I've been listening to a lot of music of late. Some of it is new stuff, some discs I've had for a while that I haven't played in some time. I guess what strikes me as a theme here is that it is music that tends to be (though not without exception) more modern and harmonically complex than much of what I listen to is. Another thing that is a constant is how thematically dense most of these scores are... I am really enjoying listening to a lot of very challenging music right now, possibly a response to my own Redwoods compilation, which I had been listening to extensively just before this current batch.
- ELMER BERNSTEIN
Okay, I obviously can't talk too much about where or how with this one, but suffice it to say that the sound quality is abysmal and I will be the first to order an official release should one ever materialize. Until then, the score is so good that even the horrible sonics can't diminish its power. This is seriously one of the best scores of Bernstein's career... and that's saying something!!! The breadth of thematic material is matched only by the quality thereof. I've even been eyeballing that super-cheap DVD of the film which is in the impulse section of my local supermarket just to hear it in slightly better quality... what stays my hand is that I remember the movie being mystifyingly bad. I thought it was three hours long when I first saw it, but at the end I checked the running time on the tape, 92 minutes. The only thing that kept me going through to the end was the score, but that was years and years ago and I avoided the movie thereafter like the plague. So even though I have technically heard this score once before, eighteen or so years ago, I consider it to be a "discovery." And a revelation as well.
The pairing of the original score recording with the album re-recording can sometimes be somewhat redundant; I'm happy to have both on the release of Damien, but I only listen to one or the other at a time. On the other hand, it works beautifully with Justine, as there is enough variation to keep the album from sounding repetitive, but has a unity of sound making the transition from the score to the album very smooth. The score, which I was unfamiliar with previous to this release, was quite a pleasant surprise.
- The Shoes of the Fisherman
I had not heard much about this film or score, I ordered it when I started considering making an Alex North epic mix (which had just completed when Varèse Sarabande has announced their club release of the 1952 version of Les Misérables, long thought lost), only to find it a fascinating example or re-association. Much of the thematic material in this score I was familiar with from the Jerry Goldsmith recording of 2001, but here it has often been minorly re-orchestrated, but with profound effect. The "Bones"/"The Dawn of Man" fanfare takes on a completely different tone here, as does the "Foraging" cues, which now illustrate (rather vividly, I might add) the ceremonies at the Vatican. This is a film I would ordinarily skip because of the subject matter, but I am most curious to hear North's score in context.
- Max Dugan Returns
This score is so much damn fun, I have even been able to use it in a therapeutic manner. Raz was in a very bad mood when I picked him up yesterday, but when I cued this score up on the way to the movies, its bouncy mood and earnest charm cheered him up immediately. I had gotten into Shire mostly through his more intense material, such as The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and The Conversation, but he has such range... Farewell My Lovely is another favorite. But Max Dugan Returns is just one of the most optimistic sounding bits of scoring I've ever heard.
- Heavy Metal 2000
I have to thank lehah for pointing me towards this one. It is one of the best action scores I've heard in a long time, and I've been listening to it constantly since he had me listen to "Julie's Journey." When I'm at home, I really love to crank the CD, and every track is nothing short of outstanding. I have no idea how good or bad this movie is, and I don't care, because there's just no way it can ever stack up to the movie in my head. This music is huge!!!
- JERRY GOLDSMITH
- The Ghost and the Darkness
This is often considered a relatively minor score in the Goldsmith cannon (usually by the same putzes who relegate The Thirteenth Warrior to the same designation). I enjoyed it in the film when I saw it, but for some reason it never showed up in the Tower computer (and when I say never, I mean never... I could find anything in that computer), so I was never able to order it. It fell by the wayside until I picked it back up again one day and found myself really enjoying it. There are no dull tracks in the score part of the album, and that choral Lion stuff is exciting as all hell.
- The Addams Family/Addams Family Values
These two films still work - especially the second - mostly because it is clear that the cast is having such a great time. The Addams Family is one of Shaiman's first film scores, and the film leans heavily on the score, which has a myriad of themes and motifs for Morticia and Gomez, Wednesday and Pugsley, Thing and even Cousin It. The plethora of thematic material only made his revisiting of it for the sequel more fun; all of the themes return but are now joined by even more whimsical material for Pubert, Debbie, Camp Chippewa and the romance of Wednesday and Joel, which is a clever adaptation of the returning Wednesday/Pugsley theme, which itself gets developed a bit further as the film features them more prominently. Vic Mizzy's original theme is more liberally sprinkled throughout the score to very good effect as well. These showtune scores never take themselves that seriously, which is part of their charm, but it also leads to their being a lot of fun to listen to, especially in succession.
- The Agony and the Ecstasy
I had this CD for a while, I listened to it once in the background and for some reason never returned to it until the North epic mix project came up. I can't imagine how this might have happened... of all the scores that North had composed for epics, this is the one that is stylistically closest to that of Miklós Rózsa, who is to the epic what Jerry Goldsmith is to science fiction. Speaking of Jerry, his prologue "The Artist Who Did Not Want to Paint," which is quite a contrast to North's subsequent treatment of the subject matter, is a great work unto itself. The music is bewitching, and it is difficult not to listen to the album all the way through (which made the elimination process for the mix quite a bitch).
The rediscovery of this was prompted, of course, by my North epic compilation. However, until I started listening to the score with an ear to best representing it, I never really appreciated how intricate and subtle this score is. Cleopatra's ambition theme has such an arched eyebrow quality to it, and the love themes are gorgeous. And as understated as it is for most of its running time, when the shit hits the fan at the climax, the score opens up and grabs you by the balls with all the power the composer of Spartacus can muster.
This was one of my first North scores, and it was one of those that I really didn't relate to when I first heard it. Over time, and after having sussed out what Spartacus was all about, I re-approached the score and found it to be nothing short of a revelation. This was years ago. I hadn't listened to it in some time, but coming back to it after so many years, this score holds more power than ever, revealing some new facet with each listening.
This score has been a plate of shrimp situation for me for some time, appearing on several message boards and being dismissed by Scott Bennencourt in his John Williams timeline as being 'unmemorable.' I'm not exactly sure what he wanted out of a score for a film with this subject material, but it seems clear that a heroic main theme wouldn't have worked. What Williams does instead is create a haunting, modernistic portrait of the inner lives of the characters. I think this is, along with his score for Robert Altman's Images (created with percussionist Stomu Yamash'ta), one of Williams' most psychologically probing scores. And as far as memorable goes, how about that finale with the tinkling electronics and bells between crescendos?