Two new additions to the Varese Sarabande club series, both of which have been issued before but not in expanded editions. The first is by composer John Frizzel and it’s a score that I found go some unfair criticism when it was released, probably because the movie was not a brilliant film, but Frizzel’s score I have always admired. Dante’s Peak is a rather lack luster disaster movie, with less than interesting performances from a cast that could have done better and a storyline that for many failed to be fixating in any way. Frizzel penned a score that in my opinion matched the action on screen and was in most scenarios far superior to the action that was being acted out on screen.

It is a shame that in many cases a bad movie often buries or takes the edge of a score that is essentially great movie music, and because the movie is less than endearing it is often the case that the score is forgotten or put into the same category as the film. It was in the 1990’s that we saw a revival of the disaster movie, and many productions such as Dante’s Peak attempted to emulate the blockbusters of the 1970’s such as The Towering Inferno and Earthquake. 1997, saw Hollywood produce two natural disaster movies which were based upon a catastrophic volcanic eruption, Volcano being the other.

Both scores were released on the Varese Sarabande label, So I suppose it was only right that following the Deluxe Edition of Volcano last year. This 2-CD set of Dante’s Peak includes its massive John Frizzell score—with themes by James Newton Howard, it is a triumph of explosive, symphonic splendour that has to it a powerful and attractive persona.

Composer James Newton Howard was originally commissioned to score the movie but was unable to complete the work he had started due to other commitments. Newton Howard penned two principal themes for the movie, these representing the volcano and the romantic aspects of the storyline. After having to depart the scoring of the movie, Newton Howard recommended that Frizzel take up the duties of finishing the score. Frizzel was short of time but delivered a massive and highly dramatic and thematic score for the production, writing his own impressive themes and also incorporating Newton Howards work into the fabric of the score. The music being tense, commanding, and driving but always remaining melodic. This latest edition includes the ninety-three-minute score for the movie and also features the original album version of the soundtrack. It is a worthy addition to any film music collection and a must have item for discerning movie music fans. Highly recommended.

The other soundtrack that is included in the Varese Sarabande club catalogue is Jerry Goldsmith’s atmospheric and enticing soundtrack for Love Field. Directed by Jonathan Kaplan the movie starred Michelle Pfeiffer and Dennis Haybert in an interracial romance amidst the racial friction of 1960’s Texas, which was set in the aftermath of the JFK, assassination. 

Up until the 1990’s many associated Goldsmith with movies that required action scores, but the composer always wrote highly thematic and emotive music even if it was secondary to the more robust and dramatic material.  Saying that however who could forget his delicate themes for A Patch of Blue and his fragile and emotional pieces in movies such as Islands in the Stream. The composer showed us an even greater degree of tenderness within the score for Love Field, including poignant strings and a blues influenced piano which perfectly underlined the storyline and evoked the period in which it was set. The score also contains numerous moments that are Goldsmith set pieces in which the composer creates atmospheres that ooze with an uneasy sound and a suspenseful and dramatic air, purveying a dark and at times sinister mood.

The score for Love Field was released by Varese Sarabande at the time of the films release, but the duration has been expanded to nearly double that of the original release on this deluxe edition, with blues pianist Bill Payne providing a selection of performance’s which eventually replaced parts of Goldsmiths score in the movie. Again another great re-issue from Varese and recommended.

Something special for you to sample is the score to After We Fell, which has original music courtesy of composer George Kallis. The movie is the third instalment of the popular After movie franchise and contains an attractive pop ballad performed by Tony Conrod which Kallis co-wrote. The score is a highly affecting one with the composer providing a touching and elegant sounding soundtrack that utilises delicate piano and strings that combine to convey a subtle sound that is filled with fragility and emotive auras.  Both the score and the song are now available on digital platforms and the movie is due for release in Europe on September 1st with the US release being on September 30th.

Also, can I recommend that whilst taking a listen to After we Fell why not check out another George Kallis score American Sausage Standoff, which is also available on digital platforms and is totally the opposite musically, with this soundtrack not being as emotive although it does have a handful of poignant moments, after all its George Kallis so we know that there will be some gorgeous melodies in there somewhere.  The sound achieved is grittier if that’s the correct description, with the music having a slight country flavour at key points. But this shows just how versatile and talented the composer is, easily being able to adapt his skills to suit any number of genres and scenarios and drawing from a varied palette of musical colours and textures to paint with.  I enjoyed both scores and I suppose that is down to the variation of sounds and styles within them.

The reboot or remake of Candyman is now in cinemas and the score too is available for your delectation and deliberation on digital platforms. The music is by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe who is known for his work on movies such as Sicario, Arrival, and Mother.

The score for Candyman is filled with tension and dread the music having to it a modernistic and experimental style and sound. But even if this is a score that is not filled with rich or luxurious thematic material it is an interesting one and has to it an attraction that at times becomes mesmerising.

The only cue that I would say is melodic is track number three Music Box, but even this has an uneasy and unsettling style that creates an apprehensive and shadowy mood. I do like scores that take this route and I found this to be a work that is powerful and one that perfectly underlines the movies sinister and unpredictable storyline. Take a listen. 

Randy Edelman’s score for Ghostbusters ll is now available on digital platforms.  I have to say I was not really a fan of this second instalment of the franchise, but there again I didn’t like the first one either and Edelman’s music on Ghostbusters ll  initialy failed to impress but listening to it again now I will say it has some nice moments.  I think that during the late 1980’s and into the 1990’s I kind of got all Edelman’ed out as he worked on so many movies, and his music took on a very samey and familiar style, with his scores for Beethoven, Kindergarten Cop, My Cousin Vinny, and Distinguished Gentleman having to them a very similar format and musical path. Although saying this his music for Come See the Paradise was affecting and haunting as was his glorious soundtrack to the sprawling TV movie epic Gettysburg and the fantasyadventure Dragonheart. Check Ghostbusters ll out see what you think.

Il Gatto e La Luna (The Cat and the Moon) is a 2019 production and the soundtrack by the ever-industrious Italian Maestro Marco Werba has just been made available on the likes of Spotify and Amazon, thanks to Plaza Mayor, it is a wonderfully thematic work, which also conveys an air that is chilling and suspenseful with the atmosphere drenched in mystery and sinister connotations which weave in and out of the more melodic material that the Maestro has penned or are a ever present background to them. It’s a delightful score with solo performances from Marco Santini on violin, organ solos, piano performances all of which have rich symphonic styles. For me personally it evoked memories of Morricone, Nicolai, and Donaggio, simply because of its luxurious and instantly alluring sound. One to add to your collection.

A horror that has already been released in the United States and aired on Netflix there, is Old Ways, Cristina, is a journalist of Mexican origins. She travels to the home of her ancestors in Veracruz to investigate a story involving witchcraft and healers. Once there, she is kidnapped by a group of locals who claim that she’s possessed by the devil and that she needs to be exorcised. She tries to escape but then begins to believe that her captors may be right. The score which is an atmospheric and inventive one is the work of composer Ben Lovett. This is a soundtrack filled with sombre and dark sounds, an innovative work that has very few light moments apart from a couple of cues in which we hear Spanish guitar. A soundscape of sinewy and tormenting unsettling compositions made up of both conventional instrumentation and synthetic elements that very rarely have any real thematic direction. It is made up from music and sounds that combine to create a chaotic and harrowing listening experience which keeps the listener on the edge throughout. The composers use of percussion being particularly effective, it is a work that serves the film and its storyline to the maximum at times the music and sounds creating the mood and helping amplify the impact of certain scenes. Worth a listen, again it’s on digital platforms.

The Red Orchestra:  was probably the most important resistance network in Nazi Germany, whose operations extended from Berlin and Brussels to Paris and its workings are now the subject of a new and informative documentary entitled The Red Orchestra, the music is by composer Eloi Ragot, who has written a beautifully rich sounding work for symphony orchestra, its one of those scores that you listen to through and through a few times because you just cant get enough of its ingratiating and dramatic sounding themes. Performed by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra this is something that you have to add to your collection, it is superb and released from the Movie Score Media stable and also available digitally. Ragot is a multi-instrumentalist and sound designer as well as a composer and is best known for creating intensely, dramatic and affecting soundtracks. He has worked on a wide range of genres and produced some exceptional scores for these. Eloi has been working on the Canadian feature film Reservoir which should be released soon. A self-taught pianist and guitarist, he is also a classically-trained trumpeter and studied musical analysis and writing. Since 2008, he has composed, arranged, and produced music for over 40 films and series for diverse production companies and television and was selected to many ‘artist-in-residence’ programs including the prestigious Berlinale Talent in 2017. This is a score you should not by-pass, it is melodic, haunting, and rewarding.

Trevor Jones and Christopher Gunning.

To Tokyo was released in 2018, but the score by South African born Trevor Jones has just been issued onto digital platforms, as with anything that Jones is involved with the music is exemplary and well structured, I have always liked the music of Trevor Jones and admired his attention to detail and his use of core themes. To Tokyo is a horror movie and involves a young girl who is challenged by her step-sister to return home, a young woman hiding from her past in a remote Japanese village, is abducted into a fantastic wilderness and pursued by a monster, with only four nights to escape to Tokyo and face her demons. The composers affecting and effective soundtrack contains ethereal sounding choral work which at times evokes his work on the 1995 movie Hideaway. This is interesting and different glad it’s been made available.

Only Murders in The Building is a new Hulu Original Series starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez, where we see the trio of would-be investigators start a true crime podcast after someone in their building dies suspiciously. The storyline is overflowing with some snappy comedy scenarios and the entire cast have great chemistry, as they blunder their way through trying to piece together evidence so that they can solve the mystery of this suspicious death that has happened right under their noses. Music is by composer Siddhartha Khosla, who provides a score that is jaunty, over the top, comedic, and emotive as well as being tinged with mystery. Well worth checking out and whilst doing so why not experience his other works for film and TV as in the four seasons of This Is Us and Looking for Alaska.

Also new to Spotify (other digital platforms are available) is Elmer Bernstein’s driving and adventurous score for Kings of the Sun, which has always been in my top five Bernstein soundtracks list.

Jerry Goldsmith’s Shamus too is now available as are a handful of Italian releases from the 1960’s and 1970’s which were previously not online and are presented in either expanded or re-mastered forms from composers such as Robby Poitevin’s, A.D. 3 Operazione Squalo Bianco, which has been give flawless sound quality, Angelo Francesco Lavagnino’s exotic and romantic score from I Tabu (23 tracks) and Malesia Magica (19 tracks)from Riz Ortolani. All worth a listen.

Sadly, there are many good soundtracks from both film and TV that never get a release, so the only way to sample these is by sitting down and watching the movies or the series that they are from. Netflix have in recent times either produced or added movies from all over the world to give their growing audiences an ever-varied selection. As have Amazon, and the likes of Now TV, and more recently Disney plus. In fact, these days we are somewhat pampered and spoilt for choice as far as on-screen entertainment goes.

But even now I do find myself flicking through to see if there is anything interesting on and invariably go back to listening to music or revisiting classics, which there are an abundance of on Netflix and the like. But maybe I am just very hard to please? Netflix do however have a great selection of foreign language movies or world cinema if you prefer, and these at times outstrip anything that is produced with the UK and US market in mind. And sometimes one finds a gem of a score amongst these.

The Cook of Castamar for example, which is popular now. There are a lot of horror movies and series within the Netflix library, Warrior Nun, which although certainly implausible nevertheless is quite entertaining, it’s like a more graphic version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

After waking up in a morgue, an orphaned teenage girl discovers she now possesses superpowers as the chosen Halo Bearer for a secret sect of demon-hunting nuns. The series which is entering its second season contains a supportive and inventive score from Jeff Russo, who has recently scored the HBO series Oslo, and has worked on Fargo the TV series as well as scoring Star Trek Discovery. His style is somewhat old school as in orchestral and symphonic with synthetics bringing up the support and giving weight and embellishing the more conventional elements of his works.

Russo also scored Cursed for Netflix, which contains a powerful soundtrack with the composer employing haunting Soprano voice, driving strings, and pounding percussive interludes to purvey a commanding and relentless style and sound. Worth watching.

There is a wealth of interesting movies and series available on Netflix, and most have scores that are worthy of a mention at least.  Back to soundtrack releases and a score for an animated feature, Un rescate de Huevitos, which was written by Zacarias M. de la Riva, who must be one of the most versatile talents working in Spanish film music at this time. The score has been released by Movie Score Media, who previously issued the composers soundtracks from Hierro (2009) and Automata (2014), the cinema-themed murder mystery Imago Mortis (2009), the Indiana Jones-inspired animated adventure Tad, The Lost Explorer (2011), the prison break thriller Below Zero (2021) and the precursor to Un Rescate de Huevitos, Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos (2015).

It’s an entertaining score and the composer does not hold back in creating a dramatic and richly thematic soundtrack and is available on digital platforms.

Another interesting score released on MSM is The Potato Adventure, which is composed by Panu Aaltio, it’s a comedy that involves an entrepreneur importing potatoes into Finland in the 17th Century, offbeat maybe, but the composer as always delivers a wonderfully Varied score. Worth a listen.

Laura Karpman

Marvel music have also released episodes 2 and 3 in the What if? series, music by the ever dazzlingly and talented Laura Karpman and scores that are not to be missed. That’s the lot for now, see you next time….

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