NILE RODGERS.

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When one hears the name Nile Rodgers mentioned I think most people with think straight away of CHIC and probably of their massive disco hit LE FREAK, but there is certainly more to this giant of musicianship than one song or one hit. In fact, Rodgers was responsible for a plethora of hits which he either wrote, produced or performed upon. These were for artists such as Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, Carly Simon, Madonna, David Bowie, Eric Clapton etc, the list of his credits are in fact endless and at times astonishing. Rodgers was also responsible for creating a handful of movie scores, his music elevating the action underlining the drama and accompanying the romantic and action interludes in films such as the Eddie Murphy comedy COMING TO AMERICA in which the composer supported the comedy as well as the dramatic content with his music without being intrusive. Rodgers is a master of fusing instrumental score with original songs and this talent is displayed within this movie in-particular, it contains a strong and vibrant soundtrack that not only enhanced the movie well, but, managed to stand on its own two dancing feet away from the images of the picture.

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Nile Rodgers had his first encounter with a guitar whilst still at school in New York, after this first taste of music he was virtually unstoppable his talent and quick learning standing him in good stead and getting him noticed. Aged 19, the young man with a mature musical talent started to tour with the Sesame Street Band for the stage show of the popular TV show and would also work at night in various clubs and became a member of the famous in house band of the APOLLO THEATRE in Harlem. Where Rodgers performed with numerous revered acts and artistes such as Aretha Franklin, Bootsy Collins in the guise of both Funkadelic and Parliament, he also accompanied vocalists such as Ben E. King and The Cadillacs and numerous famous R and B artists. When you think about it this was certainly an achievement for one so young, but he was not and still is not one to sit on his laurels and he soon made the decision to form his own band, Rodgers thought long and hard about this and decided that the best way to begin would be to find an associate writer performer who thought along the same lines as he did, this was not an easy task but in a relatively short period of time Nile found another New Yorker, in the form of Bernard Edwards, who was a more than proficient and talented bass player, the two complimented each other musically and soon their partnership was established.

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They formed THE BIG APPLE BAND and began to provide backing duties for singing groups such as NEW YORK CITY who had a hit during the 1970’s with I’M DOING FINE NOW, because of their involvement with this one hit by the band they were able to go on tour and act as support to THE JACKSON 5 on the opening part of their world tour in 1973.
THE BIG APPLE BAND recorded two albums but neither managed to yield any hit singles, so the band dissolved because of this and it had to be disbanded because, Walter Murphy another musician had a band of the same name. After THE BIG APPLE BAND, Rodgers and Edwards teamed up with drummer Tony Thompson to play funk and soul hits in various venues up and down the Eastern coast of the U.S.A. under the name of THE BOYS. There was a lot of interest in the rock sound that they performed and a few record companies showed more than an interest in offering them a recording contract, until they found out that they were black, their excuse being that black rock artists were not easy to promote? The BOYS continued to perform in clubs and small venues.

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After this they formed CHIC and hit the charts and filled the dance floors in the late 1970, s with their debut single DANCE, DANCE, DANCE, (yowzah yowzah yowzah) in 1977. The success of this now disco classic was followed up swiftly with EVERYBODY DANCE in 1978, and then the third single which is an iconic work LE FREAK, that became a track that just encapsulated everything that is good about disco music, it was LE FREAK that would firmly place both Rodgers and Edwards on the musical map and became the biggest selling single that Warner Brothers have ever had.

The effervescent hitmaking duo finished off 1978 with a second album entitled C’EST CHIC, which entered the chart of the day at the number five position. As the new year began the band achieved hits with tracks such as, “I Want Your Love”, “Good Times” and a third CHIC album, Risque. But this was not enough for Edwards and Rodgers, whilst remaining the front men for CHIC they began to produce and write for other artistes, SISTER SLEDGE for example who’s first album contained the hit singles THE GREATEST DANCER and WE ARE FAMILY, both of which hit the number 1 spot in the United States. They were also responsible for Diana Ross’s hits UPSIDE DOWN and I, M COMIN OUT.

 

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It is also true to say that the style and sound achieved by Rodgers and Edwards influenced a whole generation of artistes and a lot of sound alike CHIC tracks started to pop up here and there. Born on September 19th 1952 Nile Gregory Rodgers Jnr, his mother became pregnant at age 13, and gave birth to him in New York City. His parents and stepfather were all heavy heroin users throughout his childhood. During his early years Nile was surrounded by music and it was his love of the music of THE BEATLES and John Lennon, that attracted him into making music his career. He was drawn towards the Fernder Stratocaster, which remains to this day his preferred instrument. In his teenage years Rodgers became a member of the Harlem chapter of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. He remains friendly with numerous former Panthers, including Professor Jamal Joseph.

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During the 1980,s, Chic’s song “Good Times” was to play an important and pivotal part in the creation and subsequent explosion of hip hop music, as an interpolation of the song’s bass line and the record’s string-section sample became the foundation of Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugar Hill Gang and went on to become the first multiple-platinum Hip Hop single. The Chic Organization as it had become known also produced the hit “Spacer” for French disco act Sheila and B. Devotion and went onto produce Deborah Harry’s (Blondie) 1981 solo album Koo Koo.

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Chic parted company in mid 1983 after their final albums on the Atlantic label, Believer and Soup For One (a film soundtrack). It was at this time that Rodgers decided to go his own way and pursue a solo career, his first album as a solo artist was Adventures in the Land of the Good Groove and went onto produce David Bowies LETS DANCE album which included the massive hits, CHINA GIRL, MODERN LOVE and of course the title track LETS DANCE. It was during this period of his career that he produced tracks and albums for bands such as INXS and DURAN DURAN. As well as working with Robert Plant and producing the works of THE THOMSON TWINS, MADONNA, SHEENA EASTON, MICK JAGGER and JEFF BECK.

 

 

He also worked on soundtracks producing songs for GREMLINS, AGAINST ALL ODDS, THE FLY and WHITE NIGHTS to name but a few. It was whilst producing songs for movie soundtracks that Nile’s interest was aroused in film scoring and in 1988 he worked on COMING TO AMERICA, this was followed by the music for WHITE HOT and EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY, on which he collaborated with The B52’S, this was a collaboration that led Nile to co-produce the bands album COSMIC THING which included the smash hit singles LOVE SHACK, ROAM and DEADBEAT CLUB.

 

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Later that year Rodgers produced Dian Ross’s return to Motown album WORKIN OVERTIME. During the 21 st Century, Rodgers continues to excite and astound his followers and peers alike, in the early part of the 2000’s he began to concentrate on the scoring of movies and also creating soundtracks for video games, these included RUSH HOUR 2, SNOW DOGS and SEMI-PRO which was a vehicle for Will Ferrell who worked with Rodgers on the film’s title song, LOVE ME SEXY. Rodgers talent and prolific writing and producing prowess continued through to the present day and he worked with PHARRELL WILLIAMS, DAFT PUNK once again being in the forefront of the music industry and creating popular songs and music tracks. Without a doubt Nile Rodgers has made a massive contribution to almost every music genre, his film scores deserve to be released in their complete editions and given the credit they so deserve.

 

L’AMANT DOUBLE.

 

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Composer PhilipPe Rombi is one of my own favourites ever since I heard his score for THE SWIMMING POOL I was hooked as they say. His latest score is somewhat different from the Rombi we have all come to be used to. L’AMANT DOUBLE, is a thriller with a few twists, it deals with a woman who falls in love with her psychoanalyst, and after thinking she knows him moves in with him, but things are not as she expects and she begins to uncover a side of his identity that she does not know about. The score is very dark, very atonal for Rombi, it also has a fair number of electronic instrumentation, and for me it is more like sound design as opposed to being a music score, by this I mean there are very few themes or thematic properties, this is a jumpy and unpredictable work, which serves the movie but unfortunately will probably not be one that graces the CD player that often, some of the cues being frantic and somewhat grating. I suppose it’s back to the well it is movie music so if it serves the movie it is good, and its doing what it is supposed to. Rombi does keep up the pressure with this score, it is a highly atonal work, with maybe the exception of two actual themes, which appear at the end of the recording, MATERNITE and LA JUMELLE can be described as melodious, in fact I would probably not call them that even as they start off pleasant enough but then really do not progress develop or go anywhere. This work, although serving the movie will I guess be a disappointment to Rombi fans who are used to haunting and delicious sounding tone poems that are draped in romanticism and drenched in melancholy, as in his score from only last year, FRANTZ. If you want that then please don’t even go here.

THE HAPPENING.

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Let’s go back a few years to 2008, to a movie entitled THE HAPPENING, and a score that was the work of James Newton Howard. I recently watched the movie again on TV and was still struck by the suspense and the sense of apprehension and uncertainty that just oozed from this movie, the musical score had a lot to do with creating this thick and foreboding atmosphere. Newton Howard again providing us with a soundtrack that was haunting in a nice way and unsettling in so many other ways. THE HAPPENING, is an energetic, swift paced, blood pumping and heart racing thriller. It is about a family who are on the run from an unexplained and it seems an un-stoppable entity or occurrence that not only threatens their existence, but also is putting in jeopardy the future and survival of the whole of human kind. Stylishly directed by M.Night Shyamalan, this is one of many collaborations between Newton Howard and the director. In recent years their collaboration has earned respect from not only fellow film makers and composers but from fans and critics alike. The directors obvious gift for creating icy and fearsome thought provoking sci-fi horrors being enhanced by the highly talented and gifted Newton Howard. Although THE HAPPENING is not as hard hitting as SIGNS or SIXTH SENSE dramatically or musically but it comes very close and I must say that I enjoyed it a lot when revisiting the film and the score.

 

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Newton Howards score is just perfect for the movie, the composer underlining the action and moments of violence wonderfully with blasts of sound and dramatic percussive and brass stabs. But there is also the more subdued side to the score via the sober but almost icy cello performances which literally make one tingle. In many ways, this is a score that can be likened to styles of both Jerry Goldsmith and Thomas Newman, with maybe a nod or two in the direction of Herrmann? There is an almost delicate touch throughout the proceedings and key points which in fact adds more of a menacing atmosphere than any amount of booming percussion, urgent string performance or jagged sounding brass stabs could ever do, plus we have the action material in cues such as SHOTGUN.

 

Then there is the dark and sinister piano laced with strings and punctuated with brass in YOU CAN, T JUST LEAVE US HERE, the score purveys a sense of tension and evokes a mood that is filled with uncertainty and at times panic and dread. The composer relaying these emotions via sinewy strings and solo violin in certain areas. With a calming but malevolent sounding piano in the background on many of the cues it is hard to feel assured or easy whilst listening to Newton Howards music.

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The END TITLE SUITE on the recording runs for just over 8 minutes, within this piece we get a chance to relish the quality of the composers score, with the track containing key phrases and thematic material from the soundtrack. With some emotive Cello and viola performances included. The momentum of the movie I felt waned slightly mid-way through, but the score continued to be strong and above all interesting, adding much to the proceedings. One to look out for if you have not already got it within your collection.

TRANSFORMERS-THE LAST KNIGHT.

 

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I must say I am not a huge fan of TRANSFORMERS the movies although I also should state that they are not as annoying or pathetic as other sci fi movies or superhero yarns that have been doing the rounds in recent years. The attraction for me to TRANSFORMERS is the high octane vibrant and pulsating musical scores and sound designs created by the talented music-smith Steve Jablonsky. The composer is with consummate ease able to fuse the fully symphonic sounds of the orchestra with the synthetic and electronic, on each occasion creating something that is not only wonderfully in tune with the action unfolding on screen but is also able to stand alone away from the images it was intended to enhance and punctuate. A couple of fellow collectors have said to me we can’t understand why you don’t like Zimmer but are ok with a composer such as Jablonsky, well I am not sure really, all I know is that Jablonsky’s music does seem to stir something inside me, maybe it is more melodic or more developed or maybe just more appealing to my own personal tastes, or even maybe it is the way in which he employs his music to the movies he has worked on. For this latest episode of the TRANSFORMERS series of movies THE LAST KNIGHT, the composer has written some beautifully emotive and poignant pieces that are filled with melancholy and have about them an atmosphere and mood that is of the romantic. I also noticed that this score is somewhat less action led in the music department, yes ok, there are the fair share of knock em down and drag em out set pieces but there are also several cues that are subdued or low key, these contain almost lilting themes which are performed by an array of instrumentation, Cello Violin and strings accompanied by choral performances. This is a brooding soundtrack that is not unlike the veritable coiled spring which is waiting to open or jump out at the listener, sometimes a low-key track or a cue that one thinks to be a less energetic piece ends up being a builder that peaks with a blast of thundering percussive elements or a rasping collection of brass or even a wall of electronic sounds. It is a well-structured work rich in strong themes and powerful and pulsating action passages that will I know have you on the edge of your seat both in the cinema and at home when listening to the score. It would I think be wrong to compare Jablonsky to any other composer, but if I was asked to describe his style I think I would probably say it is a fusion of Tyler and Debney, it is rhythmic and on occasion upbeat and commanding but it also has real heart and soul to it which certainly adds greater depth and atmosphere to every project he works upon. This is worth a listen, Check out TRANSFORMERS THE LAST KNIGHT asap.

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Available now on LA LA LAND RECORDS.
TRACK LISTING.
1. Sacrifice 6:46
2. The Coming of Cybertron 4:58
3. Merlin’s Staff 5:49
4. No-Go Zone 3:28
5. Stay and Fight 6:26
6. Code Red 2:12
7. Izzy 4:00
8. Purity of Heart 3:34
9. Megatron Negotiation 3:37
10. Today We Hunt 1:46
11. Running out of Tomorrows 1:20
12. Drone Chase 5:07
13. You Have Been Chosen 2:17
14. Seglass Ni Tonday 6:27
15. Quintessa 6:36
16. Vivian 3:52
17. Abduction 3:04
18. History of Transformers 4:23
19. Cogman Sings 2:09
20. Vivian Follows Merlin 6:41
21. The Greatest Mission of All 2:19
22. Dive 3:15
23. Two Moons 2:03
24. Merlin’s Tomb 3:18
25. Claim the Staff 3:36
26. Prime Versus Bee 2:45
27. Your Voice 4:34
28. I Had My Moment 2:29
29. Ospreys 1:49
30. Battlefield 3:43
31. Did You Forget Who I Am 1:56
32. We Have to Go 5:48
33. Calling All Autobots 2:55
34. Sir Edmund Burton

ZORRO. (1975).

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Released in 1975 and starring Alain Delon and Stanley Baker, ZORRO, was directed by Duccio Tessari and contained a musical score written by Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, now this composing duo had made a name for themselves via their rather quirky and pop orientated approach to scoring movies. But their score for ZORRO seemed more dramatic and much more developed which could I suppose have something to do with the involvement of Italian Maestro Gianfranco Plenzio who not only conducted the score but also orchestrated it. The music that the composing siblings provided for the production had a greater depth and also contained much more than we had come to expect from De Angelis, yes there are a number of musical passages and phrases that can only belong to De Angelis, but the majority of the score is a driving and highly adventurous work, As was normal with any De Angelis score for a film there are a couple of songs included which are not that off beat or odd ball, and I say this without being insulting, (remember KEOMA), I rest my case. The score for ZORRO was released on compact disc as part of the CAM SOUNDTRACK ENCYCLOPEDIA, sadly it was a release that initially did not sell that well, but after CAM deleted the release and it became scarce collectors were seeking it everywhere, so a re issue came from Japan which arguably contained far better sound quality, superior art work and more importantly more music. Given the subject matter of the storyline the score obviously leans towards a Spanish/Mexican style and at times reminds one of the quieter moments within Jerry Fielding’s WILD BUNCH score, it has a definite pop infused sound to it with slow guitar solos and light and sultry hacienda songs that evoke a hot summers night spent watching the sun set over the dusty but picturesque desert views. The score is also in my opinion filled with fun compositions that are crammed with energy and although are simple in their makeup are vibrant and linger long in the listeners mind. These are accompanied by fiercely Hispanic sounding cues, that are not only haunting but dramatic, within certain cues I was also reminded of Riz Ortolani’s THE HUNTING PARTY theme, driving strings backed by pulsating percussion and guitar, purveying a sense of urgency and desperation.

 

Initially the movie was a romantic comedy of sorts, but it did also contain some swordplay and other fight scenes. The theme song sung by Oliver Onions, (G and M De Angelis in disguise) is catchy and somewhat annoying, but this can be said of the majority of the De Angelis songs, the majority of which seem to repeat themselves over and over, until you find yourself reaching for the fast forward button. However, saying this, ZORRO IS BACK is quite short in its duration, so does not really have time to agitate one that much, see what you think.

 

Zorro Is Back Lyrics
Here’s to being free la la la la la la Zorro’s back
Here’s to flying high la la la la la la Zorro’s back
Here’s to being free la la la la la la Zorro’s back
Here’s to flying high la la la la la la Zorro’s back

It’s fun to be
It’s fantasy
He’s so glad
To know the world as Zorro (Zor-ro!)
You know you weren’t the next and run to learn El Zorro
As one good deed
Is all we need
So he’ll be there
And guard our cares oh Zorro (Zor-ro!)
He’ll tell you hang upon
Their necks and run you see

Here’s to living free
Here’s to you and me

Here’s to better times with only one of a kind Zorro
Here’s to living free when you know that your friend is old Zorro
Here’s to being free la la la la la la Zorro’s back
Here’s to being free la la la la la la Zorro’s back

It’s hard to find when all the time
He stand the pain the world is job worth doing (Zor-ro!)
Let any strength he have the proof to make it through
In proof he drawn without a frown
Once he’s there he bears a number of Zorro (Zor-ro!)
You better make your debt to settle your affairs with Zorro

Here’s to being free
Here’s to you and me
Here’s to being free la la la la la la Zorro’s back
Here’s to flying high la la la la la la Zorro’s back
(Key Change)
Here’s to being free la la la la la la Zorro’s back
Here’s to flying high la la la la la la Zorro’s back
Here’s to being free la la la la la la Zorro’s back
Here’s to flying high la la la la la la Zorro’s back
Here’s to being free la la la la la la Zorro’s back
Here’s to flying high la la la la la la Zorro’s back

 

The instrumental version of the title song for me anyway is more appealing, the remainder of the score however is entertaining and an enjoyable listening experience, and contains some nice guitar work that is supported by woodwind, and strings giving it a romantic sound and style.
In my ever so humble opinion ZORRO stands next to and equal with the De Angelis western THE CONTINUEING STORY OF TRINITY. One to watch out for on well-known selling sites and available on Spotify.

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