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LIFEFORCE.

Lifeforce the complete powerful and consuming score by Henry Mancini is now available on a two CD set from Intrada records. In many the film and also the score have over the years been somewhat ignored, the soundtrack being released initially on an LP and then onto CD from various labels including Varese Sarabande, normally I would say when listening to a film score that you are familiar with and rate quite high any expanded or improved edition can be suspect, there is the saying that less is more and I have over the years found this to be true in the case of so called expanded film soundtrack releases.

However, Lifeforce is I think the exception to that rule, as it is such a good score, and any extras are welcomed with open arms and an open mind. This sci-horror was directed by Tobe Hooper who brings to the screen a tale of space vampires. Released in 1985 the movie starred Steve Railsback, Frank Finlay, Peter Firth, Patrick Stewart, and Mathilda May. Based on the novel by Colin Wilson, the screenplay is a joint effort from Dan O’Bannon who co-writes with Don Jakoby. Cannon Films produced the movie which boasts a magnificently ferocious and ominous sounding soundtrack penned by the highly talented and versatile composer Henry Mancini.  

Due to various problems and set back’s in post-production and changes that were called for by censors and distributors, the film needed to be re-scored in places, but Mancini was not available so the producers enlisted the help of Michael Kamen, who wrote approximately seventy five minutes of additional music for the re-edited version.  Kamen’s music providing support for much of the opening of the movie. This two-CD set contains Mancini’s complete score, with Intrada also releasing Kamen’s score on separate CD, including premieres of his orchestral sessions. If you have not already added the score to your collection via the likes of previous releases, this two CD is a must have item, it shows just how versatile and chameleon like Mancini was, and there was more to this composer than syrupy little songs and themes such as The Sweetheart Tree and Moon River.

Henry Mancini,

At times Mancini’s score becoming malevolent and commanding, there are also some complex compositions within the work. But I think more than anything it is the rousing and fast paced Lifeforce theme that many collectors will be impressed by. It is a theme that could I suppose be described as classic film music, dramatic and driving, with commanding brass and sweeping strings. Its persona establishing a daunting and threatening atmosphere immediately. The film sadly did not do as well as many thought, with the movie appearing on British TV very quickly. A Joint U.S. and British team working in space discover an immense spacecraft which is concealed inside Hailey’s Comet.

LP COVER 1985.RED BUS RECORDS.

The ship is found to contain, not just humanoids but bats, they discover a female alien (Mathilda May) and decide that they should take her back to earth. But it is not long before they and the audience realise that she is a space vampire, and she begins to claim victims killing them by draining energy from their bodies.  She is particularly focused upon Col. Tom Carlsen (Steve Railsback).

His encounters with the female vampire (who memorably plays much of her part nude) ultimately lead to spectacular, and bizarre, climax in London cathedral. Mancini becomes an integral part of the action, employing dark strings, rasping brass, and driving string passages. His central theme wastes no time establishing itself with wonderful  12/8 meter rhythm in lower strings, dynamic French horn and trumpet lines above, Mancini is in complete control from the start.

And treats us to a polished and haunting soundtrack, that although for most of its duration oozes tense and unsettling compositions also has to it moments of mesmerising beauty, quiet mystery, and rich lush thematic quality.

This I think stands as one of Mancini’s finest works, that is filled with spectacular moments, to die for crescendos and swirling mystical pieces, that have to them and eerie and ethereal sound. Tim Greiving provides informative notes for the release and the superb art-work is the work of Kay Marshal. The score was originally recorded by Eric Tomlinson at EMI Abbey Road Studios in the December of 1984. Mancini also conducted the score which was performed by the mighty LSO. The Varese Sarabande tracks are available on disc two of this release. Not got this then go get it now. And whilst you’re there why not order the Michael Kamen disc as well.   

TRAVELER- A JOURNEY SYMPHONY.

Just a few years ago many film music collectors often dismissed TV music, I am pleased to say that that has become something of the past and film scores and music for TV programs is treated equally and in some scenarios the TV scores get better press. The same I suppose could be said for music for games, I do not in any way shape or form profess to know a lot about music for games, but I do know that in recent years this medium of entertainment has given us so many wonderfully atmospheric and innovative soundtracks. With composers who work predominantly in this area writing epic and emotive music that could easily be from the latest Hollywood blockbuster. The music for video games has certainly developed over the past two decades, with full blooded rich symphonic scores being created to underline and underscore people’s favorite games.  Assassin’s Creed for example and Journey, both contain atmospheric and imposing musical works.

The latter title has recently been given a new lease of life by its composer Austin Wintory, in the form of a re-recording entitled Traveler-A Journey Symphony, which I am told will be performed at the BBC proms in London in early August. Although basically the same as the composers score for the video game, it does have certain variations, with some themes from the score being developed more for the re-recording, on listening to the symphony it was so good to again hear the lilting and emotive themes that the composer first wrote back in 2012, and I for one will be tuning into the proms when the music is broadcast.

However, the symphony is available on digital platforms, and makes for a mesmerizing and at times a relaxing and poignant listen. It is a work that washes over you at times, creating a Zen like atmosphere, the beautiful and wonderfully thematic score is one that I would recommend to anyone, it is music that chills, heals and relaxes, and is also a soundtrack that lives a life of its own away from the game it was written for. Wintory’s music is attractive and haunting, with delicate tone poems being scattered throughout.

But like all good soundtracks there is variation in the style and sound of the music as it accompanies various levels within the video game, the composer adapting and creating said sounds and musical styles to suit and support. But it is the more melodic and melancholy sounding cues that stand out, simply because of their gracious and affecting musical personality. I listened to the score three times through, and never tired of it, and the same can be said for the new recording, because once you begin to listen its very difficult to come away from it and the mood that the music fashions. As I say I am no games music expert, but this music I think would be not only appealing to film music collectors, but also a score that they would want in their collection and return to many times after the initial listen. Check it out on the likes of Spotify.

SOUNDTRACK SUPPLEMENT SIXTY SIX.

Welcome to Soundtrack Supplement, I hope that you are al well, there are a handful of interesting releases around, and I have selected just a few of these to include here.

Composer Alan Williams has for several years been scoring a variety of movies and documentaries. One of his recent assignments is for the Chinese made feature film The Legend of the Forest, this is a large-scale score, the composer employing a grand sounding orchestra to which he adds the sounds of traditional Chinese instrumentation.

This is a wonderfully thematic work that just overflows with a rich and affecting air, the fusion of the more traditional symphonic styles with that of ethnic Chinese performances is at times stunning and breathtaking.

The composer seamlessly integrating the contrasting styles both of which complement and support each other throughout the work. It is an enthralling and commanding score, brimming with a luxurious sound that can be compared with and evokes the music of the golden age of movie music, rich and romantic, apprehensive, and powerful, dramatic and melancholy, this is truly a great score. 

Part two of Ms Marvel is also released this month, the score by Laura Karpman is an infectious work, part two is a collection of music from episodes 4 through to 6, and is well worth checking out, inventive, innovative, and haunting in places, available on digital platforms.

Paws of Fury-The Legend of Hank is a fun score, as is the animated movie about a cool cat that is a canine, it literally oozes so many 1970’s musical trademarks, with Shaft like guitar and soul and funky vocals, music is by Bear McCreary, who treats us to a fun packed rollercoaster ride of disco infused cues.

Effective and affecting themes are scattered throughout the score, the composer creating a rhythmic and compelling soundtrack, disco meets Kung fu and a lot of funky stuff in between, great listen recommended.

 Noches de Paz is a 2022 short film, which has a brief but charming and haunting soundtrack by composer, Dennis Gleiss, when I say brief, it is just over 7 minutes in duration and contains just three cues, but each one of these is enchanting and mesmerizing. The movie focuses upon Leo a 9 year old child soldier who is tired of waiting at a military checkpoint. He sees how his adult soldier partners take away some refugees of the enemy side and cheers for them. When all this is over, he realizes a little girl and her mother, 2 more refugees, have escaped. The mother of this 11 year old girl Lisa, leaves her at the checkpoint where Leo is, without knowing he’s there hidden. Then she leaves searching for help. Moments after that, Leo comes out of hiding, and the two children meet. At first their relation is not good, Leo threatens to hand her over their soldier partners, and Lisa mocks him.

But as the night goes on, both experience situations that make them change and grow up. When the night ends, their lives and themselves won’t be the same anymore. The music captures and supports the storyline adding depth, emotion and atmosphere to it, the composer creating beautifully tender and fragile tone poems that weave in and out of the story as it unfolds on screen, well worth a listen and available on the likes of Spotify.

Composer Natalie Holt is in demand of late, with her work on Obi Wan Kenobi causing something of a stir amongst movie music fans, her score for the Hulu series The Princess, is also a work that I urge you to listen to, it is a mix of symphonic and synthetic,.

The composer melding these elements well throughout, to fashion a relentless and commanding soundtrack. It’s a score that has to it so many colours, textures and shadings of dark and light, there is a fearsome and foreboding mood that runs through the score, on which the composer builds the remainder of the work at times creating up-beat compositions and at other times realising a more traditional sounding symphonic sound. Natalie Holt is a composer I think we will be hearing a lot more of in the not-too-distant future.

At the turn of the 19th century, Pugilism was the sport of Kings, and a gifted young boxer fought his way to becoming champion of England. This is the story of the movie Prizefighter, which has a suitably edgy and hard-hitting soundtrack by composer Paul Saunderson, who works with percussive elements, synths, and urgent strings to create a wonderfully atmospheric and inventive score. Again, available on digital platforms.

Also a quick remainder that on Monday July 18th Howlin’ Wolf records will release Psycho Storm Chaser, music by the talented composer Andrew Scott Bell, the score for this horror, slasher, drama is superbly thematic and truly affecting and effective, the composer realising an atmospheric and moody musical persona that at times is reminiscent of Goldsmith and Williams, this is a must have release, powerful, relentless and above all thematic and haunting, the music is commanding and totally absorbing. Don’t delay order your copy of the compact disc now at Howlin’ Wolf Records (howlinwolfrecords.com)  and while you are there check out all the other horrific goodies including another new release Force to Fear by Matt Cannon, which is a brilliant synth score, that has to be heard to be believed.  

This week a two track single of music from the movie Sticks has appeared, music is by Lasse Elkjaer, this is another quality horror score, which contains nods to the style of composer Christopher Young, (shades of Hellraiser), this is well worth a listen even if there are only two tracks available at the moment, maybe the complete score will arrive soon?.

Hurts Like Hell-Chapter 1, is a Thai drama series that revolves around Muay Thai, a Thai sport regarded as a national heritage. The narrative unravels the dirty and underworld secrets of the once-respected sport through the eyes of boxers, referees, coaches, gamblers, and commentators. It dramatically depicts the illegal gambling and match-fixing that people indulge in, which become the reason for Muay Thai’s downfall. The series is airing on Netflix and has a score by composer Bill Hemstapat, it’s a mood laden work, thick with so many colours and textures that interweave and combine to create marvellously atmospheric moments throughout.  

The composer treating us to action cues that appear alongside apprehensive and tense sounding compositions, and dark fearsome percussive pieces. Well worth a listen, available on digital platforms.

Other scores on digital platforms this week include Death Count by the ever industrious and inventive Scott Glasgow, Jezabel by Tomas Barreiro, and a score that evokes the style and delicate touch of the much missed Maestro Georges Delerue, which is Mrs Harris Goes to Paris, music by Rael Jones. The latter title is highly recommended. Well, that’s it for another soundtrack supplement, happy listening.  

THE ADVENTURE FILM WORLD OF GUIDO AND MAURIZIO DE ANGELIS.

For this article I am taking you back to 1993, and to a release that I feel was an important one for collectors of Italian film music. It was also a landmark release for a new label as it was their first time in the production market. The CD release was The Adventure Film World of Guido and Maurizio De Angelis and the label was what we now know as Hillside, this release being issued under Soundtrack Deletions, which was Lionel G Woodman and Hexachord records which was the label of Roberto Zamori. It was an important release because the music for Keoma-The Violent Breed which is basically the headline act on the CD had never been released before. And at this time the thirst for spaghetti western soundtracks was still rife, I think it still is but there again has the interest and the popularity of the genre and its music ever faltered, No. When the CD was released I had already experienced a number of the De Angelis brothers soundtracks, the majority of which were very different from what also had come out of Italy as in film music.

They invented their own unique musical sound for all types of movies and the western with the soundtracks for They Still Call Me Trinity, Mannaja, Valdez Horses, Man from the East etc, and also excelled in writing quirky compositions for the comedy films that featured Bud Spencer and Terence Hill, I also had savoured their music in other genres of movies like Afyon Oppio, Torso, Violent Rome, The Violent Professionals, and so many others. I think it is They Still Call Me Trinity that I remember the best, but their Keoma score stuck with me for many a year and I think this was due mainly to the unique vocals on the score.

So, to have the music on CD at last was a gift a treasure and as well as Keoma the CD contained music from three other movies that De Angelis had scored, none of which had been released at that time, I am sure. The remastering of all four soundtracks was the work of Professor Roberto Zamori, a giant in Italian film music and a man whose passion for music drove him to preserve and keep safe the wonderful film score heritage of Italy, never once allowing himself to take priority over the music and also never taking credit for what he was doing. A humble man and an accomplished professor of music Roberto was a driving force in Italy concerning film music,

ROBERTO WITH EDDA.

I say was because we sadly lost him earlier this year. He will be forever missed by all who knew him personally and professionally.  His passing has left a void in the music business as there is literally nobody to step into his shoes, although there are a few who think they can, but let us make it quite clear Roberto was a one off, his work being polished and flawless, and cannot in any way be compared with the pretenders of today who give themselves fancy titles for doing nothing.

IN FRONT OF MY DESPERATION.

The CD contained 25 tracks, 9 of which came from Keoma, and included two vocal performances In Front of my Desperation sung by Guy, and the title song Keoma performed by Sybil and Guy, the latter being an alias for Guido De Angelis. The music was by De Angelis with the lyrics penned by Susan Duncan Smith and Cesare De Natale, in the movie the songs and their innovative performances played a large part of the story telling with the performances acting like a Greek tragedy telling the story as it unfolds.

DUSTY BANJO

The remainder of the tracks were made up of instrumental versions of both vocals and a saloon sounding cue Piano and Bier, plus a particularly catchy piece Dusty Banjo. Like so many of the composing duo’s scores for westerns Keoma contained a folk like style which they enhanced and bolstered with symphonic flourishes and their own brand of country and western. The movie itself was met with mixed reviews but overall true fans of the genre saw it as a worthy addition to the collection. It is probably one of the most absorbing spaghetti westerns ever produced. Directed by Enzo G Castellari and starred Franco Nero. It is a movie that deals with many issues, civil rights for example, racism, a ranting witch and inter family fighting which pits brother against brother. The director was known to be a fan of Sam Peckinpah and tried to emulate the filmmaker in his own directorial outings as is displayed in the likes of Keoma with the use of slow-motion sequences when gunfights take place.

There are also references to the bible with the hero portrayed as a Christ-like figure crucified on a wheel, and a symbolic conclusion which warns of fascism. So more than just a western but saying that most Italian westerns had an underlying message and referred to particular political leanings or beliefs of the director, which most audiences did not pick up on.  The next section of the CD is dedicated to Il Cacciatore Di Squali (Shark Hunter), which opens with a gentle but upbeat vocal performance by Sharks, (which is a pseudonym for Guido and Maurizio). It’s a pleasant opening that take a while to get going but eventually does and is a rewarding listen, with a nice saxophone solo mid-way through, that the composers underline with a more pronounced percussive backing, that builds to create an infectious foot tapping cue. The remainder of the selection is typical sounding De Angelis, pop orientated and up tempo, which in some ways is like their work on the Dogtanian animated series and Around the World with Willy Fog, so light and melodic haunting and easy listening slanted.

There are 6 cues from the score included on the release and these purvey drama, romance, and have at times a Hispanic flavour to them. The movie was helmed by Castellari and released in 1979, again it starred Franco Nero, the movies focus is upon Mike (Nero) a shark hunter a mysterious man whose past nobody knows anything about, not even his woman Juanita. An expert diver named Acapulco arrives who immediately befriends him, but has an ulterior motif because Mike is the only one who knows the position of a plane that sank with a hundred million dollars and soon the hunt is on, but this time it is not sharks that will be hunted. A fairly run of the mill adventure with De Angelis music supporting and underlining the drama.

AMERICA. (INST)

The next selection is 5 tracks from Arrivano I Vostri, which is a documentary about western movies directed by Isobel Bruno. The score is delightful and has so many themes as well as a great vocal America, performed by Guido and Maurizio.

The last section is 5 tracks from Il Grande Oceano di Captain Cook which was a 1987 movie directed by Gianfranco Bernabai, the music is varied and uplifting, and contains some emotive and poignant melodies, as well as two vocals performed by The Trappers. This is an interesting and also an important release, which is sadly now long out of print and rare indeed. Maybe a re-issue will come along soon, but if it does, please do not forget the sterling work that Roberto Zamori did for this wonderful collection of music from Guido and Maurizio De Angelis. And if it should say remastered by any one else, question it.

TALKING TO COMPOSER HESHAM NAZIH.

Hesham Nazih is an Egyptian composer best known for his distinguished style that interweaves authentic melodies with contemporary music. Nazih has built a 20+ year artistic career and has under his belt more than 40 award-winning soundtracks of blockbuster films that dominated the Egyptian box-office and achieved critical acclaim such as Snakes and Ladders, Ibrahim Labyad, The Blue Elephant I and II, Sons of Rizk I and II, and The Treasure I and II. His TV hits include Friendly Fire, The Seven Commandments, The Covenant, and Shahid’s Every Week Has A Friday.

In addition to an impressive repertoire, Hesham has also received a plethora of “Best Music” awards for many of his works. And in November of 2021, he was honoured by the prestigious Arab Music Festival in its 30th edition in recognition of his musical career and for the excellent work he did composing the accompanying music for The Pharaohs’ Golden Parade.

Thank you so much for agreeing to answer my questions, I would like to begin by asking you how you became involved on Moon Knight?

My pleasure. Thank you for having me! Well long story short… one day out of the blue, I received an email from Marvel asking for my demo reel, and they were specific about the kind of music they wanted to listen to. I had no idea it was for Moon Knight at the time. Few weeks (and zoom meetings!) later, I flew to Budapest to meet with the team and of course Mohamed Diab who I realized was the one who recommended me to Marvel in the first place. We had never worked together before, never even met. Connecting the dots together, I think he made that recommendation after listening to the music I wrote for the Pharaohs’ Golden parade, a grand spectacle that saw 22 ancient mummies paraded through the streets of Cairo from the historic Museum of Egyptian Antiquities to their new resting place at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. It was live streamed and watched by millions all over the world. That was about a week before I received the email!

You have worked on many movies that were produced outside of the USA, in your native Egypt. How does the scoring and recording process differ if indeed it does compared to the system in the United States?

The scoring process was only different in the sense of that it’s an entirely different system and workflow. But ultimately, whether in Egypt or the USA or anywhere in the world… we all have the same goal… to create those unforgettable moments on screen for the audiences.

The recording was incredible for so many reasons, Egyptian instruments, vocals, and chanters were recorded in Cairo, orchestra and choir were recorded in Vienna, mix was done in Los Angeles! Orchestrators were in London and Prague! So yeah, it was a collaboration of absolutely amazing talents from almost half of the globe.

Did the producers on Moon Knight have any specific ideas about which direction the music should be going and what style it should follow and was there a temp track installed on the movie?

They were specific about key points like the importance of having main themes for the main characters, also the authenticity of the Egyptian side of the score and things like that but I was really given full liberty to play and weave the score freely, and yes, there was a temp track installed on the scenes.

The score for Moon Knight is incredibly thematic, how much music did you write for the series, and did you score the episodes in the order that they were to be screened?

I don’t really know how much music exactly, but it was full! I mean episodes were almost wall to wall full of music, but that’s the nature of the show, and yes, I scored it in the order they were screened.

What size orchestra did you have for the project and what percentage of the score is realized via samples or electronic elements?

About 80 piece, the whole score was recorded! I used synths and electronic elements for rhythms, textures, effects, pads and so…

Did you conduct the score or is it better for you to supervise the session from the recording booth?

The score was conducted by the brilliant Gottfried Rabl and Bernhard Melbye Voss. I supervised the sessions through Zoom!

How much time did you have to write and record the score for Moon Knight.

About 8 months!

The central theme is so robust, and action led but also filled with a lush and lavish melody, do you think that it is important for a TV series especially, to have a theme that the audience will recognize and one that grabs their attention?

I don’t think it would matter if it’s for TV or the big screen… I believe it depends on the nature of the narrative, Moon Knight was one of the shows that demanded a thematic and melodic score.

There are many ethnic instruments within the score, can you tell us which Egyptian instruments you utilized?

The Rababa, Arghul, Ney, and Mizmar among others. Those specific instruments are ancient yet still used to this day in Egypt. You’ll find them engraved on the walls of the temples and you’ll hear them in modern Egyptian music today. And that’s amazing to me. Their timbres and characteristics make them uniquely Egyptian. And on top of that, they blend perfectly well with the orchestra. That’s why I chose them.

Do you orchestrate all your music for film and TV, or is this something that depends upon schedules etc?

It depends on the schedules for sure. In Moon Knight I had the chance to work with Adam klemens, Leigh Phillips and Nicholas Dodd, they we are all really amazing!!

The use of voices within the score is certainly effective and adds a menacing and foreboding persona at times, what size was the choir that you utilized and who provided the solo voice on cues such as Summon the Suit and Chaos Within?

The choir was about 32 in number and the solo female vocalist was Delaram Kamareh and the male Egyptian soloist was Sayed Emam.

In 2015 you scored Sons of Rizk, which was an Egyptian production. When you are writing the score for a project how many times do you like to see it before you begin to get ideas about what style of music the movie needs or where music should be placed to best serve the film, and how do you work out your musical ideas, via keyboard or by using a more tech way?

I like to watch the film many times, I like to memorize every bit of it before starting on writing, this helps me think of it as a whole, I like to recall it all as a summoned moment in my head, then at this moment I’d be ready to write… I use my keyboard most of the time to sketch my ideas but sometimes when I’m away of it I use whatever in hand, write on a piece of paper or even hum on my phone voice note app…

Can you tell us what is next for you if you are allowed to talk about it that is?

I’m still processing what happened. I don’t know what’s next! But I hope it’ll be even more challenging and fun!