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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

CD REVIEWS - Hairspray, Spellbound & A Man Called Adam

Sorry I have been absent for a few days - pressure of work! In fact, I cannot promise to be quite so regular with my reviews in the future, as circumstances beyond my control have forced me to change my routines, but keep on visiting, because there are plenty of scores waiting for me to review and I will get to them, I assure you. Included are new scores for Die Hard 4.0, Shrek the Third and Evan Almighty, as well as older fare like Wait Until Dark, Hang 'em High and numerous Italian scores of the '60s and '70s. Anyway, in an effort to catch up a little, I'm covering three albums today.

Music & Lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman
Decca 475 934-8 (EU)
19 Tracks 66:14 mins

Once upon a time there was a typically kooky little John Walters film called Hairspray, which became a cult classic and later spawned a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. Now that production has been adapted for the big screen with joyous results, at least musically (I fof course haven't seen the film yet).
The cast includes John Travolta in fat suit and drag, Michelle Pfeiffer (good to see her back), James Marsden, Queen Latifah and young stars Zac Efron, Amanda Bynes and newcomer Nikki Blonsky, taking the pivotal role first inhabited by talk show host Ricki Lake, who also makes an appearance in this film (at least she's credited with vocals in the final track, along with Marissa Jaret Winokur, who played the part on Broadway).
I've long been a fan of Marc Shaiman's film music, but he has also displayed a talent for songwriting in the past and is here responsible, with lyricist Scott Wittman, for the fabulous 50s/60s-styled numbers presented on this album and performed enthusiastically by the assembled cast. In fact it's a great listen from start to finish, filled with uplifiting showstoppers, happy love ballads, soulful numbers and out and out rockers.
The Hairspray album is out on 16th July in the UK and if you love uplifiting musical scores, and are a child of the 6os, you'll find great pleasure in this one.

Music by Miklos Rozsa
Intrada Excalibur Collection MAF 7100 (US)
21 Tracks 74:42 mins (US)

By complete contrast, and further celebrating the Miklos Rozsa centenary, Intrada's latest release in their Excalibur collection is the first complete recording of the composer's Oscar-winning score for the 1945 Gregory Peck/Ingrid Bergman thriller Spellbound, performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Allan Wilson.
Spellbound was the only collaboration between Rozsa and director Alfred Hitchcock, who didn't like the resulting score, despite its great acclaim, and of course went on to form a legendary partnership with Bernard Herrmann, until their sad falling out. In his score, Rozsa made use of the strange sound of the theremin, an early electronic instrument, named after its inventor, Russian scientist Professor Leon Theremin, its sound perfectly suggesting the paranoia of Peck's character. But, by contrast, he wrote a gorgeous love theme for the romantic encounters between Peck and Bergman. Both themes were later developed into the famous Spellbound Concerto, which remains popular to this day.
There have of course been recordings of the Concerto down the years, and excerpts from the score have also been released, the old Stanyan recording being the most complete. Here the complete score, including a bonus alternate end title, has been brought to disc for the first time, faithfully performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, with theremin soloist Celia Sheen. It's a must-have recording, not only for the music, but for the 24-page accompanying booklet, which is filled with notes on the film and its score, a cue-by-cue guide, and introductions to the conductor, orchestra and soloist, with a final note from the composer's son Nick.
You can order your copy direct from Intrada, or from Screen Archives, where you can pick up a copy of the following at the same time, if you so choose.

A Man Called Adam
Music by Benny Carter
Retrograde FSM 80126-2 (US)
14 Tracks 45:53 mins

For its first release in almost ten years, FSM stablemate Retrograde has reissued the old Reprise Records LP soundtrack recording for the 1966 film A Man Called Adam, which starred Sammy Davis Jr. as a troubled jazz trumpet player. Davis can be heard on the two tracks on the album, which also features tracks by Louis Armstrong and Mel Torme, both of whom feature in the film. These vocal numbers are supplemented by a number of jazz instrumentals by jazz artist Benny Carter, with trumpet of course prominent, courtesy of Nat Adderley, who 'ghosted Davis' trumpet performances.
It's not an album for the film score enthusiast, but if you like classic American jazz, you'll find great pleasure in this recording, which has been remixed from the master tapes for excellent stereo sound.
Accompanying the disc is the usual quality booklet that always accompanies FSM's releases, featuring notes on the film and its music, as well as a guide to each track, and even the original LP liner notes and artwork.
Go to for sound samples and to order your copy.


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