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 People and 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 Chiamo Maya 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 Scienze Naturali (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.