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THE FINEST HOURS.

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Bernie Webber and his friend are meeting two girls for a night out. Bernie is a little apprehensive about the date as he has not even met the young woman he is about to go out with. When they do meet however the pair just seem to hit it off straight away. Her name is Miriam Penttinen and the two couples then embark on a night out together, the evening goes well and Bernie and Miriam even have their first kiss before the night is over. Bernie who is a coast guard decides to take Miriam on a boat ride. A little while later the couple are at a dance together and Miriam pops the question to Bernie asking him to marry her, he refuses and she ends up in tears, but he explains to her that it’s not because he does not love her it’s because of his job, but after talking it through Bernie says he will marry her. Whilst this is taking place two oil tankers are caught up in a storm and one of them the SS MERCER is hit by a wave and holed, the storm continues to smash the ship until it breaks in two and it is sunk and its crew lost, the chief engineer of the other ship the SS PENDLETON tells the crew they have to try and keep afloat because if they sink they will perish, He tells them they have to try and run the ship aground so it remains steady and thus afloat. Bernie is assigned to take the coast guards motor boat out with a hand-picked crew to try and rescue the crew of the SS PENDLETON. The score for this harrowing and tense thriller is the work of Carter Burwell who is no stranger to writing music for powerful, action movies, he is probably best known for his music to the TWILIGHT series of films, but he has been responsible for producing numerous film scores for a wide range of motion pictures, FARGO, ROB ROY, TRUE GRIT, BEING JOHN MALKOVICH and HAIL CEASER to name but a handful, he has collaborated with the Coen Brothers and worked with director Spike Jonze as well as numerous other film makers.

Born in New York City in November 1955, the composer once said. “There’s just too much music in movies, almost always more than I think there should be. It’s either lack of confidence on the part of filmmakers or a tradition of scoring things. It’s always better to have less than to have more”. His score for THE FINEST HOURS however is overflowing with strong thematic material and even when the composer utilizes action led cues these too still possess a high thematic quality that shines through and prevails above the at times high octane fast paced material. Saying this however, the score also contains some romantic and melancholy influenced pieces with Burwell employing soft strings and a subdued and delicate sounding piano solo. For the most part though this is a score that keeps up the pace and applies the pressure and tension when required, underlining the desperate plight of the crew who are positive they are going to the bottom of the ocean and supporting the efforts of the brave rescuers who too are uncertain if they will succeed in their efforts to bring the crew home safely. A score that will please both the action music fans and one that has something for lovers of romanticism and melody

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TELEVISION MUSIC.

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When a soundtrack collector of a certain age (50 to 60) is asked what are your earliest or first memories of music for film, the answer invariably will be that it is a television theme or even a collection of themes from TV shows that aired when they were a child. This is certainly true from my own point of view and I know it’s the same scenario for many of my soundtrack collecting friends. When watching a TV show back in the 1960,s one kind of knew that the opening theme would be something catchy, something that would grab your attention quickly but also one that was sadly normally far to short in duration. Composer Jerry Goldsmith once said at one of his many concerts in London when about to conduct his suite of TV themes that when he was asked to write a theme for TV he would try and come up with something that would be instantly infectious or at least have a good hook to it, this was so that as soon as it started anyone who was not in the room where the TV was would know straight away that their programme was about to start, it was a case of the music drawing the people to the box in the corner so they could settle down and watch the images on the small screen. This I think is very true, when you think about it a theme for TV show has to try and do just that but in a very short passage of time, it has to entice, alert and set the scene for the show that is about to start in less than 2 minutes or even quicker. In film of course it’s a little different the composer has a little more time and may have the luxury of 3 minutes and back in the day was allowed to create a main title theme on which he or she could base the remainder of their score upon.

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But TV well that’s very different, for one the budgets are a lot smaller and this means the composer is limited to the amount of musicians they can utilise, so they have to be inventive in what they do which for me just reinforces the respect I have for composers who write for TV and film. I think my earliest memories of any music would have been Mario Lanza and Frankie Laine, because of my Fathers collection of 78 records, (you know the ones that broke very easily,,, OOOOPs sorry Dad..It just fell apart in my hand Honest).

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But I have to say my earliest memories of actual TV music would have been things like THE POWER GAME which starred respected actor Patrick Wymark as John Wilder, with a strong supporting cast that included Barbara Murray, Jack Watling and Clifford Evans and had a theme composed by Wayne Hill. Hill,s rousing little theme was recorded by Cyril Stapelton and his orchestra and has in recent years been adopted by a Football club as their anthem, Hill (born Robert Dale) was also responsible for composing the now iconic music that was utilised in the BBC programme VISION ON, it’s the piece that plays over the gallery section of the show, his music being recorded by the Noveltones and released as LEFT BANK TWO on a single record by De Wolfe music in 1964.
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Hill also wrote a piece of music that was used as Ulster Televisions opening music before the station went on air. But it is his LEFT BANK TWO that is probably his most well known composition. I also remember things like SUPERCAR, FIREBALL XL5 and FOUR FEATHER FALLS.(do you ?), and if I am truthful I suppose it was programmes like this that first caught my ear or at least their theme tunes( of course there was also TORCHY and TWIZZLE and even BILL AND BEN, THE WOODEN TOPS and ANDY PANDY but lets not go there). FOUR FEATHER FALLS was the third puppet TV show produced by Gerry Anderson for Granada television, the show was the idea of Barry Gray who as we all know composed the music as well, the first episode aired in the February of 1960 and the series ran for approx 9 months, Nicholas Parsons provided the voice of Tex the main character in the show and Kenneth Connor (of Carry on fame) also did voice over duties on the series, the series soundtrack included a number of songs which were performed by Michael Holliday, the opening theme FOUR FEATHER FALLS was performed by the singer in the style of Bing Crosby, it was reported that Holliday was paid a massive 2,000 Pounds for recording six songs for the series, which by today’s standards is approx 40,000 pounds and was a big chunk of the shows overall production budget which was 6,000 pounds.

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FIREBALL XL5 I must admit was my favourite, produced by Anderson for ATV this series also had music by Barry Gray, which was really dramatic and a pre cursor to his work on THUNDERBIRDS, it also had a jazzy sounding opening theme that included electronic sounds which was a combination that had the desirable effect and got everyone glued to the TV before the action had even begun, we waited with baited breath to see our hero Steve Zodiac tackle numerous disasters and catastrophes all supported by Gray’s mysterious and action led compositions, the series also boasted a really catchy pop song over the end credits which was performed by Don Spencer who sounded a little like Cliff Richard or Adam Faith. “I WISH I WAS A SPACEMAN, THE FASTEST GUY ALIVE,I’D FLY YOU TO THE UNIVERSE IN FIREBALL XL5“.

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Were the opening lines, in fact I am reminded of STARFIRE by the John Barry seven every time I hear this, it was fairly typical of the sound that was in vogue at that period of time in Gt Britain, a fusion of electronic or electric that was bolstered by strings and given a kind of rock and roll beat.

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SUPERCAR was a series that preceded FIREBALL XLF, and its hero was Mike Mercury, again Barry Gray helped develop the series with Gerry Anderson and also wrote the songs and the music with the title song for season one of the series circa 1959 being performed by Mike Sammes and then in season 2 by the Mike Sammes singers.
“SUPER CAR, SUPERCAR, WITH BEAUTY AND GRACE,AS SWIFT AS CAN BE,WATCH IT FLY THROUGH THE AIR. IT TRAVELS IN SPACE OR UNDER THE SEA, AND IT CAN JOURNEY ANYWHERE“.
The style and sound achieved here by Gray was to be expanded upon and built on by the composer when he came to work the music for future series such as STINGRAY, CAPTAIN SCARLETT and THUNDERBIRDS in later years. So three puppet television shows that all had great music and music that probably guided me towards the actual collecting of film music in later life.

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There were also shows from the United States such as CHECKMATE which had a theme by Johnny Williams ( I wonder what happened to him?), PEYTON PLACE, THE MAN FROM UNCLE, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE,BONANZA, DOCTOR KILDARE, THE MUNSTERS, RAT PATROL, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, HOGANS HEROES, LOST IN SPACE, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, LAND OF THE GIANTS, MY FAVOURITE MARTIAN, BEWITCHED, F. TROOP, MY THREE SONS, BOOTS AND SADDLES, WAGON TRAIN the list is endless, oh and RAWHIDE. GUNSMOKE too and not forgetting THE RIFLEMAN, LARAMIE, THE HIGH CHAPPARAL and then came STAR TREK.

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These all contained great themes which became mini classics and are now I am sure you will agree are iconic examples of TV music and by the list you can see I watched far too much TV during the 1960,s. Composers such as Jerry Goldsmith cut his proverbial musical teeth working in television and it is true to say that these composers also learnt their craft and the discipline that was required to become a composer of music for film whilst working on the tight schedules and dealing with the restrictions of small budgets on television.
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This was the same in in England with composers starting in television during the late 1950,s and then progressing into the scoring of feature films by the mid to late 1960,s. It also worked the other way around with established film music composers being assigned to television productions, John Barry for example who worked on numerous big movies during the 1960,s and 1970,s was drafted into television, writing the themes for series such as VENDETTA and THE PERSUADERS, the composer even penning the haunting music for a hairspray advert which was entitled, THE GIRL WITH THE SUN IN HER HAIR.

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The 1960,s were particularly fruitful in the memorable theme department with programmes such as RANDALL AND HOPKIRK DECEASED, DEPARTMENT S, MAN IN A SUITCASE, THE BARON, THE AVENGERS, THE CHAMPIONS, DR.WHO, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, WILLIAM TELL, CORONATION STREET, DANGER MAN, THE PRISONER, THE HUMAN JUNGLE, NO HIDING PLACE, THE SAINT, Z CARS, etc etc all containing memorable themes that are still familiar today plus the shows also included a handful of memorable scores or incidental music as it was sometimes referred too and if I have left out any of your favourites I apologise. Lets not forget also music or themes from European TV productions that were aired by the BBC during the 1960,s one comes to mind straight away, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE was a French television production, it starred Robert Hoffmann in the title role and was narrated by Lee Payant, the haunting music was the work of Robert Mellin and Gian-Piero Reverberi it was a series of 13 episodes, and was narrated over rather than it being dubbed, this was something that was common during the 1960,s on TV for example the series TALES FROM EUROPE was never dubbed into English for some reason, but was narrated over, the narrator basically telling the story as the film progressed with the actors speaking in the original language, at times this was a little off putting, but something one got used to. The series was interesting because it gave UK audiences a glimpse at how other countries presented TV shows and also their often very different approach to film making, the programmes were at times quite lavish with convincing sets etc and the music was always something that I noticed, the stories came from Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, France, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Poland, Norway, Mongolia, Hungary, Denmark, Yugoslavia, Holland and Russia, the series began in 1964 and ran till 1969 on the BBC but many of the films were made during the late 1950,s one such production was THE SINGING RINGING TREE which was a German tale, and was filmed in 1957.
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The music for this movie was the work of Heinz-Friedel Heddenhausen, the composer who was also an actor worked on eleven productions from 1936 through to 1968, his score for THE SINGING RINGING TREE was atmospheric and also to a certain degree original and was a major part of creating the evil and also mystical mood that was required for the movie, I say movie because it was produced as a feature in Germany which ran for approx;75 minutes, but was edited into episodes of some 20 minutes or so for the TALES FROM EUROPE series.
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THE SINGING RINGING TREE was supposedly a fairy tale very much in the style of The Brothers Grimm, but it has been voted by many as one of the scariest things that has been shown on television (and this was before the watershed …folks, no wonder my generation are so freaky). It’s a kind of beauty and the beast scenario, with an enchanted garden and evil dwarf and a Prince that turns into a bear, so good wholesome viewing. Moving on and back to the shores of England there were also other shows that had familiar and catchy theme tunes, CROSSROADS, THE DOCTORS and EMMERDALE FARM or EMMERDALE as it is know nowadays for example, all of which were composed by Tony Hatch, now here is a composer, songwriter and also performer that was in many ways Britain’s answer to Burt Bacharach, simply because Hatch was just an all rounder. Tony Hatch seemed at home doing anything musical, whether it be writing music for TV, composing or arranging music for pop songs, writing lyrics to numerous songs that are now themselves embedded in the musical heritage of England and know all over the globe or even producing records or sitting on a panel on a talent show. He was born Anthony Peter Hatch in Pinner, Middlesex on June 30th 1939 and is probably one of Britain’s most prolific composer/song writers, he worked with so many popular artists it would be hard to list them here. Bert Weedon, Adam Faith, Petulia Clark, Chubby Checker, Connie Francis, David Bowie, Sacha Distel, Roy Budd, Buddy Greco are among them plus Jackie Trent who Hatch was married to.

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I know many reading this will laugh because I have included soap opera themes but I look at it this way, the theme from EMMERDALE has been around for many years and as soon as anyone hears the opening bars of the theme tune one knows what it is where its from and in many cases who wrote it, which is a great credit to Mr. Hatch. The same can be said for the CROSSROADS theme and lets not forget those NEIGHBOURS down under, yep that’s right Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent penned the title song for that series too he also penned the theme from the 1960,s show THE CHAMPIONS. Lets go to the late 1970,s shall we, September 18th 1978 to be precise, do you remember a series entitled THE SANDBAGGERS ? It starred Roy Marsden and was a series that dealt with men and women who were on the front line of the cold war which at the time was very much alive and well. The infectious theme was by Roy Budd. Budd was a child prodigy an accomplished jazz pianist who broke into scoring movies by chance in 1970 when he was assigned to write the score for the controversial western SOLDIER BLUE. Budd’s career as a film composer went from strength to strength and he worked on a number of box office success’s during the 1970,s CATLOW, WILD GEESE, GET CARTER, KIDNAPPED, THE STONE KILLER and many more.

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Writing for TV was something of a departure for the composer, although saying this he did release a cover version of the theme for the television series MR. ROSE which was by composer John Snow in 1967 on the PYE records label. Lets not forget Ron Grainer either, well I am hoping to try and mention as many composers as I can but Grainer for me was one of the most prolific music-smiths to write for television during the 1960,s especially. His theme for DR.WHO broke new ground with the composer enlisting the aid of electronics plus his opening theme music for both THE PRISONER and MAN IN A SUITCASE hit the mark in the infectious musical hook department and I am sure had people stop doing what ever it was they were doing and rushing to the living room jumping into the armchair getting comfortable waiting to watch their favourite show on the box, plus of course lets not forget STEPTOE AND SON with the composers “OLD NED” composition becoming an endearing piece of British television history. Grainer also worked on JOE 90 (the song) TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED, MAIGRET,PAUL TEMPLE, COMEDY PLAYHOUSE with its jolly sounding HAPPY JOE theme. Laurie Johnson’s AVENGERS, NEW AVENGERS and THE PROFFESSIONALS surely are among the list of all time iconic/cult themes for the small screen. Johnson penned numerous infectious themes for television these included shows such as, JASON KING, WHICKERS WORLD, ANIMAL MAGIC, RIVIERA POLICE, NO HIDING PLACE and THIS IS YOUR LIFE to name but a handful. Edwin Astley is also a firm favourite of many collectors, with his themes for THE BARON, GIDEONS WAY,DANGER MAN, RANDALL AND HOPKIRK-DECEASED, DEPARTMENT S, SECRET AGENT and THE SAINT being essential in any film music or TV theme collection. One name that I do not think many associate with Television is that of Scottish born composer Harry Robertson or is that Robinson? He is associated with the music for films such as TWINS OF EVIL, FRIGHT,VAMPIRE LOVERS, LUST FOR A VAMPIRE, COUNTESS DRACULA, THE GHOUL, HOUSE IN NIGHTMARE PARK, HAWK THE SLAYER as well as THE OBLONG BOX for AIP and LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF.

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Robertson was also heavily involved with the CFF Children’s film foundation and scored a number of their productions. It was actually his work on a television show that got him noticed and led him to working for Hammer films, JOURNEY TO THE UNKNOWN was aired in 1968 and the composer provided a rather unsettling sounding theme for the series and also scored three of the episodes, after this he was offered THE OBLONG BOX in 1969 and went onto work on THE VAMPIRE LOVERS which was a joint effort from Hammer and American International Pictures in 1970.
Robertson was also a writer and a producer and made HAWK THE SLAYER in 1980 which he also scored in 1991 he worked on SPECIALS and in 1992 he wrote a catchy theme for VIRTUAL MURDER which he also wrote and produced for TV. Two of his first forays into writing for television however were CRANE in 1963 and SHINDIG in 1964.
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The list of themes and composers is endless, it would be hard I think to mention all of them, but I hope that I have covered the majority within this article, TV music today is certainly not the same, because as with film music things have certainly changed it seems that many producers or directors do not see the need for a theme per say, but surely this is all part and parcel of the film making process to have music that is original and also a strong theme or themes that everyone can identify with the film or show, maybe its me? Lets list a few shows that I have not mentioned, MAN ABOUT THE HOUSE, EASTENDERS, CASUALTY, HOLBY CITY, BLESS THIS HOUSE, THE ARMY GAME, WORZEL GUMMIDGE, FOLLYFOOT, FLAMBARDS, GEORGE AND THE DRAGON, NEAREST AND DEAREST (have you been), DIXON OF DOCK GREEN (evening all), THE PROTECTORS, SAPPHIRE AND STEEL, DEMPSEY AND MAKEPEACE, MYSTERY AND IMAGINATION, FATHER DEAR FATHER, ON THE BUSES, CALLAN, HANCOCKS HALF HOUR, THE CLANGERS, TILL DEATH US DO PART, DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE, THE RAT CATCHERS, PUBLIC EYE,REDCAP, PLEASE SIR, THE CEASARS, I CLAUDIUS, THE FLYING DOCTORS, SKIPPY, STRANGE REPORT, ARE YOU BEING SERVED, GHOST SQUAD all had good solid themes or at least themes that were instantly recognisable some also had songs which gave the programme in question its own individual personality.

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French TV also yielded some memorable themes, THE FLASHING BLADE for example and the very popular THE WHITE HORSES with music by Bojan Adamic and a hit song performed by Jackie Lee who also incidentally was the original performer of the Michel Magne rejected song for Roger Vadim’s BARBARELLA. Then we had BELLE AND SEBASTEIN with music by Daniel White. Also a mention I think is worth making about THE VIRGINIAN which was a very popular television western series from the States, this series went through something of a re-vamp after being very successful in its original form with a rousing opening theme by Percy Faith entitled LONESOME TREE, however when it was re-vamped and re-launched many of the actors changed and Italian composer Ennio Morricone provided the series with a new theme THE MEN FROM SHILOH much to the delight of Spaghetti western fans.

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BACKLIGHT.

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I had read a few reviews about the movie BACKLIGHT when it was released in 2010, many of these were negative, but this made me even more determined to see the film myself and make up my own mind, my opinion for what it is worth is that BACKLIGHT is a truly fantastic movie, and director Fernando Fergata, has crafted an entertaining and also a thought provoking cinematic masterpiece that will I know be looked at in years to come and be given its deserved status. I think that the people, who thought ill of it in reviews etc, should again sit down and view the film, because I am certain that their opinion of it would change. This is a Portuguese production, which is something of a surprise as film making in Portugal is somewhat hit and miss as there is little or no support or sponsorship for the industry, the other surprising thing is that the movie although Portuguese in its origins was actually filmed almost entirely in the United States. BACKLIGHT does not have great special effects and can in no way be described as a Blockbuster or epic production, but there is just something about the film that compels one to watch and take it in and try and make sense out of it and then one ends up trying to analyze it but personally I gave up and just took pleasure in the fact that I enjoyed the film. My main reason for wanting to see the film was the musical score by composer Nuno Malo, whom I admire greatly. Nuno had sent me a few of his discs to listen to and I found a suite of music from BACKLIGHT on you tube, and right from the first opening notes I fell in love with it, the music is attractive and hypnotic in places and also has an air of mystery and the mystic about it.

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I emailed Nuno asking would the score ever be released,  he was not sure at the time, but thankfully the score is soon to be available on the ever industrious KRONOS RECORDS and for the release the composer has re-recorded a number of the tracks with full orchestra and also a handful of featured solo performances. The soundtrack is a mixture of orchestral and also electronic, the latter does feature quite heavily within the original work but the composer has cleverly utilized orchestral components to enhance and support these synthetic elements and I think has by doing this made them more emotive and striking. Symphonic and synthetic interweave and together they create a sound and also an ambiance that is brimming with ethereal and serene atmospherics that the composer creates via use of strings, falsetto voice, piano, guitar, brass flourishes, choir and a scattering of percussive elements that are lightly dusted and enhanced by an array of half heard sounds and delicate touches.

MV5BMTQ0OTk0MjI5Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTg4MjAwNA@@._V1._SX148_CR0,0,148,200_The music is romantically mesmerising, dramatically urgent and also has a side to it that oozes melancholy and hints at vulnerability and fragility, yet at the same time there are a number of interludes that are slightly more upbeat and lighter in their construction and performance, and also a equal number of cues that are lush and quite lavish, I once likened Malo to Morricone and also John Barry, but on listening to this score I have to say this is NUNO MALO, by this I mean he has created his own distinct musical fingerprint and placed it firmly upon this motion picture. If you are yet to discover the delights and the sheer talent of Nuno Malo, then this release is a perfect way in which to acquaint yourself with this brilliant composers music, I am sure that after you have heard this score you will moving on to many others by this Maestro. Presented wonderfully by Kronos and available very soon, why not pre order it now…. Highly recommended.

JE SUIS CHARLIE.

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Je-suis-Charlie

2014 in review

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