Iwo Jima, The Quiet Man, Three Coins in a Fountain and Shane. Through his career, he earned 22 Oscar nominations and only one statue, for Around the World in 80 Days, which unfortunately he wouldn’t live to receive. In 1956 Young died prematurely of a heart attack at age 57.

The soundtrack for Around the World in 80 Days was the top album of 1957, remaining at #1 on the charts for 10 weeks.

The Hit Parade Records expanded edition reissue contains almost 30 minutes of previously unreleased music from the original soundtrack. The album, which was produced by Didier C. Deutsch, renowned reissue specialist, includes extensive new liner notes and color photos.

Around the World in 80 Days—Expanded Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is available on Hit Parade Records, exclusively distributed in the U.S. by Eric Records ( Also available on Hit Parade is Cinema Rhapsodies: The Musical Genius of Victor Young, the only CD collection of his most important songs.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

CD REVIEW - The Departed

The Departed
Music by Howard Shore
Silva Screen Records SILCD1225 (U.K.)
14 Tracks 41:50 mins

I had never been a great fan of Howard Shore's music, that was until I heard his magnificent scores for the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, but now and again he has come up with something that catches my attention, and this is definitely the case with his latest offering for Martin Scorsese's remake of the Hong Kong classic thriller Infernal Affairs, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg and the great Jack Nicholson. I haven't seen the film, but assuming it follows more or less the same plotline as the original, it basically tells parallel stories of two cops, one a mole in a crime gang, the other a mole in the force for the same gang.
As Shore explains in the brief liner notes, Scorsese came up with the idea of using a tango "to portray the nature of the deadly game being played," and basically the whole score is infused with the same rhythms, either variations on the "Departed Tango," or, in the case of "Madoly," a new tango theme.
As such the score is basically voiced by guitars of all kinds, whether acoustic or electric, with New York guitarists Sharon Isbin, G.E. Smith, Larry Saltzman and Marc Ribot turning in excellent work. The "Departed Tango" really is an great piece of driving drama, and is given it's head on a number of occasions, sometimes with strings, drums and percussion getting behind the guitar soloists, and sometimes purely for guitars. It's one of those tunes that is instantly memorable and sticks firmly in the brain, repeating for ages after the disc has stopped spinning.
In addition to the main theme, there are also poignant and tragic moments, Like "Beacon Hill," "Billy's Theme," and "The Last Rites," though the latter ends in the same wailing electric guitar as is first presented in "344 Wash."
A fabulous score then and, at just over 40 minutes, it never outstays its welcome. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

CD REVIEW - The Grudge 2 and News from Costa Communications

The Grudge 2
Music by Chrisopher Young
Varese Sarabande VSD 6771 (EU)
12 Tracks 45:46 mins

Fans of Young's music for the first Grudge movie, and of his horror/thriller scores in general, will be delighted that he got the call to score this sequel.
For those not so familiar with his work, they may find this anything but an easy listen, as it is filled with the composer's customary eerie and downright terrifying music for this genre, with much emphasis on the strings, but sometimes the orchestra is enhanced by electronics and choir, with Japanese instruments also added to the mix, really creating some weird sounds. When the score is not creeping one out, there are nicely flowing, mysterious passages, often subtly piano-lead, and some fateful moments for strings. In short, Young's many fans will love it.
As always, the composer comes up with anything but straightforward titles for his cues. This time they are in Japanese, so you'll have to work on their translations to try to make any sense of them.


(Los Angeles, CA) This past year proves to be more than just busy for composer John Powell as three of the films he scored in 2006 earn top honors. Powell received an Annie Award nomination for Music in an Animated Feature Production for "Ice Age: The Meltdown." Both "Happy Feet," which Powell scored, arranged, orchestrated and acted as musical director, and "United 93" were among AFI's top 10 films of the year. In addition, "Happy Feet" earned the title of Best Animated Film from the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and received a nomination for the Annie Awards' Best Animated Feature. "United 93" was named Best Picture by the New York Film Critics Circle and runner-up Best Picture by the Boston Society of Film Critics.

In less than ten years, Powell has established himself as a leading composer with nearly fifty films to his credit. Powell has demonstrated his flair for melody, layers and sonic textures in virtually every genre from action, "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and "The Bourne Identity," to comedies, including "Shrek" and "Robots." Other films include "Two Weeks Notice," "I Am Sam" and Drumline."

Powell began his career composing music for commercials and television at London's Air-Edel Music in 1988. Later, he started his own jingle house with longtime collaborator, Gavin Greenaway and worked on many mixed media art installation works with artist Michael Petry as well as the opera An Englishman, an Irishman and a Frenchman. After moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film music, Powell immediately scored several projects for DreamWorks Television, but it was his stirring score for John Woo's blockbuster Face/Off that put him on Hollywood's short list.

John Powell is currently working on "Horton Hears a Who" for Fox/Bluesky Studios animation and will be continuing the "Bourne" series with "The Bourne Ultimatum" next year. Several of his film scores were highlighted at a special concert for the World Soundtrack Awards in Belgium recently.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

CD REVIEW - Yeti - Il Gigante del 20 (degrees) Secolo

Yeti - Il Gigante del 20(degrees) Secolo
Music by Sante Maria Romitelli
Beat Records CDCR 71 (Italy)
9 Tracks 31:42 mins

Beat Records are celebrating their 40th year, although it's been a while since I had the pleasure of reviewing a new release from them, and it's great to renew our acquiantance with this interesting release of Santa Maria Romitelli's score for Gianfranco Parolini's (aka Frank Kramer's) 1977 film, which rode on the back of the remake of King Kong to tell another story of a monster (this time a Yeti thawed out of a block of ice) on the rampage in an American city. And, as with Kong, there is another impossible love interest.
Romitelli is best known for his western scores Spara Gringo Spara (see my recent review on this site) and Gods Gun, but this score, previously issued on LP at the time of the film's release, and here released on CD for the first time, is also worthy of your attention. It's quite a brief album, but sometimes less is more, and this is certainly the case here. It gets underway with three quite lengthy symphonic tracks, with the theme for "The Giant" very much grounded in Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, but it's nevertheless an exciting and entertaining cue. "Idyllic Largo" follows and commences with a delicate harp/oboe duet, before the orchestra come in and expand upon the theme, before strings and harp again bring it to a close. The third cue is a somewhat melancholy mover, powerful at times, but with an underlying tragedy.
Released as a single at the time, "Yeti" by the Yetians (a one-off band of session players) is basically a disco-pop version of "The Giant" with English lyrics. The next four tracks also owe something to the disco sound of the time, especially "Funky Disco Soul," an out-and-out dance cue. The "Idyllic Largo" cue gets three poppy treatments in "Dreaming of an Impossible Love," "Celestial Reverie" and "Magic in the Air," and although I cannot find a credit for her in the packaging, it sounds like the voice of Edda drifting in and out of these cues. The album returns to a more classical sound with the closing "Fugue in A Minor" for strings.
Accompanying the disc is a colourful 16-page booklet, featuring stills and artwork from the film, together with Fabio Babini's notes on both film and score, in Italian and English

Monday, December 11, 2006

CD REVIEW - Dead Ringer

Dead Ringer
Music by Andre Previn
Film Score Monthly Vol.9 No.15 (U.S.)
21 Tracks 58:24 mins

1964's Dead Ringer was not the first time that Bette Davis had played identical twins, having already starred in 1946's A Stolen Life. In both cases the surviving twin takes the identity of the other but, unlike her first outing, this time the suriving twin has actually murdered her sister. It is therefore a much darker story, with a suitable musical accompaniment from Andre Previn, featuring a dastardly main theme for harpsichord, with horns prominent - all, I have to say, very John Williamsish, particularly his late '60s/early '70s scores, which of course is quite interesting, and shows yet another influence on the great composer's early work.
The harpsichord is quite prominent throughout Previn's score, with variations on the main theme making ferquent appearances, and there is also a "plot" theme (no, nothing like Schifrin's famous M:I theme), which is quite sinister and also features harpsichord.
The other prominent theme is a quite glorious love theme in the finest Korngold traditions, which shows Previn too was influenced. This also crops up now and then and is always welcome.
Along the way there is some dramatic and quite anguished string writing, a suitably fateful and doom-laden finale, and a number of original source cues for two-piece jazz combo.
The first 13 tracks on the disc comprise the original LP programme, with the remaining cues a mix of dramatic score and the aforementioned source cues, along with one alternate track.
As always, there is a fine accompanying booklet, with stills from the film, and Jeff Eldridge's notes on the film and its score, together with the usual cue-by-cue guide which, rather than taking the cues in the order that they appear on the disc, discusses them in film order, thus allowing one to sequence your listening experience accordingly.
To purchase your copy, go to, where you can also preview some tracks beforehand.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

CD REVIEW - Pan's Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth
Music by Javier Navarette
Milan 399 060-2 (EU)
21 Tracks 73:56 mins

This fantasy from writer/director Guillermo Del Toro features a score from Javier Navarrete, an unfamiliar name to me, but certainly one to watch, as he has produced a very effective score indeed for a film that has received much critical acclaim.
Set in Spain, 1944, following the Civil War, where a band of rebels fight on in the mountains and where a Fascist officer's stepdaughter discovers a fantasy world in an overgrown labyrinth, there she meets Pan, an ancient satyr, and where, like the rebels outside, she faces a race against time to gain her freedom.
Navarrete's score, performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic and choir, with solo vocals provided by Lua, is a wonderfully evocative effort, based on a lullaby composed after a first reading of Del Toro's story, described by the composer as "a never-ending ascendant piano spiral with a simple vocal line for voice, violin or orchestra." The lullaby is in waltz time, and further material, like the Spanish nostalgia of "The Refuge," draw upon this style.
Early on in the score there are often ethereal, impressionistic moments, with choir quite prominent, as well as delicate violin and piano lines, but as the score progresses it gets darker and more menacing, with big crescendos and anxious bouts of action. However, the lullaby returns in "A Princess" to end matters satisfactorily, with the final album cue, "Pan's Labyrinth Lullaby" briefly reprising the theme for violin and piano.
I have to say that Navarette's lullaby is one of the more affecting themes written for the screen this year, and had me whistling it all over the house following just my third (but most attentive) listen to this album.
The disc is accompanied by a 12-page booklet, featuring stills from the film, plus notes from both composer and director, making for a pretty complete package.
If you like dark fantasy scores, symphonically realised, you will certainly want to check this one out.

Friday, December 08, 2006

CD REVIEW - Breaking and Entering

Breaking and Entering
Music by Underworld and Gabriel Yared
V2 Records VVR1043552 (EU)
16 Tracks 57:18 mins

Gabriel Yared is director Anthony Minghella's musical collaborator of choice, but with his latest film Breaking and Entering, starring other regular Minghella collaborators Jude Law and Juliette Binoche, sees Yared team up with Underworld. I don't know the extent of the collaboration, nor have I even heard of Underworld (and their website doesn't really tell me a lot). I assume they're some kind of pop group, but really don't know.
But what of the music? Well, this generous recording is fine if you like atmospheric, ambient film scores, with very little real melody or excitement to latch on to. It's a mix of live players, with strings most prominent, and electronics, with some ethereal moments, as in the opening "A Thing Happens,"some romantic piano-lead music, in "Will and Amira," not a little melancholy, "Not Talking and "Hungerford Bridge," and plenty of electronics/percussion driven movers. At times the music is ethnically-tinged, as in "Sad Amira," and there's a drum-driven track, "Monkey Two."
To sum it up, it's probably one of the most disappointing scores I have heard this year, which is a shame as the Minghella/Yared collaborations are historically memorable. I can only assume Underworld (whoever they are) are to blame.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

News from Costa Communications and Michel Legrand Live in Brussels DVD Review

From Costa Communications


Resident Evil: Apocalypse Takes Canada's Top Honor

(Toronto, November 22, 2006) - Composer Jeff Danna has been honored with the SOCAN International Film Music award for his work on the #1 Sony Pictures release, Resident Evil: Apocalypse. SOCAN (The Society of Composers Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) and the best of Canada's music industry came together in recognition of some of this country's most talented songwriters, composers, lyricists and music publishers at the 17th annual SOCAN Awards Gala. Hosted by country artist Jason McCoy, the SOCAN Awards acknowledge members' and other music industry influencers' outstanding achievements from the previous year. Other award recipients included: Avril Lavigne for "Breakaway"; Michael Bublé for "Home"; Nickelback for "Photograph;" Chantal Kreviazuk for "Julia"; Sum 41 for "Pieces"; Divine Brown for "Old Skool Love" and Sarah Harmer for "Almost."

Resident Evil writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson praised Danna's score: "On the first Resident Evil, we arrived at a unique score by combining the twin talents of Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Manson. How to top such a unique sound? It was something that worried us for months, but Jeff seemed to rise to the occasion effortlessly. His score fuses the best of electronic and orchestral to provide a cool, modern soundtrack that at times seems to be channeling pure uncut Carpenter (John that is). And anyone who knows how much I admire the classic sounds of Escape from New York and Halloween will know how much of a compliment that is. Jeff gave us a truly inspired score."

Jeff Danna has demonstrated versatility and adeptness as a composer with credits including the critically acclaimed The Gospel of John, O, The Kid Stays in the Picture and The Boondock Saints. In the epic film The Gospel of John, Danna painstakingly researched ancient instruments to create an authentic score and incorporated a full orchestra and a choir for the music. For The Kid Stays in the Picture, a look at legendary Paramount producer Robert Evans, Danna researched music of various time periods to create a score that would incorporate the eras of Robert Evan's personal journey. Other Danna credits include his acclaimed score to the Miramax Othello adaptation O, The Grey Zone, Green Dragon, and Roger Spottiswoode's The Yeltsin Project.

In addition to his busy scoring schedule, Danna enjoys a career as a recording artist. His collaborative orchestral Celtic albums with brother Mychael (Capote, Little Miss Sunshine, The Nativity) reached worldwide success and placed in the Top 10 on the Billboard charts. Jeff Danna has received numerous BMI and SOCAN Awards for scoring excellence.

His upcoming projects include Chicago 10, the documentary that will open this year's Sundance Film Festival; Closing the Ring, a romantic drama starring Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer, and Mischa Barton; and Nimrod Nation, an eight-part documentary series about a Michigan town's obsession with high school basketball, also directed by Brett Morgen.

SOCAN is the Canadian copyright collective for the communication and performance of musical works.

Michel Legrand Live in Brussels
Euroarts DVD 2055118 (E.U.)
Running Time 115 mins

Watching this concert, I am reminded of a time, probably in the '70s when British TV ran a series of shows, recorded, I think, in Canada, featuring Michel Legrand conducting and playing piano, as well as introducing famous musical guest stars. They were wonderful shows, which I used to enjoy with my mother. Of course I was already familiar with Legrand's music from my interest in film music, an interest I think my mother found it hard to understand at times, due to the wide variety of film scores I listened to. But she did enjoy Legrand's shows and good music in general and I guess that's where I get it from, especially my love of melody.
Anyway, I digress. This DVD release from Euroarts features the then 73-year-old composer in concert with the Flemish Radio Orchestra, recorded at the Flagey Studio 4 Concert Hall, Brussels in 2005. Despite his advanced years, Legrand is still sprightly enough to enthusiastically conduct the orchestra and, as the second part of the concert presentation showed, his fingers are still nimble enough to produce some amazing jazz from his piano, even if his singing voice, probably fair to say always an acquired taste, leaves a little to be desired, especially reaching those high notes, these days.
Although I suspect this is all one concert, the DVD presents it in two parts. The first, which I suspect is the conclusion of the performance, features Legrand with the Orchestra, together with soloists Herve Meschinet, Claude Egea and Catherine Michel, and concentrates on the composer's film music. It commences with the familiar concert suite from The Three Musketeers, then Meschinet's saxophone leads a rendition of "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" from Best Friends. Next up is the first of two pieces featuring the trumpet of Claude Egea, the theme from Never Say Never Again, which is quickly followed by "Dingo Howl" from Dingo, the soundtrack to which of course the great Miles Davis played on. An energetic suite of themes from Legrand's musical score for Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, with parts for both aforementioned soloists, follows. I have always preferred his score to this film to his more famous Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, save for the great "I Will Wait for You" of course, so this was a great pleasure for me. The great music keeps coming with Meschinet joining the orchestra in Legrand's wonderful theme from Summer of '42, before he introduces harpist Catherine Michel for the suite from his score for the more contemporary musical he collaborated on with the Bergmans, Yentl. This score is a true masterpiece of musical cinema, with more great songs than any other musical I know, past or present. I admit, I am not a lover of the films of Barbra Streisand, but this is one I could watch over and over, just for the music.
Thus ends the film music part of the disc, well, not quite, as you shall see, because the second half of the disc presents Legrand performing jazz numbers and songs at the piano, accompanied by Peter Verbraken on guitar, Bart Denolf on double bass and Jean-Philippe Komac on drums. The stage seems mighty empty without the orchestra, but if you enjoy Legrand's jazz and, let's face it, much of his music, even for films, is grounded in jazz, you'll lap this up.
First up, Legrand stays with film with a lengthy development of "Watch What Happens" from the aforementioned Les Parapluies de Cherbourg. He follows this up with two non-filmic pieces, La Valse des Lilas and Ray's Blues. One of my favourite Legrand songs "What are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" from The Happy Ending follows, and it's always a pleasure to hear this great song, another collaboration with the Bergman's, even if Legrand, as previously stated, did struggle with some of the high notes. Again, the composer turns then to non-film compositions with Family Fugue, Le Vieux Costume, Edith and Rupture, before closing the programme with the aforementioned "I Will Wait for You" from Les Parapluies, not sung on this occasion, but instead Legrand demosntrates the tune's versatility in a series of fine improvisations.
In conclusion, although Michel Legrand is a great jazz pianist, it is fair to say that, given the choice, I would have preferred the entire concert to have been of his film music, but for a complete picture of what he is all about, this is a well-balanced programme, with great musicianship and of course the music of a master.
The accompanying booklet, in three languages, features notes by Stephane Lerouge, together with stills from the concert.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

News from Costa Communications and Review of the Latest Offerings from Extreme Music

From Costa Communications

FILM COMPOSER CHRISTOPHE BECK TRIUMPHS AMIDST TRAGEDY WITH "WE ARE MARSHALL" Warner Bros. will release film in theaters December 22nd.

(Hollywood, CA) Film composer Christophe Beck scores the Warner Bros. "We Are Marshall," which releases in theaters December 22. Based on actual events surrounding the 1970s plane crash that killed most of Marshall University's football team, the film tells a story of perseverance and healing as the survivors attempt to rebuild their team and spirit. Matthew McConaughey stars as the determined new coach alongside Matthew Fox ("Lost"). McG, who made his mark directing award-winning music videos before moving into film, directs.

With "We Are Marshall," Christophe Beck further demonstrates his ability to deliver a poignant and somber, yet hopeful and inspiring score. The prolific composer has demonstrated his scoring versatility in such varied films as comedy "The Pink Panther," thriller "The Sentinel" and romantic drama "Under The Tuscan Sun." His other credits, which include scores for "Elektra," "Bring It On," "American Wedding" and "Two For The Money," helped earn Beck the title of "Busiest Composer" from Hollywood Reporter in 2005. Beck began his composing career in television and won an Emmy for Outstanding Music Composition for his work in the series "Buffy."

Because of Christophe Beck's extensive musical experience, he has been described as a musical genius. His talents span a wide range of genres, instruments, mediums and geographic locations. The Montreal native began piano studies at the age of five and by high school had mastered flute, saxophone, trombone and drums. While studying music at Yale, he realized that his talent for writing exceeded that of performing. He wrote two musicals and an opera during his time there. Soon after, he moved to the opposite coast to study with Jerry Goldsmith in USC's film scoring program.

Beck most recently completed the score for "School For Scoundrels," starring Billy Bob Thornton. He is currently working on "License to Wed," a comedy starring Robin Williams and Mandy Moore.

Here is an overview of three new releases recently received from Extreme Music:-

Directors Cuts: Dramadey
Music by Various Composers
Directors Cuts DCD026 (U.K.)
28 Tracks 42:15 mins

This is a very nice collection of themes, highly suitable for use in trailers for rom-coms or fantasy. Music is by a variety of composers, with only Harry Gregson-Williams and James S. Levine being more familiar to me, and is largely orchestral, though some electronics feature.
Atli Ovarsson starts things off with "Miss Understood," a magical, fairytale waltz. He is followed by the first of two by Paul Thomposn, "Creature Comfort," which is an eager little mover, as is his "Pleasure Trove," though this is also somewhat mischievous. Gregson-Williams' "Lucky Charm" is a percussive, ethnic-styled mover; whilst Joshua Goldberg provides "Miracle Smile," which is quite bubbly before bursting forth with choir. Barry Michaels offers "Glass Houses, which is somewhat piompous and quite strident; with the first track by james S. Levine being the slow, mysterious waltz "Nevergreen." His second offering is the purposeful, yet playful "Immortal Chortle." The first of two from Rob Elliott is "Rise & Shine," a busy mover, with angelic voices drifting in and out. His second is the romantic, fairytale waltz "Cream Machine." Oswin Mackintosh's brace includes the enchanting, light and airy "Light Club," and the charmingly optimistic mover "Dizzy Heights." Finally, Stephen Rees contributes "Law and Peace," which builds expectantly and eagerly to its climax; and "Reel of Fortune," a lively electronic jig. As usual, 30 second versions of each theme are also included.

Directors Cuts: Rises
Symphonic Music by Wesson/Fowler/Zimmer, Electronic Music by Clay Duncan and Ian Tregoning
Directors Cuts DCD028 (U.K.)
50 Tracks 27:54 mins

I can't really review this one, as basically it consists of a series of variations on "rises," which basically are pieces used in trailers, especially for action movies, where towards their conclusion a series of fast cuts build the excitement to a big climax, hopefully leaving you breathlessly wanting to see the film being advertised.
The first 42 tracks are orchestral in nature, whereas the remaining are electronic offerings. All are very effective and highly appropriate for this use, so if you're seeking some good rises, look no further.

The final offering from this batch of releases from Extreme Music is in their Ultimate Classix series and is the first volume of music by Saint-Saens, featuring fine performances by the Royal Philharmonic of the composer's Carnival of the Animals, Danse Macabre and Symphony No.3 in C Minor. If you're looking to add a touch of musical class to your trailer, whilst keeping it familiar, again, look no further. The catalogue number is XCL024.

Monday, December 04, 2006


A double helping today as I am unlikely to be able to post anything tomorrow, but before we get to the CD review, you've probably heard, but in case you haven't, Shirley Walker sadly passed away last Wednesday from a brain aneurysm. She was just 61.
A California native, born in Napa, on 10th April 1945, Walker first came to our attention working for Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope Studios and wrote additional music for The Black Stallion, as well as playing keyboards on Apocalypse Now. She then went on to assist Danny Elfman in a number of his early assignments, and conducted such as Batman, Edward Scissorhands and Dick Tracy. She also took up the baton for Hans Zimmer on Black Rain, Days of Thunder and Backdraft.
As a composer, her first solo work of any note was Memoirs of an Invisible Man and she has since written the music for films mainly in the horror/sci-fi/thriller genres, such as Willard, Turbulence and the Final Destination films. She also worked extensively in TV, most notably on the animated Batman and Superman adventures, winning an Emmy for the feature-length Batman Beyond.but also on Spawn and Space: Above and Beyond.
Though she never quite made it as an A-list composer, Shirley Walker's place in film music history is assured as one of the first of the contemporary wave of female composers whose work now graces our screens.

Music by Carl Davis
Naxos 8.557898-99 (U.K.)
Disc 1 - 27 Tracks 50:18 mins Disc 2 - 36 Tracks 75:51 mins

The first thing to be said is this is not a film score, but it is written by film and TV composer Carl Davis and can be likened to any number of gargantuan scores he has written for silent movie revivals.
The ballet Aladdin was commissioned by Scottish Ballet, and was premiered at the 2000 Edinburgh Festival. This recording was made with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra in Kuala Lumpur during October last year and features the complete score on two discs.
Davis' music is influenced by Persian, Moroccan and Chinese music, with the latter style being particularly well represented in such cues as "Bathhouse March," a grand processional, as well as "Lion Dance"and "Dragon Dance." Aladdin is given a largely high spirited accompaniment and there is a gorgeous love theme for his love for the princess. Dark and ominous chords naturally represent the villain of the piece, and the whole thing is bonded together by the majestic "Lamp Theme," which is versatile enough to be played in darker variations as well as more triumphant mode. Along the way we have a piece for gypsy violin, a grand waltz, some almost Western-styled hoe-downish moments and some lively action pieces.
At 86 minutes-plus, you may not want to listen to the piece in one sitting, but I have to say that there is seldom a dull moment in what can easily be appreciated as a film, rather than a ballet, score.
The accompanying booklet features a cue-by-cue guide to the music by its composer, together with profiles of Davis and the Orchestra. A very welcome addition indeed to the Carl Davis recorded music catalogue.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

CD REVIEW - The Dog's Master

The Dog's Master
Music by Carlo Siliotto
La-La Land Records LLLCD 1047 (U.S.)
10 Tracks 39:09 mins

La-La Land Records continue to champion the music of Italian composer Carlo Siliotto, here releasing an original concert work, which is grounded in Italian folk music and which the composer describes as an "orchestral 'divertimento'," which "plays with a core of 11 bars thus highlighting its own 'stubbornness' bringing it to places that go through continuous transformations."
It's a frustrating listen, because there are some very good things to be heard here, like the dance figure that builds and builds in the lengthy "Birth and First Whimpers," and the glorious orchestral celebration that is "The Dream of Earth and Sky." "We are Kings," provides more glory with choir and pipes combining, and the dance figure returns in the closing "Final sarabande." The frustration arises from the irritating vocal and kazoo intrusions that conspire to ruin all the good work that has gone before.
The music is performed by the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra, with a slect band of musicians playing such as piano, violin, accordion and percussion, with lesser known instruments such as Zampogna and Sahanaj also featuring.
The disc is accompanied by a booklet featuring English translations of the texts performed by vocalist and writer Patrizio Trampetti, together with pictures of the featured musicans and composer. Unfortunately, the track timings are all over the place, for example, "Birth and First Whimpers" actually clocks in at over 10 minutes, where it is listed at just under 4.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

CD REVIEW - Spara Gringo Spara

Spara Gringo Spara
Music by Sante M. Romitelli
GDM 2074 (Italy)
19 Tracks 61:49 mins

This is the longest of the three Italian Western scores recently released by GDM and also I'm afraid the least enjoyable.
C.A.M. originally released this 1968 score as Rainbow on LP and the 10 tracks from that album start this CD. Another 5 stereo tracks and 4 mono tracks are added to considerably expand the music available. Sometimes this is a good thing, and I have to say that most of the additional stereo tracks are among the best music on offer here, but overall this is a score where less is more.
Part of the problem lies in that the score can't seem to make up its mind whether to be serious or comical - maybe that was a similar problem with the film, I don't know.
The album starts off with a lively, Mexican-styled orchestral theme, which is then given a march-like treatment, with comical touches. The following tracks are a hotch-potch of styles, with funeral marches, repetitive and sometimes irritating pop grooves, and atonal suspense. "Galoppate" is slightly more successful, starting out at a quick march, developing a trot, before finishes in a full gallop. The actual main theme seems to appear as track 7 which, after a dramatic start, develops into an excellent genre effort. It does however end suspensely, slightly diminishing its impact. Not much of great worth follows to complete the original album tracks, and there's just far too much cheap-sounding electronic organ for my liking.
The success of the following stereo bonus tracks can be put down to the fact that three versions of the main theme feature, including an alternate take on Track 7, without the suspense, and a lighter, travelling version of the theme, but again with that cursed electronic organ taking the lead. It works though, nevertheless.
The mono bonus tracks are pretty uninteresting, with three largely suspenseful cues and a piano source track.

Friday, December 01, 2006

CD REVIEW - A Name For Evil/The Unknown

A Name For Evil/The Unknown
Music by Dominic Frontiere
La-La Land Records LLLCD 1051 (U.S.)
19 Tracks 53:55 mins

I have always had a fondness for the music of underrated Hollywood composer Dominic Frontiere and it has been great that some of his music has finally been making it to CD in recent times. This latest offering from La-La Land Records is of music for a rarely seen 1970 horror starring Robert Culp of I Spy fame, which sees his character involved in hauntings and paganism. I can't recall it ever being seen on British TV, and probably it's one that the star would prefer to forget, but I'd nevertheless welcome the chance to experience Frontiere's music on film and am not averse to a bit of female nudity, though the Culp full frontals I could probably do without!
The first eleven tracks feature Frontiere's music for the film, which is fully orchestral and features much eerie writing for strings and flute, and which becomes brassy and quite savage at times; plus a rather stately, almost fanfarish motif for the house that Culp inherits, but which his ghostly great-grandfather won't give up - even in death. There is also an intense and bittersweet love theme for the crumbling relationship between Culp and his wife (Samantha Eggar).
Coupled with this score is music from The Unknown, which was broadcast as the last episode of The Outer Limits TV series, which was an early success for the composer, who not only wrote music for the shows but also co-produced.
The Unknown is again orchestral and features much mystery, drama and menace, with some good shock moments. At times the score is again quite savage and dissonant, but also boasts the lush romance of "Andre's Theme." There's also a mysterious waltz-like tune for the "Toy Dancer."
The CD boasts very good stereo sound and is accompanied by a splendidly illustrated booklet with Randall D. Larson's detailed notes on the productions and their scores.
Now if only La-La Land or some other enterprising label could release Frontiere's music for the John Wayne westerns Chisum and The Train Robbers, that would really make me happy!