FLESH AND BLOOD.

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Released in 1985, FLESH AND BLOOD was a kind of medieval version of The Wild Bunch. Its graphic and excessive violence and scenes of a sexual nature being shocking and at times blatantly brutal, but this was supposedly the middle ages and a time of war, famine and plague so maybe the director got it right when he committed his vision of medieval times to celluloid. Paul Verhoeven had made a name for himself in Holland and also in Europe with his own particular brand of film making and had garnered attention from the executives in Hollywood with his movies SOLDIER OF ORANGE and THE 4TH MAN. FLESH AND BLOOD was to be the directors first Hollywood picture, and the filmmaker decided to base his story upon certain segments of a television series that he had worked on some 16 years earlier in Holland, these segments which were unused ideas within the series FLORIS were developed and expanded by Verhoeven and soon became the framework for FLESH AND BLOOD. Rutger Hauer took the lead role in FLORIS so it seemed a natural step to offer the actor the lead in FLESH AND BLOOD, Hauer played the leader of a group of mercenaries who were ruthless, unmerciful and callous who sold their services to the highest bidder, when one such paymaster betrays them they retaliate by taking hostage his future daughter in law. But rather than being terrified their prisoner adapts and embraces their way of life. The musical score for this rip roaring, blood soaked adventure, is the work of Master film music Maestro Basil Poledouris, who sadly passed away far too early after loosing his fight with cancer in 2006. Verhoeven had heard the composer’s epic score for CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982) and wanted him to create an equally epic work for his production. As we all probably know Poledouris did not disappoint with his musical soundtrack for FLESH AND BLOOD and the director must have been pleased because the composer and filmmaker collaborated again on two other movies, ROBOCOP in 1987 and STARSHIP TROOPERS in 1997. Although FLESH AND BLOOD contained a certain amount of the style and sound that Poledouris had employed within CONAN it was not just a reprise of the composers work for the John Milius movie, in fact given the subject matter and also the amount of violence and action within FLESH AND BLOOD the composers score was richly lyrical and romantic at times. Originally released on a VARESE SARABANDE long playing record with 11 tracks then as a CD on the Varese Sarabande club label with the same amount of music tracks, this score was destined to become a rare and sought after commodity by collectors. In 2002 Belgium based Prometheus records re-issued the score as a 21 track CD then again it was re-issued in 2010 on Intrada containing 24 tracks, and lastly or should I say more recently we are presented with the La La Land records re-issue which also contains 24 tracks.

ORIGINAL VARESE SARABANDE LP ART WORK.
ORIGINAL VARESE SARABANDE LP ART WORK.

The compact disc opens with the main title, at first this is a slightly subdued affair but soon steps up a gear and the composer utilizes strings and brass which are enhanced with percussion and the sound of shimmering tambourines that are ably supported by flyaway sounding woodwinds and carried forward by strident strings creating a proud and heroic EL CID like theme. This is fairly short lived but makes it mark and establishes the scores central theme and sets the scene for what is to follow. Track number 2, SIEGE OF THE CITY is another rousing and robust sounding cue, strings and brass once again join forces supported and punctuated by percussion and woodwind flourishes, Poledouris evoking a CONAN like ambience with horns embellishing proceedings throughout creating an almost fearsome atmosphere which is further established by the use of dark and somewhat sombre sounding strings with a subtle touch of organ being added to the mix. The score can be broken down into three central themes, but there are also present numerous sub-motifs and hints of themes that depict an atmosphere which evokes a mood that is gallant but at the same time has a rough and unforgiving rawness to it. We have the battle theme which is also the core theme from the soundtrack, proud and vibrant and containing a flowing richness to it, with bold brass and vociferous strings this is essentially the heart of the composers score. Variations of this theme can be heard throughout the score, Poledouris giving the initial theme a fresh and new lease of life on each outing via clever orchestration and differing arrangements.

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Then we have a duo of love themes, which are both equally beguiling ad beautifully haunting, these two themes are both written with the character of Princess Agnes in mind the first being for her and her future husband which although is a fairly lush and romantic piece seems to lack enthusiasm or real passion, it is a somewhat subdued and fragile sounding composition, which reflects perfectly the inner feelings of the Princess. The second theme d’ amour is a much more focused and fervent sounding composition which is employed in scenes that involve the Princess with the Rutger Hauer character Martin, a full working of this poignant and emotive theme is best heard in track number 14, MARTIN AND AGNES LOVE THEME. Lush and sincere sounding strings taking centre stage and accompanied by soaring woodwind and underlying subtle percussion to create a haunting composition which lingers in the listeners sub conscious long after it has concluded. Poledouris in my opinion was the master of melody and also a talented and highly gifted purveyor of themes, which he demonstrates wonderfully and abundantly in his epic score for FLESH AND BLOOD. Presented well by La La Land records, with introductory notes by Randall Larson, and also an interesting interview with Poledouris that took place in 1985, which was conducted by Larson and David Kraft.
The booklet is literally brimming with stills from the movie and also has photos of the composer. Certainly worth adding to your collection even if you have anyone of the previous editions.

NICOLA PIOVANI.

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Your first soundtrack for a film is documented back to 1968 when I understand that you worked for a newsreel documentary film titled THE STUDENT MOVEMENT which was directed by Silvano Agosti. How did you become involved on this project?

I was a student who actively participated in the occupation of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters. When formed a group of filmmakers who wanted to witness the events of the student movement I went there and it was quite natural that I were to take care of the musical part.

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The first soundtrack that I bought of yours was FLAVIA, and I have to say it is a score that I am always returning to and each time finding something new and fresh. What size orchestra did you utilize for this score and is the vocalist Edda Dell Orso?

The orchestra was made up of a group of strings – 12 violins, 4 violas, 4 cellos and two double basses – plus a small group of woodwinds and percussion, and, if I remember correctly, a piano. Yes, the vocalist was Edda Dell’Orso who worked on many soundtracks from Italy including Once upon a time in the west by Ennio Morricone.

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You were born in Rome in 1946,at what age did you begin to become attracted to music and were any of your family musical at all?

I have always been attracted to music, at three years of age I began to play with a small toy accordion. My parents were amateur lovers of music, but almost exclusively to music read, as it was then. Today we would say Pop.

What musical education did you receive and were there any specific areas of music that you concentrated upon?

Most of the aspects of my musical education are detailed in the book”The music is dangerous, “which I published in February. As a boy I was fascinated only by the so-called classical music, as an adult I began to get interested in jazz and pop music.

Your music is always original and innovative, are there any composers or artists that have had a profound influence upon you?

I will try to answer, I think mostly composers such as Ravel. Handel, Ellington, Piazzolla, Shostakovich, Morricone, Rota, Schnittke and also the Beatles

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LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL is a wonderful movie and its music is such an important part of the story, it is dramatic and also fragile, did the director Benigni have any specific instructions for you when he asked you to write the music?

Benigni was able to move me, to involve me, to make me understand the meaning of the film, and I drove magnificently to find solutions for a musical drama that were at times difficult and delicate.

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You worked with Federico Fellini, was he actively involved with the musical score and how it should be placed etc?

Fellini with collaborators, with the musician was as a medium: you had on the road so irrational, emotional, almost incosciente. Poi work in his films but also required a lot of effort on the professional level, of the trade.

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As far as I understand, the composer Manos Hajidakis gave teachings on the orchestration. Do you think that the orchestration represents an important part in the process of composition?

I’m of the school of Morricone, I compose and orchestrate the entire musical score for a film, writing the score in pencil in all its details. Resorting to an orchestrator would be for me a ‘autoviolenza’. But there are excellent musicians who get insulted by one or more arrangers: everyone has his habits, his way. For me, the colour, the choice of instruments, the details are essential tonal music for the cinema.

When composing for a film, how many times do you like to see it before you get a clear idea of where the music should be placed and also what style of music that is required and suited to the project?

The time, well there is never enough time as far as I am concerned, I would prefer to have a lot more time to work on every score. But in reality, the time given is always a short one, there are a few exceptions, but normally the director wants the music quickly. I am compelled to write always in a hurry: it is the rule of cinema, especially Italian cinema. However, I try to work on the very first script so I can then go to the first spotting session with at least some ideas in my head.

You have also worked in Theatre, what would you say are the main differences between theatre and cinema when it comes to music

In the theatre, the music is as an actor it takes to the stage, it shows the musicians playing. It is quite different from scoring a cinema project, because in film one must “play” often on tiptoe, without violently intruding on the image or story: the public must not be aware that music has entered, or ends. So maybe I prefer the theatrical work.

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Have you a routine when composing for film, maybe starting with a central theme and then building the remainder of your score from this or do you work on smaller cues first and derive your central theme from these?

Usually I like to identify two poles of expression, as in sonata form: then, around this dialectic, I like to build all the music, even very brief interventions, made up of one or two notes.

Many of your film soundtracks have been issued on a recording of some sort over the years; when a soundtrack is to be released do you like to be involved in the selection of music that will represent your score?

When this is possible I do like to do this, but often, now, out of the publications referred to ignore the composer. If I could, I would devote myself to the cataloguing of recorded music, to distinguish those that I like and put the index for those that do not convince me. But it would be a huge job, and probably useless.

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When working for a soundtrack uses the piano, keyboard, or the computer?

The piano, but especially the pencil – and rubber.

What do you think is the function of music in the film?

This Changes a great deal from film to film. It depends on the aesthetics of the author, i.e. the director. Just think of the difference between the music in the film Chaplin, in one of Bunuel, in one of Leone, one of Fellini … In this topic we could talk for hours…

You have composed many soundtracks for the movies of Bellocchio. Was he actively involved with the music, or were you left to create the music freely?

Bellocchio, is a very present director in the musical work and taught me a lot of this magical alchemy that is created between images and sound in a film sequence. I really miss those times, Chioso perhaps because we were younger …

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You have also worked for television, and have contributed music for a television series. I am told that you are not a big fan of the television or at least as it was a few years ago. What is your opinion on television work and has it has changed in recent years?

No it has not changed: the television viewer, the consumer’s home, is not my thing. When I write for television – it happens often – I do not think of the television viewer, because I suppose a spectator of cinema is a spectator who for most of the time follows closely in silence what is happening on the screen. There are no phone calls to interrupt, no eating or even dozing off on the couch during the screening …

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You have worked in many different genres of film, is there a particular area of film or type of story that you prefer working on?

I am happy within in any genre I really like to go from one to another. However I’m sorry that I have never written music for a western!

My thanks to Maestro Nicola Piovani for his time and patience, and also many thanks to Daniela Bendoni, for all the assistance in making this interview happen….

STILETTO.

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Before starting to review the STILETTO soundtrack, maybe a little background on the scores composer Sid Ramin. A Composer conductor and arranger for Broadway and Hollywood musicals, movies and television shows, Sid Ramin was born on January 22nd in 1919, he grew up in Boston and studied at the New England Conservatory of Music and The Boston University before he moved to New York City, both his parents were musical but never played professionally. He worked as the staff composer, orchestrator and arranger for The Milton Berle Show from 1949 to 1956 and began working as a staff arranger with R.C.A during the mid 1950, s. Leonard Bernstein approached Ramin to act as an arranger/orchestrator for his musical WEST SIDE STORY, Ramin eventually winning a Grammy for the soundtrack album of the musical and also an Academy Award for scoring the movie version. He later arranged the most memorable numbers from the musical into suite for symphony orchestra that is still often performed in concert. After the success of WEST SIDE STORY Ramin became much in demand for Broadway assignments and he contributed arrangements and compositions for the musicals Gypsy, Wildcat, I Can Get It for You Wholesale and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Ramin also worked in television during the early 1960s and was the resident musical director for The Patty Duke Show and also became a permanent fixture on the U.S. version of Candid Camera. He provided television with some of the most memorable advertising jingles of the 1960s including “Come Alive for Pepsi” and Music to Watch Girls By which later became a top 10 hit for The Bob Crewe Generation after being used for Tab diet cola.
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Ramin was always busy but never seemed to get the credit or recognition he so richly deserved, much of his work as an orchestrator, arranger and conductor going un-credited. I personally do not look upon him as a film music composer because there is so much more to him than being a composer for the cinema. He did however compose the original score for the movie version of Harold Robbins’ Stiletto, this 1969 B-movie thriller had a surprisingly impressive cast in the forms of Alex Cord, Britt Ekland, Patrick O’Neal, Joseph Wiseman and Roy Scheider, the score which is probably the only thing that is really worth mentioning about the movie was full of dramatic and jazz laced compositions; the soundtrack was originally issued on a long playing record on the CBS/Columbia blue label in 1969. Although the score was popular among soundtrack collectors the music has not up until now been issued on compact disc.

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My first memories of the music from STILETTO was a 45rpm record on a white CBS promo label, which had the highly infectious Hammond organ led central theme on the A side and the song from the score entitled SUGAR IN THE RAIN as its B side. The lyrics for the song were the work of famed lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman, who had also penned the lyrics to numerous other songs many of which had been for the silver screen and were also known for collaborating with French composer Michel Legrand on a number of occasions. On hearing the theme and song on the single release I was prompted to find the LP. This premiere compact disc release of STILETTO is brought to us courtesy of the DUTTON VOCALION label which is based in the U.K. The release contains the same track line up as the original LP, no extra music I am sad to say, but then again who needs extra music when you have here a superb soundtrack that is filled to overflowing with contagious and highly rhythmic themes and also has a great re-mastered sound about it. Right from the start one just knows its going to be a great listening experience which posses a quality that one rarely comes across today.

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The compact disc opens with KNIFE FIGHT ON THE HILL, this tense and apprehensive sounding track commences with edgy strings that are interspersed with percussion and piano plus are punctuated by brass stabs that seem to lung and then pull back as if they are depicting the stabbing movement of an assailant, the composer also employing lower sounding strings that conjure up an atmosphere that is unsettling. Ramin builds the cue to a crescendo of sorts bringing all of the musical elements together into a dramatic sounding musical peak, then smoothly segues into the scores infectious central theme, which is an exciting and up tempo arrangement that has a big band sound to it underlined with a sense of urgency created and sustained by the utilization of strings that are filled with menace, the composition picks up even more pace as it progresses and the composer adds more instrumentation to create a powerful and enticing opening to the score and also lays down the foundation of the sound and style that we will be treated to throughout the remainder of the score. Track number 2, MAIN TITLE is a more developed working of the central theme, Ramin expanding the instrumentation and giving the composition a definite big band resonance, the composer also cleverly employs a jazz/pop orientated Hammond organ solo, which essentially becomes the core of the composition and upon this foundation.

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Ramin builds his strong and vibrant theme, giving the organ room to breathe and allowing it to lace the cue with its presence but at the same time allowing other elements of the orchestra to shine, the track containing polished horn arrangements, support from the string section and showcases the brass section wonderfully. Track number 3, ILLEAN’S THEME is a more laid back affair, this haunting samba led piece is easy listening personified, with light woodwind, underlined by even more chilled out percussion and gorgeous sounding airy and romantic strings flourishes, which are in turn enhanced by the use of guitar and piano. The main fabric of the cue is taken on by trumpet mid way through with woods assuming a backseat for a while, jazz organ again makes an appearance as the composition moves forward but is in a more subdued mode than its first outing in the previous cue, it is a classic easy listening sound that oozes class and sophistication and one that rivals anything that has been composed by Legrand, Schifrin or even Mancini.

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Track number 4, GOAT ISLAND is another romantic and haunting piece, I am certain that it is a mandolin that Ramin utilizes at the tracks outset and achieves a wonderfully melodic and restful ambience, to this the composer adds a medium paced background and introduces the central theme once again, but on this occasion it is a low key and highly romantic sounding arrangement that we hear, performed in the main by lush but not overpowering strings that relay an atmosphere that is filled with pure luxury. Track number 5, is for me one of the highlight tracks from the release, (if indeed there are any stand out cues, as all are of the highest quality) CONFRONTATION, is where we hear the composer up the anti musically speaking, introducing a style that is certainly more dramatic and forceful, again brass features largely being underlined by fast paced percussive elements and interspersed with sliding tense strings that hold a single note to crate tension, as the piece progresses there is no let up in memento, in fact Ramin introduces more elements into the mix to create an exhilarating and highly volatile sounding composition. Again it is dramatic but still maintains musicality and strong thematic material that leans towards the big band jazz sound which is cleverly interwoven with undertones of foreboding. Track number 6, STILETTO this is the version of the theme that was released as a single and also one that was covered by a number of popular artistes during the early 1970,s, the composer arranges and orchestrates the core theme from the soundtrack into a more up beat and hip/pop sounding composition.

Hammond organ again plays a major part in the proceedings as do the trumpet section, the theme being passed from organ to trumpets and then being taken on by saxophones and then handed back to Hammond organ, it is an entertaining and highly contagious cue that I am sure will have many toes tapping. Track number 7, is SUGAR IN THE RAIN, this is the tantalising vocal from the score, light airy and simple, a fantastic easy listening lounge track, that is sensual, attractive and performed to perfection by Sally Stevens. Track number 8, FOLLOW THAT MAN is just the opposite it’s a hard hitting and high powered cue, filled with brass stabs, dark sounding piano, electric guitar punctuations and up beat percussion that together convey a mood of trepidation and agitation, this atmosphere is further underlined and reinforced by the composers use of jangling sounding cymbals and tense strings. Track number 9, NORTH WEST CORNER FACING EAST, opens in a similar fashion to KNIFE FIGHT ON THE HILL, low key but all the time slowly building a tense and nervous ambience until it erupts into a full on and unrelenting chase. Ramin bringing dark sounding piano and jagged almost frenzied strings into the equation which are powered along by strong percussion and supported and bolstered by various brass instruments. Track number 10, TRAM brings the compact disc to its close. And is an unstoppable and explosive cocktail of brass, woodwind, guitar and racing drums.

STILETTO is in my opinion a classic score from the 1960,s and with this excellent CD release on Dutton Vocalion we have at last got the opportunity to have in our collection a soundtrack that is high in quality and filled to its brim with inventive and highly rhythmic compositions. Presented superbly with detailed and informative notes and sharp un-flawed sound. The Compact disc boasts the original LP cover plus a number of stills from the movie in its booklet and a reproduction of the U.K. publicity poster. Have you ordered it yet? Don’t let it get away……..

Click here to order….

http://www.duttonvocalion.co.uk/proddetail.asp?prod=CDSML8501