LES MISERABLES. (2019).

 

81LT4sRzbQL._SS500_

It’s a little bit stupid I think releasing a soundtrack to a popular TV mini series that finished on the BBC sometime ago, but I suppose we should be thankful that it was released at all, seeing as so many are forgotten. LES MISERABLES in my opinion was a great re-telling of the Victor Hugo novel and was not only well adapted but wonderfully photographed and superbly portrayed by a cast that was to be fair not that well known. When I saw it first advertised, I was rather sceptical, like many I have seen so many versions of this story both musical and non-musical as in songs, including the stage show and subsequent Hollywood movie (the latter leaving me rather cold to be honest). But the TV series from the BBC was something that I looked forward to each week and as the series progressed my admiration for the direction, the acting and the sets also grew. One of the most important components of the series in my opinion was the musical score by composer John Murphy, it is an elegant and suitably touching and subdued work in all the right places, and also underlined the passion and the drama of this popular story. Murphy I think had a hard task on his hands when scoring the series, after all who can say that they managed to sit through the entire mini series without thinking of the songs that we now so readily associate with LES MISERABLES, I admit it I could not, so at key points within the storyline I would hear in my head Master of the house or Bring him home, which is unfair upon Mr Murphy, because his score for the series is magnificent, it is a lyrical and at times melancholy collection of themes in keeping with the sombre and sometimes tense and highly emotional events that unfold during the story. For a storyline as involved and as grand as LES MISERABLES the composer fashioned what is in the main a simple and subdued work but because of this approach it was affecting and successful. The composers tender and slight musical touches are like gentle and light brush strokes that are colouring and adding texture to a canvas. But in musical terms he is adding dimension, giving more depth and at the same time enhancing the proceedings and making them even more melancholy, dramatic or fraught. The central theme for the score is simplistic and lilting, with an air of sophistication too it. The composer utilising piano which is underlined by a mournful but heartrending cello solo, this combination creates a sense of loneliness and solitude. The brief but very effective piece maybe low key and a little sparse but the impact it has as the series or each episode of the series opens is stunning, and it is also one of those rare moments in TV when you hear the music, maybe from another room and you know that the programme is starting. The CD release is not in running order of how the music appears in the movie, and the second cue is heard towards the end of the series, in fact in the final episode, JAVERT ON THE BRIDGE, has to it a dark and somewhat sinister introduction, but as the cue builds it becomes softer and more melodic.

les-mis-2018-bbc

 
The scene in the movie is a highly emotional one, and the composer scores it sympathetically and with much tenderness, creating an almost celestial sound, that accompanies Javert’s suicide, because no matter how bitter the man has been throughout the story, a person taking their own life is an intense and also an emotional and upsetting affair and I think the watching audience appreciate this as Murphy supports the event with his fragile and delicate approach. Murphy conjures up so many emotions in this piece, utilising the string section to purvey an air of desperation and isolation. The entire score is an emotional ride which has as many highs as it does lows or calms as I like to call them, but it is the lilting and poignant melodies that make this soundtrack so alluring, as I have already stated these themes are simple but effective and do get under the listeners skin, haunting and tantalising them with their understated but attractive personas. LES MISERABLES contains possibly one of the best TV scores for a BBC production that I have heard in many a year. Ok, this is not sweeping or a grand musical extravaganza, but still manages to be memorable and striking, because I think of its understated and subdued style and sound. Certainly, worth a listen.

GAME OF THRONES-SEASON EIGHT.

3f0623fe2403af7ac4336175eca68d67b2fa4f6e

 

Would you think any less of me if I said to you, I had not seen one single episode of GAME OF THRONES, (stunned silence)? Yes, it is true I admit it I have never sat through and entire episode of GAME OF THRONES (Right there you go I said it) What, why? I hear you all screaming, well because I haven’t that’s all. I have seen bits and pieces here there and everywhere, I think I did see a near complete episode on a rainy day in Spain, And that my friends is about it, the rest of my G.O.T. viewing experience has as I say been limited to snippets and trailers. But it has not stopped me appreciating and loving the scores that have been written for it. The many themes for various characters (who I have not a clue are). But not knowing the series has not stopped me from loving the superb music that was created to support its many episodes. Is it possible to appreciate music or to be more precise appreciate film music without actually seeing the movie or the TV series? Umm YES it is, I did see GAME OF THRONES the theme performed in concert once, I hope that makes up for not seeing the series, but as a soundtrack collector and I suppose a reviewer I could not possibly see every movie who’s scores I review so I look at them from a different angle, listen to them and if I have not seen the movie I appreciate and evaluate them as just music, which works for me and hopefully has also worked for people who read my work. The hype for the final season of G.O.T. was incredible and I must admit I felt as if I had seen the series just because of the hype created by the TV channels that aired it. And when the final episode hit the screens a few days ago it made national headlines in the UK which I think is probably a good thing seeing how dull and miserable the actual news is nowadays. So the composer is always a good place to start and in this case yes I had heard of Ramin Djawadi before he became a household name via G.O.T. IRON MAN, for example and also BLADE-TRINITY, which he worked on and there are a number of scores that I can mention that are of great interest and quality that he worked whilst scoring GAME OF THRONES for example WESTWORLD the TV series and the wonderfully atmospheric FRIGHT NIGHT reboot as well as RED DAWN, CLASH OF THE TITANS etc all of which have been overshadowed by his connection with G.O.T. He also composed the scores for movies such as DRACULA UNTOLD, WAR CRAFT, PACIFIC RIM and more recently THE GREAT WALL, SLENDER MAN and eight episodes of the TV series of Tom Clancy’s JACK RYAN.

 

13-ramin-djawadi-game-of-thrones.w710.h473

 

So an in demand composer he certainly is, Djawadi also took GAME OF THRONES on the road as it were and was responsible for staging live concerts of the monumental music to the delight of audiences. Ramin Djawadi was born in Germany his Mother being German and his Father Iranian. He studied and graduated from Berklee College of Music and served as an apprentice with Hans Zimmer’s Remote-Control Productions where he began to learn the basics of writing music for film and becoming an assistant for composer Klaus Badelt.

Ramin_Djawadi_Game_of_Thrones_cjpptr
He worked alongside Zimmer and Badlet performing arrangements and carrying out orchestrations and providing projects with additional music when it was required. His career as a composer in his own right began when he was asked to score the television series PRISON BREAK, Since, then he has worked on motion pictures, TV series and video game scores. So when you think of it G.O.T. is just the tip of his musical iceberg as it were, but we do find this in film music a composer may be working away on shorts and low budget affairs and then he gets a movie or TV series that is a mega hit and suddenly he is the composer of that and that only, but we know as film music collectors this is not the case ,is it? So back to, what was it called again? GAME OF THRONES that’s it. As I said the music, I think is superb and the latest compilation release of music from season 8, is no exception, of course it opens with the now familiar rolling and powerfully melodic theme which for me is always far to short. As this is the last season the release contains so much music, 32 cues of driving, dark, romantic and highly compelling music.

game-of-thrones-t

 

The epic and commanding sound that is G.O.T. is made up of driving strings, booming and crashing percussion, brass flourishes, wistful woodwinds and some mesmerizingly haunting and rich themeatic material. But you know that already? I do not think that music from a TV series has actualy been as powerful as what we have heard within G.O.T. and I am certain this is not the last we shall see of certain characters as the series producers have already hinted there will be spin offs, also I do think that this is not the last G.O.T. compilation we will see, as I am sure there are numerous tracks that have not been included along the way, so maybe GAME OF THRONES the outtake music album. Who knows (HBO do). So the album for season 8, is possibly the best collection of music from all of the seasons, this is a collection of great music that one can listen to from start to finish and not be tempted to skip a track here and there, because each track is brilliant and leaves you wanting more and anticipating what is next. It contains a fully instrumental version of JENNY OF OLDSTONES which is performed on cello, and the cue BATTLE FOR THE SKIES is action, drama and power personified, via the composers use of growling brass swirling strings and crashing percussive elements all of which combine to create a grandiose and fearsome sounding piece that all action driven still maintains a level of thematic content throughout. Of course, synthetic sounds are present but Djawadi fuses these seamlessly with symphonic colours and textures to fashion an ominously luscious and darkly sublime sound, never easing off the tension and at times creating surging and romantic interludes.

th36FBTFOI
Like the series the music has to it a cliff-hanger and tense persona for the majority of the albums running time, but for me it is the composers use of instruments such as cello, solo violin and voices and the brass and string sections that gives this heart, and a deep emotional content. The familiar rolling and lumbering G.O.T. theme being ushered in on occasion in varying arrangements, and at times being almost unfamiliar because of the composer’s masterful re-workings. One to buy, yes, it is…

CHAMPIONING-CHAMPIONS-A TRUE STORY.

Champions_ISTA7

We often as collectors of soundtracks or should I say film scores, ponder the question, how come this score has been released and this one has not, or why was this available on an LP recording or a cassette and there has not been a subsequent CD release or even a digital version made available. One such score is composer Carl Davis’s marvellously stirring soundtrack for CHAMPIONS-A TRUE STORY, which starred John Hurt in the role of Jockey Bob Champion. The film told of Champion’s battle against testicular cancer and his triumphant return to racing in which he won the Grand National riding the horse Aldaniti in 1981. The soundtrack or selections from it at least were issued at the time of the films release on an LP which was on Island records, this recording boasted the composer’s epic music and the theme song from the movie SOMETIMES performed by Dame Shirley Bassey. Since this release there has been nothing in the way of an official CD release, ok, yes there was a CD of the soundtrack issued on a label called Movie Tracks, but this was shall we say not exactly official. Plus, it omitted the title song by Bassey, I think probably because of the question of rights and royalties.

CARL

 

As I am sure Miss Bassey would not have hesitated to instruct her legal team to track down the label in question and make them pay. So why is this still not issued in any other format apart from the LP and a cassette that was issued in the USA? I have attempted to see if this could get a release but alas every time came up against a lot of red tape and invariably closed doors and brick walls. But this as they say is the nature of the beast, we call the film music business. The theme by Davis has been included on various compilations, normally of British film music, and on a handful of the recordings that Davis himself did with various orchestra’s over the years, but never the full soundtrack or even a straight re-issue of the tracks on the LP.

 

I was lucky if you can call it that to pick up the Movie Tracks compact disc many years ago, and glad I did so I can at times dip back into this wonderful emotive and inspiring work, but I still feel that there should be an official release and now some 35 years after the release of the LP thought maybe a review of the soundtrack might be in order, one never knows a record company might see it and think, this certainly is a score that needs releasing. (we can but dream and pray). Right from the opening bars of the first cue which is performed by a solitary and faraway sounding French horn which introduces The CHAMPIONS THEME we can hear immediately that this is going to be a rollercoaster ride of grandiose music that is filled with lush and lavish themes and vibrant and tantalising musical passages that will entertain, inspire and at the same emotionally destroy you.


The six note motif opens the proceedings and is repeated twice then a variation of it is performed again on horn, piano joins the proceedings and this in turn is underpinned by strings which sound warm and courageous, the string section begins to grow and expand upon the six note motif accompanied by piano and also haunting faraway sounding horns, trumpet is then added and strings embellish and support this until piano is then returned to create a stirring and concerto like sound as the strings swell and take on the central theme creating a melodic and drivingly beautiful piece that I think gets right to the heart and soul of the listener. Strings are then centre stage with piano dancing in and around them, percussion and brass are also brought into play as the piece moves towards its gloriously emotional and breath-taking crescendo. This opening piece is romance, and determination personified and one that I must admit sends shivers through my entire body on each listen, the surging strings, the proud brass, the elegant and powerful piano and the percussive elements are just perfection. The remainder of the score is equally as affecting and the music not only enhances and gives support to the movie, but it has a life of its own away from the images on screen. The tantalising colours and textures are varied and entertaining, with darkness, light, edgy moments, romantic interludes and melancholy compositions.

CARL1

The Grand National sequence is particularly thrilling, with the music taking the lead and working beautifully with the exciting footage, its odd that this score has thus far not been given a CD release, as it is obviously a work of quality, richness and has a resounding and highly themeatic musical persona throughout, and also Carl Davis has to be one of the most renowned composers of film music in the world and is known for his numerous scores for silent movies as well as TV scores, ballets and concert hall music. This and the composers score for THE SNOW GOOSE would be a wonderful pairing on one compact disc don’t you think? So surely because of the sheer quality of the music on CHAMPIONS this has to be a contender for a release soon, Please…….are you listening, KRITZERLAND, KRONOS, SILVA SCREEN, or even Carl Davis,,,

ALL CREATURES HERE BELOW.

allcreaturesherebelow

Welsh Born composer Ceiri Torjussen is a name that has been more and more on the radar of film music collectors, since early 2001 he has been active on the film music scene in Hollywood and has scored a number of interesting low budget or independent motion pictures. More recently the composer has become involved on a handful of shall we say more prominent productions and has impressed not only his peers but has caught the eye or in this case the ears of critics and soundtrack connoisseurs alike. I was taken with his work on BIG ASS SPIDER which contained a great score that mirrored and paid tribute to many of the soundtracks created for monster and sci flicks that were released in their droves back in the 1950.s.One of the composers recent projects is for the movie ALL CREATURES HERE BELOW, which is not as the title may suggest a creature or monster movie, well at least there are no monsters as we know them from the movies of the 1950’s. Instead the film focuses upon a couple who are on the run across America and take refuge in Kansas City, it is a tale that deals with the now prominent subject of poverty and the effects of family and also love. For the score the composer has employed a varied style and fashioned a somewhat sparse soundtrack, which is performed via a fusion of Symphonic, synthetic and also choral elements. However, saying that there is a wide variation of styles within the work, one can also note that Torjussen utilises one motif for a handful of the cues, which is more noticeable in the tracks, WALKING HOME, RUBYS LETTER and then becomes stronger and more pronounced in RUBYS HYMN. The choral work is at times celestial in its execution with the opening title track taking its lead from the Hymn PRAISE GOD FROM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW, which the composer arranges sympathetically to achieve a striking and affecting piece. As I say this is a work that anyone would say is of one style or that it contains an overall stylistic sound, the variation of the music is stunning, and therefore I think such an interesting and attractive listen. The music is at times dark and apprehensive, but then there are cues that contain lilting and attractive sounding musical poems such as GOING HOME, where piano and guitar collaborate, and I LOVE YOU which is a subtle and fragile piece. The composer fashions brief but pleasant compositions such as GONE and OZLAND that entertain and haunt the listen. This is a score that I found enjoyable, it is somewhat sparse and at times does evoke fleeting memories of the style of Tomas Newman, but is that a bad thing? Recommended.

THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN.

BearMcCreary.ProfessorAndMadman

Composer, Bear McCreary, never ceases to amaze me. With each scoring assignment he seems able to re-invent and alter his musical style and sound, which I suppose is the whole idea of writing for film, because each new project is different. I have always been impressed by his work and I do realise many people associate him with THE WALKING DEAD television series, but there is so much more that this composer has. However, saying that the scores for WALKING DEAD were and are still wonderfully atmospheric and even grandiose at times far outstripping the actual quality of the series they are intended to enhance. And as one of his most anticipated scores for the new GODZILLA movie looms in the wings, we are spoiled and treated by his soundtrack to THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN, this is a highly atmospheric and mood laden work, with the composer creating beautiful but at the same time slightly unnerving melodies, that are interesting and haunting. McCreary has fashioned a eloquent and at key points mesmerizing sounding work, the composer utilising the string section and also solo performances from that section to purvey a lush and lavish rich musical persona, that is tinged with apprehension and a sombre mood. For me personally this is probably one of McCreary’s most accomplished and musically, mature works and also is one which I have no reservations on when it comes to recommending it to fellow soundtrack fans and connoisseurs. The mournful or melancholy cello performances are a highlight and these alone are capable of creating a richness and darkly romantic sound on their own, but there is more as they say, the composers obvious talent for inventive writing is too present and he works his innovative magic in many of the cues to bring forth a sad, solitary and a lilting style, that is immediately attractive. The alluring tone poems which McCreary has formed although subdued are totally absorbing and affecting, as are the darker and more threatening pieces, with the composer for the majority of the score maintaining a low key and minimalistic approach, being economical with the score. The cue FINDING THE PAMPHLET for example (track number-7), begins in a somewhat menacing way, with strings creating a tormented and agitated introduction, but this soon fades and gives way to plaintive woods which are supported by subdued and understated strings which give a foundation to the woodwind. This then segues into a lighter sounding mood again created by the fusion of rich cello and woodwinds which are also enhanced and given a slight but luxurious string accompaniment. Track number 8, THE SNOWBALL FIGHT is a delight to hear, with the composer again turning to the string section to purvey, richness and melancholy. This is a score that I returned to a few times before writing this review as it has so many musical faces and personas it is at times hard to take in that all the music comes from one score.

EAR
There is also a beautiful vocal on the score, WHEN I AM DEAD is presented in two version, firstly the piece that we hear in the movies and then at the end of the recording in a slightly edited version on both performances the vocal is by, Melanie Henley Heyn. All together this a rewarding and enriching listen. Recommended.