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Two scores released this week by a composer who I think is very talented but has never had any of his work released before now that is. Richard Blair Oliphant is an Emmy Award winning composer who has worked on several projects and seems to excel within the genre of the documentary or docu-drama. Movie score media are again the label we must thank for bringing us two of his atmospheric and theme laden soundtracks, THE LIFE OF EARTH and WHEN WE LEFT EARTH (THE NASA MISSIONS). If it were not for MSM we would have probably never been aware of these soundtracks or indeed the composer who penned them. THE LIFE OF THE EARTH is a work that is filled with a richness of quality thematic properties, one would think that for a documentary the need for such a strong score would not be required, however the music is an extension of the images and is used not just as a background but also as an integral component of the film making process, giving the images on screen new life and even more power and impact. Listening to Richard Blair Oliphant’s music evokes memories of what we now refer to as the silver age, when composers such as Barry, Goldsmith and Bernstein were at the height of their popularity and prowess, his scores or at least this score is based upon melodic foundations, the composer utilising symphonic and synthetic elements to create a sound and achieve a style that works both for the documentary and also has the ability to entertain away from the film and stand on its own as just musical themes that can be savoured and enjoyed. The composer makes effective use of both the brass and string sections of the orchestra, with percussive elements being added to support these, he fashions and moulds a collection of lush and quite lavish sounding musical passages that have the ability to enhance and support and at the same time remain unobtrusive. It’s a rare talent for a composer to write a score that assists the film but remains inconspicuous, and that is the sign of a composer who is perfectly in tune with the subject matter he is scoring. It’s a difficult balance to negotiate, writing music that is powerful and supportive, but also composing music that will not intrude too much into the storyline or the scene. Richard Blair Oliphant is one such composer. THE LIFE OF EARTH is a fascinating project, and the score is also entertaining and interesting, take a listen. The second score by this composer is also from a documentary, WHEN WE LEFT EARTH (THE NASA MISSIONS), is also a mix of symphonic and electronic, but the majority of the work from what I can make out is largely symphonic.

Again, the composer brings into play melodious themes and at times gracious sounding compositions, with brass, choral work strings and percussion combining to create soaring themes and gloriously inspiring themes that seem to sweep over the listener and have to them a sound that is not a million miles away from far that of the late James Horner. The composer combines a heavenly sounding choir with driving strings and brass to fashion affecting passages and weaves an intricate and emotive musical web throughout that is filled with poignancy and a feeling of hope. Again, a great score and one that should be played either before or straight after THE LIFE OF EARTH, two addictive and infectious scores, filled to overflowing with quality music and inventive orchestration. I can only recommend both of these releases too you, because you will be poorer if you do not explore them and this composer.



As companies such as NETFLIX and AMAZON begin to become ever more popular because of the lack of programmes that are remotely entertaining on the standard channels such as BBC and ITV channel four and five etc, the productions that these two as an example are becoming more ambitious and also are stirring up more and more interest from the viewing public and also producers and directors who are now maybe thinking they too should start to become involved with the productions that are being financed and aired by the channels. As the productions from these companies become even more popular so the budgets for them inevitably grow and this, I have to say is good news, even for us film music collectors and fans. Because with larger budgets come larger music budgets that allow composers to also become more ambitious with the types of scores that they are able to produce. One case in point is the score for the series on Netflix LOST IN SPACE, which is a re-boot of the popular and now iconic 1960’s TV series. LOST IN SPACE 2, is now available as is its pulsating and action led score by composer Christopher Lennertz.



The composer who also penned the score for the first series of LOST IN SPACE alla’Netflix, has not only created a tremendously thematic work that contains many new and vibrant themes but he has also once again incorporated fragments and hints of the original TV theme as written by one Johnny Williams. This familiar motif raises its head from time to time throughout the work and Lennertz presents it in such a way that it remains fresh and pulsating on each outing, the score which is fully symphonic and grandiose is probably one of the most high octane and commanding that have heard in a while, but although it is for the most action driven there are also present some beautiful sounding lighter moments which evoke emotive and melancholy feelings. It is a score that keeps driving onwards and each cue brings a step up in gear and pace, with strings percussion and brass relentlessly combining and moving forward to create a tense and dramatic feel, the composer fashioning grand moods and fabricating atmospheres that are enthralling and attractive in a edge of the seat way. Recommended.





I recently wrote the notes for a five compact disc set entitled ART FILM MUSIC, in fact my notes gave the collection its title as I called my essay THE ART OF FILM MUSIC, and writing music for film is certainly an art, a craft and a precise and delicately balanced contribution to the film making process, we as collectors of film music appreciate this and also the discipline of the composer when scoring a motion picture, whatever the genre, the music has to be in tune with what is occurring on screen and enhance and support without taking anything away from the storyline or a specific scene, the score must ingratiate and bolster without actualy being heard, it is an unseen actor an invisible component within a finely balanced process, it can add depth, create atmosphere and also has the ability to make or break a moment within a movie. But today I am not writing about the music but the art of the soundtrack, the illustrations or the images that are used on soundtrack releases, these at times eye arresting illustrations can actually sell the soundtrack release without the collector ever having heard the score or even seen the movie. The colourful images call to the collector and entice them into picking up the release, a release that could be an LP record, a picture cover single record a CD or even going back a few years a cassette or an eight track. In my early days of collecting which was during the 1960.s I would often browse through the racks of soundtracks in places such as SOUNDTRACK or HARLEQUIN RECORDS and even 58 DEAN STREET, and buy a soundtrack based on three things, the composer, the genre and the art work. For example in the mid sixties the Spaghetti western had come into its own and thanks to shops in London the soundtrack albums from these quirky sagas were filtering their way into retail outlets, for example, A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN by Stelvio Cipriani, now this is a prime example of me personally buying the LP because of the genre and the art work, the vibrant colours and the vivid art work just reached out to me, as did SENTENZA DI MORTE by Gianni Ferrio another western, which had striking art work. I had heard of both the composers for these scores, but it was the art-work in the end that convinced me I should buy them.

mna horse


There have been occasions I have purchased something because I liked the art work and on listening to the music have been somewhat disappointed, but thankfully this never happened a great deal especially with Italian releases.

But the art work on American and UK releases too had an alluring effect, items such as CUSTER OF THE WEST, KRAKATOA EAST OF JAVA, THE BLUE MAX, DUEL AT DIABLO, WILL PENNY they all had attractive art and held a certain hypnotic quality to them.


The British release of soundtracks such as FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD, THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES etc, too fixated one when browsing through the racks of soundtracks. I remember seeing the cover for SUNFLOWER for first time, it was stunning and another Mancini MASTER OF THE ISLANDS or THE HAWIANS, too made one linger when you first saw it.


Art work I think did suffer slightly in the 1980’s and also into the 1990’s there were not so many interesting covers, maybe this was due to the rise in the popularity of the compact disc, record labels not having the space as they did on albums as in LP releases. So the golden age of art for the soundtrack release was probably the 1960’s with a few exceptions that were released in the 1970’s. I suppose its impossible to do a thorough article on this subject, because soundtracks released in the United States would often have a different cover to the same score that was issued in France or the UK and then the Japanese release normally blew everyone away because of the way it was presented. A Japanese release would almost certainly have superior art-work and in 99 percent of cases also have better sound quality.


The re-issue of 55 DAYS AT PEKING for example had a great front cover and was issued on LP in a gatefold edition in Japan with crisp and full stereo sound, there were two re-issues of the score in Japan one on Columbia Nippon the other on Sony. They both used the original CBS LP cover art but enhanced it and brought out the colours more giving it a bright and attractive appearance.


The Japanese labels such as KING and TOHO also released a number of Italian western scores, one being SABATA, again striking art work, but this time using photographs of Lee Van Cleef and William Berger who played the two central characters in the movie.



But I still have to champion the Italian soundtrack releases for their stand out art work, CAM Records in-particular released a wealth of soundtracks that contained stunning art work, WATERLOO for example by Nino Rota the CAM release of this on LP and later on CD had far superior art work to the Paramount LP record which was released in the UK in 1970. Ariete records another small Italian label made their mark with striking soundtrack covers, THE FIVE MAN ARMY and THEY CALL ME TRINITY being just two of them.


BEAT records too had their moments, at times utilising very modern art to illustrate their soundtrack covers, many of which were re-produced on the CD reissues of the original soundtrack releases. One genre or at least one collection of films which I felt could have done better in the art department, was the JAMES BOND franchise, Dr No was quite a plain cover, as was FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE both relying on stills from the movies to adorn the soundtrack cover. GOLDFINGER too was a little, well shall we say predictable. THUNDERBALL however contained some nice art work, which differed in the USA and the UK but both versions were eye catching.

twice bond


The UK release of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE was simple but also affective, a white background with a picture of Sean Connery as Bond just standing centre. As I say simple, but it did the trick. OHMSS was rather flat, but it made up for the front cover with the artists impression of George Lazenby inside the gatefold edition which was released in the UK.






Moving forward a few years, some soundtrack releases which in my opinion contained worthy art-work include.


SILENT RUNNING, PATTON LUST FOR GLORY (UK release), STAGECOACH the Jerry Goldsmith score on mainstream or Fontana in UK, THE ADVENTURERS by Antonino Carlos Jobim on Paramount (a score that should get a CD release), CROMWELL on Capitol records, STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE on CBS and so many more. In fact, far too many to mention. The art-work for soundtracks is still interesting, but maybe not so exciting or innovative as it was in the past.




Its always good to hear something new from composer Rachel Portman, the trouble is the new scores do not seem to appear as regularly as they used too. She has a wonderfully melodic and subtle approach to scoring movies and also television and is I am glad to say one of the very few composers nowadays that still produces thematic and motif led works. Her most recent release is from an animated project, MIMI AND THE MOUNTAIN DRAGON. This a delightful tale and the music mirrors the charm and simplicity of the film. Portman has fashioned a score that is in many ways akin to her earlier works when she was still based in the UK. There is just a sound and style surrounding this work that evokes the 1990.s when I for one feel that film music was a little less soundscape and more musical. The composer underlining and kind of mickey mousing approach in a way the story as it unfolds. But in these days of hi-tec and other such things I suppose it was an inevitable that certain scores would also attempt to stay in tune with these methods. MIMI AND THE MOUNTAIN DRAGON, for me is just a great listen its subtle and emotive musical personality shining through, purveying melancholy, wonder and excitement. There are so many tantalising thematic moments, the composer employing strings, with solo piano performances, woodwind and a scattering of brass which combine and entwine to create a work that is hauntingly beautiful and at times dramatic and slightly dark. The darkness however is never around that long as the music is essentially light and lastingly melodic. I think my own personal favourite cue is FLYING, the title of the cue alone straightaway draws one to it, it begins low key, with low but rich sounding strings, piano solo is then added even though just fleeting, with the strings returning in a triumphant and lush fashion accompanied by brass, which introduce a crescendo of sorts, this then segues into a more dramatic and tense section, until the percussion begins to rumble and slightly overpower proceedings, but in the end the sound achieved is one of positivity and is enthralling and inspiring. This is a welcome addition to the Rachel Portman soundtrack collection, a score which also employs a child vocal both in the form of a song and within the actual instrumental music, which is affecting. A great work, and one you should really own. Available on all digital platforms and released by DECCA CLASSICS. A nice end to 2019.


Opening and a Little Girl Called Mimi
Mimi Meets Baby Dragon
Lullaby (feat. Claire Martin)
Baby Dragon Is Gone
Climbing the Mountain
The Mountain Dragon
Mimi’s Song and Ending (feat. Esther Greaves)



During the 1950’s and 1960’s actor Charlton Heston, was, mainly associated with the epic movie, he had starring roles in movies such as BEN HUR, THE 10 COMMANDMENTS, EL CID and THE WAR LORD. The actor portrayed many important figures from history, these included General Gordon in KHARTOUM and Michelangelo in THE AGONY AND THE ECSTACY. As the sixties progressed Heston took on the starring role in THE PLANET OF THE APES, which proved to be an iconic piece of cinema, the actor reprising his role as the astronaut Taylor in BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES, but his performance in this movie was not a major one. As the 1970.s dawned producers and directors looked to Heston to portray characters in sci-fi movies, two which come to mind are SOYLENT GREEN and one of my favourites, THE OMEGA MAN. Heston also played central characters in movies such as WILL PENNY and MAJOR DUNDEE plus in later movies took on important roles in films such as EARTHQUAKE and THE TOWERING INFERNO. Of course, he was a familiar face to cinema audiences via his roles in motion pictures such as THE BIG COUNTRY, 55 DAYS AT PEKING, THE BUCCANEER and TOUCH OF EVIL. And later would become gainfully employed as a voice over artist for various animated features and documentaries, as well as performing Shakespeare on stage and in movies such as JULIUS CEASAR portraying Mark Anthony. But it is THE OMEGA MAN I intend to focus on for this piece or to be more precise the musical score for the movie, which was penned by British composer Ron Grainer. The composer was already known to audiences through his now classic theme tune for the television series DR. WHO and his equally appealing MAIGRET theme also for British TV. But it was a little unusual for a composer who was mainly known for his work in TV and based in England to work on an American production in those days.

However, Grainer’s atmospheric and symphonic/pop sounding music worked well with the storyline and the images on screen, the composers use of organ in-particular was striking and gave the movie greater depth and created an eerie atmosphere that became the motif for the infamous Family. It was also perfect for the various action sequences and underlined the more spooky sections to great effect. As soon as the movie was released and fans heard Grainer’s haunting score, they began to request that the soundtrack should be released, sadly it was not forthcoming and they would have to wait many years before the score eventually got a release on compact disc by film score monthly, the original release soon sold out and a re-press followed a little later. Which too, soon became sought after and is now a rare release changing hands on the internet for inflated prices.

Grainers score was a revelation for me when I first saw the movie, but I had already sampled his musical wares through Doctor Who and also the TV series THE PRISONER which was popular in the late 1960.s. In fact one could hear elements and certain nuances and orchestration traits within THE OMEGA MAN that the composer had experimented with in the theme and a number of the scores for THE PRISONER. THE OMEGA MAN was released in 1971, and it was based upon the book I AM LEGEND by author Richard Matheson, and was the second time that Matheson’s futuristic Zombie/Vampiric like story had been committed to celluloid, The first version was entitled THE LAST MAN ON EARTH in 1964 which starred Vincent Price. In recent years it has been given a more contemporary setting in the Will Smith version, but I think that THE OMEGA MAN is still the best purveyance of Matheson’s tale. So, back to Grainer’s revered and popular score, the album opens with the familiar strains of A SUMMER PLACE which Heston’s character is playing on the car radio as he patrols downtown during the hours of daylight.

The easy listening version of A SUMMER PLACE segues into Grainer’s opening music entitled THE OMEGA MAN, which although marginally up-tempo is an apprehensive and subdued theme, strings being supported by percussion and almost straight away the composer bringing into the equation organ that gives the piece a sinister and unsettling aura and also gives the audience a hint of a theme that will be expanded upon later in the proceedings. Track three SURPRISE PARTY is a more upbeat and action led cue, Grainer again employing organ and underlining it with percussion and brass to add a more urgent mood. The composer also provided the movie with a lot of jazz infused cues, which most of the time acted as source music or background music to the love scene etc. In many ways THE OMEGA MAN belonged to the many TV movies that were being produced at the time of its release, it had that style of direction and also was similar in appearance as in the cinematography as many TV movies dealing with sci-fi or horror that were being produced at the time. Grainer’s music certainly aided the production greatly, and made it stand out from anything else.

The score is wonderfully thematic and powerfully affecting and when watching the film one cannot help notice what a great job the music is doing to enhance the action on screen and to highlight key moments within the movie, in fact without the score I for one do not think the film would have been as memorable. The composers searing strings and ominous sounding brass are stunning within the context of the movie and also have stood the test of time well, the music to is easily savoured as just a collection of themes without the need for a film, they are vibrant and haunting in both a dark and pleasing way. If you have never heard this I urge you to rectify that mistake NOW.