Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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Plague Ridden Dog Parts, the Lord of the Riff and a lot of Golden Age

You know, putting the music on this iPod is having the same effect that putting the music on the Nomad did, or putting it on mp3 CD did before that, or putting it on minidisc before that... I am ending up going through my music collection and finding a lot of stuff in there that are old favorites that I haven't listened to in ages.

I had the original Varése Club CD of Flesh + Blood and upgraded to the expanded edition last year, but I only listened to the expanded edition once after having reordered in chronologically (it works better that way). I think that this is Basil Poledouris' second-best score (after Conan the Barbarian, of course) and I really enjoyed it; I knew the original disc by heart, so the variations brought on by the expansion really brought a new dimension to the music. I saw the movie once, marvelled at how Verhoeven got such a perverse film made in the United States and at how Jennifer Jason Leigh's obsessive exhibitionism, but ultimately found the proceedings rather silly. The music, though, is bold and active, often evoking - as Conan does as well - Miklós Rózsa and Sergei Prokofiev. But while Conan leaned more towards Prokofiev, Flesh + Blood leans more in the Rózsa direction. The performance on Flesh + Blood is by members of the London Symphony Orchestra and is more precise than Conan's, actually. I was happy to hear that the music still sounded as fresh and vibrant as it did when I first heard it so long ago.

I had also not listened to The Wind and the Lion in a dog's age. I found the movie rather distancing; John Milius calls himself a Zen Fascist. I don't know what that means, exactly, but it sure does make his films weird. The freakish split personality that the film has doesn't help it, but it is his penchant for macho bullshit that is really misplaced here. For example, a preteen boy 'becomes a man' by learning how to engage in ruthless violence. The Neanderthal masculine identification Milius is obsessed with works perfectly with Conan the Barbarian, but I felt that it seriously marred his take on these historic events, and I didn't feel that that aspect of the film jibed with the epic, sweeping romance that Sean Connery and Candice Bergen are supposed to be having in the meantime. It's not that Connery couldn't handle this type of material - I liked Robin and Marian well enough - but I'd buy him as - say, a Russian Submarine Captain before I would buy him as an Arab. Sorry.

On the other hand, if there is one thing John Milius knows how to do it is to get a good score for his film. It is one thing to say that the major peak of Poledouris' career was a Milius collaboration (Conan) considering how often Poledouris worked with Milius, but there is no question that The Wind and the Lion is also one of Jerry Goldsmith's best scores as well. In fact, I have tended to think of most of the subsequent Middle Eastern flavored scores that he's done (Masada and The Mummy spring to mind) as being "The Wind and the Lion Lite." This is not to denigrate those later works (certainly not Masada), but to acknowledge how impressive a score The Wind and the Lion is. The score is mostly centered around the Connery/Bergen parts of the film, while the few cues that do deal with Roosevelt and the ham-handed political maneuvering not being well represented on the album. This is a shame, because there are some real nice Americana pieces that, while they would stand in contrast to what is on the album already, would offer another side to the thematic material that is on the record. On the other hand, from the aggressive Raisuli music to the lilting love theme, what a fantastic listening experience the music on that album is.

This is an album I would love to get on vinyl, actually. The lousy sound on the CD might just be a straight, uncorrected LP album master. Even if it isn't, the inherent sonic properties of vinyl will definitely make it sound better (it might even have a low end; this was certainly the case with that LP of Rózsa's El Cid and Williams' Dracula, Jaws and E.T.) It's too bad you can't just walk into Footlight anymore, I'm sure they would have it. Could have picked it up tomorrow. Damn.

When I mentioned Jaws and E.T. before, I'm referring to the original albums for these. In the case of E.T., I prefer the album to the original soundtrack recording. I like both the album and the original soundtrack recording of Jaws, although I tend to lean towards the film tracks a bit in that case. Nevertheless, both are cases of crappy early MCA CD transfers that have horrible sound. The respective LPs, while not sounding fantastic, sounded much, much better.

Miklós Rózsa came up twice so far, and another score I've recently had a chance to rediscover was his music for Ivanhoe. Reconstructed by Daniel Robbins, Bruce Broughton conducted the Sinfonia of London for this recording, and it was the first release in Intrada's Excalibur line, which has thus far produced two other similarly splendid recordings, Julius Caesar, another Rózsa score (the FSM release of the original soundtrack is very good, but I like the Excalibur edition better - that reminds me, I have to load it onto the iPod) and Bernard Herrmann's Jason and the Argonauts. This was all class, great sound, the excellent performance, and damn it, I think that this is the Rózsa score I find the most fun.

I always found that book rather frustrating. It's such a wonderful read - Scott's use of language is hypnotic, and it kind of makes you wish that people really spoke like that - but at the end of it I had to go back and re-read much of it to make sure... Ivanhoe doesn't really do anything. He spends most of the book laid up, and when he comes out to do battle with his foe, his foe just dies of shame. What the hell is that about? I mean, Wamba is more heroic than Ivanhoe, but the book isn't named after him. Oh, yeah, and I was kind of annoyed by the Anti-Semitism in the book as well. Don't get me wrong, the prose is gorgeous. I even filled out some time sheets with it a few times (my foreman was not amused) but the story... I've never seen any of the filmed versions of the book, but the Rózsa's score makes the 1953 version sound like a real blast.

I also loaded a bunch of Charles Gerhardt's RCA Victor recordings. I just put on the suite from Max Steiner's glorious score from The Adventures of Don Juan (you've heard parts of it in Zorro the Gay Blade and The Goonies as well). I love that "Processional" piece. Reminder to self: load the BYU disc of the original soundtrack into the iPod as well. I think I need to be putting in Franz Waxman's Prince Valiant in as well. And Victor Young's Scaramouche. Hmm...I think I see a pattern developing here.

I have the Marco Polo recording of Erich Wolfgang Korngold's The Adventures of Robin Hood on DVD-Audio. It sounds thunderous, it's played so enthustiastically that I have never regretted buying it. That is, until I realized that I had no way of ripping the DVD-Audio tracks to the mp3 format. Anybody know of a way of going about doing this...?

And I leave this Mother's Day with
this immortal scene of motherliness:

Tags: basil poledouris, bernard herrmann, conan, erich wolfgang korngold, film music, jerry goldsmith, john williams, miklós rózsa, movie moments

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