UNSUNG HEROES OF ITALIAN FILM MUSIC.

BRUNO CANFORA.

Composer, arranger and conductor Bruno Canfora, was born in Milan and began to study piano from a very early age. After being trained in piano the composer moved onto focusing upon the Oboe, During, world war ll, Canfora, performed a number of concerts with his band in Trieste. After the war the composer decided that he would re-locate to Turin where he took up the position of conductor for the CASTELLINO DANCE ORCHESTRA. The composer is well known for his work in the pop music field and also for collaborating with Italian female vocalist Mina. Canfora composed the music for a number of feature films and also worked on television projects.

He composed a number of songs for Mina including a song that was a hit in Japan entitled ANATA TO WATASHI. He also worked with well known vocalists such as Shirley Bassey, for whom he wrote THIS IS MY LIFE. In 1991 he was the musical director for the Eurovision Song Contest which was held in Rome and conducted the orchestra for the Italian entry by Peppino Di Capri.

His film score career began in 1957 with THE MAN WHO WAGGED HIS TAIL and he went onto score some twenty or so movies from the late 1950’s through to the latter part of the 1970’s his last score for a feature film being in 1977 when he worked on DESTRUCTION FORCE.

His last score was for the TV series ONCE UPON A TIME IN ROME which was in 1979.

One of his most entertaining scores was for the 1966 production, IL VOSTRO SUPER AGENTE FLINT 9, which was awash with jazz slanted cues which he fused with big band sounds and dramatic scoring.This is a score that is thankfully available on digital platforms and is an entertaining musical outing.

His score for THE QUEEN OF THE TARTARS too, is an atmospheric work, and again available on digital platforms. The composer on this occasion fashioning a highly dramatic and adventurous work for this low budget Peplum. His music being driving and powerful but remaining thematic. Canfora died on 4 August 2017 in Piegaro, Italy at the age of 92.

SOUNDTRACK SUPPLEMENT TWENTY TWO.

Coming on the 6th November from Silva Screen records is the affecting and enticing musical score for LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL by composer, Cho Young Wuk, it is taken from the up and coming BBC series that is based upon the writings of John Le Carre and his 1983 novel of the same name. This is an alluring soundtrack, inventive as well as being original. The composer creating tense and dramatic interludes that are apprehensive yet compelling.

The composer also fashions lilting and mesmeric themes throughout the work, but it is the tense and somewhat understated cues that for me held the attraction. I thought that it evoked the music written for so many shady and intriguing tales such as THE IPCRESS FILE and has to it a haunting, mysterious and sinister style, similar to another John Barry score SÉANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON,  it is as if the music is actually stalking the listener, it conveys a thick and threatening persona, with the composer weaving a musical web of the uncertain that also manifests an atmosphere that is claustrophobic and alarming in places. But, although the score is a fraught and uneasy one, there are within the work numerous moments of thematic examples, I would also liken the style and sound of this soundtrack to the dark and foreboding music of Bernard Herrmann.  It is a brooding and at times sombre sounding score, which although contains lighter moments never really allows itself to become fully melodic. I have said many times before that I am a fan of these types of scores, them being understated, subtle and non-intrusive but at the same time highly supportive of the scenarios on screen. For the most part it is a symphonic work, but there are supporting electronics that help to create the dark and chilling side to the work. Well worth a listen when it is released.

ROBIN HOOD PRINCE OF THIEVES was a rip roaring adventure, or so they told us, but it had so many faults and was filled with some really hammy acting or at least attempts at acting, Costner was totally miscast, and so for that matter were the majority of the cast, maybe with the exception of Alan Rickman. The only saving grace from this Hollywood hatchet job on a noble British legend was the musical score, but even this I had reservations about at the time of the films release. I did feel it was lacking in most areas, but after a while and now years afterwards I feel that maybe I was unfair, and maybe a little inpatient and wanting to hear something more Korngold. But we can’t always have what we want, and Michael Kamen’s score for the movie is I think well written and also suitably noble sounding and filled with drama and adventure. A four disc set is now available from Intrada records of the score and it includes many extras from the work, it beggars belief that there could be so much music written for one movie, but this is a set that I think you must have, it shines new light upon this score and also has made me think of it in a more favourable way.

The rousing theme penned by Kamen still resonates and excites setting the scene for the sweeping, romantic and driving score that is to follow. So, thank you Intrada for this release, and also for waking me up to what I had obviously missed many years ago when I first heard it.  On listening to the music through including the extras and formerly unreleased material, I am no of the opinion that this is an epic work, awork that is overflowing with themes and robust sounding compositions, an entertaining soundtrack, which has been given a new lease of life via this four CD set.  

John Addison is a composer who I grew up with, his score for THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE, was a favourite of mine. He was an abundantly talented composer, and worked on many movies throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s. In 1976 he scored the mystery thriller, THE SEVEN PERCENT SOLUTION, which was directed by film maker Herbert Ross, it starred Nicol Williamson as Sherlock Holmes, Robert Duvall as Dr Watson, Alan Arkin as Sigmund Freud and Sir Laurence Olivier as Holmes’s nemesis James Moriarty. With a strong supporting cast that included Joel Grey, Jeremy Kemp, Samantha Egger and Charles Gray. At last this charming and sweeping soundtrack is available via Spanish label Quartet, who have made a really good job of the re-mastering and the presentation of the release.

Although at times one can identify little quirks of orchestration and stylistic traits of Addison, it is not straight away evident that it a score by this eminent composer. It is probably one of the most rewarding listens that I have heard in recent years, I was familiar with some of the themes via a few cover versions that I have heard, but this original score is most welcomed, it is an entertaining score and also an inventive one, the release contains the original score composed and conducted by Addison plus alternative and additional music.  Well done Quartet, maybe more John Addison soon?

I am a little late with news on the next release, coming from Intrada, it contains two scores, one from Bill Conti the other from Dominic Frontiere, THE STUNTMAN is a soundtrack that I have had on my list of wants for many years, I remember seeing the LP record in a local store and passing on buying it, never to see it again, until recently online. Thank goodness for Intrada, and thanks to them for releasing not only Frontiere’s THE STUNTMAN but Bill Conti’s AN UNMARRIED WOMAN on one CD. I had the privilege of meeting Dominic Frontiere many years ago back in around 1977 when he was in London at the Martini rooms, which is an encounter I have never forgotten.

He is or was sadly because he passed away in  2017, a very underatted composer of film scores, he is probably best known for HANG EM HIGH and also THE TRAIN ROBBERS and BRANNIGAN, amongst others, and his music for the television series THE INVADERS and THE OUTER LIMITS is now iconic. His score for THE STUNTMAN is such a varied and entertaining work which also includes a song BITS AND PIECES performed by Dusty Springfield, which I felt had a kind of James Bond title song vibe to it. With the composer providing an orchestral version of the song, which certainly has Barry-esque connotations. The score is luxurious in places, jaunty and also romantically melancholy. The cue IN TRAINING is a vibrant and quirky piece, with a kind of 1920’s sound to it, purveying an atmosphere that is comedic and slightly madcap. The actual central theme of the score or MAIN THEME is beautiful, with the composer employing solo piano that conveys a style and atmosphere that is initially one of solitude, it is then joined by a scattering of strings and breathy woodwind, but the mood alters into a darker and more sombre musical affair, with tense strings being enlisted, this then changes to something more romantically laced and a luxurious theme which is performed by the string section that are supporting piano.  I have to say that the only reason I have this compact disc in my collection now is for the Frontiere score, the Conti soundtrack being kind of surplus to my requirements. Certainly, one to look out for as it is now becoming very scarce.

Its Dominic Frontiere I go to next also, for THE QUINN MARTIN COLLECTION VOLUME 2, as I have already said, the music for THE INVADERS is now iconic, and a classic piece of TV scoring, the show was for many essential viewing, and the theme became instantly recognisable, Frontiere’s use of a three note motif striking terror into the hearts of many, but also telling us that the show was about to start, inventive orchestration made the music for the series attractive and also uniquely menacing. This is a collection that is a must have for not only fans of the composer and the series, but also for any self-respecting collector of film and TV music. Thanks to LA LA LAND records we are treated to Seventy-nine tracks of tantalising and vibrant music with a running time of one hundred and forty-nine minutes, well presented and re-mastered to perfection. An essential purchase.

Conrad Pope is a vastly underatted composer in my opinion, why this composer is not right up there with the likes of Williams, Zimmer and others is beyond me. But we as collectors know how talented and versatile, this composer is dont we. Dragons Domain records have released THE CONRAD POPE COLLECTION volume 1, which is a compilation of music from four original scores,  GHOST SHIP, METAL BEAST, TEMPTATION and UNDER THE MOON, all four scores are excellent, and I mean excellent, they are rich and sumptuous, filled with attractive themes, lush strings and absorbing melodies, this is a perfect introduction to the music of this composer, if you have not already encountered it.

Also from Dragons Domain records comes Pope’s score for LLOYD, again the composer displaying his evident ability within the film music arena, in many ways this sounds so much like a Jerry Goldsmith score, its filled with an inventive use of strings and brass and is just an entertaining listen, so while you are checking out THE CONRAD POPE COLLECTION volume 1, why not pick up a copy of LLOYD as well, you will not be disappointed.

Also, from Dragons Domain comes two scores on one CD from British composer Howard Blake, THE CANTERVILLE GHOST and THE AMITYVILLE HORROR 3D, both of which are excellent, but are both very different stylistically. I think I have to say I prefer THE CANTERVILLE GHOST, it is more of a magical sounding and romantic score, wheres as THE AMITYVILLE soundtrack is rather more atonal and certainly far more sinister and darker. But, to have two scores by Blake on one disc displays perfectly his versatility and his adaptability. THE CANTERVILLE GHOST was a TV movie released in 1986 and directed by Paul Bogart.  For me personally there is an almost James Bernard Hammer feel to the soundtrack, I am thinking of scores such as FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN when I state this, rather than the early Hammer productions as scored by Bernard, the music is tense but at the same time has a romantic and wistful air. Fully symphonic and overflowing with a rich sense of the dramatic, it is an appealing work, and one that I know you will return to many times. Blake creates a anthem like theme with bold brass and wistful woods that are underlined and supported by strings and subtle use of percussion.

AMITYVILLE 3D is more dramatic and has to it a menacing and somewhat chilling atmosphere, the composer utilising low woods in combination with female voice to create an eerie and sinister mood. Spikey strings, with underlying percussive elements fashion a powerful and malevolent sound, the composer also utilises a spooky sounding music box effect that is combined with an Ondes Martenot sound, that is most effective. Adding depth and giving the work a sense of dread. Both scores are well worth adding to your collection.

Last but certainly in no way least from Dragons Domain again, we have an excellent work from another underatted composer, Don Davis. SPACE ODYSSEY-VOYAGE TO THE PLANETS has been released as THE DON DAVIS COLLECTION,VOLUME 1, which sounds great because this means that there is going to be a volume 2, we hope. The score for SPACE ODYSSEY VOYAGE TO THE PLANETS has never been released before now, and it is a triumph of a soundtrack, filled to bursting with proud sounding interludes and bristling with patriotic and vibrant themes.  All I can say is think THE RIGHT STUFF meets CAPRICORN ONE and STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE, what more could you ask for. Highly recommended.