Category Archives: Reviews

DOLEMITE IS MY NAME.

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Well you all probably are aware that I am a bit of a sucker for films from the 1970’sand also the sounds of funk and jazz tat were employed in movies such as COFFY, SHAFT, CLEOPATRA JONES, SUPERFLY, TROUBLEMAN, THEY CALL ME MR TIBBS etc. I just love that soul filled funky vibe that those movies were supported by. Their soundtracks were a fusion of the dramatic and the upbeat with a scattering of songs that came along for the ride. Many of the scores employed great horn sections and sizzling string performances that were backed and given a groove by an array of driving and hot sounding percussive elements and fuzzy guitar passages alongside the Shaft sound as penned by Isaac Hayes. DOLEMITE IS MY NAME is a new Netflix production that stars the ever industrious and popular Eddie Murphy, who has delivered one of his most convincing and polished performances to date.

DOLEMITE

 

The movie focuses upon the real-life character Rudy Ray Moore and as portrayed in this movie by Murphy was a charmer of a man who dabbled in many things including music and comedy, Moore proved many of his critics wrong when his alter-ego Dolemite who was a funny and at times profanely obscene kung fu fighting individual, became a success within the Blaxploitation genre.

 

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But it is the music for the movie that I am more interested in, Scott Bomar has created a wonderfully retro set of themes and musical passages to accompany the movie, and if I was listening without knowing what this music was from I would most certainly be of the opinion that it was written in the 1970’s, it is a true re-creation of the sound of the Blaxploitation movies that were around during that decade, and a homage to composers such as Quincy Jones, Issac Hayes, Gene Paige, Gordon Parks, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Roy Ayres, Marvin Gaye and Johnny Pate, who scored so many movies that we now consider essential viewing and classics of the silver screen. There is a style and sound that Bomar has managed to nail which takes one right back to those days, and even for me personally evokes soundtracks such as STILLETO, ENTER THE DRAGON, DIRTY HARRY and of course the original DOLEMITE movie from 1975.

 

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This is a jazzy and cool sounding score that also includes a handful of vocals, but even though it is a super funky explosion of colours and textures it is also a full-on dramatic work and has to it an instant appeal, because as soon as you hear the opening score cue you just want to hear more. The composer employs sultry and breathy woods, soulful horns, wild Hammond organ, deep basslines and driving percussion, to great effect and punctuates these elements with sliding strings that at times sting and then become romantic and easy going, add to this a bluesy sounding piano and even more soulful vocals and what you have here is a wonderful salute to the Blaxploitation score, and one I recommend that you listen to. If you like your music upbeat and super cool then this is most certainly for you.  Available from Milan records.

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JOKER.

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In a world of so many movies about Superheroes, I suppose it was inevitable that at long last there would be a film dedicated to a Super villain. And what a Super Villain THE JOKER is. The character has come a long way since those meek and good-humoured rough, tumble and biff, bam, zoew, TV episodes that starred Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. And Cesar Romero as the Joker, his interpretation of the character being evil but in a kind of hammy and jovial way. The latest incarnation of the JOKER character is certainly way darker than those early days on TV and is an unnerving and convincing performance of a deranged personality that is pure evil and knows no boundaries in inflicting pain, discomfort and spreading chaos and carnage. Directed, produced and co-written by Todd Phillips, JOKER is an origin story The director focuses upon Arthur Fleck ( Joaquin Phoenix), and his study of this character is a rather stark and mostly sad insight into the life of a man who is clearly struggling to find his way and make his mark within the fragile and frantic society that is GOTHAM City. Fleck just wants some glimmer of light or maybe a slice of hope to fall his way, he attempts to change his fortune by becoming a stand-up comic, but he soon realises that the joke is very often him. He becomes trapped in a recurring existence that drifts between lethargy and spite and, finally we see his hurt when he is betrayed. The character portrayed wonderfully by Phoenix, gets caught in a spiral of never ending wrong decisions all of which impact upon each other and escalate into problems that become increasingly unsolvable, the chain reaction of bad scenarios in his life are the beginnings of this virulent characters incarnation, and we are treated to a no holds barred and gritty character study. The music for JOKER is the work of talented and innovative composer Hildur Guðnadóttir. She recently worked on the successful TV series CHERNOBYL and her score for this series received numerous nods of appreciation from both collectors, fans and critics alike. The music for JOKER is in the main dark and edgy, it has apprehensive and sinister undertones throughout, and supports and enhances the images and scenarios on screen perfectly. The score is filled with shadowy and unsettling passages and sounds, that are disconcerting and unnerving when listening to them away from the film. Many of the cues I would say lean towards the atonal as in no- thematic, but even amongst all of the darkness we can still find traces of thematic quality albeit fleeting and subdued. The work is certainly an original one, with the composer providing a vibrant and innovative sound and style to the proceedings.

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If however you are looking for themes that are anthem like or traces of flourishes that are remotely proud and patriotic as in fanfares or racing and heroically laced compositions etc, then you maybe a little disappointed, But, that is in no way a slight upon this score, as it is robust, brooding, melancholy and at times lilting, and most certainly dramatic and exciting, but above all it is superbly affecting and tantalising.

EUPHORIA. THE HBO SERIES.

labrinthFilm music is a great art, By this I mean that composers and even song writers and performers have it seemed dip their toes into the rippling waters of film music and scoring movies, I remember when I first saw that Marvin Gaye had scored TROUBLEMAN I was sceptical to say the least, but “Oh Ye of little faith” as they say, because the end result was quite stunning as in being polished and precise for the movie and also was great in the entertainment department too, it was a score that was supportive of the movie and also was a collection of themes and songs that one could sit and listen too without having to have the images. Of course, the soundtrack went onto gain a cult status.

The same can be said of EUPHORIA which has a score that is penned by the artist LABRINTH. I know that hardened film music fans will probably look at this and be horrified, but wait a minute, this is a TV score so as a reviewer of film and TV music I felt bound to listen. To be honest and fair I know very little about LABRINTH, apart from his songs that have hit the chart and also of his many collaborations, which I have played when doing DJ work in the clubs. PASS OUT and EARTHQUAKE with Tinie Tempah, BENEATH YOUR BEAUTIFUL featuring Emelie Sande and his projects working with artists such as Diplo and Sia. The score for EUPHORIA is a refreshing experience that is a delight to listen to, well structured and appealing melodically as well as entertaining via its many instrumental cues and handful of vocals that are on the soundtrack. LABRINTH, is always very melodic and lyrical in his compositions even if they were at times up-beat and dance orientated. I could always hear little nuances and quirks within them that I would sometimes think well I really like that or how did he do that? Which I suppose is why he is so successful and popular; with each new song or production he re-invents himself and with EUPHORIA he has certainly showed another side of his ample talents.

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EUPHORIA the HBO series, follows a group of high school students as they discover love and various friendships in a world of drugs, sex, trauma and the ever-present social media. The cast of Euphoria includes actor and singer Zendaya, Maude Apatow (Girls), Angus Cloud, Eric Dane, Alexa Demie, Jacob Elordi, Barbie Ferreira, Nika King, Storm Reid, Hunter Schafer, Algee Smith and Sydney Sweeney (Sharp Objects).
It is an American adaptation of an Israeli TV show of the same name, with every episode being penned by writer Sam Levinson, all episodes are written by Sam Levinson who is also executive producer on the series. The series is produced in partnership with A24 (Lady Bird, Random Acts of Flyness, 2 Dope Queens, Pod Save America) and includes executive producers Drake, Future the Prince, Ravi Nandan, Kevin Turen, Hadas Mozes Lichtenstein, Tmira Yardeni, Mirit Toovi, Yoram Mokadi and Gary Lennon. Ron Leshem and Daphna Levin, who created the Israeli series, are also executive producers.
EUPHORIA, the score is a fusion of instrumental and vocal but the instrumental cues are inventive and contain many colours and textures, there is a wonderfully melodious and also a wide variations of styles within this score, and yes it is a score not just a collection of songs that have been tacked onto the film for affect. This is in my opinion an accomplished work filled with vibrant and energetic pieces, I particularly like the way in which the composer utilises voices and upbeat backgrounds that create infectious themes that will I know haunt the listener long after the recording has ceased to play. Tracks such as FORMULA, FOREVER, NATE GROWING UP and others make an impression on first listen and are affecting and robustly thematic with upbeat backing that enhances and bolstered the central composition. There are also several less upfront tracks, which are poignant and intimate, the composer utilising guitar and piano and solo voice, as in NEW GIRL, HOME FROM RE-HAB and WE ALL KNEW. EUPHORIA is a score that is fashioned out of many elements, these include acoustic, vocal and electronic, there is a quality to this score that I am sure you even as a film score purist or a hard-line symphonic lover will hear. It is in my opinion certainly worth exploring.
Check out the cues I have already mentioned and also tracks such as, FOLLOWING TYLER, KAT’S DENIAL SIDESHOW, DEMANDING EXCELLENCE, MADDY’S STORY and THE LAKE these contain innovative use of instruments or samples which the composer presents to us in a fresh and vibrant way, some being driving and also uplifting, but above all accomplished and also showing signs of brilliance in the way that certain sounds are utilised and combined to create and achieve original sounds and style. The vocals WHEN I RIP and STILL DON’T KNOW MY NAME are also a standout tracks and I feel will maybe get airplay on their own as single releases? What I love about this soundtrack is its diversity, for example listen to song WHEN I RIP and you will think you are in a club setting and then in the next instant we are treated to the down beat and totally emotionally absorbing ARRIVING AT THE FORMAL, which has to it a charm and a subtle but powerful core that is enhanced via neo-classical strings and delicate touches of piano that at times are childlike and poignant. Also listen to McKay and CASSIE which has to it a vintage soul vibe akin to the sound of James Brown, then the next cue is GANGSTER which is fully electronic and contains a harsh and menacing sound that is a combination of organ percussion and a rap, which reminded me of a number of tracks that were popular in the charts a while back. Yes, I recommend that you take a listen ASAP, because this is a score that demands that you do.

THE LONGEST SHOT.

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Cast your mind back to THE TRUMAN SHOW remember the score, yes of course you do does,nt everyone, it was for me one of the highlights of the movie, the film was fascinating and the score helped considerably. The composer who penned the music for the movie has just finished scoring THE LONGEST SHOT which is now available to listen to on various digital platforms. It is a score I suggest that you should check out as it is probably one of the most atmospheric and entertaining that I have heard so far this year. THE LONGEST SHOT is a drama thriller, which focuses upon a Shanghai based hitman named Zhao who is preparing to retire from his trade. He takes the contract for two assassinations or hits, both of which take place in the same location and are scheduled to be carried out at the same time. But he discovers that the target of one of the contracts is the consignor of the other. Zhao decides he will take on both contracts to make a huge amount of money and set him up in his retirement, but what he encounters is a tangled web of deceit and a maelstrom of complexity. The music for this taught and tense affair is suitably slanted to suit and underline the more than apparent stress filled and pressured storyline of the movie, but even though there are many dramatic and thickly atmospheric passages and compositions within the score, the composer’s Burkhard Dallwitz and Brett Aplin still maintain an impressive array and level of thematic material. This is one of those dark and brooding works that on occasion unearths a lilting and richly melodic moment, although maybe these are few and far between, they provide a welcomed respite to the remainder of the score which is superbly uneasy and wonderfully sinister. The music on one hand purveys a perfect edgy atmosphere and unsettling moments throughout, it is a masterpiece of the disconcerting and the disturbing, with poignant and emotive interludes scattered along the way. I recommend tat you at least check this score out, but I know once you have done this you will want to own it, no question.

ELEPHANT TO INDIA.

 

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ELEPHANT TO INDIA is a new documentary which actually will receive its premiere tonight in Austria. The musical score is by composer Tobias Alexander Ratka. Although the work is made up of samples it is still an imposing and very thematic work with the composer performing the guitar parts within the soundtrack. I am told by the composer that a CD of the score will be available at the premiere, but it is also available on various digital music outlets. The score is a fairly short one, well at least on the recording that is as it has a running time of just over half an hour, but what a great way to spend thirty minutes listening to a really melodic and well structured work that oozes charm, vibrancy and wonderful melodies. Whether there is more music within the documentary itself I do not know, but if there is I look forward to the expanded version of the score. The opening cue, A LONG JOURNEY is a perfect opener for the score, the composer fashioning a rhythmic and appealing piece which is proud and expansive and one that sets the scene for much of what is to follow, this is a haunting and gloriously joyous sounding track, which enlists the aid of choral sounds alongside strings and various percussive elements, which all combine to create a theme that develops into a majestic sounding affair. Mid-way through the tempo slows and the music becomes more intimate as in not as epic sounding, with woods being added and a sitar effect being utilised briefly. The sitar effect returns in track number two, ISTANBUL in which the composer also employs ethnic sounding percussion and woodwind, the percussive parts acting as a background to the woodwind performances and gaining pace as the cue progresses. Track three, THE STREETS OF CHINA, is also an upbeat and up-tempo work, pizzicato sounds add punctuation to the percussion and strings that form the main part of the track, which is slightly comedic in its overall sound, but is I think more of a hustle and bustle style as opposed to comedy. Track number four is one of my favourite cues on the recording, slow ethnic percussion acts as a background to strings and voices that are laced and enhanced further by woodwind to create an imposing and entertaining theme tat is rich and proud sounding. But saying this, I don’t think one can actually say there is one cue that is superior to any of the others on this score, as all are equal in the quality and entertainment department. Track number six is a fun track, an upbeat backing track is bolstered by an accordion sound and also further enhanced by strings and bright and up-tempo woodwinds that have a wonderful rhythm and honestly do get one’s foot tapping throughout.

Track number seven, RELAXING is a delight, solo guitar is employed and does exactly what the track title suggests, easy on the ear aswell as being perfectly soothing and calming. The same can be said for track number eight, WAITING FOR KASACHSTAN guitar is again utilised but the cue contains more than just a guitar solo, there is a clock effect purveyed in the opening of the track, that is underlined by low but rich sounding strings, these soon fade and the clock ticking returns and becomes more prominent with guitar playing over the top of it, all the time little nuances and chimes are being added as the piece slowly builds with the addition of percussion that at first is subtle but becomes more and more dominant, until the sliding rich strings and guitar return to build into a magnificent fully fledged theme which again is aided by voices and has to it a luscious and wonderfully beguiling sound. And as they say there is more a lot more to this soundtrack, but rather than go into details I would much rather that you checked it out yourselves, its on Spotify and also I tunes as far as I know so why not go to either and type in Tobias Alexander Ratka and see what delights await you, within this beautiful score and other works that are there. Recommended…

The documentary “Elephant to India” celebrates its big premiere at the Film-casino in Vienna. The event is sold out and the soundtrack is now available on all streaming platforms. The film will now be shown at Cineplexx – Austria’s biggest cinema franchise – and will premiere in Germany in 2020.

 

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/2b0ubvvdxrUki4977zwCOJ

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlDQalQy-4c&list=OLAK5uy_n-EiZmUkM2jgt2zpGlI8Aq3kkgSs6Z-vo

FILM TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oerYwE1bcQ4&t=45s