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Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Panic in Year Zero
Music by Les Baxter
La-La Land Records LLLCD 1111 (US)
16 Tracks 49:33 mins

Here's another one of those completely unexpected releases that La-La Land come out with on a fairly regular basis, Les Baxter's surprisingly jazzy score for Ray Milland's 1962 American International production, Panic in Year Zero, a post-apocalyptic tale of the kind popular at the time. Filmed in black and white and with director Milland also starring, alongside Jean Hagen, it's a rarely seen film (at least I don't recall it showing on TV in the UK, possibly ever), and Baxter's music is far from the norm for this sort of film. In fact, it reminds me more of the kind of jazz-pop scoring that became popular around this time and in subsequent years for spy thrillers, cop films and shows, and even super heroes; and is sometimes quite reminiscent of Nelson Riddle's work on the likes of the Batman TV series, particularly in the more suspenseful passages of the score; with a touch of Leonard Rosenman thrown in for the darker moments.
However, it all gets off to a swinging, big band start in the "Main Title" track, which then becomes the principal element of the underscore, appearing in many variations, many of them nicely propulsive, and often sax or trumpet lead; also dominating moments of conflict, and occasionally played sleazily and seductively, with sax very much to the fore. But, amongst all this, there's a rather sweet little theme for "Marilyn" that surfaces warmly in a couple of tracks, often played by flute, culminating in a full band arrangement at the conclusion of "Chop Chop."
The big band arrangement of the main theme returns for the "End Credits," which is followed by the bonus of an extended version, with a lengthy bass intro.
The tracks by and large combine a number of cues, playing like mini-suites, with much variation throughout, so there's always something to hold the interest.
In conclusion, if you like the cool, jazzy scores of the late 50s to mid-60s, you're sure to find this a welcome addition to your collection.
Accompanying the disc is the usual quality booklet, with plenty of stills from the film and Randall D. Larson's detailed notes on both film and score, including cue-by-cue guide.
Go to for samples and to order your copy of this very limited edition album of just 1200 copies.


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