‘Masada‘ Is One Of The Top Soundtracks To Own For June, 2011
Also worth picking up: The Belle Of New York, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Parasomnia, Scream: The Deluxe Edition, Submarine, Under New Management, The X-Files: Volume One And Zombi 2
To purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD cover
1) THE BELLE OF NEW YORK
What is it?: When Film Score Monthly ventures into the golden age of soundtracks, it’s usually for likes of Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold, composers who underscored manly heroes with no time to break into song, let alone dance. Yet few leading men in the studio halcyon of Hollywood carried the grace of Fred Astaire, who often was busier practicing fancy footwork than exercising his equally glorious voice. That let a number of Astaire’s movies play only music during his routines, few with more beauty than THE BELLE OF NEW YORK, the release of this 1952 soundtrack a rare, and welcome excursion for FSM into MGM musical territory.
Why should you buy it?: MGM was the studio to beat when it came to upbeat production gloss, its numbers, sets and songs all the height of class. These confections transported audiences into a melodic fantasy land- all with the kind of fun, instantly memorable rhyming lyrics that got wonderfully stuck in one’s head. For a BELLE that sees Astaire’s ne’er do well playboy romancing an upstanding social worker in turn-of-the-century NYC, the music and lyricist duet of Harry Warren (“Lullaby of Broadway”) and Johnny Mercer (“Moon River”) conjured any number of charming toe-tappers, from the jaunty “Bachelor Dinner Song” to the playfully romantic “Baby Doll.” With just as much instrumental goodness as noteworthy tunes, BELLE OF NEW YORK works in the same way as any great non-musical underscore would, with sparkling orchestral performances all swinging around great thematic hooks. Here, it’s the kind of effervescent energy that causes grown people to dance in top hats and gowns, let alone the listener to sway.
Extra Special: The longer a dance sequence in a musical, the more chance for the “incidental” composers to strut their instrumental stuff. And while the prancing at the Currier and Ives Studio might not hit the lengths of Gershwin’s ballet from AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, this eight-minute album highlight is a real charmer, the song’s themes spinning about with every pirouette to expertly communicate the moves we’re not seeing Though it’s tag line might be an unforeseen double-entendre now, BELLE’s statement of being “MGM’s Gay Technicolor Musical!” is truly about the feeling of elation that great musical movie scoring can provide.
What is it?: In the olden days of gargantuan Network miniseries, you’d often find historical stories like SHOGUN and ROOTS, whose production values and dramatic importance matched their big screen rivals. And few of those hours-long productions literally hit the towering heights of MASADA, ABC’s eight-hour, 25 million dollar epic about the legendary Jewish defenders of a mountaintop fortress, who ultimately chose death above the dishonor of Roman re-enslavement. And who better to tackle TV’s answer to SPARTACUS than a composer with legend-making symphonic sweep of Jerry Goldsmith?
Why should you buy it?: While I can’t pretend to know how much of a religiously observant Jew Jerrald King Goldsmith was, TV scoring certainly proved to be his Temple with the deeply felt Hebraic music he provided to Emmy-winning effect for the Holocaust-themed miniseries QB VII, as well as his more celebratory Israeli-set telefilm THE GOING UP OF DAVID LEVY. But more than just capturing the Jewish sprit in the sadly inspirational tale of MASADA, Goldsmith heard the nobility of the human spirit itself in its fight for freedom against impossible odds. Just as Alex North meshed age-old ethnic music with the nobility of full orchestra to play a slave revolt against the same Roman legions, Goldsmith combines ancient rhythms, as translated into a grand Hollywood sound. His rapturous march theme for the defenders of MASADA is easily one of his best, playing like a God-tinted variation on his marches for PATTON and MacARTHUR, as if its military heroes were doing the Horah on their way to becoming symbols of Jewish, and Israeli perseverance. Done around the period of such other Goldsmith masterworks as STAR TREK- THE MOTION PICTURE and OUTLAND, fans will also recognize Klingon-like power in its battle music, as well as eerily building string suspense as the fortress-crushing foes are reckoned with. Though Goldsmith never failed to give his all to any score, there’s a true spirit that moves the composer throughout the first 75 minutes of and two parts of MASADA that communicates the spiritual, and nationalistic import of its subject matter.
Extra Special: The same can be said for MASADA’s co-composer Morton Stevens, who had nary a note on the soundtrack’s previous “best of” release. But now Intrada has gloriously restored Steven’s place in this saga for the second CD that covers parts three and four (with Stevens’ contribution likewise extolled in Jon Burlingame’s always-excellent TV-centric liner notes). While no slouch himself when it came to memorable themes like HAWAII FIVE-O, putting one’s music up against Jerry Goldsmith was like trying to defy the Roman army. Yet Stevens certainly knew how to infiltrate it through his orchestrating work for Goldsmith on such shows as DR. KILDARE and THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. With the composer unable to score the remainder of MASADA due to scheduling, Stevens was sure to seamlessly build his own, sturdy score using the maestro’s themes and compositional techniques, all in a way that wouldn’t call attention to Stevens’ own voice. Where Goldsmith got to essentially score the “happy” parts where it seemed Masada’s defenses would hold, Stevens got handed the downer conclusion of the story. But that also gave him terrific dramatic opportunities in capturing the monolithic force of the Roman Empire, as well as the heartbreaking decision by its defenders never to be brought under its sword again. Stevens brings much elegiac beauty to the conclusion with music that plays a pyrrhic victory for all of its poignancy and loss, while also reveling in the will to always fight on. While the Jews are still waiting for the Messiah, soundtrack fans at last have the Emmy-winning masterwork of MASADA thirty years, and several millennia after the fact, which is reason alone to rejoice with the long-heralded release that’s a Goldsmith and Stevens’ mitzvah second to none.
What is it?: Director William Malone gave the somnambulist thrills of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI a slasher spin for his horror flick PARASOMNIA, his imagination especially inspired for its German expressionist dream sequences. But perhaps PARASOMNIA’s most bizarrely remarkable contribution is its surrealistic score by Nicholas Pike, who’s previously conjured musical nightmares for SLEEPWALKERS, THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS and LOVE OBJECT (let alone BUD THE CHUD). His own partnership with Malone has been no les fearfully fruitful with credits including FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, MASTERS OF HORROR and FEARdotCOM- a score whose nerve-jangling creepiness stands as a piker when it comes to the truly outré madness unleashed here.
Why Should you buy it?: Where most scores going for this hallucinatory sound tend to dump themes and melody into the void, perhaps the best thing about Pike’s approach to PARASOMNIA is how well-constructed its puzzle box is at balancing traditional composition with utter strangeness. While tender theme speaks for the spirit of young love, it’s also corrupted by a maniac who can pull the couple into worlds where detuned flutes, heavy breathing, blasting organs, waltz rhythms and mechanical clanking effects hear bad dreams like steampunk music boxes. Giving them even more bad vibes is a blaring killer motiff that’s one of the more striking horror score effects since Christopher Young conjured Leviathan for HELLRAISER 2. Yet always balancing the most wildly experimental stuff, even as its detuned, wheezing tendrils bio-mechanically invade the music of Gustav Holst, is the emotional reality of a poignant piano, strings and a haunting chorus to paint a surprisingly poetic picture of good versus overwhelming evil.
Extra Special: With a hapless hero who’s a record store clerk, Malone is sure to use retro songs to comment on the increasingly gruesome action. Particularly clever is how the filmmaker also creates an ironic love theme with the Beatles / Beach Boys-like sound of The Bossmen, whose “You’re the Girl For Me” jumps from 2009 to a “1966” version with truly twisted effect.
4) SCREAM: THE DELUXE EDITION (2,000 edition)
What is it?: Sure horror scores before 1996 raised their voice more than occasionally. But it took Marco Beltrami to send the genre into a true fugue state with the cacophony of SCREAM’s outrageous symphonic kills, creating a whole new impactful sound for slashers and demons alike, not to mention setting the thematic template for three more franchise scores to come.
Why should you buy it?: Music fans with subtler tastes might chide SCREAM for being over the top. Yet that was exactly the right tone for writer Kevin Smith’s satiric takedown of the genre. Though he himself might not have been into a horror geek like SCREAM’s characters, Beltrami still pulled off a score that managed the same feat of wittily attacking its slasher ancestors while being truly frightening in the process, a one-two combo that helped jump-start masked killers for a whole new generation. His SCREAM is full of that hip vibrancy, employing western-sounding thrash guitars, ringing in hell’s bells, and originating the unmistakable mournful melody and ghostly wail of Sidney Prescott’s theme. But perhaps the most sneaky, and seditious talent to be used from Beltrami’s old school training under Jerry Goldsmith was the idea to grab a wealth of 20th century musical techniques, then wield them like a series of blunt instruments to create a bloody, and oft since-imitated armory of orchestral shrieks and hits.
Extra Special: Barely 4 minutes of Beltrami’s score were included on the first SCREAM album when it was released 15 years ago on TVT records’ song-packed soundtrack (though it was kind of nice having the Julee Cruise and Nick Cave tunes nonetheless). When Varese compiled the score with SCREAM 2, the ante was raised to 15 minutes. Now this new Varese Club release has raised the grand musical tally to 65 minutes of classical Beltrami mayhem, while also allowing breathing room for the composer’s subtler, and equally effective chills. SCREAM paved the way for Beltrami to become a king of horror scoring with such diverse works as MIMIC, HELLBOY and the new THING. But for the legions of Ghost Face fans, SCREAM is the one to rule them all. This is a surely an album to turn their white-masked frowns upside down.
5) THE X-FILES: VOLUME ONE (3,000 edition)
What is it?: The term “whistling in the dark” took on a whole new meaning when Mark Snow’s cheerfully sinister main title theme first announced agents Mulder and Scully on the Fox channel in 1993. With its telltale vocalizations abetted by undulating, eerie percussion, Snow’s Emmy-nominated main title joined STAR TREK, LOST IN SPACE and THE BRADY BUNCH as one of the most instantly identifiable themes in television history. As the FILES’ premise upped the supernatural disbeliever premise of THE NIGHT STALKER (not to mention PROJECT U.F.O) by several, terrifying notches, Snow’s doom-ridden atmospheres was essential to making us believe over the course of nine seasons, his gripping tone of supernatural sci-fi conspiracy spreading like black oil across two feature films and X spin-offs like MILLENNIUM and THE LONE GUNMEN. Yet somehow, there’s been no real release of the haunting soundtracks which started it all, a fact which has now been more than rectified by La La Land’s multi-hour, four-disc release of Snow’s greatest cuts from the FILES.
Why should you buy it?: As a prolific, television composer, Mark Snow had been doing far lighter stuff like THE LOVE BOAT, HART TO HART and FALCON CREST before getting in touch with his dark side for X-FILES. With shows varying between evil E.T. mythology to self-contained mutants and monsters-of-the-week, Snow resourcefully used synths and samples to create mesmerizing scores full of percussion, experimental soundscapes, frenzied action, ghostly voices, solemn piano solos and an overarching sense of melancholy to play its odd couple agents’ increasing angst at being plunged deeper into a well of evil that not only threatened them, but the existence of humanity. At its strongest, Snows’ haunting X-FILES scores are about this unceasing struggle between the light and the very dark, where normalcy breaks down and the uncanny reigns supreme, ersatz horror scoring with an unexpected spiritual light that makes these scores’ unrelenting tension more than bearable to listen to. Further enervating the FILES’ hypnotic doom and gloom are the ways Snow breaks musical character, from the circus music of “The Post-Modern Prometheus” to the spooky-ooky organs and harpsichords of “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” and the loopy jingle that brings us to “Hollywood A.D.,” with its way over the top zombie music- outside the fear box stylings that provide some of this set’s cleverest moments.
Extra Special: FILES fans have been waiting for a series-spanning score collection like this since The Cigarette-Smoking Man covered up his first piece of extra-terrestrial evidence, and the choice cuts here don’t disappoint. Snow and La La Land certainly had a formidable amount of Emmy-worthy music to go through, and what they’ve assembled from 40 of the 202 episodes he scored has a true musical flow to it, nicely balancing the show’s more emo scoring with Snow’s chillingly amorphous music for the always-ungraspable nature of the X-villains. Randall L. Larson’s liner notes impressively trace musical X-history, revealing an unnerving masterwork that’s all part of the conspiracy.
ALSO FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
FILM AND TELEVISION MUSIC: A GUIDE TO BOOKS, ARTICLES AND COMPOSER INTERVIEWS
If film has an answer to the fabled Library of Alexandria, then it’s undoubtedly the Margaret Herrick Library in Los Angeles, a research Mecca for movie scholars and enthusiasts sponsored by the folks who put on the Oscars. It’s from the Herrick’s special collection vaults stuffed with clippings, magazines, books and stills that soundtrack researcher supreme Warren M. Sherk hails. Now this ace music data-baser has transferred his knowledge of all written things film music into to a tome that packs everywhere you wanted to know about the art form, but were afraid to ask, into over 600 pages of info. So if you ever needed research for a school paper or some soundtrack liner notes, wanted to know if Henry Mancini wrote an autobiography, needed to have every composer interview located from the surprising number of soundtrack magazines that’ve existed, or wanted to discover the numerous societies dedicated to film music, then you’re likely to feel like Nicolas Cage in a NATIONAL TREASURE flick as you thumb through the astonishing amount of resources that Sherk’s compiled within his GUIDE. Actually locating the source material is a whole other matter, but there’s no cooler place to begin your journey of discovery than with than this voluminous tome. Though I don’t know if Warren Sherk’s a Freemason, he’s certainly created film scoring’s answer to The Book of Secrets here, one whose path might very well lead you to The Man himself as he continues to catalogue the Herrick’s tonally worded treasures.
HOTEL PARADISO / THE COMEDIANS
If sophistication bonded a composer to an actor, then no finer link could be on hand than the playful, and dramatic elegance that makes for the Laurence Rosenthal / Alec Guinness double bill of HOTEL PARADISO and THE COMEDIANS. In the first of these successive 1966 / 67 movies (both directed by Peter Glenville), Rosenthal gives Guinness’ oily wife cheater the grace of Charlie Chaplin. Indeed, it’s easy to imagine the snooping pianos, officious brass, and grand waltzes as the accompaniment to a routine from MODERN TIMES. Except here, the silent movie-worthy pratfalls accompany the bedroom farce of a hotel, circa 1900 Paris. Rosenthal’s routines not only embody PARADISO’s time period, but also a bygone era when comedy scoring was all about classy pluck as opposed to pizzicato crashes. The theme’s the thing as Rosenthal’s rhythms swirl about like a snooty dance, building to a madcap, door-slamming pursuit with Guinness in tow. Things are far less funny in a Papa Doc-controlled Haiti for the actor, not to mention Liz and Dick in the ironically titled THE COMEDIANS. Rosenthal effectively trades the L’amour fou of France for the Caribbean’s tropical rhythms. And everything seems to be happy under the mango tree’s drumbeat, yet Rosenthal’s overlaying, increasingly concerned orchestra tells us we’re in the heart of darkness. Voodoo beats give way to piano percussion and suspenseful action, the music alive with heat and danger as a tropically beautiful theme swelters in the sinister presence of an unholy dictator. Rosenthal’s music is s striking culture clash between the lush sounds of European expatriates and the angrily percussive doom of the island’s oppressors. THE COMEDIANS arguably stands as Rosenthal’s masterwork, and the film itself would’ve arguably worked better if Glenville used more of it. Thankfully, Rosenthal’s entire score is collected on FSM’s excellent CD that features also features both the original HOTEL PARADISO and COMEDIANS albums. They’re set pieces of comic, and dramatic tension that show off Rosenthal as one of cinema’s unsung composing greats, whether he’s whirling about France or running for his life in Haiti.
MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS
Ever since Mark Waters launched Rolfe Kent as the king of comedy scoring quirk with HOUSE OF YES, the two have oft-times been rumbling in the jungle with FREAKY FRIDAY, JUST LIKE HEAVEN, GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST and MEAN GIRLS. Even when the subject didn’t seem to call for it, Kent’s uniquely eccentric love of ethnic instruments and seemingly incompatible musical approaches have always added new layers of subtext to his movies, especially when it came to chants and drums turning high schoolers into vicious predators prowling the cafeteria savannah. Now Waters and Kent get the real, feathered deal as they tackle the stuck-up guy–meets-wacky animal genre with MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS. But given that this director and composer specialize in making studio comedies way smarter (not to mention better) than they have to be, POPPER ends up being a true delight- perhaps the biggest one of their collaborations so far. Yet surprisingly, there’s just a little bit of the African cries and bright tribal percussion here (perhaps Kent wasn’t too big into Eskimo music). What POPPER wonderfully offers for its flipper-out-of-water story is a whimsical, George Gerswhin-esque orchestral sound of penguins on the lose in the big city, capturing both the goggle-eyed wonder at seeing the birds as much as the exasperation that the put-upon Popper had towards his unfrozen inheritance. Kent’s always evidenced a mischievous drollness in his comedy scoring, a tone here that at once shakes its head and smiles. But even more fun then the score’s rhythmically rambunctious antics is the real emotion that develops between man and cute beast, with the score becoming quite moving as it reaches its happy ending. All funny animal scores should be this joyfully uncondescending.
MY DEMON LOVER (1,000 edition)
Newman family scion David announced that scoring was in his lifeblood with a creature-filled bang in the late 1980’s, launching a prolific career with scores for such wacky creature features as CRITTERS, THE KINDRED and LITTLE MONSTERS. And while his subject matter has certainly grown since then, the frenetic energy and inventiveness of Newman’s combos for pop synth rhythms and classically lush strings remain as fresh, and entertaining as ever. Now Varese Sarabande’s Club has unleashed the last, infectiously fun monster to remain hiding in the composer’s early genre closet with the soundtrack to 1987’s MY DEMON LOVER. This truly oddball mesh of makeup effects and romance had FAMILY TIES’ star Scott Valentine letting the beast out whenever his flesh got hot and heavy. With his character being a cursed saxophonist, Newman was able to incorporate an alternately soulful, and fun jazziness into this screwball hybrid score. Newman’s ability to switch tones on a hellzapoppin dime are on fine display here too, as transform-o energy bounds into menacing suspense, the orchestra lighting up with swirling statements worthy of Gozer the Gozerean, all while ultra-80’s keyboard rock slams home Valentine’s manic character. If anything, the untamed, but always thematic energy of Newman’s boisterous DEMON score makes you long for a zanily creative period in low-budget filmmaking that Newman nailed like few other composers destined for much bigger things.
PRISON (1,000 edition)
Richard Band’s oft-times skin-crawling soundtracks have seen the launch of many careers while in the service of his brother Charles, among them Demi Moore as she avoided the slimy musical slug of PARASITE, while Stuart Gordon made hay with the playfully Herrmann-esque body parts of RE-ANIMATOR. But perhaps the most literally oppressive score that Band provided for an artist on the rise would be the clammy, winding tension that helped propel director Renny Harlin to a studio career while inside the PRISON. This stylish 1987 picture stands as one of the best-regarded releases from Band’s Empire Pictures (though still unaccountably unavailable on video in the U.S.), with the Finnish filmmaker making the most out of real locations and future star Viggo Mortensen. The spirit of an unjustly executed convict is chillingly given musical flesh by Band and co-composer Christopher L. Stone (PHANTASM II). It’s a meeting of the fearsome minds that doesn’t so much create a conventional 80’s synth horror score as it does long passages of eerie, sometimes improvised tonalities, making suspenseful use of the then-new “WaveFrame” electronic instrument. It’s pulsating effect joins with militaristic percussion for the equally guilty guards and warden, who also get harshly sentenced before the vengeful ghost. Band and Stone’s impressionistic score isn’t exactly pleasing to the ear, which is exactly the point of incarceration. But any fan who enjoys being confined for about 43 minutes with one of Band’s most unconventional, and effective genre works will get a tense charge out of PRISON, along with the characters getting a few thousand volts in a possessed electric chair.
RED FACTION: ARMAGEDDON
Of all the alt. tech composers who are giving sonic flesh to the ghosts in their machines, Brian Reitzell is certainly one of the most intriguing. Shaping guitars to the dusty football plains of Texas in FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS or mutating their chords into the terrifying mayhem of 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, Reitzell has also heard the existential funk of STRANGER THAN FICTION before finding fairy tale eeriness in the MTV generation reboot of RED RIDING HOOD, If Reitzell’s interests have often pushed the boundaries between sound design and music, they now reach surreal meltdown with the videogame soundtrack to RED FACTION: ARMAGEDDON, his worthy contribution to a franchise that finds you blasting away on the soil of mars- or in this case under it, as a new apocalyptic wave of aliens threaten to overwhelm our fearless settlers. It’s all well and good to play thrashing rhythms to hit all of the destructive fun, which Reitzell certainly does here in style. But even more interesting than the laser-blasting goods is FACTION’s piercing, crystalline sound, as derived from Reitzell’s seemingly infinite layers of synths and samples. Like some gearhead time traveler, Reitzell’s plugged into a true, cutting edge “sci-fi” vibe that makes the pulsating RED FACTION album sound like neo-music, as beamed in from two hundred years hence for a 21st century shooter that can only imagine the future.
SOCOM 4 (2,000 edition)
The percussion-filled musical worlds of TV’s revamped BATTLESTAR GALACTICA might have flown into the sun, but the thrumming echoes that made Bear McCreary’s scores so distinctive can be heard very loud and clear in his videogame soundtrack to SOCOM 4. For his second entry into console music after the impressive orchestral rocketeering of DARK VOID, McCreary takes on the more down-to-earth (if still more than a bit superhuman) adventures a U.S. Navy Seal team, this time blasting away for the flag in Korean territory. Having brilliantly brought incongruous bagpipes and Asian gamelans to outer space, McCreary’s shown he knows how to handle ethnic music with the dexterity that any Seal would have for a firearm. And here McCreary blasts out a region’s worth of flutes, drums and any other bang-able instrument capable of taking down the bad guys. But far from some soundtrack that’s all about percussive sound and fury, McCreary also makes impressive thematic use of the full range of the Skywalker and Hollywood orchestras at his disposal, creating a work of unexpected beauty, and emotion amidst the rocking first-person shooter guitars and synths. It won’t be long before any GALACTICA fan will feel they’re right back home piloting a Viper through the Cylon hordes, with all the symphonic nobility and pan-ethnic stylings that implies.
Looking at the hip high schoolers starting directly at the camera, listening to their self-deprecating observations, or even reading the title calligraphy, you’d think the Welsh-made SUBMARINE was a dive directly back into Wes Anderson RUSHMORE waters, especially from what you’d expect of its score. And while composer Andrew Hewitt can’t help but to indulge in some Mark Mothersbaugh-isms, SUBMARINE as a film, and soundtrack, have far more bittersweet angst, and perhaps more emotional meat on both counts as a result. The classically trained Hewitt (who last provided the chamber music insanity on Movie Score Media’s CUCKOO) takes an approach here that’s far more dirge than being jauntily Baroque. He hears teen angst with near-Wagnerian solemnity as violins signal bucolic doom, solemn pianos play the ruddy Welsh landscape, and ever-tensing orchestral hits raise the panic alert to the breakup of one’s parents, let alone that parting of a dream girlfriend. Yet these are all entirely appropriate, and effective musical emotions when you’re a hyper-smart kid thinking the world is crashing down upon you. That isn’t also to say that SUBMARINE is all heavy going, as there’s RUSHMORE-esque musical fun to be had in the percolating percussion, satirically dire organ melody and the dancing-on-air feel of first love as carried by perky, gossamer percussion. Sure SUBMARINE might swim in Anderson waters, but there’s plenty of originality in its arch sea,, particularly from the increasingly ear-catching work of Andrew Hewitt.
UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT
Imagine a rom-com score for a meeting between Wall Street and The Mob, and you might hear the bubbly orchestral jazz of Nathan Furst. For a guy who’s usually busy scoring killer alligators and crocodiles, the melodically sparkling production values of UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT are a terrifically apt way for Furst to tell the world he’s not going to get pulled back in. The menace here is definitely of the more playful type, as a slicked back financial man about town tries to take the old family business legit, even if his Costra Nostra friends would rather break heads than crunch numbers. Showing a pleasant, Mancini-esque touch in his frothy way of mixing lushly satirical crime suspense with the tender strings, guitars and pianos of two lovebirds on the opposite sides of the legal fence, Nathan Furst truly owns this sweetly sophisticated, utterly pleasant listen that shows he’s ready for the big time
WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT / PUSSYCAT, PUSSYCAT, I LOVE YOU (1,000 edition)
After their superb release of THE KNACK, Quartet Records continues to go shagging in the 60’s with this double-hander release of Burt Bacharach and Lalo Schifrin, both doing their swinging thing for the love revolution. Where John Barry brought a fun, smooth jazz sophistication to Soho, these scores are all about pure, playful lechery. Next to turn Woody Allen into an unlikely woman killer with the aid of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass for CASINO ROYALE, Burt Bacharach is fully on his own for his first score here, throwing all of his joyous kitsch into Allen’s first screen part. Topped off with inimitable Gallic-waltz sauciness of Tom Jones’ theme song, Bacharach swings between French and Italian chases, vocalese better suited for a beer hall, player piano shtick and Hammond organ randiness, though things manage to lushly calm down in the sax and string boudoir. Austin Powers would be in seventh heaven here (and indeed was a couple of decades later) with Bacharach’s inimitably hep-pop talents. When the song became the sequel title, fellow jazz master Lalo Schifrin leaped into the fleshpot fray, not only having his way with Bacharach’s theme, but also putting an even rawer brass and hippy fuzz guitar vibe into the proceedings- the difference between a bubbly gin fizz and a straight up counter-culture martini. I LOVE YOU is more cartoonish, with Schifrin romping from Indian powwow stuff to spy suspense that wouldn’t be out of place in a gonzo MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE episode. Indeed, the all-over-the-place approach here even manages to throw in the composer’s most famous theme. For those who only really know Schifrin for his 60’s spy antics, I LOVE YOU is a hilarious revelation at his burlesque chops (though one of its nicest bits is his own smooth, seductive theme). Beyond re-issuing both PUSSYCAT and its sequel with audiophile sound, Quartet also includes the original score tracks in addition to its LP ones, giving you a great double helping of fun sexiness to slip on your bachelor pad’s quadraphonic stereo system.
ZOMBI 2 / A CAT IN THE BRAIN
Where rock fans stateside were grooving the progressive rock of groups like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Italian horror auteurs were using the guitar and synth vibes for far bloodier ends. And if Dario Argento was linked at the hip to the rhythmic murder operas of Goblin in DEEP RED, SUSPIRIA and DAWN OF THE DEAD, than the infinitely gorier Lucio Fulci was joined in the intestine to the creepily mod sound of Fabio Frizzi for such infamously stylish splatterfests like THE BEYOND, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD and MANHATTAN BABY. Now Beat Records has paired Frizzi’s scores from two movies drenched in Fulci’s grey matter, beginning with ZOMBI 2. With a title that shamelessly capitalized on DAWN OF THE DEAD Italian one, Fulci’s nastily effective movie got his biggest U.S. release under the name of ZOMBIE, a movie equally unforgettable for its eye-piercing gore as a poster that screamed “We Are Going To Eat You!” Frizzi’s score mostly uses tropical percussion to play the island’s human banquet, his beat ranging from Club Med-style dances to eerily percolating grooves and voodoo drum ceremonies. But the one bit that truly makes ZOMBI 2 stand out is Frizzi’s haunting main theme where moaning voices joining with organ-like beats and synths. It’s a melody that packs the kind of evil syncopation that, along with John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN and Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave’s PHANTASM, stands for all that embodied the dark catchiness of the late 1970’s horror theme. Skipping ahead to 1990’s A CAT IN THE BRAIN, Frizzi has obvious fun for a movie where Fulci essentially plays himself, a director driven nuts by his own gory excesses to carry out murders in “real’ life. Frizzi crafts a typically catchy synth-rock theme before hearing black humor with soused ragtime, disco funk and the kind of tinkertoy / child voice lullabye that signals madness better than a vacancy at the Bates Motel. And if you think you’ve Edvard Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King” to death, then Frizzi’s pipe organ version might be the nuttiest spin so far of this classical chestnut. ZOMBI 2’s voices also show up again to catchy effect, a quivering chorus joining with strings for another ghastly effective theme that once again shows how rock music was the gateway drug for some of the better cult horror composers like Fabio Frizzi.
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