SANGRAAL LA SPADA DI FUOCO/SWORD OF THE BARBARIANS.

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Released for the first time on any recording, Kronos records bring us as part of its GOLD COLLECTION, SANGRAAL LA SPADA DI FUOCO (THE SWORD OF THE BARBARIANS), the musical score is penned by Italian composer Franco Campanino, who worked on other scores for films such as IGUANA, AMAZONIA and A MAN CALLED MAGNUM, IN FACT Campanino was quite busy between 1974 and 1988 scoring approx 23 movies. the film was released in 1982, and was obviously one the many flicks that was being produced at the time because of the success of CONAN and that movies various imitations. The score for THE SWORD OF THE BARBARIANS is in fact quite an accomplished and interesting one, the composer making effective use of choir for much of the work, the Maestro supports and embellishes the choral parts of his score with percussion and also the use of the brass section of the orchestra which in turn is enhanced by strings. The choral sections of the score are I think directly influenced by the work of Carl Orff within CARMINA BURANA or maybe the composer took his cue from Basil Poledouris’s CONAN or Jerry Goldsmith’s OMEN soundtracks either way the effect is quite stunning and is also a rewarding listen away from the savagery and images of the movie. In many ways Campanino evokes the sound and also the atmosphere of Italian sword and sandal epics from way back by composers such as De Masi, Lavagnino, Rustichelli and Savina, but as this a rather more recent movie in this a progression or sub genre of those films it also contains themes and quirks of orchestration that are related to the late 1970,s and early 1980,s. I am not a fan of this type of film, yes I did like films such as CONAN and BEASTMASTER but I was never overwhelmed by the original sword and sandal epics, they always seemed rather slow and deliberate to me. The plot of THE SWORD OF THE BARBARIANS is not really anything original, in fact it has so many affiliations with CONAN it is a wonder that the filmmakers were not sued.

Maestro Campanino.
Maestro Campanino.

The central character Sangraal vows vengeance after his wife is killed by followers of the evil Goddess Rani, Sangraal makes his way to ark of the Templar’s to obtain an enchanted crossbow that will help him in his fight against the cult. So I suppose it could be seen as Indiana Jones meets Conan, it’s a fun romp with lots of action and some blood spilling and scenes of heads being lopped off etc and the composer produced an effective score to accompany all of that action. Good sound quality and impressive cover art and notes. Worth checking out.

DON GIOVANNI IN SICILIA.

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Another great release from the ever industrious Godwin Borg at Kronos records. DON GIOVANNI IN SICILIA is the score from the RAI TV series that was aired in three episodes in 1977, Nicolai provided the series with a haunting and accomplished soundtrack, penning a simple but infectious central theme that featured the whistling talents of Alessandro Alessandroni. The music is I suppose a mix of both dramatic and folk sounding colours with the composer fusing both of these styles seamlessly and perfectly. The score is filled to overflowing with affecting and uplifting themes, Nicolai utilising mandolin, harpsichord, accordion, guitar and subtle strings and woodwind. It is a score that is in no way grandiose or overpowering, in fact it is rather low key in places but because it is delicate and somewhat fragile in its sound and style the music works so well within the context of the series and is also a rewarding and pleasant listening experience away from the images on screen. In may ways similar to a handful of other Nicolai scores simply because of its orchestration DON GIOVANNI IN SICILIA I think will be a popular release with collectors and also fans of the composer, in my humble opinion Nicolai was unfairly neglected during the 1960,s and also the 1970,s when he was at his busiest as a composer, conductor and arranger. He contributed so much to world of Italian film music and on many occasions was not given credit for his involvement. He was a gifted conductor but let us not also forget he was a great composer, a music smith of incredible originality who sadly was on so many occasions overshadowed by the success of his peers. This is a welcome addition to the at last growing catalogue of Nicolai soundtracks that are being released, let us hope it is not the last. Well worth investing in.

JUPITER ASCENDING.

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Composer Michael Giacchino has steadily risen to the top of his profession, very much like fellow composer Brian Tyler, Giacchino I think in a couple of decades from now will be regarded in a very similar way as composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams and Elmer Bernstein are thought of today. Giacchino first came to my notice when he scored the video game MEDAL OF HONOUR and has ever since that score been I think earmarked as it were to achieve and be involved with interesting and also high profile projects in film. The new STAR TREK movies coming to mind instantly and also DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES plus there have been some not so big box office hits such as JOHN CARTER which although was not exactly looked upon with a great deal of affection by cinema goers and critics its musical score still served well the images on screen and in fact is probably one of the most memorable things about the movie. The composer has the ability to adapt and alter his style and sound which each and every project that he is involved with. One of his latest scores is in my opinion possibly one of his best or at least his best to date, JUPITER ASCENDING as a movie is somewhat disappointing and has been met with mixed feelings from the press and public alike, sad to say many of the reviews and opinions I have seen have been mostly negative, due mainly to performances of certain actors, which is a shame because if the film fades into obscurity then so at times does its score and anything else to do with it. The soundtrack is a mammoth and magnificent work, Giacchino literally pulling out all the stops, it is a sweeping and lush soundtrack filled with rich and vibrant thematic material and enhanced by driving action pieces that are supported and enriched by choir and solo voice performances, plus there is a lot of music here, the soundtrack being released as a 2 disc set. The first disc opens with four movements of music from the movie, well I say from the movie, these were actually composed before any film had been shot, Giacchino writing his wonderful themes in 2013, the opening four tracks which have a duration of nearly 18 minutes are gloriously thematic the composer being able to create them without any restrictions of timings etc, the opening cue or first movement beginning with a fanfare of sorts purveyed by brass underlined and supported by percussion and timpani, sounding like a grand announcement that could rival the opening for 20TH Century Fox. The brass flourishes fade and give way to a calmer and more subdued and tranquil atmosphere which is given a serene and near celestial mood by the composers use of choir and boy soprano, the soprano sounding slightly nervous and uncertain as if it is worried about being part of this grand affair that is about to commence.

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The second movement is a plaintive and emotive piece at its outset, a lilting and haunting theme being performed at first by solo violin that oozes with fragile melancholy and tenderness, the theme is then taken on and given a fuller working by the string section where we hear it begin to fully develop, the strings then hand the theme to the choral section and finally to a solo woodwind performance underlined by restrained strings. The third movement is in my opinion the most appealing with Giacchino evoking an atmosphere and sound which is exciting and exhilarating and very much akin to the style that he employed within his scores for the STAR TREK movies, at times abrasive brass stabs and driving unrelenting strings combine with booming percussion, martial timpani and Omen like dark malevolent chanting to create a piece that is not only imposing, fearsome and stimulating but one that also remains attractive and enticing throughout. The final movement too is attractive and beguiling, with Giacchino employing rich melodious adagio type strings that are warming and full combining these with heavenly choral contributions. At first the piece is fragile, apprehensive and delicate but soon builds into a romantic and highly emotional composition, the strings being enhanced by choir and further underlined by subdued brass, the boy soprano returns and creates a solitary and slightly darker atmosphere with the three note motif that later in the score will develop into the theme for the central character Jupiter, this gentle but slightly unsettling vocal leads the cue to its conclusion. After these four introductory movements we dive headlong into the composers glorious and affecting score which turns, twists and drives forward with a forthright intenseness that is hard, powerful and fast, during the work we hear again in various guises all of the principal themes that the composer introduces in the first four cues, but he develops and elaborates these further creating a score that is simply enormous. Saying this the score does also have its more romantic and wistful moments, flyaway strings, harmonious brass and woods at certain points creating a Williams-esque sound and also a sound that is so reminiscent of the late Jerry Goldsmith it is uncanny, but I have to say although there are similarities here and we all will obviously make comparisons between Goldsmith, Williams and even Barry (track number-10 THE TITUS CLIPPER) we are treated to all of this plus there is still the originality and the individual musical voice and fingerprint of Giacchino shining through all the way. As in the powerhouse cues SCRAMBLED EGGS, THE HOUSES OF ABRASAX, I HATE MY LIFE and THE ABRASAX FAMILY TREE to name but a handful. The score is emotive and also forebodingly forthright a listening experience that should not be missed. This is an essential purchase so do not hesitate go buy it NOW…….. images (28)

THE OMEN. AVE SATANI.

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One trilogy of movies that I think made a great impression upon cinema audiences was the movies in the THE OMEN series. The original movie was released in 1976, with two sequels in that particular cycle being added, DAMIEN- OMEN ll in 1978 and then THE FINAL CONFLICT being the last in the series hitting cinema screens in 1981. All of course charted the life of Damien Thorne who is in effect the son of the devil and his rise to power and his eventual downfall. Damien is the son of American diplomat Robert Thorne (Peck) who is made ambassador to the court of St James’s in the United Kingdom his Mother Katherine (Remick) gives birth to a still born baby in a Rome hospital, a priest approaches her husband and suggests that he replace the dead infant with a baby that has just been born and who’s Mother has died in childbirth, without telling his wife Thorne agrees. After the family re-locate to London events start to take place and strange occurrences begin to happen. The Ambassador is warned by a priest played by Patrick Troughton that his son is in fact evil, at first Thorne refuses to listen, until the priest is found dead impaled on a spike from a church steeple, after this Thorne begins to uncover things about his adopted son.

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Damien’s beginnings, life and demise were all underlined by composer Jerry Goldsmiths wonderfully dark but inspiring scores for all three of THE OMEN movies. We see Damien grow from an infant into a toddler then into a teenager and into manhood and as he does he becomes more determined and focused on carrying out his real fathers bidding, gathering around him followers and supporters who are as him set on creating a world that is filled with chaos and misery. Goldsmith supports and punctuates each and every dark and at times violent scenario that is evoked or instigated by Damien and his protectors. Goldsmith’s malevolent and richly ominous AVE SANTANI chorus being the core of each and every soundtrack. The first in the trilogy THE OMEN was directed by Richard Donner and starred Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, with supporting cast being made up from British actors and actress’s such as David Warner Billie Whitelaw, John Stride, Anthony Nicholls and Patrick Troughton. Goldsmith developed the central thematic material for the score which was the AVE SATANI motif and also a love theme which at a later date was developed into a vocal track entitled THE PIPER DREAMS. I remember hearing the composer in interview once and the subject of the song was brought up, Goldsmith was very swift to point out to the interviewer that he was not the one who decided that a song should be included on the soundtrack, but it was his melody that was used within it.

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Goldsmiths central foreboding motif and also the lighter and more romantic love theme worked well together creating a darkness and also a lighter side to the work, the composer fused the two components together throughout the score at times lulling the watching audience into a false sense of safety and security. The scene in the graveyard is particularly well served by the ominous and guttural sounding soundtrack, the fearsome voices creating a frenzied and urgent atmosphere and adding a greater impact to the scene.

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The cue entitled THE DOGS ATTACK slowly builds after in the first instance creating a mysterious and apprehensive mood, Goldsmith introduces a harsher and far more urgent sound by the way of brass, voices and strings, in the build up to the more action led section of the piece the composers music acts as if it is a spectator that is watching the events unfold, knowing full well what is about to happen. As the dogs begin to appear so the musical accompaniment begins to become more agitated and grandiose percussion, strings, choir, rasping bass brass lines and plucked basses punctuating the proceedings, dark piano also is introduced adding an even more menacing persona to the cue. Goldsmiths momentous score was helped greatly by the orchestrations of Arthur Morton and also the musical direction of Lionel Newman. In fact the composer said that he felt that THE OMEN was a tribute to the talent of Morton who had based his orchestrations upon detailed musical sketches that were given to him by Goldsmith. The OMEN ended with Damien being taken to a church by Robert Thorne to be killed on the altar but police arrive just in the nick of time and shoot Thorne dead. Leaving Damien an orphan after his Mother has died earlier in the movie, which brings us to DAMIEN – OMEN ll.

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Although a serviceable sequel, I and others felt that the film was not entirely in the same league as the original movie. However Goldsmith did not disappoint, again the AVE SANTANI chorus was in place and creating the foundation for the composers score, we hear it over the opening credits as Carl Bugenhagen is seen driving erratically through the streets of a town called Megiddo, Bugenhagen is the archaeologist who in THE OMEN gave Robert Thorne the seven daggers of Megiddo which were the only instruments able to destroy the antichrist. Goldsmith retains his AVE SANTANI theme but on this occasion it is arranged and orchestrated in a very different way, there seems to be more menace and a kind of visceral virulence to it, it has a more up-tempo background supporting the mad driving of Bugenhagen. Goldsmith employs variants and alternate versions of the themes we heard previously in THE OMEN but for DAMIEN OMEN ll he develops a different sound and one that is at times far more threatening and unsettling. The male voices for example are more threatening and with the baritones in particular underlining the arrival of the crows superbly. The composer adding a disturbing element to the proceedings via these vocal stabs as it were and combining them with low brass accompaniment made this a stand out feature of the soundtrack.

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The score also contains wonderful use of a quite insistent sounding organ and there are additional sounds created via synths that fuse seamlessly with the conventional instrumentation evoking an atmosphere of pure mischief and evil. Organ and choir combine in the cue FALLEN TEMPLE which unfortunately was not used in the film, but is included on the deluxe release of the score on Varese Sarabande, in fact there are two versions, the edit from the original album release and then the shorter and in my opinion more powerfully striking version taken from the actual film soundtrack, organ underlines the choir in a frenzied fashion giving more power and urgency to the vocal performances. Again Goldsmith turned to conductor Lionel Newman and the National Philharmonic who managed to bring to fruition all of the composers stunning and original ideas. THE OMEN was and still is regarded as a groundbreaking score, DAMIEN OMEN ll is an extension of Goldsmiths writing for the original film and in many ways gave the composer a chance to develop more fully many of the ideas he had for THE OMEN. THE FINAL CONFLICT came next, in this we see Damien grown to adulthood and played convincingly by Sam Neil. THE OMEN will always be my favourite score from the trilogy, simply because when it was released it was so fresh, vibrant and original, but THE FINAL CONFLICT is I think very close to that soundtrack, Goldsmith creating a more grand sound for the final instalment of the series and also giving the music a more religious and epic sound.

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Again it is the AVE SANTANI chorus on which Goldsmith lays his musical foundations, with the composer replacing choir in the opening bars of the films main title with imposing brass flourishes, then introducing choir that is supported by brass, strings and percussion, and moves to a gloriously tumultuous crescendo before segueing into a reverent and almost celestial interlude which takes the cue to its near calming conclusion. This is a score that is filled with grandiose set pieces as in track number 7, THE SECOND COMING, Goldsmith creates a beautiful piece build around a variation of the AVE SANTANI but in this case it is a heavenly and triumphant sound that we hear, although it is at times interspersed with icy whispers and threatening voices, these give way to the splendour of Goldsmiths vibrant and awe inspiring music that announces the second coming of Christ, the cue ends with the AVE SANTINI motif performed on French horns, giving the cue a fearsome and commanding finish.

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THE FINAL CONFLICT is filled to overflowing with rich thematic material, imposing and affecting fanfares and flourishes plus there are still present the evil sounding verses that we recognise and relish from both THE OMEN and DAMIEN OMEN ll. This I think is probably Goldsmith largest score from the trilogy, the composer developing fully all of the elements that he may have touched upon in previous scores and adding to them, it is also a more reverent work and one that also contains a greater urgency. The highlight cues for me personally are THE MAIN TITLE, THE SECOND COMING,THE HUNT and the excellent end sequence music, which underlines Damien’ s demise and heralds the appearance of The Nazarene in all his glory. All soundtracks were originally issued on LP record, then received compact disc releases, which in the first instant were duplicates of the LP releases, then Varese Sarabande issued deluxe versions of all three scores containing previously unreleased cues. These compact discs are the ones to get with more music and excellent notes and art work they are a worthwhile addition to any film music collection.

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