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It’s been a long time since I went to a gathering or meeting of any type concerning film music, and it’s been even longer since I enjoyed it so much. Today September 24th 2016 I will remember for a long time, it was the first gathering of FANS OF MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES organised by Tim Smith and James Fitzpatrick, guest composers in attendance were TREVOR JONES, MARK THOMAS, DEBBIE WISEMAN, CHRISTOPHER GUNNING and DANIEL PEMBERTON. All of whom were in a word wonderful, I loved the way that all of them were so relaxed and also so forthcoming with their thoughts and opinions about film music, scoring films and the art and craft of what they do. The last time I attended such a function must have been way back in the 1990, s when it was organised by either THE GOLDSMITH SOCIETY or John Williams of SILENTS AND SATELITTES and early editions of MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES fame. I Seem to recall a few of these SEMINARS as they were called being held at the BONNIGTON hotel in London, but that is by the way. Today’s event was well organised and it ran so smoothly at least that’s what I witnessed, the only hiccups being Tim Smith’s nerves I think, which is understandable when organising something like this, but he handled it very well and made everyone welcome.

IT,S GOING TO BE FINE TIM.

Mr Smith   Looking a little apprehensive.

 

It was also a time to put faces to Facebook (other social medias are available) conversations which was also really nice and it was something of a reunion for myself with fellow soundtrack collector Jerry Daley being there and of course talking with Trevor Jones and Chris Gunning after a break of more than a few years, Trevor remarked that is was the sessions for HIDEAWAY when we last saw each other in the flesh as it were.

Trevor Jones and Christopher Gunning.

Trevor Jones and Christopher Gunning.

Held at the renowned ANGEL recording studios in Upper Street Islington, this was an afternoon that I know many will be thinking of for a long while. Tim Smith took to the floor at around two o clock, and spoke to the gathered fifty or so attendees, briefly explained the fire drill then went on to introduce the host for the afternoon, the well know record producer and passionate film music fan James Fitzpatrick, many of us in attendance of course remember buying LP records off of James when he was behind the counter and managing the sadly missed 58 DEAN STREET RECORDS, and then he was one of the driving forces behind SILVA SCREEN initiating that labels foray into re-recordings of soundtracks which included the first release of music from Hammer films for example and renditions of themes from movies such as WITCHFINDER GENERAL, NIGHT OF THE DEMON, KISS OF THE VAMPIRE and full score reconstructions and re-recordings of soundtracks such as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA,THE BIG COUNTRY etc. James is now the boss at TADLOW MUSIC producing so many exquisite re-recordings and releases of excellent film music and providing orchestras for composers on various projects.

 

 James Fitzpatrick.

James Fitzpatrick.

 

His attention to detail and also achieving high quality recordings is second to none, and I believe he is a Master of his particular craft and a person who does not shout about his achievements as in blow his own trumpet (forgive the pun). James made a brief introduction, and also then introduced the guests for the afternoon, it was at this point we were treated to something of a sneak preview from an up and coming release on TADLOW, which is Miklos Rozsa’s classic soundtrack for THE THIEF OF BAHGDAD, which like all of TADLOW’S releases sounded magnificent, it was fantastic to hear the music and also see the orchestra conducted by Nic Raine perform.

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After the cue had concluded James started things off with a question to the guests about if they thought film music composition was an art or a craft. Debbie Wiseman began the responses, followed by Mark Thomas, Trevor Jones and then Christopher Gunning and Daniel Pemberton, all explained their idea of composition being an art or craft very differently, but I thought basically they all more or less agreed that it was part art part craft, which then segued into discussing other topics that were related to being a composer of film music, this spontaneity by the guests who were happy to chat about almost anything without being prompted for me made the afternoon even more interesting and enjoyable. We learnt that Daniel Pemberton is working on another movie by Guy Ritchie which is a KING ARTHUR film, and also that when he feels he has got something right as in writing a particular cue does a little dance around his flat, which as Debbie Wiseman remarked is an image that will linger in her head for a while.

 Daniel Pemberton.

Daniel Pemberton.

 

There were also questions from the audience, which were very interesting enquiries and also the responses from the assembled guest were too as interesting if not more so. It’s surprising that although they all work in the same field they all seem to have different approaches to the actual mechanics of writing the scores, some preferring the more classical and time honoured approach of manuscript and pencil others using the more technical options that are available, which then led to explanations from Trevor Jones about certain software that became available to the composer back in the late 80’s etc, which made it either easier or more of a headache for them to score films. He also spoke of the switch almost overnight from analogue too digital which gave him more than one headache in the studio.

Trevor Jones.

Trevor Jones.

We did have a short break for refreshments and this gave members of the audience a chance to chat amongst themselves and also with the composers, it was at this point the first raffle was held and the winners (not me, I was one away, but I am ok honestly) were given generous goodie bags of compact discs which were given freely by TADLOW, MOVIE SCORE MEDIA, CALDERA and SILVA SCREEN, there were also FANS OF MOVIE MUSIC mugs on sale a snip at £6.95 and then we had a second raffle for a poster advertising the event signed by all the guests.

mug

More questions and answers followed and it became apparent that Christopher Gunning was shall we say a little tired of scoring films and TV as he had been writing what was is called by some “serious” music as in concertos and symphonies for concert hall performance, Christopher was relieved that he never had a deadline or a director and producer peering over his shoulder all the time, but then he said when writing his symphony at times he had wished he could phone up a particularly difficult director and ask him to come round and stand behind him and give him a hard time so he could actually write some music.

fans-8                                                   Debbie Wiseman and James Fitzpatrick.

 

Debbie Wiseman told us how she got into the business and how after working on a series such as FATHER BROWN that if a different director was brought in it would be them that had to adapt to her music simply because she had written so many established themes for that series and had been there since the offset. So that was a different perspective, as its normally the composer that has to adapt their music for anything that the director might want to do. All of the composers told stories of either directors or producers that were shall we say difficult, Christopher Gunning remembering to be asked to score POIROT but not include the established and award winning theme for the series, (which everyone knows and loves) Gunning told us that he tried to introduce the theme when he could at one point turning the music upside down.

Chris Gunning.

Chris Gunning.

 

Daniel Pemberton recalling the time he scored a documentary about Hiroshima, one of the greatest losses of human life in the 20th Century and when it got to the part in the film where the bomb had been dropped and there was utter desolation and destruction, the executives on the film telling him that his music was to down beat and sombre. Mark Thomas being asked to score a section of film with music like the music in the chariot race scene in BEN HUR, and then realising there is no music in that sequence, “So that was easy” he said. Time unfortunately was running out and we had to stop, but then we were allowed to ask the guests to sign CD covers etc. Which they did and gave their time generously stopping to talk to each and every person about the cover they had selected and their love of movie music, the signings were accompanied by some great music and images of orchestra performing at various TADLOW recording sessions.

Mark Thomas.

Mark Thomas.

Overall it was a great success, there were no awkward silences, no silly questions, it was just a good experience that had an easy going atmosphere with all of the composers being quite laid back and forthcoming with snippets of information and various stories of good, bad and ugly situations that they had encountered in their careers. (Chris Gunning was very open and frank) which was very amusing and interesting. I hope that this is an event that will be repeated and become an annual occurrence, we have to thank TIM SMITH who initiated this and also James Fitzpatrick who helped immensely in it coming to fruition, we also have to say a big thank you to all of the composers for their time and also their interest in the people who buy soundtracks and too all the FANS OF MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES team for being there making the day go well, plus a big thank you to Phil Watkins for taking all of those great photographs, some of which I have with his permission used in this article. marks out of 10, I give it an 11.

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Just one thing left to say ENCORE,,,,, Looking forward to FANS OF MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES 2.

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THE LEGEND OF SURIYOTHAI.

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Going back a little way to 2001 for this particular soundtrack which was up until last year unavailable as a commercial release outside of Thailand. It’s one of those soundtracks that one has in the collection but sad to say seems to forget about it, only playing it once in a blue moon, but each time one does give it an airing you think “WHY don’t I play this more often”? The movie is THE LEGEND OF SURIYOTHAI which is a beautiful and epic production directed and written by Chatrichalerm Yukol who is a member of the Thai Royal family, for many years the authorities in Thailand were a little annoyed that films such as THE KING and I and the more recent ANNA AND THE KING were made but did not tell the true facts about certain events that occurred in Thai history, thus these are banned for public screenings in the country.

So the story goes that the director (who himself has Royal Blood) was at a state dinner and was asked by the Queen of the Thailand why he could not make a good movie about the history of his own country, the film maker took this to be a command from his Monarch and set about writing and directing what was to become  THE LEGEND OF SURIYOTHAI. Three years later his task was completed and the movie was released. The finished film is indeed a triumph and no mean fete as the director was not accustomed to making such grand scale films. The story begins with Suriyothai, who is a young and beautiful princess being betrothed to Prince Thienraja, who is a virtuous and kind person but also rather boring and dull as far as the Princess is concerned. She decides that she would rather be with her childhood friend, Lord Srithep, but sacrifices her own desires and happiness for the good of the Kingdom. This is the first of a series of difficult decisions she is called upon to make. As the movie and storyline progresses we begin to see Thailand as a country with a beautiful and sophisticated culture which is every bit the equal of the Japan of that era, but under stress from rebellious provinces and foreign invaders, but after a number of royal deaths from disease, disasters, and even assassination brings about a dynastic struggle in which the young Princess organizes a rebellion against a usurper that brings her husband to the throne. She then has to go into battle against the Burmese who decide to take advantage of the state of confusion within Thailand, clad in armour and riding an elephant she helps her husband defeat the invaders.

The film which was originally a four-hour saga was edited down to 185 minutes for its release outside of Thailand, and because of this is at times somewhat disjointed, but it remains easy to follow and is certainly a movie that  intrigues and grips any watching audience irrespective of Nationality. The movie is thoughtfully photographed and a lot of work has gone into shooting the movie is some stunning settings, it contains some exciting and highly authentic battle scenes with jousting from the back of elephants being seen at one point and also an impressive and highly dramatic battle in which river galleys are used. This is a wonderfully set movie, which engrosses  and entertains throughout its entire duration, it is filled with dark betrayal, intrigue and ambition and  is a rare insight into the colourful and somewhat bloody history of Thailand. The musical score is not as one might think by a Thai composer but is written by Richard Harvey who has worked on a number of highly successful British TV dramas which include COLDITZ, G.B.H, JAKES PROGRESS and SHROUD FOR A NIGHTINGALE amongst others. He once had a highly fruitful collaborative partnership with composer Stanley Myers and contributed to scores such as THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES and THE HONORARY CONSUL as well as writing his own music for FIRST AMONG EQUALS, TERRAHAWKS and HALF MOON STREET. His music for THE LEGEND OF SURIYOTHAI is in a word “MAGNIFICENT”, it is brimming with eloquent and affecting themes which entice and enrapture the listener, a fully symphonic score that literally overflows with wonderfully lush and lavish sounding themes this is a score that cannot fail to please any collector of fine movie music. Harvey utilises to great effect soprano voice which is underlined and supported by strings and lilting woodwind at times creating a haunting and mesmerising work. Even the vocals within the score are worth listening to which is something I rarely say in reviews, but these are so strong, well-written and performed in Thai and English that they have to be brought to your attention. I love the way in which the composer creates beguiling themes via the string and brass sections and although this is a Thai movie he seems to score it in a very western way, yes there are a number of oriental or Eastern sounding nuances and passages but it is scored in such a fashion that these fuse almost seamlessly with the composers more conventional approach to scoring the picture. The movie is a triumph and Harvey’s soundtrack too is Majestic and alluring. Highly recommended, if you can get a copy please buy it now.

http://www.prestoclassical.co.uk/w/267649

1. The Court of Ayuthaya 3.18
2. For the Heart of a Princess 2.15
3. A Nation’s Honour 3.41
4. The Gates of Hell – Siege 4.14
5. The Hand of Fate 3.24
6. A Royal Tribute 2.45
7. Deadly Enchantment 1.28
8. The Poisoning of King Chai 4.30
9. Under Cover of Darkness – Assassins! 3.07
10. Eternal Flower 2.32
11. War’s Tragedy 3.20
12. The Death of a Hero 2.03
13. Lord Piren’s Pledge 4.17
14. A Vision of Fear 1.32
15. Queen Suriyothai’s Destiny 2.41
16. Love and Remembrance 2.52
17. Now and Forever. Suriyothai 5.48

THE NICE GUYS.

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John Ottman is certainly one of the shining stars and talents within the area of film music composition, he is another one of these composers that can turn their hand to almost any scenario musically speaking and create the right solutions for any occurrence that is created by the filmmakers. Ottman’s credits are varied and always entertaining and interesting, one of his most recent scoring assignments is for THE NICE GUYS, now this is movie that is set in Los Angeles in the 1970, s and stars Russel Crowe and Ryan Gosling as two rather unlikely private investigators who go in search of a missing Porn star. Directed by Shane Black whose IRON MAN 3 kind of put the cat amongst the Pidgeon’s with audiences being left not knowing if they liked it or loathed it. (I liked it). The music is suitably seventies in its sound and style and at times even echo’s or gives acknowledgement to such classic scores as BULLIT, DIRTY HARRY and to a degree GET CARTER. Breathy and sensual woods entice the listener into the work, as the composers John Ottman and David Buckley create a veritable smorgasbord of funky and groovy sounds that are far out and totally awesome. It’s a score that entertains and captures one’s attention straight away, right from the off the composers have you hooked on the steamy and jazz infused compositions, THE NICE GUYS THEME is certainly a nod in the direction of the great Lalo Schifrin, and has to it an air of the shifting gears track from that composers BULLIT soundtrack, but it also has to it a highly thematic core performed on horns and other brass which is interspersed and supported by percussion, I would even go as far as to say that it also has certain similarities to Schifrin’s MURDERS ROW and hints of Goldsmith’s FLINT scores. In fact, FLINT type themes just ooze from the proceedings in the cues, TO THE CAR SHOW/AMELIA and KIDS TODAY, tracks 2 and 3 respectively. Track number 5 PORNOCCHIO is one of my personal favourites, it’s a somewhat laid back affair initially that just purveys sleaze somehow, how you define sleaze musically I am not certain but it just conjures up that type of atmosphere. Also take a listen to track number 7, EQUANIMITY, nice vibes being created by woodwind and underlying strings, which suddenly halt in their tracks to segue into a cue that is not tense but certainly more apprehensive sounding than the initial introduction, bass and brushed percussion provide the backing to a short by oh so sweet trumpet solo that could just be from CHINATOWN, this is a polished and precision score which is a collection of themes and sounds that evoke the era of the 1970’s and hats off to both Ottman and Buckley for re-creating the hot, chilled and funky styles that we so readily associate with movies such as SHAFT, TROUBLEMAN, ACROSS 110TH STREET and THEY CALL ME MR TIBBS etc. There is also available a double cd set of songs from the soundtrack, which include numerous hits from the charts of the 1970’s and its well worth acquiring this also as its a great nostalgia trip. Both score and soundtrack are available on lakeshore records. Highly recommended.

Score Track Listing
1.
Theme
 2:01
2.
Kids Today
 3:24
3.
Disco Party Fight
 4:00
4.
To The Car Show / Amelia?
 1:36
5.
Pornocchio
 2:23
6.
A Little Favor
 2:52
7.
Equanimity
 2:01
8.
Chet in the Dumps
 2:04
9.
You Got Her / Easy 20
 1:37
10.
Helping Blue Face / Car Crash
 3:11
11.
Meeting John Boy
 3:26
12.
It’s Not a Flight
 2:01
13.
Cars That Drive Themselves
 1:46
14.
YooHoo Delivery / Breaking In
 2:10
15.
Car Show Shoot Out
 4:42
16.
Follow the Yellow Dick Road
 1:43
17.
P.I. Life
 1:49
18.
BONUS TRACK: Flight of the Bumble Bee / The Right Thing to Do

KUNG FU PANDA 3.

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As the title kind of hints this is the third in the KUNG FU PANDA series, KUNG FU PANDA 3, is another action filled comedic animated romp with the voice talents of Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman. Music again is provided by composer Hans Zimmer with piano solos courtesy of Lang Lang. As you are aware I am no Zimmer fan, well that’s not exactly true because I do have the utmost respect for what he does and what he creates and achieves as far as film music is concerned, but I do feel that he receives far too much publicity, which I understand he is also uncomfortable with. Well I have to say that I have enjoyed the scores that he and also John Powell have worked on and KUNG FU PANDA 3 in my opinion is probably the best so far, it is a score that obviously has a lot of action cues and is also filled with various light hearted musical references but it also has within its framework some beautifully romantic and ethnically haunting sounding cues. The composer utilising the string section, the aforementioned piano solos of Lang Lang and some heartrending cello performances to purvey an atmosphere that is poignant and emotive. There is also present some nice woodwind solos and the work also contains its fair share of proud sounding brass and horn performances which are inspiring and have a full and rich stature to them. In many ways I have to say that the more robust action pieces did at times evoke the style and sound of Jerry Goldsmith, especially his work on the animated feature MULAN, but there again Goldsmith was a master at creating music that had to it an oriental flavour and aura. What I like about Zimmer’s score for KUNG FU PANDA is that although it is quite action led it never is far away from being comedic and light the composer being able to switch at what seems to be a moment’s notice from big serious and strong too cheeky, impish and fun. The track HALL OF HEROES for example is one such piece the composer infusing a mood of apprehension but then the track more or less erupts into a somewhat madcap affair with Chinese sounding references being enhanced and pushed forward by ample amounts of what can only still be referred to as MICKEY MOUSING, but it works so well. I am not familiar with all the oriental instrumentation that Zimmer employs within this score but there are a number of Chinese sounding passages that range from flat out action in their sound too romantic and highly emotional, the kind of emotional I would like to add that make the hairs on the back of one’s neck stand up. Every track for me was a delight and was also a listening experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Zimmer also employs a heavenly sounding choir on occasion which is laced with lush and luxurious sounding strings and dreamy faraway horns which are in turn bolstered by triumphant brass, this can be heard more prominently in the cue THE PANDA VILLAGE (track number 8) which also has to it a touch of the melancholy, which is purveyed by the use of subtle underlying strings and a delightfully melodic woodwind solo performance, but this is brief and the track soon returns to a more upbeat scenario with the string section carrying brass and percussion through to its conclusion. I also enjoyed track number 9, MEI MEI’S RIBBON DANCE which is quite fast paced and filled with Chinese musical references. Then we are straight away treated to a more robust adventure filled theme JADED (track number 10) which has to it that Goldsmith sound I mentioned earlier. Track number 11, PORTRAIT OF MOM is a heart-breaking cue, piano and woodwind pick out a simple but affecting theme which is then taken on by a mournful but attractive cello solo that is underlined initially by the string section before being overwhelmed by it to bring the cue to its end. No doubt about it KUNG FU PANDA 3 will entertain greatly and it’s one of those soundtracks that I know one will never tire of hearing. New versions also of KUNG FU FIGHTING are included on the compact disc, which too are enjoyable. Recommended. I Can’t wait for number 4, and yes it’s on its way.

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (2016).

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I think everyone in the world of film music is still in a state of shock on hearing of the death of composer James Horner. They have also been waiting with baited breath for his score to the western THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN to be released, well the wait is over and the score is here. Yes of course many will be comparing both the movie and the score with the original but this I think is not the right way to go about it and I hope that I can review it without saying where is the original theme, sorry just said it but you know what I mean, I think we have to listen to the new score with open minds and fresh ears although there is a hint of that famous theme in track number four VOLCANO SPRINGS, I say a hint because Horner resists the temptation of going into a full rendition or arrangement of it, he teases us a little with a short burst of strings then dilutes the theme into something that is similar but also at the same time different. I love the way Horner and co-composer Simon Franglen have made use of various percussive elements and also an inventive inclusion of a pan pipe sound which at times is calming but then alters direction become more sinister and aggressive, these sounds are fused with soprano voice giving the work something of a connection with the spaghetti western score, al’ a composers such as Morricone, Nicolai and Baclov, but I have to say because of the pan pipes it is also somewhat reminiscent of Horner’s WILLOW and at times Goldsmith’s UNDER FIRE. The soprano is heard from the offset of proceedings in track number one, ROSE CREEK OPRESSION this opens with Horner’s trademark echoing trumpet flourishes which are embellished by both percussion and strings, with pipes being added as the track progresses, with two soprano voices performing in unison. This deployment of instrumentation is heard more prominently and in a sustained outing in track number five, STREET SLAUGHTER where Horner and Franglen successfully create a powerful and also a melodic piece that evokes both Italian and American westerns scores of days past, mixing a grand sound with a more unconventional approach to scoring a western. Track number two SEVEN ANGELS OF VENGEANCE, is a powerful addictive listen, driving strings are punctuated and supported by brass and percussion, with horns returning and taking on a core theme but soon being overwhelmed by percussion that is interspersed with bells, pan pipe stabs a wailing if but fleeting harmonica and then eventually the strings which give a short but effective rendition of the theme originally introduced by the horns, it is an interesting cue that also includes strident sounding guitar strumming and Hispanic sounding nuances. At times when listening to the score one forgets that this is a western, but there again define what music is western etc., it’s what works for the movie in the end, in my opinion this works well away from the movie.

I found it enjoyable and yes I admit to listening out for similarities between it and Elmer Bernstein’s scores for the MAGNIFICENT SEVEN cycle of movies, but I was not disappointed when it did not explode at every opportunity into arrangements or different takes on those scores and their central and secondary themes. This is an original score no doubt of that as in the way it is orchestrated, it contains some surprises and also a number of moments when one could say Oh yes typical James Horner, but is that a bad thing. For the many devoted fans of the original films score there is a snippet at the end of the compact disc in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and its credited to Mr Bernstein, but this is the only direct reference to Bernstein’s slice of classic sounding Americana, and even this is different it’s a more subdued version or arrangement but one that still hits the spot. One of the highlights for me is track number, twenty-one, FARADAYS RIDE, this is a full working of what can I suppose be called the scores central theme, complete with vocal backing and those proud sounding horns that are carried along by strings and supported by timpani and strumming guitars, its proud, hopeful and anthem like and a compulsive listen, by this I mean as soon as cue finishes you want to go back and listen again. Overall a good score and entertaining listen and another reason to mourn the loss of such a gifted composer. Just go buy it……….
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