February Soundtrack Picks



To Purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD cover



Price: $29.95

What is it? Just as the energy of his NYC music student James Dean electrified the cinema’s image of the perfect teenager, composer Leonard Rosenman’s Hollywood scoring debut along with the star for “East of Eden” brought a new, defiant blast of concert stage experimentalism to the LA scene. Rosenman helped turn soundtracks into a more tonally combative, tri-tone animal through such classic, innovative work as “Rebel Without A Cause” and “Fantastic Voyage.” With his ability to meld an academic musical approach to the mainstream, Rosenman has long been a favorite of film score cognoscenti. So it seemed only natural that some of Rosenman’s best, and least known work, would get an excellent presentation on the positively ancient form of CD, courtesy of the Film Music Society.

Why should you buy it?:
Rosenman’s often surreal, and orchestrally epic approach made him ideal for such genre films as “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” and the animated “Lord of the Rings.” On that note, his most recognized work was likely the swashbuckling, nautical approach he brought to save-the-whales “Star Trek IV.” It’s a sound that fills Leonard Nimoy’s EPCOT ride “Body Wars,” whose poundingly suspenseful music for miniaturization is far more ‘Voyage Home” than “Fantastic Voyage.” Where that movie had precious little action, Rosenman’s terrific, full-throttle symphonic score could be heard as the Klingon battle that never was. But where Rosenman’s music could be challenging, one has the sense of him being a big old conventional softie at heart with the beautiful, melodic purity of “Where Pigeons Go To Die,” a TV movie score about a grandpa’s passing that’s full of comforting strings and tweeting flutes before ending in a lyrical waltz to the heavens. Rosenman’s exceptional work for the TV medium comprises the rest of this album, with the popular early 60s series “Combat!” offering enough patriotic marches to parade under the Bridge at the River Kwai, as well as brightly determined military action. Yet what’s surprising is the variety that Rosenman was able to work into the battle of the week, music that not only reflected humor, but also the sweet, sing-song romance inside a “French Café,” before that romantic spell returns to rousing brass attacks. But if there’s one real cult item here, than it’s Rosenman’s music for the mythic pilot that had William Shatner playing “Alexander the Great.” Much in the way that Rosenman’s revolutionary compatriot Alex North did for the far huger “Spartacus,” Rosenman used all sorts of modernistic exoticism, in both his symphonic orchestrations and “authentic” Greek period music, to make the past boldly come alive. While it might not have been able to sell “Alexander,” Rosenman’s music still resonates with a trumpeting, epic exuberance, giving history’s most famous warrior his full, glorious mettle, no matter the screen size.

Extra Special:
Even with these formidable entries that show Rosenman’s stylistic growth amidst his singular voice, the album’s most striking section goes to his Emmy-winning score for equally lauded 1976 telefilm “Sybil.” For a woman afflicted with multiple personalities, Rosenman does an astonishing job of balancing childhood innocence with adult madness, contrasting unbalanced strings with music box bells and the beautiful lullaby “I Remember Me,” composed by co-winners Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Carried by a little girl’s voice and a fragile, pleading orchestra, the effect is one of haunting transcendence as a child’s ghost-like voice urges Sybil’s true personality to “Come Out,” her warped theme gradually turning from the horror of the past to her present-day deliverance. It’s an “Awakening” that stands as some of the most beautifully heartbreaking melding of song and score in any medium. “Sybil” is one of the many reasons to buy this celebration of Rosenman’s work, which is now available at outlets outside of the domain of the Film Music Society. But if one wants to truly encourage more of these exceptionally well-produced and written tributes by Marilee Bradford and Jon Burlingame, join up and get the CD by becoming an official, card-carrying member of FMS HERE.



Price: $19.98

What is it?:
Intrada Records has recently been hell-bent for leather when it’s come to releasing long-awaited western scores from the 60s and 70s with the Clint-centric likes of Dee Barton’s “High Plains Drifter” and Lalo Schifrin’s “Coogan’s Bluff.” Now the label’s love of The Big Country reaches exceptionally exciting heights with another terrific Schifrin score for Eastwood, and what’s arguably Elmer Bernstein’s most rip-roaring tribute to The Duke.

Why you should buy it?:
After setting the heroic pace for “The Magnificent Seven,” Elmer Bernstein would score eight movies for the most iconic cowboy-gunslinger of them all, the chief scores among being “True Grit,” “The Sons of Katie Elder” and the star’s elegiac swan song for “The Shootist.” While “Cahill” isn’t quite as well known, perhaps no score sums up everything that was great about Bernstein swaggering embodiment of Wayne. Driven at a gallop by a boisterously heroic theme, everything about Bernstein’s work here is bigger than life, from sweeping Americana panoramas to a noble horn riding the range, along with the telltale accompaniment of guitar and percussion. There’s even soft humor and sweetness along the way to warm up Wayne in relation to his character’s wayward sons. But “Cahill” truly impresses with its explosive action cues, all growling brass and vengeful orchestrations unleashing a fusillade of heroic punishment upon the bad guys, whose symphonic menace is no less subtle. “Cahill” is pure exhilaration when it comes to playing western music archetypes, scoring that’s delightfully about the legend rather than the fact.

Extra Special:
Where “Cahill” was defiantly old school in its symphonic approach, Schifrin brought a far more contemporary attitude to Clint Eastwood’s protagonists, who were often no better than the villains. After the more obvious sheriff versus city slicker clash of “Coogan’s Bluff,” and coming one year after 1971s “Dirty Harry,” Schifrin brought much of his contemporary vibe for Eastwood’s return to the late 1800s for “Joe Kidd.” It was an ironically newfangled western sound given that this was Schifrin’s first true shot at the genre for John Sturges, the director of “The Magnificent Seven.” Snarling electric guitars join with a piercing electronics, while Mexican and Indian rhythms accompanied by the exotic sounds of a Cimbalom and dulcimer. Chilly strings fix with a steel-eyed stare that brings out the lethal personality of an unhappy, monosyllabic soul, all as hard-edged brass moves in for the cool. While not specifically jazzy, Schifrin’s throttling orchestra has a vengefully upbeat energy to it that mostly stays away from a spaghetti western sound. “Joe” is a work of cool, often snarling military tension, with Schifrin playing the kind of hip gunslinger music that works just as well in the urban jungle of 70s San Francisco as it does the a danger filled old west. Nick Redman’s perceptively pointed liner notes handles the score, and production with smart and honest aplomb.

3) FIRST LOVE: LIMITED EDITION (2,000 edition)

Price: $19.98

What is it?: John Barry is the musical personification of Valentine’s Day, all silken strings and sensually repeating themes, as wrapped in a bouquet of impossibly beautiful melody. There’s no doubt that his scores for the likes of “Somewhere in Time,” “Out of Africa” and “Until September” cast a spell with theater-going dates that led to any number of romances, if not marriages. Perhaps more pruriently, what little of his score there was in 1977s “First Love” signifies the R-rated forbidden fruit of pubescent boys who tried to sneak their way in to see a naked glimpse of Susan Dey, an actress who’d first set their hearts aflutter on “The Partridge Family.” Yet while Barry may not have even got a scoring credit (through his own decision), as nearly all of it was tossed in favor of pop tunes, leave it to the Paramount mountain-mining label La La La Records to fully reveal Barry’s expectedly gorgeous work. His “First Love” is an unabashedly lyrical, yet inescapably bittersweet embodiment of the youthful flush of love, sex and the confusion between the two.

Why should you buy it?:
When you’re in love for the first time, with all the carnal bliss that entails, the world seems like a far bigger place, which is likely the reason why Barry’s passionately adult symphonic approach seemed ideal. Yet the composer was sure to bring a pop aspect to his sound, especially in his incorporation of electronics to the orchestra, from keyboards to whistle-like tonalities. It’s gloriously lyrical stuff that’s worthy of being part of Barry’s romantic pantheon, with the seven-minute “Big Love Scene” finally unveiled as one of his most orgasmically rapturous works. Flutes flit about the synths, the orchestral passion growing as the cloths slowly come off onscreen with tender thematic assurance. With its alternate included here, the cue is a true revelation, especially as most of us from a certain age remember repeated viewings of this scene with the pleasantly folksy Paul Williams song “That’s Enough for Me” (not put on the album, though it would’ve been nice if this piece of pop competition was included).

Extra Special:
As smooth as “First Love” goes down, there’s some surprising fun to the score as well in a jaunty “Two on a Bike” and the pompous military lead in to “The Soccer Game,” comedic cues that wouldn’t been out of place inside Barry’s “Wrong Box.” The swaggering jazz source for “Elgin’s Room” might have been perfectly good for a lucky lad from 50s England, but seems more than a bit dated when it comes to an American college kid in the 70s. And don’t even ask about Barry’s insane combo of sci-fi disco synths and Rhumba rhythms that fill “The Hallway.” There’s certainly a lot of love for Barry in Jeff Bond’s liner notes, which chronicle the movie’s odd musical history while insightfully talking about the composer’s unabashed approach.


Price: $16.95

What is it?:
When it comes to 60s retro music, few composers have shown an ability to conjure the decade’s diverse vibes like Italy’s Danielle Luppi. He’s rocked with “Hell Ride’s” biker guitars, dropped a martini in the hep jazz of “The Woman Chaser” and cooed with the psychedelic eroticism of his country’s Shagadelia for the concept album “An Italian Story.” So it’s no surprise to see why Luppi’s been plunked in the middle of a late 50s crime-and-sex ridden Miami hotel for his biggest scoring shot yet in America with the Starz series “Magic City.” But what is a shock given the setting is that beyond a lush, Mancini-Latin noir opening theme is that this is black “Magic” indeed, with nary the fizz of the expected lounge sound to take our attention away from the story’s morally depraved underbelly.

Why you should buy it?:
Just like the beleaguered manager of The Miramar Hotel, it’s Danielle Luppi’s job to handle the behind-the-scenes dealings with unsavory characters while the topside guests enjoy the musical fun stuff. But here that task marks a melancholy orchestral win for the composer, who reveals a strong, subtle dramatic talent in his broodingly suspenseful work with string and piano percussion that nicely recalls Nino Rota’s death-in-the-waiting underscoring during the Cuban revolution scenes in “The Godfather Part II.” Another compatriot whom Luppi pays powerful homage to is Ennio Morricone, especially in the long, doom-laden strings lines that filled that composer’s Vegas gangster score for “Bugsy.” Luppi’s fine, melodic score resonates with the wages of sin, from dream-like bells of a deceitful lush life to the orchestra’s mesmerizing and brooding power creating a heavy-duty feeling of tragedy without wallowing in regret. His “Magic” is a class act, recalling the glitzy underbelly of a time gone without outrightly recalling its instrumentation.

Extra Special:
Before going behind the scenes of the Miramar, disc one of “Magic City” takes you to the lobby and swimming pool, ironically contrasting the sweaty r & b likes of Bo Diddley’s “I’m A Man” and The Diamonds’ “The Stroll” with the more carefree pop confections of Frankie Avalon’s “Venus” and the sultry jazz of Patti Austin and Julie London swooning with “Tenderly” and “Chances Are.” Meanwhile, the Latin sounds of Tito Puente and Beny More fill the atmosphere with ethnic heat amidst the made men favorites, all contributing to the dangerous nostalgic draw of “Magic City.”


Price: $27.23

What Is It?: In the annals of classic Blaxploitation scores, Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly” and Isaac Hayes’ “Truck Turner” and Oscar-winning “Shaft” were funky downtown affairs, full of raw R & B energy for their men of action on the right, wrong, and in-between sides of the law. But when it came to pure sex appeal, no crime jive from the Jheri curl era had the smooth, private dick moves of Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man.” Hailed as “The Prince of Motown” for such hits as “Ain’t That Peculiar” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” Gaye started the 70s with a bang for his auspicious first (and inexplicably only) venture into the instrumental role of film composer, nailing the genre’s funk-suspense with all the soulful assurance of his songs.

Why You Should Buy It?:
Whether the antihero was a pusher, bounty hunter or street detective, all Blaxploitation men of action were united by their attitude when it came to taking down The Man. But even though Mr. T was a pool hall enforcer, you wouldn’t find him at the Pimp’s Ball. Strutting in sleek, tailored outfits with a gun at the ready, this ladykiller cut a jive James Bond figure, one well suited for Gaye’s musical cock of the walk of sax gestures, piano percussion, hand claps, Moog synth licks and dark piano chords that mean business. But Gaye doesn’t so much play danger as much he does the hero’s complete assurance in whatever set-up that’s thrown at him. Along with able assist by his Motown session players and such arranger/ composers as Robert Ragland (“Grizzly”) and J.J. Johnston (“Across 125th Street”)) the scoring newbie found a number of strong themes in “Trouble Man.” His equally confident “crime jazz” sound recalls Lalo Schifrin’s urban film noir sound from the decade, with an emphasis on the uptempo color of an inner city soul agent, where brass is the driving instrument in delivering bullet holes and seduction with equal impact.

Extra Special:
What’s particularly cool about Mr. T’s soundtrack turning 40 is that it’s given Universal’s Hip-O label the opportunity to re-package both Marvin Gaye’s “official” album, along with the first appearance of the actual film score on the second disc. It’s a study in contrasts between an impeccably polished studio production and the movie’s edgier sound that will delight both Blaxploitation score purists and Gaye fans alike. The longtime, familiar “Trouble Man” soundtrack is even more lush and uptown, reworked to the point of beautiful crime-funk refinement. Without trying to punch out and blast away to picture, The new “Trouble Man” also offers “The ‘T’ Sessions,” whose studio outtakes give a glimpse into Gaye’s creative mastery at editing and overdubbing his hundreds of takes into an amazingly cohesive listen. But the coolest thing about the “original” “Trouble Man” album is how Gaye serves more as a Greek chorus than a singer, narrating the story as his warnings for Chalky not to mess with Mr. T fall on deaf ears. In fact, there would’ve been even more of Gaye’s musings if he didn’t have to rush the album to make the movie’s premiere, a scoring odyssey described in Andrew Flory’s excellent liner notes, which further detail the remarkable editing that’s gone into the album. With such admirers as Joni Mitchell, Cameron Crowe and George Tillman Jr. paying tribute to Gaye’s work in a lavish booklet, “Trouble Man” remains the Rolls Royce of the Blaxploitation sound.



After additional scoring on the “Assassin’s Creed” videogames and programming on “The Dark Knight Rises,” composing youngblood Steve Mazzaro gets one heck of a lucky Hollywood shot for Walter Hill’s muted comeback film “Bullet To the Head.” However, you’d think it also marked the scoring return of the filmmaker’s frequent collaborator Ry Cooder given the mean swamp guitar thrash, harmonica-blowin’, Cajun rock that filled such other New Orleans-set Hill pictures as “Southern Comfort” and “Johnny Handsome.” But while I might conjecture as to why that legendary scoring bluesman isn’t on hand, Mazzaro does a mighty good job of emulating his unmistakable sound. Like Cooder, Mazzaro’s score is all smoke-filled atmosphere and swaggering good old killer boy attitude, caught somewhere between a muscular jam session and actually playing what’s happening on screen. With its particularly sinister, slicing use of guitar chords and hammered drum kits, “Bullet To the Head” works equally well as a rock album and a soundtrack, capturing the feel of walking into a bar in the Big Easy where Z.Z. Top is waiting to put a knife in your back. For listeners who weren’t old enough to feel how innovative Cooder’s approach was when Hill was truly on top of his game, listening to Mazzaro’s energetic tribute is the next best thing.


1970s “Cromwell” not only stands tall as one of the greatest English historical epics you’ve likely never seen, but also as the masterwork from the relatively unsung British composer Frank Cordell (“Khartoum”). Now both get to stand righteously in score and word as a double CD from Intrada Records. Chronicling a Puritan warrior’s effort to bring something resembling Democracy to 16th century England, “Cromwell’s” magisterial score balances the heaven-driven orchestral passion of a speechifying rebel against the courtly strains of Charles I, the king’s calmly regal accompaniment full of conniving charm. There’s an impressive bluster to Cordell’s soaring, and often smashing orchestral approach as he delineates the battle between two men of The Lord, one driven to seek heavenly justice, and the other hiding his cruelty behind a God-given crown. As Cromwell seeks to separate Charles’ head from it, Cordell dives into the fray with rousing trumpets and military percussion, with both banners united by a hymnal theme “Rejoice is the Lord.” It’s terrifically exciting, epic stuff that settles in its second half to the anguished strings of taking a ruler’s life for what seems to be the greater good, complete with hallelujahs and lovely pastoral melodies in the tradition of the great, religion-fueled composer Miklos Rozsa. Yet Cordell’s obvious worship of composers like William Walton give “Cromwell” a resounding English quality. Cordell’s Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated score is a majestic revelation that’s heard here for the first time. What’s of particular interest is that Intrada was prepared to go with “Cromwell’s” dialogue-filled album if the music tapes hadn’t miraculously appeared at the last minute. But where words are often the bane of any soundtrack fan, they should give a listen to the second CD that’s presented at no harm to Cordell’s score. For hearing large, literate expanses the script by writer-director Ken Hughes (taking a significantly mature leap here from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”) is music onto itself, especially when you’ve got actors like Richard Harris and Alec Guiness delivering poetic dialogue to the always-dramatic interjections of Cordell’s score, which comes down like righteous symphonic thunder from the royal mountain.


There’s are only so many times a guy in a spacesuit can walk about the ruins of a ship whilst blasting away at zombies, or stomping on the weapons-giving guts of alien hellspawn. Hence EA’s change in direction for the third installment of their “Dead Space” franchise, which now favors epic, adrenalin-pumping action over the intimacy of nerve-shredding terror. It’s a far faster pace that’s understandably had a major impact on the musical approach, which certainly isn’t a bad thing when it comes to teaming the past, solo composer Jason Graves with James Hannigan, whom he’d collaborated with on “Command and Conquer.” Mirroring the game’s new spin of giving the hapless engineer Isaac Clarke a buddy to kill creatures dead with, the duo of Graves and Hannigan deliver more bang for the buck with “Space’s” “brighter” sound, if that’s the right word for accompanying the ghastly game situations within. While there’s still the shrieking, gnarled dissonance that put the previous “Space” scores in the “Shining” tradition, much of “Dead’s” music is very much alive with a warm, full-throttle orchestral and percussive sound, who’s ever-accelerating melodies smash together the sound of “Aliens,” “The Matrix” and “Transformers” in equal measure. The result not only pays off the Michael Bay-esque set pieces of exploding ships and cityscapes, but proves to be more conventionally enjoyable as a listen for those who groove to the Hollywood action sound, as performed with all the sonic finesse that might grace a live-action R-rated spectacular. What the symphonic angle also provides for the gore-drenched story is a nice dose of human emotion, which gets across a hero who’s heart has been ripped out far more by a dame than a monster. Engaging while not completely selling out “Dead Space’s” fear factor, Graves and Hannigan are an example of team play that brings a new, pulse-pounding sound to the bloody table.


Though he’s most often called up to be the go-to guy for terrestrial chick flicks, Aaron Zigman’s gorgeous, sumptuously orchestral score for the goblins running across the “Bridge To Teribithia” showed the composer’s more fantastical stylings were just waiting to take flight. It’s finally taken his first foray into animation to unleash Zigman’s inner John Williams, not to mention Carl Stalling, James Horner and a host of other wonderful stylistic diversions to create his best score yet for “Escape From Planet Earth.” Full of enough good humored, full-blast military patriotism to launch an Apollo Mission to the Looney Tunes planet, Zigman’s intrepid alien traveler ends up trying to make a great escape out of Area 13, leading to any number of breathless action set pieces- all performed with kid’s cartoon-friendly brightness. Amidst the symphonic and choral heroics, Zigman indulges in Bond-ian excitement, psychedelic rock, big band swing, gleeful 50s sci-fi stereotypes and even Klezmer music. But where these kind of stylistic swings have given lesser scores for the genre ADD, Zigman’s got great thematic glue to keep the high fructose energy in place, resulting in a melodically well-constructed work with a real feeling to it. Like Alexandre Desplat’s similarly exciting animated score to “Rise of the Guardians,” “Escape from Planet Earth” soars with the delight of a composer really getting to go for it, here blasting far above the orbit of lovelorn ladies to show he’s got the right stuff for far bigger voyages.


In the good old days, indulging in lushly horrific melody was far from a sin, as composers like Bernard Herrmann and Jerry Goldsmith proved with such seminally scary works as 1960s “Psycho” and 1976s “The Omen.” In 1987, a grandly chilling voice to rival those men announced itself with the thunderous danse macabre of “Hellraiser,” a score that firmly put Pinhead on the Hollywood map, along with his musical conjuror Christopher Young. Right from the rich, Gothic theme, it was obvious that Young, who’d shown his talent right from the start with the likes of “The Dorm That Dripped Blood,” worshipped at those maestros’ grandly symphonic altar, paying homage to their styles while creating his own Grand Guignol sound that captured the seductive pleasures of pure evil. For was very much a classic “haunted house” score, Young relied on a vibrantly cobwebbed romantic approach, with the score’s most infamous piece “Resurrection” fleshing out a corpse in orgiastically rising waltz-time. But perhaps Young’s greatest accomplishment for “Hellraiser” was creating a music box theme for the Lament Configuration, an enticing lullabye that made it impossible to resist playing with Leviathan’s Rubik’s Cube. Yet Young also wasn’t afraid to be equally experimental with chain-rattling percussion to announce the Cenobites’ rusty array for pleasure and pain. If it seemed that the sound of “Hellraiser” couldn’t get huger, Young delivered a sequel score in 1988 that actually delivered on the cliché of being bigger and better with “Hellbound.” Young brought in all the choral voices that heaven allowed, expanding upon the thematic construction of “Hellraiser” to build an even more powerfully demonic dimension, especially with the newfound empathy for a mute heroine. Not only would Young raise the symphonic stakes with blasting, villainous melodies that befitted the classic rush of “monster” music, but he’d also indulge in unholy rhythm and percussion, from the blaring horn of the Lord of the Labyrinth to the distorted circus calliope music that befitted creator Clive Barker’s vision of hell as an unimaginable funhouse. Fans by now well-accustomed to Young’s out-of-the-box masterworks will doubtlessly be impressed by the truly amazing remastering job that Buysoundtrax has given to these classics with their generous two-for-one release, with a sonic wash and insightful new liner notes by horror score expert Randall D. Larson that bring out whole new levels of pleasure and pain to these genre classics.


Jerry Goldsmith put his first scoring notch on his belt with the 1957 western “Black Patch.” And by the 1960s, he was seemingly shooting for Elmer Bernstein’s record in the genre with such titles as “Rio Conchos,” “Stagecoach,” “Bandolero!” and “100 Rifles.” But where Bernstein got to define the good and bad guys in a more traditional manner, Goldsmith for the most part received westerns that sought to re-define the classic dust up’s with psychological toughness that ripped away the mask of the white and black suits. There was no more of a classic showdown then the shootout at the O.K. Coral, which Goldsmith approached with unusual toughness for 1967s “Hour of the Gun.” It was director John Sturges’ second take on the historically arguable incident after “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral,” but this time painting the black-clad Wyatt Earp and his friends as being just a few steps removed from the villainous Clanton brothers. “Gun’s” got a rousing theme for orchestra and guitar that immediately sets up a darkly heroic, morally untamed land. Yet for its Big Country sound, Goldsmith’s approach relies more on a universal feeling of brassy brooding and danger, musical requisites like the harmonica taking a back seat to outraged symphonic action and hard-as-nails suspense, albeit with a tender humanity that links these law bringers in arms. It’s a tone of menace, vulnerability and sudden death that would also mark Bruce Broughton’s revisionist take on the legend in his score for “Tombstone.” While this complete, re-performed “Gun” might not be the “real” deal as such, the terrific playing of the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra under Nic Raine’s Baton could easily fool you. As they’ve done for such other legendary western soundtracks as “The Alamo” under the stewardship of producer James Fitzpatrick, the orchestra here is miked in a way that captures the dynamic audio quality of the recording as it was originally done under Goldsmith’s baton back in the day. That can also be said for the far sweeter, Americana spirit that the players give to a suite of the composer’s “Red Pony” following “Hour of the Gun.” Once again, Fitzpatrick, Raine and Prague prove themselves a triple threat to be reckoned with when it comes to setting a new standard for great re-performances, scoring another bull’s eye.


Ask Danny Ocean and David Holmes, and they’ll tell you that r & b funk goes with comic crime like a blowtorch and a safe, or in the case of “Identity Thief’s” Internet skills and some poor shmuck’s I.D. There’s also no better way to play a sad sack in way over his head in the white trash boonies than a rocking country-western sound, as Danny Elfman more than proved with “Midnight Run.” Both musical caper sounds combine to rambunctiously enjoyable effect for Chris Lennertz, who’s paying far more homage to these styles than scoring a big rip off. Where he’d applied the similar sound to “Horrible Bosses” last time out for director Seth Gordon, “Identity Thief” musically tops the Hammond organ and swamp harmonica swing by offering a lot of surprises beyond the retro shuffle. Namely, Lennertz gives far more of a scored feel to these shenanigans, creating an emotional gamut that runs from sympathetic guitar licks to menacing strings and sinister metal rock that bring real danger to the jam session chases. It’s an approach that gives “Identity Thief” and edge without losing any of its fun energy, showing there are still ways for the hip, band approach to steal new ideas for the cinema’s unending con games.


The third entry in Spain’s popular rabies-zombie saga (remade here as “Quarantine”) goes from the “found footage” format to become a real movie, with a real musical score. Emcee Mikel Salas crashes a wedding with well-executed, if seemingly somewhat typical horror-score results at the start, beginning with crashing orchestral effects to announce the pandemic. But just like a developing disease, things get considerably more interesting as “Rec 3” unexpectedly mutates with tender romantic emotion, and comedy. Latin choruses and thrashing metal guitars do a bloodily exhilarating dance of destruction for the chainsaw-wielding bride. It’s exactly these unexpectedly stylistic, and shockingly melodic guests that quickly elevate “Rec (3)” above the recent dissonance-crazed zombie score pack, especially as Salas’ exceptional writing gets a thoroughly polished performance from his symphonic arsenal. But what really sells “Rec (3)” is how well Salas balances his eerie, tingling samples and raging strings with the vulnerability of a woman who’s having the best day of her life ruined, the celebration building to the majestically tragic sound of lovers embracing as The End approaches. It’s the undead apocalypse as delivered with gut-wrenching feeling as opposed to mindless gnashing about, a “musical” approach that’s increasingly rare for the genre, and well worth taking a hardcopy chance on here- especially as “Rec (3)’s” plastic case can also be used as a brain-smashing weapon.


Though he’s Oscar-nominated for the fun, and very busy score to “Skyfall,” Thomas Newman’s most interesting work has always lay in the minimal, electronically ethereal, world-rock sound that announced a truly unique musical voice in the 80s with the likes of “The Lost Boys,” “Light of Day” and “Those Secrets”- a TV soundtrack that also marked one of Varese Sarabande’s earliest specialty releases. So it’s fitting that the label would provide a welcome return to Newman’s beautifully chilly sound for “Side Effects,” a score that brings him back to musical basics with filmmaker Steven Soderbergh after funk of “Erin Brockovich” and the grand 40s orchestral approach of “The Good German.” It’s arguably their most captivating collaboration for what’s threatened as Soderbergh’s last theatrical picture. Starting out as a dark satire about better living through chemistry, Newman uses guitar, a haunted female voice and an array of bell percussion to embody a medicated haze of anti-depressants. Yet his approach is anything but a downer, instead using beautifully thematic melody to convey a dreamy, sleepwalking trip. Even as “Side Effects” cleverly develops into a trip down Hitchcockian memory lane, Newman’s glistening, fairy tale bells (which evoke memories of Goblin’s “Suspiria”) never settles on the typical, creating webs of enchantment that skirt between alt. rock and mesmerizing drones, eschewing an orchestra completely while losing none of that dramatic vibe for Soderbergh’s exceptionally surprising mystery. By the time that Newman ends the score with music far more befitting a Moroccan bazaar than a looney bin, one is musically medicated beyond caring for the reason why. It’s only the exotic, intoxicating groove that counts, as it always has for a composing voice that’s been on the good, experimental stuff from the start.

CLICK on the album covers to make your hardcopy or download purchase, and find the soundtracks at these. com’s: Amazon, Buysoundtrax, Intrada, LaLaLand, iTunes, Screen Archives and Varese Sarabande

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *