Category Archives: Reviews

LEV YASHIN-THE DREAM GOALKEEPER.

 

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Mention the name George Kallis and I straight away think Melody, richness and emotive themes. I think that pretty much sums up this talented film music composer and this description is I think a pretty fair account of his latest score. LEV YASHIN THE DREAM GOALKEEPER. Films about fact-based sport events or sporting biographies always seem to be particularly fruitful in the musical score department, fruitful as in inspiring, thematic and invigorating, and this work is no exception to that rule. It is a score that is overflowing with a powerful and lush musical persona. There is a grandiose feel to it in places almost epic in fact, but through the proud thematic material there are glimpses of intimacy, poignancy and a sense of the personal and melancholy. The score is as far as I can make out mostly symphonic, although it does contain support from synthetic instrumentation, its also a soundtrack that contains a handful of slightly up tempo pieces, as in the opening cue DRIVING THROUGH MOSCOW which opens with a piano and cello that is underlined by a lone horn, the composer adding subtle strings to embellish and add weight to them, the piece then moves up a gear tempo wise, with a light and pleasant theme performed by guitar, strings and a solo trumpet, before it moves forward and is given momentarily to the string section, before arriving at its conclusion. Track number two, DYNAMO VS TORPEDO is a slightly more upbeat cue, strings again providing the backbone of the piece supported by horns that are performed in a John Barry-esque manner. The strings remain melodic and are enhanced further by driving but at the same time subtle strings that are performed below the main melody, add to this a tense and nervous atmosphere realised by further brass and percussive elements and it makes for a cue that is entertaining and slightly apprehensive, building the momentum and fashioning a nervous atmosphere as we wait for it to reach its crescendo. The work is filled with solo performances as in piano, violin and cello, and the overall sound of the score is a compelling and pleasing one, there are emotive and poignant compositions in their abundance, but these effecting and haunting interludes seem to creep up on one, and become even more emotional depicting a sadness and also a sense of achievement throughout. The composer also utilises choir within a handful of the cues to give them an even more impacting sound and comparisons can be drawn between this and another of the composers works, THE LAST WARRIOR from 2017. As I have said this is an affecting work, and one that fuses several styles giving it an overall sense of power and a great degree of quality, available digitally on MOVIE SCORE MEDIA and on Compact disc on KeepMoving Records. Recommended.

Lev Yashin: The Dream Goalkeeper

THE JOHN WILLIAMS DISASTER MOVIE SOUNDTRACK COLLECTION.

LA LA LAND records is a label we all know and love, it’s a label that we often look to and await with bated breath at what wonders they will uncover and announce. This is a label that never sleeps, and in recent months have given us a number of great soundtracks and released them all in an expanded form.

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THE TOWERING INFERNO is one such score by the ever-popular John Williams. It is a score that came quite early on his career or at least one that came with the credit of John Williams as opposed to Johnny Williams which we had known him as before. It is probably true to say that it was the likes of films such as THE TOWERING INFERNO and EARTHQUAKE that alerted the wider soundtrack collecting community to the delights and talents of Williams. These along with THE POSEIDEN ADVENTURE were the staple diet of cinema goers during the 1970’s and THE TOWERING INFERNO in particular was a movie that seemed to showcase the composers ample talent, the long opening sequence was a scene setter for the remainder of the movie, with Williams music taking centre stage as it enhanced and supported the approach of the helicopter and the sight of the tower itself in the opening credits. It is probably one of the longest and most effective opening title sequences in cinema history, but don’t quote me on that. The score itself is a highly dramatic one in which Williams enlists searing strings and apprehensive brass along with booming percussion that underscore the action scenes wonderfully. The score however also includes a number of less tense compositions, and the composer displays his versatility and provides us with some easy listening material as well as some near atonal pieces that although not strictly melodic do still contain a fleeting hint of a theme.

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The music in the movie provided a inside view of what was going on or what was about to happen, the composer at times scoring the movie as if his music was either one of the characters or even the destructive fire itself. I think the easier sounding tracks such as cues like SHORT GOODBYES do have at their core a sound and style that has affiliations with Henry Mancini or at least his rich, haunting and melodious sound. There are I have to say a number of source music cues on the second disc of the score, but these are also interesting and a respite from the drama and mayhem. Williams employing horns underlining subtle vibes, sultry saxophones, piano, double bass and woods to create an air of the romantic or the laid back, as in LISOLETTE AND HARLEE and further embellishing these with strings, keyboard, electric bass guitar and light percussion. This two-disc edition of the score is a desirable one and I know it will be out of stock soon if it is not already.

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It comes as part of the JOHN WILLIAMS DISASTER MOVIE SOUNDTRACK COLLECTION which also includes the EARTHQUAKE and THE POSEIDEN ADVENTURE. So, it’s a Williams fans dream come true, and I have to say that LA LA LAND are very good at making dreams come true in the soundtrack world. I did however find that on THE TOWERING INFERNO in-particular there was some mild distortion on a couple of the tracks, more noticeable in the MAIN TITLE on disc 2, but not enough to spoil the enjoyment of the listener. The two-disc have a total of fifty-eight tracks and include alternate takes and some cues that were not used in the movie. It’s a must have for any film music connoisseur.

 

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EARTHQUAKE is one of my favourite John Williams scores, well I say score, but I think it’s the theme more than anything that attracts me to this soundtrack. I remember getting the LP record many years ago on MCA and playing the opening theme over and over again, in many ways the MAIN TITLE has to it a menacing musical persona a kind of lumbering sound but also contains a strong and pulsating thematic property. It has that subtle beginning that erupts after a few seconds into a horn led theme which is underlined by strings and punctuated by more brass. There was just something about it that I found irresistible and infectious. This edition of the soundtrack contains thirty-three tracks, which are taken from the film score and from the original LP recording, plus a handful of alternate takes.

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We can hear within the score trademark sounds that were already evolving as the Williams sound and evoked a number of his TV scores such as LOST IN SPACE and THE LAND OF THE GIANTS, he also utilised electronic keyboard in one of the cues MILES ON WHEELS, which is a fast paced piece with brass and percussion, and again I say this could be the work of Mancini as it has that type of aura about it.

 

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THE CITY THEME is one of the stand out pieces, performed by solo piano, it is a light and almost steamy piece that conjures up the sky line of a big metropolis, the composer adding a melancholy lone horn to the mix with strings and soothing woods. Which he brings together and creates a luxurious sound. Again, there are a number of source cues within the score, but these are all part and parcel of this great listening experience. EARTHQUAKE is a n interesting mix of dark and dramatic that weaves in and out of less action led themes that verge of the easy listening, jazz and lounge style of music as in the cue SOMETHING FOR REMY.

 

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THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE was released in 1972, Williams opening theme I think was the inspiration for David Arnold’s theme for INDEPENDENCE DAY don’t you think or is it just me that detects the similarity? Also, I noticed the brief appearance of the love theme from STAR WARS within the cue ROGO TAKES COMMAND, which only just fleeting is most certainly present. THE POEIDON ADVENTURE maybe not as action led as TOWERING INFERNO and EARTHQUAKE, but certainly stands out even now as one of his finest scores.

 

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There are a number of themes that the composer utilises and develops throughout, which are glimpses of the genius we were going to witness in the original STAR WARS trilogy as in THE RESCUE AND END TITLES. It has to it the Williams wistfulness and the flyaway style with strings and woods combining to create a wild but at the same time enchanting sound. Then in MAIN TITLE (alternate 1) we can hear the more complex Williams that would rise in the film CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, which is repeated in (alternate 2). Atonal but attractive and interesting. The recording contains thirty cues. Overall, this is a great set of three scores penned by the worlds greatest film music composer. Listening to them is an insight into what followed in the form of the scores for JAWS, INDIANA JONES, DRACULA, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, E.T. and so many more. This collection is far from a disaster.  Recommended.

 

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THE SWARM.

The most terrifying thing about THE SWARM is that it is based on Fact: It exists. Fact: It has awesome destructive power. Fact: We don’t know how to stop it.

 

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THE SWARM was released in 1978, it was not exactly one of the best movies released in the decade of the 1970’s but it was fairly entertaining. There were a lot of disaster movies released in the latter part of the 1970’s EARTHQUAKE, THE CASSANDRA CROSSING and THE TOWERING INFERNO etc among them. THE SWARM, like THE CASSANDRA CROSSING, combined the elements of a disaster movie with that of the horror genre but at times I felt it descended into a rather farcical piece of cinema that was hard to take seriously, it was an Irwin Allen production which he also directed. The screenplay by Sterling Silliphant and was based upon the novel of the same name written by Arthur Herzog. The movie was criticised heavily at the time of its release and was a significant failure at the box office for the Warner Brothers studios. Despite having an all star cast that included Henry Fonda, Michael Caine, Richard Widmark, Bradford Dillman, Fred McMurray,  Katherine Ross, Ben Johnson, Lee Grant, Jose Ferrer, Richard Chamberlain and Olivia De Haviland, it still failed to stir up any real enthusiasm amongst cinema going audiences. It did however receive an Oscar nomination for best costume design.

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The musical score was by Hollywood movie music giant Jerry Goldsmith. The composer was already well versed in the ways of scoring action thrillers and provided a score that many said was better than the movie it was written for. On listening to the score one will identify straight away the typical Goldsmith approach and style, with at times grandiose and action packed compositions being purveyed via the brass section and accompanied by urgent strings that themselves are supported and embellished by the use of pounding percussive elements, thus creating a tense and powerful sound. Goldsmith employed horns and other brass instrumentation and combined them with dramatic sounding strings to create the sound of the humming bees which was particularly effective in the scenes where we see the swarm descend onto towns and other places where people are. There are also softer moments within the score and the track A GIFT OF FLOWERS evokes past Goldsmith compositions such as A PATCH OF BLUE and the track THE PIPER DREAMS from the OMEN. Originally issued onto an LP and cassette tape which was released on the Warner Brothers label, this however has been long out of print, a re-mastered and expanded version of the soundtrack was issued by Prometheus records on compact disc for the first time in 2002 which contained over 40 minutes of extra music. Now we in 2020 thanks to LA LA LAND records are finally able to listen to the complete score, the recording which also contains several alternate takes and the cues from the LP as well as the actual film score is a complete picture of Goldsmith’s powerful work.

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Even listening to this today one can hear the excellence of Goldsmith’s score and hear within it that unmistakable stamp of musical inventiveness and the presence of quality that the composer placed upon each and one of his projects, good or bad. The sound achieved by the composer is a distinct one and even if you are not a devotee of Mr Goldsmith it is a style that is instantly recognisable, and has manifested itself in earlier works such as THE OMEN, RANSOM and THE SAND PEBBLES and again would be displayed in later scores such as U.S. MARSHALLS and SMALL SOLDIERS etc. Disc one of the release contains the film score of which there are thirty cues, disc two containing the album tracks and additional cues. The release comes with a full colour booklet with notes by Jeff Bond. A not to be missed release.

THE WIND AND THE LION.

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THE WIND AND THE LION is a movie I have to admit I loved from the first time I saw it, it has everything, action, romance, great landscapes and locations and a cast of impressive actors that include Sean Connery, Candice Bergen, Brian Keith and John Huston. Loosely based upon the Perdicaris incident which took place in 1904, the film was written and directed by John Milius. The filmmaker based his story on a number of what he described as adventure stories, which ranged from an article by Barbara W. Tuchman and also the writings of Rudyard Kipling to Rosita Forbe’s 1924 biography RAISULI THE SULTAN OF THE MOUNTAINS.

 

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The latter being at times quoted word for word within the screenplay. Milius wanted to evoke the adventure and excitement of films such as GUNGA DINN and others like it. And even turned to the works of Akira Kurosawa and the British publication BOYS OWN for his inspiration. The result is a movie that although not totally accurate historically is probably one of the most entertaining and exciting that was produced during the 1970’s. Released in 1975, the film drew minor attention and was surprisingly accepted by the critics even though it contained an attitude that endorsed American Imperialism which in the aftermath of the Vietnam war was somewhat unpopular. The musical score was by American film music maestro Jerry Goldsmith, who penned a magnificent and grand epic sounding work. It is in my opinion one of the composers best works for cinema. Its brass flourishes and pounding percussive elements add authenticity and stature to the movie, with Goldsmith’s edgy by also sweeping strings evoking the sound and style of bygone days from film music history. It also manifested strong thematic properties and styles that were to influence the composers later works such as MULAN, THE 13TH WARRIOR and FIRST KNIGHT.

Its proud but at the same time menacing horns and driving strings which were already a trademark of Goldsmith become even more prominent and effecting within this movie, the score becoming not just a background or an accompaniment to the action, but an integral and essential part of the film itself. The love theme from the score I REMEMBER is too text-book Goldsmith, with eloquent and effecting strings that tug at the emotions, with their sumptuous and lush sound overwhelming the listener whilst also enhancing and supporting the scene being acted out on screen. THE WIND AND THE LION is an epic tale, and the composer stepped up to the mark when writing the score, it is a grandiose and thrilling work, and one that I know is so popular amongst connoisseurs of expressive, exciting and lavish film music. Originally issued on ARISTA records on LP there was also later a compact disc on the Intrada label, which was the same line up as the original Arista release, in recent years an expanded version of the score was released also by Intrada records as a two disc set. It remains one of Goldsmith’s most memorable soundtracks. If you have not heard this then purchase any version that you can just to hear the booming and grand opening theme or thrilling RAISULI ATTACKS. If you have the single compact disc version it is essential you get the two disc set of this classic.

THE GREATEST THEMES FROM THE SPAGHETTI WESTERNS.

The music included on this compilation was due to be performed live at the Royal Festival Hall in April, due to the Corona virus outbreak it has been cancelled. But the music has been released by Silva Screen for you to enjoy.  The recording will be available on April 17th 2020. 

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The music in Italian or Spaghetti westerns had a style that was all its own, unique, quirky and innovative. It not only supported and enhanced these sagebrush sagas, but it was at times an integral component of the film and often used during flashbacks as in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST the theme or the instrument utilised being a link between the past and the present. The films and the music for them influenced a whole new generation of film makers and film music composers, its style and sound can still be heard within soundtracks that are being written today. So, it was with much apprehension I sat down to listen to a compilation of THE GREATEST THEMES FROM THE SPAGHETTI WESTERNS by The London Music Works orchestra. There have been many cover versions of the classic Italian western themes but most of these seemed to fall at the early fences not having the correct instrumentation, firstly with the distinct whistle of Alessandro Alessandroni being imitated by a flute or recorder. And like-wise the choral performances of IL CANTORI MODERNI or Orlandi’s Coro 4+4 being done badly or being substituted by synths. But for this recording there is a whistler, and one that does a pretty good job and also the choral work too is top notch, of course it’s not as good as the originals, but I don’t think anything or anyone will ever replicate the sound achieved all those years ago in Rome.

 

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Compilations in the past by LeRoy Holmes, Geoff Love and Hugo Montenegro valiantly attempted to get close to the sound but even these now well thought of covers did fall a little short of the musical mark. I am not going to say that this is a pitch perfect collection, but it’s probably the best I have heard in a long while. It is also surprising that they chose to cover some difficult tracks, NAVAJO JOE for example and not just the opening theme. Ennio Morricone under the alias of Leo Nichols composed a powerful theme for this Sergio Corbucci western and a score that was savage and striking in which the composer employs screams to accompany the central character and underline moments of extreme violence in particularly in the opening scene. Ear piercing scream opens the proceedings and is joined by more chanting until a high pitched and almost strangulated scream ushers in a commanding electric guitar solo that presents the central theme. Embellished by booming percussion and chanting choral work plus an impressive vocal performance by Gianna Spagnola. In the hands of Morricone this is an impressive and shocking opening theme. This cover version, maybe not as powerful as the original, but it’s a brave attempt a fearless rendition that hits the right notes and delivers a faithful if not slightly weaker version of Morricones theme. Also included from this score is SILHOUETTE OF DOOM which is edgy with its percussive elements and driving strings and jagged sounding brass and woods.

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The other stand out cue is again penned by Morricone, maybe a little strange for it to be included here a SPAGHETTI WESTERN collection, as it was actually a movie produced by an American studio, TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA was a Clint Eastwood movie, directed by Don Siegal. But as its Morricone I guess we can forgive them for including it in the very impressive line up of tracks.

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As I have said its not your normal run of the mill compilation, there are some surprises here, as in DJANGO, THEY CALL ME TRINITY, THEY CALL ME KING, MY NAME IS NOBODY and a particularly nice version of DEATH RIDES A HORSE. Back to TWO MULES for now, it is a really inspired performance of the opening theme that is included here, only one criticism and that is the vocal parts which in the original are sung softly and by maybe three female performers, which give the piece some sense of fragility, are in this case too pronounced and also there are just too many vocalists, but the instrumental performance brings forth the rawness of Morricones original wild shrieks, animal based sounds and hoots and calls that one might hear out in the desert at night time.

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These elements build and build to a crescendo of sorts and usher in ferocious pounding percussion and a string performance that although does have a remnant of melody still retains its rawness and gritty persona. Yes, ten out of ten for this one. Moving away from Morricone the compilation also includes, Luis Bacalov’s theme for THE GRAND DUEL, this is a classic Spaghetti western theme, the original having the unique aural sound of Edda Dell Orso, who’s soaring wordless vocals adorned many a western score.

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For this the version of the opening theme the Soprano is superb and flawless with the harmonica solo too being effective and engaging and also evocative of the style of Franco De Gemini. There is also DAY OF ANGER, a re-working of the main theme representing composer Riz Ortolani’s pulsating and up-beat soundtrack. This is a grand and powerful arrangement of the movies core theme, opening with a grandiose almost romantic sounding orchestra and leading into the more familiar upbeat electric guitar led theme from the Lee Van Cleef movie.

 

 

 

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Going back to Morricone, there is a rendition of RUN MAN RUN from the soundtrack of THE BIG GUNDOWN, which is arguably one of Maestro’s best non-Leone western scores. This arrangement brings together the slower version of the central theme and the vocal originally performed by Christy. The vocal performance here although very good, is shall I say to English sounding, with it not having enough rawness or savagery, but instead we hear a more civilised performance.

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ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is also represented, the three principal themes from the score being featured, CHEYENNE, HARMONICA and the central theme for Jill Claudia Cardinale’s character in the movie.

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All of which are well performed. THE MERCENARY (A PROFESSIONAL GUN) is also given an ambitious and successful airing, with THE ARENA cue being included, this is the music heard at the end of the movie, when like most Italian westerns accounts were settled, by the quickness of the draw. I have to say that alongside THE BIG GUNDOWN and THE FIVE MAN ARMY this is probably Morricones most memorable non-Leone western soundtracks.

 

But in an Italian western the duel or the showdown was more than just a gunfight it was a sequence of events in which the composer who ever they were would come into their own, with directors such as Corbucci, Sollima and Leone often shooting the scene to the music that had been composed prior to the filming of it. This is a compilation that I recommend you listen to it is polished and has to it an aura and a sound that will entertain and delight. Also included are tracks representing A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, DUCK YOU SUCKER and THEY CALL ME NOBODY or MY NAME IS NOBODY as some refer to it.

 

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