As we start the so-called season to be cheerful, its time for Soundtrack Supplement number thirty. Again, a mixed bag of soundtracks are inside this edition, with a disaster movie that has provoked some negative comments opening the proceedings. Remember the disaster movie? EARTHQUAKE, THE TOWERING INFERNO, SWARM, etc, well its back with a vengeance, in more ways than one in the form of SKYFIRE.
This is a Japanese movie, that was released in 2019 or at least it was made in 2019, it has, an American lead star and a Turkish composer. So an eclectic mix of talents or maybe not, this is something that you will have to decide after seeing it, the film itself is just stupid, after all who would build a luxury hotel on the side of a Volcano, but saying that its basically non stop action and mayhem from start to finish. Which is accompanied by some good special effects and a pulsating and commanding score by composer Pinar Toprak.
The film I suppose is a muddled and fast paced affair that has elements of every disaster film storyline, it is not only filled with disaster movie cliches, but contains a ridiculous plot and a weak script and also some pretty disastrous acting as well. The score however is excellent as far as disaster scores go, it has a contemporary sound, but also contains passages that evoke memories of past disaster film score highlights as in the already mentioned EARTHQUAKE etc. In fact, the music is probably the best thing about the film, but maybe I am being overly unkind, (ummmm no I’m not).
The composer wowed us with her score for CAPTAIN MARVEL and garnered a fair bit of attention with her music for the TV series STARGIRL. All I will say is film music fans will not be disappointed at all with this soundtrack, it is a fusion of synthetic and symphonic, the composer getting the balance just right and purveying urgent and tense interludes that almost always turn into high octane pieces that are overflowing with a powerful and also thematic air. The score does of course have its quieter sections with the composer creating rich and romantically laced compositions at various stages of the works development.
There is a powerful and driving persona to this soundtrack, with brass flourishes and booming percussive elements combining with strings to create a rich tapestry of action led tracks that remain thematic and interesting. Recommended.
Invariably at this time of year the Christmas movie raises its glittery and sweet little head. But its Christmas so we can allow that can’t we? As long as the soundtrack is good, I don’t mind at all. MY ADVENTURES WITH SANTA is a movie I don’t really know a lot about, but you can bet its not Oscar material and is filled with the normal Christmas feel good elements etc. The score by composer Damon Criswell is actually very good, the soundtrack itself is listed as a compilation so yes it also contains songs, but these are all original compositions.
Whether that is a good thing or not I am not certain. But at least we dont have to listen to Brenda Lee rocking around the Christmas tree on this one. But Criswell’s score for me is perfect Christmas themed fodder, it has to it a magical and mysterious air and contains enough warmth and melancholy to satisfy any Christmas Grotto Elf and bring a little bit of sparkle to the listener. I was reminded of the sound of James Horner at times with the composer combining, wistful and sweeping syrupy string led themes with choral effects and delicate little chimes and shimmering touches adding even more Christmas atmosphere as the work proceeds. Criswell also utilises a more grandiose sound that combines a traditional Christmas sound with dramatic symphonic styles. Its not an awful score, and being truthful I have to say I enjoyed it for the most part, even the numerous references to more traditional songs and carols which the composer integrates into the fabric of his original score. and I would say it is worth checking out.
Remember two scores from last year, UNDONE and MAROONED by Amie Doherty, both of which were interesting to say the least, well the latest score from her is for another Christmas movie, which is the Hulu film HAPPIEST SEASON, I have to say although I did not enjoy this work as much as I did UNDONE it does have its moments, and is essentially a fairly good score. But there is not really a lot a composer do with a Christmas themed movie is there? After all is pretty restricting and it also depends on the studio or the producers and director, who normally want Christmassy sounding music for their Christmas film. So, although HAPPIEST SEASON is not in my opinion the best of Doherty, it also cannot be said that it is the worst. It is thankfully available on digital platforms so another case of try before you buy, my opinion is try it and then move on, or if you have not heard UNDONE buy that instead.
Bear McCreary is a composer I have a lot of time for, it seems that he is able to turn his hand to scoring most types of movies and hops from genre to genre with ease.
He went through a period of scoring almost everything, and with each new TV show or film we saw his name featuring on the credits, FREAKY is one of his more recent assignments, and the composer has treated us to a score that is not only powerful and filled with inventive and innovative compositions but also is a delight to listen to, it is a horror film music fans dream come true with McCreary balancing the ominous and fearsome elements of his score with a scattering of lighter and melodic interludes. Which come as a welcomed respite in a swirling Herrmann-esque sea of commanding and foreboding compositions. Recommended. From new releases to a recording or two you might have missed, the first is not actually a film score but is a compilation that does contain film themes alongside easy listening tracks.
THE LEGEND OF THE GLASS MOUNTAIN and ADVENTURE were originally released as separate albums on LP on the EMI Studio Two label. The artist was Ron Goodwin who released several LPs on this label during the late 1960’s through to the end of the 1970’s. All of which did have film music connections, because at the time Goodwin was himself a much in demand composer of movie scores. When the compact disc came into being many record labels decided to re-issue what were popular albums onto the new format, the good thing was that the collector would get great value for money sometimes because the Goodwin compilations were able to be re-issued as a buy one get one free kind of ting, so THE LEGEND OF THE GLASS MOUNTAIN and ADVENTURE were released onto one disc.
I think for me personally ADVENTURE was the favourite, because of 633 SQUADRON, MISS MARPLE, VICTORY AT SEA, OF HUMAN BONDAGE, THE TRAP, OPERATION CROSSBOW, and items such as GIRL WITH A DREAM, THE GIRL FROM CORSICA, THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN (which was originally released on a 78rpm) and ELIZABETHAN SERENADE. Which although not film music were a perfect companion and a great listening experience, remember these compilations were released at a time when soundtrack albums were quite thin on the ground, mainly because there was no real interest in the actual scores only the themes, so Goodwin was providing music lovers and film music fans with an essential service and a way of hearing movie themes when the original recordings were not available.
THE LEGEND OF THE GLASS MOUNTAIN, contained what I look upon as classic film themes, from mainly British movies, DANGEROUS MOONLIGHT, THE WAY TO THE STARS, MOULIN ROGUE, FIRST OF THE FEW, GONE WITH THE WIND, LIMELIGHT, ESCAPE TO HAPPINESS were all there and more. So, by having these two recordings on one disc we were treated to a smorgasbord of powerful, melodic, and haunting themes that are now all looked upon as being iconic. Today compilations such as these are no longer around, the variety of the music and also of the film genres was amazing and I for one lament the passing of these types of collections. But there again, there are very few artists like Goodwin or even Mancini who also produced so many compilations containing film themes around these days. They were able to be so adaptable and flexible, but today the crossover artist is non-existent which again is sad. The word Variety is under used and the entertainment and music industries should look at reviving it. THE LEGEND OF THE GLASS MOUNTAIN and ADVENTURE are available on digital platforms, so if you have never heard these why not check them out, or if you had the LP.s or even have the CD’S why not click online and go get nostalgic.
Let’s stay with the one that got away or one you may have overlooked. And in this case one that has never been released onto compact disc, MURDERERS ROW by Lalo Schifrin was originally issued on a Colgems long playing record in 1966 in the U.S.A. with the UK release being on the RCA Victor label with slightly different art work, the recording when it was released and available was quite hard to come by and nowadays has attained for itself something of a following simply because of the fact it was and still is so rare. The album occasionally appears on various online sites in an auction, but these are very few and far between. It is a mystery to me why the soundtrack has not received a compact disc release as so many Schifrin scores have been made available in recent years on the shiny little discs. When contacting Schifrin’s own record label, they told me that it was a score that they probably would never be able to issue because of copyright problems. So, this gem of a soundtrack will sadly probably remain unreleased or at least not on CD. Now I am lucky because I do have the album and I did an LP transfer to my pc to preserve it and I was also lucky because it is a stereo recording. The album opens with a full working of the main theme for the movie, this a thundering start with the composer employing big band sounding brass and an up-tempo background courtesy of percussion and organ that is joined by more brass most notably saxophones who carry the central theme forward and upwards, with more percussive elements being added as the piece progresses, the jazz big band sound dominates the composition and drives it onwards in a very similar fashion to that of THE LIQUIDATOR score also by Schifrin. MURDERERS ROW is a mix of light sounding groovy tracks, jazzy inspired sections and the odd instrumental of I.M NOT THE MARRYING KIND which would ordinarily be supporting the distinct vocalising of Dean Martin but due to contractual restrictions none of Mr Martins vocals were released on any of the Matt Helm soundtrack albums, and also due to same contractual restrictions Mr Martins image was not allowed on the covers either. There are also plenty of extremely dramatic and fast paced interludes which seem to spring from nowhere to entertain and add a certain beat and urgency to the whole score.
Its right up there with BULLIT, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE and THE LIQUIDATOR. Its bombastic hard hitting and truly theme laden, ok the central theme or variations of it run through the entire score but it is an infectious theme that is never boring and one that I know listeners will never tire of. Like the FLINT movies, the Matt Helm series was very tongue in cheek and the music often reflected this but at certain points the composers involved would often score the movie as a serious entity thus the music worked even better and because the scene was scored in this way the scenario on screen also worked better.
There are twelve tracks on the recording and every-one of them is wonderful, they are filled with an energy a vitality and just a good old fashion sound that we never seem to hear anymore. I love the way Schifrin’s music just seems to ooze a charismatic sophistication, with its light and airy sambas, its easy listening and laid back jazz tracks and of course it’s more powerful and commanding sections, Schifrin is a Master when it comes to relaying moods and atmospheres and in this score, he excels even more than usual, with the composer on piano and bass guitar (performed by Carol Kaye) who played on many Beach Boys hits, was the performer on LA BAMBA by Richie Valens as well as working with the likes of Quincy Jones, Phil Spector and Simon and Garfunkel to mention but a few bringing much to the work. There is also effective use of strings, percussion, harpsichord, woods, Hammond organ, cymbalom, brass and even at one point an accordion taking a turn. The highlight of the score apart from the great theme is track number 4, SUZIES THEME (LOVE THEME) which is haunting and alluring, with the composer employing a light dusting of brushed percussion with dreamy sounding strings acting as a background to a delightful and mesmerising harpsichord solo that performs the love theme, this is to be honest an absolute delight and in many ways reminded me of the work of Stelvio Cipriani on THE ANONYMOUS VENETIAN, it has that easy going but at the same time beautifully crafted style to it. I know this soundtrack is not available on Compact Disc, but it is now thankfully on platforms such as Spotify, it is essential listening, if you don’t believe me go find it and be amazed.
Ok heres one I missed from 2018, DURANTE LA TORMENTA is mysterious thriller which also wanders into the realms of fantasy. There are two storms which are separated by the passing of a quarter of a century but happen on the same date, we see a woman murdered a daughter missing the Berlin wall falls and there is just seventy two hours to unravel the complicated truth. The strong, affecting and powerful musical score is by Spanish Movie Maestro Fernando Velazquez, who produced a score that does much to aid the flow and development of the storyline, underlining and punctuating the taught and nail biting scenarios as they are presented on screen.
How I missed this I do not know, it is a wonderfully dark and tense sounding score, which is something that the composer does brilliantly, his music has audiences on the edge of their seats, and he always manages to support and elevate his projects without the music becoming too intrusive. The at times driving score in many ways evokes his brilliant soundtrack for DEVIL which is another must have release by this gifted and talented composer. Recommended.
That’s about it for now, back next time in soundtrack supplement thirty one, with more new releases, Christmas scores and those elusive scores that you missed out on. And a little spaghetti.