In the June round up we have some recent releases like The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Thomas Newman, Far From the Madding Crowd by Craig Armstrong, and Exodus Gods and Kings by Alberto Iglesias, along with reissues and compilation scores. Howe records has released a few collector’s edition scores by Howard Shore, Crash and Dead Ringers featuring nice artwork and packaging. The sweeping score by Alexandre Desplat to The Imitation Game is the highlight of this film score roundup and should not be missed.
HOWARD SHORE – Naked Lunch – Collector’s Edition Vol. 6 – Howe Records HWR-1017 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]
This music has been released on CD before. The 1992 version on Milan Records has only the first 18 tracks, whereas this new reissue has six additional bonus tracks. Seven of the tracks were composed by Ornette Coleman and and Thelonious Monk’s “Misterioso” is also heard. One of the CDs featured William Burroughs on its cover because this is about his seamy drugged-out underworld and based on his 1959 novel. The film is full of sinister centipedes, living typewriter bugs, and “mugwumps,” and the music might best be described as beatnik jazz. Coleman contributes some lovely not-necessarily atonal tracks however, and Shore’s non-jazz cues are most interesting as well. Here’s a review of the movie we did.
Here’s the TrackList:
1. Naked Lunch
2. Hauser And O’Brien / Bugpowder – Howard Shore/Ornette Coleman
5. The Black Meat
6. Simpatico / Misterioso – Howard Shore/Thelonious Monk
7. Fadela’s Coven
8. Interzone Suite
9. William Tell
11. Intersong – Ornette Coleman
12. Dr. Benway
13. Clark Nova Dies
14. Ballad / Joan – Ornette Coleman
15. Cloquet’s Parrots / Midnight Sunrise
16. Nothing Is True; Everything Is Permitted
17. Welcome To Annexia
18. Writeman – Howard Shore/Ornette Coleman
19. Hauser & O’Brien (complete)
20. Dual Typewriters
21. Simpatico (reprise)
23. Intersong (take 2)
24. Bugpowder (take 9)
Cliff Martinez did the scores for the U.S. version of Solaris, for Kafka, Drive and The Knick. This is a recording of a live concert at a film festival in Gent, Belgium which celebrated his music in arrangements for full orchestra. Martinez is noted for this subtle mastery of electronic music, and that is heard in many of these 16 tracks which feature the Brussels Philharmonic conducted by Dirk Brossé. Here is the TrackList:
1. First Sleep (from SOLARIS)
2. We Don’t Have To Think Like That Anymore (from SOLARIS)
3. Unknown Territories (From A L’ORIGINE)
4. Call Me Philip (from A L’ORIGINE)
5. Do You Like These Colors? (from A L’ORIGINE)
6. Eddie’s Dead (from KAFKA)
7. More Hands (from ONLY GOD FORGIVES)
8. The Mission Is Over (from ESPION(S))
9. I Don’t Know Any Nice People (from ESPION(S))
10. Mind If I Use Your Ladies? (from ESPION(S))
11. The Green Head (from THE UNDERNEATH)
12. Following Daniel (from WICKER PARK)
13. Father & Daughter Reunion (from THE COMPANY YOU KEEP)
14. Can’t Say I’m Happy To See You (from THE COMPANY YOU KEEP)
15. Contagion (from CONTAGION)
16. Bad Day To Be A Rhesus Monkey (from CONTAGION)
The Thomas Hardy classic love story comes alive on the screen in this current film about a headstrong girl who attracts three very different suitors. Armstrong’s score uses warm strings and graceful orchestration. There are some traditional British folk ballads and strong romantic themes. Scottish composer Armstrong has also done the music for Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby, Ray, and Elizabeth: The Golden Age. He won a Grammy for Ray in 2004. Here is the TrackList for all 24 tracks:
2. Jerusalem the Golden
3. Corn Exchange
4. The Great Misunderstanding
5. Spring Sheep Dip
6. Oak Returns
7. Let No Man Steal Your Thyme
8. Never Been Kissed
9. Hollow in the Ferns
10. Bathsheba and Troy Wedding
11. Dribbles of Brandy
12. Swiss Boy
13. Fanny and Troy
14. Troy Swims Out
15. O Come, o come, Emmanuel
16. Boldwood Variation
17. Michael Turner’s Waltz
18. Jenny Lind Polka
19. Time Moves On
20. Oak Leaves
21. Bathsheba and Oak Unite
22. End Credits
23. Let No Man Steal Your Thyme
24. Far from the Madding Crowd Love Theme
—above reviews by John Sunier
Howard Shore is one of the top composers in Hollywood and David Cronenberg has chosen him as the lead scorer for most of his films. Crash is not your average film, it is filled with perversion and provocative ideas. Howard Shore’s score is not what I would consider very approachable music. There isn’t much of a theme, there certainly aren’t any major chords, and it shouldn’t cheer you up. If you enjoy horror music, this will probably be your thing. 22 tracks in all, there are 7 bonus tracks in this collector’s edition of the Crash soundtrack.
Dead Ringers is one of Howard Shore’s early works, originally released in 1988. It opens with the movie’s “Main Title” track, a sweeping and melodic theme, but quickly turns somber as the album continues. Most of the score is filled with a haunting dissonance which makes for an almost stressful listening experience. It being the ’80s, Shore made subtle use of synthesizers throughout. It just sits in the background of the “Finale” track, but it makes for the distinct sound of its time. 17 tracks are included on this collector’s edition of the Dead Ringers soundtrack.
This score to the film Rosewater has an uplifting, spiritual vibe to it. Rosewater is the true story about a journalist held and interrogated in an Iraqi prison. There is a distinct Arabic tone to Shore’s music here, but it often follows a major Ionian scale than the more traditional Arabic maqam scales. It is for the most part a slow and atmospheric soundtrack which I found to be great background music while working. The final track, there are 15 total, “Released”, is my favorite on the album.
Thomas Newman, who scored the original Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, has reprised his role for the sequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. This score continues the same style and sound, a mix of Indian instruments and scales. Its a heartwarming album and pleasant to listen to. While not one of Newman’s best efforts, it does make for good world music background music while working. The album features 28 tracks in total.
Theodore Shapiro’s score to St. Vincent is a whimsical romp that I found to be a pleasant listen. There are some energetic tracks like “Standard Operating Procedure” and “Nosebreaker” with its tribal drums, but most of the album is pretty low-key. While I prefer Shapiro’s work for Secret Life of Walter Mitty, St. Vincent has some enjoyable compositions, plus the film had Bill Murray. The main theme is memorable and present throughout the album’s 20 tracks.
The Imitation Game is a wonderful score to an intriguing movie. About the life of Alan Turing and his time building a machine to decode the Nazi Enigma machine, The Imitation Game is just as much about the character as it is the history. Desplat’s score is moving, romantic but somber. This is my favorite score in this soundtrack roundup for June and should not be missed.
Spanish composer Alberto Iglesias has several high profile film scores on his resume, including Che, The Kite Runner, and The Constant Gardner. This collaboration with Ridley Scott for Exodus: Gods and Kings is a mix of beautiful, romantic and gritty, dark and somber tracks. There are quite a few tracks, 32, but most are pretty short. This is a decent score, but most of it is forgettable.
The Last Starfighter is a movie directly out of my childhood and boy does this score take me back. The main theme is a bit corny with its distinctly ’80s sci-fi vibe. I particularly enjoyed the slower take on the main theme in “Alex Dreams.” The theme works better in a more somber mood than the patriotic march style of the “Main Title.” 22 tracks by Craig Safan from this classic mid-80’s movie are included on the album.
This is a fantastic soundtrack release. It includes a lot of music that wasn’t even used in the final cut of the film. Performed by Les Witches, a small group of period musicians, the sound is made up largely from flutes, strings, and harpsichord. There is a somber tone to most of the album but I found it beautiful and relaxing. Don’t miss the 20 tracks on Kohlhaas.
Jason Seizer is a German jazz saxophonist and Cinema Paradiso is a collection of his rendition of various film score themes such as Cinema Paradiso by the great Ennio Morricone. That particular track on this album has taken on a rainy-day jazz vibe and boy does it work. An incredibly beautiful theme by Morricone, the jazz offbeat hits and chordal structure bring it into another light. Seizer’s performance on the tenor sax is dynamic yet delicate. Any harsh tone associated with the sax has been wiped away by Seizer. The recording is excellent as well. Soundstage has very good depth and dimensionality and the dynamic range is good.
Naxos brings us music from two films, David Copperfield and The Roots of Heaven composed by Sir Malcolm Arnold. These are sweeping, epic film scores and the opening Overture for The Roots of Heaven is the perfect example of that. Performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and conducted by William Stromberg, this recording is of fine quality. Without knowing when these films came out, my mind immediately thought of movie scores from the ’50s and ’60s. Arnold has that classic old Hollywood sound. Sure enough, The Roots of Heaven was released in 1958. Sir Malcolm Arnold’s list of work puts him up there with the film composer greats. He scored classics such as The Bridge on the River Kwai and Hobson’s Choice along with the two on this album. Naxos has produced a wonderful collection of 33 tracks from Arnold and if you haven’t experience this British composer’s sound, this is an excellent opportunity to. Recommended.
Liam Neeson stars in A Walk Among the Tombstones and the film score is brought to us by Carlos Rafael Rivera. I did not recognize Carlos off the top of my head and a quick search revealed this is his only motion picture composition. Carlos is a guitar player at heart and protege of the great Randy Newman. His score for A Walk Among the Tombstones is largely murder mystery-esque with a roaming off key melody snaking throughout the score. Many of the 13 tracks sound similar so don’t expect too much original content here. It was easy to envision how the score fits into this kind of film and as his first film score, A Walk Among the Tombstones is intriguing and mysterious.
Whiplash is the story of an intense music professor whose extreme tactics push students to their breaking point. The soundtrack album contains all the key music in the film including “Whiplash” and “Caravan” spread over 24 tracks. A few contain dialog from the movie. Fans of the music from the movie should enjoy this album, but I’m not sure it will translate as well to listeners who haven’t seen it.
The Wild Side is a collection of big band jazz tunes that Bernstein introduced into the cinematic world over his years. It has tracks from The Man with the Golden Arm, The Rat Race, The Age of Innocence, and Devil in a Blue Dress, among others. 17 in total with multiple tracks for The Caretakers, and Johnny Staccato. This album encompasses Elmer Bernstein’s flair for incorporating a dramatic big band jazz sound into his film scores. Hear some excellent up-tempo sax solos in The Rat Race and a creeping bass line in Jubilation. Then move on to the sweeping sounds and flute solos in The Age of Innocence. This is a fun album that does a wonderful job capturing this side of Elmer Bernstein’s career.
One On One came out in 1977 and is the story of a small town basketball phenom who heads to a big city university. The songs on this album are all performed by Seals & Crofts, an American soft rock duo famous for “Summer Breeze” and “Diamond Girl”. This album is pure ’70s groove and while not quite my thing, has some decent tracks like “Flyin’,” “Reflections,” and “Love Conquers All.” 14 tracks fill up this album and is surely a real treat for fans of Jim Seals and Darrell Crofts.
As a big fan of the works by John Williams, I can be slightly more critical when it comes to covers of the original music. This particular album of Williams classics performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra falls a bit short for me. Immediately with the first track from Indiana Jones and moving into the second track from E.T. I knew this album was not for me. There’s too much off in the dynamics and tempo from the originals for me to sit back and enjoy this version. I also noticed a bit too much reverb in the recording which created a bit of a muddy sound. There are 14 tracks from various John Williams scores and I’d suggest steering clear from this one; find the original recordings instead.
Popping in this CD, I had no clue what to expect. What a wonderful surprise this album is. The music is grandiose and expressive, exactly what a silent film needs to communicate dialog, story and emotion. The recording is very well done here too with a wonderful soundstage and dynamics. There are a whopping 33 tracks on this disc, although most are under two minutes. Standouts for me were Silent Sorrows, Appassionato No. 1, and Emotional Andante. I can’t imagine movies without music, and this collection of music from silent cinema does a great job at proving the importance of music in film. Silent films were clearly not all silent. When a story can be told through images and music it becomes a new form of language and a beautiful one at that. A wonderful and important collection of music here by New World Records.
This is a lovely compilation of some classic film score themes from John Barry, James Horner, John Williams, Tan Dun, Howard Shore and more. “The Music of Goodbye” from Out of Africa is well performed and arranged as well as the tracks from Braveheart and The Mission. 26 tracks span this album, giving the listener plenty to choose from. The interpretations show intelligence and passion and provide a pleasing alternative to full orchestra versions. A good buy for piano lovers and fans of the music of films.
—Above reviews by Stephen Hornbrook