August Soundtrack Picks







Price: $24.95    


What is it?: Foreign composers have a history of getting to the melodic heart of America, whether it was Dmitri Tiomkin traveling from the Ukraine to musically round up Texas in GIANT, or Austria’s Max Steiner playing the burning passion of Atlanta for GONE WITH THE WIND. But perhaps no soundtrack immigrant has heard our country’s conflicted soul in a landscape-centric film like Italy’s Ennio Morricone, whether it was the bloody expansion of the railroads in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, or the poignancy of innocent children destined for a life of crime in ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA. But where those Sergio Leone films were brilliant time-and-place pulp epics about the dark sides of the American dream, Terence Mallick’s DAYS OF HEAVEN gradually reveals this underbelly as a hustler and his “sister’’s desire for the good life end up the poisoned apple for a lonely rancher in Texan Eden. With barely any dialogue, Malick drives his lyrical DAYS through the sheer poetry of music and image, allowing Morricone perhaps the most expansive tapestry he’s ever had to luxuriate in the romantic, haunted themes that are his internationally renowned trademark. 


Why should you buy it?: Given our country’s verdant plains as opposed to the outlaw desert his music had trod on before, Morricone’s striking themes are equally fitted to the muted toil of these migrants who’ve come to work the wheat fields. As tender pianos and flutes thresh with the orchestra, Morricone’s achieves a nobility, and lyricism that recalls Aaron Copland’s best Americana stylings. Yet his glistening approach ultimately grows more turbulent as the storm clouds of avarice arrive, along with the trembling, abstract rhythms and pounding orchestral rage that accompanies a plague of locusts, musically swarming into an insane metaphor of the rancher’s realization that he’s been taken. Caught between a bucolic fairy tail and the avarice of the American dream, the Oscar-nominated score to DAYS OF HEAVEN still stands as Morricone’s finest example of pure, musical storytelling.


Extra Special: The same can cinematically be said for Terence Malick, who followed up the darker beauty of BADLANDS with this masterpiece. Though he’d plunge into the artistic excess of THE THIN RED LINE and TREE OF LIFE, Malick has always been brilliant at combining songs and score into enveloping tone poems (much like his fellow auteur Stanley Kubrick). Not only does this two-CD set from Film Score Monthly feature all of Morricone’s underscore and its numerous unused and extended pieces, but this ultimate DAYS also contains the original, exceptionally sequenced Pacific Arts LP. Just as he’d employed Carl Orff’s “Musica Poetica” for BADLANDS, Malick’s striking use of Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of Animals” also has delicate bell percussion recall the enchantment of a lost America, here with a turn-of-the-century photomontage. Linda Manz’s ironic narration then carries the album into the folk guitar of Leo Kottke in “Enderland,” and Doug Kershaw’s joyous Cajun “Swamp Dance.” This exception use of classical and traditional pieces only show how much in tune Morricone was with Malick’s musical tastes with his depiction of surface beauty, and the doomed quest for a better life beneath its waves of grain.  It’s a power whose brilliance continues to haunt in this masterpiece of American filmmaking, and scoring.




Price: $14.75          


What is it?: Uday Hussein has a rocking good time ravaging Iraq under dad’s carte blanche, not to mention the protection of a hapless look-a-like. It’s a musically mesmerizing balance between the fruits of evil, and an onlooker’s moral anguish, two tones merged into one beast for this killer alt. bio score by Christian Henson.


Why should you buy it?: Just when you think you’ve heard it all in the sinister soundtrack land of Middle East-meets-west rhythms, THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE arrives to kick the genre in the ass as its antagonist does far worse things to his people. Not only does it help that Henson was a programmer on the intrigue of SPY GAMES, but his growingly impressive work on the twisted likes of SEVERANCE, BLACK DEATH and TRIANGLE makes him equally well suited to capture the emotion of real-life horror, as wrapped into ethnic gangsta music. There’s a razor-blade sharpness to Henson’s use of samples, scorching guitars, electro-rhythm sensuality, Arabic instruments and percussion, as if the evil of club music was stomping on a culture’s ancient sound- which is exactly the point for a villain, and his family, that crushed Iraq into the ground with all the excesses that dictatorship, and money could allow. It’s a hypnotic, processed sound that does its best to overwhelm the strings and melancholy piano of a man sucked into Uday’s depravity, a humanity that reaches tragic dimensions in the midst of Henson’s highly produced insanity.


Extra Special: At its thrashing best, THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE captures the feeling of being out of place in an Arabic pleasure palace of dark, rhythmic delights, its techno-ethnic energy beckoning you to enter as your western symphonic conscience tells you to high-tail it the hell out of there. But whatever your decision, this is a terrific invitation to the Hollywood party for Christian Henson, whose most impressive soundtrack yet puts new, energetic life into a musical, and film genre that’s needed some shaking up.



3) THE MONEYCHANGERS (1500 edition)

Price: $29.99      


What is it?: During the heyday of the epic TV miniseries in the 70’s and 80’s, the networks would cram numerous major movie stars into multi-night epics where business titans engaged in glitzy soap operas of lust and avarice. ABC certainly cashed out from a story by multi-character magnate Arthur Hailey (AIRPORT, HOTEL), whose banking-set MONEYCHANGERS netted actors like Kirk Douglas, Joan Collins and an Emmy-Winning Christopher Plummer.


Why should you buy it?: What better composer to play this elegantly lustful chicanery than Henry Mancini? Having recently accompanied Kirk’s soap opera conquests on the big screen for Jacqueline Susan’s ONCE IS NOT ENOUGH, Mancini would give the same melodic passion to this 1976 miniseries. You can hear the captains of industry in Mancini’s bold theme and the military-like percussion. Drums roll with fade-to-commercial cliffhangers, ritzy settings breathlessly change with swelling stings, suspenseful financial skullduggery is accompanied by charging brass and pianos, while numerous, glistening source tunes play Mancini’s hand as a master of effervescent jazz-pop.


Extra Special: With over two hours of score, THE MONEYCHANGERS’ true wealth can be found in its abundance of dramatic underscoring, a talent often unrecognized amidst Mancini’s more popular comedic work like THE PINK PANTHER series. But whether his music’s plotting or seducing here for ABC, Mancini’s MONEYCHANGERS offers the pure, melodic elegance of Mancini’s lush life.




Price: $14.23       


What is it?: For a movie that’s about evolution, it’s fitting that Patrick Doyle, a composer once renowned for the classical orchestral sound of HENRY IV and DEAD AGAIN, would essentially turn himself into a master primate of the new Hollywood action sound- a similar jump up the blockbuster studio ladder that he took earlier this summer with THOR. But as with that thoroughly entertaining film and superhero score, the transfiguration of Doyle’s trademarked sound with pulsing electronic and orchestral rhythms is very much a good, if not pretty great thing, especially for the command and conquer goals of Caesar in RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, a powerful entry in a franchise that’s featured the likes of Jerry Goldsmith, Leonard Rosenman and Danny Elfman.


Why should you buy it?: Nothing’s going to come close to the revolutionary, musical barbarism that Goldsmith applied to the first APES movie. But then, Patrick Doyle’s after the sound of a planet of Homo sapiens, an approach that makes this APES the most “human” score of an impressive bunch. Doyle’s richly thematic approach lets us fully identify with Caesar, packing a real punch of growing anguish, and self-actualization that makes us root for him to take us bipedal scum down. At first alternating BOURNE-like pulsing for some very stupid scientists with the orchestral emotions of Caesar’s ordeal, Doyle’s anger grows until the musical samples and throttling orchestral rhythms that make up today’s action music hero floods into Caesar, giving him all the presence of The Rock or Vin Diesel as he takes The Man down on, and under Golden Gate Bridge. Yet it’s the sorrowful parting with his human father and trumpeting ape pride that represents the intelligence, and true feeling that elevates this unexpectedly great APES to near the top of the franchise. And while this score may not be the Doyle of old, it’s a thrilling next step for his talents that forgets none of the spirit, or melody that impressed us with him in the first place.


Extra Special: Previous APES composers have applied the expected primate sound to varying levels of belligerence, and RISE is no different, if a bit more subtle as cooing, drum percussion, African singers and tribal rhythms conjure the conflicted nature of a simian hero trapped in a world he never made.




Price: $34.98                       


What is it?: It was a strange, syndicated world in 1987 when a brief quote of Alexander Courage’s inimitable melody launched into Jerry Goldsmith’s theme from ST –TMP– a bold announcement if there ever was one that STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION was going to launch a whole new franchise of Roddenberry-based shows. But as opposed to the kind of bold melodies by the likes of Sol Kaplan, Gerald Fried and George Duning that distinguished the scoring of classic TREK, producers Rick Berman and Peter Lauritson went for a more sleekly homogenous route. While the show and its spin-offs wouldn’t get outrageously distinctive soundtracks on the order of “Amok Time” or “The Doomsday Machine,” there was still more than enough quality work done to fill up the three CD’s here that make up La La Land’s first volume of Next Gen music, a well-assembled voyage that gives a true musical arch to Picard and crew’s seven-season mission


Why Should you buy it?: Where FSM’s gigantic box set of Ron Jones music chronicles his lengthy stint on the show, La La Land primarily devotes itself to the scores of Jay Chattaway and Dennis McCarthy, whose first CD is the set’s best. Arriving with more of a bigscreen approach, McCarthy’s suite from “Haven” captures the eccentric magic of Lwaxana Troi. Majestic paradox mystery suffuses “Time Squared,” while “The Survivors” offers a chilling music box theme. And have scored the pilot, McCarthy gives the show a noble send-off in “All Good Things.” Chattaway’s undoubted highpoint, as well as arguably the best episode of New TREK, is the immensely moving “Inner Light,” where a “Ressikan” pipe, gentle folk strumming and poignant orchestra take Picard through an entire existence of a lost planet’s culture. Disc three offers impressive work from two major composers-to-be, with THE MATRIX’s Don Davis providing gripping, escalating suspense for the Romulan intrigue of “Face of the Enemy,” while John Debney shows his feature-worthy chops for The Federation’s ominous bad behavior as they try to grab the cloaking device of “The Pegasus.”


Extra Special: While most of these orchestral scores were designed to be cohesive to avoid the often-tracked sound of classic TREK, it’s the truly out-of-the-box TNG scores that really stand out in this collection, from the Victorian adventure of McCarthy’s “Elementary, Dear Data” to his bizarre electronic effects for the infamous, head-bursting episode “Conspiracy.” But perhaps the oddest, and most, and interesting duck is original show composer Fred Steiner (“By Any Other Name”), who applies that old-school, exotic-military sound to the imperious alien culture clash of “Code of Honor” – the episode’s brass and mysterioso strings making you think that Kirk and Spock are back on board kicking Klingon ass. Steiner’s approach is hopelessly, and wonderfully outdated, as alien to TNG’s new musical direction as McCoy was to 1930’s New York. Adding even more fun to this set are show bumpers, along with polka, Jessica Rabbit jazz grind, and the scoring team’s A Capella versions of the Courage theme. Better yet, old and new STAR TREK music expert Jeff Bond is back, with his liner notes doing another yeoman job of breaking down the scores’ continuing missions.





. BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1,000 edition)

Roger Corman has given breaks to such future Hollywood superstars as Martin Scorcese, Jack Nicholson and Jonathan Demme under the most pitiable budgetary circumstances. But what distinguished James Horner’s big musical break on 1980’s BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS is that it was Corman’s biggest budgeted-film yet, making it quite the step up for a 27 year old who’d impressed New World with his scores for UP FROM THE DEPTHS, THE LADY IN RED and HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP. Finally given a STAR WARS rip-off instead of some JAWS-inspired aquatic monster, Horner mightily rose to the challenge with this terrifically thrilling soundtrack, and film that’s still one of Corman’s best. While Horner might not have had the music budget the Lucas afforded to Williams, the composer poured everything he had to rise this SEVEN SAMURAI-in-space spin to a level worthy of Luke Skywalker, filling his score with the same passion for swashbuckling leitmotifs. Horner also gives a tip of the cowboy hat to Elmer Bernstein’s score for the SAMURAI-inspired MAGNIFICENT SEVEN while indulging in that sadly missed synth instrument The Blaster Beam. The Prokofiev-inspired classical antecedents and accomplished symphonic writing that would inform Horner’s musical vocabulary are also thoroughly evident in BATTLE, which serves as a wellspring for the stuff of angry Klingons, swooning romance and charging percussion that would result in such other Horner masterworks as STAR TREK’s 2 and 3, KRULL and TITANIC, let alone AVATAR (whose director also served on Corman’s breasty spaceship here). More than a calling card that would quickly get Horner snapped up by Hollywood, BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS still stands as one of this Young Turk’s most enjoyable old-fashioned scores. While this newest edition of BATTLE might not contain its last GNP release’s addition of HUMANOIDS, the Buysoundtrax album does feature a fun Alan Howarth jukebox bit for the chamber of MAGNIFICENT SEVEN star Robert Vaughan’s ornery space assassin, followed by 25 minutes of Howarth’s sound effects- bleeps, laser blasts and spaceship engines that quickly became familiar to anyone who watched the two zillion Corman flicks that seemingly utilized footage, and music from BATTLE, with good reason.


For this horror take on THREE’S COMPANY, a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf try their hand at co-habitation with results that would have made mincemeat out of Mr. Roper. Yet composer Richard Wells (EVIL ALIENS, THE MUTANT CHRONICLES) music goes a long way towards aurally convincing us of BBC’s oddball high concept, taking a straight-laced approach to this series’ growing supernatural friendship in Series 1 & 2, while also giving its ties that bind a particular mournfulness that comes with being undead. The cues within offer visceral shocks and eerie abstractness, while a lyrical guitar and chorus provide spectral beauty. And while he doesn’t go for the supernatural quirk that Jim Dooley gave an American genre show like PUSHING DAISES, there’s still subtle humor to be had in a woozy horn dance and upbeat rhythms. Veering between the eerily intimate and chilling atmospheres, Richard Wells’ work is intriguingly caught between heaven, hell and the rent check.


With a career that’s touched every facet of music (not to mention culture), it’s a wonder that this 1966 English dramedy is the only feature composing credit in Paul McCartney’s staggering repertoire. What’s even more unusual is how purposefully fuddy-duddy this soundtrack is, which is exactly right for a hot-to-consummate married couple being forced to live in the parents’ place, with the expected Victorian results. Abetted (and probably then some) by Beatles producer George Martin, THE FAMILY WAY alternates between an pompous brass band reminiscent of Sgt. Pepper’s to a lyrical guitar strumming away with echoes of “Yesterday,” along with swinging 60’s England jazz, and a classical, tender violin. But even with its Beatles recalls, THE FAMILY WAY is very much its own movie score, with McCartney’s theme guiding the soundtrack throughout for a deeply sympathetic, touching vibe that sympathizes with its couple’s predicament with equal parts droll humor and affecting humanity. For a little gem hidden in the vast hall of McCarthy classics, THE FAMILY WAY shows that another line of music writing was also well within his grasp if the pop thing hadn’t worked out.


Death wasn’t proud when it took Shirley Walker after her three, mordantly thrilling scores to the FINAL DESTINATION saga. And though its fifth verse is the same as the first, Walker’s black-humored approach has been continued with telltale, twisted finesse by Brian Tyler, who joined the franchise with entry four. But even with all those numbers, the series has arguable found its best footing since the original with five, buoyed on by Tyler’s bombastic approach that plays each ghastly Rube-Goldberg gore wind-up with the freshness of the series’ first death. Beginning with a rock guitar and orchestral head banger that throws every FD instrument of destruction at us in 3D, Tyler has delicious fun with the utter sincerity of these completely uninsurable characters, giving suspenseful pathos to their plights before his raging score jumps in to pierce, splatter and incinerate. Where body count horror soundtracks of this type usually were happy to chow down on abrasive percussive effects, what’s always distinguished the DESTINATION scores is the strong, symphonic cunning to their kills, a melodically macabre tradition that Tyler continues to smartly carry on for Walker, whose own, ever-developing style is also reflected in Tyler’s approach that combines strong themes, percolating samples, wildly accelerating rhythms and a full-bore orchestra. Paying tribute to the dearly missed Walker with smart quotes of her original DESTINATION theme, and once again packing a Varese CD with 70 minutes of music, Tyler has Death go out with a bloody good bang here.


Musically dramatic doings at two addresses inform this two-fer from Intrada Records, whose mission of releasing some of 20th Century Fox’s best golden age scores stands as a label highlight. Up this time are robust works from Sol Kaplan and Leigh Harline, the first of which has a Holocaust survivor assuming another woman’s identity to potentially murderous results. Best known for the above-mentioned STAR TREK episode “Amok Time,” Kaplan’s dark HOUSE contrasts the militaristic dread of the heroine’s past with the present’s waltz-like romantic opportunities for her new life in San Francisco. But soon enough, every other note of Kaplan’s lush score is dripping with menace, If it weren’t for the fun jazz bits, you might mistake the grand foreboding of this fixer-upper for the Universal Monster Music of Dr. Frankenstein’s castle, where the doctor and his bride are sharing a brief moment of happiness before the Creature kicks in the door- the kind of pounding sound that would also presage Kaplan’s famed battle music for Kirk and a Pon Farr-crazed Spock. It’s the angst of Gary Cooper’s politician that drives Harline’s decidedly more tender score to TEN NORTH FREDERICK. Also topped of with fun 50’s jazz, Harline hears the suspense of a guy trying to make sense of his life, as opposed to playing someone trying to end his existence. It’s tsuris that has a glistening, highly listenable orchestral gloss to it, especially with its symphony being conducted by the great Alfred Newman. But no matter their opposite emotional directions, HOUSE and FREDERICK once again prove gorgeous revelations from Intrada, with producer Nick Redman ensuring high quality sound from these decades-old tapes, along with Julie Kirgo’s emphatically entertaining liner notes preaching the gospels of a long-vanished, yet far from musty domicile of studio-era soundtracks.


Where women tended to be the bloodied victims (or sometimes killers) in the Italian Giallo genre, the real surprise is that said sex actually scored one of its most highly regarded pictures. Released as THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH (or the more commercially titled BLADE OF THE RIPPER), Sergio Martino’s artsy slasher starred the bountiful Edwige French as an ambassador’s wife with a likely maniac among her paramours. Having already scored no small amount of Spaghetti Westerns and thrillers with the likes of JOHNNY YUMA and THE SWEET BODY OF DEBORAH, Nora Orlandi’s VICE is a similar mix of beauty and the beast. Her checklist of exceptionally composed Giallo trademarks includes doom-laden organs, weirdly altered voices, stalking bongo percussion, shrill flutes, harpsichords and the slicing electric guitar chords. Containing all of these surprisingly expressionistic, stalking movements is a gorgeously haunting theme that Orlandi expresses with seemingly infinite variation, from an obsessively lush orchestra to classical piano and Bossa nova. Equally split between horror stylings and Shagadellic source tunes (some freakier than others), Quartet’s fully revealed MRS. WARDH stands as one of the genre’s truly memorable scores, with equal black-gloved footing to such killer compatriots as Ennio Morricone (BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PUMAGE) and Goblin (DEEP RED). But then, the Tarantino love that had WARDH’s “Das Irae” show up in KILL BILL VOLUME 2 should be recommendation enough to grab this ultra-limited release from a composer who was as mysterious to me as any leather-jacketed killer- until now. Rest assured, I’ll be stalking Nora Orlandi’s work.


At first impressing with his replication of 60’s Hollywood sleaze jazz in the brilliantly underrated WOMAN CHASER, Danielle Luppi then swung to stop-on recreations of his motherland’s cinematic sound during the same period, an ITALIAN STORY that ranged from Morricone Spaghetti western-isms to the sensual jazz of composers like Piero Piccioni (CAMILLE 2000). Now Luppi invites DJ Danger Mouse to venture with him to ROME, their entrancing collaboration taking Luppi’s Italo soundtrack tributes to the next, mod level. With a beautifully dreamy sound that recalls the retro-progressiveness of the group Air, Luppi and Danger Mouse’s concept album mixes catchy songs with the instrumental sounds of gun-slinging guitars, bewitching voices and sensual, psychedelic keyboards. While it once again has the nostalgic groove of today’s Euro jet set, ROME’s greatest achievement is lulling them to make their own sonic pilgrimages to hear the composers who so captivated Luppi and Danger Mouse. A score to an Italian state of mind, ROME captivates like a groovy, soft dream.


After writing the hilariously rampaging score to Jon Knautz’s JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER, the often-horrific Ryan Shore (HEADSPACE, CABIN FEVER 2) enters infinitely darker territory for the filmmaker’s SHRINE. Even its setting in Poland is no reason for any musical jokes whatsoever, as American journalists make the mistake of investigated a cult with a penchant for sacrifice with eye-spiked masks. Writing in the devil’s favorite tri-tone interval, Shore pours on unsettling anticipation for the torture horror makeup fiesta to come. Creepily sustained atmospheres abound like so much fog, its characters creeping to their doom with gnarled percussion and anti-spiritual voices for religion gone very wrong. Relishing in slow-drawn, quartered and crucified pounding and backwards samples, Ryan Shore ends this thoroughly relentless road trip with some sinister “Polish Variations,” its powerfully authentic organ keying you in to a church of the very worst kind. Once again, Ryan Shore proves his genre work can just as quickly make you smile as cut the grin from your face.  


When it comes to female bonding, Rachel Portman’s written the musical book on the romantic, string-driven melodies and lilting rhythms that are all about girl power in the midst of male, and societal repression with the likes of THE DUCHESS and MONA LISA SMILE. But perhaps the culture that’s given Portman one of her best-loved scores is China, the country of her JOY LUCK CLUB, which the composer visits again in the company of director Wayne Wang for SNOW FLOWER & THE SECRET FAN. Based on another much-loved novel, Portman faces the same task of using her music to intercut between present and past, as the tales of two female soul mates are spread between 19th century and present-day China. Though she’s done far more volatile “male” scores like THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and HART’S WAR, it’s these costume chic flicks where Portman is truly at home, which is no slight on the hauntingly beautiful quality of her work. SNOW FLOWER has the same, dream-like motion to its melodies. An East-West approach of pianos and strings integrate ancient Asian flutes and rhythms, an approach that seamlessly brings together past and present. Like the best haiku, Portman’s innate gentleness is a huge virtue for SECRET FAN, soothing music that makes this very much a notable companion piece to THE JOY LUCK CLUB.



Alfons Conde, a Spanish composer better known among horror fans for the Movie Score Media releases of his utterly sinister soundtracks to THE ABANDONED, THE DARK HOUR and NO-DO finally gets the opportunity to score a film where a woman gets to fight back against evil odds. In the case of MSM’s VIENTO EN CONTRA (AGAINST THE WIND), it’s a female executive who’s set up for a murder, and has to become a fugitive with her kid in tow. As with a heroine’s dead aim that seems to come out of nowhere in a film like this, Conde plugs us square in the ears with a pulse-pounding, studio-worthy action sound that he’s been hiding all along. Exceptionally well-performed by the Macedonian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Conde’s score mixes lush, Hermann-esque tension with electronic percussion, delicate piano themes and symphonic action. It’s a female friendly approach that’s no less bad-ass for it, giving palpable emotion to the Hollywood chase rhythms that are rapidly become the approach for composers the world over. Yet it’s Alfons Conde’s melodic passion that makes VIENTO distinctive, while fitting right in to the chase-and-suspense groove that’s the international language of running for your life.



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 




















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