Welcome to another soundtrack supplement, I trust everyone is well and listening to film music. In this latest edition of soundtrack supplement, I am including a handful of scores that I think are worthy of a mention but are maybe a little bit thin on the ground and also maybe you might have overlooked. Also I will be including a section on Bruno Nicolai, and the availability of some of his scores that were originally released on the EDI PAN label in Italy from the late 1960’s through to the 1980’s. But we start with the more recent additions to the soundtrack arena.
AMMONITE is set in the England of the 1840’s, it focuses upon a fossil hunter Mary Anning who is portrayed convincingly by Kate Winslet. Her character is something of a recluse and works alone on the south coast of England, she had found recognition and fame of a sort years before via her many discoveries, but that is now all in her past. To make a living she searches for more common fossils to sell to tourists so she can live and also to make provision for her Mother who is ill. When a wealthy tourist asks Mary to look after his wife Charlotte played by Saoirse Ronan, the fossil hunter cannot afford to turn him down. But although their relationship is at first a little stormy, the two women are slowly drawn to each other and their friendship blossoms, leading both of them to decide what is the true depth and nature of their relationship. The subtle and haunting musical score is the work of Dustin Halloran and Volker Bertelmann, this winning composing duo have produced so many scores for TV and film over the past few years, all of which have been affecting as well as entertaining. AMMONITE is certainly no exception, the score containing understated yet beautifully powerful pieces, with the composers combining piano with slight and underlining strings, that purvey a sense of fragility throughout the work. The opening track FOSSILS is a wonderfully delicate and calming opening to the score. Solo piano that is at times laced with touching strings. The remainder of the score too has to it a calming and melodic air, the music being gracious and eloquent. The use of cello is so effective and adds to the work melancholy and emotive levels. Recommended. To Television next and Dominik Scherrer’s quirky and jaunty music for the series of MiISS MARPLE, I don’t know about you but as soon as I hear Miss Marple I instantly think of Ron Goodwin? This score however is not Ron Goodwin in any way style or form, in fact this is a polished and shall we say highly melodious score, whereas Goodwin’s Marple scores were somewhat comedic and upbeat in places. Scherrer has created a beautifully thematic work, with lilting interludes that ooze sophistication. This is just a selection of the music from the series, but it is an entertaining representation of the composer’s music for the series. Again, recommended.
COME AWAY is I suppose a film that can be described as a fairy tale mash up, or even Peter Pan meets Alice in Wonderland. So, with that in mind and with composer John Debney on board it is a given that this is an enchanting movie and one that has a beautiful and magical sounding soundtrack. If I say that I love this score, I know you will realise just how magical and mystical this music is, it is filled with so many emotions and evokes for me the music of the late James Horner in places with Casper being uppermost in my mind, this enchantingly wonderous score transports the listener too far off lands, such as Neverland and Wonderland plus to places that one could only imagine to exist. Debney provides the movie with a poignant and moving soundtrack, romantic, sweeping and delicate are the words best used to describe this unrelenting work that is emotive, beguiling and affecting. The score is fully symphonic, and the composer employs choir and solo voice on occasion which fashion mesmerising atmospheres and create transfixing musical moods throughout.
Debney has been busy of late and provided a vibrant soundtrack for the Netflix show, JINGLE JANGLE at this time there is only a near four minute suite of the music he penned on the soundtrack release which contains mainly vocals from the show by the likes of Ricky Martin, Forest Whitaker, and Usher. But hopefully there might be a score album on the horizon, because Debney is certainly back on form.
THE LIFE AHEAD or to give it the original Italian title LA VITA DAVANTI, is an emotive movie, that brings Sophia Loren back to the screen, the movie which is scored by Gabriel Yared, is stunning to look at, the photography creating a warm and glowing aura for much of the films duration. Loren is as always stunning to look at and in this a challenging role where she portrays the character, Madame Rosa. Directed by Edoardo Ponti, yes that’s right Ponti, Sophia’s son. The musical score is a perfectly gracious and poignant accompaniment to this highly emotional tale, its not all about poignancy and subtle thematic properties however, there are a handful of up beat more contemporary hip hop infused tracks scattered throughout, but it is the romantic and touching musical poems that impress and attract. Yared, is such an underatted composer, but on this occasion I think maybe he will get the notice and credit that he so richly deserves, his score is supportive but never invades the story line or overshadows the action on screen, recommended. Game soundtracks seem to domineer the releases market of late, which is not a bad thing because it means that orchestral/instrumental scores are reaching a younger generation.
There have been a few recent examples that stand out, CALL OF DUTY, BLACK OPS-COLD WAR by Jack Wall being one of these. This is powerful stuff, which includes choral work, driving strings and brass flourishes, with relentless percussive accompaniment. It’s definitely an action-packed work and listening to the score made me want to check out the game until I realised, I did not have anything to play it on. It’s a score that has many stylistic attributes, ther are for the majority of its running time the action laced pieces which drive onwards and upwards, but there are also a few and I say a few, quieter moments, and occasionally pop sounding cues, that weave in and out of the proceedings, but even these seem to contain a modicum of action led material. GODFALL is another game score that is overflowing with a commanding musical persona, proud and strident, this is certainly one to add to the collection, music is courtesy of composer, Ben MacDougall. Again, it is filled to the brim with rich and powerful thematic material, maybe this is the way things are going in film music, because these game scores are probably at times more vibrant and entertaining than some feature film scores that are doing the rounds these days.
Well if the music is good, I will buy it, that is all I am going to say. And this is good, go check it out on digital platforms. Staying with game scores, MARVELS SPIDER MAN:MILES MORALES has a score written by composer John Paesano and once again it’s a yes from MMI for this video game score, it is a robust and totally consuming action score, it is a fusion of both symphonic and synthetic, choral interludes and proud anthem like themes which remain with the listener long after the score has stopped playing.
Another one you should own, no doubt about it. Other game scores of note include the dark and pulsating PRODEUS by Andrew Hulshult, and the interesting and up beat and driving music for XIII by Lionel Gaget which sounds more like the music from a 1970’s cop thriller or blaxploitation movie, think STILETTO meets SHAFT.
With the popularity of vinyl growing it seems week by week, and collectors of all genres of music returning to the beloved LP format, I had a conversation with a friend and he recounted the LPS that composer Bruno Nicolai released on the EDI PAN label back in the 1970’s, most of these were of course soundtrack related, but others did focus upon non film music projects that the composer hade either written or had acted as conductor upon. The friend then sent me pictures of the cover art for a handful of these, and the memories literally came flooding back.
The label was to say the least an interesting one, its catalogue boasting so many diverse titles, from feature films, documentaries and also studio albums that the composer had compiled for release. In those days I don’t think soundtrack collectors really cared if it was a soundtrack or not and at times this was not made that clear by the label, but it was music by Nicolai that they had not got and that was good enough for them. I have to say at the time of the release of many of these albums, I did not buy them and it has always been something I regrated, as I later became a great admirer of the work of Nicolai. However, a few were issued onto compact disc, but these titles were merely a drop in the ocean compared with the titles that remained in the EDI PAN catalogue, and some even today have not seen the light of day either on CD or digitally.
One score that I was always attracted to was L’ARMA MERAVIGLIOSA (THE WONDERFUL WEAPON) which was released in 1978. I am informed that this is a documentary or docu-drama. but do not set that in stone as I am still not certain. The soundtrack was issued on a double LP set on the EDI PAN label but distributed by Gemellil, it had a gatefold cover, with some really strange art work on the front cover, all I know is the music was outstanding and it is a surprise to me and other Nicolai fans that this has never been re-issued onto vinyl or CD many stalwart collectors having to be contented with a LP transfer CDR. It is a score that oozes the classy and charismatic style of the composer, with a plethora of thematic pieces that range from ancient sounding compositions, baroque, up tempo almost lounge sounding material to traditional Italian vocal performances.
I remember getting this at the same time as L’ALPIN I’E SEMPRE QUEL also distributed by Gemelli. GERMINUS was a soundtrack that Gemelli also distributed for Nicolai’s label and this was issued back in 1969, but thankfully this has seen the light of day on compact disc.
There seem to be so many EDI PAN albums that are just crying out for a re-issue and I am sure that fans of all Italian film music would be willing to part with their hard earned cash to add them to their soundtrack collection. There are a few in the pipeline we are told, but when these will surface is still not yet confirmed. Let us hope that Nicolai finally gets the recognition that he so richly deserves, and with new companies such as FOUR FLIES, and already established labels such as ALL SCORE, KRONOS, BEAT, and their like we will eventually get to listen to the works of this sadly underatted and greatly ignored Maestro.
It beggars the question why are some scores released and others left to gather dust in the vaults of record labels, I suppose it is all down to finances in the end, will the score sell? Will it be of interest to a wider audience and not just fans of a particular composer?
This I suppose has to be taken into account, and the record companies who are considering the release have to really focus upon, I have always said why don’t the record companies ask the fans? Its logical surely, (don’t call me Shirley) sorry could not resist. Put it out there on the dreaded social media (include a list of titles) what one or two would you say are of interest, simple really isn’t it? Gather the feedback and issue the one with the most interest. Press 300 or 500 items and see what happens, then move to the next one and etc etc. But I digress, what I am saying is there are so many great scores that remain unreleased from Italian productions and I am sure this can also be said for other countries, so instead of re-issuing soundtracks for the third, fourth or even fifth time, do something that has languished in the crypt of forgotten soundtracks for an age, bring it back to life, and share it with the world. Italian label Contempo issued LA STRAGE DEI VAMPIRI by composer Aldo Piga in 2015 which was a popular release, Why? Well because it is not only an excellent score, but it had never and I mean never been issued before,
Contempo also re-issued the Neil Richardson conducted MUSIC FOR DRACULA in 2016, with music by composer James Bernard, in a 2 LP set, which Silva screen had originally released on LP in 1989 and presented it in a gatefold luxury edition, before committing it to various CD incarnations which after a while became kind of “OH ITS THAT AGAIN”.
Both re-issues are long deleted, so we live in hope for a re-pressing or maybe a CD release in the future, especially of the Piga masterpiece.
Back to CD releases and some that you could have missed if you blinked a few years back and more recently. AN AMERICAN TAIL and THE LAND BEFORE TIME by the much-missed Maestro James Horner have both been given expanded editions and both scores are superb. Horner excelled in every genre but with these two animated features he certainly managed to create an abundance of beautiful music, heart warming and dramatic these scores are wonderful examples of this gifted mans talent. AN AMERICAN TAIL for me has the edge, why I do not know? But, I just warm to this score each time I hear it, maybe it has something to do with watching it with my daughter when she was nine I guess, and especially at this time of the year leading up to Christmas. The score is hauntingly beautiful the songs entertaining and also funny and emotional. SOMEWHERE OUT THERE in my mind being more affecting than the TITANIC title song, outstripping it both emotionally and musically.
I remember playing the song one night at a function where I was dj’ing the people loved it, not a dry eye at the end. His score for this Don Bluth classic animated feature, is too classic Horner, with its sweeping themes and its haunting melodies. Even if you have the original LP or CD please go check this out.
THE LAND BEFORE TIME is written in much the same way as AN AMERICAN TAIL, it again is classic Horner, the composer combining comedic with romantic and dramatic, fusing intimate themes with urgent and highly powerful pieces, plus it contains another great title song IF WE HOLD ON TOGETHER performed by Motown Queen Diana Ross. Also, with these two scores more than any others I feel that the composer was successful in establishing his distinct and distinguished sound.
All we need now is an expanded WILLOW. Back to the 1970’s for the next soundtrack and French composer who has written literally of film and TV scores,
Vladimir Cosma, is possibly one of the busiest film music composers in Europe or at least he was. He has released the majority of his scores and also has had numerous compilations of his music issued on CD and now digitally on sites such as Spotify and I tunes. L’AFFAIRE CRAZY CAPO was released in 1973, directed by Patrick Jamain it featured the acting talents of Maurice Ronet, Jean Frere Marielle and Jean Servais, and is a Mafia type cop thriller, the music is hard hitting and also up beat with the composer utilising dark sounding piano and strings laced with brass and percussion to fashion a hard hitting soundtrack that takes its lead from the likes of Nicolai, Ferrio and Cipriani. Possibly one of Cosma’s most dramatic and effective soundtracks, it was issued onto CD by CAM records in 1992 as part of their now famous Soundtrack Encyclopaedia.
To 1976 for the next soundtrack, Lipstick is an American rape and revenge thriller movie, directed by Lamont johnson and starring Margaux Hemingway, Chris Sarandon , and Anne Bancroft. Mariel Hemingway also has a supporting role as Margaux‘s onscreen sister. The score was by French pop artist composer performer, Michel Polnareff, with the title track being released on a single in 1976 and charting in France, USA and the UK, and becoming a massive disco hit. The theme is very much disco orientated, but the remainder of the score is symphonic, the composer utilising solo piano and woods that are underlined by strings and given further depth by the utilisation of sol cello. The album which was issued on Atlantic records on CD as well as originally on LP is divided into four sections, with two lengthy cues and also two shorter tracks one of which is the central theme.
The composer does turn to electronic instrumentation in track number three THE RAPIST, which is a rather tormenting and annoying piece, that spills over into track number four which is entitled, BALLET, both of these I thought had shades of Giallo soundtracks that were popular in Italy at the same time. THE LIPSTICK MONTAGE however is a wonderfully lyrical cue that has a running time of around thirteen minutes, the lilting and haunting performances do alter mid-way through and the composer introduces a more up beat style, turning to a dramatic style that is performed by a combination of conventional and electronic mediums and again manifests a sound that is not dissimilar to that of a handful of Italian composers from the same era. If you missed this one check it out on digital platforms, certainly worth a listen, also another Polnareff to look out for is LA FOLLIE DES GRANDUER, which is a great work, and has a Spaghetti western style theme to open it, plus a beautiful love theme. The film, which was directed by Gerard Oury starred Yves Montand, the soundtrack was issued by Universal France as part of the LISTEN TO THE CINEMA SERIES.
The most recent work from Michael Giacchino LET HIM GO, is worth a listen, if that is you can stand the track titles, like his other scores Giacchino names the tracks with a tongue in cheek title, this time they are particularly cringe worthy, but its lucky the music is good. This nothing like the bombastic or big sweeping Giacchino that we know and love, this is an intelligent and mature work, filled with poignant melodies and emotive musical interludes, it is a delicate and intimate sounding score, that relies upon guitar and strings, which underline and support the solo guitar performances with a subtle and sensitive air, As I say worth a listen.