Category: Reviews


THE VICEROYS HOUSE.

 

 

The music for THE VICEROYS HOUSE has to it a sound and style that can be I suppose categorised as being quintessentially English. Its lush and vibrant thematic material performed by strings and woods that create a gentile and delicately fragile work which at times does have to it a sense and sound of the pomp and ceremony of the British Raj or the British anything for that matter. Of course, there are a few ethnic sounding passages and these are performed by instruments that are from India or Asia, which add much to the work as a whole. It was a surprise for me when I learned that the music was by A.R. RAHMAN because when listening to the score I was convinced it could be the work of a British composer with maybe a musical associate or collaborator that provided the ethnic parts of the soundtrack. It is however not an unpleasant surprise but a wonderfully delightful one. The score is a pleasure in every respect and is one of those soundtracks that flows easily, with each cue seemingly melting into the next flawlessly and seamlessly. The composers use of strings and horns with percussion and woodwind lending support is hauntingly beautiful and generates a touching and somewhat mesmerising effect throughout. This is a soundtrack that you will embrace and thoroughly enjoy and with each listen I am confident that you will discover fresh musical nuances and take these to your heart. The music is because of the subject matter, proud and regal with little forays into the comedic and plenty romantic interludes that seem to appear as from nowhere. The opening cue begins with a lilting and rich sounding cello solo that is then joined by more strings and woodwind, as the theme develops and grows, the composer then adds ethnic percussion for a fleeting moment, but this is short lived with the cue returning to a more western sound via the use of strings and faraway sounding horns, the percussive elements return but are delicate and minor in volume as the cue continues to develop with the use of cymbalom underlined by ethnic percussion and subdued strings. It is a wonderfully melodic and hauntingly attractive piece, that I know you will return to many times. Rahman has proved in the past that he can write music of the romantic type and with this score the Maestro further demonstrates this, if you were not aware of the composer you would be forgiven for assuming is was the work of Debbie Wiseman or Patrick Doyle or maybe Rachel Portman, it’s an easy to listen to work away from the movie and one that works within the film. Underlining scenarios and adding much to the story that is unfolding on screen. I have no reservations about recommending this to you, I say here and now I love it. One cue in particular seemed to attract me and that was TWO BROKEN HEARTS, it is a poignant and highly emotive piece filled with a fragility that is at times heartrending and superbly touching. Also there is track number 10 AHIMSA which includes a wordless female vocal that sends shivers up  ones spine, both Female and Male voices are utilised in track number 11, THE PARTITION and this too certainly hits the emotional spot. But it is THE BIRTH OF TWO NATIONS that is the overall stand out piece within the score, it builds and builds, gathering momentum and pace with strings working towards a crescendo of sorts and choir adding their support to the proceedings, it has an epic feel to it but at the same time an intimacy and endearing quality shines through. Please go buy this ASAP.

MURDERERS ROW. WHY NO COMPACT DISC RELEASE.

 

 

In recent years’ soundtrack collectors have been very fortunate in having many out of print and long deleted film scores released onto compact disc, many of what people refer to as their Holy Grails seeing the light of day finally after being deleted or maybe never released. One soundtrack which I have always said is a prime candidate for a compact disc release is Lalo Schifrin’s fantastic score for MURDERERS ROW which was a movie in the Matt Helm series and starred Dean Martin as the laid back, Casanova of a spy who managed to get himself into so many implausible situations, many of which ended up with a lovely lady in tow or in his boudoir. But unlike the Bond movies it was all kind of clean cut and innocent. Any-way the score for MURDERERS ROW was originally issued on a COLGEMS long playing record in 1966 and the UK release was on the RCA VICTOR label with slightly different art work, the recording when it was released and available was quite hard to come by and nowadays has attained for itself something of a following simply because of the fact it was and still is so rare. The album occasionally appears on various online sites in an auction but these are very few and far between. It is a mystery to me why the soundtrack has not received a compact disc release as so many Schifrin scores have been made available in recent years on the shiny little discs and are readily available on sites such as Spotify and I Tunes. When contacting Schifrin’s own record label, they told me that it was a score that they probably would never be able to issue because of copyright problems. So, this gem of a soundtrack will sadly probably remain unreleased or at least not on CD. Now I am lucky because I do have the album and I did an LP transfer to my pc to preserve it and I was also lucky because it is a stereo recording. The album opens with a full working of the main theme for the movie, this a thundering start with the composer employing big band sounding brass and an up-tempo background courtesy of percussion and organ that is joined by more brass most notably saxophones who carry the central theme forward and upwards, with more percussive elements being added as the piece progresses, the jazz big band sound dominates the composition and drives it onwards in a very similar fashion to that of THE LIQUIDATOR score also by Schifrin. MURDERERS ROW is a mix of light sounding groovy tracks, jazzy inspired sections and the odd instrumental of I.M NOT THE MARRYING KIND which would ordinarily be supporting the distinct vocalising of Dean Martin but due to contractual restrictions none of Mr Martins were released on any of the Matt Helm soundtrack albums, and also due to same contractual restrictions Mr Martins image was not allowed on the covers either. There are also plenty of highly dramatic and fast paced interludes which seem to spring from nowhere to entertain and add a certain beat and urgency to the whole score.

 

Why oh, why is this not available on compact disc, this is probably one of the composers best scores from the 1960, s its right up there with BULLIT, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE and THE LIQUIDATOR. Its bombastic hard hitting and truly theme laden, ok the central theme or variations of it run through the entire score but it is an infectious theme that is never boring and one that I know listeners will never tire of. Like the FLINT movies, the Matt Helm series was very tongue in cheek and the music often reflected this but at certain points the composers involved would often score the movie as a serious entity thus the music worked even better and because the scene was scored in this way the scenario on screen also worked better. There are 12 tracks on the recording and every-one of them is wonderful, they are filled with an energy a vitality and just a good old fashion sound that we never seem to hear anymore. I love the way Schifrin’s music just seems to ooze a charismatic sophistication, with its light and airy sambas, its easy listening and laid back jazz tracks and of course it’s more powerful and commanding sections, Schifrin is a Master when it comes to relaying moods and atmospheres and in this score, he excels even more than usual, with the composer on piano, bass guitar (performed by Carol Kaye) who played on many Beach Boys hits, was the performer on LA BAMBA by Richie Valens as well as working with the likes of Quincy Jones, Phil Spector and Simon and Garfunkel to mention but a few bringing much to the work, which also contains strings, percussion, harpsichord, woods, Hammond organ, cymbalom, brass and even at one point an accordion taking a turn. The highlight of the score apart from the great theme is track number 4, SUZIES THEME (LOVE THEME) which is haunting and alluring, with the composer employing a light dusting of brushed percussion with dreamy sounding strings acting as a background to a delightful and mesmerising harpsichord solo that performs the love theme, this is to be honest an absolute delight and in many ways reminded me of the work of Stelvio Cipriani on THE ANONYMOUS VENETIAN, it has that easy going but at the same time beautifully crafted style to it. I know this soundtrack is not available on CD for everyone but maybe one day it will see a release and when that day comes you must add it to your collection immediately. Maybe Intrada, La La Land, Kronos or even Varese might pick it up in the very near future. We can only hope. If you don’t believe good it is click the link below and be converted.

 

 

 

 

 

Track listing.

Murderer’s Row (Main Title)
The Pin
I’m Not the Marrying Kind
Suzie’s Theme (Love Theme)
Dual Controls
Solaris (aka Murderers’ Row)
The Pendulum
Iron Head (aka Murderers’ Row)
Double Feature
Frozen Dominique
No Dining Allowed (aka Murderers’ Row)
I’m Not the Marrying Kind (End Title)

BITTER HARVEST.

 

 

Set in Ukraine during the 1930, s this compelling movie tells the story of Stalin’s ambitious and horrifying program to further establish the Communists within the Kremlin and his starvation of the Ukrainian people. It is probably one of the most overlooked tragedies and atrocities of the 20th Century, the movie deals with honour, love and rebellion and probably most of all survival. Yuri (Max Irons) a young artist attempts to save his lover Natalka (Samantha Barks) from the death by starvation program instigated by Russia, which killed millions of Ukrainians. The film directed by George Mendeluk, is chillingly realistic and stars Terence Stamp, Barry Pepper, and Gary Oliver as Stalin. The film acts as an unsettling reminder that things often do not change in this world of ours and history often has an unsavoury habit of repeating itself.

The affective and emotive musical score is the work of acclaimed composer Benjamin Wallfisch, the composer who has always been in much demand has been extremely busy of late and has recently written the scores for HIDDEN FIGURES and A CURE FOR WELLNESS. Collaborating with Hans Zimmer and Pharrel Williams on the former. The score for BITTER HARVEST is as one can imagine quite removed stylistically from both of those titles, it is lush and romantic but at the same time dramatic and darkly powerful. Overflowing with a richness and a lavish persona, but as I say underpinned with an almost apprehensive and foreboding atmosphere. It is certainly a work that after just an initial listen I would recommend to any self-respecting collector of quality film music. It has about it a commanding and attractive aura, its musical content encompassing, the sinister, the volatile, the emotive and poignant, with hints and touches of the melancholy. The opening cue, RUSALKA, begins with a solo violin which is accompanied and supported by accordion and balalaika, which are themselves augmented by strings, the theme develops and grows with strings being given more prominence and these are also bolstered by choir and woodwinds that carry the theme forward. The beautiful and haunting theme continues to build but never reaches a crescendo, in many ways it is its fragility and subdued sound that makes it even more attractive, lower, and richer sounding strings then are brought into the equation, and the composer gives the piece greater depth and impact via faraway sounding horns that add a sense of loneliness, but at the same time gives the cue richness and warmth.

 

The score for me is a step back to the vintage sounds of Hollywood, by this I mean expansive and epic sounding with hints and nods of acknowledgements to classical composers, fully symphonic with maybe a few synthetic elements which the composer combines masterfully and manages to incorporate some ethnic sounding passages within the score at key points. There are a few cues that are based upon Ukrainian folk songs which I found very appealing and these mixed with the epic sounding score are effective as well as affecting. This is a score that you should add to your collection ASAP, Highly recommended.

ALBION-THE ENCHANTED STALLION.

 

Not sure how to put this. But, you know when you have heard the work of a composer on a handful of projects and one thinks to yourself this is very good, and it can’t get better than this, can it? Then along comes one score and it just hits you as being superb, well this very thing happened this week when I heard the score for ALBION THE ENCHANTED STALLION by composer George Kallis. It is if you like a coming of age score for the composer or that is how I would describe it, because there seems to be a seasoned and more profound sound to this work for whatever reason. Although I must say his other film scores are all very good indeed. All I know is that it is an excellent work, that is filled to overflowing with a richness and vibrancy that is emotive and exciting. There is a delicate and fragile air to the score as well as a wonderfully melodic and inspiring sound that purveys not only a romantic aura but oozes dramatic content and relays an atmosphere and mood that is a delight for the ears. Symphonic sounds are combined with synthetic support and some stunning choral performances and solo Female voice that seems to be the heart of the score. It is a lush work that has within it a hint of the melancholy, but never seems to get to syrupy or sweet, it also possesses a lighter and more comedic side, which is expanded on and displayed openly in the crazy sounding SPLIT PERSONALITIES and raises its head at various points within further cues, WALL CREATURES AND A LITTLE GIRL, for example. There is an abundance of strong thematic material within the score, soaring strings, faraway sounding horns, subtle woodwind, and a scattering of piano and percussive elements all combine seamlessly to create a soundtrack that is just so entertaining and mesmerising. There are also featured solos from cello, violin etc, which just melt one’s emotions. The cue THE TWO TRIBES is a piece that displays a varied style with dramatic and emotive atmospheres combining intertwining and eventually fusing to work beautifully. It is also a score that right from the off one just knows that it is special, the vocal THE STRENGTH TO LIGHT OUR WAY is highly emotive, and although relatively short, certainly hits the spot straight away, every cue has within it something that will appeal to even the most finicky collectors, this is a contemporary score which has the heart and soul of what film music was all about back in the day. The entire soundtrack is a sheer delight and one which I have returned to numerous times already, please check this out, you too hopefully will be mesmerised, beguiled, and entranced by this magical, mystical, and hauntingly enchanting work.

 

Available on Movie Score Media.

DEBBIE WISEMAN LIVE AT THE BARBICAN.

 

 

 

It’s not that often that we are treated to concerts of film music, and it’s even rarer to have recordings of the concerts released, so I am so pleased that the Debbie Wiseman concert at the Barbican in London has been issued onto a recording by those lovely people at Silva Screen. Debbie Wiseman is without a doubt one of the most prominent composers of film and TV music in England, and one of the most in demand composers of music for film in the world today. Her melodies are wonderfully constructed and exquisitely orchestrated, they linger long in one’s memory and not only hauntingly beautiful but fit each and every project she works on like the proverbial glove. The composer is conducting the Guildhall School Orchestra on this occasion and the performance is in my humble opinion flawless and inspiring. The recording opens with WILDE WEST from the movie WILDE, now this is a score that is overflowing with thematic content, with its romantic but at the same time fragile sounding nuances and compositions, and when the film was released I was convinced that Debbie would win the Oscar for her efforts on this soundtrack, but alas it was not to be. It is still one of the most played items within my collection, I never tire of hearing its charming and enthralling pieces. The opening cue is followed by another piece from the score entitled, WILDE, which is the central theme from the score, it is abundant with a quality and a sound that we do not encounter often enough within film music nowadays more is the pity. Track three is from TOMS MIDNIGHT GARDEN which is another incredibly emotive and wonderfully haunting piece. Track four is a 4-minute piece from the score to the very popular TV series WOLF HALL which gained many accolades and drew much attention when it was screened on the BBC, it is obvious from the applause at the end of the section that it was also very popular with the audience at THE BARBICAN. Track number five is an 8-minute suite from THE TRUTH ABOUT LOVE which is just breath-taking, this is followed by the composer’s highly dramatic music from, THE FLOOD, again popular with the audience. Track seven is a 7-minute piece from the spoof horror movie LESBIAN VAMPIRE KILLERS, and although this was essentially a comedy with tongue very much planted in cheek throughout, Wiseman scored it as a serious movie and gave it one of the most alluring and superbly attractive gothic scores that I have heard for many a year. It is quite a majestic sounding work for a horror movie, with lots of brass, choir, and soaring strings, but it works so well within the movie and has a life away from it, being an entertaining listening experience on its own. It is a powerful and commanding work that is performed here with the principal themes from the score being aired.

 

For track number 8, we are back with the melodic and fragile sounding Wiseman for A POET IN NEW YORK, this is a lovely score and features poignant violin solo and lilting and subtle strings that together create and lush and almost luxurious sound that is supported by horns and rumbling percussion and piano, in many ways this is very similar to Wisemans music for WILDE, it has a powerful but at the same time intimate sound which has purveys an atmosphere of solitude and loneliness. Next up is a short but beautiful suite from the movie HAUNTED, this again contains a theme that one just cannot resist, it is if you will forgive the pun haunting and completely mesmerising. Within the score the theme is performed at one point on piano which is affecting as well as effective, here we are treated to a full orchestral working of this gracious and alluring theme, which is breath-taking. The theme from the TV series Father Brown is next, this always reminds me of a waltz, it’s one of those themes that one hears and knows straight away what it’s from and if you are in another room and you hear it you know the show is starting, it’s quite jaunty and jolly at times but has a hint of a serious side. THE WHALE is next, this begins slowly and quite subdued but builds into a commanding and highly emotional piece performed wonderfully by the Guildhall School orchestra. Next are sections from Debbie’s incredibly powerful tour de force ARSENE LUPINE. In fact, there are four movements from the score, and it is as interesting and enjoyable as it was when I first heard it. The final cue on this superb recording is JUBILEE GIGUE which was written especially for the Queens Diamond Jubilee Pageant. Again, this is amazingly melodic and stirring, overall this is an album that you should have in your collection, it contains some of the best film and TV music ever written, highly recommended.