Mention the name John Barry and straight away you think classic, iconic, dramatic, classy, thematic, melodic, and lush. There is just something about this composer’s music that is alluring and haunting. His score for the movie The Tamarind Seed is no exception, and Silva Screen in the UK will release the CD of the soundtrack on November 19th 2021. It is one of the composers most affecting scores from this period in his career but at the same time is probably one of his lesser-known works as well. The movie, which was released in 1974 starred Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif and was directed by Blake Edwards. It was a surprise to many that Henry Mancini was not the composer assigned as he and Edwards had worked together successfully several times. Barry fashioned an effective and highly emotive soundtrack for the movie utilizing his unmistakable sultry and sensual strings associated with his eloquent style these convey a romantic and poignant theme that re-emerges throughout the score in various arrangements. This work along with scores such as Somewhere in Time, Peggy Sue Got Married, Out of Africa, My Life and Raise the Titanic are filled with that unmistakable Barry air, and just ooze a sophistication possessing an attractive and appealing musical persona which leans more towards romanticism and mystery in this case. The score also contained cues that were not far away from the music Barry had penned for the various Bond movies he had worked on, with some tracks being tense and driving for me it evoked certain themes in Diamonds are Forever, where the composer created a tense atmosphere but also at the same time fashioned rich themes.
So many delicate nuances, breathy and emotive passages, and fragile sounding interludes are included, which are not only highly effective within the context of the movie and its unfolding storyline but also at times transfix any listener. This is certainly a welcome release and I know many Barry fans will be incredibly pleased, even though it was not really a high-profile score or movie it has many qualities. Reber Clark is a composer who is so underused he works mainly on low budget movies, and scores radio plays for the H P Lovecraft Historical Society.
His latest score is for that societies production of The Horror in the Museum, and it is in a word excellent. Think, Jerry Goldsmith, James Bernard, Bernard Herrmann, and Danny Elfman and that’s what you have here, a totally absorbing and inventive work that is overflowing with rich atmospheres and uneasy moods that can be icy, unnerving, foreboding and slightly quirky. But there is also an abundance of thematic material present that is not just effective but entertaining. It is I suppose an excellent example of vintage styles meeting contemporary sounds, and the mix works wonderfully.
The score can be found on Bandcamp along with a lot more of the composers scores for Film and radio, whilst your there check them all out you, House of the Gorgon for example which trust me is superb, you will be amazed at the quality of the music and the composer’s talent and his overwhelming ability to fashion such memorable and haunting music. And once you take a listen you will want to hear more and more, Highly, recommended.
It will not be long before the nights begin to get darker in fact they are already, and the phrase that we dread Trick or Treat will once again be uppermost in the minds of children of all ages. Halloween will be upon us, time to close the blinds turn out the lights and pretend we are not at home, and consume vast amounts of candy (Oh, you do it too). With Halloween comes a literal landslide of horror movies on the TV and in cinemas and being streamed online, in fact its hard sometimes to find anything else to watch apart from a horror movie and that is on a normal day. Howlin Wolf records is a label that I love, they champion new composers, with obscure titles adorning their catalogue, which for me is heaven as I like to be surprised by new talents and inventive scores and when you look at the Howlin Wolf catalogue its certainly not lacking any of these.
They are now showing the art-work for two atmospheric scores at the start of their website, both are the work of Randin Graves the first is They Live Inside Us, and the other is a collaboration with a gentleman who calls himself Slasher Dave for the movie The Witching Season. Both are interesting and entertaining works if a horror score can be deemed entertaining that is? Creepy and sinister is the order of the day with both works containing a style that is not that dissimilar to that of Alan Howarth, John Carpenter, and reminded me slightly of the style employed by director/composer Harry Bromley Davenport when he scored the 1982 sci-fi, horror Xtro. Synthetic but structured and above all supportive and effective. Being horror scores there are very few of what we would refer to as themes, but the composer does at times deploy a series of notes which he repeats, thus the music or musical sounds become haunting and because of the simplicity of the music it becomes unnerving and uncomfortable. Both scores are well worth checking out, you can order right now Howlin’ Wolf Records (howlinwolfrecords.com).
It’s funny at Halloween we all seem to sit down and watch Horror because its October 31st, like at Christmas in the UK we watch two festive favourites, The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music? Halloween is a time for the gruesome, the gory and the scary and its’ at this time of year we turn to the likes of those Gothic Hammer films classics, Ghost stories, American International Edgar Allan Poe movies and if you are not a scaredy cat maybe things such as The Exorcist and if you don’t really care maybe some Abbot and Costello in those old black and white Universal comedy horrors. And let us not forget films such as The Lost Boys, Monster Squad, The Lady in White, Witchfinder General, Blood on Satan’s Claw, and Curse of the Crimson Altar. Just a handful of examples which can be deemed appropriate or inappropriate film fare for All Hallows Eve. If you are not keen an any of these you can always turn the news on, now that is scary, especially the guy with the tatty haircut spouting endless nonsensical chants and pretending to know what he is doing.
The Omen series I think is a collection of films that many still consider to be at the top of the horror genre chart and also the scores by Jerry Goldsmith in my opinion never age or sound cliched, out of the trilogy I have to say I liked The Final Conflict best, but more for the score than the movie, Goldsmith created an epic work for this the last in the trilogy where we see Damien grown to adulthood and being portrayed convincingly by actor Sam Neil.The Final Conflict, is an affecting soundtrack and not only because it is dark, foreboding and malevolent, but also because it has moments that were far more grandiose than the first two movies with the music leaning more towards a religious and spiritual sound. The end scene where Damien dies has a stunning and triumphant musical accompaniment. With Goldsmith employing, choir, brass, strings, and percussion which could easily be the work of Miklos Rozsa in any number of Biblical slanted epics from the 1950’s and 1960’s. Check it out on digital platforms, in fact all three Omen scores are available there.
Lalo Schifrin’s rejected score from The Exorcist is also a good soundtrack to turn to when celebrating Halloween, it is a modernistic quite Avant Garde sounding work, filled with a harsh and evil sound, apart from a quite easy going theme that pops up here and there, the movies director William Friedkin was said to have thrown the music tapes out of a window after audiences were sent packing on seeing the trailer for the movie with a music track by Schifrin underscoring it, Warner Brothers put a lot of stock in reactions from audiences when a trailer was shown, and it was deemed that is was the music that was too scary (but that was the idea surely). Friedkin, replaced the composers original score with tracks from classical composers and a short excerpt from Tubular Bells by British artist Mike Oldfield, with that piece of music now being forever associated with the film. For me, the Schifrin score is iconic because it is so effective and because it was rejected for doing what it was supposed to do. When the rejected work was issued finally on to a recording, it became apparent to many that this was an innovative, and complex, soundtrack and maybe the film’s director and the Warner Brothers studio did not understand fully how this wonderfully atmospheric and virulent sounding score would have made the already powerful film even more impacting. When, listening to it as just music it does have the ability to make one feel uneasy and unsettled. Much of the music was adapted by the composer and re-used in the later horror film The Amityville Horror, another classic.
At Halloween let us also not forget the Italian horror movie, Cinecitta has produced so many fine horror tales over the years and it was the Italian horror genre that made Barbara Steele a star. The horror movie has always been a popular genre for Italian filmmakers, and the movies contained musical scores that have over time also grown to become appreciated by collectors of soundtracks and film buffs alike. Bruno Nicolai is a composer who worked on a handful of Horrors, the most notable scores being Throne of Fire and Il Conte Dracula which he scored for Jess Franco, composers such as Carlo Rustichelli, Ennio Morricone and Fabio Frizzi have all made worthy contributions to the genre, with Frizzi I think making the genre all his own when working on films such as, City of the Living Dead, Zombie Flesh Eaters and The Beyond.
So, there is plenty musically to keep you occupied on Halloween, and if all else fails don’t forget the GDI Hammer film score series and the excellent Music from Hammer Films re-recording on Silva Screen.
Just do not answer the door, or if you get a call with someone asking, “What’s your favourite scary movie”, hang up because that’s not Sky doing market research guys.
Back to normality now, (well almost), because movies are not normal, are they? They are mostly about escapism, and fantasy allowing us to get away from the everyday world and for two hours or so going to another world, another life, to exotic locations, romantic and dangerous scenarios etc. Works for me. Cinemas are now returning to what is near normal after a harrowing and restricting two years, and with movies still available to stream it seems that the audiences are returning, which is a good thing.
The more movies that they release the more film scores we will get to hear, not all are worth listening to, but we are getting a few which are fresh and vibrant now. I have noticed that the drone like electronic noise score is taking pole position in recent months. So many new scores do not have melodies or even hints of them and the main titles have all but disappeared. So, I ask is the ART of film music as many of us seasoned collectors know it, becoming outdated or overtaken and suffocated by a plethora of clinical and unmusical synthetics? Time will tell I suppose. I will be honest and tell you I struggle to review some scores, why? Because they are un-listenable, that’s the only thing I can say, this is why in many of the soundtrack supplements I go back to past scores, to maybe inform collectors who have not heard them. I think I would rather review a past soundtrack by a composer who is no longer with us than most of the material that is being issued now. I am most probably going to be getting e mails for saying that! but I am sure there are those who agree. I am thankful for the Varese Sarabande club releases, and recently the Quartet releases of vintage Italian soundtracks, La La Land records too have released classics in the past two years as have Intrada.
And let us not forget Kronos with their Gold Series. Movie Score Media I applaud because they release new material, but it is a more traditional style of film music, there are a few exceptions, but it’s a label that I think would be sorely missed if it were not around.
Until the next time