CD REVIEW - HELL'S BELLES
Music by Les Baxter
La-La Land Records LLLCD 1149 (US)
17 Tracks 41:22 mins
The latest in La-La Land Records' recent line of Les Baxter releases is his score for the 1969 biker movie Hell's Belles, a kind of western with motor bikes, which apparently draws its plot from sources like the 1934 serial Law of the Wild and the classic oater Winchester '73. The film was one of the final entries in American International's biker gang series, with the most notable name in the cast perhaps being Angelique Pettyjohn, who will always be remembered for her turn in one the original Star Trek series episodes and who infamously later turned to porn to eke out a living when the straight roles dried up.
Whilst the film's plot may be seated in traditional western fare, Baxter's music draws more from the popularity of the spaghetti western at the time, mixing familiar sounds from those productions with contemporary pop stylings. This remastered recording offers a straight reissue of the original twelve LP tracks, issued at the time of the film's release, and adds a further five previously unreleased cues, which include alternate versions.
Baxter's main titles theme, "Wheels," is driven by a typically American pop beat, but features organ, harmonica, electric guitar and trumpet, instruments oft favoured by Italian western composers. The theme returns in "Chain Fight" and "Hogin' Machine."
"Groove" forsakes the spaghetti western sound for a funky American sound, as does "Dan's Theme," with its harmonica and chorus singing "sha-la-la-las;" the theme continuing into "Hot Wind," where it is eventually taken up by brass and electric guitar, and then appearing later in "Dan Again." The brassy, laid-back "Take It From Me" follows, and the penultimate track from the original album programme, is also a new, easy-going theme, "Scoobee Doo," with a male vocalist providing the appropriate "scoobee doos."
In addition to Baxter's score, Chuck Cowan sings the title song, featured on track 2, and "Travelin' Man," with a brief reprise of the latter for the final track off the original album.
Amongst the bonus material, there is a tender harmonica-lead love theme, heard in "Cathy Reminisces/Cathy Reminisces Part 2."
Accompanying the CD is the usual quality booklet, with Randall D. Larson's notes on the film and its music, including the invaluable cue-by-cue guide and an indication of the order the tracks appear in the film, their having been rearranged for the album, as was often the custom at the time - if indeed an album was issued at all- all accompanied by original colour and black & white pictures and artwork.
Limited to just 1200 units, you'd best get along to www.lalalandrecords.com/HellsBelles.html, where you can hear samples and order your copy of this breezy little album.