SOUNdtrack supplement twenty nine.

Ok here we go once again it’s time for another look at the latest soundtrack releases and there are quite a few this time, whether they are all interesting or not is another matter, quantity does not always mean quality does it?. I thought maybe I would fit in just another soundtrack supplement before Christmas, but the way things are going it looks like maybe another two or three will be on the cards before the big day. (if the big day happens that is as we know it) Christmas will we are informed by the powers that be somewhat different this year, no realy? So let’s start off with something that is seasonal and I say seasonal because after all it is the end of November and I have already heard THE FAIRY TALE OF NEW YORK about thirty times on the radio (the edited PC version of course) and also seen the crème eggs waiting in their thousands to be placed on shelves on Christmas eve.

I thought to begin maybe we should go back to happier times and look at a British movie from a while ago, (1970) and a film that was a musical setting of a tale penned by Charles Dickens. SCROOGE was an adaption of the authors famous tale from Christmas in Victorian times, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, I know the movie had a mixed reaction when it first went into theatres in the UK and the U.S.A. After all Albert Finney although being a fine actor, is certainly no singer, but I think it actually worked, after all Ebenezer Scrooge would not strike me as a person who would want to burst into song and make a pleasant job of it, Finney mainly spoke the lyrics, and I have to say for the most part it was rather effective and dare I say it endearing in a way. Released in 1970 SCROOGE was the work of Leslie Bricusse who wrote the book and lyrics and co-wrote the music with composer Ian Fraser.  music. The movie also starred Alec Guinness, Kenneth More, Edith Evans, Roy Kinnear and a number of familiar British actors.  Finney won Best Actor at the Golden Globes in 1971, for his portrayal of the irascible Scrooge. And the film became a firm favourite after its initial release, which is shown almost every year at Christmas time on TV all around the world. 

The soundtrack was issued at the time of the film’s release in a gatefold edition, on the Columbia label and contained the now familiar numbers such as I HATE PEOPLE, THANKYOU VERY MUCH, I LIKE LIFE, YOU, YOU, SEE THE PHANTOMS etc. Ok I must admit I like it and it is a bit of a tradition that in my house it is mandatory that we sit and watch this every year, normally Christmas Eve, no if’s, buts or whatever’s. It is I think a feel-good film because we all know that old Ebenezer will come good in the end. It’s a funny thing that SCROOGE was committed to film first and then was adapted for the stage, it opened in 1992 in Birmingham with Anthony Newley in the title role, and later moved to London’s West End, the supporting cast was strong in the form of Jon Pertwee, Stratford Johns, and Tom Watt.

The show was revived in 2012 with the legendary entertainer Tommy Steele taking the lead, bringing his own style and persona to the role of the bitter Ebenezer Scrooge. Like another Charles Dickens novel that was turned into a musical OLIVER. SCROOGE has taken its place in British film and musical stage show history. 

Ok from a musical we head back to the film scores that have been released recently, and as I hinted in the opening of this article we are spoilt for choice. THE BOY IN THE SNOW I think contains a highly atmospheric score, it maybe not the most grandiose work, but it has its moments, the composer Philip Eisenfeldt, has crafted a tense yet melodically affecting score, in which we are treated to mesmerising pieces and dark rich passages that work so well together, the differing styles complimenting and supporting each other throughout.  The composer utilises to maximum effect slight choral nuances that are underlined by woods and laced with subtle string performances, it is a score that one will sit and listen to and before one realises it it’s over, but this is because it is so effective, not only as a score but as music to be savoured and appreciated away from any storyline or imagery. It is one I recommend you take a listen to.

Like Philip Eisenfeldt composer Patrick Kirst is a new name for me. His latest work BREAKING SURFACE is an intensely apprehensive soundtrack. The music creating tension and foreboding and purveying a sense of claustrophobia and fear. But it is a score that also has its less edgy moments, and I would suggest the digital platforms to investigate these. 

THE DESCENDANTS is a TV movie from the Disney stable, with music by Canadian born Actor and composer David Lawrence, all I am going to say is WOW.. I love this soundtrack, the score is just crammed full of beautiful thematic material, and if I was asked to say who this composers style is similar to I would have to drop in names such as James Horner, John Williams and John Debney, there is so much rich melodious content within this fully symphonic wildly romantic and dramatic work. I have to comment and say this is at the top of my list of the late November releases, there is a plethora of musical notions within the soundtrack that are both fearsome and magical, it is overflowing with an abundance of haunting musical poems that are delicate, intricate and above all enriching, inspiring and entertaining. The story is set twenty years after Belle and the Beast have married, and have become King and Queen of the United States of AURADON, after they became King and Queen they banished all villains to the isle of the lost, which is a slum that has a barrier around it where all magic is forbidden.

Belle and The Beast  have a son Ben, who decides that he wants to allow four children from the isle of the lost to be given the chance to live in Auradon, and he chooses, the son of Cruella de Ville Carlos, Evie the daughter of the Evil Queen Mal the daughter of Maleficent and the son of Jafar Jay. Unbeknown to Ben and his parents, Maleficent has instructed the four offspring to steal the fairy Godmothers wand so that she can release the barrier on magic around the isle and take control of Aura. Lawrence’s powerful and romantically laced score aids the movie greatly and is an important and vital part of its storyline.

An animated feature next, DRAGON RIDER, in which we follow a young silver dragon who teams up with a mountain spirit and an orphaned boy on a journey through the Himalayas in search for the Rim of Heaven. The score is by composer Stefan Maria Schneider who worked on HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON as an orchestrator for John Powell. And one can certainly hear certain little quirks of orchestration within DRAGON RIDER that we also heard in the Powell score. This is a great little score, I say little mainly because many of the cues are rather brief as in less than a minute in duration, I think the longest cue is around three minutes, which is entitled TEMPLE OF THE DRAGON RIDER that has a content that ranges from apprehensive, dramatic and action led to downbeat and slightly martial, which is certainly no mean feat in a relatively short amount of time, The thing I like about this score is it never becomes boring, it is go, go, go, but also the composer infuses a mischievous air into the proceedings, that keeps it fresh, vibrant and robust. The score is as far as I can make out mainly symphonic, with maybe a few electronic passages which are mainly for enhancement and support. Strings and brass with underlying percussive support are the main stay of the work, plus the composer enlists chorale support at times. It’s definitely worth a listen.

Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo (29 September 1864 – 31 December 1936) was a Spanish essayist, novelist, poet, playwright, philosopher, professor of Greek and Classics, and later rector at the University of Salamanca. And it is he who is the subject of the documentary PALABRAS PARA UN FIN DEL MUNDO (WORDS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD).  His major philosophical essay was The Tragic Sense of Life (1912), and his most famous novel was Abel Sánchez: The History of a Passion (1917), a modern account of the Cain and Abel story. The music for the documentary is by accomplished composer Ivan Palomares, one only has to mention this Maestro’s name or see it on the credits of a movie etc, to know that this will be a work that will be innovative, inventive and affecting.

This is a subtle work, sparsely scored with delicate touches and fleeting sounds which at times drift into soundscape rather than what we as collectors refer to as musical score, although it is in no way un-musical or unmelodic. The work is a mix of both electronic and conventional instrumentation, with piano featuring throughout, the composer also utilises cello for solo performances which adds a touch of melancholy and deeper emotion to the work. Released on Movie Score Media. As I have already said the recent batch of releases have excelled in quantity, but maybe the quality is not as high as it could have been, it’s a sorry state when we get something in the region of thirty plus releases of soundtracks and more than half of these are quite flat in the quality and entertainment departments, but as I always say this is my own personal opinion, and I always recommend that you check out as many new releases as you are able to via digital platforms, it’s a good way to try before you buy, if that is a CD release is available. So that is why invariably I try and look for and include something that is vintage or has been issued before in the past decade that maybe collectors could have overlooked, and in these times of more and more records as in vinyl making a return some soundtracks are now being given an LP format release which for many is welcomed news.

The soundtrack for the Italian made western THE BOUNTY HUNTERS (INDIO BLACK/ADIOS SABATA) for example, this fantastically fun spaghetti score has long been a favourite of mine and many others, Bruno Nicolai penning a Morricone style soundtrack for the Yul Brynner gimmicky and quirky western tale. Brynner taking on the central role of Sabata and making it his own and a portrayal of an already established character that had originally hit the screens in the form of Lee Van Cleef, the score by Nicolai is I suppose and I hope that you will agree with me on this one Text book Italian western, the score was never released on vinyl, its first full release was on compact disc when Hillside/GDM records released it, at the same time the label also issued the SABATA and THE RETURN OF SABATA  soundtracks on another compact disc, since then the scores have all been re-issued some with extra tracks by other labels. Which has been the norm with Italian scores of all genres, we get what we think is the complete soundtrack released but then we get some months later an expanded version, and after this a definitive edition, and now we are getting vinyl releases of the same scores all over again.

So is this record companies just making collectors shell out again and again or are these really worth having, the latter I fear is not the answer in my opinion, but I suppose that if the record companies re-issue material again and again and the collectors buy them well it’s the collectors choice isn’t it.

I have always prescribed to the saying LESS IS MORE and I for one am happy with soundtracks that I have and have never seen the need to go out and get a copy of a score I already have because a label has re-issued it with two minutes of extra music or a suite or karaoke version of a track on it,  to be honest these karaoke versions or suites are a con, most of them being put together at the labels mastering stage by engineers or producers and none of them being used in the original soundtrack or having anything to do with the composer of the score.

However, I am pleased to see scores such as THE BOUNTY HUNTERS on vinyl, (Dagored records) in orange as well as being a two LP set. SABATA was of course originally issued on LP record at first on the Japanese UA label then later came an American release. It’s great to hold a new album again, there is just something about the feeling and the excitement of placing the record on the deck and lowering the stylus onto it. Maybe more will see the light of day very soon, although saying this the renewed interest in vinyl is surging forward and outstripping the sale of cd’s and downloads in recent months. Maybe its something to do with lockdown, because people need feel good things and vinyl is certainly that. It would be great if record companies did re-issue a lot of spaghetti westerns onto LP record, as long as they use the original art work that is, the Italian western soundtrack was renowned for its stunning art work, and I would be made up to see it all again in sealed releases.

So, to a few more recent titles, UNSEEN is an accomplished and strangely attractive score composed by Eloi Ragot. It is dark and chilling in places and has to it a fearsome and somewhat uneasy style that establishes an even more unsettling mood at times.  But there are a number of different atmospheres and musical colours and textures contained within the soundtrack, these range from the dark and unsure to the more romantic and even the melancholy and reassuring. The composer utilising piano, strings and cello in key points to purvey a sound that is either sad or hopeful. It is an enjoyable soundtrack, and one that is both varied and haunting.

 UNEARTH by Jane Saunders is too an interesting release, I would not say interesting for melodic reasons, but for the use of atmospherics and for also creating textured moods and for the fashioning of musical passages that are thickly compelling in a macabre kind of way, the score seems to convey to the listener a tormented persona, but also has to it in certain areas a subtle and even attractive sound. Both UNSEEN and UNEARTH are available on digital platforms.   

Other titles that are worth a listen include, GATHER by Michael A Levine, DEMONS SOULS (VG) by Shunsuke Kida, OUTBACK by Justin Bell, Mark Mothersbaugh’s quite epic but quirky sounding THE CROODS A NEW AGE proving that he is such an underatted composer once again, LA CINTA DE ALEX by Antonio Escobar and Martin Phipps’s excellent score for THE CROWN -SEASON FOUR. See you next time in soundtrack supplement thirty.

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