Time again for a look at the latest releases in soundtrack world. Again there are plenty to choose from but it’s a case I think this time around of do we really want to hear some of them. There seems to be a lot of electronic scores out there on this occasion, ok, yes there are also some nice symphonic works on release, but the majority are of the soundscape variety that are filled with the droning and noisy sounds that have invaded the world of film scoring in recent years. Its at times such as this that I glad of the digital platforms as one can sift through the many releases and get an idea of their style and overall sound. As a collector of film music for quite a few years now, I have seen or more to the point heard varying approaches to scoring movies and TV projects, also seen new composers come and go. In recent years I was hopeful that film music would return to symphonic styles, but with this latest batch of releases I was hard pressed to find anything that had real substance and symphonic or melodious content.
So, I will give you details here of those and maybe we can go back to more melodic and thematic days with a look at scores you might have missed with a trip back to the late nineties with a Cliff Edelman score that is filled with romantic and poignant themes, a classic eighties score from composer Randy Newman which is filled with themes that are at times full on Americana and when listening to them you can smell the homemade Apple pie.
Plus, a look back at Armando Trovajoli’s score for Profumo Di Donna from the 70’s, plus the same composers only foray into the world of the Spaghetti western. Bruno Nicolai’s score for the 1969 movie Insatiable Women which is soon to be re-issued and is a smorgasbord of lounge and exotica, laced with big band elements. And yes, there is more, a western in 3-D with one of the most haunting themes within the genre, but one that is often overlooked.
All this and more, in this latest instalment of soundtrack supplement, welcome. I am tempted to begin with the scores you may have missed but no. Instead, we go to a score from the small screen, well I say small, but TV’s these days seem to be as big as some of the screens in those cramped multiplex cinemas. Apple Tv is like Netflix producing new and interesting projects on a weekly if not daily basis. And with these productions comes the need for musical scores, some being very good others being dismal, Foundation Season one is airing now, and the series has a score written by Bear McCreary, so if you like me am a fan of this multitalented and inventive composer there is very little to say about the music for the series apart from go buy it now, the soundtrack is available on digital platforms, and I will say straight away I like this a lot.
The composer has in recent years really stepped up to writing in a more symphonic style, and this latest work is no exception, it is literally teeming with thematic excellence, the soundtrack has everything as far as emotions and senses are concerned, lilting and poignant romantic interludes are scattered throughout with the composer infusing a mood that can only be described as luxurious in places, he combines strings and voices to fashion haunting melodies and create affecting and mesmerizing tone poems. Check out the cue Gaal Leaves Synnax to hear evidence of this type of scoring, the touching and subtle cue rises and falls to bring forth eloquent and highly dramatic musical emotions, plus the score is crammed full of dramatic and action paced tracks, which are at times operatic and grandiose.
Maybe McCreary should have scored Dune, because the imposing and resounding music for Foundation would not be out of place within that movie also (and maybe would be a better option). The Journey to Trantor is a wonderfully varied and tensely melodic piece, a slow burner if you will, the composer gradually constructing the piece, developing the tension but also at the same time keeping the composition theme led. Star Bridge is a more in your face affair, with swirling strings, rasping brass flourishes, and booming and grandeur sounding percussion. The work is a mix of symphonic and synthetic, but the symphonic I feel has the lions share of the performance, which is good news.
Well at last the latest James Bond movie is set to hit cinemas, and the much-anticipated soundtrack album is also soon up for release. Music by Hans Zimmer and that haunting title song performed by Billie Eilish, has already come in for a lot of mixed reaction, sadly most of it being negative from hardened Bond fans, but I have to say I thought it was very good or is very good, it has to it a typical Bond aura, and the whispering voice of the young performer in my opinion lends much to the atmosphere of this Bond soundtrack. It has an appealing sound which I feel one cannot fail to be attracted to via its overall sound and its alluring but at the same time apprehensive style. Compare it to the belters such as Goldfinger, Thunderball, and classics such as the mesmerizing You Only Live Twice and yes it does pale somewhat in their shadow. But this is the 21st Century, things change and although Bond remains Bond, music styles alter and its down to that old saying horses for courses.
Listen to the lyrics they are deep and meaningful, sad, confusing, and tormented but also affecting. Right from the first delicate piano notes this is a song that demands that you listen.
No Time to Die.
I should have known
I’d leave alone
Just goes to show
That the blood you bleed
Is just the blood you owe
We were a pair
But I saw you there
Too much to bear
You were my life, but life is far away from fair
Was I stupid to love you?
Was I reckless to help?
Was it obvious to everybody else?
That I’d fallen for a lie
You were never on my side
Fool me once, fool me twice
Are you death or paradise?
Now you’ll never see me cry
There’s just no time to die
I let it burn
You’re no longer my concern
Faces from my past return
Another lesson yet to learn
That I’d fallen for a lie
You were never on my side
Fool me once, fool me twice
Are you death or paradise?
Now you’ll never see me cry
There’s just no time to die
No time to die, mmm
No time to die, ooh
Fool me once, fool me twice
Are you death or paradise?
Now you’ll never see me cry
There’s just no time to die.
The accompaniment to the song is I think well done as it hints at the Bond style underlines the vocal and gives it a greater impact, the music is dark and enticing and kind of wraps itself around the vocal, adding mystery and intrigue to the proceedings. And if we are talking bad Bond songs, lets name and shame things like Die Another Day, and Another Way to Die from Quantum of Solace. (how did that even get onto the soundtrack). I am hoping that Miss Eilish might even pick up the Oscar like Adele and Sam Smith for her efforts on this. The score was originally to be written by composer Dan Romer, which many thought a strange choice, but Romer is a fine composer, who can easily alter and adapt his style and tailor his music to any scenario and genre, and I was looking forward to hearing what he would come up with.
When it was announced that Romer had been removed from the movie and Hans Zimmer was brought on board, that was also met with very mixed feelings, I for one was not impressed, but I thought you know give him a chance, let’s face it anyone is better than Thomas Newman, his Bond scores I thought as did many others were uninspired, dismal and sparse, compared with the standard of bombastic excellence set by composer John Barry, and imitated and built on by Bill Conti, Marvin Hamlisch, George Martin, Michael Kamen, Eric Serra (who put his own musical stamp upon Goldeneye) and of course re-imagined given greater weight and a more contemporary make over in recent years by David Arnold who enlisted the likes of Moby, Garbage, Sherly Crow, and K.D. Lang on his scores. K.D. Lang’s performance of Surrender still being one of the strongest songs in the more recent movies, filled with a bombastic and aggressive atmosphere and a strong and flawless vocal performance. I also must mention John Barry’s score for The Living Daylights, which contained the title song by Aha, (which isn’t as popular with fans as one thinks) and also two additional vocals by Chrissie Hynde, Where Has Everybody Gone and If There Was A Man, which were both perfect for the movie. Some saying she should have sung the title song. So after the rather unmemorable scores of Thomas Newman, what would Hans Zimmer do, well it could go either way as it often does with this composer, it would either be a collection of weird sounding cues that really made no sense or have anything remotely connected with James Bond within them, or it could be something special, well I am pleased it is the latter and this is I think a James Bond score that many will enjoy a lot.
I was touched by the wonderful lyrical approach to a handful of the tracks referencing the unmistakable breathy woods of John Barry, But let us not forget that Steve Mazzaro was also on board on this score, even though the credits say he is the music producer, (is producer a new name for composer?) Zimmer and Mazzaro weave a lush and romantic sounding string arrangement of We Have All the Time in the World into the cue Matera, which when first heard is an affecting piece, washing over the listener evoking memories of OHMSS and Louis Armstrong.and making the hairs on your neck and arms stand up.
This type of musical tribute was actually done in the movie OHMSS when Bond (George Lazenby) leaves the secret service and goes through a few of his possessions, the music on the soundtrack taking audiences back to past movies and adventures such as Dr No, From Russia With Love, etc. Then there is the cue, Should,nt We Get to Know Each Other First, which again has to it Barry-esque properties, which are consolidated and enhanced further by luxurious sounds that segue into more familiar musical ground in the form of the iconic James Bond Theme. I think being the composer for a James Bond movie must be daunting, simply because there are so many classic scores within the franchise, but I will say that Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro have not disappointed, we can all find out on October 1st when the CD by Decca records and also a two-disc vinyl will be released, and the soundtrack will be available on digital platforms.
So, from Bond James Bond to an Italian movie from the 1970’s and the music of Bruno Nicolai. Originally released on a long-playing record back in 1970 which was on the famed Italian soundtrack label Ariete (ARLP 2006), Femmine Insaziabili, is probably one of Bruno Nicolai’s finest scores from this period. It was also probably this soundtrack that made me realise that Nicolai was a talent all on his own and brought it home that he possessed a unique and vibrant musical style away from the shadow of composers such as Morricone, Rustichelli and Rota all which Nicolai collaborated with as conductor or arranger. This score contains numerous styles and is a theme laden work. The composer utilising the unmistakable vocal talents of Edda Dell Orso who’s marvellous and flawless voice is used throughout the score giving it an even more attractive and haunting quality. Yes it is true to say that one can make comparisons between the work of Nicolai and also the work of Morricone and it has to be said that both composers were particularly busy and creative at this time in their respective careers, but Femmine Insaziabili has to it an aura and a musical presence that to be truthful is arguably superior to much of what Morricone penned at this time. Nicolai’s themes seem to be more developed and dare I say more melodic, the composer arranging and orchestrating the central themes from the score differently throughout to create a veritable avalanche of rich and attractive compositions that combine to create a soundtrack which when listened to away from the images still remains entertaining. The movie was released in the latter part of 1969 and was directed by Alberto De Martino, it starred John Ireland, Frank Wolf, Dorothy Malone, and Robert Hoffman.
The story focuses upon a who journalist meets up with an old lady friend in the United States when he is visiting there, but shortly after meeting her she is found murdered, the journalist decides to find her murderer and in doing so discovers that many of her so-called friends did not like her at all and further discovers that in the years she has been in America she has become corrupt. Nicolai’s score opens with the driving and vivacious sounding title song I Want it All, performed by Lara Saint Paul with backing vocals by Edda and driving melodic strings that are attractive but upbeat. “The Good things, the Bad things, The Thrills, The Sorrows and the Joys. I want it All, All Life Can Give Me, With Every Part of me I want to Live”. are the opening lines. Sounds, good to me, performed wonderfully with beautifully orchestrated backing by Nicolai, this opening melody carries on through the remainder of the score and pop’s up here and there in various musical guises and permutations.
The remainder of Nicolai’s score is upbeat and has to it a busy almost big band sound in places, with brass and percussion creating luxurious sounding themes and motifs. Then there is the softer and far more easy listening side to the work, with strings and light percussion combining with organ and Edda exquisite voice the composer adding to this interesting and original sounds and trills etc that accompany and embellish the central thematic material. This for me personally is brought to a fuller fruition in track number four which is just one of the instrumental variations of the I Want it All theme.
The soundtrack was released on Easy Tempo records which was an active label a few years back releasing various scores and putting out a series of compilation discs that were entitled simply Easy Tempo and included volumes 1 to 10 at the time many of the tracks not being released commercially. The score for Femmine Insaziabili is simply glorious, it is an essential purchase a must have Bruno Nicolai soundtrack, with any collection seeming empty without it. Easy Tempo also released a double LP record of the soundtrack. To say certain cues are stand out or there are any highlights within the score would be impossible as every cue is magnificent, at times being vibrantly robust and dramatic, and at other times evoking other scores from the same decade by Nicolai including the atmospheric Love Birds and La Dama Rossa Uccide Sette Volte. Quartet records have now announced that they will re-issue the score on a double CD set re-mastered by Chris Malone. Which is good news for fans of Nicolai who have maybe missed previous releases of this classic Italian soundtrack from the golden age of film music there the 1970’s.
Which brings me to another classic Italian score this time from Maestro Armando Trovajoli. Originally released as part of the CAM records Soundtrack Encyclopaedia, Profumo Di Donna, is in my humble opinion one of Armando Trovajoli’s most accomplished scores. It is also one his most haunting and infectious with every track yielding a theme that remains with the listener long after it has finished.
The movie which was released in 1975 is based upon the novel Darkness and Honey, by Giovanni Arpino. Two army officers are injured in an accidental explosion and are both blinded, they are so distraught that they will never again see that they make a pact to meet in Rome where they plan to commit suicide. However, things do not go quite to plan and one of the soldiers on route to Rome is accompanied by a young soldier and starts to realise that the love of a woman is still worth living for even if he cannot see her. Directed by Dino Risi, the movie blends light comedic touches with drama to great effect. Risi managing to combine the two successfully. Trovajoli’s score is a romantic and easy going one, it has some of the most attractive thematic material within it and is a joy to listen to from start to finish, the composer fusing at times light and intimate jazz moments with that of lush orchestral passages and interweaving delicate and touching musical nuances between the two styles.
Many of the cues are piano led with Trovajoli building upon the foundation of the piano to create wonderfully melodic compositions, on listening to the score one I think would image it to be a easy listening album with each and every cue being something of a triumph in its own right. It is also in my opinion very similar to the work of Morricone from the same period but saying this Trovajoli certainly has an individuality and a sound that is undeniable his alone. The soundtrack was re-issued by Sugar music in Italy but contained no extra music.
Benjamin Wallfisch is a talented composer and has produced so many beautiful scores for movies and TV, one of his most recent is for the Netflix movie The Starling. Directed by Theodore Melfi and starring Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Kevin Kline, and Timothy Olyphant, The Starling tells the story of Lilly (McCarthy) and her husband, Jack (O’Dowd). The couple suffer a devastating loss to begin the film and Jack heads off to a care retreat to deal with his grief while Lilly is left dealing with her guilt on her own and to make matters worse, she becomes the target of an overly aggressive starling that has nested in her garden. The new arrival provides an unlikely avenue for Lilly to focus her attention and find a way of moving on. I am so pleased that Wallfisch has returned to a subject matter that requires a more sensitive and thematic kind of music, as this is an area that I think he excels in. The music for The Starling, is highly emotive and filled with a romantic and nostalgic air, the composer utilising mainly strings to create the affecting and at times mischievous sounding score.
There is a rich sense of emotion within this work, fragility and poignancy are overflowing, and tenderness is served up in overwhelming amounts. I really like the score and have listened to it through a few times, the composer gets the right balance of the comedic, the melodic, the touching and the dramatic within this work and it is one I recommend that you take a listen to. Available on digital platforms. Welcome back Mr Wallfisch.
Where to next do you think, well its to another new release, The race to save the last great elephant tuskers from a vanishing landscape…is shown in the documentary Kimana Tuskers, which is written & directed by Jamie Joseph, produced by Saving the Wild, and narrated by two-time Academy Award nominated actor, Djimon Hounsou. The music is by composer Stephen Gallagher, who has produced a supportive but not to intrusive score for the film. And although the score is quite short running for just over twelve minutes it is an affecting and an effective soundtrack, that enhances and adds depth and atmosphere to the already engrossing documentary. At certain points I was reminded of both the styles employed by George Fenton and John Barry, with horns and strings combining to create wonderfully lyrical moments. Its available on digital platforms so please do take a listen. Whilst there why not also dip into his score for Conquering Cancer, which is a musical rollercoaster of many emotions. And the composers atmospheric score for the 2019 horror Puppet Killer, which is a lot of fun musically.
From a horror to a sage brush saga filmed in Spain and starring Giuliano Gemma, The Long Days of Vengeance was released back in 1967, directed by Florestano Vancini under the alias of Stan Vance. This was a western that attempted to cash in on the success of the Ringo movies which also starred Gemma. The film was even given the alternative title at one point of Face of an Angel, referring to the song Angel Face in the first Ringo movie which was composed by Ennio Morricone. The score for Long Days of Vengeance was the work of composer Armando Trovajoli, and it was to be the only western that the composer worked on. However, the score was outstanding and contains one of the most iconic themes from a spaghetti western.
With its soaring trumpet solo, racing snares and other percussive elements underpinning the electric guitar solo sound that became synonymous with the movies it is for me one of the best non-Morricone Italian western scores from the genre. What the appeal of the music is that the composer realises the sound associated with the Italian western plus adds to this his own touches and integrates a more traditional western sound into the proceedings, with Spanish guitar solos and harmonica performances.
Originally released on long playing record back in the 1960’s the soundtrack was re-issued onto a long-playing record paired with a score for a Sartana movie by Piero Piccioni that was issued by Intermezzo which was something CAM used to do on LP releases when scores were short, the double soundtrack release on one record was popular amongst collectors during the late 1960’s and throughout the 1970’s. Long Days of Vengeance soon made its way onto compact disc and was then a score that seemed to be re-issued so many times, with the Japanese pressing on CD being the most sought after because of its improved sound and superior art-work.
The soundtrack is now available on digital platforms with so many extra cues, the latest edition containing thirty-two tracks and running for over an hour, but this is not surprising as the movie had a duration time of just over two hours, which is lengthy for an Italian western from this period. After three years of heavy physical labour in a prison located in the searing heat of the desert, a former Sheriff Ted Barnett (Gemma) escapes. Barnett was framed by three men and wrongly convicted to thirty years hard labour for the murder of his father. He looks for those that had accused him, seeking revenge. Typical Spaghetti western fodder I would say, but the score is truly inspired and one that you should own if you don’t already. Recommended.
I am going to be boring now and stay with the spaghetti western, but it’s a film that does not get mentioned a lot, it was not a good movie and was basically a film that was made to show off the 3-D effects. Comin at Ya is a film that has become notorious for launching the 3D revival in the early 80’s but mostly disappeared from public movie consciousness with the classic 3D format almost 30 years ago. Directed by Ferdinando Baldi and starring the second-rate Tony Anthony, the movie I have to say overcooked the 3-D and used it in almost every scene instead of making it a feature. Thus, audiences became tired of it, the one saving grace I think is the brilliant score by composer Carlo Savina, who utilises the exquisite voice of Edda dell Orso, in many of the cues. Savina is probably better known for his work as a conductor for the likes of Miklos Rozsa, but he was a fine composer in his own right and the score for Comin at Ya stands out as being one of his best. The score was owned by CAM but the company licensed it to GDM/Hillside who issued it onto compact disc, it is a gem of a soundtrack but is now deleted and hard to find, but thankfully available on digital platforms with twenty one cues.
Horror scores feature large nowadays amongst the new soundtrack releases and I would say at least sixty percent of all soundtrack releases are from horror films and sci-fi movies. Jack and Jill, is one such release amongst the latest batch, music is by Andy Fosberry, well I say music but is it? There are more effects and certainly more soundscape than there is actual music as in melodic or thematic. I am not however saying the score is not affective, and again it’s what ever is right for the film and if it supports and enhances and hopefully adds atmosphere to the movie than that is what movie music is all about. However, from a listening point of view, its not such a good thing, because there is nothing to latch onto and in effect this is film music for the purpose of the film and the film only, but that’s a good thing, yes?
So many scores recently are serving the picture well but have not a great deal going on away from the images, which is why I still lament the loss of the main title’s music in movies, or even the end titles in some cases, at least one left the cinema with the theme for the film fresh in your mind. The score for Jack and Jill does contain some very effective moments and these can be experienced without having to watch the movie as in the cue, Emergance, which contains some inventive percussive effects and has to it a dark and lumbering persona. It is a dark sounding work, mysterious and foreboding but that’s what it meant to sound like given the subject matter of the film. So, the composer has indeed succeeded in writing effective movie music. Take a listen again on most digital platforms. Andy Fosberry has also scored Spider in the Attic, which again is filled with atmospheric sounds and half heard sounds that creep you out to be honest, again no real thematic material, soundscape rules in this case. The composer creating a sinewy and vibrant sound which although not melodic is affecting because of the way in which it is written. Fosberry fashioning synth passages and dark and unsettling interludes that become even more unnerving as the work progresses. Inventive and oozing with a sense of dread.
Also available is Mediterraneo by the excellent Spanish composer Arnau Battler, who has become one of my favourite composers in recent years. There is also an interesting release from the Newton Brothers which is the score from the Netflix series Midnight Mass, I wont spoil for you but go check it out, its on digital platforms and its certainly different.
Billy Mcbride is going through a rough patch. He has been fired from the law firm he helped build, his wife has left him, and he’s now a down on his luck ambulance chaser. A lady (Patty) approaches him to represent her in a wrongful death case. After reluctantly accepting to take on the case, a series of strange events befall Billy. Through death threats, harassment, and fabricated arrests, Billy embarks on obtaining justice. Additional unique cases eventually come Billy and Patty’s way, making the ride even more entertaining.
That’s the plot for the TV series Goliath (2016) which stars Billy Bob Thornton. The score for the series is by composers Jon Ehrlich and Jason Derlatka and is an effective collection of themes and cues that give the series a more urgent and tense atmosphere, the composers employing a fusion of synthetic textures with conventional instrumentation that adds colour ad depth. Interesting and entertaining.
The Cliff Eidelman score I mentioned in the opening is for the movie Free Willy 3, The Rescue, Eidelman I think is an overlooked composer and deserved to work on bigger budget movies, his style is an appealing one, creating lilting and pleasant themes and also fashioning dramatic and high-tension action cues. Free Willy 3, The Rescue, was a good movie considering it was produced on the back of the success of the two original movies. Basil Poledouris created wonderfully lyrical scores for the first two movies, and Eidelman did a sterling job on the third movie, in fact at times the music seems to be even more lush and appealing than the themes created by Poledouris. There is a more developed style present, and the score is certainly more varied theme wise. The composer also adds a touch of authenticity via certain instrumentation and utilises the core theme of the original scores in an emotive and effective way. Now available on digital platforms it’s a soundtrack that disappeared for a while, so now its time to get re-acquainted don’t you think? And while you’re about getting to know this score again go to his music for Christopher Columbus the Discovery. Which is grand, powerful, and regal whereas Free Willy 3, is what I often call a homely score, or one that makes one feel uplifted and happy after listening to it, the same can be said for Randy Newman’s The Natural, which is at times pure Americana. A classic, and one that every self-respecting film music fan should have in their collection.
That’s all folks…until next time.