John Carter.

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There has been much hype and anticipation surrounding JOHN CARTER and by the look of early trailers and previews, it’s a movie which will not disappoint. The musical score has also been eagerly awaited. Composer Michael Giacchino has in a relatively short period of time established himself as a respected and sought after purveyor of film scores. I know it sounds rather clichéd when I say that as a composer he is chameleon-like because he has the ability to adapt and work on any type of genre and creates successful and memorable scores each and every time – but it is true. The award-winning maestro has scored many of the box office hits of the past five years and has attracted the attention not only of his peers but also of critics and film music collectors alike. Giacchino has the ability not only to create large and luxurious scores and infuse them with a sound and style reminiscent of the golden and silver ages of film music but also to create modern upbeat sound-scapes that are fresh, rhythmic and infectious – what one would call an all rounder. The score for JOHN CARTER is a sweeping and anthem filled work. It contains exciting and suspense filled cues which are accompanied by high octane action tracks and melodious heroic sounding compositions, bound together by the composer’s use of an unworldly sound created by strings, choir, solo voice and faraway sounding brass, enhanced and embellished by subtle utilization of woodwind. The score also has its fair share of interesting percussive elements which add great depth and relay an atmosphere of tension and urgency to the proceedings. There is certainly no doubt that the composer gives more than a gentle nod in the direction of John Williams within this expansive and lavishly constructed work but there is certainly reference to a certain Mr Goldsmith too, as in track three, “Gravity of the Situation”, which begins slowly and rather quietly with solo violin punctuated by pizzicato strings but soon whips into a short lived but enjoyable waltz, rich in melody, oozing charm and elegance.

Track five “Sab Than Pursues the Princess” is one of the score’s highlights. Giacchino creates a tense and vibrant composition, carried by urgent and lush sounding strings supported by booming percussion and further enhanced and augmented by brass which is both rasping and proud in its sound. It’s a great piece which showcases and brings to life one of the central themes for the movie and it demonstrates just how good the composer is in delivering hard nosed action cues. This is real high-energy material; nigh on relentless in its onslaught. Track eight, “The Blue Light Special”, is also a cue worthy of note. This is a calmer sounding piece, with the composer putting to good use solo voice and subtle choir alongside plaintive sounding strings, which increase in their volume and also their richness to create a bitter-sweet theme.
Giacchino, is one of the biggest talents in Hollywood at this time because he is able to compliment and enhance so many differing genres with scores which work both on and off screen. He is in fact a film music collector’s dream come true because his music does the job it was originally intended for and it has life, substance, and an identity away from the movies.
Giacchino is a composer who will be around for many years to come and JOHN CARTER is a score which is an essential purchase. If you are already into Giacchino you will love it. If you are not yet familiar with his music this will be the start of a beautiful relationship.

THE WRATH OF THE TITANS

Wrath_of_Titans_WTMTHE CLASH OF THE TITANS was a pretty impressive action movie which contained a reasonably suitable score that matched the action but, in saying this, composer Ramin Djawadi did get some criticism from collectors and critics about his music… why? I am not too sure because for me it was good in the movie and that, after all, is what the purpose of a film score is; to work with the movie, enhance it and give depth and atmosphere in places when the picture needs these. However after hearing Javier Naverette’s soundtrack to the sequel THE WRATH OF THE TITANS I am re-evaluating my opinion. This Spanish maestro has produced a score that not only matches the action but elevates it further and propels it at high speed throughout the movie, creating tense, edge of the seat moments throughout.
Navarette’s score lends weighty support to the already exciting motion. The music actually becomes in effect an integral component of the whole thing. The music is action led, which of course goes without saying for this type of film. The composer has written full-on action cues which are at times thunderous and pulsating but also melodic, possessing great substance and stature. This is not merely a score which crashes and booms its way through the movie, it is an intelligent, well written work which has been wonderfully orchestrated by the score’s conductor Nicholas Dodd. The entire work is majestic, potent and haunting, and has elements within it which sound fearful and commanding – an unassailable and attention grabbing score which does not fail to deliver. The composer utilizes full orchestra, choir and enhances and further bolsters these with the use of a handful of synthetic elements which bring much to the score but never overwhelm the symphonic resonance of this magnificent and highly entertaining soundtrack.
Javier Navarette is a composer of great worth who can not only can write intimate and mystical themes as demonstrated so eloquently in PANS LABYRINTH but is also able to bring to fruition blockbusting and powerful themes laced with a style and sound which evoke a bygone age of film scoring.

ROSEMARY’S BABY

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I have vivid memories of seeing ROSEMARY’S BABY. It was a classy movie as far as I was concerned; it dealt with the occult but was an intelligent and informed take on the subject of Satanism and devil worship. Polanski’s direction, as always, was good and the script etc all stepped right up to the mark and made it an entertaining experience. One vital component of the movie was the music score. Krzysztof (Christopher) Komeda was a highly original composer who sadly died far too early in 1969 after an accident involving a head injury. Komeda was, as they say, in advance of his time in the music world. His combination of jazz, dramatic and mood music within the context of a movie was quite breathtaking and for ROSEMARY’S BABY the composer certainly wrote an inspired and highly original soundtrack. One cue in particular “What Have You Done?” has always stood out for me and that comes near the end of the movie when Mia Farrow’s character says those immortal words, “What have you done to him? What have you done to his eyes?”

Komeda’s music is chilling and harrowing with a near frantic ambience as he utilizes forceful strings to underscore a mutated sounded trumpet which fades to be overridden by a hypnotic piano solo, backed up by bass and even more hypnotic strings, acting as a backdrop to a chilling soprano saxophone, played in unison with synthesisers. The opening theme or “Lullaby” is also hauntingly outstanding; the use of Mia Farrow’s wordless vocal is stunning and almost calming. This understated rather frail sounding vocal, sets the scene perfectly for the remainder of the score and immediately creates the atmosphere required for the story. We have the innocence of Rosemary but at the same time there is an underlying sense of unease and uncertainty, relayed perfectly to the listener or the watching audience via this cue which tells them that all is maybe not well or as it should be.
This latest incarnation of the soundtrack from La La Land Records contains approximately 72 minutes of music which includes material from the original DOT records 1968 LP (DLP 25875) plus two cues tracks 1 and 36 which are versions of the lullaby arranged by George Tipton a performance by Tommy Morgan on harmonica, originally issued on a 45rpm single. Then we have cues from the film score plus source music. So, when they say this is a full release of the music from the movie they are not kidding. Considering that the score was written in 1967/1968 it is certainly one that has real originality to it and the music would not be out of place in any of today’s chillers or horror movies.
The music has worn well throughout the years. I found myself discovering the score all over again and it was like listening to it for the first time. As I listened I could visualize scenes from the movie and hear the dialogue which was quite an uncanny experience. I enjoyed ROSEMARY’S BABY when I first saw the film and have enjoyed it even more over the years on revisiting it. The score too is a personal favourite because of its originality and the ingenuity of the composer.

LA MOGLI GIOVANE

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Stelvio Cipriani was well known as a seasoned composer of music for film even during the early stages of his now long career. He was able to turn his hand and musical style to just about every kind of storyline, genre and scenario. Released in 1975, LA MOGLIE GIOVANE contained a haunting and pleasing score. The 1970s were the busiest period for Cipriani and during that decade he worked on numerous films, including more than a few westerns, a scattering of dramas, romances and a fair share of horror movies, giallo’s and police dramas, with a light sprinkling of comedies.

LA MOGLI GIOVANE is fairly typical of Cipriani but he is not a typical composer, so the music is not only highly romantic and tuneful but also has upbeat and dramatic moments. For the majority of the score Cipriani relies upon a light and pop oriented sound, strings, piano, subdued harpsichord flourishes, organ, saxophone, percussion and understated but effective woodwind, all coming together to create a work which is easy on the ear with a laid back, relaxing atmosphere. What I’m saying is that this isn’t complicated or difficult to listen to. It’s a soundtrack one can easily leave playing in the background but of which one is still able to pick out certain musical passages, musical phrases and catchy themes. In many ways it reminded me of the composer’s THE ANONYMOUS VENETIAN – it has that sound to it. This “sound” is more prominent in track 14 when piano and strings combine to create an emotive performance, later joined by solo guitar and subtle harpsichord, underlined by soft strings.
The score is melodic throughout with a highly romantic aura about it. The central theme is repeated throughout with the composer building his secondary themes around it and arranging the haunting composition in a number of ways. These include poignant tone poems, jazz infused cues and easy listening excursions which, once heard, linger for a long time in the listener’s mind. Well presented by BEAT records the CD has excellent sound quality and informative liner notes with a booklet containing stills from the film.

LA FACCI VIOLENTA DI NEW YORK

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Riz Ortolani is one of the few Italian composers to have achieved major success not only in his own country but also in the United States and elsewhere. His score for MONDO CANE which he co-wrote with Nino Olivero gained him much recognition and the song “More” was an international hit and was recorded by hundreds of artists all over the world. Ortolani is one of the most lyrical Italian composers. He creates simple but wonderfully haunting melodies and has the ability to elevate a film’s storyline and scenario to a greater level via the placing of music and the style of music he employs. He is no stranger to police dramas and Giallo films and has scored numerous romantic films and westerns. Many think that Ortolani was not suited for Spaghetti westerns because his music was romantically slanted or at least not as raw and savage as other scores within the genre by other composers. He disproved those ideas when he produced the high energy and action packed theme and score for DAY OF ANGER and THE HUNTING PARTY.

 

 

LA FACCI VIOLENTA DI NEW YORK is a score with many styles within its perimeters. The CD begins with a cue that could easily be mistaken for the work of Lalo Schifrin; Ortolani employing bass, punctuated by piano and supported by a backing track of tense sounding percussion which is tense but not overpowering. Track two is the first outing for the central theme and Ortolani begins with a short introduction of strings, then male solo voice is introduced and mirrored by woodwind with punctuation coming from piano. Percussion is added to the equation as voice, woodwind and trumpet work together to bring the central theme more fully into focus. All this is augmented by strings which add a romantic atmosphere, together with the inclusion of guitar – a cue which put me in mind of the style of Francis Lai. The melody is haunting and the orchestration is perfection. Track three is another variation on the central theme and on this occasion the composition is led by solo guitar, which is then joined by subdued trumpet and underlying strings with piano and percussion creating a mid tempo beat. The score relies greatly on the central theme but Ortolani manages to create new edges to the composition on each outing and arranges and orchestrates it with a freshness and a vibrant musicality so that it remains interesting and above all entertaining. Track five is a nice lounge or easy listening jazz led piece in which the composer makes good and effective use of piano, bass, organ, electric guitar and brushed percussion, creating a club-like atmosphere. Track six is another laid back composition with guitar taking the reins whilst being supported by percussion and piano. Jumping ahead to the final cue, track nineteen is the final cue and is a particularly attractive version of the central theme, performed on a lazy sounding trumpet with luxurious strings supporting and embracing it. The trumpet fades and the strings come into play more prominently with a beautiful working of the theme, bringing the music to a close. The style here is similar to Ortolani’s haunting theme for THE VALACHI PAPERS – lush and emotive.
The score contains some dramatic and tense compositions which I suppose must be taken for granted in a film of this genre but Ortolani also creates numerous relaxed and highly poignant moments within the score which makes for a highly rewarding listen. The composer also makes effective use of Spanish guitar throughout the work and which is a reference to one of the main characters from the film. This score is perfect for lovers of jazzy cool tracks, laid back easy listening music, action cues which are tense, along with romantically laced compositions. In fact there is something for everyone here. The soundtrack for LA FACCIA VIOLENTA DI NEW YORK has certain affiliations with American scores for films of a similar style and the liner notes make appropriate comparisons to Don Ellis’s FRENCH CONNECTION scores and Schifrin’s DIRTY HARRY. There are also moments which evoke Luis Bacalov’s WE STILL KILL THE OLD WAY and, of course, there is also definitely some original Ortolani in there as well. This is a very entertaining soundtrack and one which I recommend.