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22 Soundtrack CDs

Henry Mancini’s music for Peter Gunn [TrackList follows] – Harmonie Ensemble/New York/ Steven Richman – Harmonia mundi HMU 907624, 51:06 [8/12/14] *****:

(Steven Richman, conductor; Lew Soloff, Dominic Derasse, Joe Giorgianni, and Stanton Davis, trumpets; Mark Gross and Lawrence Feldman, alto sax & alto flute; Lew Tabackin and Lino Gomez, tenor sax & alto flute; Ronnie Cuber, baritone sax; Larry Farrell, John Fedchock, Mark Patterson, and Frank Cohen, trombones; R.J. Kelly, Alexandra Cook, Eric Davis, and David Peel, French horns; Bob Mann, guitar; Christos Rafalides, vibes; Lincoln Mayorga, piano; Francois Moutin, bass; Victor Lewis, drums)

Mancini, who died in 1994, was a prolific Hollywood TV and movie composer, perhaps best known for the Peter Gunn TV series which ran for three seasons, as well as the features Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Charade, and the Pink Panther series. Steven Richman has previously done a series of albums devoted to The Nutcracker, Gershwin, Grofe and Paul Whiteman, and he shows first rate musicianship in mixing classical, jazz and pop in all of them. As you can see from the lineup of players above, he put aside his usual Harmonie Ensemble musicians for some of the top jazz players in the business for this project. (Pianist Lincoln Mayorga is also known for straddaling the classical and jazz worlds.)

This is mostly West Coast-style cool jazz, and both instrumentally and soundwise a cut above the jazz quintet heard at Mother’s on the original Peter Gunn series and the double-CD set of all of Mancini’s music for the series. But the orchestrations preserve the sound of the originals and are really a kick. Some retro stuff that’s coming out lately can be a bore, but this CD is just the thing for today’s listeners.

TrackList:

Peter Gunn Theme
Sorta Blue
The Brothers Go to Mother’s
Dreamsville
Session at Pete’s Pad
Soft Sounds
Fallout
The Floater
A Profound Gass
Brief and Breezy
My Manne Shelly
Blue Steel
Blues for Mother’s
Spook
Peter Gunn Theme (reprise)

DawnOfApesMICHAEL GIACCHINO: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Original soundtrack music – Sony Classical 88843088262:

Giacchino has won an Academy Award for his music for the TV series Lost and is known for his scores for Up, Ratatoulle and The Incredibles. His credits also include Mission: Impossible III and two Star Trek movies, showing he is familiar with composing for sci-fi films. This film is the sequel to 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and concerns the genetically-evolved apes led by Caesar who are threatened by humans who survived the devastating virus of a decade earlier. The apes and men come to the brink of a war.

A few of the 19 cues here are by an evident relative, Griffith Giacchino. Michael prefers clear melodies and themes but he interjects touches of atonality. He was guided in his score by the style of Jerry Goldsmith, who did the score for the first of the recent ape films. Most of the tracks are quite short, except track 11 “Gorilla Warfare,” and the end credits, Track 18.

LiberatorGUSTAVO DUDAMEL: The Liberator – original soundtrack music  – Orquesta Sinfonica Simon Bolivar de Venezuela/Gustavo Dudamel – DGG B0021054-02:

Composed and conducted by Dudamel, and assisted by two choirs, this is the score for the 2013 Spanish-Venezuelan drama film on Simon Bolivar, who fought over 100 battles against the Spanish Empire in South America. It starred Edgar Ramirez as Bolivar and was Venezuela’s entry for Best Foreign Film at the 87th Oscars. Dudamel used some ethnic elements and instruments to conjure up the rhythms, colors and feelings of the South American spirit. The orchestra is all young people who put their soul into the stirring music.

MapsToStarsHOWARD SHORE: Map to the Stars – original soundtrack music – Howe Records HWR-1014:

This is a Canadian-American satire from David Cronenberg concerning the wild happenings in the Hollywood dynasty of the Weiss family. The family chases celebrity, one another, and the ghosts of their pasts. It has Robert Pattinson, Juilianne Moore and John Cusack. The 11-piece band are all credited in the note booklet, and judging by the instruments involved, is a mix of classical and pop. It got a 53% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

I-Origins-CoverWILL BATES & PHIL MOSSMAN: I Origins – original sound music – Milan Records M2-36696:

This is the second feature from writer/director Mike Cahill, the first was After Earth.  Semi-sci-fi, this one concerns a guy named Ian, who is researching the evolution of human eyes. His girlfriend Sofi does ads for cosmetics for the eyes, but she dies in an accident involving an elevator. Having seen his first film, I wasn’t interested in this one. The musical score is generally  impressionistic and atmospheric, with occasional sort of do-it-yourself percussion effects. A few tracks feature young untrained vocalists who really can’t sing, and the 14th of the 17 cues is actually a selection by Radiohead.

Shos-OtelloStalingradSHOSTAKOVICH: Classic Film scores = Othello (1956); Battle of Stalingrad (1949) – Slovak Radio Sym. Orch./ Adriano – Naxos Film Music Classics 8.573389, 64:36:

The fine Naxos series, which has already offered The Fall of Berlin, Jane Eyre and Christopher Columbus, here offers another pair of classic films which boasted soundtrack music by Dmitri Shostakovich. This is much appreciated because the sound on Soviet-era film tracks was so terrible. The Swiss-born conductor and composer Adriano began as an expert on the music of Respighi and now has done 45 recording projects on obscure and neglected film scores. What we have here are 11 movements of a suite, and Adriano was frustrated by the Russian authorities not furnishing the full contents of Shostakovich’s suite for Othello. The movements do not follow the chronological order of the events in the film. There is a large orchestra, including piccolo, a large percussion section, harp, vibes and the usual strings. There are two shorter selections with chorus and one for soprano soloist. The shortest is the cue for the striking of Desdemona—“The Slap” is only :55.

The five movements of the Battle of Stalingrad Suite are so much better fidelity than the previous mono LP of more of the score, so the sonics are most pleasurable. The penultimate one is “For Our Motherland,” and the final “To Victory”—as expected for Soviet films of this vintage—are a bit too extreme and too long, but then the Russians were subject to a long and really terrible fight against the Nazi and this should always be remembered.

BigPictureKrakauerHear The Big Picture – Featuring Krakauer [TrackList follows] – Table Pounding TPR-002:

This CD is the baby of Klezmer clarinist David Krakauer, who has performed with the Kronos and Emerson String Quartets, pianist Uri Caine, Music from Marlboro, and others. He presents a dozen movie themes in a klezmer style, which is absolutely delightful.  The idea is to reimagine familiar film music themes, especially those which have appeared in films with Jewish content.  Krakauer moves beyond classical and klezmer genres, using a modernist approach. The opening “Willkommen” from the film Cabaret is a kick, and the love theme from Sophie’s Choice is also well-done. Themes from The Pianist and The Producers are included, and well as “People” from Funny Girl. I didn’t know the name of the tune from Woody Allen’s terrific Midnight in Paris, but greatly enjoyed “If You See my Mother.” The only con I had was the final track, “Tradition,” from Fiddler On the Roof, which goes on too long with everyone in the ensemble repeating ‘Tradition’ over and over. (Just hit Stop when you’ve had enough.)

TrackList: Willkommen; La Vita E Bella; Si tu Vois Ma Mere (If You See My Mother); Body and Soul; Moving To The Ghetto; The Family; Honeycomb; Love Theme; Keep It Gay; People; Tradition

TwoCaligarisGIDEON FREUDMANN: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – Gideon Freudmann, elec. cello; Michael DiMartino, percussion; Dave Hower, drums; Chris Haynes, accordion – Octagon Records 203:

This music was composed, recorded and produced by cellist Freudmann in the mid-2000s in Massachsetts, to accompany a print of the classic German silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Cesare is a Somnambulist—a man who has been asleep for 25 years and is brought back to conciousness by Dr. Caligari. Cesare goes out under the Dr.’s hypnotic bidding, killing people here and there. There are ten cues on the CD and it is designed to fit other silent films as well as this one, plus to be useable for background listening.

EBAN SCHLETTER: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – Six vocalists/string section/percussion/bass clarinet/keyboards/Erhu/theremin – Netherota Records NET 1017:

This music was evidently composed, arranged and produced by Eban Schletter for a new film version of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, directed by David Lee Fisher in 2005. The eerie sound of the electronic theramin is foremost in most of the 19 cues here. I can’t understand the need to remake a classic silent film such as this, but then Herzog’s remake of Nosferatu is quite an enjoyable tribute with sound. Perhaps someone I’ll get to view this one someday; let’s hope it’s not a total waste of time as was the remake of Psycho.

—Above 9 reviews by John Sunier

[audaud-hr]

We’ve got more 13 soundtracks here, both old and new, from film and TV. From the new television series Fargo, to Clint Eastwood’s classic Any Which Way You Can. A wide range of musical styles for sure, but you might find something here that might have been missed otherwise.

monumentsmenXALEXANDRE DESPLAT: The Monuments Men – Sony Classical:

Alexandre Desplat is now a household name among film score aficionados. His scores have earned him five Academy Award nominations and six for the Golden Globes. His latest is the score to Director and Actor George Clooney’s The Monuments Men. The tone of this score is largely military-esque. The “Opening Titles” track is an upbeat patriotic fanfare but the following track “Ghent Altarpiece” is romantic and somber, sounding more like Desplat’s usual style. “Claire & Granger” is a three and a half minute track and every second of it is beautiful, classic Alexandre Desplat. There are 24 tracks by Desplat with the final song on the album being “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” performed by Nora Sagal. The Monuments Men score is a worthy addition to any film score buff’s collection.

thatawkwardmomentXDAVID TORN: That Awkward Moment – Varese Sarabande:

David Torn composed the original music contained on the soundtrack for the romantic comedy That Awkward Moment. Torn is a guitarist, composer and producer having worked with artists like David Bowie, John Legend, and Madonna.  David Torn has contributed to soundtracks since the late ‘90s, both in terms of composing and performing. This soundtrack has an undeniable ’80s vibe and I dig it. The opening track “Closed Shades” by Crozet is something I’d love to make a sunset drive along the beach to. “After Dark” is by the band Night Drive and has a very New Order/ LCD Soundsystem vibe to it. “Morning Sun” by Strange Talk is just a great song. David Torn’s tracks are a blend of groove and atmosphere and while I didn’t feel they quite fit in with the other tracks, the album as a whole is surprisingly solid. Six tracks are original score by Torn and the other six are featured artists.

fargoTVxJEFF RUSSO: Fargo – Original Television Series – Sony Classical:

Jeff Russo, founding member of Tonic, has delivered his first original score for the FX television series Fargo – not to be confused with the motion picture soundtrack composed by Carter Burwell. Speaking of Burwell’s score, there are definite hints of it in the “Main Theme” of the television series. Once into the bulk of the album however, Russo’s style becomes clear and unique. Thoughtful, subtle, and somber.  Not quite as dark as Burwell’s score and a little more laid back. Perhaps they wanted something more background for the TV show and not as dramatic and epic as the movie score. 28 largely 1 to 2-minute tracks on this disc.

xmen-daysfuturepastXJOHN OTTMAN: X-Men Days of Future Past – Sony Classical:

This is not John Ottman’s first go at comic book movie scores. Ottman also scored X2, both Fantastic Four movies, and Superman Returns. Ottman’s music reminds me of the late great Jerry Goldsmith, but perhaps a little darker at times. X-Men Days of Future Past is the latest in the series and the third directed by Bryan Singer. It’s got 20 tracks by John Ottman along with “Time in a Bottle” by Jim Croce and “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack. As with many sequels, themes from his previous X-Men scores are repeated here and it largely feels like background music for an action hero movie, lacking legs to stand on its own without the film.

rio2xJOHN POWELL: Rio 2 – Sony Classical:

John Powell has quickly become one of my favorite film composers of late. His scores for How To Train Your Dragon and Bolt are a couple examples of how talented the man is. Rio 2 builds upon what Powell had already done for the first Rio. Playful and highly energetic with elements of Latin beat.  It isn’t his most original work, nor his best, but it is an enjoyable listen. Powell does a good job of injecting a little samba into his own signature sound. 19 fun tracks to enjoy on this Powell soundtrack. Rio 2 is a solid album and one I recommend Powell fans pick up.

bookthiefxJOHN WILLIAMS: The Book Thief – Sony Classical:

Ah, the legend. What more needs to be said about the maestro himself, John Williams? Having created arguably some of the most memorable movie themes, he is the quintessential film composer. The score to The Book Thief is soft-spoken and romantic. The score jumps to playful in the track “The Snow Fight.” There isn’t any new uncharted territory here for Williams, it is mostly recycled compositions, pulling from Stepmom, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Angela’s Ashes. [Not to mention recycled material from other composers…Ed.]  Lush strings with meandering woodwind solos in tracks like “Learning to Read,” and tense, un-harmonic chords make up some of the darker tracks like “Book Burning.” There are 22 beautiful tracks to enjoy here. As a die-hard Williams fan, The Book Thief is a welcome addition to my library and if you don’t have the similar styled scores mentioned above, I highly recommend The Book Thief.

enoughsaidXMARCELO ZARVOS: Enough Said – Varese Sarabande:

Enough Said is a romantic comedy starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini. The score by Marcelo Zarvos takes on the usual romantic comedy tones – piano, some strings, light acoustic guitar. 29 often shorter tracks are featured on this soundtrack album. There’s nothing complicated in tracks like “Do You Want To Kiss” and “Protecting Us;” they are simple, but melodic and soothing. There are no surprises here, but it is a lovely score and one I found myself pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

oculusXNEWTON BROTHERS: Oculus – Varese Sarabande:

The Newton Brothers created the score for the horror flick Oculus which is heavily dominated by erie strings and synth sounds. Tracks go from creepy and quiet to loud and chaotic which I found to be a bit jarring. 36 tracks in total, with the final two featuring Paul Oakenfold. This is essentially an atmospheric album with little to no melodies, so for me, I’d pass on it.

afterthedarkXNICHOLAS O’TOOLE and JONATHAN DAVIS: After The Dark – Varese Sarabande:

After the Dark is a movie about a group of students taking on a challenge to see how they would handle rebooting the human race in the aftermath of nuclear apocalypse. The score is heavily synth and mostly atmospheric and, at times reminded me of a few cues from Tron Legacy. The themes are a bit repetitive throughout the album so I found myself only returning to a couple of the tracks. I imagine the music probably helped the film, but as a stand-alone album the 31 short tracks don’t quite hold up.

draculaxROBERT COBERT: Dan Curtis’ Dracula – Varese Sarabande:

Robert Cobert brings classic horror director Dan Curtis’ Dracula to life with his full score now available on CD. The film premiered back in 1973 and starred Jack Palance. The “Main Title” track is excellent and if you are fan of Basil Poledouris, it may remind you of his score for Conan The Barbarian. This is classic ‘70s film scoring and very enjoyable.  28 tracks by Robert Cobert to savoir here.

anywhichwayXVARIOUS ARTISTS: Any Which Way You Can – Varese Sarabande:

The compilation soundtrack is from the 1980 Buddy Van Horn film Any Which Way You Can. This album features tracks such as “Beers To You,” “Whiskey Heaven” by Fats Domino, and the excellent “Any Which Way You Can” by Glen Campbell. 12 tracks in all and a great pickup for fans of the music or the film.

honkytonkmanXVARIOUS ARTISTS: Honkytonk Man – Varese Sarabande:

This may come as a surprise, but this score is a compilation of honky-tonk songs.  Enjoy “San Antonio Rose” by Ray Price, “Turn The Pencil Over” by Porter Wagoner, “When I Sing About You” by Clint Eastwood, and nine other honky-tonk tracks. Clint Eastwood’s vocals are also featured on the lovely tune “No Sweeter Cheater Than You.”  A nice album for fans of the genre or the 1982 film about a country-western musician invited to audition for Grand Ole Opry. 

onechanceXVARIOUS ARTISTS: One Chance – Sony Classical:

One Chance is a film about the shy Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts. It features tracks like “Nessun Dorma” (Puccini) and “Nella Fantasia” (a lyrical version of The Mission film theme by Ennio Morricone) performed by Paul Potts. It is a nice collection of tracks, but there are surely better vocal performances of the various Paul Potts versions.  I also found the recording to be severely lacking in dynamic range. If you really enjoyed the Paul Potts story, then this is a good album, otherwise there are better versions available of the tracks performed on this album. Taylor Swift fans might be after the one track “Sweeter Than Fiction.”

—Above 13 reviews by Stephen Hornbrook

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