Soundtrack CDs - February 2003, Pt. 2

The color red ties together the next two disparate CDs...

Red Dragon - Music by Danny Elfman - Decca 289 473 248-2 (Enhanced CD):

The prequel to the earlier two Hannibal Lecter dramas has chompin’ Anthony Hopkins pitted against Edward Norton. Elfman’s music is appropriately scary, threatening, briefly lyrical, as needed by the images. The use of a choir in addition to the full orchestra is interesting. Elfman was inspired in this score by the great Bernard Hermann - you won’t be hearing low-budget synthesized effects here. It’s creative, but probably doesn’t stand alone without having seen the film. This is also an Enhanced CD, and equally as well done as the Frida CD. The film’s trailer, a still photo gallery, and a short video conversation in the recording studio with composer Elfman (plus interjections from Director Brett Ratner and Hopkins) encompass this worthwhile AV feature.

Inferno - from Dante’s La Divina Commedia - Music composed and performed by Tangerine Dream - TDI Music CD032:

Another of the increasing number of discs that are difficult to categorize. This is sort of a movie without the images. Although the notes do not directly refer to it, the music appears to have been recorded live during a theatrical presentation of some sort in a German cathedral. In addition to Edgar and Jerome Froese on their synths, Iris Kulterer is heard on percussion and kettledrums plus seven singers. The 18 sections follow the story of the Divine Comedy, with Dante’s tour of hell with Virgil. A series of paintings in the booklet also illustrate some of the sections in the very programmatic work. You can try to follow the titles and figure out what’s going on or you can just relax and enjoy one of the better Tang albums of recent years. (You'll find oodles more at the TDI website.) It’d be even more fun in multichannel though - ProLogic II didn’t do a lot with this; probably due to multi-miking.

- John Sunier

Now we’re getting deep into the not-quite-soundtracks area...
Cinema Paradiso - Monica Mancini - Concord Records CCD-4988-2:

I guess an album like this is the result of Concord’s move from the Bay Area to Beverly Hills. This is not the soundtrack to the recent (unsuccessfully) lengthened theatrical release of Cinema Paradiso, but vocal versions of hits from a dozen famous movies, beginning with that Italian flick. Some of the lyrics were written especially for the vocalist - the daughter of film music great Henry Mancini. Several different arrangers were involved in the orchestrations and the small orchestra provides a superb backing for the singer. Dave Grusin penned the liner notes. There was a recent CD of new lyrics for Nino Rota’s hits for Fellini films. They were in Italian and sounded great though I didn’t know what was being sung. I felt a couple of these songs in English - such as “A Day in the Life of a Fool” from Black Orpheus - should have stayed in the original language. Tunes: Cinema Paradiso, A Day in the Life of a Fool, The Summer Knows, A Love Before Time, Soldier in the Rain, Alfie, Too Late Now, The Shadow of Your Smile, Baby Mine, Senza Fine, I’ll Never Say Goodbye, Over the Rainbow.

Cirque du Soleil - Varekai - Music by Violaine Corradi; arr. By Nitin Sawhney - RCA 74321-93928-2:

The latest music for the French Canadian postmodern circus continues their past successes with highly original and often unclassifiable music that often fits the amazing acrobatic beats like a glove. Classically trained Corradi score the earlier Cirque du Soleil show Dralion. A strong beat and use of electronics is found in most of the music but so is a strong influence of Parisian musette style mixed with lots of percussion and world music influences influences including African, Middle Eastern and Gypsy. In fact the title Varekai in Romany gypsy language means “wherever.” The idea is that the circus and the gypsies share nomadic souls. The colorful booklet only has lyrics to a couple of the vocals and only one of them is in English, but the lyrics are not that important anyway. The theme of the show this time has something to do with the redemption of a fallen angel. Melancholia and joy are contrasted frequently in the path that leads to varekai.

- John Sunier

The Producers - Orig. Cast Recording of the Mel Brooks musical with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick - Sony Classical SK 89646:

We reviewed the video of the recording session for this album a couple months ago and now here is the resulting CD of the winner of a dozen Tony awards, which also won a Grammy Award. To turn his classic film into a musical Brooks came up with 16 new songs in the best Broadway style, because the original wasn’t really a movie musical. They all move the hilarious story along spritely and many bring down the house - among them We Can Do It, Keep It Gay, ‘Til Him, and of course Springtime for Hitler. The singing role was not Broderick’s forte but he does a game job of filling out the role that Gene Wilder had in the original film. Lane is unstoppable. Guten fun uber alles.

The Happiest Girl in the World - Offenbach-E.Y. Harburg - Starring Cyril Ritchard, Janice Rule - DRG Theater 19032:

This 1961 Broadway music used the snappy melodies of Offenbach in much the same way that the music of Grieg, Borodin and other classical composers has been bent to the needs of the Great White Way. DRG has included the original Columbia stereo album in its Broadway reissue series. Yip Harburg’s lyrics are witty and Ritchard is suitably droll - clearly having great fun onstage. (He had played a similar role in the earlier La Perichole, which is entirely by Offenbach.) The story takes place in ancient Athens and among the Greek gods, and involves the Lysistrata ploy in which the women refuse their men the marital bed until they agree not to go to war. (Hmmmm...)

Flower Drum Song - Rodgers & Hammerstein - New Broadway cast recording starring Lea Salonga - DRG Theater 12996:

Going back even further into Broadway history, this music dates from 1958. Based on a book by a Chinese immigrant on the problems of assimilation into American society, it has many wonderful R&H tunes, including I Enjoy Being a Girl, Grant Avenue, a hundred Million Miracles. With the passing of time it was felt that a few details of the original were a bit disrespectful of Asian culture, so the new production has more dignity than did the original. Also, back them arranger Robert Russell Bennett had to use banjo, harp, temple blocks and standard flutes to give an exotic flavor; now audiences can be introduced to the authentic sounds such as the pipa, erhu, clay pots and other Chinese instruments. A delightful musical experience.

- John Sunier

It’s even more difficult to decide how to categorize our last two CDs...
Theremin Noir - Rob Schwimmer (theremins, accordion, waterphone, daxophone, various toys); Uri Caine (piano, voice); Mark Feldman (violin) - November Music NVR2005-2:

There are several movies cues included in this unusual album, so in a way it fits perfectly with our soundtracks. All the cues are the music of Bernard Hermann - from Marnie, Vertigo and Torn Curtain. Schwimmer was inspired to take up the hands-off “wooo-wooo” instrument by hearing the late theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore perform classical themes on it. One of the 15 tracks here is a waltz he wrote on hearing of her death. Uri Caine is a master at breaking across musical genre boundaries, and is the perfect choice for the keyboard contributions. The duets between theremin and violin also work well, the electronic instrument - the first to come into the public’s consciousness - often sounding much like the human voice. Even the heavy cardstock jewelbox-alternate packaging is distinctive. Easiest way to find this one:

Farzad, violin - Mirror of Emotions - Amity Records (no number):

Iranian violinist Farzad has composed most of the ten pieces in his second album, and also cuts across musical genres with a mix of classical, smooth jazz, middle eastern, popular and Latin styles. His quartet consists of himself plus guitar, bass and drums; his soaring tonal structures might almost seem inspired by the sound of the theremin. These are lovely and strongly emotional pieces, skillfully performed and a cut above the usual Yannis and Teshes.

- John Sunier

There's another soundtrack album in our Hi-Res Section, Part 3 this month...

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