All posts by jonman492000

SOUNDTRACK SUPPLEMENT FORTY TWO.

Welcome to soundtrack supplement forty-two. This time round there is a bumper crop of new releases and all are not only interesting but quite different. There seems to a number that are realized via electronics, synthetics, and samples, which although not a problem because many are effective scores is for me personally a little disappointing being a collector and critic who leans towards the more conventional and traditional. But it is a sign of the times and to be fair some of the electronic scores are at times hard to separate from the symphonic because the technology is so much improved. In this latest batch there are good examples, not so good and some that I will probably avoid adding to my collection. But all are in the film music collective, and it is how the music, or the sounds achieved support and enhance those images and scenarios that is the important thing.

 I am going to begin with the score for the Netflix series Jupiter’s Legacy, I briefly mentioned the theme from the series recently which although brief establishes itself well. Th remainder of the score too has a sound and style that I am confident that collectors and listeners will find interesting and attractive, there is a smoldering and apprehensive persona to this soundtrack, but every so often it bursts into life and yields some brilliant musical moments. The composer Stephanie Economou utilizes an array of instrumentation including a fuzzy sounding almost rock guitar to create an impressive sound and gives the series its own inventive and innovative musical accompaniment. After hearing the short but effective title’s theme I was intrigued as to how the remainder of the score would pan out, I am pleased to say that it is a soundtrack that I enjoyed greatly and has some wonderfully subdued melodic and earthy sounding moments throughout. It is a score that is edgy and vibrantly brooding. Occasionally the score does break into a theme that resembles an anthem but normally these are short lived but saying this these moments are priceless and lift the mood. There is an underlying atmosphere to the entire score that purveys a fearsome and also a foreboding. I would say check it out on digital platforms, I like it but everyone as we know is different.  

Apex Legends is a free-to-play hero battle royale game developed by Respawn Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts. It was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in February 2019, and for Nintendo Switch in March 2021. The game is set in the same science fiction universe as Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall series. A movie is due for release in 2022. The score for Apex Legends is the work of composer Stephen Barton, it is an electronic score but has its moments that are proud and filled with anthem like themes, the score is driving and exciting and very rarely allows the listener to relax as in cues such as You are the Jumpmaster, Victory and Lobby Redux, which are both action themed but also has to it an air of melody. I think you will enjoy its relentlessness, and the composer’s obvious talent for creating themes and sub themes that bounce off each other throughout, thus keeping it fresh and vibrant.

Mark Sayfritz has penned a fine horror score for the movie Death of Me, it’s a soundtrack that contains numerous strange and alien sounding quirks of orchestration, the composer conjuring up an uneasy and totally unsettling atmosphere. The score also contains the vocals of Yanin Bandhaya which are distinctive and alluring. Yanin is an independent music artist based in Bangkok. People know her as a singer and songwriter, but she is also interested in being known as a performance artist too. She combines Contemporary Dance and Improvisation Dance in her shows. Her vocals add much depth and create a slightly off kilter mood to the proceedings, the remainder of the score is an effective one and the composer creates a plethora of atmospherics that are not only supportive and perplexing but are absorbing and at the same time complex and evokes his chilling and sinister sounding score for Abattoir from 2016. The score for Death of Me is released by Movie Score Media and is available on digital platforms. And whilst there why not check Abattoir.

Mystic Quest is an Apple TV series with seasons one and two containing a rousing score from composer, Takeshi Furukawa, I love this music it is like swashbuckling superhero material and is relentless in its powerful and tour de force execution. If you were not aware of it you could be forgiven for thinking that it is the work of a composer such as Brian Tyler or John Debney, the themes just keep coming the melodies flow continuously and the composer adds layers and layers of robust and action filled music.

Takeshi Furukawa,

Many of the cues are less than a minute long, but when the composer enters a track which is lengthier, he has a chance to flex his musical muscles as in Ian Fights the asked Man which is dark and foreboding but also has within it a rousing theme and excellent choral work that is underlined and supported by brass, percussion, and strings. At just over twenty-three minutes in duration it left me wanting more and I found myself returning to the beginning more than once. Driving and commanding this score is highly recommended.

Syndrome K by composer Stephen Edwards who also directed the film is a score you should own, no question. Released on Movie Score Media, it has everything, at least I think so. It is a delightful work filled with wonderful melodies and dark and apprehensive passages a varied work which I have to say is going on my best of 2021 thus far list. Every track has something that the listener can latch onto and enjoy and overall, the work is outstanding and superb. Just check it out you will not be sorry.

Those Who Wish me Dead is the latest offering from composer Brian Tyler. The movie which stars Angelina Jolie is directed by Taylor Sheridan, the story centres on a teenage murder witness who finds himself pursued by twin assassins in the Montana wilderness with a survival expert tasked with protecting him — and a forest fire threatening to consume them all. So pretty tense and exciting material, which is matched by Tyler’s score, the music is filled with a nervous tension and has to it a power and an ominous presence. To be honest it is quite restrained for a Tyler score, although it simmers and at times does boil over into full action themed material. But it is the tense and the underlying mood of apprehension and fear that the composer creates via his score that stands out. There are also a handful of relaxed but still slightly nervous and edgy cues within the score and overall it is a work that works well in the movie but does struggle away from the films storyline and images. But, if you are a Tyler devotee then it is an essential purchase.

The Water Man is a movie that focuses upon a young boy who has a very ill Mother, and he decides to go into the mountains and find The Water Man a mystical figure who in local legends supposedly exists in the woods and mountains and is able to cure all ills. The boy named Gunner Boone (Lonnie Chavis) enlists the help of Jo Riley played by Amiah Miller who says she knows where the Water Man is, it’s a good movie and a full-on family adventure that maybe years ago someone like Ron Howard or Steven Spielberg would have been involved with. Directed by actor David Oyelowo who also takes the part of Gunners Father. It is a movie that I feel will find its way into the hearts of many and will be a favourite for years to come.

The score is by Peter Baert (Facades and Adamloos 2018) and is an accomplished and finely tuned affair, at times remaining subdued and subtle which I think adds to the tension or underlines the unfolding storyline to a greater degree. The themes are touching and emotive and the composer is never heavy handed or over the top with his scoring. Thus, the score becomes an integral component of the storyline. Giving support and adding punctuation at every twist and turn. Symphonic for the most part the composer also utilises piano throughout which is wonderfully eloquent and graceful. The subdued persona of the score does alter from time to time most notably in the cue Enter the Forest, which is a grand sounding piece with percussion, piano, and strings, taking on the central roles musically. It also has to it a rich dramatic content that is dark at times and has a brooding and malevolent entity.  This is a score that I know I will return to many times, it is one of those soundtracks that when you listen to over and over, one hears little quirks and nuances that you may have missed first and second time around, the mystical aspects of the storyline being complimented perfectly by Baert’s fine score.  The soundtrack also includes two easy-going songs. Recommended. On Lake shore records and all digital platforms.  

The score for the movie Armugan is if nothing else innovative, I have to say this is probably not my favourite score from the latest releases, but there are several moments within it that make one stop and listen more intently. The music is by Juanjo Javierre, who has created an atmospheric and alluring work. The Estonian made movie was released in 2020. It is set in an isolated valley in the Pyrenees and tells the story of Armugan, who is said to wander throughout the countryside clinging to the body of his servant Anchel, where together they share a task that is secret and is as terrible as death itself. The movie is I think an acquired taste, and the music to be fair is also. But please do not let my opinion deter you from checking it out on digital platforms. As I say there are a handful of moments within the score that are worth listening to.

Initiation is an adequate slasher type movie, which has Scream influences, but saying this Scream was a much better movie. Initiation is intended to be a gripping movie but probably belongs on TV rather than the cinema. One of the best things about the film is the driving and inventive score by composer Alexander Arntzen, who’s fusion of electronic sounds and a scattering of what I can make out as being conventional instrumentation serve the picture well, and at times it is the music that creates the terror, the havoc, and the mayhem. However, when one listens to the score away from the images one does find that you do tend to be reaching for the stop button or the fast forward etc, to stop the noise that is coming from the speakers, again effective within the film, remarkably effective indeed but not one to listen to away from the film, which is ok I suppose as it is film music after all.  Because the movie is rather forgettable, I fear that the score too will fade into the mists of obscurity.

The Invisible War is a movie that relates the compelling and inspiring story of a handful of patients that are in a Mental hospital during the 1940’s. And focuses upon one of the characters Rose Berkeley who is one of the patients who is trying to come to terms with her own situation whilst at the same time attempting to understand the needs of her fellow inmates. The score by Italian born composer Alberto Bellavia is a glorious one, it is a subdued but affecting work, with the composer creating beautiful tone poems via woods and delicate piano performances, the emotive and subtle themes are intimate and elegant and at certain points within the score I was reminded of the style employed by the late Richard Rodney Bennet on some of his movie scores, available on Digital platforms, worth a listen.

Movie Score Media have again been industrious and alongside The Death of Me and Syndrome K have released Paper Spiders, by Ariel Blumenthal, this is an enchanting and delightful score, nothing over the top just wonderful thematic music, performed by strings and piano in the main. It is a score that you should own. Again, available on digital platforms, so what are you waiting for?

IS A SONG SOUNDTRACK A SCORE?

We all love movie scores as in original music that is specifically written to enhance and support those images on screen. But there is also within the soundtrack collecting community many who say they like film music and when they speak of these refer to mainly song scores, yes granted a lot of songs are written specifically for the movie on which they appear, but there are many films that contain songs and even instrumental tracks that are just placed on the soundtrack of a movie by a music supervisor.  Ok do not get me wrong this is an important role, but in my mind not as important as a composer who sits and watches a movie, times sequences, and then writes a piece of music that not only suits the mood of the movie and sometimes elevates the atmosphere to even greater heights. Songs very often are used as a background rather than a composition to elevate a sequence, and many songs are taken from a back catalogue and when they first appeared the movie that they are now associated with was not even in the works. So I thought why not take a look or to be precise a listen to a handful of movie soundtracks that contain mainly songs, yes we will look at songs that were written for movies as in title songs, but also what about a soundtrack that contains songs on its so called Original soundtrack release that were merely background music as in being played on a radio or a juke box behind a scene in a bar or a café? Yes I know that these are on the soundtrack, but mostly are as I have already said old songs, which have been tracked onto the film by an engineer or music supervisor. I think in the main songs such as these are given a place on a soundtrack because the film studio who is responsible for releasing the movie wants to get extra revenue from it, and by adding a popular song could add more appeal to the movie via its song score rather than its original score. If you know what I mean?

 Ok, an example is Ghost, this was a popular movie anyway but when someone mentions the movie, do they ever say oh yes what a fantastic score by Maurice Jarre, no, well very rarely anyway.

It is always the song that the producers utilized for the film that is mentioned, Unchained Melody performed by The Righteous Brothers went to the top of the charts in many countries because it was used in Ghost, and obviously helped the movie as well. Its ironic that the songs melody was written originally for a movie little known movie entitled Unchained that was released back in 1955 and is the work of veteran film music Maestro Alex North, who used the theme as the foundation for his score for the film which was about a prison. The lyrics were by Hy Zaret and the vocals on the soundtrack of the film were by Todd Duncan.

The song was recorded by several artists over the years including The Platters, and it has become something of a standard, but the most well known is the version recorded by The Righteous Brothers in the July of 1965. Which had a new lease of life because of its use in Ghost. Composer Maurice Jarre also integrated the melody in instrumental form into his score, which was highly effective, and it is probably true to say that it was Unchained Melody that also inspired the composer to create a counter theme for the movie as well as writing themes for the central characters.

But it is the song more than anything else that is remembered as opposed to the actual film score. With many on hearing the opening strains of the song straight away associating it with Ghost. This is something that can also be said with other movies, on hearing a song the listener associating it with a film or TV show instead of maybe when it was originally released. But the use of the song score often extends from just a solitary ballad, in fact lets head back to the mid to late 1970’s when it is probably true to state that the song score became something that was starting to be used more frequently. The obvious movie that we associate with a song score or soundtrack is Saturday Night Fever, which contained disco laced tracks from the Bee Gees, Tavares, Kool and the Gang, Yvonne Elliman, MFSB, K.C. and the Sunshine Band, The Trammps, Ralph Mc Donald and an instrumental score or adaptations by David Shire iteven included a different disco-oriented version of Beethoven in the form of Walter Murphy’s funky A Fifth of Beethoven.

 But maybe Saturday Night Fever is too much of an obvious choice, maybe Thank God Its Friday or Car Wash are better starting points even though they did follow the Travolta movie.

Car Wash had songs performed by Rose Royce, with the score by Norman Whitfield who had made his name as a writer and a producer with Motown records working with groups such as The Temptations on classics such as Papa Was a Rollin Stone, he also wrote and produced songs for Undisputed Truth another Motown band until Whitfield signed them to his own Whitfield records in the mid to late seventies releasing the first ever 12” Single You Plus me = Love in 1976.

Norman Whitfield.

The songs for Car Wash are a prime example of background music or source tracks because most were heard in the background on the radio etc, whilst the story unfolded on screen, the movie itself was dire, and failed to make any impression at all outside of America, it was one of the many films that was attempting to cash in on the success of Saturday Night Fever, but fell short woefully even with Richard Prior on board, but saying that it was probably because Prior was involved that the movie bombed.

Thank God its Friday was also a film that made little impression on audiences apart from the music that is.

Its soundtrack was basically a best of Casablanca Records, which was a label that was born out of the success of disco and the performances of Donna Summer as produced by Giorgio Moroder (I Feel Love, Love to Love you Baby etc) and also included performances from acts signed to Motown. Thank God It’s Friday was directed by Robert Klane and released by Columbia Pictures, it was co-produced by Motown Productions and Casablanca Film-Works.  

Released at the height of the popularity of disco in 1978 the film includes appearances from The Commodores performing “Too Hot ta Trot” and Donna Summer performing “Last Dance”, which garnered the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1978. The film also features an early performance by actor Jeff Goldblum and the first major screen appearance by Debra Winger who went on to star in movies such as An Officer and a Gentleman with Richard Gere.  It also features Terri Nunn, who would go on to fame in the 1980s new wave group Berlin who performed the famous song, Take my Breath Away from the movie Top Gun.

Singer Paul Jabara also featured in the movie, and he performed two songs on the soundtrack, Jabara who was an already established disco artist and song writer was responsible for the song Last Dance and later went onto pen Enough is Enough No More Tears for Donna Summer and Barbara Streisand, he also wrote the classic track Its Raining Men for The Weather Girls. The soundtrack for Thank God Its Friday was released on three LP records on the Casablanca label, the third disc being a a one sided 12” single by Donna Summer performing Je T’aime moi non plus.

I remember Casablanca records sending me the three LP set back in 1978, plus a 12” single of every track on the soundtrack. At the time I was resident DJ in a well known club on the South Coast of England, I think I was probably one of very few DJ,s in the UK to get these and I still have them today.  Although the movie was not great, it was I think from my own experiences a fairly-good representation of the disco scene back then, with its over the top characters and pulsating long music tracks, it is probably remembered more for its soundtrack rather than anything else.

A movie that was released before Saturday Night Fever that contained a predominantly song score or soundtrack was The Harder They Come which was released in 1972. It starred Jimmy Cliff, as a young man wo wants to become a reggae star but is embroiled in a world of corrupt record producers and drug dealers.

The film was directed by Perry Henzell and featured a number of reggae artists such as Prince Buster. The soundtrack featured several hit songs by the likes of Desmond Dekker, Toots and the Maytals, The Slickers, and the Melodians, as well as four songs by Cliff himself in the form of The Harder they come, Sitting in Limbo, You Can Get it if You Really Want and Many Rivers to Cross.

The film has gained something of a cult status and its soundtrack released on Island records too is considered a classic. Talking of films with song scores, how about the movies that featured the Beatles, I am talking here mainly of A Hard Days Night and Help, which although featured many songs by the band also had to them a score as in an instrumental score, the first I think I am right in saying featured some music by the bands producer George Martin and Help had an incidental score by Ken Thorne.

The fab four also featured in The Magical Mystery Tour for TV which was directed by Lennon, Harrison and McCartney and featured songs old and new by the band and Yellow Submarine with the band becoming animated characters of themselves.

The soundtrack of Yellow Submarine featured several unreleased studio tracks at the time of the films release. So, with a film starring The Beatles I suppose it follows that the films soundtrack will contain Beatles songs.

There were other examples of British pop groups featuring in movies, The Dave Clark Five for example in John Boorman’s film Catch us if you Can (1965).

Cliff Richard and The Shadows also made several films which although were not good cinema served their purpose of promoting the careers of all involved, Summer Holiday, Finders Keepers, The Young Ones, Wonderful Life etc, but these were billed as musicals and not films with song scores so that is something different, I suppose.

So where do you draw a line between a musical and a film that has a soundtrack filled with songs?  Let’s move on shall we, but don’t forget to burst into song at random as we do. Purple Rain, was a movie released in 1984, it starred Prince or was it the artist formerly known as Prince, as The Kid who is a musician from Minneapolis who is rising in popularity with his band, the Revolution. He has left behind a home life that was turbulent and has channelled all his energy into his music. As his career progresses, he attempts to not make the same mistakes as his Father, but whilst exploring the club scene he enters a tense relationship with a female singer Apollina all the time looking over his shoulder at rivals who will steal his thunder and his lady.

I personally did not like the movie, I felt Prince was so out of his comfort zone, and his performance was wooden and fragmented. The music however is classic Prince, and serves the picture well, but again we must ask is this a musical or a film that contains songs on its soundtrack. If we hear symphonic or even synthesised music on a film soundtrack, we know that this is film music, but in situations such as Purple Rain, is it a film score or is it a film which has been tracked with songs.

Ok, get the white suit ready, comb those locks and throw some shapes people, lets head back to the brightly lit dance floor and shimmering disco balls of Saturday Night Fever (1977). Did you know the movie was originally entitled Saturday Night? Yes, but the Bee Gees had already written a song entitled Night Fever so when they were asked to write a song with the same title as the movie, they persuaded the movies producers to change the title of the film to Saturday Night Fever to accommodate their song as the title track.  

Night Fever and Staying Alive were written specifically for the movie, as was the Yvonne Elliman vocal If I Cant Have You.

But Jive Talking, You should be Dancing, More than a Woman and How Deep is Your Love were already recorded and were tracked onto the soundtrack. However, Jive Talking appears on the soundtrack album and was a hit in both the UK and the US but it’s not in the movie as the scene where it was used was cut from the finished film. If I Cant Have You, was a Bee Gees song as in the Gibb Brothers penned it but never performed it on the soundtrack, instead they recorded the song and released it as the B side of the single Staying Alive in 1978.

Other tracks such as Open Sesame by Kool and the Gang had already achieved chart success in the States and were tracked to the film’s soundtrack.

As was the dance floor classic Disco Inferno, the song was originally released a year before Saturday Night Fever and was the title track of the Trammps album. Although it was popular in discos, it failed to reach the top 20 and charted at number 53 in the States, however after being utilised on the soundtrack of the movie it had a new lease of life and was re-released as a single in 1978 and got to number 11 in the charts.

The group Tavares also recorded More than a Woman and achieved chart success with their take on the song following on from their hit records It only takes a Minute Girl from 1975 and Heaven Must be Missing an Angel in 1976. In the same year as Saturday Night Fever 1977 the band also hit the charts with Whodunnit.

Ralph MacDonald also had a single of his Calypso Breakdown included on the soundtrack, the track originally being on MacDonald’s album Sound of a Drum which was released in 1976 but after its popularity on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack was released as a single in 1978.

DAVID SHIRE.

Mention must be made of David Shire who did a great job of supervising and arranging music for the movie, his Night on Disco Mountain is outstanding, the composer taking his inspiration from Russian composer Mussorgsky’s Night on Bare or Bald Mountain composition. He also provided the compositions Salsation, and Manhattan Skyline to the soundtrack. Shire’s score was typical of the sound that was prevalent in the 1970’s and his musical adaptations for the film acted as a bridge between what was looked upon as a traditional score and the disco songs that Saturday Night Fever contained.  

Some films it is true cry out for songs on their soundtracks, and it is also true to say that many films need this type of score or soundtrack, You Cant Stop the Music was a movie that was a vehicle for the group Village People, not a particularly good movie, but at least the songs were catchy enough.

The film was released in 1980 and ran for a staggering 2 hrs its an audio biographical movie, which stars the Village People and Steve Guttenberg who portrays Jaques Morali thinly disguised in the movie as Jack Morell. Morali was the founder of Village People, Guttenberg plays a struggling composer in the movie and it is basically the story of the group how they got together etc and their eventual success, well so it says, but, the real story was somewhat different to the one portrayed on screen.

The movie I think we can forget about, it was a bad idea or maybe it was a good idea, and it went horribly wrong whilst they were filming it, who knows? Anyway, the movie got the Golden Raspberry Award and was named as the worst movie of the year in 1981 and got another Golden Raspberry for worst screenplay, so yes, like I told you it was bad. But despite this the fans loved it and the title song achieved chart success in both the U.K. and the U.S. as well as being popular in Europe.

I suppose as with any movie if it’s bad its bad and even movies with traditional symphonic scores can be downright awful, but somehow the composer manages to write a score that’s memorable but having a great score or a brilliant collection of songs on the soundtrack cannot save what is an awful film. Again, You Cant Stop the Music I suppose could be categorised as a musical, but lets not dwell on this one.  Instead let’s go onwards and upwards, or maybe backwards and downhill.

In 1983 a sequel to Saturday Night Fever was released, Staying Alive although a good movie never hit the dizzy heights of the original, Travolta was still as energetic, but it is probably because of the era in which it was set that it was not as much of a draw to audiences.

The soundtrack was also a vibrant one, the Bee Gees returned with six songs that included Staying Alive plus the soundtrack included performances from Frank Stallone (Sly’s Brother). Tommy Faragher, Cynthia Rhodes, and a score written by composer Vince DiCola. To be completely honest it sounded like a watered-down version of the original Night Fever soundtrack and had to it Rocky type references and a rather lack lustre 1980’s sound and style, with certain song being overlong and outstaying their welcome.

The movie focuses on the life of the former disco King Tony Manero who has left finally left Brooklyn and now lives in Manhattan. He resides in a cheap hotel and works as a dance instructor and makes ends meet by working as a dance-club waiter in the evenings. He is trying to make it as a Broadway actor and dancer and desperately wants to become a professional. Breaking away from his Brooklyn life, family, and friends, but many of his old attitudes have not altered and make things difficult for him. A paramount release the soundtrack was released on Polydor records.

Finally in this selective look at song soundtracks a film score that contains just a trio of songs but is written by an artist that is probably one of the best-known performers from the 1970’s, Barry White. Born Barry Eugene Carter, Barry White as we all know him was an American singer-songwriter, musician, record producer and composer.

He won two Grammy Awards and became known for his alluring and dark tones that came from his baritone singing voice, his greatest success was in the 1970s both as a solo singer and with his Orchestra, when he crafted many enduring soul, funk, and disco songs, which have now become classics.

In 1974 he scored the movie Together Brothers which contains a score that is performed by The Love Unlimited Orchestra who appeared with White on his many hits such as You See the Trouble with Me, Cant, Get Enough of Your Love Baby, and Your my first my Last My Everything. The score is surprisingly entertaining and is more than a collection of sweet soul sounds with the Barry White romantic and sensual stylisation that we all are aware of from the 1970’s. There is a real drama purveyed here, the compositions coming across as a fusion of the styles employed by Lalo Schifrin and Henry Mancini.

White even includes a menacing yet calming sounding whistle (shades of Morricone) in the cue, Killers Back, which also for me evoked Schifrin’s  Dirty Harry scores, this style seems to become more prevalent as the score progresses, with White again utilising the whistle but this time in a lighter fashion. Cant, Seem to Find Him, is a cue that also displays a harrowing yet upbeat persona and works well within the movie and certainly holds the attention of the listener when heard away from the movie, this is a groovy, funky and melodic work which if I were you would check out asap.  White performs Honey Please Cant ya See, and Somebody’s Gonna Off the Man with the group Love Unlimited placing their unmistakable musical stamp upon the vocal track People of Tomorrow are the People of Today.

The score is also an inventive one with the composer adding little nuances, and noises throughout that are underlined by the satin strings of the Love Unlimited Orchestra, percussion and piano which are all embellished by harpsichord on occasion. This is still today a rewarding listen.

PROM NIGHT, MY BLOODY VALENTINE AND THE BRAIN.

Born in Canada in 1952. Paul Zaza, started to take an interest in music from a very early age. From the age of four years old he started to have piano lessons at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto which is his birthplace and remained at the Conservatory until he graduated, it was not his performances on piano however that got him noticed, he was also a bass player and was picked out by the band The Fifth Dimension whilst he was performing for the stage show Hair. Which led to him touring with the band. He started to become involved with the scoring of motion pictures after he was approached by filmmaker Les Rose who had at times used Zaza’s studio, the director was looking for a composer to write the music to one of his latest movies and the score he had already he thought was not suitable. So, he asked Zaza to write a few themes for the movie which led to him scoring the picture and collaborating with the filmmaker on three other movies. Since those early days he has been involved with well over a hundred and fifty credits, often the horror genre and one does stand out which was for the Sherlock Holmes movie Murder by Decree, directed by Bob Clark.

The score garnered Zaza and his collaborator Carl Zittrer a Genie award which is the Canadian equivalent to the Oscar. The score was a worthy winner being a tense and highly fraught work, it was also symphonic through and through, with interesting orchestrations and a wonderfully lyrical pastoral theme which oozes a rich and lush persona that can be likened to something that Vaughn Williams might have penned.

But, it is three other horrors we turn our attention too now The Brain (1988), My Bloody Valentine (1981), and Prom Night (1980). The latter title in my opinion is probably the better score, but I suppose its all a matter of personal taste. In many ways I feel that Zaza’s music is at times evocative of the scores that were composed by Bob Cobert and Bill Marx, especially the music that Marx penned for the two Count Yorga movies back in the 1970’s. There is a simplicity and a complexity within Zaza’s music, which is why it not only works so well within the films he worked upon, but also has to it an entertaining and appealing persona when listened to away from any images. But the style between both Cobert and Marx is I think noticeable.

Both My Bloody Valentine and Prom Night are available on digital platforms, with both scores recently being released onto vinyl. The films maybe considered as B features or low budget affairs, but the scores are both outstanding. Prom Night is a wonderfully atmospheric work, with the composer employing what sounds to be a medium sized ensemble of layers with the string section dominating the proceedings, but I love the way in which the composer also weaves in a little scattering of percussive elements and utilises woodwind to great effect, but it is the use of sinewy and sharp sounding strings in the form of jabs and stabs and visceral meandering passages that catches one’s attention.

For a small or low-key score, it certainly makes an impression on the watching audience adding much atmosphere and also creating an array of moods throughout. The score even includes a handful of half decent disco tracks, Dancin in the Moonlight, for example which although cliched and cheesy is a true toe tapper. There are a few songs included on the soundtrack release and if you enjoy syrupy disco tracks and predictable ballads you will love these and when listening I was suddenly transported back to the 1970’s when there were so many of these tracks around. I think the composer even sends himself up a little with tracks like Another Disco Funk track and Funk Dat Disco, making an appearance in their great funky, groovy glory.  But look beyond these and focus upon the actual score and you will find a rare gem of a horror soundtrack, the version or edition on digital platforms contains every scrap of gloriously retro music from the movie, with thirty-four tracks and running for over an hour, however many of the cues twenty to be precise were not used in the movie. But its good to have them all here. This is a soundtrack that is varied if nothing else, but you know I really enjoyed it.

The same can be said for My Bloody Valentine, as in I really enjoyed it, the soundtrack is split into for sections or suites, all of which are over fifteen minutes in duration, these are 1. The Horror of Valentines bluff, 2.  Pickaxe Impalement Suite, 3. Bleeding Hearts Still Beating Suite and 4. Trapped in the Mines Suite. The score is again a varied one with the composer employing a syrupy sweet Mancini like theme initially, which soon segues into something a little more malevolent and apprehensive, again the composer utilising a relatively small ensemble, but this time embellishing and adding support to this via electronic means, creating icy and chilling effects. There is again an underlying sense of foreboding as in Prom Night, with the composer creating a sinister and virulent atmosphere, this time with a solo piano which picks out a four-note motif and gradually increases its tempo until it reaches a climax of sortsand do not forget this is just in the first cue. Overall, this is a varied and an accomplished work, which gives the action on screen greater impact. I think the reason I prefer Prom Night is because it is more of a symphonic score whereas My Bloody Valentine does bring into play more synthetic instrumentation. But this does not mean that the score is not a good one, on the contrary it is a soundtrack that I would recommend without reservation as Zaza does an excellent job of purveying shock and tension via the synthetic and symphonic elements of the work.

Another film that Zaza scored was the 1988 low budget sci-fi horror The Brain, maybe not the greatest movie or score, but it is still an effective soundtrack, the composer this time creating a soundtrack mostly by electronic means that was supportive of the movie but was I am sad to say not memorable at all, but there again should music for a horror movie be memorable or just effective in the film? The score for The Brain, is eerie, jumpy, apprehensive and certainly atmospheric, but it has very little originality to it and sounds like so many other synth horror scores that were around in the 1980’s such as Xtro, by Harry Bromley Davenport. Again, for The Brain Zaza, includes a disco type of song, which for me sounds like something that was a track on an album from the 1970’s by a band or artist that was a one hit wonder.

But remember Zaza himself released a handful of disco albums or at least disco music themed albums such as Hot in Here, Le Payback and Contact all released in 1977 and all have to them a sound and style that was synonymous with the disco days of the late 1970’s with Chic and Ritchie Family like vocals.

Although effective within the movie the score for The Brain is not as inventive or indeed as developed as Prom Night or My Bloody Valentine. One does still live-in hope that the soundtrack for Murder by Decree will one day see the light of day as it is most definitely the best of Zaza and his long-time writing partner Carl Zittrer.    

COSMOBALL.

Cosmoball, is a Russian sci-fi movie which was released in 2020. also known as Goalkeeper of the Galaxy this 3D Superhero sci fi yarn film is helmed by filmmaker Dzhanik Fayziev who also wrote the story and screenplay, based on the animated series Galaktic Football,  the movies storyline is set in the future in a post apocalyptic city on a world inhabited by survivors of an intergalactic war  that has shifted the planet’s poles. Above the city sits a gigantic alien space craft, but it is more than a spaceship, it is an enormous stadium, where the fast and frantic game known as Cosmoball is played. The planet below having its eventual fate in the hands of the Cosmoball players who are defending the Earth. The fate of the planet depends on the result of the match between earthlings and aliens.

An interesting if not fantastical scenario, but one that is preferable to the alternative of conflict. The musical score is the work of Italian born composer Tony Neiman who is now based in the United States, the score is now streaming on digital platforms such as Spotify and is one that will I know be of interest to many.

This is as one might think because of the film’s storyline action filled and theme led material, which it certainly is, the composer has created a score that is overflowing with wonderful thematic passages and these are not just of the action slanted variety, as there are also a number of really nice compositions within the score that display the composer’s obvious gift for melody and producing rich and emotive pieces. It is a score that I think will be returned to many times after the initial listen, and also a soundtrack that could become on many collectors list of favourites,

I was on a number of occasions reminded of the style of composers such as James Horner, Lee Holdridge, and Craig Safan whilst listening to the release, think maybe The Last Starfighter, and even to a certain extent Battle Beyond the Stars ,and even Splash in certain areas of the score. Even the action material which is at times fast paced remains melodic and that is I think the appeal of this soundtrack, well worth checking out and hopefully a CD release soon.   

IN CONVERSATION WITH COMPOSER TONY NEIMAN.

Tony Neiman is an Italian composer & a classical and jazz pianist. After a successful career in Italy and touring worldwide, he settled in Los Angeles in 2015. Since then he has composed music for several documentaries, TV shows and movies. In 2018 Tony Neiman composed music for a thriller ‘Midnight Climax’ directed by Joseph Sorrentino. He has collaborated also with a renowned composer John Ottman on a Fox Tv series ‘The Gifted’ and has been a part of the postproduction music team on “Georgetown” by Christoph Waltz. The composer performer has also worked with Victor Vanacore (arranger and orchestra conductor of Ray Charles) for his project “La Sorgente”. In 2016 Tony shared the stage with Abraham Laboriel for his Jazz Clinic in Los Angeles as a pianist.

You were born in Italy, were any of your family musical and did Italian film music play a part in you wanting to become a composer?

Yes, I was born in Rome, Italy. My father is an amateur pianist, and he instilled his passion in me at an early age. I started to play the piano when I was 3 years old. 

You did your musical studies in Italy at the Alfredo Casella Conservatory of Aquila. I understand you studied jazz and composition. Did you focus upon any instrument as well as piano whilst studying?

Piano has always been my main instrument. I completed my classical piano degree at the Conservatory L.Perosi in 2004. Then, in 2012 I received a jazz Master degree at the A. Casella. Another instrument I was always interested in was a cello. I believe it’s never too late to start learning, thus few years ago I decided to start studying acoustic and electric cello.

What would you say are your earliest recollections of any type of music?

Besides Italian pop songwriters I have always listened to Classical music.  Then at around the age of 15/16 I discovered Jazz. But Bach has always been a big part of me.

Being Italian, you were obviously aware of the great movie music composers such as Morricone, Trovajoli, Rota, Cipriani etc, did you ever get to meet any of them?

I have a great respect for these masters. I have studied and analysed all their scores but I never met them in person. Interestingly, Morricone called me once because he heard a composition I wrote. He was very complimentary, and I will never forget that.

How did you become involved on Cosmoball and at what stage of production do you normally prefer to start to see the rushes or speak to the director and producer?

The Russian Director Dzhanik Fayziev was looking for a Hollywood composer and I scored a demo for him. He really liked my vision and style for the movie and chose me to collaborate with him.

I like to speak with the directors early on so I can understand what they have in mind. I am very intuitive and love the creative process. I come up with themes and ideas early on but prefer to start scoring when the editing is locked. Cosmoball was my biggest production so far and I have to say I am very proud of the soundtrack and my team.

The score for Cosmoball runs for about an hour on the soundtrack release, how much music did you write for the movie, and when spotting it did the director have any specific ideas or requests as to what style of music they wanted for the picture? Was there a temp track on the movie and did you find having this tool useful or distracting?

The total music we scored for the two-hour movie was about an hour and fifty minutes. We used basically all of it. Some parts are missing on the soundtrack release because it was just underscore so it wasn’t necessary to put it into the soundtrack release. The director perfectly knew what he wanted, and he chose a great temp track so that I could understand easily what mood he wanted in the scenes.

What composer’s artists or performers would you say have influenced you in the way you write, perform or approach say a movie score?

Besides all my classical background that obviously helps my music, Bernard Hermann is the number one for me. I always liked his music. He is the first teacher of all music composer. 

Hans Zimmer completely changed the sound and score of the movies. Everybody now is scoring with the kind of sounds he “invented”. Coming to LA I met a lot of top musicians and everybody has something to teach you. That is the beauty of living in the most artistic and musical city of the world. 

You worked with composer John Ottman on the TV series The Gifted, did you collaborate as in write cues with him, or did you provide compositions that you had written yourself?

John Ottman is an incredible person and an amazing composer not to mention he is an Academy Winner as an editor. I had the privilege to work with him on “The Gifted”, where I was given cues and scored them having John supervising me.  It was a fantastic opportunity and a great experience. I am definitely interested in expanding my career into the tv world.

For you what is the purpose of music in a film or a TV series?

Music is emotions. It is the capacity to enhance a visual emotion with hearing perception through the music.

Do you buy recordings by other composers or artists, and what do you listen to if you manage to get some r and r.?

To be honest, I used to buy a lot of music from various artists in all the styles. Lately, I like to hear some of the ultimate soundtracks of composer I love like Beltrami, Desplat, Zimmer, Newton Howard and many others.

How many times do you like to watch a project you have been asked to score before deciding where music should be placed or what style of music should be utilised?

I watch the footage a few times and then I just wait for the music to come to me. There is a moment where I usually start to hear some notes in my mind and that means I’m ready to start!

Do you work on your own orchestrations when composing for film and television, and do you conduct at all?

I do everything by myself. I score, I orchestrate and conduct if I have enough time. With bigger projects and tighter deadlines, I have a team of musicians I collaborate with. For Cosmoball Daniel Alcheh helped me as an orchestrator and Gigi Meroni was in charge of the final music production.

You have worked on a number of TV projects for RAI, what would you say are the main differences between scoring TV and writing for motion picture?

Firstly, there is a substantial difference in scoring for Italian and for American productions. Italian scores are more based on the melody and the American productions are more based on the orchestration. 

There is no big difference in scoring for TV or for movies these days.  I always enjoy the process no matter what I am doing. Making music is my true passion and I feel lucky to make a career out of it.

How much time were you given to score Cosmoball from start to finish?

Three months including the final mix. 

Do you have a preferred recording studio when you score a movie?

I have great relationships with the studios in LA and Italy but I am also open to foreign locations which often can offer great deals.

The soundtrack for Cosmoball is already on digital platforms, some collectors are already asking will there be a CD release, and do you have any input into what tracks from your scores are included on any release?

I haven’t thought of it yet but can certainly consider!

When you write music for a short or a commercial, is it more difficult to establish a thematic foundation, given the time you have?

Indeed, when writing for a short or a commercial the thematic foundation is everything.  Especially with the commercials I am often pressed with time, but luckily, I have always come up with ideas right away.

You also recently worked on MK Ultra, will there be a score release for this?

MK Ultra should be released later this year. As soon as it is out we will release the score as well.

Stay tuned.

What is next for you?

I have a few exciting projects brewing. You will hear about them soon!