Soundtrack Picks: ‘OBLIVION‘ IS THE TOP PICK FOR APRIL 2013
Also worth picking up THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER, HAREM, JURRASIC PARK, OBLIVION, PATRICK DOYLE: IMPRESSIONS OF AMERICA SHOCK TREATMENT and THE WILD BUNCH
To Purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD Cover
THE TOP PICKS
1) JURASSIC PARK: 20th ANNIVERSARY
What is it?: By this point in a nearly four decade collaboration, John Williams’ DNA is as inseparable from the magic of Steven Spielberg as a moth encased in million-year old amber. And given a gigantic body of work whose themes are as instantly memorable, whether played with two notes (“Jaws”), five notes (“Close Encounters of the Third Kind”) or a plethora of them, it’s hard nailing down just what might be Williams’ finest melody for the director. But when it comes to his most singable theme, the award must go to “Jurassic Park.” God forbid this movie had come out when Meco was in “Star Wars” disco sway, as the anthem-like melody has always seemed to demand salutably inspirational lyrics. But that’s only one reason for fans to sing, as Universal has done a spit-shine remaster on the score to accompany their 3-D polish of the movie’s landmark CGI bones, ensuring yet more theatrical and DVD viability while making Williams’ seminal music roar with new, ageless life.
Why you should buy it?: Spielberg has always enjoyed playing the fine line between a sense of wonder and abject terror. “Jurassic Park” remains one of his most subversively effective moral fables on that end, showing how getting the ultimate dream vacation can be lethal. That also happened to be Michael Crichton’s original parable for “Westworld,” whose premise he turned neatly from killer robots to a dinosaur park run amuck. John Williams cannily turned that metaphor into melody with a rapturous title, which sings of grand adventure, when what in fact what lies inside remains some of the “Jaws” composer’s most savagely primal scoring. In this musical dino-land constructed from superb themes, Williams uses glistening bells, sweeping strings and jungle drums to approximate tourists pointing with “Ohhhh-awww’s” before leading into the mysterious jungle flutes and low, snarling brass that stands for a T-rex and raptors on the prowl. Yet even with the horns at full, roaring blast, there’s no taking the boomingly lush sound out of the composer’s tell-tale voice, one whose gift for pure melody gets a full-sprint work out evading lizard talons with some of his most white-knuckled action writing. Yet for all of Williams’ exhilarating fury, my favorite cue remains the positively quiet “Remembering Petticoat Lane.” As John Hammond recalls the flea circus that started it all, Williams uses a slow, child-waltz of bells and melancholy strings to touchingly conjure the old man’s realization that bigger isn’t better. It’s a palpable, but gentle heartbreak rare for any blockbuster of this sort, though a given when it comes the earth’s mightiest composer-director partnership
Extra Special: Now that physical releases from major studio labels seem to have gone the way of the Dodo Bird, “Jurassic Park” jewel case fossil collectors have been denied by the decision to release this deluxe edition on CD. Making up for it a bit are four previously unreleased, an unused tracks totaling about ten minutes. There’s a thematically sweet “History Lesson,” full of lilting strings and charmed bells, a tense “Coming Storm” which heralds a raptor break-out and a positively rocking orchestral charge for their theme in “Hungry Raptor.” But the highlight, and probably the biggest reason to visit the “Park” soundtrack again is “Stalling Around,” where Williams has a heyday creating deliberately obnoxious, and utterly hilarious cartoon music for the film’s dumbed-down dino DNA-explaining cartoon. So deft is Williams at playing science as Bugs Bunny gags that you wonder why what he would have done if “Animiacs” could have afforded him.
What is it?: Architect-turned-director Joseph Kosinski is promising to become the multiplex answer to Stanley Kubrick after the almost shocking, mind-blowing intelligence he’s brought to “Tron Legacy” and his latest, terrific trip into sci-fi dystopia. If there’s a style of music that complements his icily beautiful visual sensibility, then it’s a fusion of strings and electronics, all the better to convey high technology dining on ashes. Kosinki’s cutting edge made him seek out the French band Daft Punk to capture the neon-black groove of Tron.” Now he’s brought in that country’s similarly evolutionary (and temporarily one-man band) M83 for “Oblivion” to play a future that’s musically based more on flesh and blood for all of the super-cool circuitry at work. The result is a warmer, more orchestral sound credited to Anthony Gonzales, with a more than assist by Joseph Trapanese. The latter’s the musician who helped Punk keep their alt. street cred while helping to make their pulse work relatively sound like film music. Thankfully, Trapanese is no longer the sideman here, with even more telling results.
Why should you buy it?: The spirit of “Tron Legacy” is very much a part of “Oblivion,” from its spotlessly designed hardware to a luxurious techno-organic score. However, the music’s more evolved, perhaps a bit less conscious about being artily accessible. Lush, hyper-melodic washes of strings and synth pulses grace the post-apocalyptic landscape, adding to the “wow” factor of one spectacularly ruined vision after the next. The effect of this drifting, always melodic score is one of wondrous contemplation, giving the sense of an earth waiting to be rediscovered, and reborn, an pseudo-acid trip tone that has much in common with the headtrip movies of the 70s that Kosinksi’s modeling “Oblivion” after, along with every other great genre-mash movie from “The Matrix” to “The Terminator.” But that’s not to say that “Oblivion” doesn’t lack for solid suspense as the pieces of its truly surprising (if already done-that) mystery falls into place. But the neatest cue here is spun from more tradition popcorn action, as the beats for a “Canyon Battle” chase between glider and a killer drone armada builds into a raging exercise in electro-orchestral ramp ups, reaching such a dazzling level of hyper beat excitement that the listener’s pulse rate can’t help but go into overdrive. But having the best action piece in any score so far this year (and certainly the coolest since Zimmer’s “Inception”) doesn’t negate the sense of human-played instrumental emotion that makes the constantly mesmerizing, and very thematic “Oblivion” anything but a musically empty trip to 2077.
Extra Special: “Oblivion” cannily comes in two versions, its “Deluxe Edition” e-album (available HERE) fully packed with M83’s instrumentals, while the hard copy contains “Oblivion,” a vocal version of its theme passionately rendered by Norwegian singer Susanne Sundfer. It’s an Oscar-nom worthy power ballad that socks over the film’s well-deserved sense of importance, and humanity for a score, and film that’s about the ghost in a machine, as opposed to letting the latter coldly take over.
3) THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES
What is it? Indy movies, and their scores can smack you upside the head with their high-minded pretentiousness, especially when attempting to grasp the epic with music that screams attention as to how outside the box it is. Yet what often provides pitfalls for those movies proves to be terrific assets in the cases of “The Place Beyond the Pines,” a decades-spanning American crime saga graced by an impressively big, WTF score by Mike Patton. Here the former Faith No More singer makes an auspicious jump in quality from the mindlessly fun electro-carnage of “Crank: High Voltage,” using a voice that’s just as brazen in its way to take a perceptive look at the sins of criminality, and well-intentioned white lies that can spell disaster.
Why should you buy it?: Writer-director Derek Clanfrance (“Blue Valentine”) has created vividly entangled characters, most of whom seek redemption in screwed-up ways that will end in no good, no matter how long their destinies take to play out. Consequently, Patton fills even seemingly inconsequential scenes with weirdly modulating sampled strings and religious choruses, with grinding guitars and dulcimers getting across low class backwoods behavior- even if the movie’s setting is upstate New York. Cricket chirps, ominous percussion, feedback, yowling synths and host of other brooding electronic melodies don’t so much suggest trouble brewing among bikers-gone-bad and corrupt cops as much as they impress as the long lost score from the “Halloween 3” – had that movie always been intended for Michael Meyers. When many scores do a good job of giving you exactly what you expect for background energy, Patton’s “Pines” has a true sense of audacious surprise, especially when voices jam with sizzling electronics. Much like star Ryan Gosling’s ever-growing parade of sociopaths, Patton has a punk sensibility that really doesn’t seem to care what it’s riding over, or even about what his music’s supposed to make you think. It’s an attitude that makes for an amazingly fresh soundtrack that manages to pull new daredevil tricks from alt. scoring, creating a clash between the angels in its main character’s hearts, and the twisted, self-destructive actions that end up coming out instead.
Extra Special: For as brash as it is, Patton’s score casts a seamless spell with “Pines’” melancholy song choices, whether it’s the praying Latin voices of “Miserere Mei,” the childlike female vocalese of Ennio Morricone’s “Ninna Nanna Per Adulteri” or the gentle, soulful folk strumming of Bon Iver’s “The Wolves.” And when it comes to darkly soothing string instrumentals, Arvo Part’s “Fratres for Strings and Percussion” continues to be the beautifully ominous modern classical standard that keeps on giving, its ever-anguishing stings helping these “Pines,” achieve an mighty sense of the tragic from its small-scale setting, a place where musical emotion proves to be boundless, and captivatingly strange in Patton’s hands.
4) SHE DEMONS / THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER
What is it?: When you want the best in shrieking, old-school genre music, then Monstrous Movie Music has been the place for any Famous Monsters fan to geek out to, as the label has gone from sumptuous re-recordings of the likes of “Gorgo,” “Day of the Triffids” and “This Island Earth” to releasing the original recordings of fairly prestigious genre fare like “Rocketship X-M” and “Kronos.” They’ve even dared to branch out with such distinctly non-monstrous Ernest Gold releases as “Ship of Fools” and “The McCullochs.” Now MMM goes digging into the vault of 1 AM Chiller Theater fare, not to mention whatever happens to be running at that time on your local UHF station. It’s certainly their most gonzo bunch of releases, with manly adventure trumping beastly action in their releases for the blazing guns of “The Tall Texan,” the Amazonian exploitation of “Virgin Sacrifice” and the civil war era drama “Hellgate.” But for true-blue fans of black and white exploitation, the go-to soundtrack of the bunch proves to be the double-teaming of the freakish “She-Demons” and “The Astounding She-Monster,” one a bunch of ladies with faces that only a gorilla could love, and the latter a space-suited vixen whose touch is to die for.
Why you should buy it?: You know you’re in for something off the beaten track when jungle drums and a raging mini-orchestra send you to an Nazi-ruled island hell populated by beauty queen contestants who certainly aren’t going to win any prizes now. Having certainly warmed up for this picture with “Female Jungle” and “Jungle Hell” (and with the likes of “The Astro-Zombies” and “The Doll Squad” ahead of him), composer Nicholas Carras pours on the enjoyable, alternately lurching and pouncing music with exactly zero subtlety, which is what makes many of these scores for the 50s more lowbrow genre efforts so much fun. 1958s “She Demons’” music is fairly interchangeable with Carras’ deliciously strident “Missile To the Moon” (also on MMM). But what really perks this nutty ready-for-Ed Wood stuff up are the score’s excursions into jungle horror exotica and war-whoop brass, the music so furious that you can almost feel the punches of the abusive Huns’ fists coming at you, as well the twisted claws of the Diane Nellis Dancers.
Extra Special: 1957s “She-Monster” was given a way-smaller budget to restrain most of its action to a geologist’s mountain cabin, where a silver-suited babe from beyond the stars inadvertently foils a rich dame’s kidnapping. However, German-born composer Guenther Kauer (aka Gene Kauer) seems to think he’s Bernard Herrmann, whilst in the midst of scoring the high sierra-set “On Dangerous Ground.” That kind of distinctive musical ambition is a very good thing when it comes to elevating silver-suited eye candy and a rather un-astounding film. Though Kauer’s cliffhanging energy has panicked horn cries and frantic strings aplenty, the composer certainly isn’t guilty of the sin of writing “busy” music. There’s an actual thematic intelligence at work to his debut score, with the horn section achieving the kind of thrilling, rhythmic motion of an “A” picture score within decidedly “B” movie confines. Better yet, Kauer’s smashing theme, creeping suspense and high-string sense of female jeopardy does wonders at expressing the misunderstood, fairly melodic menace of a character who’s only monstrous in inadvertent deed. At its best, Kauer’s music doesn’t sound so much like a horror sci-fi score as much as it does a ballet piece with aspersions to Stravinsky’s virgin sacrifices. With the score conducted in Kauer’s native Germany, the sound has a surprisingly terrific crispness that’s unusual for fare from the era. It’s a shame that Kauer’s career mostly didn’t rise about exploitation fare. But leave it to MMM head David Schechter’s always-elaborate, and humorously enjoyable liner notes to give this truly unsung composer his due, while wetting our appetite to hear what other screwball gems MMM might unearth from the bottom of a double drive-in bill.
5) THE WILD BUNCH (End of The Line Edition)
What Is It?: Collector labels had been around long before Film Score Monthly magazine launched their soundtrack offshoot with “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” back in 1996. Founder Lukas Kendall’s fastidious attention to detail and shrewd mix of popular and obscure titles from the golden and silver ages of film music ensured FSM’s longevity over the course of 249 titles and nearly two decades, Now as if he were the grizzled leader of a bunch of ragtag outlaws, Kendall has chosen to take out FSM on his own terms in a big, gloriously bloody bang for number 250. Given Kendall’s biting sense of satire, it’s no wonder that the label has met its glorious demise with the ironically chosen “The Wild Bunch,” a film that firmly put the clean killing morality old Hollywood in its grave.
Why You Should Buy It?: Its director was a boozing hell-raiser while his muse had been blacklisted for his unapologetic political beliefs. So it’s almost funny to think that one of the great teams of 70s cinematic rebellion began with a gentle TV production of “Noon Wine.” However, Sam Peckinpah and Jerry Fielding would next blow any pleasantries out of the water with 1969s “The Wild Bunch.” Peckinpah’s ode to the end of west reveled in bad behavior, all while making audiences root for its SOB anti-heroes, even as high-minded critics were reviled by the still-shocking gunplay. Though “The Wild Bunch” ripped away the western mythos, Peckinpah and Fielding’s work was no less manly, or romantic for it. Sure this didn’t have the ripping “Big Country” orchestrations of Jerome Moross, or the brightly adventurous sound that Elmer Bernstein provided in any number of pictures for The Duke. But if anything, Fielding’s Oscar-nominated score was more stripped down and gritty for its raw approach, marching its characters in military lock step to the accompaniment of ominous, nearly dissonant orchestrations. Given a Mexican revolutionary to serve, and ultimately rebel against, Latin rhythms proved to be another major member of “The Wild Bunch,” guitar and flute speaking for the vulnerability, and deep, deep down inner goodness these hard men don’t dare show. Fielding’s music is about the act of myth building, leading to the kind of heroic gesture that legends and film history are made of- even if Fielding occasionally breaks a smile with playful accordions. There’s also a terrific tip of the hat to more traditional western adventure in his terrifically energetic chase music, galloping along with a brassy, rip-roaring theme that any hard-ass would be proud to evade a posse with.
Extra Special: The start of his tormented relationship with Peckinpah would yield increasingly darker fruit with the likes of “Straw Dogs,” “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia” and his unused “Getaway,” not to mention the composer’s increasing plunge into the heart of dissonant darkness with such twisted opuses as “The Mechanic” and “The Nightcomers,” making “The Wild Bunch’s” more rousing moments into Fielding’s last huge melodic gasps for Peckinpah, as it were. There’s even more fatalistic lyricism than ever before over the course of the film’s complete 74-minute score, nearly an hour of alternate cues, its original album presentation and a plethora of Mexican source music. Writing the legend are Lukas Kendall and John Takis, whose excellent liner notes (and even more online) about Fielding and Penkinpah’s explosive relationship are complemented by a picture-filled booklet. This “Wild Bunch” is truly the last word, and FSM musical note in detailing this seismic shift in filmmaking and scoring. It’s exactly the kind of big, final bang that you’d expect FSM to take itself out with- not that their heroic act is any less mournful an occasion for soundtrack fans.
ALSO FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
. THE CARPETBAGGERS
Elmer Bernstein was a composer who could wear many stylistic hats to fit his often over-sized characters, whether it was conjuring a biblical symphony for Moses or gun-blazing western music for John Wayne. But if I have a personal favorite approach, then it’s the Bernstein of the late 50s and early 60s, a time when jazz stood for bad behavior. Bernstein mainlined that hep, untamed sound with the more mainstream sound of an orchestra to create the defining sound of “movie jazz.” It was a deliciously swaggering approach that captured the morally bankrupt doings of heroin addicts (“Man With the Golden Arm”), prostitutes (“Walk on the Wild Side”) and publicists (“The Sweet Smell of Success”). But perhaps no handsome sleaze was more outsized than George Peppard’s ersatz Howard Hughes for 1963s “The Carpetbaggers.” Harold Robbins’ thinly veiled portrait of a 30s oil baron cum movie tycoon set the tone for the Hollywood adaptations of author’s many sex and sin epics to follow like “The Betsy” and “Bloodline.” But when you could only so much skin on screen (even for a then-provocative movie), Bernstein’s music was a major factor in capturing “The Carpetbagger’s” lustful energy, as driven by a powerhouse, carousing theme that once again equated jazz with carnality in the best way. But there’s also a dynamic range of approaches here, from the ride-the-range rhythms of our anti-hero’s cowpoke confidant Nevada Smith (later to get his own, pure western), rollicking period source and the kind of careening orchestral energy that’s the stuff that rise-to-the-top montages are made of. Yet behind the score’s brassy soap opera relish, Bernstein also captures an unexpected, melodic tenderness where a flute plays how this cad actually possess a very tarnished heart when he isn’t breaking a host of shapely ones. Intrada’s release captures the powerhouse sound of Bernstein at his racy best, compiling the original “Carpetbagger” tracks with its re-recorded album, for which Bernstein created special jazz-centric suites of his thematic material. By giving an even smokier feeling to the elegant sleaze at hand, I dare say that Bernstein’s LP trumps the “real” tunes in terms of their deviant enjoyment that made this composer the king of musical bad behavior back in the day.
. FROZEN PLANET
Englishman George Fenton seems to have conquered the market on scoring every nook and cranny of the globe with a series of sweeping nature documentaries that have included “Earth,” “Life,” “Planet Earth” and “The Blue Planet.” And while the genre has technically evolved in light years from the dinosaur-age days of “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,” the basic spectacle of watching animals being cute, or killing each other certainly hasn’t. That age-old struggle for survival is often mirrored in the artist’s challenge of going for the uncondescending beauty of God’s ice-covered earth, or choosing to play it with the family-friendly obviousness of an old-school Disney documentary. Subsequently, Fenton’s score varies from the majestic to the wincing cutesies, complete with horn high-hats and plucky strings for those zany beats. Thankfully, there are plenty of evocative, no-nonsense depictions of the Arctic landscape to show that nature often lacks a sense of humor. While Fenton’s rousing orchestrations are most definitely designed for the widest possible listenership, the genuine wonder that Fenton conjures bests the cartoonishness of other material, whether it’s eerie synths versus pokey pianos, or monolithic icebergs of brass and strings. Still, there’s cleverness to some of the goofier stuff, particularly when it carries a jazzy loopiness for the animal antics. For if “Frozen Planet’s” sweeping strings have enough brightness in them to melt the snow at hand, at the least this overall enjoyable, and sometimes entrancing album serves as the score to the kid-friendly fantasy epic that Fenton somehow hasn’t gotten the chance to tackle yet “Golden Compass 2” anyone?
. G.I. JOE RETALIATION
You can only expect so much when it comes to an toy-based movie, which made this new action figure model so pleasantly surprising, especially with far more of a “believable” approach as opposed to the far more juvenile escapades of the last “Joe.” Where that film got a form-fittingly bombastic orchestral treatment from Alan Silvestri, Henry Jackman’s music here is out to fit “Retaliation’s” “real world” approach- or at least as real world as you can get with flesh and blood action cartoons wielding futuristic weaponry. Having shown his super heroic chops on “X-Men First Class” and the historic axe-wielding action for “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter,” composer Henry Jackman once again flexes his multiplex muscles here with more than a bit of intelligence. “Joe” might start out fairly ordinarily with the kind of techno beat and rock guitar recipe that has made so many other scores in this arena cookie-cutter bland. But as “Retaliation” progresses, Jackman adds far more tastier seasonings to the popcorn action, from determinedly patriotic strings to almost shockingly memorable themes. There’s particularly clever use of Asian percussion and orchestra for the film’s dazzling ninja mountain fight scene, dastardly suspense for Cobra ultimate weapon devastation and brawny combos of pulse and a patriotic orchestra that deliver genuine, smile-on-the-face thrills. But best of all, there’s a true sense of gung-ho fun to the music that blasts away the lesser ranking scores that are just content to press play on the rhythm machine. This is one promising musical recruit in Hollywood’s action machinery.
. GOD OF WAR: ASCENSION
Tyler Bates knows a thing or two about playing Spartan vengeance after his seminal score for “300,” which made sword-and-sandal music hip again by incorporating a heroic orchestra with anachronistic metal guitars and time specific ethnic instruments. Now after showing ancient sword and sorcery vigor with the videogame “The Rise of the Argonauts” and the underrated reboot of “Conan the Barbarian,” Bates once again proves that crossing a muscular death-dealer will be hell to play, especially when it’s a titan-slayer named Kratos. Bates furiously delivers again for this popular berserker’s latest button-mashing adventures in “God of War: Ascension.” It’s a creature-filled mosh pit that once again shows there’s new musical life to be put into the stuff of heroic legend, Bates rocks out beats, choruses singing gods-knows what and a full-blast orchestra given all the resonance of Abbey Road. With his score duking it out of the underworld, Bates embodies both the Olympian threats as well as the tragedy of a hero last tricked into slaying his family. There’s a surprising amount of exotic, haunted emotion and beauty to be had in Kratos’ “Ascension” but make no mistake that the emphasis here is on bold, mythically sweeping punishment, making this “God of War” entry as dark as it is exhilarating, allowing the Greek myths to rise and capture new, bloody imagination from a generation weaned on videogames as opposed to Homer’s “Odyssey.”
For a bright, shining English language decade in the 1980s, French composer Philippe Sarde stood out as the beacon in the next wave of the romantic French invasion, a worthy successor to the likes of Georges Delerue and Maurice Jarre with his lush, thematic sound that graced such memorably diverse scores as “Ghost Story,” “Quest For Fire,” “Lovesick,” “Pirates” and “The Music Box.” And while Sarde certainly hasn’t stopped working in the years since, there’s quality that stands out, and remains unequalled from his work during that period. It’s true from major Hollywood pictures to even lesser known Cannon productions like 1985’s “Harem.” Filmmaker Arthur Joffe took the age-old cinematic fantasy of getting ravished by a sheik to new existential dimension here, casting Nastassja Kinski as an American stockbroker who gets shanghaied to Arabia by Ben Kingsley’s aloof prince. For the film’s accent on an artily told “relationship” over soft core pulp, Sarde delivers a beautifully seductive, almost sweetly charming theme that’s impossible not to yield to. His melody fills the score with a leisurely, entrancing pace, much like a Middle Eastern boudoir. Sarde incorporates Arabic music into the sand and steam-swept ambiance, varying his melody from a classical trot to honeyed charm, with choral voices making the profane into a romantic sacrament. It’s a testament to Sarde’s incredible melodic talent that it’s a feeling of poetic innocence that ultimately sweeps us off of our feet. “Harem” is all about the rapturous power that a great theme can have in the hands of a French master, the country from which it seems he best scoring Svengalis hail from. But perhaps the most ear-catching use of Sarde’s motif comes from the impossible vocal range of singer Jimmy Sommerville (“Orlando”), who’s operatic use of the melody in “Hello, Stranger!” turns from man to woman, and than a nearly-screaming falsetto that jams the two sexes together, much as if a eunuch was rocking out on the job. Sarde remains a composer that Hollywood needs to kidnap back to capture that symphonic genie in a bottle.
. THE HOLE (3,000 edition)
Kids and the monstrosities often mixed in Joe Dante’s legendary collaboration with Jerry Goldsmith, from mischievous “Gremlins” and “Small Soldiers” to the atom bomb in “Matinee.” One might imagine what Jerry would have done had he been around to peer into “The Hole” for Dante, only to find far more of an ephemeral and psychological threat than he’d been given to handle before with the filmmaker. Yet Dante’s still in very capable musical hands for a low key entry into teen horror, especially with the heavy lifting being done by Javier Navarette, a composer who teamed with Guillermo Del Toro for the far more fatalistic “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and “The Devil’s Backbone.” Given the more obvious tone of these American goosebumps, Navarette conjures the tonal equivalent of a spooky suburban backyard campfire tale. While there’s the kind of pleasant lead-in that brings images of sunny childhood innocence, the musical light is quickly consumed by whatever the hell it is that lies under our young hero’s basement grate. There’s a wonderfully macabre vibe to this evil’s ever-growing grasp of an unfortunate family, with an eerily definable theme standing in for the creeping darkness. Navarette’s music personifies itself as a veritable witches cauldron of scratchy violins, will-o-the-wisp strings, a haunting orchestra and a chilling female voice, all of which cast an ever-intensifying spell that plays nicely off of Dante’s nostalgia for old-school Universal horror chills. But above all, Navarette doesn’t fail to maintain a sense of innocence and emotion, as captured with a lush, piano-topped theme. Sure this score might not be as ragingly dark as his fellow Spaniard Roque Banos’ score for “Evil Dead” (also out on La La Land), but “The Hole’s” music is certainly menacing enough to help warrant this nicely modulated film’s PG13 rating. Navarette’s certainly kept the spirit of Jerry alive within “The Hole,” all while going in a fresh direction for Dante, one that will hopefully continue to shine its light.
. PATRICK DOYLE: IMPRESSIONS OF AMERICA
After sojourning in Hollywood for a blockbuster career renaissance that’s included “Brave,” “Thor” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” the sprightly Scotsman musically visits the real America to satisfy his own inner muse in this expansively impressive concept album. Paying tribute to his ancestors who immigrated to Alabama, Doyle captures their destination with equal parts rousing beauty and wide-eyed affection. Of course he opens with “Washington DC’s” noble horns and symphonic sweep that also effortlessly conveys an Aaron Copland’s sense of Americana. Yet the nation that Doyle surveys is mostly on a smaller scale, with his next “Pumpkin Pie” piece using gentle piano and strings to bring on imagery of a child’s dance through a wheat fields. Melodic visions of heartland purity and bustle continue to follow through these engagingly melodic concert pieces. Ranging from the carefree to the noble, Doyle’s work captures a sense of proud, but subdued patriotism, with a particular view towards music that resonates with the grace of our long-vanished, wide open spaces. A wind-swept sense of rhythm also accompanies the glistening bells, swelling brass, lush strings and subtly western guitars, capturing the sense of innocence and wonder that must have beheld Doyle’s family upon them setting foot on their new land. But even without the anchor of its concept, “Impressions” impresses with Doyle’s always-remarkable talent for sweeping music, done here in a way that makes this album’s energy distinct from his film work. With the freedom to musically roam without the constraint of images beyond those in his own head, Doyle shares in the listener a blissful promise of America’s better nature. Sure his “Impressions” might have been recorded in Budapest, but a better, recent valentine to our nation from said “foreigners” you’re not likely to find.
. SHOCK TREATMENT / FATE IS THE HUNTER
Jerry Goldsmith had a particular talent for playing characters in the process of losing their minds, drawing on the dark, string musings of such avant garde composers as Bela Bartok to pioneer his own Hollywood sound for psychosis. Using a chamber approach of devilish fiddles and strings for the “Twilight Zone” episode “The Invaders,” the composer further plumbed a snapping mind with the waltzing sexual symbolism that haunted his Oscar-nominated “Freud” to the eerie, conspiratorial tones of assuming a new identity in “Seconds.” But when it comes to the pure, batshit enjoyment of a breakdown, then 1966s “Shock Treatment” gets the psycho ward ribbon of achievement for Goldsmith’s most inventively mad accomplishment. Here it’s for a “Shock Corridor”-esque tale of an otherwise sane man putting himself into an asylum for personal gain. But he’ll get his just reward with satanic fiddles, chilling strings, eerily reverberating bell percussion, crashing pianos and the electric ooo-wee-ooo of a Theremin, an instrument seemingly invented to connote craziness. Yet what gives the score its class are the beautifully sinister orchestral melodies that fill this ersatz haunted house, a sound that’s utter Goldsmith, even in the midst of some of his most black-humored writing. Perhaps the best Goldsmith thriller score you never even knew existed, “Shock Treatment” stands as the composer’s gateway drug to the more supernatural and sci-fi horrors that lay ahead of him in the 70s with “The Mephisto Waltz,” “Alien” and “The Omen.” Book ending this Intrada CD is Goldsmith’s far more pleasant soundtrack to 1964s post plane crash drama “Fate Is the Hunter.” Given the awful accident it investigates, Goldsmith’s score has a sweet, almost tropically romantic sway to it. Lush strings, harp and bells carry along Goldsmith’s central thematic idea, with even a bit of Irish jig rhythm for good measure. Of course you know a chorus is going to take over the melody at the end to take the “Hunter” out on a high note, with its mystery explained and anxieties healed- a very far cry indeed for the craziness before it on an album that shows just how adept Jerry Goldsmith was at emotional extremes.
. STARCRAFT II: HEART OF THE SWARM
“World of Warcraft’s” band of scoring brothers Neal Acree, Glenn Stafford, Derek Duke and Russell Brower get their sci-fi grlll power on for the Queen of Blade’s great escape in this score that accompanies the expansion pack of “Wings of Liberty.” Its exceptional cut scenes generate one of the more crazily stylized scores for the genre, starting off by mashing a galaxy-spanning orchestra by way of the grunge sensibility of its sword and spine-slinging heroine. Sarah Kerrigan’s treated like an ersatz Lisbeth Salander, bringing on the lizard beast hurt with industrial metal rock grunge. But those grinding atmospheres segue to cool, lushly accelerating beats, a chorus conveying strategic gameplay as the stuff of the cosmic, with a ragged, heroic sensibility that even gets a bit of fife and drum nobility. The musical tsuris of the Master Chief seems positively sedate in comparison to the Queen’s musical identity swings in “Starcraft I!,” whose opportunities give extra creative thrust to dudes usually handed broadswords when scoring warrior women running about in a videogame dungeons and dragons fantasy land.
. WAR GODS OF THE DEEP / CROSSPLOT (1,000 edition)
In addition to releasing current international scores like Alberto Iglesias’ “I’m So Excited” and Pino Donaggio’s “Passion,” Spain-based soundtrack label Quartet has also been digging into some of the 60s and 70s loopier scores like Dominic Frontiere’s “Hammersmith Is Out” and Riz Ortolani’s “Woman Times Seven.” But where said American and Italian were lucky enough to get some LP albums out long before a time when silver age soundtrack CD’s became hip, the equally prolific British musician Stanley Black (“Valentino”) had unaccountably never had one original title available. That makes this two-fer of “War Gods of the Deep” and “Crossplot” one of the cooler releases to come from the increasingly bountiful Quartet. Where some New Yorker’s might best remember “War Gods” for its afternoon TV rerun being interrupted by news of Elvis’ death, Black’s gorgeously turbulent score stands well on its own apart from AIP’s ok take on “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” as mostly done on landlocked sets. In a similar fashion to Paul J. Smith’s approach to that Jules Verne adventure, Black creates a virtual floating symphony of haunting strings, eerie bells and percussion, going for just about every way that richly melodic music can approximate deep water. Black’s impressive scope also powerfully embodies Vincent Price’s romantically haunted privateer and the menace of his gillmen-filled domain. The fact that Black can even hold his breath for ten straight minutes of this constantly intriguing, ever-roiling stuff says more than enough about his creative staying power. Where “War Gods” will mostly wow the horror nostalgia crowd, the constant re-discovery of kitsch has always proven to be hip. 1970s jovial thriller “Crossplot” had Black providing a pseudo-Shagadellic goldmine for “Saint” star Roger Moore, who would soon be jivin’ to a Blaxploitation Bond score. But “Crossplot’s” music is all about swinging Britain, with Black’s dapper blend of lighthearted orchestral suspense and jazz swagger especially well suited to Moore’s caddish ad man, His Hitchcockian exploits are given groovily lush spy thrills with bongo percussion, rousing strings, staccato brass and exotic chords that give a fun “Third Man” ambience to its Eastern European bad guys. Best yet, Black has a truly wonderful, Tom Jones-esque song at his side, whose melody proves memorable thematic accompaniment to the breezy thrills. Fans of Moore’s other cult English action show “The Persuaders” will also take notice of the bunch of “Crossplot” cues that were used for it. But whether the thrills are found in a creature’s tattered shirt of a bird’s miniskirt, “War Gods” and “Crossplot” are testament to the range of a composer whom Quartet has finally given the chance to crow.
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