BLUMHOUSE’S FANTASY ISLAND.

FANTASY

 

“The Plane the Plane”. Yep immortal words spoken by actor Herve Villechaize as the character Tatoo, in the long running and popular TV series FANTASY ISLAND, a pretty harmless series if I remember rightly, but I did not think it was that good, just another Mystery Movie type show. Well, the big screen version has arrived and has obviously been updated and given a contemporary feel, which normally means its nothing like the original and is probably filled with horror and harrowing scenes. Why they can’t just re make something and try and leave the storyline intact I do not know, but in the case of FANTASY ISLAND why re-make it full stop. Not going to even see this one, I have seen snippets and that is enough for me, The music is by Bear McCreary, a composer who does not seemed to have stopped for breath since his scores for THE WALKING DEAD became so popular, since those early TWD days the composer has worked on numerous TV series and also movies for both the cinema and television. Its lke every movie had his name on the credits, the thing I worry about is the composer being used so much that his creativeness evaporates after a while. However saying that I do not think McCreary has run out of steam in either the quantity or the quality departments, His score for BLUMHOUSE’S FANTASY ISLAND, is not I think going to win any Oscars, it is as far as I can hear a pretty standard horror romp score choral sounds, mysterious and edgy passages that are low key one moment and the next without warning erupt into pandemonium and chaos, you know screaming strings, pounding percussion, icy and sinewy sounds that send tingles down the spine and low throbbing effects that convince the listener they are being watched or worse, hissing strings too raise their foreboding head and are driven along by urgent percussive elements throughout, underlined by tense and apprehensive strings. The composer even incorporates electric rock sounding guitar into the proceedings to heighten the mood and give the film a grand and unrelenting sense of dread. So is it good, well I suppose it’s a horror score, so we are not going to get pretty lilting thematic tracks all the way through are we, however, saying that there is a more melodious cue in the form of THE LIFE YOU WANTED in which the composer employs a subtle piano solo, which is enhanced by strings in a kind of adagio, after listening to the recording a couple of times, one can hear the thematic content even if it is somewhat hidden under a plethora of action and atonal sounding material. But this is Bear McCreary, we know this wont be conventional, will it? I am going to say you should at least give it a chance, see what you think, it might just be your cup of nerve jangling, raw and jagged sounding tea.

THE CALL OF THE WILD.

wild

 

There have been numerous screen adaptations of THE CALL OF THE WILD and with each version came a thrilling and inspiring musical score, the story has once again been adapted for the screen this time with Harrison Ford in the main leading Human role of John Thornton. The story which is hailed as literary classic by Jack London, has enthralled and broken the hearts of many and in this the latest incarnation of the tale, we see the a large hearted canine, BUCK who is separated from his domestic life in California and thrown into the wilds of the Yukon, set in the Gold Rush days of the 1890.s it tells Bucks story which is an inspiring and heartfelt one, in which we see him transformed from a pet into the lead dog on a sled team for the U.S. mail service. The music for this particular version of the story is by John Powell, who has written the scores to a number of Hollywood successes, including, SOLO A STAR WARS STORY, HOW TO TAIN YOUR DRAGON, FERDINAND, PAN, RIO 1 and 2, KUNG FU PANDA, THE BOURNE IDENTITY series, PAYCHECK, SHREK and so many more. This in my opinion ranks as one of the composers best scores, there are so many themes within the work, that are rich and luscious, sweeping strings, ethnic as in Gaelic sounding passages and beautiful lilting tone poems fill the soundtrack, the composer utilising banjo, fiddle and what I think is an accordion to create a wealth of catchy and haunting compositions, the opening cue WAKE THE GIRLS setting the scene wonderfully for most of what is to follow.

john-powell-1

The soundtrack is filled with drama and also has to it vibrant and affecting musical moments where the composer mixes strings, percussion, woods and choir to fashion a sound that is affecting and highly emotional. There is an alluring and poignant style and sound to this work, the themes being filled to overflowing with emotion and at times turning to melancholy. It is also a score that I would say is pleasing and entertaining, inventive and totally absorbing. There are times within the score that I was reminded of the sound we all associate with Jerry Goldsmith, with brass and percussion taking the lead and being driven along by strings, its grand and expansive but at the same time it remains thematic, catchy and above all entertaining, think maybe, STAGECOACH, BANDOLERO, WILD ROVERS or RIO CONCHOS style at times, that are enhanced by quite foreboding choral performances which in turn are given respite by a more subtle and melodic side to the work performed on solo guitar and subdued woods.  Well worth checking out.

EVENSONG.

 

eve
If I was pushed into a corner, and asked to name the most influential, most talented , adept and skilled British Composer of the latter half of the 20th Century, (OK I know I haven’t but just humour me!) well, there should be a few choices. Composers of Integrity and very proficient. Several Composers flit across my brain, but once they have disappeared into a quiet corner, well, there is only one serious contender. One name. Richard Harvey

Richard can do anything. Anything. Apart from his scores for Television, Cinema, and Production Library efforts that make most full blown scores like amateurish, you have Concertos ( Concerto Antico – John Williams), a Oratorio ( The Plague and the Moonflower), a stupendous work, filmed by the BBC amid the splendours of Salisbury Cathedral featuring Roger Chase – Viola, John Williams – Guitar – Kym Amps – soloist etc) and to my knowledge, broadcast one only, still thankfully the CD is still available. This is required listening for anyone with a interest in Richards music. There is also a wonderful Concerto for Viola and Small Orchestra, featuring Roger Chase again, and Premiered back in the 1990’s in Exeter Cathedral, for which I was fortunate enough to attend. This Concerto is available on CD, coupled with Vaughan Williams no less! Then don’t forget his work a featured soloist on many film scores, John Williams, (Harry Potter. Hans Zimmer (The De Vinci Code) and Harry Gregson – Williams (Kingdom of heaven).

Which brings me to the CD in question, EVENSONG. A delightful, peaceful collection of choral music written by Richard and with text’s he has adapted. Here with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, he has fashioned yet another, highly original album of music that it is a real pleasure to settle down and listen to.

We have 10 cues, mostly for Chorus, sometimes on its own, and on occasion with solo instruments. I particularly like The Call for Mixed Chorus and Harp with Strings. This starts with just the Harp so delicate before the strings come in. Et in Arcadia is for Chorus with Percussion, and again Richard’s expertise with instrumentation comes to the fore here. The last band, self-titled EvenSong has the Mixed Chorus joined by Organ, Harp, Recorder and Psaltery. What a way to finish!
It possibly brings into play the question of shall we say how spiritual you have to be to enjoy this. As we all know, the are many roads to self-enlightenment. If you were religious, I feel the music would be of enormous benefit to you, If you weren’t, then you can find peace and contentment for just sitting down, perhaps late at night, at the end of the a strenuous day. As this is a strictly personal review, for myself, I can find God or something spiritual in a piece of music or a favourite book, not in a lifetime of going to Church on Sunday’s.

I don’t find God there. One of my favourite people was Bryan Forbes, and the very last paragraph of his very last book, breaks me up every time I read it. I listen to Richard’s PLAGUE AND THE MOON FLOWER and say to myself; Yes, there must be a God! “The afore mentioned PLAGUE AND THE MOONFLOWER gave a us, if you like, a foretaste of Richard’s choral skills, so of course his new Choral albums would come as no real surprise” Is it any better than Richard’s last album, KYRIE.? Not better, certainly on a par and just as good. Richard is such a good composer that he would never re-cycle old ideas, so shall we say a companion piece.  A fitting testament to the continuing ability and integrity of Britain’s finest Richard Harvey.

 

Review by John Williams. © 2020.

EVENSONG
New Choral Music by Richard Harvey
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