Soundtrack Picks: ‘YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES‘ is one of the top soundtracks to own for April, 2014
Also worth picking up BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLIDER, COMMUNION, CREEPSHOW, DRAFT DAY, INFAMOUS: SECOND SON, THE RAID 2, RIO 2 and more!
To Purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD cover
THE TOP PICKS
What is it?: A tale as old as time, and the movies, gets a fantastical, live action French reboot from Christophe Gans, a director who knows something about fearsome animals after making “Brotherhood of the Wolf.” Beyond its stylized snowscape, a standout spell for this relatively faithful version is its gorgeous score by Pierre Adenot, whose lavishly melodic and utterly enchanting score conjures the light and darkness of fairy tale imagination in any musical language, sans the singing teapots.
Why should you buy it?: Having scored numerous films in his native land (with his contribution to “Paris je t’aime” likely being most familiar to American audiences), “Beauty and the Beast” announces Adenot’s major symphonic talent with an internationally minded roar. At first, there’s a shivery anticipation to approaching the beast’s lair, with foreboding, lurching brash, tense strings and dulcimers that evoke the Baroque setting. As exceptionally played by a lush orchestra, Adenot captures the feeling of innocence stepping into the big bad wolf’s den, only to melodically find that kindness lurks behind the spell-woven fur. And sure enough with the help of pixie dust bell percussion, a spectral chorus and darkness that becomes ever more playful, the musical thaw comes quickly to this “Beast,” whom will turn into a romantically gruff pussycat by the score’s end. Yet there’s a melodic intelligence and outright splendor to Adenot’s strongly thematic work, his densely orchestrated music a gorgeous tapestry on which Gans can hang his stylized imagery. For whether the composer is George Auric or Alan Menken, there’s a romantically enchanted cloth that any “Beauty and the Beast” score is cut from, an exceptional tapestry of bad first impressions growing into thematic full bloom for piano, lush strings and waltzes both humorous and romantic, while here also paying off Gans’ more adventurous demands (including a giant). Like the best fantasy scores, “Beast” beautifully captures the kind of sumptuously melodic, magical emotion that draws child and adult to forbidden realms where one’s darkest fears, and most hopeful desires await, often in same fanged package.
Extra Special: Belting out the romantic “How Can You Love Me” with far more desperation than Angela Lansbury applied to “Beauty and the Beast,” Yoann Freget’s song provides a stirring, pained power ballad sung in both English and French, turning one woman’s ability to see the man beneath the fur into a universal plea for acceptance, a message that bonds well with Adenot’s more musically complex approach to this back-to-magical basics “Beast” its soundtrack well worth buying for any fan of the story, and all-encompassing spell of musical fantasy at its best.
2) CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
What is it?: Where most Marvel movie scores have been sure to couch their metal musical exosuits in warmly approachable orchestral flesh, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is the first comic book score from the studio to truly do a Terminator number on its listeners for a significant chunk of time, going for hammering, stripped-down percussion and nail-on-chalkboard effects, a cold, troubling sound even crazier than the kind of ultra-beat scoring you’d normally get for scores featuring such assassin-turned-heroes as Jason Bourne. However, we’re talking about a hero-turned-assassin in “The Winter Soldier,” which is more than justification for Henry Jackman to come up with a score that’s overall far removed from the symphonically nostalgic glow that Alan Silvestri gave to the Cap’s enjoyably goofy initial adventure. Going for a real-world espionage approach (or as much as one can get in a comic book movie), the first Avenger’s latest adventure is a major cinematic improvement with a score that makes absolute, uncompromisingly suspenseful sense given the circumstances. For those willing to get with this new school action approach, “The Winter Soldier” is a pretty great score that embodies the blue-eyed representative of mom and apple pie getting thrown into a world where the simple morality of good versus evil has gone Hydra’s way.
Why you should buy it?: “The Winter Soldier” marks Henry Jackman’s second issue in the Marvel universe after this terrific, more mainstream superhero score for “X-Men First Class.” But if this “Captain” has two ancestors in the composer’s repertoire, then it’s the steely action of the underappreciated “G.I. Joe Retaliation” and the terrifying adrenalin beat of “Captain Phillips.” Though Jackman brings in a noble, patriotic orchestra at the start with a trip to “The Smithsonian,” along with more typical fusions of orchestral excitement and action-pop percussion (“Project Insight”), he really lets out the WTF whoopass in the pulsating, near melody free car chase of “Fury” before the minimal, screaming, cyborg-ish introduction of “The Winter Soldier,” dehumanizing music as strange and threatening as anything in Hans Zimmer’s “The Dark Knight.” It’s at this point that more typical superhero score fans are going to bolt, or stand up at attention. It’s the sheer mercilessness of this stuff that makes the music actually threatening, with the kind of icy, killer sample-driven beats that give “The Winter Soldier” a razor’s edge in Marvel’s cinematic universe. Jackman’s score veers well between this balance of musical flesh and blood with a merciless, Nine Inch Nails sound, using strings to get across Steve Roger’s betrayal, as well as his inexhaustible hope as he’s thrown against purposefully ugly, industrial suspense. Oftentimes the music barely seems to be doing anything with a few pulses and an electronic voice, which only ratchets up the “realistic” stakes as it were. Yet “The Winter Solider” is as powerful in its construction as its killer Bucky, rhythmically slamming together orchestral, electronic and industrial elements to exhilarating chase effect (“The Causeway”), and even the proud, symphonic reaffirmation that this is a superhero score after all (“Time To Suit Up”). And as with his “X-Men” score that breathlessly came to a military countdown Cuban Missile crisis, Jackman creates a terrifically rhythmic climax for “Winter Soldier,” even bringing in a Bond-like theme for The Falcon to create an exhilarating, all-out flying slugfest between melody and atonality (“Into the Fray,” “Countdown”). That we end with a proud, if darkly patriotic flag-waving theme for “Captain America” that’s possessed of both sampled, and orchestral qualities says much about how well Jackman has helped place Marvel’s most potentially innocent Avenger into a dangerous new percussive-rock world, one he’s here to stay in. Given how gripping Jackman makes it, there’s no reason to fight the musical future of superhero scoring.
Extra Special: Intrada once again gives physical CD muscle to Marvel (let alone Disney) with a generous 75-minute presentation of “Winter Soldier,” capped off with the big band standard “It’s Been a Long, Long Time” of Henry James & His Orchestra (which plays most effectively in shielding a wounded Nick Fury in Steve Roger’s pad) and Marvin Gaye’s funk noir “Trouble Man” title song, embodying The Falcon’s cool taste in listening as the tune that sums up everything Rogers needs to know about undercover cool in our current, conspiracy-crazed times.
3) CREEPSHOW (3,000 edition)
What Is It?: From the time when the denizens of “Night of the Living Dead” shambled through its farmhouse field to the tune of creature feature stock music, George Romero’s horror films have had a pulp throwback feel to them that recalled the graphic, moral comeuppance of such E.C. comics as “Tales From the Crypt” and “Vault of Horror.” So it was only natural that the filmmaker would unleash his own cinematic, blood-colored anthology with 1982s “Creepshow,” authored by no less than Stephen King. It’s a film that for many remains the director’s most unhinged and pleasurable effort, especially with its seamless combination of stock score and the throwback stylings of composer John Harrison, both of which immeasurably abetted the film’s tone of camp dread.
Why You Should Buy It?: Most recognizable to Romero fans for having a screwdriver stuck into his head in “Dawn of the Dead,” John Harrison went behind the scenes for Romero on “Creepshow,” first as an assistant director, and then as the keyboard composer of note. But where synths were the horror scoring rage at the time, it was the ghoulishly fun dexterity of “Creepshow” and its old-fashioned, “player piano” approach that made its music so strikingly unique, especially in their seamless joining with its eerie electronic vibrations. Each of the film’s five chapters would have distinctive themes that made for a gleefully morbid whole, with a wraparound story that set the tone with its memorable melody, haunted chorus and cackling laughter, all driven with Harrison’s energetically played ivories that effortlessly switch between the organic and synthetic. Indeed, there’s a freshness, and energy to his acoustical approach that far more suggests an unhinged silent movie accompanist than someone trying to match the stylism of a 50s-era monster movie, an improv-like quality that really gets to shine on this La La Land disc that finally frees his music from the “suite” presentation that fans have heard in “Creepshow’s” many previous soundtrack editions, allowing each musical segment’s personality to come screaming forth. A comic, Baroque quality of the moldering rich inflects the pastry-crazed corpse of “Father’s Day,” while quivering synths take on a Theremin-like strangeness of green weeds taking over King’s white trash farmer in “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill.” Far more serious is the way in which Harrison uses a steadily pounding piano and unnerving, wave-like synths to play the inexorable downing death engineered for the illicit lovers of “Something To Tide You Over.” Harrison uses the piano to dizzyingly effective montage effect in creating a dread-filled, classical sound and piercing creature call as two milquetoast professors are astonished to find a man (and bitch)-eating Yeti within “The Crate,” creating a feel of Hitchcockian suspense in a monster being used as a pawn for murder. But it’s the cockroach infestation of “They’re Creeping Up On You” that brings out Harrison’s queasiest use of electronics, mimicking the disgust of the creatures that flood over a heartlessly rich slumlord, piercing effects that unnervingly build to a sonically skittering, gut-spilling climax that remains film scoring’s most unnerving embodiment of insect horror. It’s emblematic of Harrison’s distinctive voice as a composer (one that would get even crazier when applying a Calypso beat to Romero’s “Day of the Dead”) before moving onto his own directing career with the likes of “Dune” and “Leverage.” This truly unleashed presentation of “Creepshow” remains not only one of the 80s most fun horror soundtracks, but one that truly captured the feeling of comic book ghastliness with its mixture of old-fangled horror and now retro electronic eeriness.
Extra Special: Where Romero’s use of stock music went from “Night’s” budgetary necessity (as in no money for a new score) to being intrusive amidst Goblin’s work for “Dawn of the Dead” (mandated by its Italian co-producer Dario Argento) “Creepshow” allowed the director a pitch-perfect blend between the new and the old, namely scoring that was trying to sound antiquated alongside orchestral music that was purposefully cobwebbed in regards to the kind of melodramatic haminess that screamed 50s-era horror. Beyond the delightfully groovy disco tune “Don’t Let Go,” the inclusion of Ole George Music’s “library” tunes that helped make “Creepshow’s” soundtrack so memorable is another reason to celebrate this release. The harpsichords and poking brass of Ib Glinermann’s “Spy Fingers” and “Danger Tension,” along with the ghostly voice of Philip Green’s “Dramatic Eerie” and ominous strings of “Mystery Hour” are music at their most exclamatorily titled effect, and darn if you can’t shake the clammy feeling that you’ve heard this stuff on the TV on the creature features that defined your childhood, which is a testament to Romero’s good, campy taste in music. Along with the progressive synths of Roger Webb’s “Eternal Light,” Neil Amsterdam’s pokey “Vaudeville” and the pomp and circumstance of Gaudeaemus Igitur’s “Graduation Day” give spice to the chills. All seamlessly add up for an arch sensibility that blended perfectly with Harrison’s work for the glorious, four-colored grand guignol of “Creepshow” – whose excellent booklet is supplemented by Jeff Bond’s chilling liner notes and humorously warm reminiscences by John Harrison and George Romero, ellucidating on their bloody good mutual admiration society.
4) THE RAID 2
What is it?: While its exhausting running time and sadistic body count certainly isn’t expanded on to “The Raid 2’s” benefit, one returning factor that this sequel makes bigger, better and more bad-ass is the in the punishingly exciting score by Joseph Trapanese and two composers given their shot at redemption.
Why You Should Buy It?: Teamed with Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda for the first apartment-by-apartment Armageddon of “The Raid.” Trapanese is now accompanied by Aria Prayogi and Fajar Yuskemai – the Indonesian dudes who actually scored “Redemption” before Trapanese and Shinoda kicked them to the curb. But there’s anything but hard feelings here beyond meting out even more effective punishment. With the movie’s setting opened way mowing down drug lords to the city’s crime gangs, the tone turns from 80s-style synth salutes to something far nastier and modern, scoring akin to the growl before the berserker rage takes the amplification to 11. It’s palpably dark and powerful stuff that seethes with menace, with barely any niceties like human emotion to power it along – which are the charm for fans of these movies’ brutally kinetic appeal. There’s almost a trance-like appeal to the merciless energy that these take-no-prisoners musical cops put into “The Raid 2,” at times expanding on their unplugged anger with rock and techno elements, with the standout, ever-accelerating “Motor Chase” recalling Trapanese’s terrific drone chase from “Oblivion.” Cooler yet is the sense of the mythic at play in accommodating filmmaker Gareth Edwards’ reach for John Woo-like greatness in the film’s bloody betrayals and lethally fated bromance. Though often minimal in its brute rhythmic force, Trapanese, Prayogi and Yuskemai make their sometimes-ethnic beat approach far more interesting than other action composers who might let their rhythm library have at it as they take a coffee break. Sure this trio isn’t insane enough to try to hit every move of the light speed action, but their relentlessly intense tone impresses even more in showing percussion as a blunt force instrument.
Extra Special: After so much exhilarating underscore punishment, perhaps the biggest kick in the head is to end the album with Arti Dewi delivering a 40s-style torch song (complete with sultry sax) with “Hush.” But then considering that “Only God Forgives” ended with the equally wacky song choice of “You’re My Dream,” perhaps there’s something going on with Asian ultra violence operas giving way to of tuneful retro irony.
5) YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES
What is it: The 80s were the glory days when it came to the Amblin pictures that truly imparted company head Steven Spielberg’s handprint of thrillingly humanistic fantasy and chills to any number of movies that stand as classics for a certain generation – among them “Back to the Future,” “Gremlins” and “The Goonies.” Also uniting these movies were their sweeping orchestral scores by the likes of Alan Silvestri, Jerry Goldsmith and Dave Grusin, which also resonated with a topical pop sound. But if there was one Amblin composer who stood as the answer to equaling the thrillingly lush, symphonic quality of John Williams, then it was Bruce Broughton, who’d not only give a touching heart to a Sasquatch for “Harry and the Hendersons,” but also created what arguably stands as Amblin’s best score for 1985s “Young Sherlock Holmes,” a sumptuous orchestral soundtrack that embodied the English, can-do deductive spirit of the world’s most famous detective, but also the pure, cliffhanging magic of Spielberg’s brand name – as brilliantly practiced here by director Barry Levinson for an Amblin underachiever that stands for many as the best movie, and soundtrack produced during that company’s golden age.
Why you should buy it?: Having mainly worked on television on such shows as “Dallas,” “Buck Rogers” and “Gunsmoke,” Broughton made a thundering, seemingly come-from-nowhere big screen impression with “Silverado,” a score that single-handedly brought the symphonic, Americana stampeding sound of the classic Hollywood west back to the multiplex. Thrown into the far more refined era of Victorian England (albeit one hipped up with state-of-the-art effects), Broughton brought Sherlock” a wonderfully adventurous sense of sophistication and mystery. Masterfully deduced through a wealth of strikingly memorable themes (especially its intellectually galloping main melody), Broughton helped take what could have been Hardy Boys wish fulfillment stuff and turned it into a musically mature class act, yet one awash with wonder at the very act of investigation. While he might be a kid as such, Broughton’s score gives Sherlock a buoyant sense of self-assurance, while his tender, budding romance contrasts with chilling villainy and truly frightening dissonance befitting their victims’ bad special effects trips. While perhaps justifiably blasted for having the reveal as too close to Spielberg’s own competing (and far more vicious) “Temple of Doom,” Broughton patterns his Egyptian thuggees chants far more in the fashion of “Carmina Burana” than demonic voices that could actually summon Kali. “Sherlock” culminates in truly magnificent action music that’s easily the equal of anything Williams conjured, giving the swashbuckling, fiery danger a real sense of emotional jeopardy, as these are kids after all. With themes parrying, pulling and giving the film a true tragic gravitas, Broughton’s score is full of sweeping peril, neatly wrapping up his brilliant motivic construction, like a detective has tying all of the improbable, impossible clues together into a rapturous melodic whole. Not only does “Young Sherlock Holmes” stand as arguably that company’s best score, but one of the best modern film scores written at that, capturing all the thrills afforded by a symphony orchestra at its most exuberant.
Extra Special: After several releases as Moriarty-manufactured bootlegs and a highly prized composer promo, the game is finally, officially afoot with Intrada’s dazzling two-CD set, not only offering Broughton’s complete score, but also alternates (splitting off the wax ceremony’s chorus and orchestra), source cues and a glossy booklet offering John Takis’ deductive liner notes and label head Douglas Fake’s interview with Broughton. There’s nothing elementary about this long-awaited release of a “Holmes” that will likely go down as the detective’s best musically traditional case, as created for an audience weaned on Spielberg magic.
ALSO FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
. DRAFT DAY
As the second “sports” movie after “Moneyball” to deal with the behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing that makes for a league roster, “Draft Day” takes on the far more physical world of football with a decidedly less musically cerebral approach. But that doesn’t mean that John Debney is all rhythmic brawn and no brain as he helps make heated phone conversations, chalkboard stats and Machiavellian negotiations into electrifying listening. Re-teaming with Ivan Reitman after helping the director move up a more youth-oriented yard line with the relationship dramedy “No Strings Attached,” Debney deftly plays between alt, pop rhythm and orchestral emotion in creating a hip score for a movie about a smart, if sometimes underhanded executive player, making “Draft Day” a nice hand-off from his powerful score to the flawed “Jobs.” Debney is constantly on the move here with a rhythmically intensive approach that makes one think the world’s at stake in crafting the NFL roster, music that gives the football-heavy jargon exciting impact, even if it might fly over the head of non-sports fans who are just out to see a Kevin Costner flick. On that count, Debney grounds his score with a string-driven sense of nobility that befits the actor’s Americana appeal, creating a melodic sense of humanity that’s at stake with the crushed, or inflated egos of management and the athletic talent they bait and switch with. Sure this might be a dialogue-driven movie with barely any on-the-field action in it. But darned if Debney’s propulsive, ever-intensifying score doesn’t make you think that you’re listening to the music for the be-all end-all game, right down to the big pitch, sustained anticipation, and winning play of a soaring orchestra –here passed to the tune of millions of dollars. Yet in the end, it’s Americana nobility that this score is really about, its rhythmic moves made on the football green as opposed to the spreadsheet.
. INFAMOUS: SECOND SON
Sucker Punch’s grunge -powered game makes an electrifying leap to next-gen with “Second Son,” the new “Infamous” game that throws its slacker superheroes into Seattle environs to be pursued by nefarious government forces. It’s “X-Men” meets Kurt Cobain if you will, which makes composers the decision of composers Marc Canham (“Far Cry 2”), Nathan Johnson (“Looper”) and Infamous 2’s Brain to go for a Pearl Jam-charged action score right on the beanie-wearing, spray-painting money. Where other video game soundtracks might achieve their adrenalin through pure, and sometimes dull electro-beats, this trio employs thrashing guitars, echoed hollering and sweat-flying drum solos to hear super feats as a combination of exhilaration and rage against the machine – neon, smoke and video bolts as bursts of virtuoso acoustical attitude. Angry guitar solos, percussive heavy metal, reversed samples and more eerily meditative pianos that not only get across grunge punks kicking ass against the powers that be, but also a futuristic science fiction atmosphere that befits a Space Needle city patrolled by lightning bolt jackboots. But best of all, “Second Son’s” surprisingly thematic music feels truly authentic to a hero capable of blue good and red evil, its captivating grooves at once full of dissatisfaction and the exhilarating charge that comes from flying through the air and kicking government ass. Its music full of unplugged production value that sends “Second Son” into the PS4 realm with a bang for Sucker Punch’s super team, who can front for any Nirvana tribute band they’d like after this.
. LAST PASSENGER
Liam Bates dynamically wants us to know that he’s moving up from conductor to solely taking over the driver’s seat for this Brit train-to-hell thriller, which has a few passengers doing their damnedest to stop a madman from taking their once-normal ride to a flaming last stop. And right along with Bates on the pedal are the gleeful ghosts of Michael Kamen and Jerry Goldsmith, with the smashing, brassy action touch and John Williams-esque swirling strings pressed right to the floor (along with that composer’s electric piano way with emotion). While it’s soon apparent that Bates doesn’t quite have their way of putting melodic fuel into this 80s-centric type of action-suspense, that doesn’t stop him from having energy to make the listener take notice that there’s genuine talent here – especially in how he uses high-impact rhythm and gnarly metallic samples to musically embody the train and its maniac at the wheel, often times with the chug-a-chug rhythm of a steel white shark given roid rage. Uneasily balanced between rough shod sampled orchestra and the real impressive deal, “Last Passenger” is an often exciting, all-over-the-place score for a musician to watch, especially when he finds his own voice totally in control of his next action vehicle. I’ll be eagerly awaiting at that stop.
. RIO 2
From having elephants hear whos to training dragons and teaching penguins tap dance, John Powell rules the animated animal kingdom when it comes to scores that fly on wings of energetic exuberance. Now he once again takes flight to Brazil with a return to the world of “Rio,” whose new trip up the Amazon gives him even more opportunities to bring on exotic South American percussion and winds, courtesy of such indigenous guest artists as UAKTI, Milton Nascimento and Carlinhos Brown. They’re peppy, pop-py birds of a feather in giving Powell a wonderfully manic, yet affectionately energetic sound depicting a neurotic parrot distinctively out of his element. Powered with more musical changes than Carl Stalling on uppers while somehow maintaining a symphonic sense of continuity with his infinitely dexterous “Rio” theme, the score’s thoroughly fun sense of whimsy captures the frenetic feel of a hapless blue macaw being thrown right on top of a Carnival float, dodging the joyful drummers and flute players piling on him. Yet for all of his colorfully percussive music’s high fructose energy, “Rio 2” also knows when to calm itself with nice emotional down time that gives the score its heart. As with Powell’s best cartoon work, “Rio 2” positively sings with hybrid panache, showing just well a pop-driven, infinitely stylistic orchestra can do the samba along with chorus, villainous harpsichords, cliffhanging action and every other seemingly impossible maneuver, showing once again with “Rio 2” that musical ADD can be a wonderful bird of paradise.
. ROSWELL / COMMUNION
After respectably re-performing John Carpenter and Ennio Morricone’s “The Thing,” Buysoundtrax now breaks the ice on two lesser-known “true life” alien scores, one involving the human probing done on some accidental visitors to “Roswell,” then playing a writer’s metaphysical close encounter for “Communion.” Yet despite the role-reversals, both scores are tried together by a lyrical approach steeped in mystery, and a sense for peaceful understanding, even if that might not be the government’s aim for the first 1994 Showtime movie, which continued composer Elliot Goldenthal’s streak of memorable genre scores following “Pet Semetary,” “Alien 3” and “Demolition Man.” While taking the viewpoint of an army major seeking to find the truth out there, “Roswell” isn’t quite as strange as you’d expect from a composer who was impressing Hollywood with his Avant garde flourishes, though such trademarks as brassily churning rhythmic progression, mournful melody and eerie string passages are in abundance for a score that could easily work on an “X-Files” episode. Intriguing and mostly low-key in conveying what still stands as the UFO conspiracy nut cause celebre, “Roswell” has a creepy pace to it, even if the string emulations here are a bit too synthy-sounding for what was mostly a budgetarily-necessitated electronic soundtrack – though the very real voice of Nadani Sinha makes a torchy impression with the cleverly extended “I’m Still Here.” A pseudo Eric Clapton is the shining star of “Communion,” Philippe Mora’s provocative adaptation of Whitley Streiber’s “true” experience of being kidnapped by aliens (given a run for weirdness by star Christopher Walken). Helping to make the film both convincing, and intelligent whether one believed its premise or not was a beautiful, meditative score, whose improvised licks by rock guitar God Eric Clapton were given eerie backing by regular Mora composer Allan Zavod (“The Howling III”). Given a psychedelic treatment that left Streiber’s experiences open to interpretation, Clapton’s electric, acoustical licks took on a mesmerizing, acid rock power, especially with nearly every cue centered around its beautiful, drifting theme. Like the best alien encounter scores, of which the brief, relatively unsung “Communion” stands, Clapton helped communicate a sense of wonder of touching the great, cosmic unknown, with a trippy vibe as much about inner space as it is the outer limits. Though Clapton might not be playing here, Dominik Hauser does an exceptional job of emulating his raw, improvisational licks, with Steve Bartek doing a fine job of bringing out a peaceful, Zen groove for the score’s poetic end title. At the least, once can believe in this spot-on close encounter of “Communion’s” score.
. THE RUNNER STUMBLES
Funnily enough, the eleven film collaboration between Stanley Kramer and Ernest Gold will likely be most popularly remembered for their one-shot laugh fest “It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World,” as opposed to the far more serious music that was otherwise conjured by the likes of “The Defiant Ones,” “On the Beach” and “Inherit the Wind.” But even among these sweepingly somber scores, the one film, and soundtrack that’s completely flown under the radar is Kramer’s 1979 swan song “The Runner Stumbles,” which had the audacity to dramatically cast the ever-loveable Dick Van Dyke as a priest accused of murdering the nun he’s forbiddingly fallen in love with. While the movie still remains unavailable beyond its collector coveted VHS release, we can give thanks to Buysoundtrax for releasing Gold’s beautiful score, certainly one of his best in service of the auteur of American cinematic seriousness. As based on a real-life criminal case from 1919, Gold ingeniously bases his theme on “My Rumble Seat Gal,” a jazz age song of the composer’s own devising. But as opposed to some floozy from the big city, the melody it ironically springs from accompanies the arrival of Kathleen Quinlan’s nun to a small mining town. Gold treats the melody for all of its poetically tormented worth, on one hand going with the bliss of a woman of the cloth who sees romance as part of God’s unknowable plan, while countering it with a Father who sees his life being ripped apart. So dexterous is Gold’s orchestration that his memorable theme also takes on a rural quality as well in creating a dark, stifling town of the moral judgment that awaits – an anguish and accusing religiosity weaves its way about the score with a hymnal quality. The “Runner” might falter, but Gold’s music is a major discovery, a work of heartbreaking beauty that stands as one of his finest score, the history of its creation and a terrific sum total of a serious collaboration illuminated nicely by Randall D. Larson’s liner notes that nicely quotes his own interview with Gold.
. VICTOR YOUNG AT PARAMOUNT
Kritzerland continues to mine for golden age soundtracks in the Paramount peak, doing impressive sonic excavations on many gems well past five decades old (practically pre-history in soundtrack terms nowadays), no more so than in their compilations celebrating fairly obscure work by composers during their tenure with the studio. Now Kritzerland follows up their “Franz Waxman at Paramount” album with this triptych featuring Victor Young, the prolific, and manly-sounding composer of over two hundred soundtracks (“The Quiet Man” and “Around the World in 80 Days” among them) whose nevertheless best remembered tune today is the eternal song “When I Fall in Love.” We begin with the sweat inducing score to 1951s “Appointment With Danger,” which had Alan Ladd (the star of the Young-scored “Shane”) as an intrepid postal inspector protecting a woman of the cloth who witnessed a fellow official’s murder. While there’s some pleasant ecclesiastical music at the start, Young’s pounding, and very concerned score even manages to make a Brahms excerpt seem like part of a perilous whole, with nearly every cue screaming of brassy danger from the evil likes of Jack Webb and Harry Morgan. Young finds a far more romantic film noir approach to 1949s “The Accused,” as Loretta Young’s college professor tries to cover up a self-defense killing, all while of course falling for the detective out to catch the culprit. Young’s melody for the heroine is as lovely as it is dire, engendering a moving sense of violin-topped empathy for a no-fault murderess, an emotional approach that gives this score its attractive, tragic appeal. Though the love of 1950s “September Affair” might have potentially dark roots as a star-crossed couple find they’re given new lives to pursue each other after mistakenly being pronounced dead in a plane crash, this is a score that offers Young at his most romantically sweeping – abetted by snippets of Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson’s “September Song.” Mandolin helps put Italian flavor into the Florence-set proceedings, with a beyond-lush orchestra sinking in the impossibly lofty romance of make-believe new lives that will undoubtedly be uncovered. Young demonstrates all of the musical beauty from an age when Hollywood wasn’t afraid of full-blown melodic passion, of which “September Affair” holds a renewed, gorgeous place thanks to this shining collection of Young’s work.
CLICK on the album covers to make your hardcopy or download purchase, and find the soundtracks at these. com’s: Amazon, Intrada, iTunes, Movie Score Media, Screen Archives and Varese Sarabande