Two scores by the same composer released in not only the same month and week but also on the same day. Movie Score Media are always it seems striving to, introduce fresh talent to collectors of movie music and this week they have exceeded and surpassed themselves with the release of THE LEGEND OF THE WAR HORSE and now HELP, I SHRUNK MY PARENTS. Both scores are the work of Anne-Kathrin Dern the former title being a collaboration of creative talent with composer Daniel James. HELP,I SHRUNK MY PARENTS is in many ways a million miles away from THE LEGEND OF THE WAR HORSE, but saying this maybe it is not that far away, the score is a rich symphonic work, that has to it a mystical and somewhat mysterious air. The composer utilising to great effect the string and percussion sections of the orchestra and also adding wonderfully haunting nuances that are purveyed via, woodwind and the use of a haunting choir, which at times one could easily be forgiven for thinking that it was Dann Elfman who was scoring the movie. It has an EDWARD SCISSORHANDS aura to it, almost ghostlike but at the same time undeniably childlike with a beautiful and mesmerising fragility. THE CURSE OF THE MUSEUM is the opening cue on the release, with the composer almost immediately establishing a playful yet apprehensive atmosphere by using choir, strings and woods that are supported by brass and percussive elements. The string section does work overtime within this opening statement, which sets the musical foundation for the remainder of the score, strings are used to purvey, drama and a playful mood, plus they are also utilised as a driving and rich background on which the core theme is built and formed. This is a soundtrack that is such great fun and has an enormous entertainment value, it keeps one transfixed throughout, with its mischievous and impish cheekiness, pizzicato strings at times punctuating the proceedings and adding a lighter air as the work progresses. There are so many musical moods, colours and textures present that it is at times hard to comprehend that all the music comes from just one movie. The composers use of brass which she combines with percussion to create mini crescendos throughout the work is breath taking. It is as if within each track there is a new motif a new theme or a different style that emerges, thus keeping this fresh and vibrant all the way through. As I say it contains, drama, magic, mystery, hints of the elusive and romantic and has to it a real feel good sound and style.

In many ways and I hope that the composer does not mind me saying that it reminded me of the work of the late James Horner, when he scored pictures such as CASPER and AN AMERICAN TAIL, it has that sound, it is warm and homely, which I know many will say is syrupy and predictable, but I say it is polished, excellent and stunning. The darker cues within the score are also outstanding, the composer again making effective use of strings, to weave a tense sound and establishing an uneasy atmosphere. The track THE ENCHANTMENT is particularly creative and alluring. And in the track THE PLAN the composer displays her ample talents for fashioning action music that hits the spot. This is one for your collection, Highly, recommended, No CD as yet, but we live in hope that maybe in the New Year it will be available, for now it is on various digital platforms.





Recently I reviewed a few soundtracks that were music for theatre productions, which was a first for me, today I discovered a soundtrack that was written for an open air play, set in Mongolia THE LEGEND OF THE WAR HORSE focuses upon a Mongolian soldier who leaves his home and family to fight to protect them. The film or play features hundreds of horses and a number of aerial set pieces, to match the exciting and highly dramatic storyline composers Anne Kathrin Dern and Daniel James have collaborated to create a score that is not emotive and touching, but as one would expect contains grandiose and epic action compositions, which are fast paced and powerful, but are also at all times rich with a wonderful thematic quality. The score contains a number of cues that incorporate traditional sounds and also folk instrumentation from Mongolia, which adds authenticity to the proceedings. Particularly effective and haunting is the use of Matougin which is the earthy and at times quite unsettling sound of throat singing, which can be heard straight away in the first track INTRO or at least a fleeting performance of it as it soon gives way to a beautiful lilting theme performed by strings before returning to be accompanied by the strings to realise a superbly affecting opening. The action pieces, however, are in the style of epic film scores and at times evoke memories of the work of Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams and more recently Hans Zimmer and even to a degree James Newton Howard. This is evident from the off in track number two, CAVALRY, strings and percussive elements combining with a scattering of brass to launch us head on into the score, choir is added and the strings underline its performance before combining again with brass to fashion an exhilarating and totally exciting composition that is unrelenting in creating a commanding persona but also remaining fully thematic. Track three, HOME is a more down tempo affair, and has to it a lilting and alluring sound created via strings, wood wind and ethnic instrumentation, however it also retains a western film score style, the composers combining both to achieve an effective sound. Track four, is just a rollercoaster ride musically with symphonic combining with Matoguin, in a fast paced and driving composition, with strings pushing the piece forwards underlined by percussion and further embellished by brass, it is more than powerful it is a potent and dominant piece that is a formidable musical force.



I have to admit I love these action scores and also am a big fan of the use of ethnic instrumentation and traditional sounds and music, and THE LEGEND OF THE WAR HORSE is a score that I am sure has something for everyone, it oozes drama, romance and there are even comedic sounding interludes scattered throughout. Above all it’s a soundtrack that fans will listen to and not see the need to reach for the fast forward if you know what I mean, it is a consuming and entertaining score, that I for one will be returning to a few times today. Take a listen to track number seven HORSE RACE for example, and you are there in the thick of it, racing along and loving every second of it. Track number nine too is a favourite of mine, THE WOMEN DANCE PART 1, Is I cannot help thinking maybe even a kind of western homage or at least western film flavours can be heard within it that Elmer Bernstein would have been proud of.  And tracks such as SWEET BREEZE, TWO LOVERS and PASSION are totally captivating and charmingly attractive. Released on digital platforms by Movie Music Media, let us hope it will not be long before a record label picks this grand sounding work up and releases it on compact disc. This is a score that demands you listen and also commands a CD release.  recommended.


Growing up in the 1960’s was a bit of a rollercoaster ride as far as music and fashion were concerned, it was in the so called swinging sixties that groups such as THE BEATLES and THE ROLLING STONES began to ply their trade and establish themselves as leaders in the world of pop and rock. It was also a time of so many types of music which all seemed to be competing for the admiration of the record buying public young and old. Carnaby street was the go to place if you were A DEDICATED FOLLOWER OF FASHION, James Bond began his run at the cinema and the spaghetti western began to raise its head rising like a Phoenix born out of the ashes of the Hollywood Biblical epic which lost favour with many Cinema goers as the 1950’s came to a close and the sixties commenced. It was also a time of a number of movies such as IF that were referred to as art house pictures and was a time when film directors such as Bryan Forbes made his mark with movies such as WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND, THE L SHAPED ROOM, KING RAT, SÉANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON and THE WHISPERERS. There was for me anyway a sense of adventure and discovery linked with the 1960’s and this is probably because I was at the time unearthing the talents of many film music composers, in fact I was discovering what film music was and enjoying it without really knowing what the logistics or purpose of it were.



LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, ZULU, THE ALAMO, COMMANCHEROS and THE GREAT ESCAPE all wonderful movies that would influence me and draw even more into the wold of film and the fraternity of the film music collector. Its funny they do say that when you have been collecting as long as I and good few others have also, that you invariably always return to a certain composer or a particular movie, I suppose this is because one first encountered the composer or the movie at a time when things seemed really great in ones life I am not sure? For me the composer I always come back to is John Barry, why Barry? Well because it seemed that his music was everywhere in the 1960’s, of course 007 figured large with everyone, but there were too the lesser known works such as DUTCHMAN, DEADFALL, FOUR IN THE MORNING, THE CHASE etc, I say lesser known, but still major influences and flashes of innovative brilliance none the less. There were also albums such as STRINGBEAT and his score for the Adam Faith movie BEAT GIRL a film I have to admit I watched the other day and could not make it through to the end so went and listened to the soundtrack instead, even at this stage in Barry’s career one could hear the originality and the creative excellence shining through.

john_barryZULU was my first Barry album on Ember records in Mono, and as the sixties marched onwards and upwards I also discovered THE KNACK AND HOW TO GET IT, THE IPCRESS FILE, THE WRONG BOX and even tracks such as THE SATURDAY NIGHT PHILOPHISER from THE CHASE a score I felt showcased the composers talented beautifully, with dramatic, atmospheric and pop flavours being purveyed. Its powerful opening theme being one of the composers most sinister sounding pieces and the pre-cursor for many scores that would follow. And whilst discovering the ample talents of John Barry the sixties op songs passed me by and I have to say I did not mind a bit. I was content with the artistry of Mr. Barry and looked forward to anything I could get hold of that had his name on it. The Bond films I have to say did not grip me like other people, why? I don’t actualy know the answer to that. I had FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, GOLDFINGER, THUNDERBALL and YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE Dr. NO came later, as I felt this was maybe not a true John Barry score. OF course other composers did try to take my affections away from Barry’s music, Maurice Jarre, Francis Lai, Elmer Bernstein, Ennio Morricone, Jerry Goldsmith, Jerry Fielding, Michel Legrand and even Quincy Jones, Mikis Theodorakis, Lalo Shcifrin and Ron Goodwin tempted me with all manor of thematic finery, but it was always Barry I returned to. THE LION IN WINTER blew me away, because it was such a different sound I was hearing from the composer.

THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM’S WEDNESDAYS CHILD also haunted me as did his theme for the TV series VENDETTA and that GIRL WITH THE SUN IN HER HAIR would not leave me alone, his music for MR.MOSES, MIDNIGHT COWBOY, THE APOINTMENT, PETULIA and a James Bond movie without Sean Connery, ON HER MAJESTIES SECRET SERVICE, which to this day I still maintain is the best score ever written and the movie is pretty high up in my opinion as well all were excellent alongside that sugary but addictive theme for BORN FREE. The 1960’s were coming to an end, things were changing again, and not necessarily for the better in the world of film and film scores, but Mr.Barry was still there, adding grand soundtracks to an even grander CV. THE LAST VALLEY, THE DOVE, THE BETSY, THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, WALKABOUT, MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS, THE DEEP, ROBIN AND MARIAN, THE TAMARIND SEED, the list is actually endless and exquisite.



But there were some scores that even hardened fans of Barry frowned upon or at least were less enthusiastic about, yes, STARCRASH (what was he thinking) but there again the film did not actually have the quality or direction to inspire and MONTE WALSH for example came in for some criticism. But you cannot always get it just, so can you?


Forward to the 1980’s a great period for music so I am told, well I suppose if you liked DURAN DURAN, ADAM ANT, et all, it was. But, in film music it was pretty sparse in my opinion, with a few scores being relegated to just a couple of tracks on an album filled to overflowing with ill-fitting songs that were normally just tracked onto the film by someone who called themselves a music supervisor, when in fact that’s all they did was find songs that were cheap to buy the rights to and stick them in the movie in the hope that the songs would sell the soundtrack album. So composers would work hard to write a score that would underline and support the movie and even give it a greater depth and atmosphere, only to be overpowered by mediocre pop songs that were not meant specifically for purpose as in enhancing the film or a certain scene or to bring out the emotion etc. But Barry did become involved a few turkeys himself, or in one case a Duck, HOWARD THE DUCK to be precise. And of course, there was THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER which I thought was a good score, but the film let’s not even go there shall we. The eighties came and went the 1990’s dawned and Barry wrote one of his beautiful and haunting scores, DANCES WITH WOLVES,


What can one say about this film and its score, two peas in a pod, images and music as one, with the music giving the already affecting storyline and expansive cinematography more emotion, more poignancy in fact more of just about everything. The composer followed this Oscar winning score with memorable soundtracks for INDECENT PROPOSAL, CRY THE BELOVED COUNTRY, CHAPLIN, ACROSS THE SEA OF TIME, MY LIFE and THE SCARLET LETTER. It was also in the 1990’s that we would hear that Barry’s music had either been rejected or he had walked off the project in films such as THE YEAR OF THE COMET, GOODBYE LOVER and his score for the GOLDEN CHILD only being part utilised. But, maybe it was a case that the composer thought the movies were not that good, and he did not want to be associated with them? In 2001 he scored the WWll drama ENIGMA and within the score we could hear the familiar Barry sound, in 2004 his score for THE INCREDIBLES was rejected, and it was after this that John Barry seemed to fall silent, and in 2011 the composer passed away.


I recall hearing the announcement on the news on Classic FM , It was a shock, this man this great British composer was no more, and I have to admit I shed a few tears that day as the radio played out what they perceived to be his greatest compositions, but all the time I was thinking please play LION IN WINTER,THE LAST VALLEY, SOMEWHERE IN TIME, HOWARD THE DUCK even, but they did,nt. My film music idol was gone, but his memory lives on and will do forever, long after we are all gone, the name of JOHN BARRY will still be a familiar one, his music will never fade and memories of him will live on via his haunting themes, his dramatic and bombastic interludes and his innovative and beautiful music.



And it is being kept alive in other forms and being introduced to a new generation because artists of today are sampling his themes or fragments of them, artists that include, DR DRE and WU TANG CLAN, GANG STARR and probably most noticeably by FAT BOY SLIM in his hit ROCKAFELLA SKANK, when the DJ sampled Barry’s guitar riff from the opening of BEAT GIRL and Robbie Williams utilising the lush strings from the opening of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE in MILLENIUM. The man maybe no more, but we still hear him and celebrate his life because of the rich musical legacy he left for us and future generations.





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Released in 1971 and directed by James Clavell, THE LAST VALLEY is in many people’s opinion an underatted cinematic masterpiece. The movie boasted a quite impressive cast, with Michael Caine, Omar Sharif and Nigel Davenport being the main players or at least the more well-known actors participating. Although there were plenty of supporting roles taken by just as talented actors such as Brian Blessed, Florinda Bolkan, Arthur O’Connel, Madeleine Hind and Per Oscarsson. Director Clavell, also acted as producer for the movie as well as writing the screenplay which he based upon the writings of author J.B. Pick from his novel THE LAST VALLEY which was published in 1959. The stunning cinematography which was also a star of the film was the work of, Norman Warwick and John Wilcox and their technique at times added a mysterious and mystical air to the proceedings, and was the last time that the Todd-AO 70MM widescreen process was used until it was brought out of mothballs for the movie Baraka in 1991.

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The movie also contained a wonderfully dramatic and romantic soundtrack composed and conducted by John Barry that added many, emotions, colours, textures and also a gothic style to the motion picture. The music is undoubtedly one of Barry’s finest works, scored for full orchestra and also choir, it is a powerful and at times a relentless and highly emotional musical journey, which matches the action and also purveys the desperation and the fierce tension that is evident between various characters and groups of people within the film. THE LAST VALLEY was set in Germany, during the thirty years war, which took place between 1618 and 1648 and was fought over differences in religious beliefs. It tells the story of a Mercenary the Captain played by Michael Caine and a teacher Vogel portrayed by Omar Sharif who are very different personalities but are both running away from the ravages of a war that they both believe nobody can win. They find themselves in an untouched valley which has miraculously escaped the ravages of the war and remains fertile and beautiful.



The Captain is the leader of a band of mercenaries who fight for whoever has the most money and pays the most and are a mix of Atheists, protestants and Catholics. Which in itself is a volatile combination. Vogel convinces the Captain to winter in the valley and hide away from the war and plague in the outside world. His words to the Captain are, “Live, while the army dies”. Advice which the Captain takes. The Captain forces the villagers and their head man Gruber (Nigel Davenport) to give in to is wishes and appoints Vogel judge to settle any disputes between the soldiers and the villagers.


Everything seems to be working until one of the soldiers attempts to rape a local woman and flees the valley with two other soldiers to find another band of mercenaries, their aim being to attack the village and pillage it. They are fought off as the villagers and soldiers join forces to defend the valley. Soon after this the Captain hears of a decisive battle that will be fought in the Rhineland and decides that he and his men must leave the valley, but he leaves behind a few of his men and also instructs Vogel he too must stay and if he leaves or tries to then the village will be raised to the ground and the inhabitants killed. While the Captain is away fighting a woman from the village Erica (Florinda Bolkan) who he has been living with is burnt at the stake for practising witchcraft by the fanatical Priest (Per Oscarsson). The Captain returns with a handful of men but is mortally wounded and dies in the forest outside of the valley, telling Vogel “You were right” as he takes his last breath. Vogel then leaves the valley and runs off into a fog shrouded forest, knowing that the Valley will be safe now.

The original soundtrack from THE LAST VALLEY was originally issued on the ABC label on long playing record, with a bootleg CD following this some years later on the German Tsunami label, there have also been re recordings by the City of Prague Philharmonic under the direction of Nic Raine a long time associate of John Barry, which I have to say was a very faithful rendition of Barry’s score but did I have to say falter slightly in the choral department.

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The soundtrack was then released by Intrada and more recently has had another re-release onto compact disc by the Spanish label Quartet. However, I still think that the bootleg release by Tickertape has the better-quality sound, and as it is a direct transfer of the tracks from the original LP recording for me stands head and shoulders above any other edition. On first hearing the score, many collectors remarked that Barry had basically repeated the style and the sound that he had fashioned for THE LION IN WINTER which was released three years prior to THE LAST VALLEY, but this is certainly not the case, the Latin choruses in THE LION IN WINTER are truly amazing and also hav to them an imposing and commanding aura, but, THE LAST VALLEY is in my opinion for what its worth more of a developed and accomplished score especially in the choral writing.


Yes, we are treated to rather urgent and forthright chorale flourishes within the films opening titles, which are sung in German and have to them a formidable and foreboding persona. The track opens quietly, with choir and strings combining in a low almost humming sound that is a background to seven note motif that is played on apprehensive sounding strings, choir then builds and swells to introduce the central theme from the score, which is underlined by martial sounding timpani that acts as punctuation to a choral and horn combination, for which the composer was to become well known for in later years. In some prints of the movie, the opening included a striking open sequence with two warriors crossing swords as the main title credits began to roll and Barry’s superb theme began to rise and take command. Then as the music builds it reaches the 1 min 44 sec point and alters into a more urgent and striking choral performance, that is bolstered by pounding percussion and warlike timpani.


Going back to THE LION IN WINTER and the comparisons that were made between it and THE LAST VALLEY, it would be true to say that both Lion and Valley were two scores that stood out amongst the many scores that Barry penned during this period of his career, (from late 1960’s through to the mid 1970;s) and maybe that is why so many draw the comparisons that they do when discussing them because they are so different from his Bond scores for example, but let us not forget, MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS and also ROBIN ND MARION, which were scores from historical dramas but even these were different stylistically.  It has always confounded me as to why Barry received awards for THE LION IN WINTER but not for THE LAST VALLEY, it was probably because THE LAST VALLEY had a mixed reaction at the box office, with most of this reaction being negative. However, both the movie and the score have stood test of time well and on viewing the movie recently I was still entertained by the performances of the cast and Barry’s beautiful and epic sounding music. I think it is true to say that THE LAST VALLEY score, consists of two central themes, we have the commanding and powerful composition which opens the proceedings of which certain elements are utilised within the more tense and dramatic parts of the storyline such as THE PLAGUE PIT, VILLAGERS FIGHT FOR THE SHRINE, MAIN TITLE THEMES part 2 (which is a more pronounced version of the opening track minus the German chants, these being replaced by grand horns and laced with glockenspiel that drives the piece forward) and NIGHT BATTLE AT RHINEFELDEN.



Plus, the composer arranges and orchestrates this core theme into various guises to suit scenes such as, THE VILLAGERS FIGHT FOR THE SHRINE and THE VILLAGE ATTACK, the latter I must admit sounding just a little 007 in places. Another stand out piece that utilises the same style is WITCHCRAFT/ERICA IS BURNED AT THE STAKE or WITCH BURNING as it was originally titled on the initial release of the soundtrack, Barry conjuring up a other-worldy sound and creating a dark and harrowing atmospheres.
Then we have the softer and less urgent interludes, where Barry produces lilting melodies performed by strings and also choir, the most striking and memorable of these being track 2 on the Intrada release and also on the original LP THE LAST VALLEY, it is the music that plays over the scene where Omar Sharif’s character Vogel first see’s the valley after witnessing the horrors of war and plague. It is text-book John Barry and rivals anything that he wrote in his long and illustrious career, the emotion and poignancy is enveloping and affecting, it basically says everything that Vogel does not because he is unable to speak because of the sight he is seeing. Heart-achingly exquisite and totally touching. Then there are the various songs such as delightful, THE CHILDRENS SONG, THE CHRISTMAS SONG and the hauntingly stunning EVENING SONG. These are performed in the main by accapella choir, and yes are not unlike certain vocal cues from THE LION IN WINTER. Even when we hear AN OFFERTORY CHANT it remains emotive but has to it dark undertones.

The style of heart-breaking theme performed by strings also manifests in THE DEATH OF THE CAPTAIN/END TITLE, the secondary theme underlining the final minutes of THE CAPTAIN (Michael Caine) after he returns to the valley fatally wounded in battle with a handful of his men to be reunited with Erica who unbeknown to him has been executed for being a witch. Vogel has not the heart to tell him Erica is dead and it is at this point that we see that Vogel is truly affected by seeing the Captain dying in front of him, and maybe also realises that he is a friend rather than a feared enemy. Barry’s music grows and swells into a crescendo of thematic glory with strings and female voices developing into a tumultuous and lush piece, which brings the movie to its end.



The intrada release I have to say I can do without, there is no extra music and the sound quality is much to be desired, which brings us back to the bootleg edition, on Tickertape this is long deleted, the Intrada release also focuses upon the actual movie within its liner notes, which is strange as it is a soundtrack release, one would have thought that the music would have been the central subject. Then we have the aforementioned Silva Screen re-recording, which of course has a bright and fresh sound, plus lots of extra cues, I do not normally say this but go for either the Tickertape if you just want what was on the original LP or for sound and extra cues it has to be the Silva Screen version. The quartet records release again lets us down in the sound quality department and again a straight repro of the original LP content. But either way, the music is masterful and it’s a soundtrack everyone should own.



There has been a lot of hype and media cover on the movie KNIVES OUT, and by the looks of things all the positive remarks and observations are correct. The musical score is by Nathan Johnson, who wrote the scores for films such as LOOPER in 2012 and DON JON in 2013. Johnson is also a director and producer, Nathan Tyler Johnson was born on August 4th 1975, in Washington DC, he spent much of his early life in Colorado, and then lived in the UK for a while during the early to mid-2000’s. He then returned to the United States where he settled on the Eastern coast and formed his band the Cinematic Underground. This career move made it possible for Johnson to begin to work on film scores and he wrote his first work for film in 2005 when he scored the movie BRICK. Which was directed by his Cousin Rian Johnson who has also directed an all-star cast in KNIVES OUT. And so, to Johnson’s atmospheric and entertaining score for this contemporary take on a whodunnit which leads to another whodunnit or an on-screen version of Cluedo if you like. Nathan Johnson has crafted an appealing and highly atmospheric score for the movie, he manages to evoke memories of film scores from an age away, yet incorporates a somewhat jazzy and jaunty sound into the fabric of the work, so although it is for the most part fully symphonic it also boasts a number of sounds and styles which are cleverly integrated into the main weave of the score.



The work for me was sharply intense in places and also had to it a preciseness, the composer creating wonderful razor edge lines via strings that are embellished by brass and percussion, in a number of passages I was reminded of the almost growling and dark style as purveyed by composer Bernard Herrmann with Johnson using solo violin and also piano and harp to introduce an air of elusiveness and mystery. To be honest I believe this will feature in many top film score lists for 2019 because it is an affecting soundtrack and also an accomplished one.



Right from the off with its STRING QUARTET IN G MINOR acting as the opening theme, we just know that we have something special here, the style of writing and the quality of the compositions and the performance just gets better as the work progresses. I would not say it’s a complicated score but there again it’s not a simple one either, we have drama here, comedy, romance, melancholy and downright menace and mischief all rolled into one and with everything musical moving around one another trying to maybe outfox or at times outplay each other, this is a film score of the highest calibre and one that you should own, the colours and textures that are contained within the score are unbelievably vibrant and once heard are never forgotten and soon returned to for another listen. RECCOMENDED.