El Condor/Villa Rides.


The score from EL CONDOR has been on my wants list for 40 years, I am being truthful about this, as soon as I saw the movie and heard the opening theme by Maurice Jarre I wanted the soundtrack. I checked the publicity posters for the film and yes there it was soundtrack album available etc. So off I went cash in hand to the local record store, but no it was not available and has never been available, this soon become my holy grail, as I had heard that certain radio stations were sent copies of the music on white label long playing records, I offered money to presenters on the BBC who looked at me as if I were mad. But the LP was never found in any archive of any radio station; even the illustrious radio 2 denied knowledge of it. So it’s been a long time coming, was it worth the wait, hell YES! EL CONDOR the movie was I think appealing to many cinema goers because at the time of its release, the Italian western had already established itself, and was a popular genre with Joe public. EL CONDOR was one of the numerous American or Hollywood produced western that had a kind of duel identity, by this I mean it was essentially an American production, but it also had certain similarities to the spaghetti western. These similarities included the location where it was filmed (in Spain) and also its unlikely but highly entertaining plot. The movie was a hit with fans of the western genre as a whole and appealed to both schools of western film connoisseurs i.e. Hollywood and European. The film has over the years retained its following because of screenings on television and also because of the movie being released on VHS (hopefully a DVD will be in the shops soon). Jarre’s score is at times as offbeat as the films storyline, but the music that the composer wrote is in many ways a reinvention of the classic western score as created by composers such as Bernstein, Moross and Steiner, plus it contains musical oddities and stand out trademarks that can too be associated with the European approach to scoring the western. In fact what Jarre did when he scored western movies was formulate, conceive and create a unique sound that was all his own and one that did not belong to any collective of styles that had been previously associated or were at that time still associated with the genre, Jarre’s unique approach was maybe influenced in small ways by certain other examples, but in essence was the style and trademark of Maurice Jarre alone.

Like in many scores by Maurice Jarre, the Main Title for EL CONDOR begins with an array of percussive instruments, in this case it is tambourines being vigorously shaken and beaten supported and punctuated by piano and castanets, these are joined by various other members of the percussion section, strumming guitars and underlying strings that build to a crescendo that ushers in the catchy central theme from the score performed on harmonica mirrored by cimbalom. The theme moves along at a brisk pace developing and picking up additional instrumentation along the way until it segues into an arrangement of the theme performed on Mexican sounding trumpet supported by strings and up tempo strumming on guitars, this returns swiftly to a full working of the theme which is taken on by the string section, and brings the opening cue to its conclusion. Stirring material which sets the scene perfectly for the remainder of the score. Track 2, BALLAD FOR TWO GUITARS, is just that, a lazy but melodious sounding composition performed on two Spanish guitars, that pick out a plaintive and pleasing ballad, the guitars are later in the cue augmented by the delicate placing of a solo flute, which although short lived has the desired effect of adding a touch of melancholy to the proceedings. Track 3, BEFORE THE ATTACK, is another arrangement of the scores central theme, this time the composer utilizing harmonica, minimal brass and woods to begin with then adding cimbalom and plucked strings combined with an almost fuzzy guitar sound with harpsichord flourishes and stabs, these components combine to build an atmosphere that is tense but one that also has an air of mischief about it. This eventually leads into a more martial sounding version of the theme that in turn develops further into a short sharp up tempo working of the central theme, performed on strings, brass and supported by percussive elements. Track 4, HIGH TENSION AND BROKEN WALTZ, is a veritable smorgasbord of instrumentation and styles, Mexican flavours are fused with a comic air at the offset of the cue, but the mood changes quite quickly as the composer employs a slower tempi to the proceedings and treats us to another version of the haunting main theme, harmonica, trumpet, piano, strings and percussion all take part creating an entertaining and inventive composition.
Track 5, is one of my personal favourites on the compact disc, it is a bouncy version of the theme, performed by trumpet which is played in unison with cimbalom enhanced and embellished by tambourines being shaken, the rack develops in volume and also the tempo is increased as the strings are added to the mix punctuated by the use of castanets as a jaunty Mariachi trumpet solo takes the lead. This is a gem of a score and one that has been laying around too long, collectors all over the world should thank Stephane Lerouge for the dedication and hard work on this soundtrack and also thank him for his tireless efforts in bringing us the ECOUTEZ LE CINEMA ! series on Universal France. The collection as a whole is a must for any self respecting film music collector, as it contains some of the finest music ever written for the cinema, EL CONDOR is certainly a worthy addition to the series. Maurice Jarre could not believe that he was asked to score westerns, after all the western was an all American genre, or at least it was up until the Italians began to create their own particular take on it. Jarre who thought that he was too French to be associated with westerns just had an uncanny knack of creating infectious and highly melodic soundtracks for the genre of the sagebrush saga, his music not only serving well the images on screen but also being an entertaining entity away from those images. The most amazing thing about this release is we don’t just get EL CONDOR but we also get another Jarre classic western score, VILLA RIDES/PANCHO VILLA. The 1968 western starred Yul Brynner with hair, and Hollywood legend Robert Mitchum. Again Jarre provided a more than adequate score, and even incorporated the rather cheeky sounding, La Cucaracha into the fabric of his original score, thus giving the work shades of authenticity. The composers triumph sounding central theme which opens the score, (track 11) Comes complete with whistling, strummed guitars, slow building percussion and builds to an inspiring crescendo which is patriotic and stimulating is the foundation for the entire work, it is heard in various arrangements throughout but it remains fresh and invigorating the whole time. The composer also treats to a handful of what I call secondary themes but they are in no way second class, as in Track number 12, MUCH MORE MONEY, this is a lively and highly entertaining cue, which contains a delightful mariachi style that is contagious listening. Track 13, WALTZ IN THE CLOUDS is just a wonderful listening experience with Jarre employing strings to accentuate and carry a rousing theme to accompany Pancho Villa on his revolutionary path. THE LOVE THEME, track 16, is a variant of the central theme, but Jarre gives it a light airy waltz treatment, which is followed by a delicate and emotive Mexican serenade performed by guitar and male vocal embellished and underlined by strings.
The grand piece of the score must be track 20, THE BATTLE, Jarre squeezes everything possible into this track, arranges and links all the major themes within the score together in a masterful and high energy piece which thrills and inspires. Again, Jarre delivers a work of much quality and also a score that is exciting, stirring and entertaining, overflowing with sweeping almost epic themes and energetic passages to accompany a turbulent but thrilling period in history. The compact disc is as always packaged extremely well by Universal France, and contains striking art work and informative sleeve notes. A must have score an essential purchase.

Snow White and the Huntsman.


This I have to say straight away is a wonderful score, each time I hear a new work from James Newton Howard I think “That’s his best”. Then along comes another and I say the same thing, this is because he is probably one of the most consistently good composers that is working in film today. SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN is a real blockbusting action packed movie and Newton Howard has produced a score that matches the action supremely. The soundtrack also contains some of the most emotive and heartrending compositions that I have heard in a long while. The composer creating magical and mysterious themes which enthral and excite the listener. The opening track, SNOW WHITE begins with a faraway and lonely sounding horn which plaintively but effectively establishes an atmosphere of solitude, this all to brief introduction melts away and is replaced by sparingly utilized piano laced with a shimmering sound that creates a magical atmosphere alongside fleeting interludes from violin that are underlined by darker sounding strings which infuse a more ominous sound into the composition. But we still hear the more emotive and melancholy sounding theme that eventually rises above the darker elements bringing poignancy and light back into the piece. The composer utilizing warm sounding strings, woods and horn to further establish the theme. Track number 2, I’LL TAKE YOUR THRONE, is a more threatening and powerfully urgent piece the composer combining symphonic and electronic to create a threatening and tension filled composition the emphasis being put upon the utilization of snarling brass which is supported and augmented by booming percussion and authoritative sounding strings, the cue does subside part way through and is handed to less aggressive strings which take the cue to its conclusion. Track three TOWER PRAYERS, includes a particularly unsettling beginning which is a one note motif being repeated at roughly 5 second intervals this is joined by a lonely sounding woodwind that in turn gives way to delicately placed piano underlined by strings which are sinewy in their sound plus the composer subtly adds to the mix a low percussive element that creates an overall atmosphere of unease. For me track number eleven is the highlight of the score THE WHITE HART is a delicate and emotive piece, strings underline solo piano and an almost shimmering effect these segue into a delightful and heart felt violin solo which is supported by the string section and punctuated with woodwind, a horn is added which conjures up a feeling of security and brings much to the composition, the string section then return and perform a sumptuous and lush sounding theme which strikes at the heart strings, this luxurious sound is interrupted abruptly by jagged sounding strings and synthetics and embellished by brass and harsh sounding string stabs which stride forward and take control of the proceedings creating a taught and dramatic conclusion for this track.
The remainder of the score is equally as good as the tracks I have described and includes two songs, GONE by Ionna Gika and BREATH OF LIFE by Florence and The Machine, both of which are very good. This is probably one of the composers best scores, well to date any way. Well worth adding to your collection, it is epic in proportion and also just as epic in quality. Highly recommended.

The Hills Run Red.


Often a neglected or overlooked score even by hardened Morricone fans, THE HILLS RUN RED is in every sense of the word a classic and also a key work within the genre of the Italian or spaghetti western. Originally released on a bootleg LP record on the POO label at the same time as THE HORNETS NEST, the soundtrack was crying out for an official release, at last some thirty years after the release of the unofficial recording, came a compact disc issue on the film score monthly label, this was released as part of a box set of MGM scores that also included a wide range of scores from the 1960s through to the 1970s and coincidently THE HORNETS NEST. Why then release the score again on a single compact disc so soon after the FSM release. Well, there were a number of collectors who missed out on the box set because of its limited production run and being a Morricone score and also a western it would be remiss not to issue this as stand alone disc as well. The score is essentially constructed around two principal themes. The central core of the work being made up of various versions of a driving and energetic piece that includes infectious trumpet flourishes which are like mini fanfares heralding the onset of the remainder of the cue which includes racing snares, choir and urgent sounding strings that segue into the main body of the theme which is performed in the main by brass supported by choir. Gianna Spagnola features prominently within the score and her distinct vocalising brings a certain earthiness and raw ambiance to the work. There is no doubt that this is a classic work from the Maestro and anyone watching the movie for the first time would be aware that it was his unmistakable and individual style from the opening strains of the music in the pre credits sequence. The other theme that is present is lighter and more melancholy in its sound and style, and is performed in vocal and instrumental versions. The vocal version HOME TO MY LOVE opens the compact disc, and is for me anyway an entertaining and uncomplicated cue, which has many affiliations with Morricones vocal themes for A PISTOL FOR RINGO, RETURN OF RINGO and also other western ditty’s such as LONESOME BILLY etc. 

This theme is utilised within the film at moments of sadness and also when the central character is returning home or has returned to his home finding it derelict and that his wife is dead and his child is missing. The composer provides us with a particularly touching music box version of the theme where he embellishes and supports the central music box feature with light and poignant strings. The vocal version also makes more than one appearance throughout the running time of the compact disc, and is heard in Italian as well as English, with a full instrumental of the cue also being included. If you were fortunate enough to get the MGM box set from FSM then maybe you are thinking I wont bother with this release, as it is the same in content and also sound quality, ok that is fair comment. But, where this release comes into its own is in the presentation department, it contains a number of rare and colourful stills from the movie, striking front cover art work and a great back cover illustration plus alternative notes to the FSM release. This is an essential purchase for all devotees of Morricone and for all fans of the Italian western genre; this is a limited edition for collectors of 1,000 discs. Highly recommended

Spara Gringo Spara.


Another Spaghetti western score from the late 1960s that has to be referred to as a classic example of Italian film scoring. The music is by the seasoned composer Sante Maria Romitelli, who provides us with a score that just bursts with energy and vibrant original musical content. It boasts a number of up tempo almost beat/pop tracks which are entertaining, foot tapping stuff. The score also includes a number of tracks that can be categorised as dramatic, symphonic and near operatic, like many scores for westerns which were produced in Italy during the 1960s and 1970s the soundtrack features performances on electric guitar, harpsichord, trumpet and organ, which are either as solo instruments or as a combination of all of these elements to create a score that is not only perfect for the movie it was written for, but also has the ability to stand alone away from the images and remain an entertaining and interesting work. SPARA GRINGO SPARA is a soundtrack that is made up of themes for the films principal characters. For example TEMA DI STARK (track number 7) is a powerhouse of a cue, it begins with an organ motif which is joined and eventually overwhelmed by strings and brass, this then leads into an electric guitar solo, backed up by organ and vibes, the track develops into a full blown version of the theme for Stark, which is carried along by the string section with organ and guitar making entrances along the way, certainly stirring and inspiring stuff. There are also a handful of compositions on the soundtrack that can be described as suspense cues, not really musical or thematic, but nevertheless go to make up an interesting part of this score. Another great release from the GDM/Hillside partnership, hopefully more CAM soundtracks will be issued on their label,as items such as BURY THEM DEEP, ONE MORE FOR HELL, and TO THE LAST DROP OF BLOOD, all by composer Nico Fidenco,have been a great success for the label and its owner/producer Lionel Woodman. They too have released a number of Italian western scores by composers such as Gianni Marchetti andRobby Poitevin which have been equally successful. The CD is packaged well, with striking art work and the sound quality is amazing. Well worth a listen, as I am confident that once in the CD player it may stay there for a while.



RIDDLE, is a thriller which was released in cinemas in the United States in January 2013, by all accounts the film did not do that well at box office, but there again I heard a number of reports that said it was a good movie and also as many saying it was not that special, unfortunately I have at this time not seen the film so I am unable to comment upon its credibility or its quality etc. However I am able to review the soundtrack for the movie, granted I can only do this on the basis of listening to the music as just music but I think I know a good score when I hear one. I have to say straight away I think that the composer Scott Glasgow has fashioned a work that is entertaining and also one that contains some great orchestration and dramatic writing. This is a darkly attractive score and I love the way in which the composer has constructed it. The soundtrack opens with THE PRELUDE which has a fairly light sounding introduction, strings and harp are utilized to create a mesmerizing and haunting foreword to the proceedings, but this introduction soon segues into something that is more sinister and shady in its atmospherics and mood. The thing is the composer seems to add nothing more to the mix instrument wise, by this I mean he seems to utilize the same instrumentation but configures and uses it in another way to create this darker mood, the composition swings from a fairly light piece into a brooding and richly murky composition, but the transition is seamless, in fact I went back over the cue a few times to listen because the change of atmosphere is so faultless, plus the composition switches again at the end of the cue into a lighter mood with a lullaby of sorts being played out underlined by strings. I also had a feeling of de-ja vu whilst listening to the opening as I thought I heard subtle references to Goldsmith and also some gentle nods of recognition to the work ofBernard Herrmann. Track 2, GHOST TOWN, certainly contains more darkness than light as we have no pleasantries in the way of tuneful melodies present here, but still the music for me remains interesting and enticing, it may not be filled with melodic thematic properties, but there is a certain attractiveness present, it draws the listener into a web of rich atmospherics that are foreboding in there construction and sound, these include cimbalom sounding instrumentation underlined by dark strings, with almost growling brass bringing up support and the added enhancement of a visceral string stab that momentarily slices through the low sounding strings causing the listener to sit up and take notice, the darkly intense atmosphere is further embellished by synthetic support that adds a certain unworldly air to the proceedings. 

Track number three,SIGNS OF NATE, is performed predominantly by the string section with just a brief appearance of subdued percussion that acts as a punctuation at the cues opening, this composition too has a sound about it that can be likened to Herrmann, it is a fairly short lived cue but certainly makes its mark upon the listener. Vibrantly urgent strings build into a near furious crescendo that would not be out of place in any Hitchcock thriller, again I have to say that although the music is not melodic in its overall sound it still remains attractive in a strange atonal way. The composer has created a score that is certainly vibrant and for the most part is a dark and highly atmospheric work, but there are also a number of lighter moments that are delicate and subtle interludes sprinkled throughout the soundtrack which contain a high level of emotion or at least infuse emotion and poignancy into the work, these are relayed by a calming solo piano performance, heartrending violin solo and a there is also the use of a theme that has a music box sound to it that creates an atmosphere that is calming but at the same moment chilling, this I think lulls the listener into a false sense of security adding a slither of calm into a tense and abundantly fearsome sounding score. RIDDLE is a soundtrack that I would most definitely recommend, it is in my humble opinion in the same league as Herrmann’s VERTIGO and contains shades of Goldsmiths steamy scores for MALICE and BASIC INSTINCT.