Tag Archives: Italy

THEODORE SHAPIRO.

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In these days of film music being purveyed by varying methods and also via different musical mediums such as samples, or synthetics as well as symphonic and acoustic, I get a little frustrated that certain composers who are so talented get overlooked, Theodore Shapiro is one such uber talented composer arranger, his inventive music has graced many a movie in recent years and he has also worked on a multitude of genres. With each project his musical prowess in my opinion has grown and he is a composer who I think is capable of anything no matter what genre of film, whatever the scenarios are etc. BOMBSHELL is probably one of his most inventive scores, and one that I will say here and now I enjoyed immensely. I love the way in which the composer creates atmospheres and layers of moods via his use of both upbeat percussion and female voices that are underlined and supported by strings and infectious sounding backing tracks. Certainly one to check out and add to the collection, the same can be said for LAST CHRISTMAS although its billed as having a soundtrack by Wham and George Michael, the actual score is by Shapiro, it’s a subtle and light work, which contains lots of melancholy and is overflowing with touching and emotive interludes, these may not be memorable but are definitely entertaining and work well in the movie and away from it.

LAST CHRIST

Listening to the score is in my opinion a carefree and uncomplicated task, the music washes over you, and just gives pleasure. Shapiro, is a talented composer and an artist that really needs to be recognised more fully for his accomplishments in the field of film scoring. I for one loved his CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS and also liked the film (probably a bit too much, but that’s another story). His score was a parody of everything that was remotely comic book hero, but it also had to it a lushness and a commanding aura, containing great themes, that were rich and vibrantly affecting. It was a kind of SUPERMAN, meets BATMAN meets a glitzy show tune. Very entertaining.

 

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But then there is his dark and atmospheric score for DESTROYER, tense and sinister, but at the same time beautifully emotive. Plus, one of my favourites by the composer, A SIMPLE FAVOR, which contains some inventive compositions and equally quirky orchestrations. So, Shapiro, is in effect a consummate and Chameleon like composer, providing so many styles and differing sounds for each of his projects.

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His score for the GHOSTBUSTERS re-boot is a score that is filled with a sound and style that is highly charged and contains some sublime musical moments. Especially in cues such as THE GARRET ATTACK, in which the composer utilises choir alongside rasping brass and pounding percussion. Shapiro is in my opinion an unsung hero of film music, and I hope in 2020 this will change.

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So back to one of his recent scores BOMBSHELL, It is a soundtrack that has to it a very appealing sound and also a style that is highly original, the composers combination of voices and instrumental pieces is stunning and is wonderfully affective, there is to this work a simplicity but at the same time a more complex persona that lingers in the background, the attractive, entertaining, inventive and quirky orchestrations too shine throughout the scores running time. Shapiro, inventing, experimenting and establishing his own musical fingerprint and placing it firmly upon the movie. I love the freshness and the vitality of the score with its expressive energy and melodic content. The track PROBLEMS WITH WOMEN is particularly entertaining, the composer making use of percussive elements to create an up-tempo background to which he adds a near comedic sound which is purveyed by pizzicato.

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But for me it is the use of human voice or at least sounds made by it within the score, again simple but so affective, saxophone too features that punctuates and embellishes on several cues. This is a score that is highly recommended, it has to it the E factor, E standing for Entertaining.

WEST AND SODA.

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WEST AND SODA was a well made and slightly satirical animated feature that was brought to the screen by Italian film maker, Bruno Bozzetto. The movie has a pretty down to earth and basic plot which involves a villain who’s greed gets the better of him and attempts to make a widow marry him so he then has access to her land and other property. But a stranger who ambles into town has other ideas and becomes intent on taking the villain and his associates down. I think this animated movie was probably aimed more towards the adult market as opposed to the kids, as it’s storyline is based upon and includes a number of references and nods in the direction of various westerns to extent that it at times mocks the western genre as a whole. So, one would have to have some knowledge of western films to be able to understand the humour that the director employs as he over-exposes the WESTERN stereotypes that we have been seeing for many years. In my opinion the film is probably an acquired taste, you will I think either loathe it or love it, I loved it and especially the score by composer Giampiero Boneschi, who manages to capture the essence of the western score from both American and European examples of the genre. But of course, being an Italian production there are an abundance of musical references to the Spaghetti western or at least Homages to the composers that scored those quirky and entertaining sagebrush sagas. The opening cue WEST AND SODA begins with harmonica (performed by the great Franco De Gemini) which could be straight out of Luis Bacalov’s THE PRICE OF POWER,   a vastly underatted work for the genre and one that seems to be overlooked by fans.

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But then when you stop and think about the cue, maybe Bacalov took inspiration from Boneschi because WEST AND SODA was released four years previous to THE PRICE OF POWER, so maybe I am looking at the score from the wrong prospective and it is not influenced by the likes of Morricone, Nicolai, Ferrio, Cipriani etc but was a pre cursor to a number of their scores and the composer was just as much as an innovator and responsible for the creation and the development of the Italian western sound as the aforementioned and many others. The score also includes some interesting choral work that sounds very similar to Morricone’s THE HILLS RUN RED and also like the IL CANTORI MODERNI,(thats because it is them performing).  There are certainly familiar sounds within the score from American or Hollywood westerns with the composer utilising romantic sounding strings and writing in such a way that it purveys a huge expansive vista such as monument valley or the rich and lush prairies of the old west. Which every so often builds and heads into a more Wagnerian sound or even Rossini in the a slightly less rousing version of THE WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE. But for much of the time there are definite Italian or Spaghetti western sounds present, these at times being emphasised maybe because it is an animated feature?

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Track 4 for example contains solo trumpet and driving percussion to which is added horn as the cue builds and then shortly afterwards stops, this is a sound that I have heard in a number of other Spaghetti western scores, Fidenco’s excellent JOHN IL BASTARDO for example in the instrumental version of the THE BALLAD OF JOHN. So, it’s a question now of who influenced who? WEST AND SODA is not spaghetti through and through as the composer also creates dramatic and tense musical environments via a sound that is not dissimilar to some of the early western scores of Dimitri Tiomkin or for that matter Alfred Newman, Max Steiner et al. There is even the obligatory clip clopping sounds to mimic a horse which act as the background to a lilting string arrangement and syrupy sounding harmonica solo which is even more easy than easy listening. The score has a TANGO influenced piece which is also in my opinion a kind of homage this time to the silent film era, as it sounds very comedic and fast paced with over the top flourishes. But that is just a personal feeling.

 

There is of course the mandatory saloon track, and a square dance type track, but every Italian western score has its fair share of those. Overall WEST AND SODA is a rewarding listen, it is like a musical who’s who or what is what from the Western score, soft and also tense and expansive representing those Hollywood productions and quirky and thematic highlighting the sound of or at least the sound that would become associated with the Euro-western from Italia. An interesting and as it turns out an innovative score, originally released on Carosello records, its thanks to BEAT RECORDS that this is at last on CD with great art work and pristine sound.

THE GREAT ALASKAN RACE.

 

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Brian Presley not only directed and wrote this movie but also starred in it as well. THE GREAT ALASKAN RACE tells the true story of the desperate journey that was undertaken by mushers to get urgent medical supplies to a town that has been cut off by freezing snow and ice. It is basically the live action version of the film BALTO although many have said it is not as affecting as the animated feature. The music however is certainly worth a mention, composed by John Koutselinis, this is a proud and inspiring sounding work, it is a score that contains so many themes which all have to them an individual quality but at the same time are working together to create a style and sound that is filled with a deep and affecting musical persona. The style for me evoked the music of composers such as Basil Poledouris and Lee Holdridge, it is a rich and sumptuous sound that we are treated too throughout, Even, within the darker moments of the score the music gives us glimmers of hope and little shards of light that lift and tell us that all is not lost. The composer utilises strings and solo female voice in places which too is hauntingly effective and adds an almost spiritual aura to the proceedings. Piano, woods and strings I would say are the main stay of the score, with the composer adding solo violin at certain points which purveys a melancholy air. But it is the rich and vibrantly thematic material that is the attraction of the soundtrack, percussive elements aid the grandiose effect that the composer creates via symphonic and synthetic instrumentation, which he fuses effectively and seamlessly to fashion a flawless and lush sound. Flourishes from the brass are laced with almost lavish sounding strings to purvey a sense of maybe vastness and also of isolation, but underneath all of this there are still fragments of hope and determination that do fight their way through. This is a score that you should check out, recommended.

MORTE VESTITA DI DOLLAR. (AKA-DOG EAT DOG/WHEN STRANGERS MEET).

KG27

http://kronosrecords.com/KG27.html

Available Now, from Kronos records.

Kronos

Directed by no less than four film makers, Richard E. Cunha, Gustav Gavrin, Ray Nazzaro and Albert Zugsmith, the movie is an entertaining production and does I have to say sustain an air of drama and tension, but also has an equal amount of lighter moments along the way. Released in the UK as WHEN STRANGERS MEET which was the title of the original novel by Robert Bloomfield on which the films screenplay was based, the movie had the title DOG EAT DOG in the USA and MORTE VESTITA DI DOLLAR in Italy. The score composed and conducted by Carlo Savina is a work that includes several musical styles all of which are rich in melody and filled with drama and vitality. The score is a vibrant and energetic one, the composer combining the big band jazz sound with that of a more luxurious and stylish aura that is linked with many movies that were produced during the 1960, s. For much of its duration the soundtrack leans towards a more traditional jazz style, which is in keeping with the films storyline and the period in which it is set. He composer utilizing to great effect piano, woodwind and at times lush string interludes that are quite grandiose and opulent sounding.

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The Maestro also employs a style and sound that is very much akin to the composing style of fellow Italian composers such as Piero Umiliani, Armando Trovaioli and Gianni Ferrio to identify a few. Savina makes effective use of organ solos and introduces and integrates these performances at key points within the work, the sound and style lending much support and atmosphere to the score as well as enhancement to the scenarios unfolding on screen. The use of organ was commonplace in so many Italian soundtracks, the instrumentation adding touches of drama, melancholy and fleeting hints of the sinister, when employed. The opening cue sets the scene perfectly for what we are about to hear, it is a fast-paced swing composition for percussion and brass and although short lived makes an impact immediately. Track two, is a more elaborated version of the opening cue and contains nice muted trumpet performances as well brushed drums and classy sounding piano. Track number three, is more dramatic in its sound and style, the composer employing strings that are supported by both percussive elements and brass, that when combined create a tense and urgent sound. Other cues as CONCERTO ROMANTICO, are quite powerful and emotive, the composer employing solo piano underlined by the string section, which add a certain classical sounding persona to the score. Whereas tracks such as RITMI DI LATTA are pure jazz/swing with vibes and saxophone combining with guitar, piano, percussion, bongos, and bass to purvey a groovy sounding piece, that has an infectious pace and appeal. When listening to this and other scores by the Maestro, it becomes very clear why he was in such demand and how versatile and talented he was.

TRACK LISTING.
1.  Swing Frenetico
   2.  Stasi
3.  Concerto Romantico
4.  Ritmi Di Latta
5.  Atmosfera Torbida
6.  Suona Un Organo
7.  Morte Di Un Ladro
8.  Il Dramma
9.  Caccia Spietata
10.  Grottesco
11.  Delitto
12.  Incerto Candore
13.  Agguato ed Assassinio
14.  Atmosfera Sospesa
15.  In Giallo
16.  Ritratto Di Signora
17.  Sospensione

tracks   1-17 The Original LP Program

tracks 18-36 are previously unreleased bonus tracks, available for the first time ever!

 

BAND MOON RISING. ( FULL MOON/MOONSTONE RECORDS).

A brief look at the film production company of Charles Band

FULL MOON.

Originally published in Music From The Movies 1990/91.

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Full Moon productions is a company that was founded by film maker Charles Band, the company has been producing low budgets movies mainly of the Horror variety since 1988 and has enjoyed considerable success with this particular genre, cornering the market in what are essentially termed or looked upon as B movies or straight to video/DVD productions. This success has even surprised Band himself, and during the mid to late 190’s the company began to produce up to ten full length feature films per year, again these were aimed at the straight to home video market and did not receive a cinema release. “We are making movies now that are for the video market that would have been full blown cinema releases a few years ago” said Charles. “Today’s theatrical market place is so unforgiving, that if you bomb out with just one film, it could be the end of the company. So in my opinion there is no shame in releasing a movie in a premiere situation directly for home viewing”.

 

 MV5BMTk1NTI5MjU3OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTA1NjUyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR4,0,214,317_Charles grew up in a family that was immersed in the film industry, from the age of nine he and his family moved to Italy, where his Father Albert band made a handful of Spaghetti westerns, and also was involved in the production of a number of Sword and Sandal epics. Charles said that his love of fantasy began as a child when he read the Marvel comics, which featured super heroes such as The Incredible Hulk, Spiderman and the Fantastic Four. He gained much of his experience via hands on training after his Father put him to work on the film sets of movies he was either directing or producing. Charles would do a number of jobs, these ranged from numbering negatives to assisting with sound equipment and cameras. At twenty one, Charles returned to the United States and made his first feature film which was entitled MANSION OF THE DOOMED, which starred the late Richard Basehart. After this Charles went on to produce and direct a couple of 3D features, PARASITE and METALSTORM for Avco Embassy and Universal respectively.  In 1982/83 Band founded Empire Entertainment under whose banner he released films such as RE-ANIMATOR,TRANCERS and GHOULIES. However Band found that buying pictures from other suppliers tended to water down the companies overall product, so in 1988 FULL MOON was born.

MV5BMTIwODg0ODg0NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDMzNDkxMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR3,0,214,317_Band and Full Moon went on to release numerous production, granted many were of the low budget variety, but many ranged in budget from one and a half million Dollars to three Million Dollars, and up wards of six million Dollars as in the case of THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM. Which was one of the company’s biggest movies during the 1990’s. To say that Full Moon is just a film production company is certainly an understatement, Band has been busy creating a whole line of merchandising which includes, Trading Cards, T.Shirts, Sweat Shirts, Comic Books, and a great series of model kits. “I suppose we are creating the comic books of the future here” said Band. Charles’s Father Albert was not only active as a film maker in Italy he worked alongside John Huston on THE ASHPHALT JUNGLE and THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE. “I am from the old school of film making” remarked Mr Band snr. “ I never had just one genre that I loved, unlike my son, I always found if I liked the story whatever the subject matter, I would make the movie, but Charlie, he sticks to the same genre”. Albert worked with Charles on DOCTOR MORDRID, and also co-produced the Disney fantasy comedy HONEY I BLEW UP THE KID which was directed by Stuart (THE RE-ANIMATOR) Gordon.

MV5BMTIzODA5NjQwOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTc5NzQ0MQ@@._V1._SX148_CR0,0,148,200_During the early 1990’s Charles decided to expand the company’s merchandise from the films that they had released, he formed a sister company called, MOONSTONE RECORDS, this branch of the company packages and releases the soundtracks from the films that are produced by Band’s film company. Soundtracks such as MERIDIAN by Italian Maestro Pino Donaggio, SUBSPECIES by Aman Folk, NETHERWORLD by David Bryan, PUPPET MASTER 1 and 2 and THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM by Richard Band have all seen releases on the MOONSTONE label.  Whilst Charles is the man behind the camera as it were producing and directing movies, his younger Brother Richard is the man behind the music. “I am a composer who is as much dedicated to music as Charles is dedicated to film”. Explained Richard, “I have my own business, and I work freelance for other producers and film companies not exclusively for FULL MOON”.  Richard also lived in Italy for nearly eleven years. “I fell in love with classical music and through my Father I also learnt a lot about films by visiting the sets”.  The composer taught himself guitar, for a while touring Italy as a flamenco guitarist, he then took up rock music for a period of seven years. When he returned to the United States in 1972, he attended the music conservatory in Los Angeles. Richard got his first opportunity to break into film scoring in 1977 when he collaborated with Joel Goldsmith on the score to the low budget sci-fi romp LAZERBLAST.

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His first score for his Brother was in 1978 when he wrote the soundtrack for THE DAY TIME ENDED. This was followed by another Band Brother’s joint effort PARASITE. The composer admits he has done so many fantasy type movies that he feels “It has given me a particular style which I tried to develop. There are certain film music composers, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams and also the great Miklos Rozsa, that have worked for many many years within the industry and consequently have developed a definitive sound, but they have worked to refine this sound and when you get this sound you are inevitably asked to do certain types of movies”.

The composers score for THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM is creating a stir amongst collectors, and it is in fact a highly atmospheric and imposing soundtrack, the sound achieved is not a million miles away from the AVE SANTANI chorus in Goldsmiths THE OMEN. “Thank you for that, I don’t think I set out to get that sound, but it worked for the movie and to be compared to Goldsmith, that’s a compliment. I got sick whilst doing the score so maybe I should get a fever more often and I can produce some more great scores”. Richard has composed the music for approx-fifty movies, at least twenty of these have been for his Brother Charles.