Welcome top soundtrack supplement, in this latest look at music from movies and TV I go back in time to 1971 and look at a movie that has become iconic in the eyes of many. But let’s start with the TV series Time, which is a hard-hitting BBC drama which starred Sean Bean and Stephen Graham, both actors are excellent in the series, and it became essential viewing. The atmospheric score is the work of composer Sarah Warne, the music being performed by a small ensemble of players with, Horns, Tuba, Bowed Harp, Violin, Viola, Cello, and voice being featured, the composer also gives depth and adds a menacing mood to the proceedings via use of electronic support.
The series, which was split into three parts, was written by Jimmy McGovern and directed by Lewis Arnold. It is one of those rare productions that becomes addictive viewing. The music is a wonderfully subtle but at the same time is a Vitaly important component of the series, Warne’s music creating a taught and apprehensive ambience that is filled with menace. Released by Silva Screen records and available now, it is one you should check out.
Another release coming from Silva screen on August 8th 2021 is due on two LP records and also as a digital release. Space 1999 remains to this day a popular sci-fi TV series, this latest release from the British soundtrack Specialist label features music from both year one and year two of the Gerry Anderson cult series. With music by Barry Gray and Derek Wadsworth being featured. Although the styles of the composers was slightly different the scores penned by Gray and Wadsworth wonderfully enhance and compliment the action of screen. With Wadsworth’s music being a little more upbeat and maybe having to it a funky/disco vibe that also encompasses the easy listening and lounge genres of music.
Whilst Barry Gray’s familiar style shines through in the selection of scores from year one including Gray’s bombastic and dramatically paced opening theme. However, the Gray selections also have to them a certain vibe as in instrumental pop orientated styles. This is a great collection of music from an awesome series that will I think evoke memories of this series for many. Thank you, Silva Screen for another fantastic release of another score from an Anderson classic series and we look forward to more. It’s been fifty years since the likes of movies such as The Hunting Party, The French Connection, Dirty Harry, Big Jake, The Last Picture Show, Get Carter and Stephen Spielberg’s first feature Duel hit the screens in cinemas, 1971 was a year of varied and diverse movies, for example in the same year we were treated to Fiddler on the Roof, The Andromeda Strain, Shaft, Cat of Nine Tails, The Omega Man, Valdez is Coming and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Or Willy Wonka’s Choc Horrors as I sometimes refer to it.
HOLD YOUR BREATH MAKE A WISH, COUNT TO THREE.
The film, which was based upon the story by author Roald Dahl, was an instant hit with audiences of all ages, and has remained a firm favourite. But the original book was banned, apparently it was considered to be racist because of the authors description of the Oompah Loompah workers in the factory. Looking at the movie some fifty years I suppose this was a fair point because the world has now gone so PC we do look at things so differently, I also pondered the question is this a kid’s movie at all? or is it in fact a horror related tale that is disguised with charming songs and innocent performances?
It is certainly a story that purveys various levels of morality and it also teaches the audience that maybe if children do not behave then they get punished, but to what degree should this punishment go? But as we are all aware there is always a price for being hungry. There are a few who think that the movie also promotes child abuse, because of what many of the children in the story are put through by their rather eccentric and at times nonchalantly mannered host when they display disagreeable mannerisms and irritating personalities.
There are several lessons being dished out in the film which could also be considered an example of social satire. We have gluttony, obsessive behavior, greed, class divisions but thankfully in the form of the young boy Charlie we see a glimpse of hope, naivety, and honesty, that re-assures us there are still people who have morals and integrity. And it is this honesty that ultimately underlines the final message of the movie, which is honesty is always the best policy. This is a rare motion picture because it not only appeals to the majority, but it also has a knack of dipping into and becoming part of the social, educational, and literary material of life. As we are all aware there was of a remake of the story which in the hands of Tim Burton and with Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka was quirky to the point of being ultra-weird and certainly had so many dark connotations. But it is a film that came in for much criticism from critics and audiences alike who began comparing it with the original, which is sadly something that many do with re-makes, re-imaginings and re-boots. Although both were based upon the same story the two movies turned out hugely different each having their own fantastical and at times unsettling entities. The 1971 movie was also a musical, so we have a film here that arguably crosses into a handful of genres, children’s entertainment, comedy, horror, musical and adventure/fantasy to highlight a handful.
I believe many see this in very much the same way as they view films such as The Wizard of Oz, or stories such as Hansel and Gretal, Red Riding Hood, and let’s not forget the book and the many film adaptations of Alice in Wonderland. All are essentially children’s stories but there is a sinister and unsettling undercurrent flowing through them. Gene Wilder was magnificent and made the role of the peculiar, unique, unpredictable and at times dissociative identity disorder like character Willy Wonka his own. Wilder was and will forever be Willy Wonka. So, is this a world of true sugary imagination for the kids or are there other messages and scenarios lurking amongst the candy’s, the lollipops, and the Oompah Loompah workers, that could place it within the realms of being a semi horror?
THE CANDY MAN CAN.
Music and lyrics were provided by the Award-winning Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, with the film containing a handful of songs that would become standards and well loved. The Candy Man for example, Pure Imagination and the quirky and catchy Oompah Loompah song. Song it was not a movie that was filled with songs but is still considered to be a musical? The soundtrack album contained these songs and others and music score from the movie which was mixed with dialogue from the movie too. The soundtrack is now available on digital platforms. So why not go find it and see if it contains that golden ticket and why not re-visit the movie, some layers of sweetness and slices of horror might just be what you need.
Another film that celebrates its half century this year is the seventh official James Bond movie (or ninth if you count in the 1954 Barry Nelson TV film and the 1967 version of Casino Royale with David Niven as James Bond) Diamonds Are Forever. The score is as well known as the film itself via its sexy and stylish title song performed by Shirley Bassey. The music was by John Barry who produced a soundtrack that was in keeping with Bond but in this movie, I felt that Barry added a more contemporary style to the already established bombastic and dramatic musical layers he was so well known, with these in turn becoming part of the James Bond sound Barry incorporating them into future scores such as Moonraker, Octopussy, and The Living Daylights. Diamonds also had to it a familiar sound which we had sampled in You Only Live Twice with Barry’s, Space March theme.
Diamonds Are Forever the movie that was much anticipated by many fans of the franchise because it heralded the return of Sean Connery after his departure from the series in 1967. Sadly, it would be his last outing as 007, and the next in the series would see the introduction of Roger Moore in Live and Let Die. At the time of the release of Diamonds are Forever I personally felt it was a rather lack luster movie and the score also disappointed save a handful of cues. But in the ensuing years, I suppose I grew up and my tastes also altered and now I just love the variety and the thematic content of the soundtrack, which changes from the high drama that we expect from a Bond score to light and near easy listening cues such as Circus Circus, and Q’s Trick. Which both have that Barry sound but also have to them a kind of Bacharach persona within them.
This may not be the best of Bond visually or musically, but it has become one of the more popular scores from the Maestro. In 2003 the soundtrack received a re-mastered and expanded release, listening to this edition really does display why Barry was the best.
Two interesting releases Till Death and Knuckledust are both the work of talented composer Walter Mair, and they are prime examples of just how adaptable Mair is as a composer of music for film, neither being remotely similar in style or sound but both serving the projects well and at the same time being entertaining as a listening experience. I think I do prefer Till Death but saying that Knuckledust is vibrant and upbeat with rock connotations running throughout it.
Till Death is more of a conventional horror score if there is such a thing, brooding and dark in its overall sound and style this is a score that I strangely warmed to. The mix of synthetic and symphonic or conventional instrumentation being delicately balanced but working wonderfully. Knuckledust is how can I say it, ah yes… “More in your face”. There are few subtleties here musically but saying this it is a good score, so please check out both interesting soundtracks.
IN A DECAYED WORLD THEY FIGHT AGAINST A CURSED DESTINY.
Enders Lillies is a dark role-playing game, which takes us on a journey to unravel the mysteries of a kingdom which has been destroyed and laid to waste. The encounters we have on this journey are with horrific and aggressive enemies who are intent on our destruction and not taking them seriously or staying focused could mean the end. The game was released in mid-June 2021 and has a surprisingly melodic and haunting score which is credited to Mili.
Who are a Japanese classical indie music group founded in August 2012, consisting of Momocashew, (Cassie Wei), Yamato Kasai, Yukihito Mitomo, Shoto Yoshida, Ame Yamaguchi, and Ao Fujimori. Milicovers electronic classical, contemporary classical, and post-classical genres of musicand seem to have no limit to their ability to adapt to varying musical genres with ease. The group is not limited to songs in Japanese, but also manage to perform in English, Chinese, and French. Aside from releasing their own songs, Mili has also contributed music, lyrics, and/or songs to various media such as the rhythm games Cytus and Deemo, commercial video, and for other artists. Mili record on the Saihate Records label. Their unique style is affecting and beguiling at times combining conventional instrumentation with electronic elements and utilising voice to create haunting and delicate compositions. The score for Enders Lillies is superbly done, the abundance of thematic material within the soundtrack is amazing, alluring and wonderfully emotive. Certainly, one to check out and available on digital platforms. Staying with video games Roguebook has a serviceable score by composer Chance Thomas, with a number of cues standing out as having Goldsmith-esque qualities, being bold and forthright with the composer employing percussive elements and forthright horns.
A Space in Time, has a charming and totally effective score. The raw emotions rise to the surface in this documentary about a family and their struggle to come to terms with a fatal muscle wasting disease. The film is an intimate and highly emotional journey that I know will leave audiences drained and thoughtful.
The music is by Robin Schlochtermeier, who has created a soundtrack filled with intense emotions, the composer utilizing electronic elements to create powerful compositions. He lightly and delicately underlines and punctuates the story as it unfolds providing the four main characters in the story with themes. I do love this score, it is haunting and intimately intricate and one that you should take a listen to. Released digitally by Movie Score Media Sweden.
Who have also released the score for Non-Citizens by Leon Gurvitch. The documentary that the music is from deals with a subject that is very much in the hearts and minds of everyone currently which is the plight of immigrants who in most cases are fleeing danger in the form of wars or famine. And take perilous journeys over land and on sea in makeshift rafts and badly maintained and overloaded boats to reach what they think will be a utopia in the form Europe. Non-Citizens tells the story of the ones waiting in the Purgatory where hundreds of immigrants from Central Africa are fighting for survival – giving voice to their hopes and fears. The score is sensitive to the films issues and never overpowers the truelife events that are being documented, its an interesting listen, and one that I am sure you will enjoy.
This month also brings a handful of releases from composer Pessi Levanto, Armi Alive, (2015) Backwood Philosopher, (2009) Body Fat Index of Love, (2012), The Midwife, (2015), The Novelist, (2008), Rolli and the Golden Key (2008), Unexpected Journey, (2017) and Tears of April (2008).
All titles available on digital platforms on the Movie Score Media label.
This composer’s music is in my opinion wonderfully melodic and superbly supportive, he adapts his style and sound to each project, creating touching and melancholic sounding pieces and fashioning lush and dramatic passages, honing powerful and affecting music, these are certainly worth a listen to discover the talent and versatility of this composer.
Black Widow at last gets a release in mid-July in cinemas then two days later is available to stream on Disney Plus, it’s a movie that has had a lot of hype and I hope it lives up to all of the noise that has been made about it. The score is by Lorne Balfe, who has in the past had his moments but in recent years has also come in for a lot of criticism (most of it well founded if I may add).
He is not my composer of choice (am I allowed to say that?) But he is a composer who I suppose has the Marmite effect, love him or not like him (Hate is a very strong word so we wont use that). Black Widow however is a score I did enjoy listening to, ok its far from an original work and contains a number of those superhero musical clichés that pop up in other scores by the likes of Goldsmith, Williams, Tyler, Zimmer, Ottman, Junkie XL, Debney, and Silvestri, but nevertheless it was an interesting and over ally commanding listen.
The movie is yet another film from Marvel which tells the story of an Avenger before they become an Avenger and will probably do ok at the cinema but better on the streaming front. Balfe has created a rich and vibrant score which draws on the styles of Stravinsky and includes choral performances that are reminiscent of the Red Army choir, and soprano voice which adds emotion to the proceedings, his score contains an abundance of thematic material that shines through even in the high-octane action cues with the composer writing rich and haunting sections that are a welcome respite to all the brass, driving strings and percussive elements. As I have already said this is interesting if nothing else, and if you are a fan of Balfe you will love it, if you are yet to be convinced about this composer take a listen, it might just sway your opinion. Available on digital platforms now. Recommended.
Two new scores that are being released soon are Suicide Squad by John Murphy and Gunpowder Milkshake, the latter I have heard snippets of and an interview with the composer on this score is coming soon to MMI, the cue Goonfight at Gutterball Corral is a homage to the Italian western score with nods of acknowledgement directly to Ennio Morricone and his Dollar scores, complete with a “We Can Fight” chant from Male voices and a whistle.
Frank Ilfman is a fine composer and one who like Pessi Levanto adapts his composing style and the sound achieved to fit and underline any scenario in film and TV projects, I love his music for Ghost Stories and adore two of his more recent works The Operative and Speer goes to Hollywood. Plus Abulele, and Big Bad Wolves in fact I don’t think I have ever come across a score by him that I did not like.
The soundtrack for Gunpowder Milkshake, which is a Netflix movie, will be available on digital platforms soon and hopefully a CD will also be released of the score.
There are many underrated film and TV composers one of whom I think is Paul Chihara, thankfully Dragons Domain Records have released a few albums of his highlighting various scores, the compilation which are four volumes are available direct from Buy Soundtrax or some are on digital platforms, Death Race 2000 and Mississippi being two I noticed on the likes of Spotify, but anything by this composer is worth listening to and also adding to one’s collection. Death Race 2000 is a re-recording that was reconstructed by the composer because the original tapes were lost, but this is I have to say a true and faithful re-construction. With the composer using the exact same line up of instrumentation etc on the re-recording as he had for the original recording back in 1984.
Mississippi is a documentary from 1977, which Chihara scored for Jacques Cousteau’s, Cousteau Odyssey TV. The score is a finely balanced one and succesfully interweaves American traditional songs which were heard first in the 19th Century with original music from the composer which adds drama and melancholy to the proceedings. Performed by the LSO the soundtrack is both powerful and emotive. Mississippi is available from July 15th 2021 direct from the label.
The Newton brothers have as far as I am concerned always produced highly atmospheric scores, they have it seems been labeled as composers of music for horror movies, but we all know that there is much more to this composing duo than crashes and sinister sounding material. Their score for the Netflix production The Haunting of Blythe Manor was exceptional, and although it was a horror they scored it with a lush sounding central theme and fragile sounding music box motifs and solo piano performances giving it an even greater sense of dread and menace. Their latest score is again for a horror film, Forever Purge, The Purge is a twelve-hour period in which all crimes including murder are legal, and this happens once a year, however on this occasion a group’s all over Americans decide they want it to carry on and be a permanent thing, which is not good news for the central characters in the film.
The music is mainly electronic, with a handful of conventional instrumentation being utilized, I have to say this is not as melodic as The Haunting of Blythe Manor, but if you know the franchise and have seen any of the other Purge movies then you will know that this is a series of films that do not really cry out for lilting or romantic thematic material. Because of the Mexican characters in Forever Purge the composers have integrated a kind of Hispanic western sound into the score. They combine this with an assortment of sinister and harrowing sounds, that combine to create a score that is fearsome and for most of its running time dark and malevolent. Worth a listen. Loki is now a popular watch over on Disney +, the score by Natalie Holt too is worth checking out, I mentioned it briefly in the previous Soundtrack Supplement and after listening to the release Loki Vol 1 episodes 1 to 3, I have to say how much I enjoyed it, it’s a mix of upbeat and dramatic, with the composer going for the mainly synthetic to perform her music, but also utilizing symphonic elements throughout, the mix is a finely balanced one and for me works wonderfully.
I think I am right when I say that Natalie Holt worked on My Mother and Other Strangers for the BBC and has collaborated with Martin Phipps on scores such as The Honourable Woman, she has recently been in conversation with Cinematic Sound Radio so watch out for that online. Her music for Loki is on digital platforms. Composer Jeff Garber’s score for Virgin River is a charming one, filled with enticing and light sounding themes and available now on Lakeshore Records digitally.
Also, worth a mention are, Fear Street parts one and two by Marco Beltrami, Brandon Roberts and Buck Sanders, who have collaborated to create very Omen Goldsmith sounding scores. With dark and malevolent passages and choral work throughout allowing it to create a fearsome and furious mood. There have also been a few releases from French and Italian labels, but these have been mainly of comedy scores, which are shall we say an acquired taste, in plain words I wont waste your time or mine discussing these releases which are from from vintage movie that were not considered watchable when they were first released so I ask the question WHY release them now, the music was not popular then so why would it be even remotely appealing now, I really do despair at this never ending re-release programme from the same old labels in certain European countries who churn out the same old sub standard scores to make a fast buck, and take advantage of soundtrack collectors, because this in the Italian case is scraping the bottom of the barrel and coming up with silt that’s been lying around for years and these this time are not even by well known composers. I have also noticed an increasing number of soundtracks with upbeat bouncy music (musak) which is rarely thematic and instantly forgotten after the first listen which is something I hope is a passing trend soon to be ditched, but there again I suppose someone has to write music for elevators. That’s it for now see you next time in SS 48.