TRAVELER- A JOURNEY SYMPHONY.

Just a few years ago many film music collectors often dismissed TV music, I am pleased to say that that has become something of the past and film scores and music for TV programs is treated equally and in some scenarios the TV scores get better press. The same I suppose could be said for music for games, I do not in any way shape or form profess to know a lot about music for games, but I do know that in recent years this medium of entertainment has given us so many wonderfully atmospheric and innovative soundtracks. With composers who work predominantly in this area writing epic and emotive music that could easily be from the latest Hollywood blockbuster. The music for video games has certainly developed over the past two decades, with full blooded rich symphonic scores being created to underline and underscore people’s favorite games.  Assassin’s Creed for example and Journey, both contain atmospheric and imposing musical works.

The latter title has recently been given a new lease of life by its composer Austin Wintory, in the form of a re-recording entitled Traveler-A Journey Symphony, which I am told will be performed at the BBC proms in London in early August. Although basically the same as the composers score for the video game, it does have certain variations, with some themes from the score being developed more for the re-recording, on listening to the symphony it was so good to again hear the lilting and emotive themes that the composer first wrote back in 2012, and I for one will be tuning into the proms when the music is broadcast.

However, the symphony is available on digital platforms, and makes for a mesmerizing and at times a relaxing and poignant listen. It is a work that washes over you at times, creating a Zen like atmosphere, the beautiful and wonderfully thematic score is one that I would recommend to anyone, it is music that chills, heals and relaxes, and is also a soundtrack that lives a life of its own away from the game it was written for. Wintory’s music is attractive and haunting, with delicate tone poems being scattered throughout.

But like all good soundtracks there is variation in the style and sound of the music as it accompanies various levels within the video game, the composer adapting and creating said sounds and musical styles to suit and support. But it is the more melodic and melancholy sounding cues that stand out, simply because of their gracious and affecting musical personality. I listened to the score three times through, and never tired of it, and the same can be said for the new recording, because once you begin to listen its very difficult to come away from it and the mood that the music fashions. As I say I am no games music expert, but this music I think would be not only appealing to film music collectors, but also a score that they would want in their collection and return to many times after the initial listen. Check it out on the likes of Spotify.

LUCY AND DESI.

If like me you grew up in the 1960,s then you will be familiar with the TV show I Love Lucy, which starred Lucille Ball and featured Desi Arnaz, it was at the time a must see, and to be honest was mostly all good clean fun. Airing on Amazon Prime is a new documentary, biopic entitled Lucy and Desi, which looks like it is a labour, of love for the producers, director and writers involved. Its true to say that much has already been covered regarding the somewhat stormy relationship between Lucille Ball and Arnaz, but this film goes deeper and uncovers many taped conversations and a lot of unseen footage.

The director of the film Amy Poehler has unearthed a veritable treasure trove of material to produce an penetratingly personal history that comes across as a heartfelt tribute to both Lucille’s and Desi’s artistry and professionalism. What really resonates more than anything is hearing their voices describe episodes of their lives with such frankness and a certain amount of melancholy that makes their divorce feel as if it was a tragic inevitability 62 years later.  The film features a plethora of stars but living and no longer with us.

The music for the movie is by composer David Schwartz, who has provided the story with a score that is subtle, touching, and delicate, with numerous moments of melancholy that are tinged with fragility and poignancy. It is a score that covers many styles including Latin, dramatic, romantic, and comedic.

The composer relying upon strings, piano, and the brass section to create at times luxurious and salubrious sounding sections, at certain points utilising a sorrowful sounding cello solo which is heartbreakingly effective. Being a documentary there is a lot of music in the movie, and the score runs for nearly forty minutes, it is an entertaining listen and if you have not already seen the documentary the music will make you want to. Check out the score its available on digital platforms. Recommended.

Boom! Italian Jazz Soundtracks at their Best. (1959-1969).

Italian film scores are filled with so many original and inventive styles and sounds, I think more than any other Country Italy has been a hotbed of musical activity when it comes to innovative musical notions in film music. One only has to listen to their take on the music for westerns to understand how quirky, offbeat and original composers from Italy were and still are. Over the years there have been literally hundreds of compilations, which initially were a brilliant insight to just how many styles were present within the world of Italian film soundtracks. But as the years rolled on and the ever-increasing compilation releases popped up on LP, CD and also on digital platforms, the compilations did I have to say become very Samey. As in the record labels would very often include a handful of themes on each collection, leaving the collector with a difficult decision “Do I buy this release for two three minute tracks as I have all the others already”? 

But this has been a problem with Italian releases over the decades because they seem to re-issue and re-issue, sometimes not including anything that was not previously released. However, there are a few collections of film music from Italy that have caught my attention over the years, the excellent Easy Tempo compilations for example, many of the tracks at the time of the release of the compilations not being available and alerting collectors to a wealth of music from composers that they might not have already been acquainted with.

Mention must be made also of BEAT records and their Il Sogni Della Musica releases of which there were three volumes originally on LP then on CD, with a fourth collection being released by BEAT which was basically a best of Il Sogni Della Musica in the early part of the 2000’s. Well, I am pleased to say that the great Italian compilation is back in the form of Boom! Italian Jazz Soundtracks at their Best. Which is a collection released on two LP records and available digitally on the likes of Spotify by Decca records that includes thirty-three tracks and runs for over an hour.

All the tracks are culled from the CAM archives or Sugar music as we now know it, and from what I can see and hear most of them have maybe not been issued before (but don’t quote me on this). It’s a wonderfully varied collection of jazz fueled compositions by many of the top flyers in both jazz and film music in Italy.

Many names being very familiar and others although we know them have not been given the exposure that they deserve in the ever increasing and ongoing re-issue program from Italy. We see the names, Nicolai, Bacalov, Rustichelli, Umiliani, De Masi, Ferrio, Ortolani, Morricone, Giombini, Piccioni, Orlandi, Travioli, etc, but amongst these are some outstanding tracks filled with jazz and big band influences composed by Aldo Piga, Luis Bonfa, Peppino De Luca, Ivan Vandor, Marcello Giante and featuring iconic performers such as Gato Barbieri, Chet Baker, Nora Orlandi, Nunzio Rotundo, with some cues featuring Il Cantori Moderni di Alessandroni and the four caravels.

This is I think one of the best curated compilations in recent years, it is an introduction to Italian movie scores that lean towards jazz for any who are not already familiar with them, but is also just a wonderful listen that is entertaining and if you have grown up with Italian movie scores like I have bring memories flooding back, but not because I know the tracks but more because of the sounds that are created within them. Smoky, seductive, at times sleazy, but always, always thrilling and entertaining. Wonderful release. More please…..Cant wait for 1970 to 1980.

THE RUSSIAN BRIDE.

There seem to be several critics recently that don’t just watch a movie, TV show etc or listen to a score without getting into so many why’s and wherefores about the plot or how the music should have worked. Which is why I always try and watch or listen with an open mind and try not to see too deeply into a movie or its sub plots or what the director producer was trying to put over and comparing it with a situation that is taking place or has already taken place out there somewhere in the world. I attempt to watch it for entertainment and that alone, whether it is a movie or its score, yes of course music has a job to do within a movie and providing its doing that then well, that’s it for me even if it does not sound great as just music, but there again if it does work as stand-alone music all well and good and that’s a bonus.

The Russian Bride (2018) is a horror movie so let’s not get carried away and look for parts of the script or even a plot that can be considered as highbrow. Like most people I see it’s a horror and go and watch it because maybe I want to be scared, I also go to watch and escape into a world that is hopefully far removed from reality, that’s what cinema is I think escapism for us all.

Whether its in a Galaxy Far, Far, Away, or in a world that is being attacked by aliens, a Zombie Apocalypse, or even a silly rom com, they all serve their purpose to take our minds off the real horrors in this world.(after all there is so many at the moment).

Let’s save any criticism or complaining about historical facts, the literary content or indeed the standard of the performance to things with multi-million-dollar budgets and get on with enjoying the movie no matter how bad or wrong it maybe.

Forget that the spaceship looks really dodgy, and the director who is on a budget that cannot stretch to Industrial light and Magic, but instead has to try and create FX with a fairy liquid bottle, a cornflake box, some string, odd bits of an Air fix model kit, PVA glue and a Blue Peter Badge (get down Shep) (joking).

The Russian Bride, is probably not the best movie in the world, but its one that I think at least can hold its own and also grab the audiences attention and maintain that focus from them. Its not a new storyline or concept, in fact it’s been done a few times by other directors and in other countries, but still, it remains an interesting angle.

At first one would be forgiven for thinking the movie is a slow burner, because I would say the first fifty minutes or so are quite easy going and like a saunter down a country lane, but then wow the plot erupts, wakes up and becomes what any self-respecting horror should be a shocker, slasher, that smacks you right in the face with a generous helping of gratuitous violence, portions of gore and also some nice tongue in cheek moments. That culminate is something that includes, a fest of cannibalism references, the classic tale of Frankenstein, arcs of blood, guts, and blunt instrument swiping female revenge chaos. Like the sound of it? 

Cesar Benito.

The music which has been released on digital platforms recently by Plaza Mayor is the work of Spanish born composer Cesar Benito. Who wowed many of us with his scores for films such as Ways to Live Forever, and the gloriously emotive The Time Between.

The Russian Bride is an inventive score, and one that although being for a horror movie maintains a high level of thematic content, I have to say you will never become bored listening to this score, as there are so many musical twists and turns within it.

The composer employs synth sounds alongside conventional instrumentation, with the use of solo piano being particularly haunting in tracks such as Till Death Us Do Part, which begins graciously and in a classical style, but soon segues into something darker, but the composer utilising cello midway through to take the apprehensive edge off things, piano returns in the cue Nina and Dasha which is an emotive and haunting piece, piano being subtly supported by low profile strings.

There is an ominous and uneasy sound present throughout the score, with tremolo strings acting as a fearsome remainder that this is a horror, but there is as I say melody here, which every now and then seems to rise out of the more atonal moments that have been created, bringing a welcomed chink of light into the proceedings.

The composer also treats us to action cues such as Horseback Stab Riding, which is a jagged sounding fast paced piece and the dark fearsome sounds in the track Marriage At War, that both contain Herrmann-esque qualities and elements,

Plus there are a handful of cues that on occasion evoke memories of the style of John Barry and little touches that could be Delarue.

It’s a score that I know you will like, so please check it out now, on the likes of Spotify.    

   

DOES THE DEVIL HAVE ALL THE BEST TUNES?

“The Devil has all the best tunes” is a view held by many and a saying that has been around for a long time now, many come to this conclusion because music, especially popular music, is predominantly secular rather than religious. So, this got me thinking, (which is sometimes a dangerous thing). Does this apply to film scores for movies about the Devil? And how do scores for films about the Devil compare with the Biblically slanted Epics and other such movies that tell the story of God and Jesus and all things good? So, let’s start with the bad boy shall we. Well, many movies about the Devil or Satan, Old Nick, The Beast, Lucifer, and so many other titles and names attached to the Evil One, who was cast out of heaven by God. Contain strong and powerful musical works, which is to be expected as the character of the Devil is often looked upon as a controlling, unforgiving and unmerciful individual.

Let’s not forget that the Devil was initially an angel or so the Bible tells us, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him”.  So, the Devil, was at one time good? Cast out because he sought to become the overlord of paradise. “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God” and I will be like the most High”. There have been many interpretations of the Devil in motion pictures, at times these have even had a comedic takes on the power that is wielded by him or is it her? 

A recent interpretation is by Welsh actor Tom Ellis in Lucifer the TV series on Netflix which is now in its sixth season and has aired thus far 93 episodes which focuses upon Lucifer Morningstar, bored from his sulking life in hell, comes to live in Los Angeles. While there, he helps humanity with its miseries through his experience and telepathic abilities to bring people’s deepest desires and thoughts out of them. While meeting with a Detective named Chloe Decker (Lauren German) in his exclusive nightclub called LUX, a shootout involving him, and the Detective leads him to become an LAPD consultant who tries to punish people for their crimes through law and justice. It’s a clever concept with a witty script plus it’s a series that is a compelling and an addictive watch, with Tom Ellis being perfect in the title role and the remainder of the cast also bringing much to the unfolding storylines. The central character is at times played in a humorous fashion, but then we see at times just how powerful and unmerciful he can be when he shows his true colours as the situations call for it.

The music is credited to Marco Beltrami who began working on the series back in 2016, the music department is also credited to many performers as in bands, composers, and vocalists, which to be honest run into double figures, plus there are numerous songs on the soundtrack by artists such as David Bowie etc. The score or music is atmospheric, but often the orchestral or instrumental sections are short and to the point stabs that act as support for a stand off or a moment of violence and often are a segue between scenes or pre-announce an important stage of a storyline or indeed herald a commercial break. The soundtrack is scattered with an abundance of rock influenced songs and riffs, which do work especially because of  the time slot that the series is set which is contemporary Los Angeles.

From the bustling city of angels to a more otherworldly setting, is it in the future or could it be set in a time long gone and even in another world? Well, I suppose we all must make our own minds up when it comes to Legend. The Ridley Scott movie I have always looked upon as a masterpiece, but many do not share my opinion, maybe it is because the movie was so badly cut when it finally reached cinema screens, and there were also so many different versions of the film. Some containing the score by Jerry Goldsmith others having the music of Tangerine Dream on the soundtrack.

The Goldsmith score is a wonderous collection of mysterious, poignant, and compelling thematic material, with the composer employing varying shades of darkness and light throughout, the music having to it a mischievous and enthralling persona, each of the characters having themes and motifs, and the central performers such as Tim Curry in his marvellous devil make up being underlined by a foreboding and fearsome sound, making his performance even more imposing. Goldsmith’s impish and otherworldly flourishes that are created via symphonic and synthetic performances adding even more magic and mystery to the proceedings.

The score that was provided by Tangerine Dream, is also very good, but not as effective as Goldsmith’s with the Dream’s music being more like a soundscape and at times not really being in sync with the action on screen. Goldsmith created a score that was overflowing with a beguiling and affecting richness, his music for the goblins being threatening but at the same time having comedic layers.

The National Philharmonic orchestra produced a wonderfully flawless performance with the composer mixing and fusing instrumental themes with haunting songs such as My True Loves Eyes and Sing the Wee.

Goldsmith employed many of what we now sometimes call “Goldsmithian” trademarks throughout the score, brass flourishes surging, and romantic sounding strings and action led cues with pounding percussion and rasping brass that were relentless and at the same time eerie. These trademarks can be heard in any number of the composers works for film, especially in the 1980’s. However, I still consider Legend one of his best scores and like most of his film scores is like a piece of gold in a silver age.

Staying with Goldsmith and the Devil, and turning to his scores for the Omen series, The Omen, Damien Omen 2, and The Final Conflict. All three are filled with a malevolence but it is the first in the series that I return to most, the darkness and the foreboding Ave Santani still sending chills through me on each listen. The track entitled The Dogs Attack also being a triumph of the macabre and impending doom. Damien Omen ll, is probably my least favourite score in the trilogy but there again I was not over impressed with the movie. The composers Final Conflict too contained a sense of doom and disaster, but also too had a mood that was spiritual and hopeful, which came into its own in the final sequence when Damien finally is dispatched, and the glory of heaven is given centre stage with a magnificent and moving piece created by the composer.  

This is a score that is filled with grandiose set pieces as in  The Second Coming, Goldsmith fashioning a beautiful piece build around a variation of the Ave Santani, but in this case it is a heavenly and triumphant sound that we hear, although it is at times interspersed with icy whispers and threatening voices, these give way to the splendour of Goldsmith’s vibrant and awe inspiring music that announces the second coming of Christ, the cue ends with the Ave Santani motif performed on French horns, giving the cue a fearsome and commanding finish.

From Goldsmith to Williams, and to The Witches of Eastwick, with Jack Nicholson in the role of Daryl or the Devil. John Williams music is a mischievous yet wonderfully thematic journey through the many ups and downs of three women of Eastwick who are beguiled by the devil and wreak their revenge upon him. Williams providing an infectious collection of themes and also adding atmosphere and creating a comedic yet pulsating apprehensive air throughout.

His Dance of the Witches is an incredible composition, as is his The Seduction of Suki and the Ballroom Scene, which contains a glorious and uplifting melody.

The Devil Rides Out is a classic film, produced by Hammer in 1968, based upon the Dennis Wheatly novel, the movie starred Christopher Lee, Charles Grey and Nick Arrighi, directed by Terence Fisher the score was composed by James Bernard, it is one of Bernard’s most revered works for Hammer, and has stood the test of time well alongside the composers scores for the many Dracula movies that Hammer released and a string of Frankenstein movie creations.

Like so many of Hammers scores The Devil Rides Out remained unreleased for many years even though many collectors requested it, it was finally released by GDI records in 2002 and was the 13th CD release in that labels excellent Hammer soundtrack series. The short but highly effective opening cue from the score, strikes terror into the hearts and souls of the watching audience and sets the scene perfectly for all that is about to unfold in the film. Bernard’s chilling music for The Spirit in the Observatory too is menacing and consuming, the composer relying upon strings to fashion a sinewy, mesmeric, and apprehensive piece that is punctuated by brass stabs.

Bernard’s dark and foreboding sound was well suited to Hammer movies and increased the drama in The Devil Rides Out magnificently.

So does the evil one have all the best music as in film scores, well that I suppose is a matter of opinion and personal preference, so lets look at the other side of the coin as in Good or God and the music that has been penned for a number of Biblical tales that have been committed to celluloid. The Ten Commandments, for example, a great and rousing score by veteran composer Elmer Bernstein, triumphant flourishes, proud fanfares and stirring action cues are scattered throughout the movie, it is in every sense of the word a classic.

So, 1-0 to God on this one. What else, ah yes, the iconic music from Ben Hur, The Robe, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Quo Vadis, do I need to go on? OK, King of Kings, The Bible, any need to continue, no I did not think so.

So maybe old Nick needs to think again before he starts to think he has the best tunes, the scores for the Biblical epics I have mentioned are uplifting, gracious and celestial in their overall sound and make up, and yes Biblical scores too contain dark and foreboding interludes, but these are overwhelmed and countered effectively by heavenly choirs, proud anthem like fanfares and affecting and sweeping themes.

There is more emotion in the opening theme or Overture for Ben Hur than in many of the movies that tell a story about the horned one. Depending on your own particular taste, I would think that the score is about equal, but maybe the sound of good will hopefully triumph over the dark and foreboding choruses of evil.