Tag Archives: SILVA SCREEN

THE MATING GAME.

Without realizing it you may have experienced the music of composer Tom Howe, if you have caught just one episode of The Great British Bake Off on UK television then its safe to say that you have encountered this talented and versatile composers work, his scores for the series being quirky and entertaining. You may have also been watching the latest series from David Attenborough on the BBC entitled The Mating Game, which is also scored by Tom Howe, the series which is broadcast on Thursday evenings in the UK on BBC 2, is a look into the intimate and sometimes extraordinary habits of Fish, Amphibians, Insects and Mammals in the animal Kingdom when it comes to reproduction of their respective species. The music is at times mischievous and cheeky, emotive, and poignant as well as being wonderfully thematic. The musical scores add much to the series and when watching it is sometimes not possible to view the antics on screen without noticing the gorgeous music which punctuates and gives greater depth and atmospherics to the series, but maybe that is just me or other film and TV music fans, because we inherently listen out for the score and how it sounds plus how it works. Recently Silva Screen records sent out a sampler of the music to reviewers, this sampler contains just the tip of the iceberg musically of what will follow in the next week or so, the label in association with the BBC will release five compact discs, each disc containing music from individual episodes in the The Mating Game series.

TOM HOWE.

I have been watching this fascinating series and as well as being enlightened on the mating habits and rituals of various forms of wildlife have also been enchanted by the music from the series, so my review of Tom Howe’s sores is based not just upon the audio as in the sampler thus far but also upon the way in which the music compliments and enhances the images on screen. Music for wildlife documentaries or series has in the last three decades become more high profile, George Fenton composed some great epic sounding scores for series such as The Blue Planet, and Hans Zimmer worked on episodes of Seven Worlds One Planet and let’s not forget Sara Class and her beautiful scores for the series Africa.

Tom Howe’s scores for The Mating Game are superb with the composer providing this series with music that encompasses every emotion imaginable, his scores at times being filled with drama, oozing emotion and always supportive and entertaining. It’s a fine line that the composer treads on series such as this, because they could very easily just unbalance things by being to heavy handed or maybe the music being scored to loudly.

I think the composer in this case has achieved the perfect balance, because at times when need the music is forefront but in most scenarios is a background to the proceedings on screen, as well as providing support for the images the composer also has to be conscious of the narration that will be on the film, so invariably will underscore this also, so scoring a documentary type film is possibly more difficult and more involved than writing for a feature film. Howe has done this on The Mating Game adding musical colours and textures to it, fashioning delicate interludes and sections and nuances that posses a fragile yet vibrant persona, and even if at times one is aware of the music it never overwhelms or distracts the viewers attention from the subject matter being displayed always supporting and allowing the narration to flow without drowning it out. The series has been marvelous and one of the key factors in its appeal and its success is the music.

It’s an usual step for a recording label to issue compact discs nowadays of a wildlife series, and for Silva Screen to issue five from the same series speaks volumes about the scores and  must tell you just how extraordinary and attractive this music is.  Watch out for the releases they should be released very soon, and I think that they will also be available on digital platforms, in the meantime try and experience the series, its on Thursday nights on BBC 2 and repeated on Sunday afternoons on BBC 1, plus is available on catch up TV and BBC I player. Both the series and the music are highly recommended.  

THE GREATEST THEMES FROM THE SPAGHETTI WESTERNS.

The music included on this compilation was due to be performed live at the Royal Festival Hall in April, due to the Corona virus outbreak it has been cancelled. But the music has been released by Silva Screen for you to enjoy.  The recording will be available on April 17th 2020. 

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The music in Italian or Spaghetti westerns had a style that was all its own, unique, quirky and innovative. It not only supported and enhanced these sagebrush sagas, but it was at times an integral component of the film and often used during flashbacks as in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST the theme or the instrument utilised being a link between the past and the present. The films and the music for them influenced a whole new generation of film makers and film music composers, its style and sound can still be heard within soundtracks that are being written today. So, it was with much apprehension I sat down to listen to a compilation of THE GREATEST THEMES FROM THE SPAGHETTI WESTERNS by The London Music Works orchestra. There have been many cover versions of the classic Italian western themes but most of these seemed to fall at the early fences not having the correct instrumentation, firstly with the distinct whistle of Alessandro Alessandroni being imitated by a flute or recorder. And like-wise the choral performances of IL CANTORI MODERNI or Orlandi’s Coro 4+4 being done badly or being substituted by synths. But for this recording there is a whistler, and one that does a pretty good job and also the choral work too is top notch, of course it’s not as good as the originals, but I don’t think anything or anyone will ever replicate the sound achieved all those years ago in Rome.

 

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Compilations in the past by LeRoy Holmes, Geoff Love and Hugo Montenegro valiantly attempted to get close to the sound but even these now well thought of covers did fall a little short of the musical mark. I am not going to say that this is a pitch perfect collection, but it’s probably the best I have heard in a long while. It is also surprising that they chose to cover some difficult tracks, NAVAJO JOE for example and not just the opening theme. Ennio Morricone under the alias of Leo Nichols composed a powerful theme for this Sergio Corbucci western and a score that was savage and striking in which the composer employs screams to accompany the central character and underline moments of extreme violence in particularly in the opening scene. Ear piercing scream opens the proceedings and is joined by more chanting until a high pitched and almost strangulated scream ushers in a commanding electric guitar solo that presents the central theme. Embellished by booming percussion and chanting choral work plus an impressive vocal performance by Gianna Spagnola. In the hands of Morricone this is an impressive and shocking opening theme. This cover version, maybe not as powerful as the original, but it’s a brave attempt a fearless rendition that hits the right notes and delivers a faithful if not slightly weaker version of Morricones theme. Also included from this score is SILHOUETTE OF DOOM which is edgy with its percussive elements and driving strings and jagged sounding brass and woods.

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The other stand out cue is again penned by Morricone, maybe a little strange for it to be included here a SPAGHETTI WESTERN collection, as it was actually a movie produced by an American studio, TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA was a Clint Eastwood movie, directed by Don Siegal. But as its Morricone I guess we can forgive them for including it in the very impressive line up of tracks.

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As I have said its not your normal run of the mill compilation, there are some surprises here, as in DJANGO, THEY CALL ME TRINITY, THEY CALL ME KING, MY NAME IS NOBODY and a particularly nice version of DEATH RIDES A HORSE. Back to TWO MULES for now, it is a really inspired performance of the opening theme that is included here, only one criticism and that is the vocal parts which in the original are sung softly and by maybe three female performers, which give the piece some sense of fragility, are in this case too pronounced and also there are just too many vocalists, but the instrumental performance brings forth the rawness of Morricones original wild shrieks, animal based sounds and hoots and calls that one might hear out in the desert at night time.

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These elements build and build to a crescendo of sorts and usher in ferocious pounding percussion and a string performance that although does have a remnant of melody still retains its rawness and gritty persona. Yes, ten out of ten for this one. Moving away from Morricone the compilation also includes, Luis Bacalov’s theme for THE GRAND DUEL, this is a classic Spaghetti western theme, the original having the unique aural sound of Edda Dell Orso, who’s soaring wordless vocals adorned many a western score.

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For this the version of the opening theme the Soprano is superb and flawless with the harmonica solo too being effective and engaging and also evocative of the style of Franco De Gemini. There is also DAY OF ANGER, a re-working of the main theme representing composer Riz Ortolani’s pulsating and up-beat soundtrack. This is a grand and powerful arrangement of the movies core theme, opening with a grandiose almost romantic sounding orchestra and leading into the more familiar upbeat electric guitar led theme from the Lee Van Cleef movie.

 

 

 

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Going back to Morricone, there is a rendition of RUN MAN RUN from the soundtrack of THE BIG GUNDOWN, which is arguably one of Maestro’s best non-Leone western scores. This arrangement brings together the slower version of the central theme and the vocal originally performed by Christy. The vocal performance here although very good, is shall I say to English sounding, with it not having enough rawness or savagery, but instead we hear a more civilised performance.

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ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is also represented, the three principal themes from the score being featured, CHEYENNE, HARMONICA and the central theme for Jill Claudia Cardinale’s character in the movie.

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All of which are well performed. THE MERCENARY (A PROFESSIONAL GUN) is also given an ambitious and successful airing, with THE ARENA cue being included, this is the music heard at the end of the movie, when like most Italian westerns accounts were settled, by the quickness of the draw. I have to say that alongside THE BIG GUNDOWN and THE FIVE MAN ARMY this is probably Morricones most memorable non-Leone western soundtracks.

 

But in an Italian western the duel or the showdown was more than just a gunfight it was a sequence of events in which the composer who ever they were would come into their own, with directors such as Corbucci, Sollima and Leone often shooting the scene to the music that had been composed prior to the filming of it. This is a compilation that I recommend you listen to it is polished and has to it an aura and a sound that will entertain and delight. Also included are tracks representing A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, DUCK YOU SUCKER and THEY CALL ME NOBODY or MY NAME IS NOBODY as some refer to it.

 

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DR.WHO SERIES 12.

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Dr Who series 12, has caused something of a stir and also a division amongst Who fans, first of all theres the issue aongst some of them that the Doctor is now female and has lasted longer than any of them thought or said She would on social medias everywhere. Then there was the other issue of the composer change, with Murray Gold departing the series after creating so much great music, enter then, Segun Akinola who everyone well most of them said WHO? (sorry could not resist that). I think that this fresh and innovative composer has surprised everyone and also has certainly silenced the doubters. His music for the new Doctor has in my opinion been highly original and also has managed to maintain the high quality that was established by Murray Gold and even given the series more of a musical identity, I am not talking of the iconic theme, which was penned many years ago by Ron Grainer, but the scores, in fact all I can say after listening to the music from series 12 is when can this guy be brought on board for a James Bond movie, his music has that bombastic and relenting action persona and sound that one does associate with agent 007, Listen to DOCTOR, THE DOCTOR (from episode Spyfall) and you will understand what I mean. Even if it is tongue in cheek, its still really effective. Its vibrant upbeat and above all richly thematic and rhythmic. Add to these attributes some wonderfully lyrical and haunting pieces and what we have here is a collection of quality themes and also quantity and consistency as in every track is excellent and above all entertaining.

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The composer not only infuses melody and urgency into his work throughout, but also has managed to build a reputation for his use of inventive orchestration and in turn has established a sound that is all of his own. GOING UNDERCOVER is a slow builder but eventually we are treated to a no holds barred and un-relenting piece that includes up-beat percussion and blaring Barry-esque brass which is all held together via driving strings that although are action led remain thematic. It’s a score or a representation of music from series 12, which I know you are going to adore, its one of those albums that you will listen to and then think, “Hang on a minute, I think I will listen to that again”. So, a work that will be returned to and savoured and appreciated over and over. The composer’s music for The Cybermen is also something that is melodic but also has to it an underlying atmosphere that is menacing and at times virulent. Percussion and strings combine to fashion a sound that is tense but also attractive, the cue entitled CYBERMASTERS has a duration of just over five minutes, and within it has so many colours, textures and emotions, one moment the listener is experiencing a taught and anxious mood which then alters to a celestial and serene sound, bringing calm and tranquillity via the utilisation of an adagio of sorts performed by strings.

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This however is short lived, the tempo soon picking up and increasing, returning to a more apprehensive and action orientated style. This is a two CD set so there is so much music here to enjoy, including new epic sounding themes for THE MASTER and THE CYBERMEN and just when you think it can’t get any better, you are proved wrong. The music for series 12, is diverse and thrilling, the composer creating a varying and mesmerising set of scores for the new batch of adventures. Even his arrangement of the main theme is inventive and interesting and has to it a darker more sinister persona. My advice order this from Silva Screen records now, highly recommended.

HIS DARK MATERIALS.THE MUSICAL ANTHOLOGY.

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HIS DARK MATERIALS must be one of the most hyped TV series for a long while, it seems that every five minutes there is an ad for it or an image flashed across the screen. So, it’s a series I think everyone might tune in on. It’s the music for me that I focus upon in cases of hyped up and grand looking series especially on the BBC. I was a little taken aback when I saw that it was Lorne Balfe who would be providing the musical support for this series. I along with several other collectors (yes you know who you are stop backing off and hiding) have always thought that he is a second-rate composer, and also not a particularly interesting or original one either. I think I have only ever given one of his scores a positive review, and afterwards kind of regretted it, because when I listened again a few weeks later could pick out the uninspired and quite honestly dull elements that it contained and also maybe the lack of inspiration or care that went into fabricating it. Balfe for me is not one of the most original composers around, and when one hears people say he is a Zimmer clone then you know what I have to agree. HIS DARK MATERIALS I think confirms this, on listening to the score I have to firstly remark that it is probably one of his better efforts, but it is not exactly wonderful, yes it does have a grand sound and also hints at elements and content that maybe in the hands of another would become affecting and imposing in its sound and stature, but it for me is a lack lustre affair that sounds electronic and sampled, although it is credited as being performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and this initial release which is being advertised as a concept album rather than the actual score or soundtrack, contains contributions from K T. Tunstall, Chad Atkins, Tina Guo, composer-cellist Peter Gregson, steam punk influenced violinist and dancer Lindsey Stirling, classical horn player Sarah Willis, award winning composer and multi-instrumentalist Richard Harvey and Vanya Moneva’s Ethnic Bulgarian Choir. So, an array of talents here (and so many collaborators) but it sounds in the words of D.T. FAKE. You know when you hear a cheap drum synth on a track, or a not very good synthetic strings sample or synthetic voices etc and you know that they are bad because you know straight away that they are not real, it’s that kind of sound that s being purveyed, that type of writing and that sadly is the bones of it. Some of the themes are good and do have a lasting effect upon the listener, but largely the music here is easily or even instantly forgotten once you have heard it, there are hardly any lingering echoes or haunting little tunes that one can latch onto.

But, let’s stop and ponder. Is film music about little tunes that one can whistle, well it used to be an age ago, but not anymore, it’s about underling and supporting the scenarios on screen, does Balfe manage this, in a very short word, NO. He seems to provide a musical wallpaper, but nothing that that is vaguely strong enough or supporting enough. I am sorry (well not really) that this is a not a more positive review of the music, but it is an honest one from my point of view and anyway it is just a personal opinion we all know that, a review is a personal thing, so there is nothing to stop you taking a listen to this and maybe disagreeing with my view, we are all different. Saying what I have it will now probably go on to be applauded and given an avalanche of awards. There will be a second album again released by Silva Screen, which I guess is the actual score, who knows?

UNTAMED ROMANIA.

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Nainita Desai, is undoubtedly one of the most talented composers I have heard in recent years, and she just consolidates my views and thoughts about her composing prowess with her latest work for the documentary UNTAMED ROMANIA. Right from the opening track one just knows that this is a score that will be something special, the majestic sounding opening theme sent chills through me, it begins it is powerful and commanding but also has to it a with subtle strings and choral enhancement, and gradually builds into a wonderfully melodic and vibrantly lush piece which invades one senses and tantalises with its gorgeous and lavish sound that is brought forth via soaring strings, percussive elements and a rich and beautiful use of brass and woods, that are underlined with choral flourishes and opulent and stirring brass lines. Music in documentaries has come a long way in recent times and music for documentaries and docu-dramas is I have to say a rich source of inventive and highly original sounding soundtracks. UNTAMED ROMANIA is no exception and is a score that is overflowing with poignant, dramatic and at times fragile and intricate sounding thematic properties. Track three for example A CHRYSALIS AWAKENS is a delicate and haunting piece, with a yearning and heartfelt solo violin creating the core theme for the track and punctuation from female voices, that are enhanced by strings, it is a delight and pleasure to listen too. Then within the following cue WILD BOARS we are treated to a darker and more unnerving sound, which is an introduction to a dramatic and quite hard-hitting composition, that is given life by percussion and strings and strong brass. With track number five SPRINGTIME IN CARPATHIA we hear again the fragile and lighter persona of the score initially, but then the cue alters for a few seconds and segues into something that is more stirring and powerful, the composer creating and fashioning a sound that is highly appealing and certainly filled with splendour. Do I need to say anymore, No not really, based on the opening five cues I would buy this straight away, powerful, eloquent, vibrant and above all beautiful. The composers stunning music changing and adapting for each scenario and each instalment, very much like the seasons within the film, Recommended.

Available on Silva Screen. records.