All posts by jonman492000

ZORRO. (1975).

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Released in 1975 and starring Alain Delon and Stanley Baker, ZORRO, was directed by Duccio Tessari and contained a musical score written by Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, now this composing duo had made a name for themselves via their rather quirky and pop orientated approach to scoring movies. But their score for ZORRO seemed more dramatic and much more developed which could I suppose have something to do with the involvement of Italian Maestro Gianfranco Plenzio who not only conducted the score but also orchestrated it. The music that the composing siblings provided for the production had a greater depth and also contained much more than we had come to expect from De Angelis, yes there are a number of musical passages and phrases that can only belong to De Angelis, but the majority of the score is a driving and highly adventurous work, As was normal with any De Angelis score for a film there are a couple of songs included which are not that off beat or odd ball, and I say this without being insulting, (remember KEOMA), I rest my case. The score for ZORRO was released on compact disc as part of the CAM SOUNDTRACK ENCYCLOPEDIA, sadly it was a release that initially did not sell that well, but after CAM deleted the release and it became scarce collectors were seeking it everywhere, so a re issue came from Japan which arguably contained far better sound quality, superior art work and more importantly more music. Given the subject matter of the storyline the score obviously leans towards a Spanish/Mexican style and at times reminds one of the quieter moments within Jerry Fielding’s WILD BUNCH score, it has a definite pop infused sound to it with slow guitar solos and light and sultry hacienda songs that evoke a hot summers night spent watching the sun set over the dusty but picturesque desert views. The score is also in my opinion filled with fun compositions that are crammed with energy and although are simple in their makeup are vibrant and linger long in the listeners mind. These are accompanied by fiercely Hispanic sounding cues, that are not only haunting but dramatic, within certain cues I was also reminded of Riz Ortolani’s THE HUNTING PARTY theme, driving strings backed by pulsating percussion and guitar, purveying a sense of urgency and desperation.

 

Initially the movie was a romantic comedy of sorts, but it did also contain some swordplay and other fight scenes. The theme song sung by Oliver Onions, (G and M De Angelis in disguise) is catchy and somewhat annoying, but this can be said of the majority of the De Angelis songs, the majority of which seem to repeat themselves over and over, until you find yourself reaching for the fast forward button. However, saying this, ZORRO IS BACK is quite short in its duration, so does not really have time to agitate one that much, see what you think.

 

Zorro Is Back Lyrics
Here’s to being free la la la la la la Zorro’s back
Here’s to flying high la la la la la la Zorro’s back
Here’s to being free la la la la la la Zorro’s back
Here’s to flying high la la la la la la Zorro’s back

It’s fun to be
It’s fantasy
He’s so glad
To know the world as Zorro (Zor-ro!)
You know you weren’t the next and run to learn El Zorro
As one good deed
Is all we need
So he’ll be there
And guard our cares oh Zorro (Zor-ro!)
He’ll tell you hang upon
Their necks and run you see

Here’s to living free
Here’s to you and me

Here’s to better times with only one of a kind Zorro
Here’s to living free when you know that your friend is old Zorro
Here’s to being free la la la la la la Zorro’s back
Here’s to being free la la la la la la Zorro’s back

It’s hard to find when all the time
He stand the pain the world is job worth doing (Zor-ro!)
Let any strength he have the proof to make it through
In proof he drawn without a frown
Once he’s there he bears a number of Zorro (Zor-ro!)
You better make your debt to settle your affairs with Zorro

Here’s to being free
Here’s to you and me
Here’s to being free la la la la la la Zorro’s back
Here’s to flying high la la la la la la Zorro’s back
(Key Change)
Here’s to being free la la la la la la Zorro’s back
Here’s to flying high la la la la la la Zorro’s back
Here’s to being free la la la la la la Zorro’s back
Here’s to flying high la la la la la la Zorro’s back
Here’s to being free la la la la la la Zorro’s back
Here’s to flying high la la la la la la Zorro’s back

 

The instrumental version of the title song for me anyway is more appealing, the remainder of the score however is entertaining and an enjoyable listening experience, and contains some nice guitar work that is supported by woodwind, and strings giving it a romantic sound and style.
In my ever so humble opinion ZORRO stands next to and equal with the De Angelis western THE CONTINUEING STORY OF TRINITY. One to watch out for on well-known selling sites and available on Spotify.

DAVID RAKSIN.

David Raksin, passed away after suffering  heart failure at the age of 92, in August 2004. It’s hard to believe it is nearly twelve years since his passing. The composer held a unique place in in the film music fraternity and became an iconic part of Hollywood. His haunting music for the movie LAURA (1944), or at least the lingering and somewhat sensual sounding theme, became more popular than the movie it was written for and has achieved an almost cult status with collectors of film music and music lovers all over the world via the many performances it has received by various artists. In fact, the central theme from the movie has been recorded no less than 400 times. Raksin, scored some 200 motion pictures during his prolific and illustrious career, the majority of these were as composer, and some where he acted as either conductor or arranger. In 1951 after admitting being a member of the Communist party between 1938 and 1940 Raksin was blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee in Hollywood, which meant that he was unable to find work in movies television or radio. His blacklisting coincided with the release of THE BIG AND THE BEAUTIFUL, which was a success for actor Kirk Douglas. As the anti-communist crisis in Hollywood subsided the composer could return to a more settled working schedule and soon began to write for both TV and film. Providing the theme for the popular television series WAGON TRAIN in 1957 and penning the theme for the even more popular TV series BEN CASEY in 1961.

 

David Raksin was born in Philadelphia, his Father Isidore Raksin, owned a music-shop and would at times play woodwind with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and conducted the orchestras that accompanied movies in local cinemas. Raksin attended the Central high school in Philadelphia, at the age of just 12 years, he began to experiment with music and led his own dance band. When he was not performing he began to teach himself the craft of orchestration, it was at this time he went to the University of Pennsylvania where he studied music and gained a degree via the teachings of Arthur Schoenburg, who was a figure that influenced the composer throughout his career. Raskin financed his education by working with the band and doing arrangements for other bands, he eventually went to New York where he assisted at various radio stations and worked on arrangements for record companies. It was through an arrangement he had done of Gershwin’s I GOT RHYTHM, that Raksin was recommended by Gershwin himself to music publishers Harms and Chappell who were so impressed with the young musician that they recommended him to various Broadway producers. It was not long before the composer moved from Broadway to Hollywood, where in 1935 he met Charlie Chaplin, the actor asked Raksin to work on the score for MODERN TIMES, as an arranger.

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Chaplin was shall we say a difficult character and Raksin was at one point fired by the actor after a disagreement about the direction in which the score should take, only after the assistance of Alfred Newman was Raksin re-instated. However, Chaplin never gave the composer any credit for his work on the picture. After the 24-year-old composer’s involvement on the project he was assured regular employment in Tinsel Town. But his efforts were very rarely recognised or given any credit. He began to write music for various studios, Universal and Columbia to name but two, working on mainly horror movies, it was Columbia pictures that contacted Raksin asking him to instruct Stravinsky in the synchronisation of the music within film. This however never happened as Stravinsky refused to be schooled by anybody and eventually decided not to work in Hollywood full stop. Raskin became unhappy working at Universal he was not a fan of many other composer at the studio who seemed to rush through the composing process, so it did not take much persuasion for Raksin to re-locate to Warner Brothers under the supervision of musical director Leo Forbstein, working on movies such as THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY, FOREVER AMBER, THE STORY OF VERNON AND IRENE CASTLE, FALLEN ANGEL and many others that are now considered as classics. Raksin was asked to establish a collection of his manuscripts in the music division of the Library of Congress the first composer to be invited to do so. He also became a professor of film music at the University of Southern California.
David Raksin, was born on August 4th, 1912 and passed away on August 9th, 2004.

FERRANTE AND TEICHER.

 

 

Ferrante and Teicher were a very popular double act who were predominantly active during the 1950, s thru to the 1970,s and scored many hits in the music hit parade of the 1950,s and 1960,s with their renditions of popular songs, classical pieces and also themes from movies, their version of EXODUS for example gained worldwide fame with many thinking it was the original version of the iconic theme by composer Ernest Gold and reached number 2 in the U.S. charts. They released numerous albums which remained firm favourites with collectors of easy listening music up until the 1990, s. The appeal of this piano playing duo was that they seemed to remain current and performed many popular tracks on their releases often mixing popular standards by the likes of Gershwin and Kern, with film music and show tunes. Arthur Ferrante and Louis Teicher met while studying at the Juilliard School of Music in New York in 1930. They began performing as a piano duo while still in school at first in night clubs and bars then progressing to a full-time concert career quickly moving up to playing classical music with orchestral backing.

Their amazing and prolific careers spanned 5 decades and they have performed nearly 6,000 concerts which have been attended by over 18 million people. The duo recorded 150 albums and received 22 gold and platinum record awards and have sold more than 90 million recordings, they remain popular to a degree today and many of their recordings are now available via various online music sites. The duo had chart success with themes from THE APARTMENT and MIDNIGHT COWBOY as well as EXODUS and their version of TONIGHT from WEST SIDE STORY reached number 8 in the music charts. Arthur Ferrante was born on, September 7, 1921, in New York City and passed away on September 19, 2009, Louis Teicher was born on, August 24, 1924, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and died on August 3, 2008.

 

MARK McKENZIE, SCORING DRAGON HEART, BATTLE FOR THE HEARTLIGHT.

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J.M. I think I am right when I say DRAGON HEART THE BATTLE FOR THE HEART LIGHT contains a score that is maybe 80 percent electronic, was this something that you were asked to do when scoring the movie?

MM: First thank you for your interest in my music John. I especially appreciate people like you who look deeper than the latest blockbuster movie score. The old adage, necessity is the mother of invention is often the case in film making. There was creativity at every level of making this film and my hat is off to Raffaella De Laurentiis, Patti Jackson all the film makers for their inventiveness.  I hopefully did my part as well.

J.M. Do you approach a project differently when working with electronics?

MM: Preparation is essential. I always spend a great deal of time studying potential electronic sounds looking for sonics that seem expressive or that intrigue. Then there is the boring part of reading manuals to learn how to manipulate the sounds into something closer to what I’m actually looking for. In this film there are multiple childhood flashbacks which unfold gradually. These flashbacks are filled with melancholy hurt, frustration, grief, anger and yet great love. To underscore them subtly, I wanted something that sounded very simple, pure, yet warm. I manipulated a crystal glass sample and then combined it with a soft sensuous boys choir and a rich analogue synth. To my ears it lifts the heart and soulful memories and plays easily under dialogue. Director Patrik Syversen and Producer Rafaella De Laurentiis encouraged me to aim for simplicity so I did exactly that. In a moment of inspiration I was drawn to an old French baroque musical form called Chaconne which includes variations over harmonies and a repeating bass line. When I played it for director Patrik Syversen and the producers we all immediately were on the same page. I use this Chaconne repeatedly in the soundtrack.  Track #19 “Truth and Love Bring Healing” is one example. It’s a very simple, meditative track that I find myself drawn to.

 

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J.M. You have scored three DRAGONHEART movies, each score has included the Randy Edelman theme from the original score, was this something that you decided to include?

MM: Randy’s theme is one of the great iconic movie themes. It is moving, uplifting, powerful and is part of the joy of watching the Dragonheart films.  The director and producer and I all conferred on each film where the theme should and shouldn’t play. We use it sparingly for moments when hope and chivalry comes alive through the great dragon. The Dragonheart theme is a textbook example of the commercial value a strong melodic theme can give to a film franchise. It is integral to the Dragonheart films and part of the reason we even have these sequels. Incidentally I first met this man I love and admire, Randy Edelman, orchestrating his TV pilot called The Adventures of Brisco County. One of the cues Randy composed and I orchestrated for that TV pilot, later became the Olympics theme we all know and love.

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J.M. DRAGONHEART: THE BATTLE FOR THE HEART FIRE, has a score that is certainly filled with emotion and has a romantic but melancholy sound to it. Is it more difficult to create this atmosphere using electronics as opposed to utilizing the conventional instruments of the orchestra?

MM: Maybe just different I think. Musical color, harmony, form, themes, rhythm and rubato, still apply to electronics but you have to recreate an orchestra of your own making and not rely on the orchestra and performers that you have studied for a lifetime. The glorious beauty of the orchestra is sorely missed but I do my best with the current technology to approximate it when needed. With electronics you never think about intonation issues and you have complete control of everything. In some ways it is easier to just perform the music yourself as you want it rather than trying to explain to others how it should go. There is much to love about electronics.

 

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J.M. How much time did you have to write the score and record it?

 

MM: I had 6 weeks to compose, record and produce and I used every minute of the day as wisely as I could because there were no assistants or recording engineers or music editors. There were however, two people who never get credit who were essential: Mark Nagata and Ryan Ouchida at Vision Daw. When the electronics and computers fail or crash, they are the smart people working like Sherlock Holmes to figure out why and get me back up and running.

J.M. Did the director have a hands-on approach when it came to placing the music?

 

MM: Director Patrik Syversen was a pleasure and I found brilliant. He had a great sense musically and learned to trust his instincts. He was very exacting philosophically about what he was looking for and where he wanted music and how long it should last. Happily, he was completely open to creativity on how to accomplish the goals. We worked very closely. I’d play him each cue and we’d discuss it. He had lived with the film for a year and so he was often aware of details, character motivations, inner thoughts and feelings that were helpful to me as a composer.
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J.M. How much music did you write for the movie and is most of the score included within the recording and do you have an input into what tracks go onto the recording?

 

MM: I wrote over 60 minutes of music and was given complete artistic control over the soundtrack thanks to Jake Voulgarides at Universal’s Back Lot Music.  There are a few pieces the director and I would like to have included but I just ultimately felt insecure about them and opted to leave them off. I was going to omit the first track but I have a tribute to JS Bach in that track and left it in just for that reason. Patrik wanted chimes in the opening of the movie so I thought…OK…I’ll use them and have them play 4 times…just enough to quote Bach’s 4 note theme to the great c# minor triple fugue in the Well Tempered Clavier. You know, I orchestrated Jerry Goldsmith’s final 6 films and helped him compose on a couple films and he would say:  “If I compose 1 good minute of music in a year, I think I’m doing great.” I feel the same way. A close friend of mine said last week: “You are really hard on yourself”…she was right.  Probably most artists are.

J.M. The cello performances sond stunning, they are so poignant and heartrending. When you write pieces such as this do you have a soloist in mind?

 

MM: Thank you John. Yes, but in this case it is electronic. These days I’m more excited than ever about electronic music in part because of the growing quality in sampling. Right before I started Dragonheart: Battle for the Heartfire, I ran into Danny Elfman, who I orchestrated 17 films for, at an Academy Screening of his electronic film score “The Girl on the Train.” He was excited about electronics and after hearing his thoughts, like often is the case for me with Danny, I was inspired. When I finished I ran into him again. We compared notes and both are very excited about the possibilities in electronics. To combine them with a huge orchestral score in Los Angeles or at Abby Road is a vision I have.  By the way, Sony Classical plans on releasing my latest epic orchestral score MAX AND ME recorded at Abbey Road Studios with choir orchestra and concert violinist Joshua Bell. It is a work of great love and  I’m hoping it will be released this year.

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Many thanks to composer Mark McKenzie. for his time and his co-operation as always.

 

DRAGONHEART-BATTLE FOR THE HEARTFIRE.

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Composer Mark McKenzie for me has always written some beautiful thematic and emotive music. He is a composer who always steps up to the mark and brings much to any project he works on via his truly captivating style of composition. His latest work is DRAGON HEART, BATTLE FOR THE HEART FIRE. This is a score that is predominantly electronic or shall we say synthesised, with a handful of conventional instruments being included throughout the work. The movie is one that will go straight to Blu Ray, and will not as far as I am aware receive a release in theatres. This does not mean that the movie is not worthy of such a release, and the score certainly is not in any way inferior to anything that has been written for any number of so called blockbusters in the past two to three years.

The score is to be released on, Universal Studio’s Back Lot Music label and should be available on June 9th, 2017, although it is already available on Spotify. This is the fourth instalment of the DRAGONHEART series, and Patrick Stewart is voicing the star of the show DRAGO for this tale. This will be the third movie within the series that composer McKenzie has worked on, the original movie in the franchise being scored by Randy Edelman. The score that McKenzie has penned is a highly emotive one, the composer incorporating a wide range of musical colours, textures and styles, we are treated to some wonderfully uplifting and at times anthem like pieces that give the listener goose-bumps at times. This is a soundtrack that incorporates, Celtic flavoured compositions alongside dark and menacing sounds, plus passionate and vibrant compositions that are filled with romance and tinged with melancholy. The work displays perfectly the versatility of this talented but alas at times ignored composer. I love the way in which the composer employs solo cello giving the score real heart and soul, adding a touch of sadness to the proceedings.

 

 

He also makes use of Randy Edelman’s original and now iconic DRAGONHEART theme at certain points within the score and gives this a fresh and regal sound that is rich and sumptuous. This is a powerful score, a commanding and fearsome sounding work, which I am confident will not disappoint and fan of film music. Although this is for the most part a synthesised work, one just gets enveloped by the driving forces behind the music and the numerous musical colours that the composer puts into the mix. Highly recommended.

 

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