March Soundtrack Picks: GODS OF EGYPT is the top soundtrack to own for March, 2016
Also worth picking up: BATMAN v SUPERMAN, THE BLUE MAX, THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD, THE LIGHTHORSEMEN, LA SORPRESA, MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, RISEN, ZOOTOPIA, ZOOLANDER 2 and many more!
To Purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD cover
THE TOP PICKS
1) GODS OF EGYPT
What is it?: Egyptian-born director Alex Proyas has had an epically impressive collaboration with composer Marco Beltrami, from darkly playing a sentient automaton revolt in “I, Robot” to “Knowing’s” Straus-ian realization of the end of days. So when a filmmaker who always thinks of the big genre picture goes bat guano crazy with a 100 million plus version of what’s essentially a 70’s kid’s matinee (a la “Arabian Adventure”) with enough CG sword and metal-suited sandal insanity to make the blue-screened biceps of “300’s” look positively pink in comparison, then you can expect Beltrami to deliver the blood and thunder like he’s never done before. With “Gods of Egypt,” he soars above a flat earth and into the Horus-ruled heavens with a score that delivers on its cliffhanging thrills with worshipful enthusiasm to spare.
Why should you buy it?: While “Gods” is essentially a special effect that happens to star humans in it, what makes this quite wonderful, unjustly derided film so much fun is a resolutely throwback approach that Sabu himself might appreciate, from characters that include a wisecracking thief, his lovely damsel in distress and a screaming, Scottish-accented god of battle, all in a mighty canvas of clearly defined good and evil. The knowing humor, and sand-swept adventure certainly isn’t lost on Beltrami and his lush symphonic approach. Sure these gods might be doing Transformers-esque tricks, but Beltrami isn’t about to bring on electronic giant robot rhythms. His “Gods” run on golden symphonic juice where a multitude of themes are king. Fans of David Arnold’s “Stargate,” let alone Jerry Goldsmith’s “The Wind and the Lion” will have much to enjoy here in the romantic, middle eastern-styled melodies that give the film a sense of grandeur, with such ancient instruments as the Saz, zithers, undulating voices and war-drum percussion creating a “Planet Egypt” of gods and puny humans living in worshipful co-existence, an often nutty kingdom where trumpeting, Arabic majesty can just as suddenly veer into a raging Spanish fandango with the appearance of Godzilla-sized sand worms. While the kind of brass-screaming music that one might hear in a Beltrami horror score a la “Scream” might make an occasional appearance, the continuous sense of symphonic revelation that attends “Gods of Egypt” makes this even better as a continuation of the composer’s mythic exploration of the fantasy genre a la “The Seventh Son,” an energy that hits the gloriously berserk heights for the film’s climax above an ersatz Tower of Babel with some of the most exhilarating musical cross-cutting battle music in eons, complete with chanting and throttling war drums that ring with cosmic muscle.
Extra Special: Both Proyas and Beltrami have unapologetically gone for kid-pleasing gusto with “Gods of Egypt,” with a breathless sense of visual and musical splendor that should be worshipped, especially for fans who feel like they’re now in a time when people have turned away from the ancient orchestral idols that granted a true sense of symphonic wonder in their believers. Much like Michael Giacchino’s mythically resplendent score for the similarly unappreciated “John Carter,” Beltrami’s blazing work will hopefully make sure that these “Gods” will endure in cult immortality.
2) THE LIGHTHORSEMEN
What is it?: Aussie director Simon Wincer helped put the film industry down under on the international map with 1983’s salute to his country’s legendary race horse “Phar Lap.” While its success essentially had him race the Hollywood track with the likes of “D.A.R.Y.L.,” “Free Willy” and “The Phantom,” Wincer’s equine affinity and his lavish talent for big screen adventure also saw him make a grand, bayonet-swinging salute to Australian mounted infantry with 1987’s “The Lighthorsemen.”
Why should you buy it?: Set after the army’s disastrous attempt to break the Turkish frontlines at Gallipoli during WW1, this feel-good war movie (if that can dubiously be said about the genre) told about the far more successful charge against the Turks that let the allies sweep into Beersheba to take the land then called Palestine. Filled with manly gallantry and just a bit of romance, “The Lighthorsemen” needed a resolutely old-school score to lead the noble musical attack. It got a veritable army of sweeping, symphonic heroism from composer Mario Millo. With such credits as this historical miniseries “Against the Wind” and “A Fortunate Life,” whose hero also found himself at Gallipoli, Millo was in particularly good stead to take on this lavish depiction of his country’s shining moment in The War to End All Wars. And he certainly did the Anzac soldiers proud in his twenty-one gun orchestral salute to swashbuckling bravery under galloping fire. Unbridled melody is the key to this quite glorious score that’s far more about assured duty than riding into disaster, as such other films as “The Charge of the Light Brigade” tended to do. Victory is in the air throughout in Millo’s bright, rousingly thematic approach that hearkens back to the kind of sumptuous scoring that Max Steiner or Alfred Newman would have given the subject had it been made in Hollywood’s black and white glory days (it’s no wonder that RKO Radio Pictures produced this movie). Where Maurice Jarre had Lawrence of Arabia take on the Turks with a majestic sense of surveying a dune-filled landscape, Millo’s desert warfare music conveys an exotic atmosphere through subtle Arabian rhythms without outrightly arming itself with ethnic instruments. It’s a score too straightforward for all of that as it delivers its rousingly thematic adventure, culminating with a thunderously suspenseful charge into seemingly insurmountable enemy odds, and the stuff of musical legend.
Extra Special: Sumptuously performed, “The Lighthorsemen” is an especially dazzling score for a movie, and soundtrack that remains relatively unknown to us Yanks. But thanks to Dragon’s Domain Records, Millo’s work is now able to make its American CD debut with the height of sonic glory that will bring to mind the cliffhanging joy of John Williams to many listeners, as accompanied by an informative liner note salute by Randall Larson to a composer whose valorous mastery in the symphonic saddle here is nothing short of spectacular.
3) LOST IN SPACE / THE TWILIGHT ZONE
Price: $29.99 / $34.99
What is it?: Whether done for the big or small screen, it’s a daunting challenge to reboot the classic TV shows that shaped new generations of sci-fi fans. Whether the “new” “Lost in Space” or “Twilight Zone” worked for worse and better, Intrada Records now shows just how well Bruce Broughton, and a myriad of musicians were in capturing these show’s spirits with classic, and downright avant-garde takes on their journeys into the uncanny.
Why should you buy it?: One of the great musical fantasists of the 80’s and 90’s, Bruce Broughton’s own explorations into the future began enjoyably enough with the TV takes on “Logan’s Run,” ”Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” and the cult feature “The Ice Pirates.” But if those musical budgets were limited, time, as opposed to expense was the limit of 1998’s “Lost in Space.” Having spent a good part of the decade on such family-friendly adventures as “Honey, I Blew Up the Kid,” “Baby’s Day Out” and “Homeward Bound,” accompanying the Robinson clan into the dark reaches of the galaxy was a terrific opportunity for Broughton to essentially create his so-far climactic Big Bang for the genre. Given the musical template that “Johnny” Williams had created for the show with its perilous sense of thematic wonder, Broughton’s tone is a bit brighter here, creating a affectionate motif for the clan that pilots the score. Like his closest scoring compatriot in terms of melodic lushness, Broughton also has heroic horns at the ready, while winds provide the wistfulness of a dearly missed Earth. Cliffhanging peril abounds, as does enough epic choral majesty to fill the Milky Way. Playing the scene-chewing villainy of Gary Oldman’s Dr. Smith with mischievous darkness, as well as giving impressive eeriness to a derelict spacecraft, “Lost in Space” afforded Broughton unusually long passages to work some of his most exciting action music, from an attack by mutant spiders to an arachnid-ized Dr. Smith. The Jupiter’s fly-through of a disintegrating planet is one of Broughton’s most thunderously exciting cues as well, as western-styled \as anything he wrote for “Silverado” or “Tombstone.” Previously issued by Intrada in an extensive CD, the label now re-launches “Lost in Space” for this terrific two-CD set, which is especially notable for pairing original takes next to 40 minutes of alternate cues, often showing completely different emotional approaches to the same scene. Tim Grieving’s liner notes feature a new interview with Broughton on a last-minute musical voyage that was composed in an astonishing 2 1/2 weeks, making for a thrilling summation of the kind of epic, yet emotionally warm wonder that Broughton brought to the genre,
Extra Special: Still the most famous anthology of all, “The Twilight Zone” boasted scores by such composers as Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith and Franz Waxman over the course of its five seasons, their stylistically diverse approaches accentuating the irony of Rod Serling’s sci-fi moral parables. The series was respectably resurrected over three seasons in 1985, with perhaps its most infamous episode being William Friedkin’s “Nightcrawlers,” which compounded the irony by having no score at all for a Vietnam-materializing vet (it’s Grateful Dead / Merle Saunders score heard on a previous Silva Screen collection). Just as Serling had drawn on the cream of the cornfield scoring crop at the time, the new anthologies drew inspiration from musicians old and new for any number of striking mini-soundtracks, the best of which are collected on Intrada’s terrific 3-CD album. Leading off the episodes was a surreal title by Merle Saunders and The Grateful Dead, their trippy sound design approach announcing this wasn’t your grandfather’s “Twilight Zone” (even if many of the composers would humorously adapt Marius Consant’s iconic theme in more recognizable form). Fresh off “Hellraiser,” Christopher Young would turn clock-like percussion and strings into the eerie worker bees of “A Matter of Minutes,” while Basil Poledouris hammering percussion embodied a raging geriatric for “Monsters!” In a sort of dry run of his latter approach to “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Dennis McCarthy gave the future “Voices in the Earth” a mystical, and eerily vocal sound that one could imagine Captain Picard facing, while O.G. “Trek” (and “Twilight Zone” composer) Fred Steiner brings a playful, oddball energy to a visiting flying saucer during “A Day in Beaumont.” “Remo Williams’ composer Craig Safan gets his own CD with multiple scores, a standout being “Wong’s Lost and Found Emporium,” as a man searches for self-worth amidst energetic, and emotional Oriental rhythms, then gives the anthology its funniest score with the sinister, gonzo carnival music of “The Uncle Devil Show.” But perhaps this “Zone’s” most melodically pleasing work belongs to composer William Goldstein, his lush, longing melodies creating a “Her Pilgrim Soul” for a female ghost in a machine, while “Time and Teresa Golowitz” has the devil take a Great White Way musician on a glorious stroll through the jazzy big band era, varying from lush strings to virtuoso piano and a performance of the standard “How About You.” But then, you never quite know in which musical dimension that this “Twilight Zone” collection will lead, which is part of its always-changing interest for a reboot that did a decent job of living up to the original, no more so than in how it inspired a notable group of composers to unlock the doors of their musical imaginations in bold, new fashion.
4) RISEN / THE YOUNG MESSIAH
Price: $9.99 / $9.49
What is it?: Throughout the age of cinematic sound, composers have responded to the musical calling of The Christ, whether it be Jew (Alfred Newman’s “The Robe”), humanist (Peter Gabriel’s “Passion”) or true believer (John Debney’s “The Passion of the Christ”). The musical approach of playing The Son of God has likewise shifted, from rapturous strings and choral hosannas to period-authentic instruments and alt. rhythms to scoring that blended music seemingly heard in biblical times with the kind of symphonic approach accessible to faith-based audiences who’d grown up on TV reruns of “King of Kings” and “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” It’s in this latter Hollywood-by-Jerusalem land that two atypical takes on an oft-told cinematic story dwell, one for a look at a disbelieving Roman soldier, and the other a Jesus “prequel” of sorts, both blessed with powerful scores that deliver on holy Hollywood musical tradition and real-world believability.
Why should you buy it?: Way smarter than most faith-based films that target themselves towards an all-accepting target audience, “Risen” has the novel twist of sending a Roman officer on a detective quest to get to the bottom of who stole a post-crucified, and most decidedly dead Jesus’ body from his burial cave. It’s a bible-noir approach that gives the film a tone of somber, determined mystical mystery that Spanish composer Roque Banos makes effective use of. With an exceptional history of scoring period films with the likes of “Alatriste” and “In the Heart of the Sea,” Banos is right at home in ancient Jerusalem, at first unleashing determined percussion for the battle that opens “Risen” before skillfully blending Middle Eastern instruments and rhythms with unsettling orchestrations. It’s far more of a boldly determined, ghost-suspense score than one of religious epiphany to start with, and a grippingly unsettling one at that. But as our centurion discovers that Jesus is indeed walking the earth again, Banos introduces warmer orchestral colors, as well as the fierce, suspenseful percussion of a Roman empire giving its unlikely traitor chase. It’s only in the final, miraculous stretch that “Risen” assumes its guise as a full-on biblical score, complete with a soaring, emotionally moving orchestra and heavenly chorus as Jesus assumes his heavenly stature, ending a score that starts out with sword-gripping disbelief with the rapture of outstretched hands. It’s a subtle musical conversion, and a tremendously effective one at that which proves Banos’ steadfast belief in thematic melody.
Extra Special: While “Risen” starts off with the agony of Jesus’ crucifixion as seeming proof of death, John Debney had a score full of powerful suffering on the cross with his Oscar-nominated work for Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” (it’s complete score now out on La La Land Records). Thankfully, that event won’t come until a few movies later, as “The Young Messiah,” see Debney playing a far more hopeful future for this Prince of Peace prequel. Yet it’s vey much a spiritual successor to “Passion” as Debney employs a Solomon’s Temple worth of biblical winds and percussion instruments, with Diduk and voices joining a far greater symphonic presence here. Debney conveys a boy’s-eye sense of coming into an unexpected world of bright, holy powers, hearing both the wonder of angelic harps and a solemn, flute-topped sense of duty. As with “Risen,” the score’s more suspenseful moments come from a Roman soldier in pursuit of stopping the man who will topple his empire. But for the most part, Debney creates a sense of poetic love of God’s representative, the composer’s own personal belief no doubt adding greatly to this “Young Messiah’s” power. Listeners will certainly delight in his second score coming of Jesus, especially given its more accessible, gorgeously thematic symphonic grace that hearkens back to those great Alfred Newman biblical epics of yore – if heard here with a more personal, and ethnically realistic healing touch.
What Is it?: Starting out on the Disney beat as a studio publicist before leveling up in a major Oscar-winning musical way, Michael Giacchino has been the star composer for the Pixar division from the John Barry-styled spy heroics of “The Incredibles” to the grandly empathetic scores of “Up” and “Inside / Out” and the can-do, Parisian-flavored tunes of “Ratatouille.” Given that Disney’s own animated films were often in the shadow of their Pixar acquisition, it likely took a special project to enlist Giacchino to lend his magic to the actual Mouse House. And while it seemed to have all the trappings of an obnoxiously kid-centric toon like “Cars,” “Zootopia” has thankfully, if not miraculously, turned out to be an unexpectedly excellent adult movie for its juvenile origin of the talking animal species. Giacchino’s playful score corrals a musical wild kingdom, leaving no cliché delightfully unused while also cutting to the emotional core of this case.
Why Should You Buy It?: “Zootopia” traverses all the temperate zones in its “Alien Nation”-like oddball buddy cop movie where our unlikely heroes try to stop the threat to de-evolve the now peaceful existence of predator and prey. Giacchino gets to wittily hit every musical exhibit, including “Hot Hot Hot”-esque Samba, groovily psychedelic Indian Sitars, Jamaican kettle drums, festive Brazilian carnival rhythms and African percussion that’d fit in nicely with “The Lion King,” if Simba happened to be walking on his hind legs in a business suit. The animal musical exotica gets further hipped up with retro organ funk and electric guitar. Yet Giacchino mostly avoids taking the score into full-on film noir land, as it likely would have veered into “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” toon town, though the outsized pursuit of “Hopps Goes (After) the Weasel” has a frantic “Naked Gun” quality to it. A train chase is jazzily amped for “Ramifications,” beginning mysteriously with a hep bongo and piano to set up the suspense. While “Zootopia” might not have particularly memorable themes on the order of Giacchino’s Pixar work, the composer effectively uses piano to set a surprisingly melancholy tone for our rabbit heroine’s sunken sense of defeat, a poetic intimate somberness that recalls a similarly outcast hero for Giacchino’s live action Disney score to “John Carter.” It’s in “Zootopia’s” more ‘adult” music, especially in the aching, then shattered strings and percussion of “The Nick of Time” as a fox recalls a life-changing muzzling that Giacchino nails the film’s quite daring themes of racial patronizing and fear-mongering, ones that make the movie rise far above its perceptions to play just as well for an adults audience.
Extra Special: Where “Zootopia” might be serious as it states “Some of My Best Friends are Predators,” or even downright threatening in the “World’s Worst Animal Shelter,” that doesn’t mean that Giacchino can’t go from some time-honored cartoon scoring clichés, especially when accompanying a hedgehog Godfather “Mr. Big,” complete with mandolins accordion and a weeping violin, with even “Three Bind Mice” snuck into “Gotta Get To the ZPD” with satirical menace. “Zootopia” is a delight that makes us hope that Giacchino keeps getting assigned to the Mouse House patrol in a musically evolved metropolis that’s likely to keep humming for quite a while.
ALSO FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
The Red Capes are Coming. Along with a gigantic percussion section in a superhero score so joyfully banging that it makes ZImmer’s massive rhythmic muscle for “Man of Steel” seem like a weakling string quartet in comparison. But then, the composer who effusively brought synth-prog rhythms into Hollywood like no one’s business isn’t often about restraint when it comes to the multiplex thunderdome. In one corner, there’s Superman’s loftier (if neck-snapping) sense of cosmic duty, and in the other rhythmic darkness for a Batman forged from a brutal criminal act. When these two stylistic approaches ram into each other, the fireworks are as musically dizzying as one would expect – especially when “Fury Road’s” Junkie XL (civilian identity Tom Holkenborg) is seamlessly added to the mix. That Zimmer is the alpha and omega for the propulsively pessimistic sound of the DC universe with his previous Dark Knight scores and “Man of Steel” makes “Dawn of Justice” a powerful continuation of these oft-imitated approaches he started. While the bat-flap theme slamming away with vengeance, “Man’s” soaringly memorable theme provides a solid melodic recall and emotional anchor to the score. It’s a gripping, if not especially “fun” soundtrack as such in matching the movie’s uber-serious, death-filled tone. And if the music isn’t overtly Wagnerian, the densely orchestral feeling of conjures gods walking the earth, and trouncing humankind in their wake, is most certainly in one’s face as ominous strings, a biblical chorus and massive drum sections hammer in the spirit of Götterdämmerung when these titans apocalyptically meet. Amidst lots of often exciting notes, “Dawn” does manage to get in some effective down time with interesting sample meditations and playfully unhinged, Joker-esque string screeching for Lex Luther. But it’s perhaps Tina Guo’s kick-ass cello playing that gives the soundtrack its biggest “wow” moment when Wonder Woman announces her sword-wielding arrival to this motivic pantheon of blasting testosterone, with the nice touch of an Amazonian horn as well. Certainly the most epic score, and film that Zimmer has done in the utterly dark DC universe, “Dawn” impressively beats us into submission, no matter if you’re team Superman or Batman.
. THE BLUE MAX
The robust re-performances of Tadlow Music have often flown in right after the releases of the original recordings, from Intrada’s “Conan” to Music Box’s “Obsession,” and now La La Land’s “The Blue Max.” But given that Tadlow concentrates on decades-old classics that might have a bit of dust no matter how great their 21st century mastering is, the ever-increasing quality of Tadlow’s fresh renditions makes their albums a terrific way to hear landmark works with fresh ears, flying high with a renewed sense of note-for-note vibrancy. Such is the soaring case with one of Jerry Goldsmith’s best scores, a war film that dared to make George Peppard’s German WW1 enemy ace Bruno Stachel into a vainglorious Hollywood anti-hero. Having scored our fighting men from the naval glory of “In Harm’s War” to Nazi-escaping POW’s taking “Von Ryan’s Express,” Goldsmith concentrates on a more “noble” era of warfare with his a mythically airborne approach that would no doubt make Straus and Wagner both happy, the themes cutting through the clouds to chase down English biplanes with a mythic sense of heroism. Yet a brass-filled sense of darkness tells us these were indeed the bad guys. Starting out with the gleeful pomp of an empire that sees itself as destined for victory, Goldsmith’s nobility gradually darkens with the tide of air battle in its expansive, timpani-filled battle sequences that herald doom for The Kaiser’s troops Cunning strings play for the waltzing pursuit of the ultimately empty medal, while a beautiful piano love theme stands for his affair with a countess that will ultimately doom Stachel. But whatever musical side you’re on, few scores have captured the sheer, trumpeting elation of flight like “The Blue Max.” Though cut to machine gun shreds in the actual movie, Tadlow’s “Blue Max,” along with La La Land’s special edition, restoring Goldsmith’s work to all of its thunderously romantic ballast. Producer James Fitzpatrick, conductor Nic Raine and The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus have done perhaps their most exceptional salute yet to a silver age masterpiece that’s pretty much inseparable from the real deal. Better yet, Tadlow fills out its double-CD with suites that combine Goldsmith’s conflict-filled scores for “Inchon,” “Tora! Tora! Tora!” and “The Sand Pebbles” with his epic supernatural work on “The Mummy” and “Omen III” powerfully realized to join Tadlow’s performances of such other Goldsmith masterworks as “Hour of the Gun,” “The Red Pony,” “The Salamander” and “QBVII” with pride.
. EDDIE THE EAGLE
When it seems that the name of today’s retro synth scoring game is doing dead-on recreations of John Carpenter’s horror scores from the 80s, along comes Matthew Margeson to soar with a pitch-perfect David Foster groove with “Eddie the Eagle.” But given that this winning sports underdog movie is set in synth-pop’s golden era, it’s a choice that’s all the more brilliant in dusting off the keyboards. For if Foster did one thing in his terrific 80’s run of “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “The Secret of My Success” and “Stealing Home,” then it was to capture a can-do sense of inspiration. That Eddie Edwards just happened to winningly place last in the 1988 Winter Olympics that Foster also provided music for only adds to just how awesome well-suited Margeson’s synth-driven score is, hitting both the nerdy hero’s never-say-die enthusiasm as well as his low points, as well as the seemingly suicidal danger of his ski jumps. But there’s more than just Foster in Margeson’s emulations, as every great electronic sports artist from Tangerine Dream to Vangelis makes an anthemic entry on this ski run. Having applied another throwback (if way more satirical score) to the unlikely nerd hero of two “Kick-Ass” films, Margeson is sure to introduce rocking electric guitars to the mix, his synth orchestra growing to pay tribute to the Hans Zimmer-Jerry Bruckheimer sound as well, until a symphonic energy a la James Horner joins the celebratory synth sounds – the “real” musical deal replete with ringing gongs and trumpeting horns, For what starts out as a joke to Eddie’s doubters becomes true, tearfully affecting stand-up-and-clap musical victory. Even if The Eagle closed his eyes and hoped for the best Margeson quite brilliantly knows exactly how to touch down with retro aplomb.
. THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (Expanded)
Ray Harryhausen had some excellent composers to give life to his “Dynamation” technique, with particular musical dynamism put into his mythic sword and sorcery heroes by Bernard Herrman (“Jason and the Argonauts”) and Laurence Rosenthal (“Clash of the Titans”). But while they might have had Jason and Perseus, no Harryhausen-afflicted adventurer was as iconic as Sinbad, whose battles against evil magicians and their stop-motion hordes were accompanied by Herrmann and Roy Budd when the sailor went on his seventh voyage or sought an eye of the tiger. But when it came to pure, frantic energy, the jewel in the Arabian turban goes to composer Miklos Rozsa’s breathless soundtrack to 1973’s “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.” But then given that Rozsa’s career really took off on its magic carpet ride with 1940’s “The Thief of Baghdad,” the Hungarian musician was right at exotic home with Allah’s go-to adventurer. Facing off here against Tom Baker’s deliciously evil wizard, while protecting a luscious Caroline Munro, Rozsa’s gloriously thematic score dances about like a whirling dervish, his Middle Eastern rhythms conveying a sense of royal majesty and Arabian-Indian place like no other score in the Harryhausen Sinbad triptych. There’s true, romantically epic magic to this score for a composer-effects wizard match made in paradise, as one can feel the pure delight that Rozsa has in bringing Harryhausen’s creations to light, literally becoming them from the dance of a sword-swinging Kali statue to a sinisterly playful homunculi and the raging percussion of a Cyclops centaur. Where Baker’s Koura tried to find a glistening fountain of youth, leave it to Rozsa to actually hear the rapturous power of the very nature of mythic storytelling in all of its swirling boldness. Given that his “Voyage” that’s been anything but golden in its many sonically inferior releases, Intrada’s complete 2-CD release is like finding a cavern of long-lost treasure. With Joe Sikoryak’s nicely designed, picture filled booklet and Frank K. DeWald’s excellent liner notes telling of Rozsa’s affinity for mythic, musical storytelling and this soundtrack’s fraught journey, this truly golden “Voyage” is the first time that Rozsa’s work has actually been taken from the first-generation tapes. At last, the delirious passion that the Rome Symphony Orchestra put into this classic fantasy score is truly apparent. With the original album re-mastered as well, this “Voyage” has at last found home in collector’s paradise. Praise Allah indeed.
. LA SORPRESA
Having quirkily played mental illness with his score for the generational madness of the fest favorite “Rocks in My Pockets” (its soundtrack on Movie Score Media) Italian composer Kristian Sensini creates another memorably individualistic soundtrack for “La Sorpresa” (“The Sunrise”). Here, the musical anguish is subtly inward and far less humorous, if no less enticing, as a daughter finds her father’s male nurse has far more of an emotional connection to the ailing man than she does. Sensini thematically plumbs her pained struggle towards a relationship in an impressively subdued variety of styles. Poignant chamber music mixes with alternative acoustical rhythm, child-like percussion hints of the past, while religious female voices sing a haunting chant. Even mod synthesizers and a tango come into this fraught, family bond. There’s an inventive, often meditative beauty throughout “La Sorpresa” that makes it a transfixing listen and Sensini an individualist talent to watch for, his classical training and studies with Ennio Morricone and Nicola Piovani evident in one of the rare, interestingly melodic scores that can tenderly capture inner emotion. Having cd signed and hand-numbered by Sensini adds a further nice touch for his unique, enticing score that bridges the classical and alt. family ties of film music.
. LITTLE ROOSTER’S EGG-CELENT ADVENTURE
Otherwise marketed with its title “Un Gallo Con Muchos Huevos!” Mexico’s first CG toon had a rooster mustering the courage up for the ultimate cockfight, battling it out to American box office success with nary a gringo critic’s whisper. But no matter if you speak Spanish or not, nothing speaks the universal CG funny animal language like a boisterously rhythmic symphonic score. Following up Benjamin Wallfisch’s stunningly good music for the Japanese rodent-centric film “Gamba” (on Varese Sarabande), “Little Rooster” breaks open truly “Egg-Cellent” music amidst potentially cheesy surroundings, courtesy of Spanish composer Zacarias M. De La Riva. Having last impressed with a beautifully somber sci-fi score for “Automata,” De La Riva quite wonderfully finds his spirit chicken guide here as Toto gets rid of his yellow-feathered streak to enter the boxing arena against the fearsome Bankivoide. Taking a less eccentric cue from John Powell’s “Chicken Run,” “Rooster” comes across like one of the best animated scores that composer didn’t write. Though there’s a bit of country twang on hand, nothing else is “Little” here in De La Riva’s memorably heroic themes that sound like they were instead composed for some swashbuckling, galactic “Adventure” as opposed to a toon that take place on a farm. It’s a blazing symphonic approach that’s never at a loss for excitement, driven with a memorably heroic theme, Sure the music does a little bit of Mickey Mouse’ing here and there, but for the most part, it’s got an impressively melodic and fun force with a percussive pop sensibility rules the symphonic roost, right down to a rock guitar over its big orchestral fight in the best Rocky fashion. Exceptionally well performed to rival any Hollywood-done soundtrack of this type, De La Riva waves a flag of pride for a little toon that could, with a sweeping orchestral boldness that’s anything but chicken.
. LONDON HAS FALLEN
Having musically saved The White House from North Korea in “Olympus Has Fallen,” Trevor Morris now re-rescues The President (and what’s left of London’s landmarks) from a machine-gunning, rocket-launching plague of pseudo-Islamist terrorists. From its African rhythms that announce evil afoot in the Middle East to the tender piano and guitar of some girlfriend downtime and the proud, patriotic melody that waves the never-say-die American flag high, “London Falling” starts by hitting the check marks that start this sort of Axis of Evil-busting action genre. And damn if Morris doesn’t proceed to kick ass with them after a suspenseful countdown to its world leader disaster film demolition derby – bringing on the growling electronic suspense, bombastic percussion, steely strings and heroic determination that gives the audience their musical meat and potatoes to excitingly chow down on as Gerard Butler payback is justly served. While it might not have the crazily entertaining home turf advantage of “Olympus,” “London” is far better made on all counts, giving Morris real orchestral muscle to flex Butler’s biceps with. Scores like this aren’t about stopping once the shit hits the fan, and Morris keeps a mean balance between rhythmically explosive burka burka baddie killing with suspenseful low string duck and cover, sampled percussion pacing the way most impressively through a near 13 minutes of sweeping an abandoned building, the tension of the Chief Executive’s video execution driving the excitement throughout. There’s nothing really down about “London Has Fallen” beyond its piano send-offs to those who didn’t make it, as Morris delivers the kind of punchy goods that listeners are rooting for, once again saving The Prez in musical style.
. MIDNIGHT SPECIAL
Beginning with the doom-laden “Take Shelter,” composer David Wingo has had a unique musical relationship with director Jeff Nichols, painting a world of southern gothic characters without being particularly “southern” about it with “Joe,” “Mud” and the forthcoming “Loving.” Instead, Wingo’s often spare, and more often eerily transfixing combinations of organic instruments and electronic rhythms create environmental scores for outcast characters to live in. Now with “Midnight Special,” Wingo makes full use of that musically atmospheric gas to truly drive into The Twilight Zone. But as always, Wingo’s approach is powerfully intimate for all of the cosmic elements at play here, his score’s concern squarely focused on the well being of an innocent kid who just happens to have the power to open extra-dimension gateways. Embodying this golden child with a tender piano, Wingo employs any number of unearthly, interesting devices from trippy organs to percolating samples and eerie guitar chords to give “Midnight Special” its indie sci-fi score street cred. It’s an intelligent, hauntingly humanistic work in the avant-garde tradition of such composers as Clint Mansell (“The Fountain”), Cliff Martinez (“Solaris”) and John Murphy (“Sunshine”), sharing a moody bond for hearing the fantastical as trippy food for thought as opposed to playing special effects. Here the rhythmic chase from loony tune cultists and feds still pissed about losing E.T. is exceptionally well developed from more minimal scoring to grow with strings and a heavenly chorus as the boy’s blinding powers are revealed. Yet, like all of Wingo and Nichol’s collaborations, “Midnight Special” is about a kind of spectral intimacy, these particular ghost-like characters floating through their peculiar universe, even as Wingo’s most transcendently, and subtly powerful score opens the gateway to another world just beyond our musical perception.
. MR. SELFRIDGE
Period English glamour is swinging again on the BBC, from the manor-borns to an upstart American creating a department store for the high and mighty, the latter role filled by Jeremy Piven as he made the pond jump from self-absorbed Hollywood agenting to brashly opening up a department store on Oxford Street, circa 1910. That’s more than enough reason to engage in all manner of delightful jazz numbers by British composer Charlie Mole. Certainly a welcomely familiar musical tailor when it comes to putting energy into the stuffed shirts of native costume-centric scores like “The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Northanger Abbey,” “Dorian Gray” and the recent WW2 romp of “Dad’s Army,” Mole fills this multiple-season “Selfridge” album with all sorts of wonderful swing from the brass band to Charleston swing and Dixieland rhythm. Exceptionally well-performed and stylistically spot-on, it’s an extensive album that’s sure to delight to fans of classic Le Jazz Hot, especially given its lush orchestral accompaniment. But if you think that jazz is “Mr. Selfridge’s” only department,the surprise here is just how the perky fun becomes high drama with the various business problems and personal tragedies that befall the character and his assortment of employees and highbrow customers. By the end of these gorgeous selections, the effect is one of sweepingly nostalgic heartbreak that could easily accompany a Jane Austen romance. But then, it’s a musical lifeblood that runs through these sorts of TV enterprises that the English do so well, particularly when given composers who know how to play the high and low times from abbeys to department stores.
Having won an Emmy for her blues-inflected score to HBO’s Bessie Smith biopic “Bessie,” Rachel Portman powerfully turns to another legendary progressive black figure from the 1930’s who not only struck a blow for sports integration, but perhaps an even more important once against Fascism’s smug sense of superiority. It’s a far bigger canvas of “Race” that brings out one of Portman’s most exhilarating and emotional scores as she salutes the indomitable spirit of 1936 Olympic runner Jesse Owens, Determined to make his story as vibrant as yesterday’s news, Portman gets right out of the gate with hip-hop southern guitar rhythm, a modern percussive beat energetically joining with electric chords. Skillfully weaving a horn-topped, triumphantly orchestral Americana theme for a figure who embodied a nation’s can-do spirit like no other, especially in face of the prejudice that was lobbed at him by American and Nazi alike, Portman delivers the kind of rousingly inspirational rhythms that befit the universal color of a sports score. For a man who personified lightning-fast speed, Owens is an especially well suited to Portman’s trademarked rhythmic style, as well as her emotional voice for understated string and piano melody. Most often given understatedly dramatic, and costume-clothed subject matter to score, with ok detours into WW2 drama (“Hart’s War”) and conspiracy thriller (“The Manchurian Candidate”), “Race” is particularly welcome in Portman’s cannon for giving her a stadium-sized arena. Its deliberate size allows her music to reach epically rousing heights for all of the effective thematic intimacy of the score’s drama, painting a tremendously effective portrait of a man first, and icon second. But perhaps the most notable music here is the supremely villainous music that fits the ego of a Nazi regime trying to create their twisted version of Rome in an Olympic village, the sound of pure dastardliness matched against noble patriotism that shows Portman could easily score a Captain America movie if given the chance.
. ZOOLANDER 2
When you hear the dark, adrenalin-fueled rhythms, angelic voices and beyond-bombastic brass that make for this album’s first track, you’d think that you were listening to Batman avenge the death of Robin, as opposed to music that accompanies the murder of Justin Bieber. But then, playing the supreme idiocy of the unjustly maligned “Zoolander 2” as the real, superheroic deal is the winning joke of Theodore Shapiro’s hilariously over-the-top, and then some, score. Having last given wonderful Bondian girth to Melissa McCarthy in the similar box office murder of the otherwise awesome “Spy,” Shapiro certainly knows how to play comic foils with all of the percussive-action armor of Iron Man. From Middle Eastern instrumentation to the oh-so tender melancholy of an oh-so-vain hero and sumptuous, sweeping melody, Shapiro delightfully refuses to leave no action scoring cliché unturned, whether its glistening 007 guitar vibes, an apocalyptically blasting chorus, techno-action propulsion that practically falls all over itself or horns trilling so insanely that you might think Elliot Goldenthal had dropped roofies and gone on an orchestral rampage. “Zoolander 2” is a deliriously fun, beyond energetic score, hitting the movie’s self-referential pop culture-skewering spirit with a winking look that makes for a magnum-sized atomic explosion of turn-the-superhero-scoring-speaker-to-11 greatness.
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