Category Archives: Reviews

FIRST TO THE MOON-THE JOURNEY OF APOLLO 8.

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It is nearly half a century since man was launched into space to navigate around the moon, it was 1968, a year in which not only man was to take steps that eventually led to mans landing on another planet, but it was also a period of turmoil and war. Vietnam was in the headlines with America being embroiled in a bloody and merciless war so far from its shores and the turmoil was not restricted to foreign lands but also the American people at home were also going through a battle of morals as a bitter civil rights action was being staged. In December of 1968, three astronauts, Frank Borman, James Lovell and Bill Anders, were the first people to leave the earth and travel into space to circumnavigate the Moon. These three men were the pathfinders and the pioneers of the American Apollo programme who paved the way for others to follow and eventually land on the surface of the moon in Apollo 11 in July 1969. Against a backdrop both civil and campus unrest in the United States, the unpopular Vietnam war an unrelenting cold war with Russia, they manged to hold the Gaze of the world and earn the admiration of the American people and establish themselves a place in history. FIRST TO THE MOON is a 2-hour documentary that relates the story of these astronauts and their journey. The documentary utilises restored archival material both visual and audio of Borman, Lovell and Anders who in their own words tell their stories. The music for the documentary is the work of composer Alexander Bornstein, and it is a work that for me certainly stands out as being innovative and entertaining, the way I hear this score is that is an old style film score as in one that comes from the 1960.s but purveyed in a contemporary fashion, if that makes any sense at all? It has a sound and style to it that is akin to composers such as Goldsmith, Fielding, Bernstein and even hints at the bold and affecting style employed by James Horner in places, and also with a  nod in the direction of maybe Zimmer. I suppose what I am saying is, it contains themes and melodies as opposed to sounds and drone like passages, of course there are sections of the score realised synthetically or electronically, but this is the way of the film score in recent years with synthetic acting as a support to symphonic or vice versa. Maybe it is totally synthesised because these days it is so hard to distinguish between electronic and conventional instrumentation.

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This is a haunting work that has subdued and fragile pieces which are complimented and supported by dramatic cues and bolstered by the composers ability to create compositions that whilst being apprehensive or action fuelled remain melodic or thematic, thus keeping the score fresh and vibrant and giving the listener a rich tapestry of theme laden pieces. It is a score that I think will grow on many collectors because of its leaning towards, for want of a better word an old school sound which in my opinion is not a bad thing. The cue BECOMING APOLLO 8, for example is a driving composition, that builds and creates a tense atmosphere, strings, with percussive elements slowly create a piece that is inspiring and patriotic sounding, it then alters and moves into a more dramatic and action led track, but all the time the composer fashioning a rich and developing theme, which is performed by horns that are supported and enhanced by strings and more percussion. It is one of those tracks that you find yourself returning to again and again, and on each visit there is something there that you did not hear before. DARK SIDE OF THE MOON to is slow burning cue, building and then ebbing creating a sound that mesmerises and entertains. This is one for your collection, please do not pass it by, just go buy it.  Available on Notefornote entertainment.

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LA PLANETE SAVAGE. (FANTASTIC PLANET).

 

Released in 1973 LA  PLANETE SAVAGE was a French/Czech animated co production. It was applauded at the time of its release and won the Cannes film festival Jury prize in 1974. It is to be honest a rather surreal and quirky movie and takes us to a planet that is ruled by blue skinned giants. The story that unfolds is said to be based upon the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, but we see within it a plethora of possible interpretations and messages. The artwork is somewhat Dali inspired with super surreal landscapes and backdrops, but these are populated by weird and even stranger creatures or flora and creature amalgamations and creations. Some of the animation has the look of those Victorian botanical drawings, being detailed but maybe just to out of the ordinary. Directed by Rene Laloux, THE FANTASTIC PLANET as it was retitled for UK and USA release, was scored by composer Alain Goraguer.

The soundtrack was just as off the wall and oddball as the movie itself, at times taking on the guise of electronic rock infused cues that would not have been out of place on an album by Pink Floyd. And, at other points the composer writing pieces that were more akin to Morricone or Polish composer Christophe Komeda. A mix of jazz, rock and also symphonic sounding music, which surprisingly worked for the movie and also when listening to the album stand up away from those surreal images and scenarios on screen. What struck me about the score was the composers use of choir within the work, he fuses this with many other musical elements and it always manages to create a lasting impression upon the listener, even the use of a somewhat sleazy sounding sax and woodwind combined and supported by sporadic sounding bongos works.

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Goraguer worked with Serge Gainsbourg as is probably best known as being a jazz pianist, he also collaborated with Bris Vian and scored movies such as, La Vie de Bohème’, ‘Deux jours à tuer’ and ‘Saint Laurent. He also wrote an interesting score for Voise Venise et Crever. The soundtrack was released on LP back in 1973 as a gatefold de luxe edition, featuring the artwork from the movie. Goraguer based his score on a repeating descending four note scale motif, and built the thematic material around this, orchestrating and arranging the theme so that it remained fresh but also familiar.

 

 

My initial thoughts on the score when I first heard it in the 1970.s was mixed and I was not sure whether I actually liked it at all, but it is a soundtrack that just grows on you, it was re-issued on CD and is also now available on various digital platforms. Its worth listening too, and maybe also try and catch the movie.

ALEXANDER.

 

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I think sometimes when one watches a movie and also hears the musical score, the images maybe at times can work against the music or at least your opinion of it, so if the film is not brilliant and you get lapses of concentration throughout, because you have a pretty low opinion of the movie one can also forget if the music was any good or at least not give it a second thought, I hope you understand what I mean, Because I confuse myself at times. One movie I watched on TV was ALEXANDER which was directed by Oliver Stone and told the story of the Macedonian leader who became known as Alexander the Great. Stone drew his inspiration and based his tale of Epic and Historical adventure upon the book by Robin Lane Fox which was published in 1973. Colin Farrell took the lead role and the movie also boasted impressive cast members such as Angelina Jolie, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Val Kilmer and Rosario Dawson. However, although the movie was well received when released in Europe, it did less well in the United States, and within a year it had been released onto DVD. I do remember thinking well maybe this is not that good a movie, so maybe at the time because I was not impressed with it I also somehow put the musical score by Vangelis into the same category, you know file under watched it once heard it once and thanks but no thanks. But on re-visiting the soundtrack recently I was, shall we say pleasantly surprised and also suitably impressed. It is a substantial work that is laden heavily with interesting and grandiose sounding themes. How could I not have heard this when watching the movie, maybe it was Farrell’s Irish brogue that put me off, after all it was slightly out of place wasn’t it. But really, I say here and now what was I thinking, discounting it and dismissing it. Vangelis created a wonderfully thematic score, and one that is arguably one of his best film soundtracks.

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The action pieces are stupendously epic sounding with the composer combining heavy percussive elements with rasping brass strings, synths and chorale work which at times reaches DIES IRES proportions. These action cues are relentless and unforgiving like Alexanders army when they meet in battle with an enemy. One of the cues that I have returned to numerous times is ACROSS THEMOUNTAINS, which is wonderfully melodic and haunting with Vangelis utilising choir, subt5099709294228le percussion, strings and harp that are supported by brass and faraway sounding horns that give the composition an imposing and grand sound. Of course, the synthetics that we so readily associate with Vangelis are present, but he fuses these with more conventional symphonic elements to create a sound that has a lasting effect upon its listener. I know I am late to the party on this one, but I can now fully appreciate the score and its many sounds, nuances and themes. Maybe you were of the same opinion when the score was first released? If so give it another chance, I think like me you will be surprised and glad that you listened again.

L’APOCALYPSE DES ANIMAUX.

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What are your first memories of Vangelis? Well I can remember buying an album on Polydor many years ago which was the soundtrack to the film, , which I am sure was in 1973, the thing is it was a spur of the moment thing, I was in London up at 58 Dean Street and it was one of those times when there was not really a lot out, so a trip up to London and come back with nothing was un-thinkable, I had to take something back. I must admit I had seen the LP a few times in the rack and looked at it and then put it back, so why not? Vangelis Papathanassiou I thought, wonder who he is?. It was a happy accident as they say, because it was a wonderful score and was something, I think that made me more aware of Vangelis as a soundtrack composer.

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The film itself was a wildlife documentary directed by Frederic Rossif. The music was different from what I had been listening too, Morricone, Barry, Goldsmith all had a symphonic style, yes they all used some synthetics but this was electronic fully with one maybe two conventional instruments. But it was rhythmic, melodic and so emotive, the composer had created a score that was overflowing with poignant themes, touching nuances and haunting musical poems that would become familiar and also long-term favourites that I would return to many times throughout the years. The brief but affective opening track or Generique was filled with a musical energy, percussive and also melodic, Vangelis creating an up-tempo percussive backing to which he laid upon an imposing and powerful sounding theme of sorts.

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A track that has stayed with me over the years is the mesmerizing and alluring LE PETITE FILLE DE LA MER, this is certainly the highlight of the entire score, again attractively compelling, with its light and poignant musical persona oozing melancholy, fragility and beauty. It is a charming and highly affecting cue, which beguiles and enthrals which is something I for one did not think a synthesised score could do before hearing this. The same can be said for track number three, LE SINGUE BLEU, this time the composer adding trumpet which is laid back and jazz influenced, underlined and subtly supported via vibes that are equally laid back, it is a relaxing and chilled listening experience as is track number four, LA MORT DU LOUP, the entire score has to it a new age sound, which for 1973 was very much ahead of its time. It is in my opinion a classic but sadly one that sometimes gets overshadowed by BLADE RUNNER. Check it out and discover the musical excellence that is Vangelis. This and other soundtracks by Vangelis are available on places such as Spotify and I tunes and on a thirteen disc set of compact discs, entitled, DELECTUS. Which includes not only his soundtracks such as CHARIOTS OF FIRE, BLADE RUNNER, and ALEXANDER, but also his pop songs including  I.LL FIND MY WAY HOME with Jon Anderson.

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EL COMPLOT MONGOL.

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I first discovered Mexican born composer Gus Reyes a few years ago when I heard his score for THE DARK SIDE OF LIGHT and have ever since followed him and listened to his scores with much anticipation. Glad to say I have always enjoyed the composers varied and entertaining soundtracks, EL COMPLOT MONGOL is certainly no exception to the rule, he has collaborated on this energetic sounding and rhythmic score with two other composers, Andres Sanchez Maher and Dan Zlotnik. Reyes and Sanchez Maher worked together on the excellent EL CHAPO, which if you have not heard, you should. I have to say I really enjoyed the varied line up of styles and sounds present within EL COMPLOT MONGOL, from wild sounding Mambos, retro fashioned cues that would not be out of place in any James Bond movie or even a Matt Helm adventure, and laid back themes that could be off an album by Antonino Carlos Jobim. Without sounding negative the entire score is wonderfully over the top rhythmically and it’s a score that one can listen to without having to thnk too much about, because its such an entertaining listen. Jazz influenced, Latin compositions dominate the work, but it also has a great dramatic and action fuelled side to it. Even the percussive elements as in bongo’s are well done adding a tense and apprehensive atmosphere to the proceedings. Take the track GRINGO AGENT, this is fantastic stuff piano and drums acting as the foundation to an upbeat tempo with brass and guitar laying down an infectious theme throughout. This is one of the favourite cues on the CD and as I have already mentioned it creates a sound and a mood that is retro and attractive in every way.

 

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Composers Gus Reyes and Andres Sanchez.

 

Its film music but its also music and music to be savoured enjoyed and then listened to again. Then we have THE RUSSIAN WALTZ, wonderfully atmospheric, with pizzicato, harpsichord, balalaika sounds and strings combining to fashion a quirky and somewhat comedic piece, which at times segues into something a little more up-tempo but only briefly, soon reverting to the waltz style. I think THE ACTION MAMBO too is a track I returned to a few times, simply because of its entertainment value, brass and percussion forming again an alluring and toe tapping composition that I think Lalo Schifrin would be proud of.

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Dan Zlotnik.

 

TAXI REFLECTIONS too is a cue that will have you mesmerised, with its slow-paced percussion acting as a backing track to saxophone performances. It is a score of many colours and textures musically, and I think maybe I do detect something resembling a combination of Spaghetti western/Giallo sound in the last cue THE FINAL CONFLICT. All I can say is this is soundtrack that packs a punch and entertains on many levels, recommended.