Welcome to soundtrack supplement nine, and the MMI look at a varied batch of recent releases, but, by way of a change I thought every so often we would take a look at a couple or three soundtracks that were released a while ago and you may have missed or indeed are unaware of completely. Composer Michael Small in my ever so humble opinion is a film music Maestro that has over the years been overlooked, his music for film I have to say is in most cases energetic and has to it an eloquence and an imposing melodic content. One score of his that I have always liked is MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON which was released in 1990.The story which is based on fact tells of the Explorer and Writer Captain Richard Francis Burton, who after making a journey to Africa finds himself in a dangerous situation, but is rescued by Lieutenant John Hanning Speke, after which the pair become friends and set off on an expedition to discover the source of the Nile. This quest takes them through unforgiving and unexplored territory and brings them into contact with a number of African tribes that are less than welcoming the pair also encounter new diseases. The Lieutenant finds a lake which he believes to be the source of the Nile, but Burton disagrees and on their return to England the friends argue and fall out, thus Speke decides to return to Africa alone and continue his search for the rivers source or at least validate his thoughts on the lake that he discovered. I only watched the movie three times, all three occasions it was on TV as the film was not really screened in mainstream cinemas in the UK or if it was it was not on the programme for any great length of time. Director Bob Rafelson had a lifelong dream to make the story into an epic movie, sadly because of the directors obsession with detail and also his insistence on sticking to the historical facts the finished film suffered and at times it was it seemed bogged down in dialogue and scenes that could have easily been omitted. Where the movie however did gain positive critique was in the acting department and also the excellent and breath-taking cinematography of Roger Deakins, plus the musical score by Michael Small is certainly epic and in places romantic and filled with adventure, the composer incorporates a number of ethnic instruments into the work and also underlines certain scenes with African tribal songs aswell and percussive and driving elements that add an even greater aura of authenticity to the work and support and underline the storyline superbly.
The score also contains a haunting love theme which is utilised to enhance the romance between Burton and his wife Isobel.
The soundtrack contains patriotic and proud sounding themes that are purveyed via brass, percussion, and strings, the composer adding a subdued sense of Victorian pomp and ceremony to the proceedings. There is no doubt that this is a score that works so well within the movie and has to it a life away from the images. Certainly one to look out for and also maybe a soundtrack that should be on the re-issue list for one of the soundtrack specialist labels, rather than keep on churning out re-issues of soundtracks that have had umpteen re-issues over the years. Also let’s not forget other excellent scores from Michael Small, the atmospheric and chilling KLUTE for example, JAWS THE REVENGE and CONSENTING ADULTS all very different but all wonderfully entertaining in their own unique way. From the MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON and the undiscovered continent of Africa, we head back to England for the next film and score.
THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE was a 1989 movie, directed by Stuart Orme and starred Stephanie Beacham, Mel Smith, Emily Hudson and Richard O Brien. The film which was based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Joan Aitken, was not that well received at the box office, ad did not receive a theatrical release in the United States. The author Aitken wrote a series of books which she called THE WOLVES CHRONICAL, which number thirteen books, and were penned between 1963 and 2004 which is the year in which the author died. It is a shame that the movie was not a success as we might have seen a number of movies if it had been, the books are certainly entertaining. The film which is a horror, drama, fantasy involved a Lord and his wife who have to depart on a sea journey and leave their children in the charge of a harsh Governess who imposes an even harsher regime upon them governess and two untrustworthy individuals devise a plan to sink the Lord and Ladies ship and alter their will in favour of themselves. The children overhear the plans but when thy try to get help the governess sends them away to an orphanage, where they are treated like slaves. The musical score is by British composer and musician Colin Towns, who is probably one of England’s busiest composers of film and TV music. He started his career as a keyboard player and performed in various groups and bands, he began to write music for film back in 1977 when he scored THE HAUNTING OF JULIA, and has since then worked on hundreds of movies and popular TV series and short films. He has also written for the theatre and composed music for numerous adverts. One of his more recent scoring assignments is for DOC MARTIN a series for British television. The music for THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE is I have to say better than the movie it was written for. Towns seemed to be inspired even more than normal when he wrote the score, it is grand and rich with melodious and dramatic musical passages that are supported by subdued and elegant themes and has to it a luxurious and ostentatious style and sound.
The soundtrack was originally released on the London based That’s Entertainment records on LP initially and then to compact disc. It is a score on a majestic and operatic scale with an abundance of sweeping and sumptuous material, the composer utilising to great effect the string and brass sections bringing to fruition a sense of grandeur, which at times comes in the form of a great opulent sounding waltz, but a waltz that although traditional has to it underlying sinister elements, plus Towns also manages to evoke an atmosphere of foreboding and urgency throughout the remainder of the score and maintains varying levels of virulence which he generates via tremolo strings and wispy and breathy flyaway sounding woods. Colin Towns is one of the many composers who produces wonderful music on a regular basis but remains somewhat neglected, he has the talent and the ability to work on films of varying genres and provides each one with a score that shines. This is another soundtrack that you should seek out, and again one that is screaming out for a re-issue.
Back to a TV score from 1993 now, BODY AND SOUL was quite a controversial series, it focused upon a Nun, Sister Gabriel, who decides to temporarily leave the convent to return home to help her family salvage their business which is a knitting mill that is on the brink of bankruptcy. Once out of the convent she becomes well versed in the ways of business but begins to have feelings for one of the men at the mill, these feelings cause her to doubt her devotion to her religious commitments and also make it difficult to stay true to her vows as a Nun. The music is excellent and is provided by composer Jim Parker who works predominantly on scores for television productions, his music has graced and supported the likes of THE HOUSE OF ELLIOT and the popular series SOLDIER, SOLDIER and more recently FOYLES WAR. But like many television scores he has had to work within a less than lavish budget, this however has never deterred the composer in any way from producing soundtracks that are intricate, inventive and more than worthy, plus works that sound not only lavish but developed and grandiose.
BODY AND SOUL was one such project, the composer producing a semi classical sounding score which relied on strings and woods as its mainstay. On hearing Parker’s haunting theme for the first time some years ago I was under the impression that this had to be the work of an Italian composer or a composer from anywhere in Europe apart from the UK, the sound and style of Parker’s engaging and highly melodic work is in many ways similar to the style of Stelvio Cipriani (listen to THE ANONYMOUS VENETIAN) strings carrying the central romantically laced melodies whilst being enhanced by light and fresh sounding flourishes from piano, woodwind and subtle usage of harpsichord flourishes which add a touch of fragility to the work. The cello also features throughout the score, and its sorrowful heartrending performance is a vital component of Parker’s spellbinding compositions. The CD opens with the central theme performed by a small string ensemble, that seems by volume to grow in size as the cue moves along, the composer utilizing strings and clarinet playing in unison to great effect whilst adding little scatterings of harpsichord which themselves act as an introduction to a mesmerizing and heartrending cello solo which although short lived makes its mark upon the listener. The same can be said for the remainder of the score with Parker’s delicate nuances bringing charm and an air of romanticism to the fore whilst all the time underlining the storyline perfectly.
Back up to date now with three scores that have recently been released. The first was released this year at least the soundtrack was, but the movie was released back in 2006, fourteen years later we are lucky enough to get the score on digital platforms via Plaza Mayor, TOUTE LE BEUTE DU MONDE is the story of a woman (Tina) who has recently lost her partner, due to his death she becomes depressed and is heading for a nervous breakdown, She makes a trip to Asia where She hopes that she might re-discover herself and attempts to regain her love for life in general. Franck is her guide and companion and he falls in love with Tina, but She feels that she cannot be in love so soon after the death of her partner. Franck however is by her side throughout and soon becomes indispensable both as a guide and a friend, but can Tina find love with him? Music is by Beatrice Thiriet and it is a charming and delicate work, which has to it a simplicity and fragility but also manifests interludes that have to them a romantic and joyful side. The music, which is available on Spotify etc, has a very short duration time, there are but six cues here which in total run for approx, fourteen minutes. Do not get me wrong this is an entertaining and rewarding quarter of an hour, but I wanted to be clear to you about the running time before you either downloaded it or purchased it. Subdued and brief but affecting and totally absorbing is the best way to describe this beautiful score. Strings and woods take centre stage for the most part of the work, the composer fashioning subtle tone poems that seem to dance around and have a lasting effect upon the listener, the melodic music expressing melancholy, romance and also a sprinkling of humour. A score that I think will become a favourite, and one that will be returned to many times.
GROWING OUT is again not new film, but the soundtrack has recently appeared in digital form in various locations. The music is by Garrett Ratliff, or G-Rat as it is credited. The movie which was released in 2009 is a horror/comedy-drama, and focuses upon a songwriter who discovers a human growing out of the floor of his basement, (who writes this stuff)? Oh! Garrett Ratliff did and it was directed by his brother Graham too, looking at a handful of scenes this horror flick to me at a glance seems like a movie that has been produced by young filmmakers or a family of them in this case, who wanted to throw a lot into the mix, but the finished product ended up rather overlong with a thin and somewhat ridiculous storyline. The score however is fairly-good albeit a very short one. The opening track which is the main title is an atmospheric piece performed by guitar piano and synth strings, but it does have an attractive and mysterious style and sound to it, in some ways it did evoke the steamy and edgy sound achieved by Jerry Goldsmith in his Basic Instinct soundtrack, there is an element of the apprehensive purveyed throughout and this continues within the remainder of the work, the composer manages to conjure up an atmosphere that is filled with threat and also has to it a sinewy or spidery sound that does make the listening experience an uneasy or unsettling one. Which is the general idea I guess being that it is a horror movie. Sparsely scored the soundtrack release contains just eleven cues and runs for fifteen minutes, but it is well worth checking out, as is Ratliff’s other film score entitled SCRAPS, which is the opposite of GROWING OUT stylistically and contains some lovely piano performances that reminded me of the style employed by composer Michael Gore on TERMS OF ENDEARMENT and also had hints of a kind of Dave Grusin vibe as in jazz infused but at the same time easy listening. Just chilling I suppose, certainly thematic and a pleasant and enriching listen, although there is one cue CLUSTERWHAT which is a more ominous sounding cue, but even this has to it an underlying thematic inclination.
Again, the soundtrack has a brief duration of just eleven minutes this time. So, two short film scores both of which are available digitally on Spotify etc. But both are certainly worth a listen.
A few months back Dragons Domain records in the States released a compilation of Australian film music, the content of which was varied and interesting. ANTHONY I. GINNANE Presents CLASSIC AUSTRALIAN FILM SCORES FROM THE 70’s AND 80’s, is one of the most entertaining film music compilation to be released in a while, well re-released actually because the album was originally issued back in 2008 by Australian record label 1M1. The problem with the original release was the label had problems getting it distributed outside of Australia, and therefore DRAGONS DOMAIN has re-issued it. The collection has music from twelve movies all of which were produced by filmmaker Ginnane, it is an impressive line-up that is presented here and includes selections from. THE LIGHTHORSEMAN, HIGH TIDE, THE EVERLASTING SECRET FAMILY, THIRST, THE SURVIVOR, PATRICK and more. Music comes from composers such as Brian May, Mario Millo, Peter Best, Tony Bremner, Graham Tardif etc. The recording has been re-mastered and has crisp clear sound, with some informative notes’ courtesy of Randall D Larson. What more could you want, available as a digital download and on CD from the Dragons Domain stable.
On the subject of Australian composers of film music can I just remind you of the artistry and the talent of Christopher Gordon, I especially want to draw your attention to his wonderful score for the TV mini-series ON THE BEACH it is a score that just touches you on every emotional level, and also one that you should have in your collection, I think the CD is long deleted, but it is available on digital platforms, so go and investigate this momentous soundtrack, it is a score that you have to sit and listen to from start to finish, and also more than once, because its themes develop and mature over time and become tantalising and haunting pieces that you will want to return to many times. The score has so many little quirks and nuances within it that you must immerse yourself to appreciate it fully. The composer purveying many emotions throughout, and bringing to fruition fragility, uncertainty ad melancholy. I would go as far as saying that this is a superb score a great score in fact, and one that every self-respecting film music collector should add to their collection. Gordon was born in England but went to Australia where he is now a respected composer and politician. His other credits include, LADIES IN BLACK, ADORE,MASTER AND COMMANDER, OUT OF THE SHADOWS, MAO’S LAST DANCER and MOBY DICK to name but a few.
So, now to an occasionally true story, THE GREAT which is a Hulu TV series, that is loosely based on the life and times of the Russian Empress Catherine the Great. The entire first series of this Historical/fictional, comedy, drama which comprises of ten episodes was released on Hulu on May 15th. The inventive and most enjoyable musical score is by composer Nathan Barr, who has written a highly entertaining work that has the ability to just keep on giving as in remaining fresh and vibrant no matter how many times you sit and listen to it. The score is outstandingly supportive of the series and away from the story has to it a rewarding and enriching aura and an eloquent and attractive musical persona, which can be enjoyed without having to watch the series. I loved the composers work on the Amazon series CARNIVAL ROW and keep on returning to some of his other scores such as THE AMERICANS and the 2017 re-boot of FLATLINERS. He is a composer who is well worth investigating, and like composers James Horner, Richard Band and Christopher Young produces high quality soundtracks that are at times superior to the productions that they are intended to support and enhance. Inventive and innovative is I think the best way to sum up this composer’s music, his talent is boundless, and his scoring intuition is apparent. THE GREAT has a score filled with a quirky and somewhat comedic airs and graces, but also has to it a richness and a highly creative and melodic foundation. The composer utilising an array of instrumentation both symphonic and synthetic to fashion both appealing and attractive themes which are in their abundance. Recommended.
Taking a look at what is up and coming it looks like SOUNDTRACK SUPPLEMENT TEN will be a full one.