Cast your minds back to 2018, and to a movie entitled The Titan, probably not a film that made much of impression, but the score by Fil Eisler did make its mark upon me at least . Glad to say the composer has recently scored a movie which many are raving about because it is just so funny and let’s face it we need a bit of a lift these days don’t we. Superintelligence, was released in 2020, remember 2020? The movies storyline focuses upon an all-powerful Superintelligence that chooses to study the very average human Carol Peters, the fate of the world suddenly hangs in the balance. As the A.I. decides to enslave, save, or destroy humanity, it’s up to Carol to prove that people are worth saving, but are they? The film directed by Ben Falcone stars Melissa McCarthy as Carol Peters. It is listed as a Sci Fi movie but to be honest its more of a rom-com. But this does not mean its not worth a watch. The score by Fil Eisler is excellent, it does its job admirably and the composer manages to get the mix exactly right with a fusion of both the romantic and the mysterious throughout. Its for the most part fully symphonic from what I can make out at least, but there are little inserts of electronic support here and there. It has that comedic and quirky sound that is appealing and alluring. At times when the score does become more developed in its thematic properties, one is reminded somewhat of the music of the late James Horner. The string section swelling and being punctuated by both brass and percussion. It is at times wonderfully grand but also filled with a sensitivity and a more intimate and personal sound. The composer creating inspiring musical moments and crafting beautiful tone poems that are filled with an air of melancholy and become affecting and magical. The end track New Digital Overlord (finale) is a like an overture of sorts but at the end of the score instead of acting as an introduction, the composer wows us with some awesome sounding pieces within the cue, and it is kind of like a showcase for the entire score. Booming, percussion, proud and soaring strings are laced with wistful and flyaway woods that are all underlined with various snippets of themes from the score. It is this cue that reminded me of Horner, maybe shades of both Star Trek and even Cocoon are present, it’s a warm and pleasant sound that is fashioned here, and also one that I am sure will be appealing to you and many others.
The composer also employs haunting solo piano at certain points within the score, which are enhanced and given depth by strings. It’s a great fun score, with equal amounts of darkness, impish and mischievous interludes that are heard alongside sweeping and martial sounding sections, so something here for everyone I think. Certainly, a score that you must check out, available on digital platforms, and while you are there take a listen to Proud Mary and The Titan by the composer well worth a listen.
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Recently I have started to notice more and more the music of composer Ruth Barrett, initially I was attracted to the music in the TV series Victoria, and then started to look at earlier assignments by the composer such as Wuthering Heights, again a TV series that contained so many interesting and haunting themes. Her most recent project or at least the one we are seeing on the BBC on Sunday nights is the tense but excellent Bloodlands, the composer’s music is at times an extension of the storyline, and certainly an integral part of the series plot and unfolding events.
The composer underlining the ever growing turbulent and apprehensive goings on with her attractive but at the same time superbly atmospheric score. Bloodlands is a series I would recommend that you watch, and I am hoping that a soundtrack album or at least a digital version of this score will soon be available on the usual platforms.
Her score for The Sister too is an affecting one, being wonderfully dark and sinister and let’s not forget she also scored the two hit series The Bodyguard and Collateral. And there is also the delightfully thematic music she penned for The Durrells, which is totally removed from her more dramatic material. There is also her collaboration with Martin Phipps on the Michael Caine movie Harry Brown a few years ago to consider.
Barrett is obviously a talented composer and one who can tailor her musical skills to suit all genres of film and TV. Born in London in 1976, the composer became interested in film and television music when she was young, she recalls that it was watching re-runs of American made TV shows during the 1980’s that she began to take notice of the music for these series and regards the score for the 1978 show The Incredible Hulk and Queen’s music for the movie Flash Gordon has her main inspiration for following a career in music. As a teenager she began to take classical pieces and improvise arranging and altering these on piano, with her piano teacher Nigel Crouch. She continued piano lessons and eventually went on to study music at Cambridge University. She then went to The Royal Academy of Music where she studied composition. Her first experiences of writing for TV came when she composed music for advertisements, and then began to work on documentaries for the Independent Television network, gradually gaining more and more experience.
When she left I.T.V. Barrett continued to work freelance at Strong room Studios which is where her days of collaborating with her mentor Martin Phipps commenced. It was also whilst here that she furthered her career by making numerous contacts within the industry. This eventually led to her being commissioned to score her first drama which was in 2007. It was in this year that she worked on three projects for TV which were True Dare Kiss, Endgame, and The Take.
Two years later she scored three more TV projects and worked with Martin Phipps on Harry Brown. In 2010 Barrett scored the series Bouquet of Barbed Wire for director Andy Pierce and the featurefilm Toast for director S.J. Clarkson whom she has collaborated five times during her career thus far, these collaborations being, Collateral, Love Nina, Whitechapel, Hunted, and the already mentioned Toast.
In 2017 she was nominated for a primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Composition for a series, which was for Victoria. Sanditon was also another triumph for the composer, with many having the opinion that her music was far better than the series it was written for. Ruth Barrett is a unique talent in the world of film and TV music, and I know we will be hearing so much more from her in the not too distant future
Soundtrack supplement this time opens with three very entertaining releases from the ever industrious Dragons Domain, in no particular order because all are releases that you should own the label have released Vampirella by Joel Goldsmith, Adventures in Dinosaur City by Frederic Ensign Teetsal and the third instalment of the Mark Snow collection. So I am going to start with Joel Goldsmith’s atmospheric score for the movie Vampirella.
The score has never been released before and it is one that I know many fans were craving. The movie which was released in 1996 was directed by Jim Wynorski, and starred Talisa Soto in the title role. The film also featured the Who rock band front man Roger Daltrey, as well as Richard Joseph Paul, Brian Bloom, Corinna Harney, Rusty Meyers, Lee de Broux, Tom Deters, Lenny Juliano, Angus Scrimm along with John Landis and John Terlesky. The story of Vampirella was already well established before the movie made it to the screen in fact the character made her first appearance in the late 1960.’s in a magazine. She hailed from a distant planet named Drakulon and wore a rather fetching if not racy looking blood red costume that shall we say did not leave a lot to the imagination. The on-screen incarnation of the character was brought to life by Roger Corman who had worked alongside Wynorski previously and as far back as 1981.
The score by Joel Goldsmith seems to be a mix or fusion of both electronic components and a scattering of more conventional instrumentation. The composer has fashioned a score that is filled with a rich and vibrant air and also contains a number of themes. At times I did find myself thinking of past Goldsmith scores such as Moon 44, as the score for Vampirella did evoke this same sound and style on occasion. The opening theme also kind of reminded me of a western flavoured sound, but sometimes you know I hear western music in everything.
It’s a good score and I have to say it kept me interested throughout, I was waiting to hear the next cue at times but was loathed to move it forward in case I missed out on anything in the track I was listening to. Its certainly an inventive and varied score, yes, it is filled with eerie sounds and also laced with dark and affecting atmospherics, but the innovative and inventiveness of the composer make this a soundtrack that you will want to add to your collection. Recommended.
Next up is Adventures in Dinosaur City, I have to say not familiar with this at all, which is a good thing, because hearing something new is always great. The movie was released in 1991 and was a mix of both live action and animation, A group of youngsters are magically sent back into prehistory and meet the real-life counterparts to their favourite cartoon characters: who just happen to be a group of friendly dinosaurs. The kids team up with the creatures and start solving crimes, so a children’s movie but one I am sure appealed to kids of all ages. The mood and sound of the music straight away purveys a sound of urgency and is in the same ilk as music from a vintage horror from the Universal studio, but after its initial opening flourishes the music alters becoming less urgent and taking on the musical persona or style of Danny Elfman, with a jaunty piano (shades of Beetlejuice) providing the foundation of the piece, whilst strings and brass are added and enhanced with percussive elements to make it sound grand in one way and also having to it a comedic quality at the same time. It is a score that I enjoyed, and there are some nice little nuances and interludes where the composer creates several themes that re-occur along the way.
The last score I heard from this composer was also released on Dragons Domain, The Haunting of Morella is excellent, and if you have not already purchased it you should as soon as possible. Adventures in Dinosaur City is a lighter sounding score, but this obviously reflects the subject matter of the project. It is a fun score, and one I think you will enjoy.
The Mark Snow collection-volume three is entitled Southern Gothic and contains two scores from the composer. The first which runs from track one through to track twelve is from the 1994 TV movie Murder between Friends, the score contains some dark and sinister sounding cues that are at times scattered with bluesy or folk orientated nuances, but the overall mood of the score focuses upon the apprehensive and it is filled with a tense and foreboding atmosphere. Mainly electronic in its sound but this I think adds to the dark and threatening mood, the composer adding here and there an unexpected sound or a underlying percussive rumbling. The second score is taken from Shadows of Desire which was shown on the CBS channel in 1994, this score is lighter than the first, with the composer employing solo piano and harmonica on occasion to create a more subdued and calming style, the composer also brings into play some nice string arrangements that compliment and support both piano and harmonica.
The composer is in my opinion highly underrated and maybe the success of his theme and scores for the X Files series and movie have slightly hidden his ample talents from many collectors who just see him as the composer of that series. This is a nice pairing of scores as it displays Snow’s versatility and his ability to create music to suit differing storylines. Again recommended.
Haymaker is a movie that follows a retired Muay Thai fighter who is working as a doorman, one night he rescues an attractive transgender performer from a thug, which leads him to eventually become her bodyguard, and after a while a trusted friend. The relationship between them leads the bodyguard character to make an unexpected return to fighting, risking not only his relationship, but his life. It’s a story that contains elements that look at both human dignity and love. The music is by composer Christopher Thomas, (Woman Rebel, Lost and Don’t Look Back) who has provided the movie with a surprisingly rich melodic and sensitive sounding score. Its one of those soundtracks that one would probably look at and think well this will be all synth tracks and maybe filled with hip hop influenced tracks, but no, check it out, this is an accomplished score and one that is affecting and highly emotive, the use of solo cello and violin at times is quite breath-taking and oozes poignancy. The composers use of percussion in track The Fight/Finale is also inventive and effective. Please check this score out it is wonderful. Available on digital platforms.
Now for something completely different as they say, Barb and Star go to the Vista Del Mar, I did say it was different. Music for this complete nonsense movie is the work of Christopher Lennertz, and although the movie is a complete nonsensical 1 hour and fifty minutes of 100 jokes a minute with approx 99 of them falling flat on their face, the score is well….. the score is Excellent. The composer pulls out all the stops and throws everything and anything he can lay his hands into this mixing pot underlining and supporting chases, madcap scenarios, and other such like unpredictable and outlandish situations. Just listen to the cue Jet Ski Battle if you don’t believe me. The soundtrack is as entertaining as the movie and I mean that in a good way as I have to say the movie was fun, the music is brilliantly well done and because at times its over the top and as mental as the script of the film it works so well, complimenting, enhancing and at times becoming part of the lunacy. Check it out everyone, fantastic stuff. Also wanted to mention the composers score for the new Tom and Jerry movie, again entertaining stuff. Deany Bean is Dead was released in 2018, but the soundtrack by Cindy O’Connor (who shared a credit with Mark Isham on the Once Upon a Time TV series) appeared this week on digital platforms, and as we were talking of a little off beat story line, how about this one. A down-on-her-luck woman tries to win back her ex-boyfriend at his engagement party without revealing that her recently strangled boss is in the trunk of her car. Yep, I did warn you. The score for this movie is brilliantly done, entirely engrossing and totally irreverent. It has cheeky little passages that are filled with apprehension but also tinged with a quirky comedic element.
Lots of pizzicato strings, and fleeting woodwind lines, but there is just something about the music that is appealing and draws the listener in. Once heard I am sure you will be captivated by it and will be returning to it again and again. Check it out…
Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols’ task to launch a national blitz for NASA, recruiting 8,000 of the nation’s best and brightest, including the trailblazing astronauts who became the first African American, Asian and Latino men and women to fly in space. Ids the subject of this excellent documentary Woman in Motion. Which covers the importance of her role in Star Trek TV series and movies and goes into great depth about her efforts to spearhead STEM in which she dedicated herself to persuading NASA to diversify in the selection of candidates who would become astronauts. The score for the documentary is epic at times and provided by composer Colin O’Malley. It is a smorgasbord of sounds and styles and all I am going to say is just listen to it. Emotive, inspiring, rich, and thematic as well as being filled to overflowing with a sense of hope and integrity. Please do not pass this one by.
There are atmospheric and disturbing sounds galore within the next score, composer Gavin Keese serves up a liberal helping of edgy and predominantly unsettling sounds for the movie What Lies Below, which is released by Movie Score Media. In fact, the composer does not take his foot off the sinister or tense button for most of his score for the movie. Its not one for the faint-hearted listener or indeed the collector who leans more towards the melodic and romantic sounding score, it is a relentless collection of sounds that are jagged, startling, and effective. So be warned available on digital platforms.
The same can be said for Vigil which has a score by Michael Yezerski, the music or musical sounds employed here in my opinion are not entertaining but grating, it is a score that I listened to from start to finish, but I have to be honest ad say I wont be returning to it, its certainly atmospheric, but is this music, no I think not, it’s a soundscape a collection of sounds that are mostly jarring and had me reaching for the volume control. Not for me.
But Blood of Zeus is, this is an excellent soundtrack by composer Paul Edward Francis. And is filled to the brim with proud and epic sounding themes, choir, full on strings, thundering percussion, brass the works, if you like your film music big, grand and richly theme led this is for you, enough said go get it. It is an animated Netflix production, so why not tune in too.
Also worthy of mention is Sam Dinley’s score for Romeo and Juliet. Stunning is the word best used to describe it, again available on digital platforms find it and enjoy.
You know that most of us as film music collectors have what is often referred to as a wants list and there are a few titles that are our holy grails, well one score that was mine I managed to get about eleven years ago on a CDR. Yes, it was a bootleg, and I am sorry I even thought about buying it but buy it I did. But, before you all rush to the police station to report me the score was not so they told us ever going to be released, even though a handful of reputable record labels did try and get it an official issue. In fact, I was involved in talking to a publisher for an English label who were very keen to release it, the score in question is Roma Come Chicago or Bandits in Rome, this is a hard hitting and highly dramatic score from two of the most important music Maestro’s in Italian film scoring, Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai. A few tracks did appear on a compilation and 1 or 2 made an appearance on the B side of the Poo records label LP of Hornets Nest, which was like a carrot being dangled in front of collectors, because if there was one track or even two there were surely more around somewhere. As I say the bootleg had around twenty three tracks, and the sound quality was very, very good. The score has now been given an official release, its on the Spanish label Quartet, who these days seem to be very industrious. Fantastic I thought an official release of this iconic score, but stop, wait a minute, let check the time of the boot and the tracks. Ummm, more tracks on the bootleg, five more tracks in fact. Sound, well I don’t, know, I think the boot has the edge, its sharper on many of the cues, whereas the Quartet edition although official is dull sounding in places. Right before anyone shouts witch hunt, this is a review (which is a personal opinion of the reviewer) I am a film music critic and I do not just analyze the score but also the quality of the release as in sound and presentation.
This latest quartet release is in a word disappointing, it’s a score many have been craving, and this is in no way a salute to the great Ennio Morricone, it is not a tribute but in many ways a travesty. I am sure if he were still alive, he would have stopped this release. Like he did so many others that he felt were not his best or reflected his talent.
The opening cue sounded promising, with its rather chaotic sounding percussion, that evokes several other Morricone cues from the same period, this upbeat percussive onslaught is the Main Title, but on looking at the movie, I don’t think it is, this cue is not even on the old bootleg at least not in this form? You all know I am a great admirer of Ennio Morricone and Italian film music in general I have been since I was ten years of age and that was a very long time ago. So, I do get annoyed when a score of his is released and the record label does not do it justice, and there is a lot of examples of those I can tell you.
So, Roma Comme Chicago is added to that list for me it just does not cut it, the sound is at times distorted, this is especially noticeable on tracks number 4 and number 8 which are variations of the dramatic theme, its like it has been recorded at a volume that is far too loud and the meter has gone off the scale, and yes I am aware that in Italy a lot of soundtracks had quite poor quality sound when they were recorded or first released on LP record, one only has to listen to things like Find A Place to Die by Gianni Ferrio and also other releases such as releases on Ariete records back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. But saying this when Find a Place to Die was issued on compact disc the sound quality was superb. On listening again and again Roma Come Chicago suffers from a distortion or a chatter on the more delicate sounding cues aswell as in I Like My Life lll which is track number eleven.
Look! I am not going to say to you this is a fantastic release, and it has superb sound, because it clearly does not, and if I were to say to you it was flawless then I would not be doing a credible job as a critic, would I? If I said go buy it and you did, you would then hear the obvious flawed sound and think, well I won’t be reading his reviews again, would you not? The score without a doubt is excellent, so for that and that only it is desirable from a Morricone/Nicolai fans point of view, but the audio on this is no better than listening to a bad bootleg, thankfully many already have the boot that was doing the rounds. However, I wont say stick with that, because any official release MUST be supported, especially when its Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai, and I in no way support the bootleggers that are around, but don’t expect this to be crystal clear and fully restored, because it is not, they can say it is but come on just take a listen guys. The annoying thing is that this is a million miles away from the sound quality on other Quartet releases, such as The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and Midnight Cowboy so why? Roma Come Chicago also suffers along the way from a few volume drops throughout the discs duration, again this seems to occur in the more dramatic cues or the various arrangements of that theme, which again makes me think the problem is in the original recording or mix and maybe could not be improved upon, there are also sections of these cues that speed up, and begin to sound as if they are trying to get to the end of the cue before the tape runs out, sorry for being flippant but that’s it, Rome Come Chicago or Rome like Chicago, or Bandits in Rome, whatever it is called where you are, deserves much better.
My opinion, for what its worth after this review is that this was a rushed release, it became available and the label wanted it out there asap, there’s a saying isn’t there, more haste less speed, in this case it’s more haste less sound quality. The cover art too is wishy washy, but thankfully one can flip it to show a much better cover art. As a Morricone/Nicolai fan of over fifty years, I feel let down, and disappointed, as a critic I am just being honest, I don’t think there is a law against that is there? CD available now, and an LP version is on its way. I wonder whats next on the Morricone front. Looking into my crystal ball i see a western.. no two westerns. Both with same characters and a number 7 involved. If I am right cross my palm with dollars….
To say that British composer Debbie Wiseman is one of the most talented in the world is most certainly an understatement. She has over the years wowed us with her effecting melodies and her succulent rich and beautiful themes. Her scores for both television and feature films are not only emotive, dramatic, and haunting but are in a word stunning. Her latest film score is no exception to this rule and with To Olivia we hear a poignancy and a fragility that has been present in other works, but with To Olivia, I believe there is more of a personal and deeper level of poignancy achieved by the composer, which is not surprising considering that Debbie Wiseman is one of the most melodious film music composers that I am aware of. It is a score that becomes ever more lingering and pleasant as it progresses and grows, the central theme being the foundation on which much of the score is based, with the composer taking her cue from the core melody and creating even more emotive and heartrending compositions around it. The simple but attractive theme entices and beguiles the listener, whilst also enhancing and embroidering the storyline and its images perfectly. The movie I loved, it is one of those films that you will always return to, it is heartwarming, heartbreaking and filled with a glow that cannot fail to touch and affect everyone’s soul and heart. The music underlines the emotions and adds to the storyline a delicate but non-intrusive atmosphere.
There are feelings and moods of happiness, frustration, sadness, and also a sense of darkness and loss purveyed by Debbie Wisemans music, it is a triumph of fragility, and there is at times the underlying feeling of emptiness, and grief. It has to it so many atmospheres and conveys a plethora of moods. The score is performed in the main by strings, with guitar, harp, piano, woodwind and a scattering of percussive elements being introduced. I was surprised that the movie was on Sky movies, but there again it is a Sky original film, I would say to you watch the movie, then watch it again, then buy the CD or download from any of the digital platforms, as this is an endearing and wonderfully alluring work and one that you will return to over and over like the movie.
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