The music that Murray Gold has written for the Dr Who series is magnificent; it would be hard I think to select any one score and even harder to pick a particular cue that I could name as my favourite or preferred listen. His scores are so varied and fresh, like the series itself.  The composer reinvents his music on every outing and maintains a high standard and consistent quality within his vibrant and highly dramatic soundtracks that accompany the Doctor on his time travels encountering strange and often malevolent aliens and beings. This latest release from Silva Screen has made it even more difficult to say this is my favourite cue etc, simply because there is so much music crammed into the two CD set, it includes music from no less than 13 episodes from the seventh series of the programme, and I have to say it is a very impressive collection of tremendously melodic, poignant and also dramatic sounding music. The composer I have always said should be working on big budget movies, his music for Dr Who, surely must have reached the ears of Hollywood film makers or European directors and producers. I was particularly pleased that A TOWN CALLED MERCY was represented on the disc, as I for one enjoyed this immensely. Gold makes more than a gentle nod in the direction of Morricone and also parodies Elmer Bernstein’s now classic Magnificent seven theme briefly within the six cues that represent this particular episode. He also brings into play a robust and equally expansive sounding western theme which although short lived is certainly attention grabbing, then he launches into a more Italian or spaghetti sound, in the track GUNSLINGERS, which includes choir and horns that are all brought together and underlined by an upbeat backing track giving it a slightly more contemporary atmosphere. Then we have the excellent and haunting cue THE SALVATION OF KAHLER JEX, which has again the sound of spaghetti about it, but also Gold enhances this with his own highly original style to create a piece that makes the listener sit up and take notice, female vocal is supported by sparing use of banjo and percussion, and as the track progresses the composer adds strings and brass plus he increases the tempo and underlines this with rumbling percussive elements which culminates in a rousing and highly effective crescendo of sorts.

English: Murray Gold in his studio.
Murray Gold in his studio. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The composer’s utilization of voice within his scores for the Dr Who series in particular has created a wonderfully ethereal atmosphere to his music and also has indeed created some magical and at times shuddering and icy moments. I think that this is demonstrated to a higher degree in Gold’s superbly effecting music for THE ANGELS TAKE MANHATTAN, this particular score for me demonstrates the composers ability to write quite large scale pieces and also within this episode I felt that he provided a highly vibrant soundtrack that in many ways evoked the work of Jerry Goldsmith within the action led sections and also echoed the melodic style of John Barry at the same time. Track number 28, TOGETHER OR NOT AT ALL-THE SONG OF AMY AND RORY is a sheer delight, tender and emotive but in the same instant  it is proud and brimming with drama, plus track number 29, GOODBYE POND, is heartbreakingly beautiful and filled with so much emotion and melodic lushness, one cannot fail to be moved by its overwhelming and captivating presence. But let us also not forget to mention the opening section on disc one, ASYLUM OF THE DALEKS,a great storyline for this particular outing of the Doctors most dreaded enemy, and the composer underlines this with a score that reflects perfectly the ominous and fearsome foe that the time lord must face. The opening track, THEY ARE EVERYWHERE, is certainly a dark and fearsome piece, which at times again evokes a certain Barry-esque persona, with Gold employing faraway sounding horns, but in a threatening fashion rather than a subdued or melodic way. Track number 3, DALEK PARLIAMENT is a manic and furious sound, which is urgent and inescapable; strings, percussion and jagged brass combine to generate this wild and uneasy piece. This latest release from Silva Screen is a Dr Who fans dream come true and also a real treat for any film music enthusiast. There are so many themes here, in fact this is a Tardis like release because it is amazing that there is so much musical wealth contained on just two discs. I urge you to buy this it is a treasure trove of thematic excellence, and one that should be in every film music fans collection.



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GRAND PIANO is a wonderfully taught and deliciously suspense filled drama. It stars Elijah Wood, John Cusack, Dee Wallace and Alex Winter. Who all perform outstandingly under the directorship of Eugenio Mira. The filmmaker has put together this vexing and urgent piece of cinema which is a superb thriller that is centred around just one performance that could be a matter of life and death.  GRAND PIANO follows Tom Selznick(wood) who is a gifted pianist and one who is returning to the stage after an absence of five years, this was brought about by him giving a disastrous rendition of LA CINQUETTE which is also referred to as the unplayable piece. As you can imagine Selznick is nervous about his return but this is further impacted upon when he finds out he is to play the same piano that he performed on stage last. Plus he is given more pressure when he opens his score book to find written in large red letters PLAY ONE WRONG NOTE AND YOU DIE, (obviously Simon Cowell on a good day), So gripping and exciting stuff. The music is by Spanish born composer Victor Reyes, of course this Maestro has along with many of his fellow countryman who work as film composers had a steady and some what heady rise to prominence in the past five years or so and I for one am of the opinion that we have Spanish film music composers to thank for the re-emergence of the fully symphonic soundtrack in recent years. Ok I know John Williams and also John Barry and Jerry Goldsmith were probably the main composers to bring back into play the fully orchestral film score, Williams in-particular evoking the music of the golden age of cinema with his rip roaring scores for STAR WARS etc. But film music from Spain has you have to admit been of the highest quality and at times has certainly outstripped and outshone scores from Hollywood in more recent times,  so much so that Hollywood turned to Spanish composers to score big budget movies, introducing film music collectors to a whole new legion of composers.  GRAND PIANO contains a classical sounding score, which given the films subject matter should not come as a surprise. Reyes music is glorious and opulent and at times evokes memories of THE LEGEND OF THE GLASS MOUNTAIN and even THE WARSAW CONCERTO, but it is more than just a piano concerto, in fact the music works on a number of levels, firstly it is the music being performed in concert and is richly decadent and wonderfully entertaining and inspiring, filled with passion and emotion. Secondly it works as a film score, it supports the action on screen and combined with some clever camera shots and split second editing it is able to create such a tense and also at times urgent atmosphere. Then it entertains as just music, away from the images and totally away from the movie, after all it is a concerto and successfully works as a stand alone piece of music, the composer has managed to relay moods that are filled with romance and written dramatic and also unsettling themes in abundance that ooze a nervous tension and also have about them a sense of desperation and frustration.


The composer supports the central instrument (piano) with wonderfully lush and lavish sounding strings that are romantically led but also have an underlying sense of the macabre or dangerous, these emotions are further added to by the support of percussion and also brass that punctuate and stab at times within the work.  I think the composer has succeeded in creating a work that serves the movie extremely well but also there is no doubt at all that one could listen to this music all day and not tire of it without the images it was intended to enhance. There have been a few comments about the music in the movie being performed by synthesised means, I cannot be certain but I am of the opinion that this is probably not the case, the work sounds to robust, too rounded and rich ,but there again I could be wrong.  The opening theme for the score is a riveting piece, and has I think affiliations with both Ennio Morricone and French composer, Jacques Loussier, Reyes utilizes a dark and threatening  piano that almost lumbers into the cue and introduces a gradual build up of the theme, strings and a collection of percussive elements add to the proceedings and create a somewhat complex and shadowy atmosphere. If you have heard the opening theme for THE DARK OF THE SUN by Loussier you will know what I am referring to, the opening builds and builds creating a nervous tension as it does so, but ends abruptly leaving the listener almost dangling in mid air suffering from anxiety. 

The movie itself is I think a throwback from the past, or at least the plot seems to be straight out of Hitchcock’s book on how to make a drama, but at least it is an entertaining piece of cinema that has one on the edge of your seat, and keeps you entertained throughout. Reyes energetic and beautifully powerful music greatly aids the tension and fraught atmosphere and is certainly more than a background or a film score.  Both film and score are highly recommended.





Steel_magnolias_(2012)If like me you have been collecting soundtracks for a few years now (50 years), then when you here the title STEEL MAGNOLIAS you straight away think of composer Georges Delerue who penned a gracious and highly melodic score for the original movie. This latest version of the story is a made for TV movie which will air on the Lifetime channel on November 4th in the U.K. It is a contemporary reworking of the now classic tearjerker, directed by Kenny Leon and stars among others, Queen Latifah, Alfre Woodard and Phylicia Rashad, it tells the story of six outstanding and remarkable American Southern States women who support each other and are there for each other through what ever life throws at them, this truly moving romantic drama also stars Jill Scott, Condola Rashad and Adepero Oduyem. The music for this movie is the work of composer William Ross, now here is a composer who has worked steadily over the years and during this time has produced some wonderful scores for both cinema and television. STEEL MAGNOLIAS is certainly no exception to this rule, it is a highly emotive work that has many delicate and pleasing nuances that seem to start out as small but attractive pieces and then flourish and grow into even more beautiful and melodious themes that captivate as well as entertain the listener. The composer puts to effective use solo piano and supports this with strings that are lush, romantic, melancholy and comedic (when pizzicato is used) in their sound and style, he also makes effective use of little woodwind touches that further enhance and embellish the proceedings, and also includes woodwind as main instrumentation on a few of the cues. It is difficult to put Delerue’s score out of ones head, but I assure you if you can you are in for a wonderful listening treat. The compact disc opens with THE MAIN TITLE, this begins with solo piano that is underlined by plucked bass’s which punctuate and add depth to the theme that is being introduced by the piano, piano fades away as do the plucked bass‘s and are replaced by low strings that them selves act as a background to at first a fairly low key motif performed by woodwind, this acts as an introduction to the piano which re-emerges into the composition. Little woodwind flourishes are added as the track progress’s and although fairly brief it engages the listener and creates an atmosphere that is calming and faintly intriguing. Jumping forward in the track listings to cue number 5, SHELBY AND M’LYNN’S FAREWELL, strings introduce the cue slowly, as piano begins to pick out the 4 note central melody which is also slow but touching and poignant, strings then work their way back into the cue and lift the piece slightly in tempo and also make it much lighter and happier sounding. This is rather short lived as an air of sadness seems to return with piano once again taking centre stage supported by subdued strings.
In many ways I was reminded of Ennio Morricone’s central theme from LOVE AFFAIR with this cue and in fact there are a number of moments within the score when one could be forgiven for think that we were listening to Morricone. Ross uses the strings and also the woodwind in a similar fashion and whilst these are acting as a background the piano is performing a simple theme that just tugs at the heart strings and steals the show as it were. The core theme for the soundtrack can be heard throughout the work and it weaves its way in and out of various tracks creating this calming but at the same time pleasing and highly emotive atmosphere. Most of the tracks on the release are fairly short although there are a couple Track 15, SHELBY’S COLLAPSE which runs for over 8 mins, and is a musical exercise in how to create pure emotion, strings again along with piano and woodwind create a touching and affecting piece. Also there is, NEVER BE SORRY which is the final track on the disc which runs for just over 4 mins and is a fitting finale to the soundtrack, the composer giving more work to the woodwind within this cue. I suppose it is unfair to compare this score with the Delerue work but lets just say, this soundtrack by William Ross certainly holds its own and also has within it some beautiful themes and elegant tone poems that will I know melt a few hearts and bring a tear to a few eyes also.




An adventure movie that combines Indiana Jones and also a bit of Jurassic Park and leans towards Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, so put these together and what have you got ?  A grand adventure yarn that will be enjoyed by kids of all ages, including adult kids too. This is a Norwegian production, which contains a pretty good storyline and some stunning photography of Norway’s beautiful countryside. The story revolves around an archaeologist Sigurd Svendsen, who has some fairly off the wall ideas which are very much akin to the central characters way of thinking in STARGATE. Svendsen is played by Pal Sverre Hagen who you may remember giving a brilliant performance in KON-TIKI. Svendsen is an archaeologist who is really engrossed into the Viking culture and history and is a little obsessed with the famed OSEBERG SHIP, his theory is that the ship sailed further than it is believed. Accompanied by his daughter and son he sets off to locate a bottomless lake that was named by the Vikings as ODINS EYE, thus the adventure begins. Ok it may not be a great movie, but it is an entertaining one. The musical score is by Norwegian composer Magnus Beite, and this too is pretty impressive, the film is obviously not a massive budget production, but there certainly has been no penny pinching on the musical side of things. Beite’s score is a stunning work that is magical and epic in its overall sound and style. Symphonic and gloriously powerful with a lushness that contains rich textures and vivid and vibrant musical colours. Fervent and driving strings are evident in abundance along with a both fearsome and celestial sounding choir and solo female voice. But what struck me more than anything else was the sheer grandeur of the music that the composer has produced for this movie, and also that there are so many themes within this one work.


Composer Magnus Beite.

It is essentially an adventure score, but also has its fair share of romantically slanted themes and nuances, which compliment and enhance the more robust moments of the work. I suppose one could describe this as Williams-esque in places with the power of Jerry Goldsmith occasionally creeping in and also the melodic and emotive sound of John Barry holding things together at times, there is also an infectious and inventive style of writing present that can be compared or likened with the film music of composers such as Silvestri and Newton Howard, it is an inspiring work that is at times relentless and booming, but at all times entertaining and enthralling. It does of course have its quieter moments and also posse’s interludes that are low key and filled with a nervous tension, this is a score that because of being for a small production might get overlooked, and that is why I have decided to review it, for film music lovers to miss out on hearing this would be a crime, Highly recommended. 






THE WIND RISES opened to a mixed reaction in Japan, it was  looked upon by many to kind of support or condone the actions of the Japanese Empire during the times of ww 2, and was seen to put on pedestals the designers of fighter planes such as the infamous Zero, which was used during the war by the Japanese forces and is immediately associated with the attack on Pearl Harbour and also the dreaded Kamikaze Pilots that deliberately crashed their planes into ships and buildings causing death and destruction. However although the movie was criticized it was also gazed upon with much affection because of its stunning and beautiful appearance and presentation. Filmmaker and animator Hayao Miyazaki created an animated motion picture that is a sheer delight to the eyes of cinema goers. The esteemed and revered movie maker has had a career that is filled with triumphs, these include, PRINCESS MONONOKE, HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, SPIRITED AWAY and THE VALLEY OF THE WIND. His studio which goes under the name of Studio Ghibli, has produced some of the most alluring and insightful movies that although are all animated deal with important issues such as the environment and tackle a plethora of controversial matters. It is probably true to say that the acclaimed animator is responsible for increasing the popularity of the Japanese anime genre outside of Japan with his films and has converted the most anti of critics and cinema goers with his striking and attractive artistry. Miyazaki has since the early 1980,s utilized the musical skills of Joe Hisaishi for his movies and the composer has created some wonderfully melodic and emotive soundtracks to enhance the images on screen.  Hisaishi’s music has underlined, punctuated and ingratiated these sometimes controversial, complex but entertaining stories and somehow has given them greater depth and warmth, adding higher levels of emotion and sensitivity to the proceedings, the music itself becoming not just  background or support but integrating with the characters and the stunning animation to become an integral and important component of the filmmaking process. The relationship between director and composer here, can I suppose be likened to the Morricone/Leone partnership or the creative collaboration of Speilberg and Williams and also to a degree the Hitchcock/Herrmann partnership.




English: Hayao Miyazaki at the 2009 San Diego ...
English: Hayao Miyazaki at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


  Hisaishi has over the years become a popular and highly respected figure within film music circles, his largely symphonic scores are normally filled with lush and at times opulent thematic material that is enhanced further by choir and an array of superb solo performances and I am confident that if the composer worked more frequently outside of his homeland he would become a household name very quickly. Animator Miyazaki has collaborated with Hisaishi on more than a dozen films and each project has brought forth exquisite results both musically and on screen. Hisaishi’s score for THE WIND RISES is filled with rich and infectious compositions, that purvey emotion and also drama, but at the same time the composer creates moments that are delicate and fragile-like. The score itself is moulded around three central themes, one of these being somewhat Sicilian in its style and it is this composition that opens the compact disc entitled, JOURNEY (DREAMY FLIGHT) the composer utilizes accordion and also mandolin and embellishes these with guitar to shape this Italian sounding piece. In fact if one were to listen to it without knowing who the composer was one would probably surmise that it was the work of Rota or maybe Luis Bacalov. Hisaishi makes excellent use of this theme throughout the score and it returns on a number of occasions, at times with a slightly more up-beat or faster tempi or with slightly differing instrumentation.  Hisaishi adding timpani and a military sounding beat that gives it a more urgent persona.  It is this theme that accompanies the films central character Jiro, it underlines and supports the characters aspirations and hopes of working with planes, at first it something of a surprise that the theme is somewhat Italian flavoured, I suppose because one gets a fixed idea that it is a Japanese production, but when you take into consideration that Jiro,s hero is an Italian that designs aeroplanes it soon fits and makes perfect sense, I also felt that this theme contained a hint of  sound that resembled that of a brass or colliery band in the background which is also present in track number 8, CAPRONI  but that is just a personal observation.





Joe Hisaishi en Le Zénith de Paris
Joe Hisaishi en Le Zénith de Paris (Photo credit: citykane)

 As I have said the JOURNEY composition is given a number of outings within the score the most energetic and full version is heard in track number 15, which is sub-titled WIND OF ITALIA, accordion and mandolin play in unison accompanied by tuba and strings giving the composition and even more Italian sound to it. Then we have a rather more subdued and delicate sounding piece that the composer uses to accompany Jiro’s wife, a woman who he shares his aspirations with and one who supports and loves him through good times and bad.



This is displayed perfectly in track number 5, Naoko, in which a fragile sounding piano solo picks out the simple but affecting theme, with piano performance courtesy of the composer. All in all this is a lovely score filled with themes that are essentially simple and caress the movie gently and with care and tenderness but are also effective  as stand alone pieces of music that  work wonderfully.  I have no reservations in recommending this soundtrack.