I have always been fascinated by the golden age of film music, and yes most of us associate the golden age with Hollywood and composers such as Steiner, Newman, Rosza, Korngold etc. But I would also like to refresh peoples memories about the golden age of film music in Britain, yes that’s right a golden age in Britain, well we had one didn’t we. I think we did in fact I know we did. It occurred through the dark days of WWll and then afterwards into the 1950,s and up to the dawning of the 1960,s. With composers such as Walton, Vaughan Williams, William Alwyn, Malcolm Arnold, Bliss, Bax, George Auric, Clifton Parker and their like. But there were as always many unsung heroes of British film music, Ivor Slaney for example, Charles Williams and Doreen Carwithen and it is to one of the first women film music composers I turn now for this review. THE FILM MUSIC OF DOREEN CARWITHEN. Released on Dutton Epoch records which is a particularly busy label and part off the Dutton vocalion stable has released some interesting albums some of which include film music and others that focus upon what many call light music and I suppose British film music from the late 30,s through to the 1950,s did partly consist of what can be deemed as light music, especially when composers such as Frank Cordell etc for example began to write for film.


The compilation which was released in 2011 includes music from a handful of films and projects that Carwithen scored during the late 1940,s and into the early to mid 1950,s. The compact disc opens with an overture from the 1954 Exclusive films or Hammer production MEN OF SHERWOOD FOREST as you can probably work out from the title the film is about Robin Hood and his merry band of outlaws who stole from the rich and gave to the poor so legend has it in this particular adventure they battle to re-install Richard the Lionheart on to the English throne. The film which was released a while before Hammer decided to resurrect Dracula and friends was directed by Val Guest, and is not a movie that would win any awards or indeed be nominated for any, but the rousing and robust musical score which Carwithen penned is certainly an asset to the production. The music is not as glamorous or shall we say as anthem like or lavish as Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s famous foray into writing for the famous long bow archer in tights, but nonetheless it is a score that is certainly more than just interesting, it has to it a depth and substance that oozes character and also posses subtle but affecting melodies that are fleeting but attractive.


The central themes from the score were taken by Philip Lane and arranged into an overture which can also act as a concert piece, the majority of the more melodious parts of the score came from the opening trumpet flourishes which Lane took as his starting point, ironic really because it was a well known fact that Carwithen always wrote the main title or opening themes for her film scores last, firstly concentrating on the main fabric of the score or individual themes for certain characters and then fashioning her main credits theme from all aspects of the score. MEN OF SHERWOOD FOREST is regarded as Carwithen’s finest score and an important milestone in her career which outshone the movie for which it was composed, in fact the composer thought that the film was and I quote, “GHASTLY”.

Gavin Sutherland.
Gavin Sutherland.

The performances on this compilation are by the BBC CONCERT orchestra under the direction of Gavin Sutherland, he has been particularly active in resurrecting British film music and also a champion of light music and I have to say that the quality of the performances within the compilation are second to none also the sound achieved is authentic and it is as if we are hearing the scores from the films rather than a re-recording.


The next section on the disc is from the 1948 film BOYS IN BROWN the suite which runs for some 9 minutes is made up of three pieces or movements which are the principal thematic material from the score and occur at important moments within the film these are. MAIN TITLES AND OPENING SCENE, ESCAPE PLAN and KITTY AND JACKIE which is also the films end title, beautifully arranged into suite form by Philip Lane. Directed by Montgomery Tully the film included an impressive cast list Richard Attenborough, Barbara Murray, Dirk Bogarde, Jack Warner and Jimmy Hanley, the films storyline focuses on a group of young offenders who are in a Borstal and the governor played by Warner attempts to reform them and turn their lives around. The opening movement, MAIN TITLES AND OPENING SCENE, includes a fanfare of sorts that is performed by trombones and opens the proceedings, this introduces a taught and dramatic sounding theme that is performed by the string section with violins taking centre stage and being supported by darkly rich cellos that are them selves aided by basses and underlined and punctuated by timpani. The mood of the cue changes quite dramatically as brass and percussion take the piece to a more urgent level the composer adding low woodwinds and quite sinister and apprehensive strings to create an uneasy mood. Movement 2, ESCAPE PLAN is in the first instant a more calm and quiet piece and is used to underline a meeting that two of the films central characters are having in a dormitory, they plan to escape but one is uncertain of the plan and is having second thoughts because he says he has a family to think of.
Although the music is quiet and slightly subdued it still manages to purvey a certain degree of urgency with strings being the main stay of the composition with trumpet and woodwind being introduced as the cue progresses, there is within the cue a particularly attractive theme which although short lived seems to rise from nowhere but soon melts away and is overridden by a more troubled sound. Movement number 3, KITTY AND JACKIE end titles, is a feel good piece romantically laced and performed by swelling strings that purvey an atmosphere of hope. This section more than any of the others included on the compilation for me has a familiar sound to it and reminded me so much of the work of British composer William Alwyn, which I suppose it not surprising as it was Alwyn who schooled Carwithen in composition and also later became her Husband. Carwithen was actually given the musical expertise of two giants of film music the aforementioned Alwyn and also Muir Mathieson and it was whilst working as Mathieson’s assistant that Carwithen began to write for film, very often un-credited and stepping in for other composers who for what ever reason had fallen behind deadlines etc.


Carwithen,s first film score was for the 1948 production TO THE PUBLIC DANGER, directed by Terence Fisher who as we all know was to go on to become one of Hammer studios most prolific and respected film makers. Produced by Highbury studios this was in essence a public information film, I say public information as it was a film that was produced to highlight the dangers of drink driving. Carwithen wrote just the opening and closing music for the film which is presented here in a 3 minute arrangement that includes the dramatic and strident sounding PRELUDE which more or less launches us headlong into the proceedings with strings, agitated brass, rumbling percussion and woodwind creating a highly tense piece. After the mayhem and urgency of the opening music the cue moves into the APOTHEOSIS of Carwithens score with dark but quiet strings underlining the final scene of a car crash in which all three occupants have died. The piece builds slowly and rises briefly into an almost luxurious sounding crescendo bringing the section to its conclusion, this was the first of two films that Carwithen scored for Fisher the second being MANTRAP in 1952/53 and music from that movie is also included on this compilation.


For the next section we go forward to the 1950,s in fact to the early part of 1954, EAST ANGLIAN HOLIDAY was a documentary which was produced by British Transport Films, directed by Michael Clarke which takes us on a tour of East Anglia along the coastlines of Norfolk and Suffolk and showing us the sights of the area with its quaint villages and lush cornfields, picturesque churches and perfect rural settings. Carwithen wrote a beautifully descriptive and melodic score for the project that supported and added much to its content. The score although just over 15 minutes in duration encompassed many styles and gave us numerous rich and pleasant themes. Strings I would say have the lion’s share of the performance but are ably supported by wholesome sounding woodwinds, harp, subdued percussion and brass with tubular bells being utilised to introduce a cathedral. This is a beautiful piece that is calming and eloquent.

Recording session, Carwithen is at front of picture.
Recording session, Carwithen is at front of picture.

The compilation also includes music from MAN TRAP, which appears in the form of a 13 minute suite there is also music from the 1953 production THREE CASES OF MURDER and music from the 1952 TRAVEL ROYAL which was a documentary produced by B.O.A.C. and was made to encourage people to travel to Britain via the airline to see the famous historical sights and take in the heritage of the country.

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Carwithen integrated many traditional national and folk songs into her score to depict England’s green and pleasant land, these included JOHN PEEL, ORANGES AND LEMONS, GREENSLEEVES and a short piece of music that was actually composed by Henry Vlll. The score posses a distinct atmosphere of ceremony and also purveys a warmth and amiable mood. I recommend this compilation wholeheartedly and in its running time I hear many styles and quirks of orchestration that I have heard before maybe in scores that have not credited Carwithen, it is astonishing that she gave so much to the world of film music but still remains virtually unknown. Presented very well with an amazing booklet of informative notes. Please add this to your collection you will not be sorry.

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When the name Henry Mancini is mentioned it straight away conjures up memories of evergreen and infectious themes from movies such as BREAKFAST AT TIFFANYS,THE PINK PANTHER, CHARADE,THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES, THE THORN BIRDS and so many more. Mancini not only possessed the ability to underline the dramatic and emotional content of a movie with his music but he also had a knack and a definite gift to create melodies that lived outside of the films environment and in many cases became worldwide hits. This compilation is a combination of two albums that the composer released in 1975 and 1976 in which he acted in the capacity of an orchestrator, arranger and conductor rather than a composer although there are a few original Mancini compositions included within its duration. Mancini released a number of studio albums where he would arrange various film themes and popular songs in his unmistakable style and put his own distinctive musical stamp upon each one. The opening 8 tracks are taken from THE COP SHOW THEMES album which was issued on RCA in 1976, this includes popular themes from American cop shows that became essential viewing in the U.S. and the U.K. during the 1970,s such as BARETTA, KOJAK, S.W.A.T.,THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO,HAWAII FIVE O and THE ROCKFORD FILES and showcases the music of composers such as Patrick Williams, Dave Grusin, Mike Post, Morton Stevens, Barry De Vorzon and Billy Goldenberg, it also has some outstanding performances by featured soloists such as Artie Kane, Lee Ritnenour, Dick Nash and Graham Young. It also includes the haunting and well known theme that Mancini penned for THE MYSTERY MOVIE which was a regular part of weekend viewing in the U.K. and a not so well known theme from the show THE BLUE KNIGHT entitled BUMPERS THEME which was also the work of Hank Mancini.

During the 1970,s a number of compilation albums were released by artists such as Ron Goodwin, Mantovani, Geoff Love, Ronnie Aldrich and Mancini etc which included various TV and film themes and for collectors these were often that only way that they would get to hear the music from their favourite movies or shows as at this time the original versions were very rarely released, film studios often ignoring the value of music that was written for both TV and Cinema. THE COP SHOW THEMES section of this entertaining compilation opens with Mancini’s MYSTERY MOVIE theme, which is a pleasant and easy going piece for strings which are supported by light percussion and uncomplicated brass punctuation and a striking if brief trumpet solo all of these elements are underlined throughout by use of a synthesiser that relays and carries the theme along at a easy pace. I suppose this is typical Mancini, infectious and haunting a theme that is heard long after the track has finished by the listener. Next up we have, the strong vibrant theme from THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO by Patrick Williams. The big band sound meets dramatic layers here both of which are further enhanced by the use of jazz influences to create a hard hitting theme that surely would make anyone aware that the show was about to begin and have them rushing from the kitchen into the lounge to sit and watch it. Music from THE BLUE KNIGHT is next, BUMPERS THEME is a slow paced and almost sleazy sounding piece, written by Mancini and performed by alto sax, flugelhorn and trumpet with flourishes of rich sound coming from the brass section of the band to give it a sound that is luxuriously opulent and in many ways a gentle nod in the direction of the sound achieved by Glenn Miller in compositions such as MOONLIGHT SERENADE. Track number 4 is Mancini’s take on Billy Goldenberg’s opening theme for the Telly Savalas led cop show KOJAK which again became essential weekend viewing for many during the 1970,s. Goldenberg’s pulsating and vibrant opening music ushering in and introducing another edge of the seat episode that featured the flamboyant and lollipop sucking cop with attitude, this track also contains the theme from S.W.A.T. composed by Barry De Vorzon, Mancini interweaving both of the up beat compositions into a medley in which both themes compliment each other wonderful. During the 1970,s with the coming of disco there were a few versions of the De Vorzon theme one in particular being by Eumir Deodato that entered the U.S charts and was also a popular floor filler in the U.K. Track number 5 KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE SPARROW is taken from the soundtrack to BARETTA, music here is courtesy of Dave Grusin. Mancini follows this with the ever popular theme from THE ROCKFORD FILES by Mike Post who of course provided us with the themes for HILL STREET BLUES and THE A TEAM among others. The quirky sounding harpsichord performed by Artie Kane is an outstanding feature of the arrangement that Mancini relays.
Morton Stevens up beat and toe tapping theme from HAWAII FIVE O is next up and Mancini gives the theme a real work out with strings, vibrant percussion, guitars brass and also an enthusiastic and flawless trombone solo by Dick Nash. The cop show themes come to an end with the striking theme from POLICE WOMAN, again written by Stevens. So the first half of the compilation certainly gets a thumbs up it is a fairly up tempo selection that are obviously all familiar and have that uplifting atmosphere.


On then to the second half the compilation, SYMPHONIC SOUL, essentially Mancini’s version of some of the sweet soul numbers that were doing the rounds during the 1970,s and I have to say although they are all well performed and also well orchestrated and arranged they do at times seem to fall short of the mark, but maybe I feel this way because in the 1970,s I was actually playing the original cues to dance floors in the U.K. Disco fever took off fairly late in England in fact it seemed to come and go swiftly and was over before it had got a chance to begin, the likes of Barry White and Van McCoy however were always popular even before disco planted its self on the dance floors in the U.K. White for his deep and sensual vocals and McCoy for his work with groups such as The STYLISTICS. In this section the numbers that Mancini runs by us include SATIN SOUL(White), BUTTERFLY(Hancock), AFRICAN SYMPHONY(McCoy) and a watered down version of the Average white bands classic, PICK UP THE PIECES etc, I am not in anyway saying that these arrangements are lacking or inferior at all, but they are not the originals and for me the originals rule. There is also a new version of Mancini’s PETER GUNN which has a nice disco vibe to it sounding more like something that The Salsoul Orchestra would have released rather than coming from Henry Mancini. Like the first part of the compilation there are a number of featured solo instruments being performed throughout, these include, piccolo. Trumpet, African finger piano, organ, bass guitar, electric piano and flute, with the ever present support of Mancini’s romantic strings and big band brass. So overall this compact disc is a varied and uncomplicated listen, it is a collection that I would recommend with my most positive reaction being focused upon the COP THEMES section of the disc. Nice retro looking art work with some brilliant notes by Oliver Lomax and great unblemished sound quality. Another hit for the Dutton Vocalion label.

Back of original album cover.
Back of original album cover.

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Before starting to review the STILETTO soundtrack, maybe a little background on the scores composer Sid Ramin. A Composer conductor and arranger for Broadway and Hollywood musicals, movies and television shows, Sid Ramin was born on January 22nd in 1919, he grew up in Boston and studied at the New England Conservatory of Music and The Boston University before he moved to New York City, both his parents were musical but never played professionally. He worked as the staff composer, orchestrator and arranger for The Milton Berle Show from 1949 to 1956 and began working as a staff arranger with R.C.A during the mid 1950, s. Leonard Bernstein approached Ramin to act as an arranger/orchestrator for his musical WEST SIDE STORY, Ramin eventually winning a Grammy for the soundtrack album of the musical and also an Academy Award for scoring the movie version. He later arranged the most memorable numbers from the musical into suite for symphony orchestra that is still often performed in concert. After the success of WEST SIDE STORY Ramin became much in demand for Broadway assignments and he contributed arrangements and compositions for the musicals Gypsy, Wildcat, I Can Get It for You Wholesale and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Ramin also worked in television during the early 1960s and was the resident musical director for The Patty Duke Show and also became a permanent fixture on the U.S. version of Candid Camera. He provided television with some of the most memorable advertising jingles of the 1960s including “Come Alive for Pepsi” and Music to Watch Girls By which later became a top 10 hit for The Bob Crewe Generation after being used for Tab diet cola.

Ramin was always busy but never seemed to get the credit or recognition he so richly deserved, much of his work as an orchestrator, arranger and conductor going un-credited. I personally do not look upon him as a film music composer because there is so much more to him than being a composer for the cinema. He did however compose the original score for the movie version of Harold Robbins’ Stiletto, this 1969 B-movie thriller had a surprisingly impressive cast in the forms of Alex Cord, Britt Ekland, Patrick O’Neal, Joseph Wiseman and Roy Scheider, the score which is probably the only thing that is really worth mentioning about the movie was full of dramatic and jazz laced compositions; the soundtrack was originally issued on a long playing record on the CBS/Columbia blue label in 1969. Although the score was popular among soundtrack collectors the music has not up until now been issued on compact disc.

sid ramin

My first memories of the music from STILETTO was a 45rpm record on a white CBS promo label, which had the highly infectious Hammond organ led central theme on the A side and the song from the score entitled SUGAR IN THE RAIN as its B side. The lyrics for the song were the work of famed lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman, who had also penned the lyrics to numerous other songs many of which had been for the silver screen and were also known for collaborating with French composer Michel Legrand on a number of occasions. On hearing the theme and song on the single release I was prompted to find the LP. This premiere compact disc release of STILETTO is brought to us courtesy of the DUTTON VOCALION label which is based in the U.K. The release contains the same track line up as the original LP, no extra music I am sad to say, but then again who needs extra music when you have here a superb soundtrack that is filled to overflowing with contagious and highly rhythmic themes and also has a great re-mastered sound about it. Right from the start one just knows its going to be a great listening experience which posses a quality that one rarely comes across today.

sid ramin younger

The compact disc opens with KNIFE FIGHT ON THE HILL, this tense and apprehensive sounding track commences with edgy strings that are interspersed with percussion and piano plus are punctuated by brass stabs that seem to lung and then pull back as if they are depicting the stabbing movement of an assailant, the composer also employing lower sounding strings that conjure up an atmosphere that is unsettling. Ramin builds the cue to a crescendo of sorts bringing all of the musical elements together into a dramatic sounding musical peak, then smoothly segues into the scores infectious central theme, which is an exciting and up tempo arrangement that has a big band sound to it underlined with a sense of urgency created and sustained by the utilization of strings that are filled with menace, the composition picks up even more pace as it progresses and the composer adds more instrumentation to create a powerful and enticing opening to the score and also lays down the foundation of the sound and style that we will be treated to throughout the remainder of the score. Track number 2, MAIN TITLE is a more developed working of the central theme, Ramin expanding the instrumentation and giving the composition a definite big band resonance, the composer also cleverly employs a jazz/pop orientated Hammond organ solo, which essentially becomes the core of the composition and upon this foundation.

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Ramin builds his strong and vibrant theme, giving the organ room to breathe and allowing it to lace the cue with its presence but at the same time allowing other elements of the orchestra to shine, the track containing polished horn arrangements, support from the string section and showcases the brass section wonderfully. Track number 3, ILLEAN’S THEME is a more laid back affair, this haunting samba led piece is easy listening personified, with light woodwind, underlined by even more chilled out percussion and gorgeous sounding airy and romantic strings flourishes, which are in turn enhanced by the use of guitar and piano. The main fabric of the cue is taken on by trumpet mid way through with woods assuming a backseat for a while, jazz organ again makes an appearance as the composition moves forward but is in a more subdued mode than its first outing in the previous cue, it is a classic easy listening sound that oozes class and sophistication and one that rivals anything that has been composed by Legrand, Schifrin or even Mancini.

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Track number 4, GOAT ISLAND is another romantic and haunting piece, I am certain that it is a mandolin that Ramin utilizes at the tracks outset and achieves a wonderfully melodic and restful ambience, to this the composer adds a medium paced background and introduces the central theme once again, but on this occasion it is a low key and highly romantic sounding arrangement that we hear, performed in the main by lush but not overpowering strings that relay an atmosphere that is filled with pure luxury. Track number 5, is for me one of the highlight tracks from the release, (if indeed there are any stand out cues, as all are of the highest quality) CONFRONTATION, is where we hear the composer up the anti musically speaking, introducing a style that is certainly more dramatic and forceful, again brass features largely being underlined by fast paced percussive elements and interspersed with sliding tense strings that hold a single note to crate tension, as the piece progresses there is no let up in memento, in fact Ramin introduces more elements into the mix to create an exhilarating and highly volatile sounding composition. Again it is dramatic but still maintains musicality and strong thematic material that leans towards the big band jazz sound which is cleverly interwoven with undertones of foreboding. Track number 6, STILETTO this is the version of the theme that was released as a single and also one that was covered by a number of popular artistes during the early 1970,s, the composer arranges and orchestrates the core theme from the soundtrack into a more up beat and hip/pop sounding composition.

Hammond organ again plays a major part in the proceedings as do the trumpet section, the theme being passed from organ to trumpets and then being taken on by saxophones and then handed back to Hammond organ, it is an entertaining and highly contagious cue that I am sure will have many toes tapping. Track number 7, is SUGAR IN THE RAIN, this is the tantalising vocal from the score, light airy and simple, a fantastic easy listening lounge track, that is sensual, attractive and performed to perfection by Sally Stevens. Track number 8, FOLLOW THAT MAN is just the opposite it’s a hard hitting and high powered cue, filled with brass stabs, dark sounding piano, electric guitar punctuations and up beat percussion that together convey a mood of trepidation and agitation, this atmosphere is further underlined and reinforced by the composers use of jangling sounding cymbals and tense strings. Track number 9, NORTH WEST CORNER FACING EAST, opens in a similar fashion to KNIFE FIGHT ON THE HILL, low key but all the time slowly building a tense and nervous ambience until it erupts into a full on and unrelenting chase. Ramin bringing dark sounding piano and jagged almost frenzied strings into the equation which are powered along by strong percussion and supported and bolstered by various brass instruments. Track number 10, TRAM brings the compact disc to its close. And is an unstoppable and explosive cocktail of brass, woodwind, guitar and racing drums.

STILETTO is in my opinion a classic score from the 1960,s and with this excellent CD release on Dutton Vocalion we have at last got the opportunity to have in our collection a soundtrack that is high in quality and filled to its brim with inventive and highly rhythmic compositions. Presented superbly with detailed and informative notes and sharp un-flawed sound. The Compact disc boasts the original LP cover plus a number of stills from the movie in its booklet and a reproduction of the U.K. publicity poster. Have you ordered it yet? Don’t let it get away……..

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