Category Archives: Reviews

THOSE DARING YOUNG MEN IN THEIR JAUNTY JALOPIES or in English- MONTE CARLO OR BUST.

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Composer Ron Goodwin is probably best known for his themes and scores to war movies such as 633 SQUADRON, WHERE EAGLES DARE and BATTLE OF BRITAIN. But of course, we as collectors know that there is far more to Goodwin than thundering themes that are inspiring and patriotically driving. His score for THE TRAP for example is I think a most underatted soundtrack, in fact Goodwin’s music has outlived any memories of the movie itself and also the theme found a new lease of life when TV producers procured it to use as the theme for the London Marathon. Then there was his brilliant score for VALHALLA which sadly was to be his last, and let us not forget, ONE OF OUR DINOSAURS IS MISSING for Disney as well as CANDLESHOE for the same studio. Then there were all those excellent compilations on long playing records released by EMI, which at the time of their release gave film music fans versions of the composer’s music for film as well as music by many others which was given the famous Goodwin treatment. His quirky style and split-second musical timing was most certainly well suited to the British comedy THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES with both the score and the song becoming instant hits, a popularity that has lasted to this day I might add. After the success of THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN etc, we were treated to another magnificently well written and highly entertaining score, when the composer once again teamed up with film maker Ken Annakin on the British/Italian co-production MONTE CARLO OR BUST or as it was entitled in the United States THOSE DARING YOUNG MEN IN THEIR JAUNTY JALOPIES. Goodwin created a wonderfully inventive score for the movie and penned several original themes which would accompany various characters that were involve in the hi-jinks that was taking place on screen. The cast list read like a who’s who of British and international cinema. Goodwin’s atmospheric and hilarious at times soundtrack, has become a classic of sorts in the film music collecting community. The music was originally released in 1969/1970 on a LP which was on the Paramount records label. This at the time was quite a long running LP as it contained some forty-two minutes of music. Sadly, the score was never re-issued and was never given a compact disc release, until now that is. Yes, those lovely people at Quartet records have at last made many of Ron’s faithful fans dreams come true, with an extensive and expanded release on CD, a two-disc set as well.

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Yes, not one but two compact discs, the first containing the soundtrack as we have come to know and love which is the LP record tracks, and disc two, which is the icing on the proverbial cake, all together there are sixty one cues on this set, alternate takes and outtakes galore it is certainly Ron Goodwin heaven for many. So how to review something that is already considered a classic, now that’s a difficult one, we already know that the score is practically perfect in every way (sorry wrong movie, but it sounds good). THOSE DARING YOUNG MEN IN THEIR JAUNTY JALOPIES or as I like to call it MONTE CARLO OR BUST is an onslaught of cleverly orchestrated and quirky comedic pieces which Goodwin weaved in and out of the movie to enhance and give support to key points and scenarios, it is without a doubt one of his most accomplished and entertaining soundtracks, with cheeky little nuances, dastardly and mischievous passages along side stiff upper lip musical moments that accompanied the characters superbly portrayed by Messer’s Moore and Cooke, Goodwin even throwing in a nice little arrangement of JINGLE BELLS when aforementioned du found themselves driving on ice or in snow.

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We are also spoilt for thematic diversity and vibrancy, when the composer brings into play a German march and a wonderfully light and airy Italian sounding piece. There are so many themeatic moments within this score that it is difficult to explain just how many and in what context that they are utilised. Goodwin’s score is a truly international sounding work, and also contains a luxurious and rich love theme which accompanies Tony Curtis and the films female love interest Susan Hampshire. The movie itself was madcap but entertaining and was even more compelling because of Goodwin’s strategically placed musical score, with its Charleston type backing and oom-pah-pah moments and over the top keystone drama it is I think one of his best.

 

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The song from the movie, entitled MONTE CARLO OR BUST was performed by veteran star Jimmy Durante, whose gravelly sounding vocals were just perfect, it achieved success on its own away from the movie as any radio stations included it on their playlists. This double CD set is a sight for sore eyes and a welcome listening experience which evoked memories of when I first heard the LP record back in 1969/70 The CD boasts the original United States LP record cover art and the colourful booklet contains notes by Jeff Bond and the recording is presented with clean and sharp flawless sound thanks to precision re-mastering work by Chris Malone which as always is excellent. This is a release you will not want to miss order it now, send it from you to you for Christmas. Recommended.  While your on line buying this one from quartet why not treat yourself to the expanded version of THE ITALIAN JOB also released on that label.

Those Daring Young Men in their Jaunty Jalopies (2-CD)

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A HIDDEN LIFE.

 

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Its an odd thing that at times you hear the latest score from a composer and you think, That’s his best yet, then the next release surpasses it, James Newton Howard is a composer I have followed from RUSSKIES onwards, and I have to say I think this every time I hear one of his soundtracks, one of his recent scores is for Terrence Malick’s A HIDDEN LIFE, and again the composer has created a work that is reflective, tranquil, emotive and affecting and one which underlines, punctuates and enhances perfectly. The story line is too a touching and thought-provoking piece which focuses upon the relationship between a husband and wife in small village in Austria during WWll, the husband being a conscientious objector. It’s a tale of love and morality, The composer has fashioned a beautiful score, which is laden with poignant and highly emotional compositions, the music is an important component of the story and the scenarios that are being acted out on screen, Newton Howard piecing together gentle and melodic nuances that are delicate and purvey a sense of fragility and melancholy, the heart breaking themes that run throughout the score are haunting and at times total consuming and mesmerising. Newton Howard is a composer of many colours musically and also, he has the ability to adapt to any genre of film giving each project a lasting and vibrant sound or musical personality. His score for A HIDDEN LIFE is I would say up ther with his best, it lays bare the emotional content of the story and underlines the dramatic content and also laces the romantic interludes wonderfully, this is a soundtrack that you will probably shed a tear or two over, its highly emotional content will sweep over you and infiltrate your mind, body and soul, tug at your heart strings and tantalise your senses. The low-key sound is appealing and although at times is sorrowful via the cello performances and also solo violin, and string section, it still has to it a shining and glinting aura, the music speaks of hope and also of loyalty and love. Certainly, one to check out.

THE SECRET OF IMMORTAL CODE.

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The dark and foreboding sound of composer Bernard Herrmann certainly made an impact upon film scoring from the 1940’s up until his death. Herrmann as a composer influenced numerous other composers and artists, Jerry Goldsmith for example and also Christopher Young, it seems however that his influences have now extended to the 21st Century, and are evident within the music that Pantawit Kiangsiri has written for the Chinese film production, THE SECRET OF IMMORTAL CODE which is released on the Movie Score Media label. The score does not only generate nods of acknowledgement to Herrmann with its growling and volatile style but at times we can also hear references to the actual writings of Goldsmith, which first manifest themselves within the second half of the cue UNDERGROUND LAB AND RAID, that evokes memories of Goldsmith’s striking and tense theme for the movie CAPRICORN ONE. I am of the opinion that referencing or paying homage to other composers such as Herrmann and Goldsmith, cannot be a negative thing, but and its just a little but, if we as fans do notice these then maybe the composer has written in this style because either he was asked to by the films producers or it is something that he developed whilst caught up in the project and maybe being a fan himself of their music is indeed paying homage to their talents. There is also another style present throughout, that is not as forthright or dominant, which is obviously the composers own individual style coming through as he shapes and fashions the score. The danger here being that because the Goldsmith/Herrmann influence is so strong, that the original musical fingerprint of Kiangsisri could be swamped or drowned out and to a degree in the first half of the score this does in fact happen. But, cast your mind back to DEF CON 4 which was penned by Christopher Young, there were so many references to the work of Goldsmith within it that it was difficult at times to separate that score from things such as CAPRICON ONE (again), and this style of imitating as in paying homage to another composer, certainly did not do Chris Young any harm. I think the first glimmer of originality within Kiangsiri’s, score makes an appearance in track number six, DIARY AND OLD MEMORIES, which is more of a down tempo and less of an action cue. But even here there are little nuances and quirks of orchestration that could be construed as being Goldsmith influenced as in the poignant piano solo, (A PATCH OF BLUE) and also striking electric guitar chords that are very similar indeed to the type that Goldsmith deployed in STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE many years ago.

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In fact, the sound that Goldsmith utilised in the KLINGON BATTLE scene, is evident also in the following cue MAN IN THE BOX, albeit a slower tempo and maybe a slightly less animated version. However, saying this this is a score that I would still recommend, because of its use of so many sounds and for the combining of various styles and musical colours etc. Film music after all maybe needs to go back in time a way and start again, so that we can have themes and solid action cues once more without the use of droning non-musical sections and incessant harsh stabs that are effective in heightening tension and drama but have no real direction of substance. THE SECRET OF IMMORTAL CODE, is an entertaining score, filled with symphonic and electronic textures, which the composer combines, fuses and melds to create a work that stands out. I enjoyed listening to the soundtrack as it was relentless, every track containing something to be appreciated, with even full throttle action tracks having to them a thematic base that the composer brings out into the open as the track progresses and grows, developing it and presenting it as a vibrant theme in its own right. If you are a fan of action film music, or the style that we associate with Goldsmith, Young and Herrmann then you will I am sure enjoy this and maybe even become an admirer of the artistry and talent of Pantawit Kiangsiri. Available now on digital platforms.

THE SPANISH PRINCESS. SEASON 1.

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Composer Samuel Sim is in my ever so humble opinion a rare and gifted talent within the film and television music community. His scores for mainly the small screen have always been richly melodic and are a wonderfully attractive and alluring part of any production that he is involved with. His music becomes an important and also an integral part of the whole film making process, the composer producing atmospheric and innovative pieces of music that not only enhance the storyline but have the ability to take on the form of an unseen actor within the movie, thus enriching and supporting this he performances and the scenarios that are being portrayed and purveyed upon the screen. Sim has collaborated with composer Chris Egan for one of his recent projects, THE SPANISH PRINCESS I think must be one of his most interesting scores, the composers creating beautiful and at the same time rather apprehensive sounding musical poems and sections, that have to them a vibrant and highly emotive sound. I am particularly fond of the string sections performances throughout and the use of both percussion and fleeting cymbalom, which are laced with haunting and at times icy sounding harpsichord. Sim and Egan fashioning a hypnotic theme for the cue entitled BORN TO LOVE YOU, which contains a heart breaking cello solo, that is supported and given more impact via the placing of little harpsichord flourishes, which although brief are effective, the cello is also given more of an emotive and poignant persona when punctuated by the delicate touch of harp and cymbalom, which the composers utilise to great effect in many of the other cues on the score. I think it is the simplicity sometimes that is the attraction, and the sheer emotion that is purveyed through Egan and Sim’s beguiling yet, uneasy sounding compositions. There is a tense atmosphere present in the majority of the tracks, but the composer’s collaborative gift for fashioning melodic and tantalising thematic material shines through and even when these moments are short lived, they are still affecting. The last cue on the soundtrack, REMEMBER WHERE YOU CAME FROM is a must listen, from a subdued and even slow start the cue builds and grows into something that is not just grandiose and imposing but also into a piece that is proud and inspiring. With strings, choir and brass combining and being supported and driven forward by timpani which has to it a martial and forthright style. This is a special soundtrack an inventive and gripping score, and a work that you should really own.

DISCOVERING A COMPOSER. Gregoire Hetzel.

 

 

Thanks to the internet and also because of digital platforms such as Spotify etc, these days we are able to discover more in the way of film music, anyway that’s what I think, the other week I had a bit of time and decided to scroll through Spotify (other digital platforms are of course available). Anyway, I discovered a few names that I thought sounded interesting, so I explored them and their music, in 70 percent of cases I was pleasantly surprised, we will not discuss the other 30 percent as they are irrelevant as we will not be talking of them (ever again).

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There were a few composers who I explored and thought ok, yes, pretty good then I happened upon Gregoire Hetzel, and I have to really truthful and tell you I was just blown away by his style and also the varied sounds and moods he created on his film scores, I found myself searching further and further back because I was worried I had missed out on so many musical delights, and guess what? I was right, his musical canon is just outstanding and filled with various works for film and TV that are not only superb in every way but are also so varied and wonderfully written and orchestrated. It is rare these days that we as film music collectors get excited about discovering new music or in this case older music that I was not aware of. If you like me have in recent years become slightly disenchanted with the Hollywood film score, or the scores for so called blockbusters, then taking a listen to this composer will be like a breath of fresh sea air, that will metaphorically blow away the cobwebs of so called titanic film composers or giants in the world of film music. So, I thought maybe a review of one of his scores, then I thought why stop at one, let’s see what is there and tell the world about them. (well the MMI readers anyway). Ready, ok let’s start with a score from 2018, L’AMORE EST UNE FETE, which I will not disguise is a work that I just love. The films alternative title was PARIS PIGALLE and was a comedy made in France helmed by filmmaker Cedric Anger.

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What I was so drawn to about this score was that at points within the soundtrack there are certain references and sounds that refer to the Italian produced Giallo scores from the 1960;s and 1970;s as penned by Gianni Ferrio, Bruno Nicolai, Gianni Marchetti and of course Morricone and Cipriani. Plus there are certainly more than just acknowledging nods in the direction of French Maestro,s Pierre Bachelet, Francis Lai, Michel Magne and even Francois De Roubauix, it has that kind of vibe that essence and that persona. With Hetzel purveying a musical homage to it seems all of the aforementioned, but at the same time infusing and adding his own unique musical fingerprint and identity to the proceedings. I am not saying that this is not an original work, because when you hear it you will yourself hear that that is clear.

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All I am saying is that the composer seems to have taken the sound as realised by composers of the 1960’s and 1970’s and given it new life, fresh vibrancy and also added his own original twist. There is harpsichord, lilting woods, smooth strings and also exquisite light and delicate guitar that is enticing and emotive. Piano too features and that is when I thought of Stelvio Cipriani with his haunting themes for films such as THE ANONYMOUS VENETIAN, plus there are a handful of performances that feature a wordless female voice, again akin to the world of the Italian film score as in Morricone’s LOVE CIRCLE or even Fidenco’ EMMANUELLE movie scores, sultry, steamy but always thematic and haunting. What I adore about this score, is that there are so many themes, motifs, nuances and musical passages it is just very hard to take it all in on one listen, in fact I guarantee that once listened you will return to it again and again. This is tantalising and highly entertaining work, which for me personally evokes the glory days of discovering the brilliance of Italian and French film scores, so many years ago. I dare you to listen to track number sixteen, FIN DE TOURNAGE and not think of CINEMA PARADISO or ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA. This is a perfect score a beautiful one and also an affecting one as well. There are a handful of pop songs mingled throughout the original score but even these I was not that bothered by because I knew that another score track was up next, and I knew that it would be superb. I urge you to check this out, you will be in raptures.

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We go from this absorbing work to yet another accomplished and alluring soundtrack that the composer has fashioned and woven, CONVOI EXCEPTIONNEL, is a more recent work and was released in 2019, this is a edgy and maybe a little more contemporary sounding in certain areas, but, definitely posses a sound that is influenced by Ennio Morricone for one, is this a bad thing, is it a negative, no I don’t think so, I think its ok for a composer to be influenced by another composers work, after all unless you are a complete genius or a teller of untruths you cannot say that you have never been influenced or inspired by someone else’s work, whether it be music, writing, painting, sculpture or acting. I love the way in which the composer moulds a smooth yet at times quite raw sound for this project, and I know I did say it does have moments that are more of a contemporary sound, there are also passages of percussion which act as a backdrop for electric guitar and breathy sounding woodwind, the composer too employs a bass guitar which lays down a rhythmic backing to which is added strings and punctuated by percussive elements, the sound realised being in the same school as soundtracks such as THE SICILIAN CLAN and THE UNTOUCHABLES by Morricone and WILD EYE by composer Gianni Marchetti, with little nuances and flourishes that although brief or even just fleeting add to the work an atmosphere and mood that shouts 1970’s. It is a score that is at times dark and driving, but also contains tender and melodic interludes. Another great score from this gifted and uber talented Maestro.

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The next score is totally different from both of the previous works, released in 2016, AGNUS DEI or THE INNOCENTS as it was entitled outside of France where it was produced, set in Poland in 1945, the movie is a hard hitting drama set in the last days of WWll, where a doctor from the red cross is asked to help Nuns at a convent, where it soon becomes evident that several of the Sisters are pregnant, raped by Russian soldiers. The composer contributed a handful of cues for the soundtrack, the remainder and lion’s share of the score being made up of various classical pieces by Handel etc, and also choral performances. But, the few cues that the composer did contribute stand out and add greater depth and create a more pronounced atmosphere. They are quite subtle in their make-up, mainly a small string section that is enhanced and supported via woods and piano, that at times are punctuated by fragile use of chiming effect. I hope that this brief look at three of the scores penned by Hetzel, and I am of the opinion that once you discover one of his scores you will want to explore everything that he has written, Hetzel is a composer who is HEAR to stay.