‘First Knight‘ One Of The Top Soundtracks To Own For April, 2011
Also worth picking up: Cowboy Smoke, Hanna, Hawk, Kidco, Paul, Testament and Tindersticks: Claire Dennis Film Scores
To purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD cover
1) COWBOY SMOKE
What is it?: A wannabe cowboy discovers the aura of lassos and six-shooters aren’t what he reckoned on after ending up in a Texas town, where the real outlaw goings on are with its trade in illegal immigrants. Leave it to a Lone Star composer named Brian Satterwhite to poetically turn the character’s heroism to the real thing, and lasso the varmints in one of the most ear-catchingly bizarre modern western scores since Marco Beltrami dug up THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA, music that re-invents the sagebrush conventions in truly unexpected, and enthralling ways.
Why should you buy it?: There’s a thick, Mexican-flavored atmosphere to DUST that immediately connotes the west of one man’s fever dreams, a place with tumbleweed harmonicas, guitars and violins. But Satterwhite’s SMOKE goes way beyond the usual spur-wearing suspects with harmonies and percussion that suggest the more highfallutin’ canvases of modern dance, or poetry readings at that. Whacked-out rhythms and non-genre instruments like harps and bells continually upending sagebrush expectations, while conforming to them in psychedelic ways that suggests Satterwhite’s under the influence of some mighty strong peyote- the end result of the trip being an especially original musical voice that you could imagine a similarly dream-stuffed lizard named Rango hearing on his desert trek out of town.
Extra Special: Though he had a bigger canvas to score horsemen across the globe with for the Imax film RIDE AROUND THE WORLD, it’s precisely the musical limitations of COWBOY SMOKE that make it so cool- the kind of homegrown necessity that’s made Satterwhite strip down the western sound into something far more minimal and provocative than many a bigger horse-riding score. It’s an auspicious iTunes debut for one of the truly interesting composers on the indie scene, whose talent on such micro-budget efforts like COWBOY SMOKE and ARTOIS THE GOAT herald the talent to take on much bigger films with an indie-centric creative touch.
2) FIRST KNIGHT (5,000 edition)
What is it?: By 1995, Jerry Goldsmith was nearing the winter of his years, age which meant nothing when it came to the youthful passion he’d invest in his work for almost another decade. Yet it was precisely Goldsmith’s mature, melodic energy that made this king of Hollywood composers a natural to sit on the throne alongside Sean Connery in FIRST KNIGHT, a sweeping re-telling of the Arthurian legend that deserved a more noble reception. Now the regal, resounding brass is here to announce a two-CD set of Goldsmith’s complete score, the magnificence of his accomplishment soaring with symphonic heroism worthy of the greatest (if wished-for) ruler of all time.
Why should you buy it?: Given the vast range of musical subjects that Goldsmith had tackled in the previous decades (among them both World Wars, the inside of Martin Short and a planet of the apes), it’s a wonder that his only score set in the knightly era had been 1987’s LIONHEART- a score that many fans regard as being among his best. If admirers didn’t already have that opinion about FIRST KNIGHT, they will now. Driven by a trumpeting theme that’s all about the best and boldest in mythic men, Goldsmith’s fully orchestral score is a wealth of regal melodies that capture the longed-for romance of Camelot, especially the impossible, lush attraction between the realm’s most beautiful queen and its bravest knight, all while the proud music of Arthur casts a blind eye. But most of all, FIRST KNIGHT rules with some of Goldsmith’s most smashing action writing, from the heroic thrills of “Escape from the Cave” to the noble brass percussion of “Night Battle,” a cue where the feeling of hundreds of thundering hooves and clanging suits of armor sing through one’s dreams of military honor. And for a composer who won an Oscar for the evil Latin chanting of THE OMEN, Goldsmith makes godly amends with the glorious, fighting verses of “Arthur’s Farewell,” a Carmina Burana-worthy mini-opera that sends Connery to become the stuff of legend, while giving Ben Cross’ glowering villain his just deserts. As “Camelot Lives” goes proudly marching off to an eternity of retellings, you feel the honor, and duty of Goldsmith to do justice with the greatest “general” of all time, a task he earns another golden crown for here.
Extra Special: Originally released with just 40 minutes of score on Epic Soundtrax, La La Land’s new KNIGHT barely contains Goldsmith’s masterwork on one 78 minute disc, while allotting the second to the original album. Then it’s a near half hour of notable alternates, the most impressive of which has Goldsmith engage in some outright Korngold-isms for “The Ambush / First Sight,” the kind of soaring, heroic trumpet fun that makes you wish Goldsmith got the chance to score another English legend named Robin Hood. While he’d return once more to the breach with the unused (but available) score to TIMELINE, FIRST KNIGHT arguably stands as the score to rule them all in his kingly genre, not to mention one of the best soundtracks Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere ever received, with Goldsmith’s own legend here once again regaled in Jeff Bond’s terrific liner notes.
What is it?: After showing his deadly serious Bond action grooves were a slam-bang fit for the buddy cop tribute HOT FUZZ, David Arnold now finds his background blasting aliens for INDEPENDENCE DAY comes in just as handy for a far nicer E.T. named PAUL- his second satirical film homage score for actor-writers Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
Why should you buy it?: If there’s a recipe to this duo’s winning movie-movie formula, it’s walking a fine line between spoofing their source material and just going with their unabashed love of it. Ditto David Arnold right from the start with a winking 50’s sci-fi Theremin and a dark orchestra that seems to promise a mothership. When the sky spits out a wise-ass alien instead, Arnold goes for a pleasant harmonica vibe for his RV road trip with two Comicon geeks, scoring that alternately threatens to turn into “Everybody’s Talkin’” an inter-spatial BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN or a heartfelt romantic ballad for piano. It’s surprising emotion that PAUL earnestly manages to pull off, right down to Arnold’s spot-on take on the kind of grandiloquent CE3K-style orchestra that wrapped up every 80’s sci-fi movie send-off (including PAUL’s shout out to MAC AND ME). While it would’ve been cool to have more of Arnold’s ID4-lite action music on this album, there’s some truly inventive cues on tap, from bouncing strings and Theremin that turn into a vengeful 007-worthy car chase to FBI road rage for country guitar and orchestral percussion. By the time that PAUL waves goodbye with a soaring symphony, you might wish that Arnold got to do a “real” alien invasion score again But the charm is that this pretty much is one, with a lot more laughter and nicer heart.
Extra Special: As with the soundtrack for Pegg and Frost’s first genre tribute SEAN OF THE DEAD, PAUL actually benefits from a clever mixture of score and songs, with the usual alien goof suspects like Billy Lee Riley’s “Flying Saucers Rock N’ Roll and The B-52’s “Planet Claire” mixing it up with some fresh alien-themed songs like Max Romeo’s reggae “I Chase the Devil” and a country version of STAR WARS’ “Cantina Bar” by Syd Masters and The Swing Riders. Top that off with wonderful road trip radio kitsch like Grover Washington Jr.’s “Just the Two of Us,” and ELO’s “All Over the World,” and you’ve got a surprisingly well-thought out musical progression for PAUL’s RV ride, choices that Pegg and Frost engagingly write about in their liner notes for the thankful hard copy of PAUL’s soundtrack that exists along with its MP3 ether.
4) TINDERSTICKS: CLAIRE DENNIS FILM SCORES
What is it?: Imagine if Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground decided to also become film composers on a particularly melancholy day, and you’ll get a sense of the haunting, hypnotic melodies that have filled the scores of Tindersticks. Though this band might hail from Nottingham, England as opposed to the Bowery, there’s an undeniable downtown NYC art rock lounge vibe to Tindersticks’ striking soundtracks, which have gone through impressive variations in the ensemble’s decade-plus collaboration with Claire Dennis, a French filmmaker possessed of the same esoteric ennui.
Why should you buy it?: This new box set collects Tindersticks’ six (and counting) collaborations with Dennis over the period of1996 to 2009, their mostly-stripped down scoring creating the feel of a continuous, twilight-hour tone poem. Yet it’s one with distinctively thematic verses, each carrying their own sense of beautifully haunted, stubbed-out cigarette melancholy. The teen brother and sister running wild in NENETTE AND BONI have a gossamer jazz quality, as if the young adults stumbled into a broken-down ensemble playing an opening act in the Twilight Zone. But if you thought Tindersticks could barely raise their voices above a beautiful whisper, the band would provide some of the most languorous, doom-laden orchestral lines this side of TAXI DRIVER for Dennis’ blood and semen-splattered vampire film TROUBLE EVERY DAY, its themes and Nick Cave-like ballad thick and haunting. THE INTRUDER barely seems to violate with ethereal synth melancholy, as the urban angst of VENDREDI SOIR carries a bizarre, pokey playfulness that’s more suggestive of a kiddie film. The bond between African émigrés receives a more wistful Gallic tinkertoy approach, spare harmonicas and guitars getting the bizarre inclusion of an electronic Ondes Martenot, a sci-fi musical device that somehow feels at home amidst Paris’ train tracks. Dennis’ most autobiographical film about staying alive amidst Africa’s vanishing French colonials in WHITE MATERIAL is conjured with tension-filled strings and bells, its simple guitar riffs creating a lyricism that belies the danger-fraught atmosphere, or even any feel of ethnic place.
Extra Special: The best that can be said of this constantly intriguing, highly listenable five-CD set is in Tindersticks’ refusal to do anything that’s remotely ordinary, a provocative, yet subtle quality that distinguishes Clair Dennis’ work as well. Packaged in a small, but graphically striking set with a colorful booklet and perceptive liner notes by Michael Hilll, Tindersticks is a small wonder of alt. scoring that’s well worth visiting for soundtrack fans seeking a change from the ordinary that isn’t all about techno rhythm lines.
5) YOUR HIGHNESS
What is it?: After the somewhat unintentional hilarity of the TRANSFORMERS movies, Steve Jablonsky gets to score an outright gonzo take on 80’s sword and sorcery films, with all of the sound and fury he usually applies to Optimus Prime. And that’s perfect when it comes to playing this unabashedly rude fantasy spectacle for real.
Why Should you buy it?: Like a composer who’d been subjected to CLOCKWORK ORANGE-like viewings of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, KULL THE CONQUERER and WILLOW, then turned loose on the world, Jablonsky wreaks loud havoc with every musical cliché in the genre book, as reworked for a rock orchestral world it never made. And darn if that check list of sword-ratting brass, moaning voices, exotic percussion, Medieval instruments and gigantically heroic adventure music don’t sound completely spot-on with knowingly satirical energy- right down to those wonderfully goody LADYHAWKE-esque synth grooves. More than just a big, loveable musical prank that’s almost too serious for its metal britches, YOUR HIGHNESS captures the energy of retro fantasy cheese, albeit with rousingly melodic music that makes you believe in HIGHNESS’ well-made reality, even as the performers are making F-bomb mincemeat out of it.
Extra Special: Sure YOUR HIGHNESS didn’t set the box office ablaze like the TRANSFORMERS or the Michael Bay horror remakes that Jablonsky’s more popular for. Yet there’s no better example, or perhaps more entertaining movie, that Jablonsky’s scored so far, one that reveals just how many styles he’s capable of playing, especially when the music (or movie itself) doesn’t get the meta-megaplex joke. Plus, you get James Franco warbling over Zooey Deschanel’s dulcet tones for “The Greatest Most Beautifullest Love Song In All The Land,” a ballad that has Franco being funnier in one minute of music than he was for three plus hours at this year’s Oscars.
ALSO FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
EVEN THE RAIN (TAMBIEN LA LLUVIA)
Though his work can’t seemingly help but take on a Latin flavor, Spanish composer Alberto Iglesias is an altogether remarkable composer whose best scores like THE KITE RUNNER, THE CONSTANT GARDENER and LOVERS OF THE ARCTIC CIRCLE play a clash of cultures in musically metaphysical terms. This is certainly RAIN’s case for a Spanish director who goes to shoot a Christopher Columbus picture in Bolivia, only to have art imitate history when his Indian extras stage a rebellion over water rights. Ethereal samples and guitars mix with plaintive flutes, orchestral strings and ethnic percussion, embodying the growing turmoil of well-meaning Latin sophisticate filmmakers dealing with indigenous “actors” who won’t take real-life direction. Even as the onscreen metaphors for the collision of past and present get more violent, Iglesias keeps an even-handed, if growingly concerned emotional tone, the score’s suspenseful lyricism playing centuries worth of colonial anguish with ultimate, if poetic anger. EVEN THE RAIN glistens with the kind of haunting music that flows so memorably through Iglesias’ musical bloodline, made especially potent by the fact that it’s his own culture where the pigeons have come home to roost in this score.
John Barry was surely one composer who had this score’s titular gift as he prowled swinging 60’s London with best mate Michael Caine. So it’s a given that his score for this surreal 1965 film about a lad hunting for English birds would get the clever, lush bounce that Barry used to impress an audience far bigger than the era’s lovely ladies. Arguably the best score to make use of the composer’s free-style jazz origins with The John Barry Seven, and definitely more mature than the sexed-up teen pop energy he gave to his first score for BEAT GIRL, THE KNACK is all about its sensual strut. No one could combine the worlds of the Soho nightclub scene with the sound of a scoring stage with Barry’s inimitable sound, or melodic beat. As always, the theme’s the thing for THE KNACK, and it’s a gorgeous, popping rhythm carried by jazz combo, electric organ and siren-like voices, which are then given a bit of the orchestral danger that Barry was playing at the time for a bloke named Bond. Not only does Barry effortlessly catch the pace of the girl chase (even playing it with the speed of a silent movie for director Richard Lester’s surreal approach), but he also understands the haunting emptiness of always being of always being on the make. There’s a lot of love in this new KNACK, which has been superbly re-mastered, and given copious, fascinating liner notes from Barry experts Geoff Leonard and Pete Walker (authors of the “John Barry- The Man with the Midas Touch”). THE KNACK is prime Barry, a jazzy example of why this late composer’s always-thematic appeal will remain eternally listenable, not to mention great music to put for scoring with the Soho ladies.
It’s appropriate that a killer kid who represents the feared future of America’s fighting forces also is given a beat by The Chemical Brothers (aka Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons), the industrial-electronica trance band whose pernicious influence on such rock chord n’ computer bleep scores represent all that’s unholy about the future of movie scoring to old-school score fans. So it’s almost a small wonder that it’s taken the duo this long to do their first true movie score with HANNA, not that much of it truly hits to picture anyway. Yet this wash of beats and atmospheres is completely in cold-blooded synch for this impressive action film that plays like KICK ASS’ Hit Girl as set loose upon the sterile style of the original ANDROMEDA STRAIN. After the many Chemical-spawned scores that have hypnotized adventurous listeners, their real, rhythmic deal for HANNA has a lethally catchy groove that refuses to let go. If it wasn’t twisted enough to have a playfully whistling main theme (one which its Eurotrash hitman never fails to use), The Chemical Brothers further pound in the devil’s playground metaphors with nursery school bells, all backed with constant, weird science grooves that tells of our anti-heroine’s more-than-fine genetics. As with their songs, HANNA is all about how to latching onto a cool electro melody and running with it, even if the catchy results seem somewhat caught somewhere between a concept album and an actual film score. Yet the Brothers work never seems out of place in the film’s dispassionate, cruel and exciting world that doesn’t want much to do with traditional soundtrack niceties. The Chemical Brothers nonetheless capture the emotional spirit of film scoring, right down to a truly haunting main theme worthy of its song. Style hasn’t trumped over substance in their brave new soundtrack world yet, even if HANNA’s mutant music is enough to make any traditionalist very, very afraid.
When you hear the lush orchestrations, female choruses singing in some seemingly Elvish language and the dark, foreboding brass that signals ring-obsessed villainy, you might think you’ve somehow time-warped yourself a copy of the score for the forthcoming HOBBIT. Yet what’s even more astonishing is that HAWK turns out to not only be the score for a Welsh fantasy, but a short film at that. It’s a major stylistic leap up for British composer Stuart Hancock, who last impressed on Movie Score Media with his hard-edged martial arts music for UNDERGROUND and BODYGUARD: A NEW BEGINNING. Now Hancock enters far more delicate mystical lands previously traveled by Howard Shore, yet conjures a similar feeling of enchantment with his own stylistic voice. It’s a pretty rare feat for a 38-minute project to get the kind of lavish music that conjures volumes-worth of ancient make-believe history, its melodic dimensions impressively depicted by the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra and a choir called Serendipity. If anything, the only regret of HAWK is that there wasn’t more of it for Hancock to score, though the enthralling spoken word legend that sends out the album with “The Legend of Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed” certainly shows HAWK’s RINGS-like sequel possibilities, with a Welsh spin of course.
THE HOMECOMING / RASCALS AND ROBBERS
Jerry Goldsmith was one of the rare composers who was as prolific as he was memorable when it came to composing for the big and small screens, his latter work ranging from such shows as TWILIGHT ZONE and ROOM 122 to made-for-TV movies like CONTRACT ON CHERRY STREET. But perhaps no film-to-series assignment would resonate with America’s idealized heartland like 1971’s THE HOMECOMING, a heartwarming family story that soon became THE WALTONS. While Goldsmith’s famed theme for that program doesn’t show up here, the sweet, melodically rustic sound of harmonica, strings and flute conveys an atmosphere of Depression-era togetherness as palpable as a log in the country home hearth, a lyricism that Goldsmith had also given to such theatrical features as LILIES OF THE FIELD and A PATCH OF BLUE. While not rousingly “Americana” as such with its intimate approach, Goldsmith’s beautifully tender work is all about the sweet, Christmastime bonding of an era that only quite existed like this on television. One young composer who’d quickly leave the TV coop for much grander pastures was James Horner, though not without giving an understandably grander southern take for Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn in 1982’s RASCALS AND ROBBERS. Packed with orchestral energy, nautical-sounding action and eerie suspense, RASCALS will come across to Horner enthusiasts as a rustic spin on his bigger career breakthrough that year with STAR TREK 2. For two iconic kids who get themselves into far more hot water than John Boy, Horner’s immediately identifiable rhythmic energy conveys mischief as a thing of roughhouse enchantment, along with dark carnival music that he’d make far more fearsome the next year with SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. Horner’s strikingly intricate use of themes is apparent from the first joyous prank, with the composer cleverly using the sound of a harmonica for all of its innocence, and Injun Joe-worthy menace. The wonder years of Twain’s famed characters have rarely sounded as magical as in the hands of a young composer destined for some kid-friendly mythmaking of his own.
Composer Christopher Lennertz could open up a pet store for wiseacre talking animals based on how many of these critters he’s given speedy energy to. But amidst cages filled with chipmunks, dogs, birds and cats, it’s the bunny who’s got the best pedigree. For in a genre that often turns out to be a dragged-along parents’ equivalent to cleaning up after a hyper puppy, HOP is a pleasingly seditious all-ages delight in every department, its Easter bill paid in style by Lennertz’s rambunctious stylings. His thematic melodies run like a mad dervish through HOP’s double-entendres and slapstick gags instead of stopping at every turn to smell the joke. It’s high energy that’s never less than pleasantly melodic, or better yet, creatively inspired, from its Rapa Nui Easter Island drumming to the funk sound of a movie playing above its perceived age range. Better yet, Lennertz gives an emotionally wistful, Xmas-like magic to the score’s boundless energy, music that helps HOP rise to its SANTA CLAUSE-like allusions of creating a whole other dimension of non-denominational Christian holiday helpers, bells and happy melodies that would convince any human to chuck it all to become a messenger of good cheer. And HOP has that in spades, from nutty sugar-rush rhythms to the tenderness that makes you want to hug a jellybean-pooping bunny with the voice of Russell Brand, as opposed to turning him into Hasenpfeffer. If they have to keep making these movies, then Lennertz is their one kept man who keeps elevating talking animals up the food chain, especially with such a tasty treat like HOP.
Intrada has made it a mission to expose the suspenseful works of Michael Small, an unsung composer regarded as one of film scoring’s great princes of psychological darkness- complex melodies that can be heard on the label’s releases that show his mature approach to the dying west in COMES A HORSEMAN, THE DRIVER’s LA noir, a femme fatale’s web of evil in BLACK WIDOW, or the conspiratorial judgments of THE STAR CHAMBER. So who’d think that Small would be just as capable of playing country and western comedy when it came to horse farm youths making bank on a fertilizer business? Chances are Small’s fans (or anyone else) have never even heard of 1984’s KIDCO, perhaps the most delightfully out-of-place credit in Small’s formidably adult cannon. As he pits the pleasantly strumming guitars and ukuleles of its enterprising heroes against the obviously dark strains of the IRS villains out to break their enterprise, Small engages in fun that ranges from wacka-wacka jazz to music befitting a drunken cowboy. Like a proto-NORTH, Small also uses bursting, patriotic brass to embody mini Mr. Smiths going to Washington, a surprisingly effective Americana feel that his strumming western stylings nicely feed into. KIDCO also has a now-nostalgic 80’s kidpic vibe in its orchestrations, electric guitar and synth percussion for a theme-driven score that ends up being just as smart as the R-rated fare he often scored. Small once again defeats evil government types, but in a far more innocently melodic way that’s nothing less than charming. If anything, KIDCO proves that Michael Small was just as capable of playing sunny, optimism as he was can’t-fight-the system nihilism. Truly, the little children lead in this delightful off-topic score for Small.
PUSHING DAISIES: SEASON 2
If the sound of death can be called adorable, then Jim Dooley did the trick over the course of two seasons with the “forensic fairy tale” PUSHING DAISIES, wherein a baker brought the deceased back to life with usually eccentric results. It’s the kind of pokily sweet ghoulishness that Danny Elfman put on the map with BEETLEJUICE. And while there’s a healthy dose of that sound to go around this delightful 62-minute CD, Dooley somehow managed to pump up Elfman’s skull n’ bones bounce to new inspired heights in Season 2, turning the undead carnival into more of a waltz through a 50’s kitsch department store, complete with commercial jingles. Happy gloom music rumba’s about with ghost wails, finger snaps do an organ jazz jive, and energetic percussion ticks the time away before the resurrected once again fall to earth. Through considerable inventiveness and production value, Dooley effortlessly conjures The Grim Reaper as one big Hello Kitty with his thankfully non-terminal sense of the absurd, his welcome dose of DAISIES delightfully fitting into any afterlife waiting room.
STAY TUNED (1500 edition)
When orchestral music was at its height during the Spielbergian run of genre films that typified the 80’s and early 90’s, there were few composers better at connoting the rich, sweeping themes that equaled the magic of finding out your next door neighbor was a BOY WHO COULD FLY, solving the case with YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES, making Bigfoot your pal in HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS, or fighting Dracula and his evil gang as a member of THE MONSTER SQUAD. But while the musical path that Broughton had to follow on these fondly-remembered films was pretty obvious, none would have the erratic, channel-changing creativity of 1992’s STAY TUNED, in which THREE’S COMPANY’s John Ritter and MORK AND MINDY’s Pam Dawber found themselves endlessly flipping about inside the twisted shows on the Devil’s TV station. Yet it was a mark of Broughton’s thematic brilliance that he’d glue all of these twisted programs together with readily identifiable motifs, their mix of comedy, darkness and cliffhanging adventure coming across like a mash-up of Broughton’s own greatest hits, yet with a playful voice all its own. Better yet, Broughton would get to do spot-on reactions of game show music, cheesy sitcom stylings, spaghetti westerns to the hard-broiled jazz of “Ray Knable: Private Dick.” But TUNED’s highlight is the program its antic imagination stays the longest on, wherein mouse versions of our heroes evade a robot cat. For a looney toon animated by no less than Chuck Jones, Broughton does Carl Stalling proud by recreating every WB musical pratfall that’s been ingrained in the mind of any TV addict, right down to the “That’s All Folks” signature. Intrada does a great job at releasing this much-desired Broughton score, complete with imaginative liner notes by Brian Satterwhite (proving himself a double threat as a writer and musician) and Broughton himself on meeting the challenges of Peter Hyams’ wackiest movie. Be sure to click on this channel before Intrada’s special offer is all gone.
Tyler Bates has proven himself as a master of seditious super hero scoring with the likes of WATCHMEN and EL SUPERBEASTO, upending the sound of muscle men with batshit rock and roll and power-pondering strings. But it’s doubtful if he’ll get quite a screwed-up heroic wannabe as the righteous grill cook of SUPER, his new, enjoyable affront to good musical taste with writer-director James Gunn after scoring that filmmaker’s mass of protoplasm for SLITHER. Bates’ deliberately grungy approach is caught somewhere between making fun of the twisted sight of a tights-wearing Rainn Wilson and teaming up with him. Garage synths mingle with a majestic chorus as Wilson’s character is brain probed by the awesome finger of God, twisted religiosity that also convinces him to go on a crime-busting crusade with the beatific sound of TV’s Holy Avenger. As things get significantly bloodier and a lot more serious, Bates unleashes the powerhouse rock sound of today’s homemade avengers before settling back down for folksy reconciliation with reality. Much of SUPER’s low-rent ambience is populated by an effective, eclectic mix of indie and 70’s retro-rock songs from the likes of Eric Carmen, the Lo-def Dollz, Moneybrother and The Nomads (along with the real deal of Cheap Trick). But perhaps the catchiest tune to come out of SUPER is Bates’ own “Two Perfect Moments,” a song whose cheerful la-la’ing captures the lovestruck drive of a seeming schmuck who ultimately proves his worth through Bates’ righteous fury.
SUPERMAN / SHAZAM! THE RETURN OF BLACK ADAM
Forget The Wonder Twins and that stupid blue monkey. DC Comics’ animation certainly isn’t kids’ stuff anymore, especially given the musical sophistication that’s put into this direct-to-video DC Showcase edition (half of whose four chapters would gleefully get a reject stamp by The Comics Code Authority). Tying the disparate sounds of its stories together are Jeremy Zuckerman and Benjamin Wynn, whose musical wonder powers ignite under the emblem of Track Team. Getting the muscle of a real orchestra through samples, and above all good writing, Zuckerman and Wynn bring superhero majesty, and mythic enchantment to the Showcase’s best entry that highlights the origin of The Big Red Cheese. The Green Arrow’s arsenal is graced with rapid-fire percussion and just a dash of nobility, while the ornery Jonah Hex does his bounty hunting to a mean-ass western guitar and a clever bolero, all while resisting the dark melodic allure of a whoremistress. But it’s the least-known hero in the lot who actually gets the best score with The Spectre. Starting out with near-porno jazz cheese, Zuckerman and Wynn employ some of the coolest recreations yet of the 80’s genre sound that would be a happy bedfellow with the twisted synths of John Carpenter and Alan Howarth’s, HALLOWEEN 2, let alone Jay Chattaway’s MANIAC. Yet even this approach doesn’t seem like a Marvel comic that’s been mistakenly stuck in the musical stack, ensuring the Track Team a membership in a DC toon scoring Justice League that includes such other noteworthy composers as Robert J. Kral (GREEN LANTER: FIRST FLIGHT) and Chrstopher Drake (WONDER WOMAN). It’s a cool enough style that I’d almost wish for a new take on Gleek just to see how they’d play that obnoxious caped primate.
After RASCALS AND ROBBERS, Film Score Monthly releases another early, auspicious score by Horner centered on youth. 1983’s TESTAMENT remains one of the saddest films the composer would score, its devastating emotional impact heightened by playing the end of the world with a near-chamber music approach. A latter-day ON THE BEACH, TESTAMENT has a family learning about a nearby atomic war, avoiding immediate devastation only to perish from the effects of radiation poisoning. Somehow, Horner hears Armageddon as a gentle Americana lullabye, his bells, flute, piano and angelic female voices making for simple, deeply affecting melodies that hush the little ones to ultimate peace. With horns providing TESTAMENT with it elegy to humankind, the score’s muted, but tearful effect showed Horner as a composer as capable of gigantic space operas as he was the most delicate intimacy, a talent that’s continued to serve him well on such equally heart-rending, small-scale works as THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS. For a relatively brief score that truly didn’t need more music, TESTAMENT’s long-awaited CD is filled out with the Mozart pieces that the film’s nuclear family play as a reminder of more pleasant, civilized times. Duck and cover, then break out the handkerchiefs when listening.
CLICK on the album covers to make your hardcopy or download purchase, and find the soundtracks at these .com’s: Amazon, Buysoundtrax, Intrada, iTunes. Moviemusic, Moveiscoremedia, Screen Archives and Varese Sarabande