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THE MONKEY KING.

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Composer Christopher Young has been around just a few years now, I remember getting his soundtrack for HELLRAISER and thinking on hearing his macabre sounding waltz like opening for that movie. ” Now here is a talent and a name we will hear a lot more of”. DEF CON 4 followed and also his score for U BOATS then we were treated to a plethora of horror scores that although atonal in places remained attractive and became compulsive listening. It is probably true to say that Young has been involved on a number of lower budget movies during his career and has also worked on numerous made for TV movies but this has certainly not affected the quality of his music, the composer has always produced scores that have served the movies well and as a bonus have been real musical treats for us film music collectors. THE MONKEY KING is a Chinese movie that tells the tale of mystical characters from legends who first came to fruition during the period of the Ming dynasty in the 16th Century, being characters created for the novel JOURNEY TO THE WEST it is an important part of Chinese literature and can be likened to the tales of the Greek Gods and the likes of Jason and the Argonauts and The Minotaur etc filled with mystical and magical events. There have been many incarnations of THE MONKEY KING in film one in particular that I remember was aired on the BBC during the 1980,s and entitled simply MONKEY. This latest version of the story is a rather more lavish and colourful re telling of the tale and is said to be the first in a series of movies charting the adventures of THE MONKEY KING. The movie which is shot in 3D contains a really beautifully written soundtrack. Composer Christopher Young creating lilting and haunting Oriental flavoured themes which underline and punctuate the action wonderfully but also lend much emotion and fragility to the films storyline. Young has fashioned a work that is a combination of Chinese sounding musical passages and has fused these seamlessly with a more Western sound by utilising romantic strings and also introducing fierce brass at certain points within the score interweaving these with Eastern musical trademarks the end result is stunning and I think he has got the balance perfectly correct. The opening track for example YU HUANG DA DI THE JADE EMPORER is a dramatic and exhilarating piece with a backing rhythm that could be straight out of THE PLANETS suite (MARS THE BRINGER OF WAR) but is more contemporary having a modern sounding tempo or beat but it remains a driving and ominous foundation on which the composer begins to build his composition, powerful brass and percussion combine to create the said pulsating rhythmic backing as the composer introduces strings and choir, building the tension gradually and layering the cue with a sound that is filled with urgency, gusto and anticipation.

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The cue then steps up the tempo and Young lifts the whole persona of the composition with one of the core themes from his score bringing into the proceedings flyaway sounding woods even more urgent strings foreboding choral support and the ever present brass flourishes and stabs. This is an imposing and powerful opening to the compact disc and establishes the fact that this is a work of quality, it also sets the scene perfectly for much of what follows the composer being unrelenting in providing infectious themes and dramatic passages that are accompanied and punctuated by glimpses of emotive and romantic nuances which evoke his past works such as HAUNTED SUMMER and more recently CREATION. Of course being a tale from Chinese mythology the composer also employs a number of ethnic instruments throughout the score that give weight and credence to the work. The composer also has written sections where soloists take the floor and these sections not only include traditional Chinese instruments but also electric guitars and violin, harp etc. This is a score that will enrich any film music collection and even if you are not a fan of Christopher Young or maybe are unfamiliar with his music I am confident you will be impressed by this addition to his canon and also will want to seek out other works from his pen. Young I think you will agree was probably an unlikely choice as composer for this project and how he actually became involved is unclear. However I am pleased that he was chosen to work on the movie as he has produced one of his most accomplished scores which is quite something as he has as most of us are aware one of the most impressive lists of credits to his name. It is a score that is filled with emotion and jam packed with expressive and haunting themes and one that I know once listened to will not easily be forgotten and will be returned to again and again.

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CHERRY 2000.

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Released in 1987, CHERRY 2000 is set in the year 2017 (so just two years away from now). The United States has been hit by a series of civil unrest periods and also a number of serious economic downturns which has resulted in the country being fragmented and separated into sparsely populated areas leaving much of the country a desolate wasteland. Because of the economic situation the norm is now not to replace but repair equipment that is from the 20th Century as new products are not being manufactured. But saying this robotics has come forward in leaps and bounds with Female androids being in demand to take the place of human females and also acting as substitute spouses or companions for males. Sam Treadwell played by David Andrews has a Cherry 2000 android which he inadvertently shorts out whilst engaging in sex with it on a wet washroom floor (someone should have told him water and high voltage don’t mix). He calls the repair man but the news is not good the parts he needs for his Cherry 2000 are near on impossible to get, the repair guy offers Sam one of his own models but Sam refuses asking where he might get the parts for his own, apparently the parts were manufactured in Zone 7 which is in the Antebellum area which would you not guess it is a particularly violent and dangerous area. So we are off on a quest to find the part for the android, Sam enlists the aid of a tracker Edith E Johnson played by Melanie Griffith with red hair. It is her job to guide him through Zone 7 safely get the part and return him to the relative safety of his home, simple yes ? Well actually not really.

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The music for the movie is the work of composer Basil Poledouris, who creates an amazingly thematic and dramatic score for the picture that to be honest outshines the actually film it has been written to support. There is a definite Western sound to the work, the composer combining both electronic and symphonic elements to produce a soundtrack that is filled to overflowing with infectious sounding themes and romantically laced compositions, these are played alongside an equal amount of fairly fast paced action cues which although can be atonal in their make up still remain melodic. The composer utilises the brass section to great effect within the score and laces this with a scattering of strings and woodwinds, at times giving us a fleeting snippet from an electric guitar. Percussion too features large within the score underlining the more dramatic moments within the score, synthetic sounds do play a big part within the score but they are fused with conventional instrumentation and compliment the orchestral sections of the score wonderfully. His is I would say one of the composers best and that is saying something when you consider the scores he wrote in his sadly short life.

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As I have already stated in my opinion there is a definite Western feel to the work, which manifest themselves within the scores central theme which is rather like 100 RIFLES meets ROBOCOP, bold and forthright and highly thematic. I cannot recommend this score enough, it may be difficult to purchase as the original was on the Varese Sarabande CD club label initially and then more recently in 2004 released by Prometheus being paired with the composers score for NO MANS LAND. Then there is the 2011 Intrada special release which also includes music from THE HOUSE OF GOD. Any version would be a plus to any collection. Just buy it.

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BASIL POLEDOURIS

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During the many years of collecting and enjoying music from motion pictures I have encountered many composers, my first encounter with the art of film music being Maurice Jarres epic score for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, in the past half century or so I have savoured and relished each and every new score from composers that are sadly either no longer with us or are new up and coming talents within the film music arena. One composer that has always stood out for me personally and holds a special place within my musical heart and soul is Basil Poledouris. My first encounter with his music like many fellow collectors was with THE BLUE LAGOON and after hearing his addictive themes for that project looked for more of the same,

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But it was his mammoth and thundering soundtrack for CONAN THE BARBARIAN, that arrived next and we all very quickly found out there was far more to this composers music than pretty themes, the order of the day on CONAN was action fuelled cues, a powerhouse of a soundtrack that simply left one stunned at its ferocity and gigantic persona. Basil’s gift for melody also shone through on CONAN alongside the full on battle music he created soft and subtle tone poems and fashioned haunting and beautiful melodies that lingered within the mind of the listener long after the music had stopped playing.

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I remember when I first got CONAN THE BARBARIAN on Milan records I was just literally blown away by the quality and also the sheer magnitude of the score. Poledouris created a sumptuous and commanding work which immediately became an iconic work within the realms of film music and beyond. CONAN was impressively powerful and wonderfully exhilarating and without the score I think the movie maybe might not have gained the attention it attracted, for this was certainly one of those rare moments in cinema when image and music fused perfectly. The composer brought out the rawness of the films storyline and underlined the violence and savagery as it unfolded upon the screen, but he also gave it heart as he supported the very few tender moments within the storyline delicately and effectively, penning the beautifully mesmerising love theme or WIFEING for the love scene between CONAN and Valeria and also creating a mystical and otherworldly atmosphere for the villain of the piece Thulsa Doom.

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Soon after CONAN came scores such as RED DAWN, CHERRY 2000, QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER,ROBOCOP,MAKING THE GRADE, LONESOME DOVE, FLESH AND BLOOD,THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER and FAREWELL TO THE KING. The latter is for me literally awash with rich and emotive thematic material and I have to mark this as one of my most played Poledouris scores along side CONAN THE BARBARIAN (of Course). There is an intimacy and a fragility present within this work that just attracts me and on every listen I find it as fresh and vibrantly moving as I did when I first heard it. There is a Barry-esque sound to its strings and horn lines that simply invade the listeners emotions and envelope them and with the added inclusion of Pan Pipes it is a score that oozes poignancy. The composer also providing a pomp and stuff and nonsense march along with a charming slow waltz theme all of which combine to support and ingratiate the movie. There is no doubt whatsoever that Basil Poledouris was a master of his craft and a supreme purveyor of rich, lavish and lush themes and is a composer and also a person that is still now missed greatly. He further consolidated his place in film music history and the annuals of cinema with scores for movies such as FREE WILLY, ITS MY PARTY, ROBOCOP 3, THE JUNGLE BOOK, FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME,MICKEY BLUE EYES and KIMBERLY to select but a handful. His career as a film music composer and his own life was sadly brought to an end on November 8th 2006, when Basil passed away after a long fight with cancer.

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Born Basilis Konstantine Poledouris on August 21st 1945 in Kansas City USA a Greek-American. He began to take piano lessons at the age of 7 and was eventually to enter USC to study Directing, cinematography, editing, sound and Music. It was whilst studying that he met John Milius and also Randal Kleiser, who were acclaimed film makers and also directors he would work with in the future. Although the composer had already written the score for John Milius,s film BIG WEDNESDAY in 1978 it was not really until 1982 that he began to be noticed when he scored CONAN THE BARBARIAN also directed by Milius. His score was a revelation to many in the film industry and garnered the composer much critical acclaim his soundtrack being hailed as probably the best from the 1980,s. Which is an opinion that many still this day agree with. In 1984 he scored the sequel CONAN THE DESTROYER which was a weaker film not having the originality and savagery of the original, and at times played for laughs rather than thrills under the direction of Richard Fleischer.
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Poledouris continued his collaboration with Milius on RED DAWN in 1985 and also began a working collaboration and friendship with director Paul Verhoeven, when he scored FLESH AND BLOOD which was a bawdy, violent and exciting adventure set in medieval times. The collaboration continued in 1987 on ROBOCOP and then again in 1997 on STARSHIP TROOPERS. Basil Poledouris was a composer that seemed to be comfortable in any situation and any genre of film, his themes underlined and supported each and every project he worked upon eloquently and superbly, he in my opinion was one of the greats of film music and his character and personality lives on in his unique and gracious music.

THE MISTOVER TALE.

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Composer Jerome Leroy is a new name to many of us within the film music collecting circle, but from what I have heard of his music thus far I as a collector am impressed. Recently I reviewed His score for A BETTER PLACE and now I am pleased to say there is another offering from this composer, THE MISTOVER TALE, released on the Momentum label it is somewhat different from his score to A BETTER PLACE in fact I would say it is completely removed from the style of that score, in many ways it evokes for me the music of Richard Rodney Bennett in the fact that it is quite sparse but at the same time melodic with a sound that is quintessentially English or at least a style and sound that one associates with British movies such as FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD and LADY CAROLINE LAMB for example and when reading the liner notes after listening to the score I can understand why, the movie was based upon THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE by Thomas Hardy and it is said that the director was at first keen to have a European composer work on the picture. There is a definite Irish mood purveyed within the score, the composer interweaving a handful of solo instruments together within the works opening track OVERTURE that include woodwind, violin and harp which he combines to create a delicate and affecting fragile tone poem. There are also within the scores running time a number of pieces and nuances that can I suppose be likened to Christopher Young’s intricate and lingering thematic material on HAUNTED SUMMER and also Zbignew Preisner,s beautiful work on films such as THE SECRET GARDEN and WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN. Leroy’s subtle utilisation of strings combined with solo voice, Celtic harp, fiddle and woodwind is stunningly effective and conjures up an aura that is totally calming and hypnotic. Classical guitar is also brought into the proceedings and cimbalom is added to the mix sparingly to create an atmosphere that is laced with mystery and can only be described as magical. I cannot recommend this soundtrack enough, it is entertaining and mesmerising.
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THE FACULTY.

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Released in 1998, THE FACULTY is an edgy but kind of attractive and hip horror sci-fi flick,something like Buffy meets the Thing or it came from outer space with attitude, written by Bruce Kimmel and David Wechter with a screenplay by Kevin Williamson of SCREAM fame. Director Robert Rodriguez keeps the tension and action flowing pretty well as the unlikely storyline unfolds. Rodriguez of course too involved in the SCREAM movies and helming movies such as DESPERADO,EL MARIACHI, SIN CITY and GRINDHOUSE. The musical score was an early entry for composer Marco Beltrami and it is in my ever so humble opinion one of his most robust and entertaining. The opening theme for example is like a grand macabre sounding waltz, which begins slowly and quietly with plaintive almost calming woodwind but builds and builds until it is a towering and momentous sounding piece, performed by sweeping strings and powerfully punctuating brass that are both underlined and embellished by thundering percussion. The movie which was produced by Harvey and Bob Weinstein with the added input of Elizabeth Avelian is an early vehicle for Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett and Shawn Hatosy who do in fact turn in quite credible performances given the fantastic scenario in which the film is set. I think I am correct when I say the full score has never been released, but there was a song soundtrack disc issued, however a promotional disc was produced by the composer in 2000 with the help of Doug Fake and those lovely people at Intrada. The disc which is a 20 track edition is rather brief in its running time just under half an hour of music being included on the release, but what it lakes in quantity it certainly makes up for in quality, this is a typically bombastic and powerful soundtrack from the pen of Beltrami and within it one can hear numerous musical trademarks that have since risen up within many Beltrami works.

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It is at times up beat with a slightly pop orientated background setting the scene but it also has as many near operatic moments within its duration, the composer creating show stopping powerhouse compositions that certainly underline the action but also provide an entertaining listen away from the movie. There are I think a few references to the style of Ennio Morricone within the score, the use of electric guitar and classical guitar at certain points giving it a Spaghetti western feel as displayed in track number 10 CASEY and also eerie vocal interludes which are more like half heard whispers that give the work a sinister and creepy persona as in track number 6 TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL. Plus there is the definite Herrmann/Goldsmith references with dramatic and jagged strings being pushed along by chaotic percussion and rasping brass stabs which is a style the composer employed later in his career on projects such as THE OMEN,HELLBOY and TERMINATOR 3. In fact I would say that the composer threw everything he had at this project, the end result is a tense and exciting mix of sounds and styles that are a horror score fans dream come true, try if you can and find this promo disc it is well worth it.

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