Category Archives: Sleeve Notes.

BLOOD ON THE CROWN. SLEEVE NOTES FOR THE KRONOS RELEASE.

The soundtrack for Blood on the Crown is available and shipping now from Kronos records.

http://kronosrecords.com/K112.html

BLOOD ON THE CROWN.

by John Mansell. (Movie music international).

Before discussing the history on which the movie is based and the movie itself, I would like to explore the atmospheric and haunting musical score, which is the work of composer Laurent Eyquem. Who has over the past decade or so written numerous film scores that have attracted the attention of both critics, film music collectors and his peers. Blood on the Crown is in my opinion one of his finest scores for cinema, it is a work filled with emotion and drama, where the composer integrates ethnic sounding instrumentation into the symphonic content of the work. His use of bouzouki lutes is particularly affecting as the composer utilizes the instrument in a very different way to how we as film music fans have come to expect. Forget the bouzouki as in the upbeat employment used in film classics such as Never on a Sunday, Zorba the Greek and Topkapi, and think more of the tense and dramatic use of the instrument as displayed in the Mikis Theodorakis score for the movie Z. There is a tense and dramatic air purveyed within Eyquem’s soundtrack and this is at times supported and enhanced further by the inclusion of accordion flourishes and interludes. Again, the composer uses this instrument to convey a darker atmosphere at times, with additional use of strings and percussive elements adding to the depth and atmosphere, the composer also including trumpet I am guessing to accompany the martial elements of the storyline. He also uses accordion and bouzouki in a more traditional fashion when it comes to the less fraught and dramatic sequences within the movie.

The sound realized is instantly attractive and alluringly effective, underlining the storyline as it unfolds on screen. The music becoming an extension of the action and drama that is being acted out on screen, the score interweaving and adding musical commas, full stops, and other punctuation to the proceedings. Becoming an integral component of the production. Affecting Female Soprano voice at times underlines key moments, adding a degree of melancholy. The composer also provides the movie with interludes and sections of score that are more romantic sounding, with solo guitar, piano and strings combining to fashion lilting and pleasant-sounding tone poems which become haunting as in the cue Afternoon Ballad/The Factory. These less tense and dramatic nuances are welcomed and add their own substantial weight and support to the unfolding events within the film. 

The composer tells us that the score was realized at the height of the Covid 19 pandemic, which meant he had to source musicians and soloists from around the world to perform the parts remotely.

Such as the Soprano, accordion, and bouzouki, the soprano performance I think particularly stands out and brings to the work a fragility, as well as a sound that underlines the vulnerability and the resolve and passion of the Maltese in their attempt to gain basic human rights from the overbearing and cruel overlords as in the British. Female voice is also used effectively in a more aggressive fashion in the cue Burning the Flag. Laurent Eyquem’s score brings much to an already powerful motion picture, and Kronos Records are proud to be able to release it.

The Movie and its History.

The movie Blood on the Crown or Just Noise as it was originally entitled is based upon factual historical events that took place in Malta in the June of 1919. It focuses upon the treatment of the Maltese people by the British just after the great war of 1914 to 1918, when things were very different for the main protagonists in that conflict with countries such as Britain adopting a hands-on attitude to maintain a grip upon the territories and the countries that were within their Empire. Let us not forget this was not a war or a conflict in the true sense, it was not initially to gain independence but started as a demonstration at the price of bread. Which was handled ineptly by the English, who responded to the cries for help with not constructive actions, but instead acts of violence, cruelty, and military force. These actions resulted in the killing of innocent people that included women and children. It’s a period of history that the British attempt to sweep to one side to conceal it, but it is a period of history that should be related to anyone who will listen, it is a story that in this motion picture is told by its producers, truthfully with passion, emotion and above all sincerity. Directed by Davide Ferrario, the movie features actors Harvey Keitel, Tom Prior, and Malcolm Mc Dowell, it also has a strong supporting cast of Maltese actors who give their all. Blood on the Crown is a beautifully crafted picture, but also one that does not hold back, exploring and exposing the antiquated and often draconian attitudes of the British and the events of the 7th of June 1919, or Sette Giungo (in Italian). When British troops fired on a crowd killing four and wounding over fifty, who were not inciting violence but merely asking for bread to made affordable, which is now marked by a national holiday in Malta. It was not however until September 21st1964, that Malta gained independence from Gt. Britain, the country becoming an independent constitutional monarchy with full independence but with Elizabeth ll as the Queen of Malta and remaining as head of State. A period of forty-five years since the days of those bread protests.

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CIVILTA DEL MEDITERRANEO.

AVAILABLE NOW FROM KRONOS RECORDS.

SLEEVE NOTES FOR THE SOUNDTRACK RELEASE.

© 2020 JOHN MANSELL. (Movie music international).

THE MUSIC.

The score for the Italian television series CIVILTA DEL MEDITERRANEO is a delicate and melodic one, with composer Bruno Nicolai employing sensitive strings and light floating woods that are accompanied by harpsichord and subtle percussion. The combination of this instrumentation creates a pleasing and haunting work, that must be among the higher-ranking scores by this much under applauded composer. Released originally in 1971 on the EDI PAN label (CS 2011), the album soon disappeared because like so many of Nicolai’s releases it was a limited pressing. Nicolai employs earthy sounding woods and solo guitar within the score giving it greater authenticity within some of the sequences. It does in places also purvey a somewhat Baroque sounding style, with slow strings underlining guitar, conveying a sense of the regal, and distinguished. The composer also utilises the distinct whistle of Alessandro Alessandroni, in the cue entitled, TONNARA, (Track nine). The inventive and talented whistler performing the central melody underlined and enhanced by sliding strings and punctuated by Jews harp, the piece then moves into a more Neapolitan or Sicilian sounding theme which is taken on by the string section and further enhanced by the use of mandolin before returning to the ghost-like but melodious whistle of Alessandroni which then segues into the easy going Italian sounding composition, this is text book Italian film music with an uplifting and joyous style, that has to it a certain quirkiness. The opening track of the recording IL MARE is a beautifully written and haunting piece for flute, strings, and meandering harpsichord that is enhanced and given support by percussion which sets the pace of the composition. Track number two, KHAN is a combination of recorder and mandolin/guitar, the recorder taking centre stage and purveying the central melody, with both mandolin and guitar giving support throughout.  Track three, L’ALTRA SPONDA, is a delightful piece, for both strings and woods, and I have to say has that breathy sound and style that was achieved at times by British composer John Barry. There are very few what I would call action led or discordant cues within this score, in fact there are maybe two, these come in the form of MOGHUL (Track four) and IMAN (Track six) which do not share the thematic content as the remainder of the work, do however contain a scattering of something that resembles a tune.

The track MALAGA is a soothing and calming composition for guitar, that is simple and relaxing, the easy sounding piece creating calm and tranquillity. Overall, this is one of Nicolai’s most appealing soundtracks, it is filled with diverse and varied content including haunting tone poems that work within the series adding depth, atmosphere and colour to the proceedings, the score is also one that becomes affecting when listened to as just music away from any images. Kronos records are extremely proud to present this superbly thematic and entertaining soundtrack, which has never been issued before onto Compact Disc and is an essential addition to any Italian film music collection.  

BRUNO NICOLAI-(1926-1991).

Whether you agree or not, there is very little doubt in my mind that composer Bruno Nicolai was an important contributor to the world of Italian film music, and if he had not been present alongside the likes of Morricone, Bacalov, Rota, Lavagnino, Cipriani etc the sound that we now associate with Italian cinema might have been a little different. He was not just a composer who wrote scores for television and film, but was also a talented musician, who acted as conductor on literally hundreds of scores by various composers who were prominent within the film music arena in Italy during the 1960’s through to the late 1980’s. He also established a record label EDI PAN [jm1] [jm2] which released many of the Maestro’s soundtracks for lesser known movies and issued albums that at times contained music not related to film or television. Born in Rome in 1926, Nicolai studied with Aldo Manitia for piano and Antonio Fernandi and Goffredo for composition. Petrassi was also responsible for schooling Morricone in composition, and that is probably why the two composers had similar styles in composition and orchestration at times. Nicolai also undertook tuition for organ with Ferruccio Viganelli and later in his career would write many pieces for the instrument as well as performing on numerous film scores. The composer’s entry into film music came in 1963 when he scored HEAD OF THE FAMILY, then in 1964 he collaborated on the score for MONDO CANE 2. 

The composers break into more prominent projects came in 1965 when Ennio Morricone turned to him asking Nicolai to conduct the score for Sergio Leone’s second western, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE. After this Nicolai and Morricone worked on numerous projects together, Nicolai either being musical director or collaborating with Morricone on the composition of scores such as OPERATION KID BROTHER and A PROFESSIONAL GUN. In 1966 he conducted Morricone’s classic score for THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, after this Nicolai began to work increasingly as a composer in his own right and was commissioned to write scores for all genres of film as well as documentaries and TV shows.As well as composing soundtracks for the cinema, Nicolai would conduct many works for film, and at times would also arrange and orchestrate works for various composers. The composer also had a keen interest in classical music and spent much of his time studying the scores of past musical masters such as Beethoven and Mozart.

Nicolai would often be offered scores for movies when Morricone was not available, and thus the rumour of Nicolai being an alias for Morricone began. On several occasions, he would be conducting for Morricone, playing organ for Rustichelli whilst at the same time composing a score of his own for a Western, Horror or Giallo.  

In 1969, Nicolai penned the soundtrack for an American produced western entitled LANDRAIDERS; this contained a particularly haunting theme and also a driving and powerful main score. Arguably this is Nicolai, s best western score, and although it contains passages and musical phrases that are very much in the style of Morricone school of composition, with grunts, electric guitar riffs, and barking voices present, it is for the majority of its duration pure Nicolai. Morricone’s success unfortunately overshadowed much of Nicolai’s musical output, and many collectors and critics alike at one time considered Bruno Nicolai to be a mere Morricone clone. This of course is not true, as Nicolai was a great composer possessing originality, inventiveness, and talent in the way he approached film and TV scores. Listening to his music for the movies, IL CONTE DRACULA, THE 99 WOMEN, & IL TRONO DI FUOCO, one is immediately struck and impressed by his unique musical style and his obvious gift for creating melodic and dramatic music. Nicolai’s scores for Italian made westerns are also of a very high quality, and contain many of the musical sounds and trademarks that are associated with that particular genre, but they also have  a secondary sound that is similar to the music that was employed in American made westerns, this being grandiose, sprawling and vigorous, with the classic styles of  Tiomkin, Newman and Steiner coming to mind.

This style combined with the rawness and savagery of the Italian western score creates an interesting and original sound, that arguably can be attributed to both Nicolai and fellow Italian Maestro Francesco De Masi.  Bruno Nicolai died on August 16th,1991, he was just sixty-five. Unfortunately, the composer’s death went almost unnoticed outside of his native Italy, and most soundtrack collectors that were aware of his music did not receive news of the composer’s death until some two months later. His passing left a void in the Italian film music fraternity, a void that in many people’s opinion has never been filled.

John Mansell, © 2020.  Movie Music International.


THE SHEPHERD.

COMING SOON FROM KRONOS RECORDS.

THE SHEPHERD.

(sleeve notes for the release).

By John Mansell© 2020. MMI.

THE COMPOSER. 

An accomplished, musician, orchestrator and composer Arthur Valentin Grosz was born in Hungary, he began to take an interest in music and started to play piano aged four years old. He also at this time started to create short compositions, he went on to receive a master’s degree in composition and teaching at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest. His first recordings were studio albums where the composer created music that was looked upon as a fusion of the styles of both Vangelis and Kitaro. This style is more prevalent in his first album entitled THE LEGEND OF THE GOLDEN DEER which was released in 2001. He went onto release two more studio albums MISSIO and MISSIO ll. Which were a mix of Gregorian chant and pop infused styles. The popularity of the recordings led to the composer becoming involved with film scoring, his first assignment being in 2003, when he wrote the music for the movie CAPPRICIO, he has since then worked on numerous film scores and acted as arranger and orchestrator for other composers such as Andy Price on the UK TV series LAW AND ORDER. He has also worked with composers such as Patrick Doyle and Ennio Morricone.

THE FILM.

Directed by László Illés. THE SHEPHERD, features the acting talents of, Miklós Székely, Ákos Horváth, Tamás Jordán, and Jókai Ágnes. The movie is set in Hungary during the second world war, it is 1944, with the central character being an old shepherd, who lives alone on a farm. After his daughter is murdered by the Nazis and witnessing the horror of war close up, he decides in his grief and anger at the cruelty of the Germans to save as many Jewish lives as he possible can. The movie itself I feel tackles the subject of in each situation or scenario in times of war or disaster that there are always ordinary people who are prepared to help others and by doing so become extraordinary via their selfless actions. This is an emotive and gripping film, but is also a dark one, it opens in the calm of the countryside, with the central character of the shepherd taking his sheep to pasture, from the calm and serenity of his rural world we hear the sounds of war and conflict which are coming from a nearby woodland, the shepherd knows only too well these sounds and goes to investigate, he finds a young girl who has been raped and shot and is surrounded by dead bodies.

He tends to the girl and take her with him hoping he can save her life. The movie focuses upon the ravages and the pain of war but concentrates more upon the psychological effects felt by people rather than the physical. On watching the movie one does really become aware of the pain and the frustration of the characters involved, and their sadness and total devastation when they witness their loved ones being, assaulted, executed and abused by the cruel Nazi’s. The camera work is highly effective with scenes being filmed to display the actual pursuit or the desperate and sometimes unsuccessful attempts of individuals in their attempts to escape the unrelenting Nazi’s.

THE SCORE.

Arthur Valentin Grosz, has created a score that reflects the many emotions of the film’s storyline, it underlines only too well the sense of desperation, hopelessness and devastation felt by some of the characters and also supports and enhances the narrative of the film. The music is poignant and thematic in places with subtle and affecting musical interludes that become mesmerizing and haunting. The composer employs solo piano, cymbalom and a small string ensemble to fashion the score, he also utilises woodwind solos and violin to create an atmospheric and effective sound that works well with the images on screen and is just as appealing when listened to as just stand alone music, it has a folk sound about it, with interesting orchestration that makes it even more attractive. Giving a greater depth and adding a tense but hopeful persona to the proceedings. Although the score is at times low key, it still retains a powerful identity, with a driving and relentless heart at its core that radiates, ingratiates and provides a highly supportive background to the films harrowing storyline, it is mesmeric and alluring at times but remains darkly apprehensive.

John Mansell. Move Music International. (c) 2020.    


 

CARI MOSTRI DEL MARE. (sleeve notes).

Sleeve notes for the Kronos records release, CARI MOSTRI MARE, Available NOW.

http://kronosrecords.com/KG36.html
KG36

Composer Carlo Savina, was born in Turin, Italy on August 29th, 1919, he became one of the most sought after and busiest composers of film and television music in his native Italy and later became respected and much in demand within the rest of Europe and the United States. As a composer Savina worked on numerous movies and was able to easily adapt his style and creative thoughts to cater for any genre of film, he worked on numerous assignments for the cinema which included, romantic comedies, tales of drama and adventure, westerns and historical period pieces as well as thrillers, horror movies, Police dramas and Roman epics. Because of his unique sound and versatility, the composer was able to bring to each project a lushness and melodic perfection that was his own individual musical fingerprint, and this was a style that not only suited and supported the movies that he worked on, but also was appealing as music that could be listened to away from any of the images it was intended to enhance. Savina, also made a name for himself in the role of conductor and arranger and during his career collaborated with many eminent Maestros who penned soundtracks for motion pictures, his career spanned across both what many collectors and film music buffs refer to as the golden and the silver age of film music, he has acted as musical director to, Philippe Sarde (TESS THE TENANT and THE BEAR), Nino Rota (THE GODFATHER, AMACORD, FELLINI ROMA, THE TAMING OF THE SHREW and numerous others), Manuel De Sica (THE GARDEN OF FINZI CONTINI) and most notably Miklos Rozsa on the epic score for BEN HUR. Savina, collaborated with Dr Rozsa many times, and worked on the composer’s epic soundtracks for Hollywood produced Biblically slanted blockbusters that were filmed at Cinecitta in Rome. During the 1960, s, Savina was given the full credit as composer on the motion picture EL CID, this was purely for prints that were released in Italy because of certain contractual issues that existed at the time. Savina’s contribution to the world of cinema has been vast and consistently very good and it is at times hard to come to terms with just how many movies this Maestro has been involved with. He scored numerous Spaghetti westerns either as composer or musical director between 1969 and through to the mid 1980’swhen the genre finally started to fall from grace with cinema audiences.

carlo-savina

One of the westerns that Savina composed for was COMING AT YA (1981) which was a 3D movie and was basically a vehicle for actor Tony Anthony, the composer’s music outshining the storyline, the images and any acting that might have taken place. The score is still revered and respected by many to this day and is held in high esteem by collectors and critics alike. Savina came from a musical background, his Father played first clarinet in the orchestra of EIAR which at the time was the Italian public radio broadcaster.
As a youngster Savina found himself constantly surrounded by music and began to become increasing interested in music composition, which was something that his parents became aware of, so they decided that he should from an early age begin to take lessons on the violin. He went on to study music at the Music Conservatory Giuseppe Verdi in Turin from where he graduated with diplomas in Violin, Composition, Piano and conducting. In 1945 Savina began to write musical compositions that were utilized for radio in plays and also for background music on other programmes and shows. He then formed his own orchestra and became well known and much in demand. In 1950 the composer began to write music for the cinema and for the next thirty years became one of the most prolific composer conductors involved in movie music. I suppose one could say that Carlo Savina was to Nino Rota what Bruno Nicolai was to Ennio Morricone. Savina often arranging and conducting Rota’s scores and at times writing additional cues for him when he had moved onto another assignment and the film’s producers felt the need for an extra section of film to be scored. Savina also worked with Ennio Morricone, Armando Trovaioli, Stanley Myers, Stephen Sondheim and Mario Nascimbene as arranger or musical director. But there is no doubt whatsoever that Carlo Savina possessed a great talent and was a gifted composer in his own right and during his career worked on over 200 film scores. In 1985 he was the recipient of the David Di Donatello Award for best music, which was for his score to PIZZA CONNECTION. He passed away on June 23rd, 2002.

THE DIRECTOR.

vailati

Bruno Vailati.

An area in which Savina seemed to excel at was the documentary, nowadays I am sure if he were still alive and working would have been very busy writing the scores for the abundance of documentary films that we see on both TV and in the cinema. One such documentary was, CARI MOSTRI DEL MARE or FRIENDLY MONSTERS FROM THE DEEP as it was known outside of Italy which was released in 1977. Directed by, Oceanographer and filmmaker Bruno Vailati who also wrote the screenplay. Vailati, was born on September 2nd, 1919 in Alexandria, Egypt and had a passion for creating these type of documentary movies he was a fearless and adventurous filmmaker who would dive into treacherous waters and explore unchartered seas to bring us rare footage, he worked on many documentaries all of which have garnered a lot of interest. His work as a film producer and writer ranged from 13 one-hour long undersea documentaries titled “Encyclopedia of the Sea,” (which I suppose one can compare to the work of French filmmaker and explorer Jacques Cousteau) to the Italian sword and sandal epic “HERCULES UNCHAINED,”
After graduating from law school at the University of Bologna, Vailati mounted his first film expedition. He travelled to the Red Sea and produced some of the earliest, and at that time the highest quality underwater film footage ever shot. This footage eventually became “The Blue Continent.” Vailati, became known and highly respected as the years rolled forward for his passion and enthusiasm when it came to marine photography. His films, which were made in the main for Italian production companies and sponsors, as well as his own film company, were then sold onto other TV channels and companies and shown throughout the world on public and private TV stations.
In 1954, his “The Blue Continent” was one of two Italian entries at the Venice Film Festival; the other was Federico Fellini’s “La Strada.” As his career progressed the filmmaker, made documentaries in all the worlds seas, and in Italy his movies often attracted more viewers than the so called popular and successful shows on TV. Away from Marine photography and documentaries he worked on, THE GIANT OF MARATHON, THE GOLDEN ARROW, TORPEDO BAY, the aforementioned HERCULES UNCHAINED and a remake of THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD in the early 1960’s. In 1971, Vailati collaborated with fellow filmmaker David L Wolper for a series entitled MEN OF THE SEA, the six-part series of 1-hour documentaries included an episode ANDREA DORIA MINUS 40, which charted Vailati’s exploration of the wreck of an Italian steamship which sank in 1956.
Vailati, passed away in Rome, on February 26th, 1990 after a long battle with cancer, he was 70.

© 2019 John Mansell. Movie Music International.

LILLY’S BEWITCHED CHRISTMAS.(sleeve notes for the Kronos CD release, Dec 2019).

lill
By John Mansell. ©2019. Movie music international.

 

Christmas, ah yes. Tis the season of good will, cheer, warmth and of a peaceful and contented feeling throughout the world, or so we are told. But Christmas can also be a time for tales of witchery, mystery, monsters and ghosts. A Christmas Carol being the obvious go to tale of ghosts and things that go bump in the night, but also ending with a wonderfully heart-warming message. Lilly’s hometown prepares for the festive celebrations, and all things Christmas are uppermost in the hearts and minds of everyone, (but are these the right thoughts?) Until that is Lilly accidently summons Rupert who is said to be a companion of Saint Nicolaus. In a modern-day environment Rupert begins to feel uncomfortable and is filled with anger and disappointment when he sees what he thinks are unnecessary material things that are everywhere and are linked with the so-called festive season. In his rage he decides that he will teach the people of Lilly’s town the true meaning of the festive season and install within them respect and good manners. Anne-Kathrin Dern became involved with the film LILLY’S BEWITCHED CHRISTMAS via her on-going collaboration with composer, Klaus Badelt with whom she had been working alongside on various projects for a few years. Badelt, had created the scores for the first two instalments of the movie series and introduced her to the production team who were working on the third. She recorded the score in Belgium in the summer months of 2017, with the music being performed by members of the Brussels Philharmonic orchestra under the baton of conductor Matt Dunkley. Badelt provided the main theme for the movie, (Evil, Can Create Evil) which was a feature of his previous scores. Dern’s score will enthral, enrich and delight, and is one that has so many vibrant musical colours and textures. There is a creative and innovative style present throughout the work, with an inventive and imaginative use of both strings and choir that combine to fashion a magical and ethereal sounding work, which is perfect for a movie that is set during the festive season. It is also a work that is literally dripping with melodious and richly thematic pieces, but also has to it a certain amount of quirkiness and a mischievous quality which underlines and emphasises the more jovial and lighter moments of the film, this quirky style glimmers within and through the main fabric of the score adding another dimension to the movie and also bringing a mysterious and magical musical persona to the soundtrack.

ANNE KATHRIN2

There are a handful of styles present within the score, one of which can be likened to that of Danny Elfman in THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, with touches of John Williams in HOME ALONE mode and little strokes of James Horner as in CASPER, which I think cannot be a negative in any way. There is an impish and devilish aura that weaves in and out of the musical proceedings, and at times this evokes a sweeping, otherworldly and urgently rich style employed by composers such as John Debney in scores such as HOCUS POCUS and again John Williams in THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK. A melancholy and romantic style also begins to make its presence felt as the score progress’s and develops, which at times is interrupted by an adventurous near swashbuckler of a theme as in shades of PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN. One thing is certain there is no shortage of sparkling, mysterious, dramatic, luscious and magical thematic properties here. The soundtrack has to it an intimate side too which can be fragile, delicate and childlike, the tantalising score is filled with an appeal which is haunting as well as charming and it oozes character and quality.
John Mansell. (c) 2019.

“Having grown up during the 90s with Alan Menken’s music for the Disney animations, I’ve always known that music and movies were my passion, but I decided at around age 12 that I wanted to pursue it professionally. I had been playing various instruments and got theory lessons, but it wasn’t until I heard John Williams’ score for “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” that I began to research the profession of a film composer. That same year, just a month later, Howard Shore’s “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” came out and by that time I was completely taken by the idea of writing music for movies. It seemed like an unlikely thing to do at the time, with the film industry being on the other side of the world and without the internet as a resource completely out of reach as well. But I simply continued to study scores on my own, hoping that everything would fall into place eventually”.
Anne-Kathrin Dern. (c) 2018 MMI.

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