MAJOR DUNDEE.

 

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Lets go back in time shall we, when men were men women were women and westerns were , well westerns. 1965 was a good year for movies and also soundtracks and it was also the year when Sam Peckinpah directed the Charlton Heston, Richard Harris civil war western MAJOR DUNDEE. Now this was an interesting movie and focused upon a group of regular Union soldiers, confederate prisoners, Indian scouts and a ragtag collection of bounty hunters who go in search of renegade Apache Indians. Being a Peckinpah western it was scattered with violent scenes and blood spattered encounters. The end scene in-particular which was a battle on the border with French lancers is impressive. The movie was scored by composer Daniele Armithetrof, who put a European sounding musical stamp upon the soundtrack, and although the score contained a rousing song performed by Mitch Miller and his gang the music was not what one would expect from an American made western during this period and that is why it is so appealing. The soundtrack was issued on CBS in the 1965, and contained seven cues, but the cues ran continuous not having any space between them, the album also contained sound effects on a number of the cues which for me somewhat spoilt the listening experience. However, saying this MAJOR DUNDEE still remains an entertaining score, with the composer throwing in some very different electronic effects on one or two cues. The Maestro also included some nice Hispanic/Mexican sounding passages and themes, utilising guitar and percussive elements to great effect. There are two songs on the soundtrack, the first being THE MAJOR DUNDEE MARCH and the second is a rather sugary and cliched sounding affair entitled TO BE WITH YOU, which to be quite honest one could skip over and not really miss it. Its a kind of Mancini/Mercer sounding song in a similar style to DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES or MOON RIVER, but not quite as good. The score suited the movie well and the composer underlined and punctuated the action, the romance and the melancholy well throughout. The soundtrack did get a re-release on LP and then onto compact disc, and finally having an expanded release on Intrada where it was paired with a new score that was commissioned for the movie,  but the new score by Christopher Caliendo never found a lot of favour with fans of the film.

 
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The original score by Armitheatrof is a soundtrack that you should try and check out and is available on Spotify now. I like it, maybe you will too. The march that the composer penned for the French Lancers is probably one of the highlights of the soundtrack. It is filled with pomp and ceremony and matches wonderfully the prancing lancers as we see them in the distance and as they ready to do battle with the unlikely band of heroes from across the border. As the two sides join in battle the composer integrates the Lancers theme into elements of the Dundee march and also adds to this Dixie for the confederate prisoners who are battling against the French alongside the Union troops, Armitheatrof also drives the music along with brass stabs, dark sounding piano and guitar in places, which makes for some great action music for this frenzied and somewhat chaotic battle at the movies conclusion.  Recommended.

THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS.

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THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS, opens in cinemas soon. A Disney movie for all the family and just in time for the pre Christmas hype that whips up the kids into a frenzy about the season of goodwill etc. etc. The score for this latest Disney extravaganza is by revered and respected composer James Newton Howard. There is something about Newton Howard’s music that is particularly suited to this type of film. It has to it a magical sound and also contains so much sparkle and shimmer it is hard not to become attracted and mesmerised by it. This is a score that is brimming with that feel good sound that warmth and copious amounts of good cheer. When listening initially I was reminded of Henry Mancini? Dont ask me why, I just suddenly thought, Mancini, maybe it is the time of year r the lush strings that evoked memories of SANTA CLAUSE THE MOVIE not sure, any way, Newton Hoard’s score is a beautifully crafted one and has within it little trademarks that we now associate with the composer via his scores for films such as MALEFICENT, add to this little references to THE SUGAR PLUM FAIRY etc. and we have here a hit soundtrack.

 

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Based upon the story by E. Hoffman where we see a young girl transported into a magical world of gingerbread soldiers and an army of mice. All Clara wants is a one-of-a-kind key that she hopes will unlock a box that holds a priceless gift from her late mother. She is presented with a Golden thread at her godfather Drosselmeyer’s annual holiday party, the thread leads her to the key, but no sooner has you got the key that it vanishes, disappearing into a magical and mysterious parallel world. Clarameets a soldier named Phillip, a gang of mice and the heads of State who preside over three Realms, these are The Land of Snowflakes, The Land of Flowers, and The Land of Sweets (my favourite). Clara and Phillip must be brave and go to the fearsome Fourth Realm which is home to the tyrant Mother Ginger, where Clara’s key is and hopefully when they retrieve it they will return harmony to the unstable world. So are you hooked already, I am. I suppose we could say that it was originally scored by Tchaikovsky, but that would be stretching the truth a little, although he did write the NUTCRACKER before the advent of film or at least film according to Disney.

 

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The story has entertained and enthralled so many children and adults over the years and I am confident that this latest manifestation of it will be just as popular. Newton Howard’s music is perfect for the story and the movie, its fragile and otherworldly style underlining and elevating the storyline giving it greater depth and even more of a magical feel. The composer also references certain themes from THE NUTCRACKER and interweaves these elements into his original score. In a number of ways the music does evoke memories of his MALEFICENT score, it is bold, sweeping and Grandiose, Newton Howard utilising choir, strings and proud sounding brass throughout, the quieter moments of the score containing subtle tones for woods and strings, which are affecting and poignant. The work is filled with a vibrant energy that is powerful and commanding, the strings drive the work along at pace in the more upbeat sections of the score but also add melancholy and an emotive sound in the lighter or quieter sections.

 

 

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We are treated to a musical pallet of colourful thematic passages and an abundance of moods that are light, dark foreboding and richly romantic and filled with melody. Many may say that this is sugary sounding score, but I recommend it to you, two bonus cues include a performance of THE NUTCRACKER SUITE by Lang Lang accompanied by choir and orchestra which is stunning and a vocal performance by Andrea and Matteo Bocelli, who sing FALL ON ME.

 

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