Category Archives: Reviews

Das Versprechen (aka-THE PROMISE).

 

promise

An interesting and also entertaining score from 1994, from the German movie Das Versprechen (aka-THE PROMISE). The movie deals with events that take place just after the erection of the Berlin wall in 1961. Five friends plan to escape to West Germany the bid for freedom goes well apart for Konrad one of the five who does not make it over the border and is left behind. Another of the friends Sophie is heartbroken that Konrad was unsuccessful and has been left in East Germany. The story focuses upon the two friends who over a period of the next 28 years try to meet up in spite of the wall. The musical score is by composer Jurgen Kneiper who wrote a varied and also a powerful soundtrack for the movie. Kneiper is probably better known for his acclaimed score for the movie WINGS OF DESIRE, but his music for THE PROMISE is equally innovative and is a superb romantically laced soundtrack which I feel is probably overlooked and grossly underatted. It has to it a sound and style that is filled with poignancy and emotive musical nuances and has too a quality that seems to be lacking in some of the contemporary film scores. The work is totally symphonic the composer utilising musicians from the German Opera Orchestra Berlin, the violin solos are stunningly beautiful and gorgeously romantic and melancholy, woodwind solos too are outstanding and purvey a delicate and fragile air. But there is also a side to the score which oozes a more threatening and darker persona, with percussion and brass being utilised to create a tense and nervous aura.

jurgen

 

This can be heard more prominently within the cue (track 2) YEARS OF THE WALL, which is apprehensive and cautious. It builds slowly and projects a mood that is filled with tension, but approx. mid-way through we are treated to a stunning trumpet solo, that is underlined and driven by forthright sounding strings. I can only say that every track on the soundtrack has something that everyone will be drawn to, it is a wonderfully thematic work and literally is overflowing with a rich and lush sounding style and a luxurious sound that would not be out of place in a Hollywood movie from the 1940.s. Plus we also get a great laid back sounding track in the form of FASHION SHOW which could easily be the work of Michel Legrand or even Sid Ramin in those quieter moments from his score for Stiletto.  An excellent work and one that is enriching and rewarding to listen to.

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HAUNTED SUMMER.

 

HAUNTED POSTER

 

Was it realy 1988 when HAUNTED SUMMER was released? Well, I guess it was, for those who do not know the movie it was a film that focused upon supposed happenings during the summer of 1816, when Poet Percy Shelley was travelling the European continent with his lover Mary Godwin, accompanied by Mary’s half-sister Claire Clairmont. On their travels they meet with the poet and notorious philanderer Lord Byron who invites them to stay with him at a villa which he has rented for the summer in Switzerland. Byron and Shelley debate many things including the nature of all the evils in the world and Byron decides that he will introduce them to part of his world, which involves the taking of opium and also sexual antics. Byron wanting to reveal their inner selves and reveal the truth that is inside them and is covered by their social masks. HAUNTED SUMMER was one of many movies that was released around about this time that set themselves at the Villa Deodati writers workshop, the meetings there which are said to be the inspiration or at least led up to Mary Shelley penning the classic tale of horror FRANKENSTEIN two years later. Films that also dealt with this event included GOTHIC and FRANKENSTEIN UNBOUND, plus there was also a Spanish production entitled ROWING WITH THE WIND released in the same year which is certainly worth a look. The sequence of events is also referred to in the 2017 biopic MARY SHELLEY. The music for HAUNTED SUMMER is by composer Christopher Young, and what strikes one about the score is that although this too is a horror movie the music apart from a handful of cues is fairly romantic sounding, the composer utilising electronic instrumentation alongside conventional symphonic performances to achieve a sound and style that is stunning and highly inventive. Young creates an innovative and positively charged score in which the composer fashions sinewy sounding passages and chilling choral sections which are all brought together by the string section and the use of hauntingly sinister sounding piano. There is an air of mystery and also an atmosphere that can be described as virulent but compellingly attractive and hypnotic.

HAUNTED LP

 

The soundtrack was originally issued on Cerebus records back in 1989, and then later in the same year a CD was made available on Silva Screen, more recently an expanded version of the score was released on LA LA LAND records in 2010 and then in 2018 Cerebus re-issued the soundtrack on LP. The score is still available on LA LA LAND as far as I can see, and it is certainly a work that your collection is crying out for. There are so many elegant and eloquent sounding themes within it, and when I first heard the music it was like I was seeing another side to composer Christopher Young.

HAUNTED CD
I actually feel that this is one of his finest works and shows of his versatility and also his talent for writing both inventive, orignal and romantic compositions. When we speak of Young invariably we turn to the horror genre, and I know HAUNTED SUMMER is kind of a horror movie, but it is I think also a love story of sorts which is reflected in the composers wonderfully tantalising and haunting themes and his beautifully written tone poems that grace and perpetuate the soundtrack. The score also contains tormented and twisted musical passages again reflecting the scenarios purveyed within the film. Check out the diverse and intricate compositions in track eleven on the LA LA LAND release HAUNTINGS, which is almost nineteen minutes of music and sounds that are at times disturbing, re-assuring and also unnerving.  A gem of a soundtrack, and one you should all listen to at least twenty times. Highly recommended.

SOUNDTRACKS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED.

LOGO

Ever kicked yourself because you had a soundtrack in your hands and for some reason you put it back in the rack and walked away, only to re-think the rash act and return to find it gone. Yep been there done that and I even got the T shirt. So as a new occasional series I thought I would add a few reviews under the heading of the one that got away or Soundtracks you might have missed.

moon

It’s a sad fact that composers pass away and when they do we as collectors I think do grieve in a way, I think we realise that there will never be anything new from them and have to come to terms with having their scores in our collection as a lasting memory of their talent. Joel Goldsmith passed away far too soon, he was I think destined for greater things, but alas it was not to be. I first heard his music in LAZERBLAST which he co-wrote with Richard Band and next I got MOON 44 which is a wonderful soundtrack, written in the style of Goldsmith snr, but with just enough of Goldsmith jnr in it to make it an original. The film was a low budget affair but was not awful and Joel Goldsmith’s score was an asset to the production, his commanding and relentless compositions adding power and atmosphere to the movie. It helped that the score was performed by the Graunke Symphony orchestra who’s reputation was then and is now glowing. The score is mainly symphonic, with support coming from the synthetic department, I have to say the composer did borrow significantly from his Fathers RAMBO scores as in broad and bold brass with unrelenting timpani and percussion being present throughout, these elements being underlined by strings and woods and further embellished dark sounding piano and crashing effects all of which combine to create an exciting and exhilarating work. The track FIRST TRAINING FLIGHT is one that I return to many times, this is classic Goldsmith (but which one). Unrelenting and commanding this for me is the highlight of the score, but that does not mean that there are not other high points within the soundtrack, its sounds like a Jerry Goldsmith score from the 1960’s for an all action knock em down and drag em out adventure. The composers subtle use of woods within the track SO LONG FELIX is stunning, and he combines these with electronic other-worldy effects, which are in turn further bolstered via the string section in sinister mood. Then the cue alters direction and transforms into a series of brass fanfare like flourishes that are accompanied by booming percussive support, and finally this mood alters and becomes more synthetic led with strings adding a chilling undertone, the composer fashioning a piece that is apprehensive and unnerving.

moon1
If you are a fan of Jerry Goldsmith and you have not had the good fortune to hear MOON 44, please do take time out to sample it, you will not be disappointed. The CD was available on Silva Screen but has been long deleted, however there is the re-issue on BSX which is still available and I know it may not be ideal, but it is on spotify, so at least you may check it out there.

JOEL
From a futuristic sci-fi tale and score to a soundtrack from a horror movie that was released in 1996.based on the 1984 novel by Stephen King, THINNER was directed by Tom Holland, it focuses upon a high flying lawyer who has an obsession with food and after successfully getting an underworld boss off a charge of murder accidentally runs over a Gypsy, eventually he too is acquitted of any blame but the Gypsies Father places a curse on the lawyer and he begins to loose weight rapidly. His wife becomes concerned that it could be cancer and enlists the help of a Doctor, but her husband then thinks she is having an affair with the doctor. It’s a gripping tale as one might expect from the pen of Stephen King, and has numerous twists and turns within its storyline. The musical score is by composer Daniel Licht, the soundtrack album was released in 1996 on Varese Sarabande,

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The score is a dark one which is not surprising, but what is somewhat unusual is that the soundtrack contains some quite lush sounding themes that are more of a romantic tone. I always felt that this was a score that was sadly overlooked, and in many ways, it evokes the style that was present within many of composer Christopher Youngs works from the 1990’s. But saying that every time I listen to the score and hear Licht’s outstanding compositions, I also can hear references to composers such as Elmer Bernstein and to a degree Jerry Goldsmith.

DANIEL

The composer makes effective use of the string section and employs solo violin which is subtle but affecting. It’s a large-scale score with brass, woodwind and percussion contributing the lions share of the performance supported by the ever-present string section which jumps from romantic to swirling and frenzied sometimes within one cue. An accomplished work a classic in my opinion, again the CD might prove difficult to get hold of, but Spotify do have it, sample it I think you will find you will be impressed.

silver

 

 

Back to 1985 for the next soundtrack, a horror again and also written by Stephen King, SILVER BULLET was directed by Dan Attias, and starred Corey Haim, Gary Busey and Everett McGill, a horror set in modern day that focused on the legend of the Werewolf. Music came courtesy of Jay Chattaway, and again for horror movie the score contained a number of lilting and more melancholy moments, However the main score that was utilised over the action scenes was high octane and at times atonal, brass, string and percussion feature throughout, with the composer fashioning what I would call a typical sounding horror film soundtrack. Chattaway makes effective use of a harpsichord/celeste effect in the cue MAKING THE SILVER BULLET which is subtle and somewhat delicate in its overall sound and style, this style of scoring is also present in LOOKING FOR MR ONE EYE where delicate guitar takes the lead and is supported by a light and magical sounding keyboard whilst every so often we hear the musical reference to the werewolf which is a far off howling effect.

JAY

 

The soundtrack LP was issued on Varese Sarabande in 1985 with a Varese CD being made available in 2008 as a club release. The score is a fusion of the symphonic and the electronic, but the composer balances these elements well and each medium successfully compliments each other. The composer utilises slicing Physco  inspired sounding strings at times which make you sit up and listen and add a chilling and urgent persona to the proceedings. This one could be a little difficult to come by, as I can’t see it on any digital platform and the CD is now long out of print. Nevertheless, it’s a score worth looking for.

SOLIS.

 

solis

 

I often think when listening to a new score for a film, well this is a little lack lustre or even ummmm, has it finished already, did it actualy get started, did I miss a theme or a highlight track? The answer is probably no I just did not think it was that good. It’s a sad thing that this is happening more and more nowadays, gone are the big these or even the grand symphonic scores that we would normally associate with Hollywood. Instead we have synthetic sounds some of which are realy great and have fooled me at times, but more often than not the music is something that is considered last by a director or producer. Thus when its time to do the music the budget is almost diminished. So it is then the film maker tries to engage a composer who can not only write fast but also can deliver within what ever budget is available. So it is wonderful when I hear a new score that is symphonic, well not fully symphonic as I think no soundtrack is now because of samples etc, and to be fair the composer must use what ever tools he has at his disposal to make the score sound right and also work within the context of the film or TV project. One score that has come to my notice recently is SOLIS, which is composed by David Stone Hamilton, although the composer does utilise some electronic support the work is in the main symphonic and a treat to my ears. The soundtrack is in many ways a throwback to the 1970.s or beyond in its style and overall sound, and I for one cant, see that being a negative thing. Often if the subject matter of the film is remotely sci-fi then composers invariably attempt to be futuristic with their scores as in bringing into play electronic sounds and droning sequences which are not in my opinion musical although many would argue with that. So, it was with much enthusiasm that I have to say was tinged with trepidation that I listened to SOLIS because it was advertised as a rich symphonic work, which I totally concur with. The composer has fashioned a melodic yet dramatic score with near lavish and luxurious symphonic attributes, yes there are the odd electronic sounds and support which he integrates into the work but these are fused with the symphonic and dare I say it are at times unnoticeable as in not standing out from the rest of the score as being different, I suppose what I am saying is that the two mediums work well together and do not fight or grate on each other, which at times in certain scores can be a problem. SOLIS, I think is an accomplished soundtrack, it is at times quite operatic in its style and overall sound, plus it has to it a tense and at times quite neurotic sound that adds a more harrowing and urgent musical voice to the proceedings.

David-Stone-Hamilton-Film-Composer

But, what is appealing about the score for me personally is that even though it is filled with a dramatic and broodingly dark tension at times it still remains thematic which is these days quite a neat and clever trick on behalf of the composer, years ago composers such as Goldsmith, Barry, Bernstein, Morricone etc all managed to maintain a level of thematic content even at the most taught and tense times within their scores and I think that David Stone Hamilton realises this within his score for SOLIS. It is a multi-textured work that boast an array of colours the composer purveying melancholy, drama, fear and also a sense of solitude and fragility as the work unfolds and develops, Stone Hamilton adding tantalising emotional content as he applies his vibrant and varied musical notions to a practically blank canvas, giving the movie greater life and also an identity. I love the energy of the music and the way in which it is orchestrated bringing a vitality and varied sound to fruition throughout. Choir, percussion, woods, brass and strings pull together to create a powerful and commanding score. Highlight tracks, well all of them… Certainly, this is one to add to the collection. Available from Movie Score Media.

Solis (David Stone Hamilton)

THE HANDMAID’S TALE.

HAND SOUND

 

 

Recently there have been a number of outstanding TV series gracing our small screens, one such series is THE HANDMAID’S TALE, which has been receiving so many positive reviews and gaining the following and the admiration and devotion of many. The series was created by Bruce Miller who based his ideas upon the novel by Margaret Atwood, which was published in 1985. The plot focuses upon a dystopian future which follows the aftermath of a second American Civil War. In this post war society fertile women who are called Handmaids are forced into childbearing slavery. Since the series’ first aired in 2016 it has received much acclaim and has also garnered numerous awards. These include Prime time Emmy Awards, A Golden Globe and many nominations for Outstanding Drama Series. Elizabeth Moss also won the Golden Globe for best actress.

 

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The music for the series is the work of composer Adam Taylor who has fashioned an interesting and dark sounding work to accompany the proceedings. It is a soundtrack that one would probably not take a lot of notice of whilst watching the story unfold on the screen, but that in a way tells me that the music is doing what it is meant to, in other words it is punctuating and enhancing the scenarios on screen without being intrusive or overwhelming. Which after all is what music in film or in this case TV is all about. The composer creates an unsettling and somewhat sinister atmosphere for the series and when one listens to the music away from the film that atmosphere and the mood of darkness and chilling musical auras remain. Taylor underlines and adds depth and a greater dimension to the stories as they are revealed to the watching audience, he achieves this with not a grand or sweeping style but more often than not with a subdued and downbeat sound that is realised via strings, and synthetic sounds which growl and pulsate bring to fruition a brooding and richly dark and ominous musical entity. There are a few lighter musical interludes, but not in the romantic or even melancholy style, they weave in and out of the work and are in most cases gone before they have had time to develop or establish themselves. The score is fearsome and foreboding and for me personally just overflows with a sense of virulence that dominates throughout. The track OFGLEN AND OFFRED is one of the cues on the recording that comes closest to being less shadowy or apprehensive in its musical make up. The composer utilising the string section and electronic instrumentation to purvey a more calming atmosphere, but even here there is an underlying sense of uncertainty. Then there is track number 11 THEIR FIRST TIME which in comparison with the remainder of the work is positively delicate and fragile with a pleasing piano solo that does give us at least a little respite from the dark and sinister sounding material throughout.

The Handmaid's Tale

This is a smouldering and intelligent score that I have to say I enjoyed, the bitter sweet melodies are certainly there, but maybe they are disguised as something more ominous and threatening, to be honest as I said at the start of the review when one is watching the series, the music does what is supposed to and interacts and supports each and every scene, so I suppose its not scary or unnerving music but instead its music that heightens the darkness and the unsettling elements of the series and its many scenarios. Recommended.