Another interesting release from Spanish soundtrack label Quartet who seem to be unstoppable of late with releases of new and vintage scores. La Vampira de Barcelona, (The Vampire of Barcelona or The Vampiress of Barcelona) is based on true events that took place in Spain in the early 1900’s. Enriqueta Marti caused much shock and anguish in Spain when she was arrested by authorities being accused of being a kidnapper of a girl from a wealthy family that has gone missing. The investigation which was a long and complicated one uncovered what the police called history of human trafficking and murder. This they said was in relation to the disappearance of dozens of children from the Raval area of the city of Barcelona. The police accused Marti of running a brothel which was exclusively for wealthy customers or them to participate in pedophilic acts. Marti it was said kidnapped the children specifically for this purpose. After which she murdered them and created witch-doctor tinctures for her clients with their remains. In recent years however a number of experts and researchers have discovered new evidence that is thought to have been covered up by the police in the original investigation, which shows that Marti was not a serial killer but more of a mentally sick individual who had been a victim of the media at the time and also the police who were A gruesome and grisly tale, that has now been brought to the screen by director Lluis Danes. Attempting to cover up the large pedophilia ring which included dignitaries and high-ranking officials. The story has for many years maintained much interest in Barcelona. The film which has already had a limited release in Spain, could receive a wider release soon.
The musical score which is attractive and affecting in a macabre sort of way is the work of composer Alfred Tapscott, it is as one can imagine a dark and at times foreboding work for much of its duration, however the score also contains some wonderfully elegant and haunting compositions. I love the way in which the composer utilises voices throughout the score, they create so many levels of emotion and add an icy and virulent air to the proceedings. The music oozes drama and is also filled with a tense and nervous persona, it is a soundtrack that purveys an uneasiness and also an apprehension. As far as I can make out it is symphonic or at least part symphonic, but there again as I have said before with the sophisticated samples and synthetic tools that are available now it is hard to tell. The composer makes effective use of percussion, swirling strings and dark robust sounding piano in cues such as Enriqueta Marti (track three).
The composer also effectively utilises both strings as in solo performances and the string section, with piano, that at times become what I would describe as being visceral but at the same time alluring in their overall sound, combine this with choral work and it is a score that makes its mark and at times makes the listener shudder. The opening cue Requiem pt 1, is a mesmerising piece for female voices, piano and strings, a short cue but one that is affecting aswell as being effective. Track number two-No est el primer que em voi camelar, is a pleasantly heart-warming piece, with a solo piano taking the lead, underlined by cello and solo violin, the melody is beautiful, and is given rich and eloquent rendition. It does however close in a slightly sinister fashion making one think that maybe something is about to take place. Rack four Sr. Fuster, too relies upon piano as its foundation, it opens in a romantic style which although is not overly melodic is pleasant, but the mood soon alters as sinewy sounding strings are introduced, these are supported by percussion and the piano returns but in a more ominous and darker sounding way. The track seems to rush to its conclusion with a flurry of activity on both piano and strings, again ending with a less than settled atmosphere. This in my opinion is a highly atmospheric work, it has so many themes and sub themes within its running time, it is a luscious and deliciously edgy sounding score and one that everyone should check out, it is available digitally, but I am told there could be a compact disc at a later date, another worthy addition to the Quartet catalogue. Recommended.
There is little doubt that Hugo Montenegro is a name that will be remembered by many, and also remembered for differing reasons. His score for the film Charro is although not grandiose and theme laden is an effective film score as it does what it is supposed to and supports without being intrusive and adds weight, atmosphere, and depth to the movie.
Released in 1969 Charro was one of those films that was a vehicle to showcase the talents of Elvis Presley, many may disagree but in my very humble opinion this was one of Presley’s better cinematic moments, It was different as in there were no musical numbers and it was just a basic run of the mill western drama but Presley displayed a good acting presence throughout, of course the notion of a pop/rock and roll superstar being cast in a movie was not a new thing, The Italians cast various pop singers in a number of the spaghetti westerns that were released in the 1960’s and 1970’s but I think that the performance in Charro by Presley deserves credit where credit is due.
In many ways the movie came across as something that was like a big screen version of TV shows such as The High Chapparal and The Virginian, but obviously being a feature film was longer. The musical score was by Hugo Montenegro who had shot to fame with his up-beat and pop orientated arrangement of Ennio Morricone’s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, which had gone to the top of the hit parade in many countries across the globe including the U.K. in 1968.
But again, Montenegro was given some bad press and often referred to as just a band orchestra leader, which granted he was, but he was also a composer in his own right and had scored a few projects mainly for TV before Charro, and before the hit single with The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly which included episodes of the popular TV series The Man From Uncle, and I Dream of Jeannie, but had also worked for filmmaker Otto Preminger on the 1967 movie Hurry Sundown for which he composed a powerful and affecting score that is possibly one of the best scores to come out of Hollywood that year. The movie too was successful and starred Michael Caine, Jane Fonda and John Phillip Law.
The score for Hurry Sundown is outstanding, it is a varied and emotive sounding work, the central theme being haunting and stirring. The lyrics being courtesy of Buddy Kaye and evoking the How The West Was Won end title song. For me it’s a score that one discovers forgets and then re-discovers to great delight, the music evokes both Lillies of the field and Gods Little Acre soundtracks, it has that kind of sound.
The film was a controversial one, but there again t was Preminger at the directorial helm. It dealt with racial issues, and when being filmed that cast and crew which were made up of both black and white actors etc, had to have protection from the State Police against attacks from the Ku Klux Klan. If you have never seen the movie or heard Montenegro’s score now is the time to rectify that.
A year later in 1968 Montenegro was responsible for penning the score for the Frank Sinatra and Rachel Welch thriller Lady in Cement. This is a score that oozes classy jazz orientated cues, but also has the unmistakable Montenegro touch to it, which in many ways evokes the style of Italian composers from the 1960’s such as Trovajoli, Umiliani, and Piccioni to name but three.
It is a light and airy collection of themes, but also has to it touches of the dramatic, pop upbeat passages and easy listening lounge style compositions. The composer utilising brass, choir, electric guitar, bass, harpsichord, Hammond organ and woods that are underlined by percussion and supported and laced by strings.
In the same year as Charro Montenegro scored another western The Undefeated, which starred John Wayne and Rock Hudson, and a western TV series from the States entitled, The Outcasts for which he provided the theme and scores for twenty-six episodes.
Both Charro and The Undefeated contained solid scores and themes, which I suppose can be likened to the styles of both Elmer Bernstein and Jerry Goldsmith and were incredibly supportive of both storylines on screen, they also had a sound and style that was appealing away from the images, but neither were particularly original. Sadly Charro which in my opinion has the better score has never been released, which, is surprising seeing as the movie starred one of the biggest attractions from the 1950’,s, 1960’s and through to the 1970’s and his untimely death in August 1977. The Undefeated never got a soundtrack release at the time of the film being in cinemas, but many years later the Film Score Monthly label issued the score in full onto compact disc. The story involved a group of Confederates and their families led by Rock Hudson, who after the war were intending to carry on the fight and to do this they had to travel across the border to Mexico.
But I for one found it hard to take seriously especially with John Wayne onboard still in Comancheros and Alamo mode, (sorry did he ever get into character, or was it just him on screen playing himself every time- The Hell it was!). The Undefeated was filled with brawls and cheesy comedy scenes that were intertwined with the storyline just. Add to these several action scenes and there we have it a fairly typical John Wayne western. It is an entertaining romp, and an ok western to sit and watch on a rainy Sunday, but not in my top anything really, even Hudson’s Southern accent was a little grating and hard to swallow, and as for the Southern hospitality, well, over the top comes to mind.
The score is however superior to the movie, but even this is rather cliched and relies on half-hearted Copelandish references and the music is deployed in a similar fashion to that of the westerns from the 1940’s and 1950’s. A lumbering theme opens the score, which forms the foundation of the work, but it’s no Magnificent Seven or The Big Country in thematic terms, the way in which the movie is scored is in a way Mickey Mousing like described by Max Steiner, as Montenegro adds little quirky nuances and melancholy interludes, that are syrupy and sugary. It may be an acceptable film and score but it’s not the best of Montenegro.
Charro was directed by Charles Marquis Warren who also provided the screenplay for the movie. The film had a cast that was not what I would call “All Star” laden, but the main characters and some of the lesser supporting roles were filled with faces that were familiar to cinema goers of the 1960’s many being around for a while in B movies or having minor roles in main features. The score is a darker one than The Undefeated and relies more on the attention to underlining the action or drama, rather than going hell for leather with grandiose Americana set pieces, it was effective in establishing a tense atmosphere in a few of the scenes, and the composer even utilising a Mexican style trumpet cue for the troops in the movie (shades of Morricone).
The composer also scored two Matt Helm movies with Dean Martin in the title role. The Ambushers (1967) and The Wrecking Crew (1968). Neither have been released onto compact disc or digitally and I am certain there was no LP release either.
The Wrecking Crew I remember because it was the main feature on the programme at the cinema with The Big Gundown being the B picture. And for Sharon Tate and Nancy Kwan beating the whatsit out of each other in one of the scenes and Nigel Green as the villain. With Elke Sommer too who was stunning. The Matt Helm movies were a bit of harmless fun and I hope no one took them seriously, but Montenegro’s music was perfectly suited to the offbeat antics of Helm.
The composer also scored the comedy Viva Max, which starred Peter Ustinov. The film which is hilarious is the tale of a Mexican Army commander who crosses the border into the United States with a small group of soldiers saying they are going to march in the celebrations for George Washington’s birthday, when realy he is planning to re-occupy The Alamo. Montenegro’s score is scattered with performances from trumpeter Al Hirt, who is credited on the cover of the RCA soundtrack LP, the score is up-beat and has to it a pop orientated martial style, with jazz influences and references to Mexican musical influences.
Montenegro’s style I have to say is like that of Burt Bacharach, fusing easy listening with the dramatic content to reach a wonderfully thematic combination, again scored in 1969, one can begin to hear little quirks of orchestration and the sound that would become associated with the composer, the soundtrack also featured a song Don’t Turn Back which was performed by Montenegro’s choir and Al Hirt. As I have said it is probably the recordings that Montenegro did of easy listening, classical and covers of popular songs and themes from movies that he will be best remembered for, and during the late 1960’s and into the 1970’s Montenegro like Henry Mancini, Ron Goodwin and others was responsible for bringing film music or film themes to the attention of a wider audience, because as we all know soundtrack albums were not always released because record companies and film companies were just not interested in the music for movies unless it was a blockbuster. Via the RCA albums that Montenegro released we got to hear unique versions of themes that we would not have heard unless we went to see the movies.
His compilations were an invaluable and essential part of film music collecting during this period, and along with Ron Goodwin, Henry Mancini, LeRoy Holmes and Stanley Black to name but a few film music became interesting. Montenegro admittedly did put his own musical stamp upon certain themes and his version of Hang em High is somewhat different from the original. But on a compilation from Montenegro, we could hear an up-beat cover of A Fistful of Dollars alongside things such as The Godfather and a synthesised arrangement of the Beach Boys hit Good Vibrations which at times was a bit off putting when one was looking at the track listing for an album, but it made for a varied listening experience. And also when eventually many of the soundtracks began to be released it made collectors want to go and buy them. A recent compilation that was released both on compact disc and digitally is the so called Best of Hugo Montenegro.
To be totally fair I do not think we could fit the best of this composer, conductor and arranger onto just a solitary compilation, but it is a great listen and also a wonderful way to sample his talents as both a composer and an arranger even if some of the track’s bare little resemblance to the originals as in his version of The James Bond Theme, it’s a case of the tune is there but, why this way? Negatives aside, Montenegro’s compilations are something that one can put on and not have to even think about, they can play and be a background or they can be something that you listen to an analyse. Either way the key word here is entertainment.
Hugo Mario Montenegro was born, in New York City U.S.A. in 1925. He served in the United States navy and whilst there acted as an arranger for the Naval Band. After he left the service, he enrolled at the Manhattan College where he studied composition and whilst there also formed his own band which performed at school dances. In the mid 1950’s Montenegro found himself arranging and conducting for both Eliot Glen and Irving Spice for their Dragon and Caprice record labels. After this he was hired as the musical director for Time records, and was responsible for producing a series of albums. In the early sixties Montenegro moved to Los Angeles and started to work for RCA records. It was here that he produced a handful of albums from soundtracks and TV shows which included The Man From Uncle and this is when he started to release albums of covers of songs and film themes. One of his most popular proved to be a compilation entitled Come Spy With Me.
After this he arranged themes that had been composed by Ennio Morricone for the Sergio Leone dollar trilogy, the most successful being The Good The Bad and The Ugly. His first film score was for the 1964 production, Advance to the Rear, after this and following the success and sustained sales of his albums, Columbia pictures offered him a contract. And from 1966 through to 1977 he remained there scoring a number of motion pictures including a British film entitled Tomorrow.
The composers final film scores were in 1977 when he worked on The Farmer and Too Hot To Handle.The Farmer which was a thriller that has since its release attained cult status was given an X certificate solely because of Montenegro’s chilling score which he fashioned on electronic instruments. But the films producer had the censors review the movie without music and they changed their opinion straight away giving the movie an R rating in the States. The score is said to be one of the composers best but is sadly thought to be lost.
Montenegro was also under contract to Columbia’s TV and scored some of their most popular shows, including Here Comes The Brides, The Partridge Family and the second season of I Dream of Jeannie.
During the latter part of the seventies, Montenegro was forced to retire due to severe Emphysema and this brought his musical career to a close. He died from the illness in 1981.
The score for the Italian television series CIVILTA DELMEDITERRANEO is a delicate and melodic one, with composer Bruno Nicolai employing sensitive strings and light floating woods that are accompanied by harpsichord and subtle percussion. The combination of this instrumentation creates a pleasing and haunting work, that must be among the higher-ranking scores by this much under applauded composer. Released originally in 1971 on the EDI PAN label (CS 2011), the album soon disappeared because like so many of Nicolai’s releases it was a limited pressing. Nicolai employs earthy sounding woods and solo guitar within the score giving it greater authenticity within some of the sequences. It does in places also purvey a somewhat Baroque sounding style, with slow strings underlining guitar, conveying a sense of the regal, and distinguished. The composer also utilises the distinct whistle of Alessandro Alessandroni, in the cue entitled, TONNARA, (Track nine). The inventive and talented whistler performing the central melody underlined and enhanced by sliding strings and punctuated by Jews harp, the piece then moves into a more Neapolitan or Sicilian sounding theme which is taken on by the string section and further enhanced by the use of mandolin before returning to the ghost-like but melodious whistle of Alessandroni which then segues into the easy going Italian sounding composition, this is text book Italian film music with an uplifting and joyous style, that has to it a certain quirkiness. The opening track of the recording IL MARE is a beautifully written and haunting piece for flute, strings, and meandering harpsichord that is enhanced and given support by percussion which sets the pace of the composition. Track number two, KHAN is a combination of recorder and mandolin/guitar, the recorder taking centre stage and purveying the central melody, with both mandolin and guitar giving support throughout. Track three, L’ALTRA SPONDA, is a delightful piece, for both strings and woods, and I have to say has that breathy sound and style that was achieved at times by British composer John Barry. There are very few what I would call action led or discordant cues within this score, in fact there are maybe two, these come in the form of MOGHUL (Track four) and IMAN (Track six) which do not share the thematic content as the remainder of the work, do however contain a scattering of something that resembles a tune.
The track MALAGA is a soothing and calming composition for guitar, that is simple and relaxing, the easy sounding piece creating calm and tranquillity. Overall, this is one of Nicolai’s most appealing soundtracks, it is filled with diverse and varied content including haunting tone poems that work within the series adding depth, atmosphere and colour to the proceedings, the score is also one that becomes affecting when listened to as just music away from any images. Kronos records are extremely proud to present this superbly thematic and entertaining soundtrack, which has never been issued before onto Compact Disc and is an essential addition to any Italian film music collection.
Whether you agree or not, there is very little doubt in my mind that composer Bruno Nicolai was an important contributor to the world of Italian film music, and if he had not been present alongside the likes of Morricone, Bacalov, Rota, Lavagnino, Cipriani etc the sound that we now associate with Italian cinema might have been a little different. He was not just a composer who wrote scores for television and film, but was also a talented musician, who acted as conductor on literally hundreds of scores by various composers who were prominent within the film music arena in Italy during the 1960’s through to the late 1980’s. He also established a record label EDI PAN [jm1][jm2] which released many of the Maestro’s soundtracks for lesser known movies and issued albums that at times contained music not related to film or television. Born in Rome in 1926, Nicolai studied with Aldo Manitia for piano and Antonio Fernandi and Goffredo for composition. Petrassi was also responsible for schooling Morricone in composition, and that is probably why the two composers had similar styles in composition and orchestration at times. Nicolai also undertook tuition for organ with Ferruccio Viganelli and later in his career would write many pieces for the instrument as well as performing on numerous film scores. The composer’s entry into film music came in 1963 when he scored HEAD OF THE FAMILY, then in 1964 he collaborated on the score for MONDO CANE 2.
The composers break into more prominent projects came in 1965 when Ennio Morricone turned to him asking Nicolai to conduct the score for Sergio Leone’s second western, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE. After this Nicolai and Morricone worked on numerous projects together, Nicolai either being musical director or collaborating with Morricone on the composition of scores such as OPERATION KID BROTHER and A PROFESSIONAL GUN. In 1966 he conducted Morricone’s classic score for THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, after this Nicolai began to work increasingly as a composer in his own right and was commissioned to write scores for all genres of film as well as documentaries and TV shows.As well as composing soundtracks for the cinema, Nicolai would conduct many works for film, and at times would also arrange and orchestrate works for various composers. The composer also had a keen interest in classical music and spent much of his time studying the scores of past musical masters such as Beethoven and Mozart.
Nicolai would often be offered scores for movies when Morricone was not available, and thus the rumour of Nicolai being an alias for Morricone began. On several occasions, he would be conducting for Morricone, playing organ for Rustichelli whilst at the same time composing a score of his own for a Western, Horror or Giallo.
In 1969, Nicolai penned the soundtrack for an American produced western entitled LANDRAIDERS; this contained a particularly haunting theme and also a driving and powerful main score. Arguably this is Nicolai, s best western score, and although it contains passages and musical phrases that are very much in the style of Morricone school of composition, with grunts, electric guitar riffs, and barking voices present, it is for the majority of its duration pure Nicolai. Morricone’s success unfortunately overshadowed much of Nicolai’s musical output, and many collectors and critics alike at one time considered Bruno Nicolai to be a mere Morricone clone. This of course is not true, as Nicolai was a great composer possessing originality, inventiveness, and talent in the way he approached film and TV scores. Listening to his music for the movies, IL CONTE DRACULA, THE 99 WOMEN, &IL TRONO DI FUOCO, one is immediately struck and impressed by his unique musical style and his obvious gift for creating melodic and dramatic music. Nicolai’s scores for Italian made westerns are also of a very high quality, and contain many of the musical sounds and trademarks that are associated with that particular genre, but they also have a secondary sound that is similar to the music that was employed in American made westerns, this being grandiose, sprawling and vigorous, with the classic styles of Tiomkin, Newman and Steiner coming to mind.
This style combined with the rawness and savagery of the Italian western score creates an interesting and original sound, that arguably can be attributed to both Nicolai and fellow Italian Maestro Francesco De Masi. Bruno Nicolai died on August 16th,1991, he was just sixty-five. Unfortunately, the composer’s death went almost unnoticed outside of his native Italy, and most soundtrack collectors that were aware of his music did not receive news of the composer’s death until some two months later. His passing left a void in the Italian film music fraternity, a void that in many people’s opinion has never been filled.
THE MOVIE MUSIC INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION AWARDS 2020.
*Please note there are some titles within this listing that were released in the closing weeks of 2019. But they were not more widely distributed until the early months of 2020. Therefore, we decided to include these because of the quality of the work.
As always these are recognition awards no ceremonies or certificates at the moment, just a nod of appreciation to the composer, presenters and authors responsible. There are also five new categories, label of the year for vinyl releases, best UK based radio station film music show, best individual track from a film score, best printed publication for film and including film music, and best book on film music or a specific composer.
BREAK-OUT COMPOSER OF THE YEAR.
THIS YEAR WE HAVE TWO COMPOSERS WHO WE THINK ARE WORTHY OF RECOGNITION.
THOMAS CLAY. Fanny Lye Deliver’d.
SID DE LA CRUZ. Hell on the Border.*
BEST TV SCORE.
UPSIDE DOWN MAGIC. TOM HOWE. Disney.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE.
FANNY LYE DELIVER’D. THOMAS CLAY.
BEST HORROR SCORE.
BAD HAIR. KRIS BOWERS.
BEST SCORE FOR A COMEDY.
THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD.
BEST SCI-FI SCORE.
PROXIMITY JERMAINE STEGALL.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SCORE.
APERFECT PLANET. ILAN ESHKERI.
BEST SCORE FOR AN ANIMATED MOVIE.
FEARLESS. ANNE- KATHRIN DERN
BEST SCORE FOR AN ACTION/THRILLER/DRAMA.
*HELL ON THE BORDER. SID DE LA CRUZ.
LABEL OF THE YEAR. (CD AND DOWNLOADS).
DRAGONS DOMAIN. U.S.A.
LABEL OF THE YEAR. (VINYL).
FOUR FLIES RECORDS. ITALY.
BEST RE-ISSUE OF A FILM SCORE.
TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA. ENNIO MORRICONE. LA LA LAND records U.S.A.
BEST RE-RECORDING OF A FILM SCORE.
ENDLESS NIGHT. BERNARD HERRMANN. Quartet Records.
RECOGNITION AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO THE ART OF FILM AND TV MUSIC.
COMPOSER OF THE YEAR.
BEST INDIVIDUAL TRACK FROM A FILM SCORE.
*HORSE CHASE. FROM HELL ON THE BORDER. SID DE LA CRUZ.
BEST ONLINE SOUNDTRACK SPECIALIST RADIO STATION.
CINEMATIC SOUND RADIO NETWORK. Erik Woods and co.
BEST U.K. BASED RADIO STATION FILM MUSIC SHOW.
MARK KERMODE. SCALA RADIO. (SKY O216).
BEST BOOK ON FILM MUSIC OR A SPECIFIC COMPOSER.
ENNIO MORRICONE-MASTER OF THE SOUNDTRACK. Maurizio Baroni. (Gingko press).
BEST PRINTED PUBLICATION FOR FILMS THAT HAS ARTICLES THAT INCLUDE FILM MUSIC.
WE BELONG DEAD. Eric McNaughton. U.K.
The year has been a tough one, but through it all composers, producers and directors still managed to create memorable movies, tantalising TV shows, incredible books and eye catching and interesting magazines and so many powerful musical soundtracks. Heres to 2021 and better times. Thank you for your support throughout the years.
Welcome to soundtrack supplement thirty-three. Once again, we have a mixed and full bag of titles to tell you about, hopefully we will be able to guide you some new additions or at least make you aware of them, as always, it’s a varied batch of titles which take in old, new, well known and obscure. I am going to begin with the soundtrack from a TV series. A Discovery of Witches has caused more than a ripple of interest, the series now in its third season becoming essential viewing for many but saying this it has also failed to inspire just as many viewers. I think one should give it a chance and also explore as many new things on TV as possible, I for one am enjoying the series and am savouring the musical score or scores for each episode.
Rob Lane is the composer, and has provided the series with a supportive, dark, and atmospheric sound that is filled with intrigue and mystery and oozes an uneasy and edgy persona. You may remember the composer from the series Merlin, for which he provided some magnificent music. Lane although working for small screen productions has never been a small-scale composer, as in he produces epic sounding music that is more like a full-blown sore for a feature film rather than for an episodic series. In fact, his approach is remarkably similar to that of the young James Horner, who always composed large scale scores for films that did not have the budget for them. By doing this it often attracts attention thus also making audiences, filmmakers etc aware of the composer or at least being interested in finding out who they are. I suppose A Discovery of Witches cannot be called an epic work, but nevertheless it does have to it a haunting and attractive sound and style, the composer fashioning several themes and variations of those themes for central characters and scenarios that unfold within the series. As I keep saying TV music has come a long way in the past two decades, and its not all about a catchy theme anymore, there are far more important things such as the actual score working or becoming something that can be listened to away from the images, in fact TV scoring is now probably more high profile than feature film music, because of the current situation with this pandemic, many are turning more and more to the small screen or 265 inch screen in the corner with full cinema sound and Dolby surround for their filmic or cinematic fix. And why not, needs must as they say. Lane’s scores for this particular series are at times melodic but more often than not contain a tense and visceral persona, purveying at times a nervous atmosphere and darker moods.
But we do get glimpses of melodious and thematic passages that seem to rise from nowhere as in Separation brings the Witch-Rain, in which the composer deploys strings and organ giving the piece not just a richness but also adding to it a kind of celestial sound complete with voices and brass that bring it to its conclusion. This is a style that also manifests itself within the track Joined Together. Often there is a folk style retained throughout the series musically, with the composer employing solo violin etc to create a brooding but at the same time tuneful soundtrack. I recommend that you take a listen and maybe if you can re-visit the soundtracks from season one and two of the programme.
From Witches and various mystical goings on to, the new Netflix production Bridgerton, which has music by a composer who I know we will hear more from in the coming years, Kris Bowers. His work on projects such as Mrs America, Bad Hair, Dear White Peopleand When they see us, have already placed him firmly in the eye of collectors of TV and movie music around the world and he like fellow composers, Michael Abels, Jermaine Stegall and Jongnic Bontemps are paving the way to an exciting and new approach to scoring movies. Bridgerton, is a charming score filled with an abundance of themes and haunting musical pieces. There is obviously a style and sound that is automatically associated with the period in which this drama is set, but there is also an underlying style that is of a slightly more contemporary persuasion. The composer utilises strings, solo piano, and wistful woods to convey the atmosphere of the score, underlining and supporting every moment of the drama as it unfolds. This for me is a listening fest filled with gorgeous thematic material and inventive and haunting compositions, overflowing with romantically laced passages that enthral and mesmerise. I recommend you take a dip into the musical delights of Bridgerton. Staying with Netflix and another score from another series which they are airing, it seems that we will all soon be forsaking the cinema and the actual TV as in BBC and ITV to make Netflix our staple channel and others like it where we get our entertainment. Lupin is a French series, which is a more contemporary incarnation of Arsene Lupin, I have to admit to not catching up with it as yet, but the music by composer Mathieu Lamboley certainly makes me want to sit down and watch the series right here and now, the score is dark and mysterious but also has within it a romantic feel in places, this is an accomplished score as in sitting listening to it without images.
It’s a soundtrack that one finds intriguing and also when it ends one wants more of its darkness its brooding and fraught atmosphere etc, I have to admit to loving material such as this, ok I also love romantic and grandiose scores, but this is I suppose grand and affecting in a different way, the tension that the music purveys is phenomenal. However, its not all dark and tense as the score also includes a handful of lilting and wonderfully eloquent themes, driving strings that are laced with piano and what sounds like a cymbalom but I don’t think it is really catch ones attention especially in the cue Gentlemen, which for me evokes the style of both John Barry and Ennio Morricone, it has the smoky or steamy atmosphere as created by Barry when in spy mode and also the strings and female voice that could be Morricone, it’s a score that you will I know like and also one that you will, trust me return to on many occasions. Recommended.
Back to 2020 for the next releases and the soundtrack to the French Tv movie Avis De Tempete or Storm Warning, this crime thriller was aired back in the September of 2020 and contains music by actor and composer Fabien Cahen, the plot revolves around a terrible storm that hits land just as a ten-year-old boy goes missing, as one can imagine this is a rather tense affair, and the score reflects the films storyline supporting and underlining all aspects of it. It is a mix of both electronic and conventional instrumentation, with the synthetic having the upper hand or greater share of the work. Do not however let this put you off at least having a listen to the score as there are some great moments in which the composer expands and develops his thematic ideas, that include comedic sounding passages and a hint of romantically laced nuances etc, in many ways for me it evoked a style that maybe Phillipe Sarde employed in certain scores, as in it is varied and innovative. It has to it an almost jagged sound in places, but it’s not in any way harsh or grating, available on digital platforms, so it is certainly worth a listen through.
Cobra Kai is a Netflix series of thirty-two episodes that basically carries on where Karate Kid finished, with a middle-aged Daniel Russo coming u against his old rival from 1984 Johnny Lawrence. The score is great stuff, its upbeat filled with action led cues and has to it a Bill Conti vibe with symphonic and synthetic elements fusing together and creating a powerhouse of a score that is entertaining and addictive, plus there, are some beautiful rich Oriental influenced cues as in Return to Okinawa, that is emotive and affecting. Hats off to Netflix for the series and for the score by Leo Birenberg and Zach Robinson. Again, on Spotify etc, go check it out. Highly recommended.
La Stanza is an interesting score, and the movie too is thought provoking for a horror /mystery. The central character Stella decides that she is going to commit suicide, but on the morning, she decides this must be done a stranger calls on her telling her he has booked the guest room. She is not sure who he is but allows him into her home, as initially feels he knows her well and is comfortable with his company, But, when her ex, Sandro joins them at the house the situation which is already strange to say the least becomes more chaotic and perplexing. The music is very atmospheric and supportive of the story line, composer Giorgi Giampa relies upon sinewy strings, inventive percussion and half heard sounds to create a mood that is thick with nervous and tense atmospherics. Again, this is something I do like in a score, the composer inventing new sounds via instruments that we already know but take on another role and sound different when utilised in a different fashion. The orchestrations are accomplished, and the music is an integral part of the storyline, it is a commanding yet stressful listen because it builds and builds layers of raw taut energy at times reaching the point of what we think is no return, but then suddenly pulls back leaving the listener wanting more and breathless. Recommended whilst taking a listen why not check out more from the composer his score for Mi ChiamoMaya from 2015 is certainly worth checking out.
To Gerard is in a word charming, and that’s the animated short and the music composed for this Dream works film by Layla Minoui, the music is sweet, melancholy and totally absorbing. I would say that it evokes the style of Debney, Broughton and Giacchino, it has to it the qualities of Up, the melancholy of The Boy Who Could Fly and the thematic richness of anyone of Debney’s more family orientated movie scores. Ok its not a grandiose or powerful as in action themed score but it is an uplifting and rewarding listen. Why not give it a go, go on, do it To Gerard.
Alexander Bornstein is a composer I first discovered via his stunning music for First to the Moon, well he is back with a pulsating and no hold barred soundtrack to Anime series Transformers,War of Cybertron:Earthrise. This a non-stop fest of hard-edged action cues but saying that there are still good themes and inventive writing here. You can be certain of one thing when listening to this release you won’t get bored, it just gets better and better as it progresses, symphonic and electronics combine and fuse seamlessly to fashion driving and exciting compositions. Available on digital platforms.
Don’t forget also that the music for the latest Dr Who special Revolution of the Daleks which was screened on the BBC on New Year’s Day is now available, on digital sites and soon on compact disc via Silva Screen. Once again composer Segun Akinola has gifted us a resounding and totally absorbing musical score. This is a work that has to it an epic feel and style, many were sceptical about the choice of composer for the show, but I think I for one am convinced it was the right selection, and although I am a massive fan of Murray Gold, but Akinola has again acquitted himself admirably.
Other new releases in recent weeks include Fireball Xl5 from Silva screen and a handful of scores such as Rooster Cogburn by Laurence Rosenthal who is such an underatted composer. Also, Spanish label Quartet records have issued a handful of great releases,
A Bridge Too Far for example and an excellent re-recording of the score Endless Night by Bernard Herrmann. The vinyl market too expands it seems daily with labels such as Four Flies, Sonor, and others keeping up the high-quality releases, of soundtracks and other genres of music from Italy. The only problem these days is the vinyl releases are selling out fast and I mean in the blink of an eye, so it’s a good thing that some are also issued onto Compact Disc.
Sonor issued a trio of Alessandroni albums, one being the score for the erotic thriller La Professoressa di ScienzeNaturali (1976) which contains some haunting lounge sounding cues and also a handful of jazz flavoured compositions, it’s a score I recommend as it is typical of the sound and style of Italian and French film music from that period.
Ennio Morricone’s I Due Evasi Di Sing Sing, also gets a release and is most welcome and surprisingly is on Spotify too.
On the subject of Morricone and digital platforms a number of his scores have appeared on these sites, which have not been available before now for streaming, Correva di anno di Grazie 1870 from 1972, L’Automobile and 1943 Una, both from 1971 for example.
And there is also an expanded (20 tracks) Incontro there to enjoy, I think this is one of the composers most attractive and haunting soundtracks and have loved it since buying the CAM records 9 track LP and subsequent CD release many years ago. I also notice that at last The Sicilian Clan has been added to Spotify, (its about time) sadly no extras on this one, as I think that this is really the entire score that runs over eleven cues, as each incarnation of the soundtrack whether it be LP or CD and now streaming/digital is the same content.
I have to say that I do enjoy the more obscure releases that Italian labels put out and am liking several releases of the music of composer Giuliano Sorgini, one such recording is the composers atmospheric score for the 1975 occult horror, Un Urlo Dalle Tenebre, which is filled with unsettling sounds and gruesome effects including some affecting vocals from Edda dell Orso. This is only on vinyl at the moment and is in many ways like the score The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, but in my opinion is a more enjoyable work. Having more actual thematic music as opposed to effects and chilling screams and whispers.
Certainly, one to add to the collection if you can get a copy that is. Also check out Alberto Baldan Bembo’s score for the 1975 movie La Amica di mia Madre which is brilliant, this is an LP release but is also available on digital platforms such as Spotify. It is overflowing with lilting and effecting compositions that have to them a jazz and easy listening style and are also influenced by Brazilian and other South American musical flavours such as sambas, that are laced with strikingly delicious disco strings and tropical sounding passages. It’s a score that one listens to and then straight away returns to, a must have.
There were a series of animated shorts on over Christmas on the BBC, Zog, went on various adventures and these included a handful of characters that he met along the way as it were. The music for every one of these animated adventures was courtesy of composer Rene Aubry, who wrote some charming music to accompany the friendly dragon in these films. The composer also scored The Highway Rat which was also aired over the Christmas fortnight. Most of the films in the series were about 30 mins in duration but the music was almost continuous and it certainly worth a listen.
So, from new releases to something a little more seasoned. Cast your minds back to the 1960.s that was such a great decade for movies and film music, but it was also a great time for music in general. The score I am going to talk about has as far as I am aware not been given an official compact disc release, the music was issued on a Stateside LP record in the UK and the ABC label in the United States.
It is a score and a movie that I have always felt has been undervalued. There was a bootleg compact disc which was released in Germany during the late 1990’s but it was among a few titles that were welcomed but also not given the coverage because of their dubious legitimacy. Custer of the West (1967) was issued on compact disc on the Gema recording label and paired with another western score El Dorado by Nelson Riddle. Brazilian born composer Bernardo Segall wrote a quite complex score in places and the battle scene in-particular is a shining example of movie music from this decade. The composer also integrated songs and more traditional sounding western film music into his score, including a rousing march.
It’s a score that I have always admired and the art-work for the LP cover is stunning. It is also an LP I have still to this day and will never part with. The film too I thought was good, however saying that I have not seen it for a while, Robert Shaw portrayed Custer and I know at times his performance was a little OTT, but other than that I enjoyed the movie and the battle at the end of the film was done well. The music does contain a lot of action material, but the composer also scores the end scene of the movie with sensitivity employing a melancholy sounding solo piano as the camera pans across the field of battle to show the audience the 7th cavalry massacred a lone horse standing amongst them. Performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Segall, this is a brassy and string led affair with support from percussion and timpani that emphasize the martial leaning of the work.
I think an official release onto compact disc of this soundtrack is way overdue, and yes, I do realise that it is a short score, but I am sure that the tapes still exist and there could be extra’s available, who knows? The battle music has a duration of just over three minutes and is I have to say well suited to the scenes on screen. Driving strings are embellished by horns and other brass which together create a powerful piece. Segall worked only on a handful of films and TV projects, these included The Fisherman and his Soul, The Jesus Trip, Moon of the Wolf, aswell scoring episodes of Columbo ie: Identity Crisis in 1975which starred Patrick McGoohan and Airwolf for American TV. He was not only a talented composer but a highly respected and gifted concert pianist.
Back to more recent releases now, well about 20 years ago plus in fact and to a film which was fairly-popular but did not break the box office in any way. It is my opinion that one of the best versions of the Cinderella story or at least elements of it, was the movie Ever After (1998). Directed by Andy Tennant, it was certainly different from most other incarnations of the tale and had a slightly more believable atmosphere to it. I think it is an enchanting and a down to earth slant on the story, and I for one love the way it is photographed and scripted, it also had some amazing costume design and a wonderfully subtle and alluring score by British composer George Fenton. The composer’s music gave the movie so much depth and emotion, it added comedic and romantic moods and had to it a regal and luxurious quality. The central theme or love theme itself is a touching and delicate piece, the simple but affecting composition purveys fragility and a real sense of melancholy, yet it remains hopeful that true love will finally shine through.
Fenton also wove into his score music that was suitably captivating and fragile with a deep emotional and delicate persona, the ever so light and beautiful central theme acting as a foundation for the score, the composer presenting it in various guises and giving it a freshness and vitality via his re-working of orchestration throughout and in turn building the remainder of his work upon it. It was written at a time when Fenton was a much in demand talent within the world of film music, and it seemed that one would see a new score by the composer almost every week. A traditional symphonic work, that boasted romantic strings and adventurous sounding brass, with proud and vibrant thematic qualities, that add colour and texture to the storyline in a similar way that an artist adds colour to a blank canvas. It is a heartrending and heart-warming tale with Fenton’s music mirroring and enhancing the emotions that are displayed within the movie’s storyline.
The film is literally awash with a musical excellence and overflows with a rich and rapturous score that ingratiates and supports every frame and scene. In short this is one of Fenton’s most accomplished scores for film. Amidst its romanticism, drama, and grand musical persona there is a poignant and emotive work present. The composer’s sensitivity for the subject matter created so much romantic atmosphere especially within the scenes between Danielle/Nicole/Cinderella (Drew Barrymore) and Prince Henry (Dougray Scott) which were made even more tender and convincing by the composers delightfully subtle and impassioned soundtrack. This is a must have for your collection.
So now we head back to the current releases, and again TV features large, The Serpent is something that is essential viewing, and the musical score by composer Dominik Scherrer is as outstanding as the production itself. A mostly synthetic work as in electronic, but it does contain a scattering of conventional instrumentation, although it is largely action paced and a brooding sounding score in places it remains thematic rather than just an underlying soundscape, the composers score works superbly with the tense plot that is unfolding on screen, the score is an important and also an integral part of the production as without the score I am of the opinion that the tension would have been lessened, the music heightens and elevates each scene and also underlines, gives depth and adds an ethnic setting as well as supporting the proceedings. Take a listen to track number ten, Searching Apartment 504, its tension personified, with organ and supporting strings that ooze nervous and affecting layers, and also track number eleven, Homicidal Umbermensch, with its heart-beat tempo that increases as the remainder of the instrumentation is added.
This is. a clever score and certainly innovative and inventive but there again so was the composers work on Ripper Street a few years back.Even though one is aware that there is music there whilst watching the production it is not to the point that the music either distracts or overwhelms the action and storyline. I enjoyed listening to the score away from the film and I am certain you will also. Catch the series too, it is riveting.
I end with two compilations, the first is The Music of Gerald Fried Volume 1, which comprises of two scores by the composer and released by the ever-industrious Dragons Domain records, both scores are from the 1970’s. Cruise into Terror is from the 1978 TV production and Survive is taken from the Mexican feature film released two years earlier. Which was revisited a few years later and filmed again being released as Alive.
Both scores are somewhat typical of the style that the composer employs, both are interesting and worthy additions to any soundtrack collection. In fact, I would go as far as to say that maybe your collection would be rather lacking without these two little gems.
The second compilation is again a Dragons Domain release, The Golden Age of Science Fiction Volume 1, for me is probably more interesting than the Fried compilation, because it includes music by Leith Stevens in the form of his score for the 1956 movie World Without End and from 1958 The Queen of Outer Space with a score by Marlin Skiles. I must admit to only hearing one other score by the latter composer which is from The Shepherd of the Hills (1964). So, it’s good to have another score from this composer in my collection. As we all know Dragons Domain releases are always well done and these two latest additions to their growing catalogue are no exception,
I would also like to recommend The Sorceress, another release from Dragons Domain, this time digital only. The movie is a low budget horror from 1995, directed by Jim Wynorski and starring amongst others Linda Blair. The atmospheric soundtrack which at times throws a nod of acknowledgement to the style of Ennio Morricone and Bernard Herrmann is the work of the incredibly talented composer and filmmaker Chuck Cirino who enlists the ominous sound of a meandering piano solo and female wordless vocals throughout his haunting soundtrack and all I will say is please check the score out. Again recommended. See you next time.
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