I must start with something of a negative observation about some of the recent release of soundtracks. I went through a lot of titles and I found it very difficult to pick out anything that I thought was remotely melodic or indeed verging close to being original or interesting. So as a result, the supplement this time might be a little brief. It’s a funny thing that there are two soundtrack releases in this instalment that are I suppose new releases but are taken from movies that were both originally released in the 1970.s. TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA by Ennio Morricone from 1970 is given a deluxe two disc release that contains the film score and also the remastered LP tracks.
Then we have, MAN AT THE TOP from 1973. I have always liked the music of Roy Budd and when this was announced was really pleased that at last this score would be available. The style employed is I have to say typical of the sound and style that Budd utilised throughout his career. A mix of jazz, easy listening and the dramatic. I was also happy because it was to be a Caldera release, a label that have done Budd and many other composers proud in recent years. MAN AT THE TOP is certainly no exception to Caldera’s rule. The score is in my opinion superb and also in my opinion rivals the composers work on GET CARTER and other scores such as THE BLACK WINDMILL. Ok, GET CARTER was something of a ground-breaking score for the composer and it is also the soundtrack that always seems to be associated with him. But, I plead with you to take a listen to this latest Budd release, as I know that you will not only enjoy it immensely but will be left wanting more and return to it many times after the initial listen. The Main Title, for me has a kind of Barry-esque sound to it, the composer employing cymbalom in a slow and melancholy fashion. I always remember Budd’s stirring and attention-grabbing music for THE SANDBAGGERS where he also utilised the instrument, it’s a sound that instantly raises your attention, with the opening theme for this movie benefiting from its deployment in a subtle and sombre fashion. I have to draw comparisons to John Barry’s THE WHISPERERS in which Barry utilised a similar paced theme, Budd revisits the central theme a number of times throughout the score, underlining the cymbalom performance with guitar and adding strings to support it and allow the theme to develop more. In the track THE JOURNEY CONTINUES, the composer again utilises the core theme and adds to this an upbeat tempo plus punctuates with piano, which although upbeat also purveys a mood that can be looked upon as being dark and threatening.
The remainder of the score, is quite understated, with the composer providing easy going or lounge infused tracks that are jazz orientated, as in the cue BEDTIME, and also this is the style that is present in the cue INTO THE WOODS, although this does take on a slightly more dramatic or mysterious sound as the piece develops before returning to a melodious theme for strings that is filled with a romantic air. There is also a pleasant sounding Bossa Nova, in which the piano takes the lead, the ambience and sound achieved for me resembles that created by Antonino Carlos Jobim, it has the sultry and polished style which we associate with likes of Jobim and of course Roy Budd. This is a soundtrack I would recommend that you check out. Presented well by Caldera and hopefully this won’t be the last Roy Budd treasure to be uncovered and released by the label.
From a soundtrack recently released from 1973, to one that has also received a remastering and has been given its first official release onto CD by La La Land Records. TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA was originally released on MCA records back in 1970, and much later was issued on a compact disc which also contained Morricone’s score for DAYS OF HEAVEN, the disc which was on the Legend label from Italy, has always been seen as a bootleg, and one has to admit the sound quality on the release was not brilliant, but TWO MULES did come off far better than DAYS OF HEAVEN which was distorted and at times muffled. But, the Legend CD was better than nothing as they say. Thankfully, those lovely people at LA LA LAND records, have done Morricone proud with this release. We are treated to the film score tracks which are on disc one, plus on disc two a remastered bright and clear sounding edition of the LP tracks. Released just eight days after the death of Il Maestro Morricone, this I felt was a fitting and poignant tribute to a composer who invented so many sounds and styles, and also was prolific in his writing for film. The first disc opens with the film version of the main title theme, as always Morricone provided us with an interesting and also an innovative style, with guitar acting as a background to woods that mimic the sound of a mule, add to this a nuns chorus, and various wood instruments mimicking animal sounds such as birds like a chorus of wildfowl that eventually reaches a crescendo as the dark sounding string underline and rise leading into a full working of the central theme, which itself subsides and then tails off ending with just an uneven sounding guitar solo ambling till the cues conclusion. Track two, DYNAMITE, is a tense affair and was not on the LP release, this is the scene where Sister Sara is being molested by bandits, and Hogan. Clint Eastwood’s character comes to the rescue, dispatching them quickly and then to flush the last one out throws a stick of dynamite into the mix.
Morricone’s music is tense and jagged, with taught strings, virulent sounding woodwind, and strummed guitar and banjo being utilised to add even more tension. Track three is also a cue not heard on a recording before, SARA’S A SISTER is heard when we see Shirley Mc Laine in her nun’s habit for the first time and she attempts to bury the victims of Hogan’s bullets. Disc one is a superb release and contains twenty-one tracks from the score, which also include cues that were not used in the film, so this is a full representation of the Maestro’s score. It is wonderful to finally have this Morricone American made western score at last in full and on Compact Disc. LA LA LAND should be applauded for this release, it is an essential purchase, presented tastefully, with brilliant sleeve notes by Jon Burlingame, this is one that you must add to your collection ASAP.
GREYHOUND is an Apple+ television production, and on seeing the first few teasers I thought this looks fake, I mean I know they cant actually use battleships etc, but surely the FX could have been a little more convincing? Blake Neely is a composer I have enjoyed listening to in the past, but sad to say on this occasion, I found the score too synthetic, to soundscape rather than soundtrack. Its made up of not drones but just sounds and layers of sounds which I felt were not musical enough, Ok yes some of the cues work within the context of the drama but I have to be honest and say I would not go out of my way to listen to it again.
The score for JAPAN SINKS 2020, fares slightly better, but only a fraction, composer Kensuke Ushio has fashioned a more synthetic than symphonic score for this animated feature, and yes there are some nice moments within it, but again I was not impressed by the use of sounds, which are certainly not musical in any way. There are, however, some attractive piano performances on the score, but once again too electronic, too soundscape not enough melody or thematic material.
To the film OPEN 24 HOURS next, a horror score by the unstoppable Holly Amber Church, now this is more like it, a real sense of the sinister and the malevolent is conjured within the music. Released in 2018, the score has only just been released, and I have to comment ad say it was worth the wait. This is a wonderfully atmospheric work, overflowing with apprehension and a foreboding but at the same time has a delicate aura that is woven throughout. The composers work always reminds me of Chis Young and also the early works of Marco Beltrami, the films She has worked on are very rarely big budget affairs, but that never affects the quality of the score that is produced.
OPEN 24 HOURS is again a wonderfully rich and darkly driving work, from the composer. It has a mystical and mysterious sound within it, and also a relentless and unforgiving mood that is relayed via the sinewy and robust strings, the percussive and brass stabs which are elements that are in turn complimented by touches of melancholy and hints of fragility. Recommended.
MONEY PLANE is a heist, thriller movie, which has an effective and pulsating soundtrack provided by composer, David Bateman, a fusion of both electronics and symphonic combine to create a score that is actually really good indeed. The composer realises a tense and nervous atmosphere via imaginative use of strings, that are punctuated and supported by percussion and guitar. The guitar solo in the cue SHARKS I felt was reminiscent of Beltrami’s guitar rift in the SCREAM movies, modern and bluesy, with a hint of Italian western. The score for MONEY PLANE is non-stop, its entertaining and runs at a fairly swift pace, thus remaining interesting throughout. It is also filled with themes which is something refreshing these days. If I had to compare the work with anything, I would say think, MOMENTUM by Laurent Eyquem.
So, maybe things are not all bad for this edition of Soundtrack Supplement. Next up a score that you might have missed and again a soundtrack that is from movie released in the 1970’s. THE AMAZING MR.BLUNDEN is the work of Elmer Bernstein, a ghost story set in Victorian England. Released in 1972, the movie was directed by well known British actor Lionel Jefferies, who also directed THE RAILWAY CHILDREN two years previous. The score by Elmer Bernstein, was not typical of the sound or indeed that style that the composer had often employed in earlier films and TV shows, it was a more reserved and delicate sound that the composer utilised, creating lilting melodies and charming nuances that underline and also enhance the story as it develops. The composer using piano, woodwinds, strings and harp to fashion a quintessentially English sound, that is rich in melodic and thematic content, but at the same time oozing a mysterious air. The score was always on fans wants lists and was eventually released on compact disc by INTRADA records in October 2019. It is like so many releases these days a limited edition, so I wish you luck in tracking one down.
Patrick Jonson’s score for THE LOST FOREST has some beautiful moments to it, again it’s a score that is realised with synthetic sounds, but the composer handles these well and combines them in such a way that they have a soulful and grandiose sound, one knows they are samples and electronic instrumentation, but because of the way the composer uses all the elements fusing them and ensuring that each of them compliment each other, the end result is a score that is affecting. I loved his score for VIRUNGA back in 2015, which had heartrending passages and delicate compositions that were filled with melancholy, poignancy and raw emotion. Maybe check out THE LOST FOREST and while your there see if you can sneak a listen to VIRUNGA.
With the passing of the great Ennio Morricone, I feel I have to maybe point you in the direction of something that he composed in 2016, directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, THE CORRESPONDENCE, contains a emotional sounding score.
Like other Morricone/Tornatore collaborations, it has not only a poignant but beautiful soundtrack, but one that is filled with a feeling of things being right and as they should be. I realise that Morricone is always associated with Sergio Leone and is probably better known for his westerns scores than anything else, but his working partnership with filmmaker Tornatore, was in my opinion so special, the director and the composer, just seemed to know instinctively what was expected of them, images and music are as one and that is how it should be. Check out this masterpiece.