September 2012 Soundtrack Picks

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Price: $17.99

What is it?: For better and worse, Paul Thomas Anderson is making movies like no one else out there, beautifully done pictures about the ugliness of the human soul. And he’s discovered composers as confrontational as his subject matter, from the ceaselessly surging strings of Jon Brion’s “Magnolia” to the bizarrely overt percussion of his “Punch Drunk Love.” But nothing resembled the unique milkshake thunderclap of former Radiohead member Johnny Greenwood’s brilliantly experimental approach to “There Will Be Blood,” his at times agonizingly dissonant music capturing the hateful psyche of an oil tycoon. Now Greenwood’s way of playing subtext while outwardly sounding like nothing resembling “typical” film scoring reaches new, mind-bending heights with “The Master,” while also managing to somehow be a bit more conventionally listenable in the bargain.

Why you should buy it?:
“The Master” is literally a score that gets inside its characters’ heads, a musical clash between the jumbled percussion of a sociopathic loner and the orchestral refinement of the imposing man who tries to tame him. Greenwood does a striking job of exposing this psychological contrast as long, classical lines mix with unkempt rhythmic gestures that veer from the hayseed to the Arabic, with both styles further unhinged as a result. When it comes to this odd couple’s mind-bending Q & A sessions, Greenwood’s style fuses John Adams with Claude Debussy, a texture of ethereal transcendence and urgent string rhythms that’s truly hypnotic. While poignantly telling us of the undeniable tenderness between these two antiheroes, the composer’s expressionistic gestures are just as centered on their battle for mental dominance, reflecting one man’s explosive, outward violence and the barely contained boiling insides of his seemingly better-adjusted controller. It’s a brilliant use of counterpoint that reveals slave and Master as two sides of the same coin, even if the latter has the organ airs of godhood. Intimately caught in a melodically surreal world between experimental abstractness and pastoral beauty, Greenwood’s “Master” demands much from the listener in a spellbinding way, while not being off-putting about it.

Extra Special:
This powerfully focused “Master” does give the listener two bits of conventional breathing room with source cues that get across the movie’s spot-on 1950s setting. While Helen Forrest’s “Changing Partners” is a charming period truffle, Ella Fitzgerald’ swooningly lush performance of Irving Berlin’s “Get Thee Behind Me Satan” from “Follow the Fleet” not only complement an ex-sailor’s attempt at sin washing, but also proves to be the most beautifully romantic song to employ the devil’s name.


Price: $15.95

What Is It?: Ennio Morricone has always been one of film music’s most intensely lyrical composers. Indefatigably writing one great theme after the other through over five decades and a few hundred scores. Morricone’s soulful, longing melodies have always come across like songs just waiting to happen, a feeling often reinforced by the wordlessly haunting, female vocals of Edda Dell’Orso. But when it’s come to doing an actual songbook based on Il Maestro’s work, Italian chanteuse Romina Arena has done a yeoman job of making Morricone her own, with a number of beautiful tunes that don’t play so much as film music set to lyrics as they do as transfixing tales of female empowerment, “I Will Survive” the Ennio way if you will.

Why You Should Buy It?:
Internationally known for her crossover work in the “Popera” field, Arena can now consider herself an innovator at transforming score into songs. Sure “Morricone. Uncovered” isn’t the first time this has been attempted, as film soundtracks have long tried to turn their main themes into chart-topping songs upon a picture’s release. Though this album is long after the fact for the films it draws from, Arena’s channeling of the instrumentals into her own sonorous poetry makes the melodies entirely fresh. Better yet, Arena’s choices from Ennio’s boundless repertoire are far from the obvious picks. While American fans will likely be impressed with how well recognizable pieces from “Once Upon A Time in America,” “The Untouchables” and “Casualties of War” tenderly take flight anew, a great deal of the songs draw from Ennio’s European repertoire like “La Piovra,” “Malena” and “Le Professionel,” giving the album a true sense of discovery. Singing in English, Italian and French, Romina Arena’s voice has a truly beautiful quality, as do her own lyrics about broken love, sacrifice and personal perseverance, making the album as much about one woman’s personal journey as her own interpretation of a composer who’s inspired so many artists like her.

Extra Special:
It’s no wonder that Morricone has personally approved Arena’s tribute, which one can easily imagine being done on the concert stage, especially given its impressive production values (recorded at studios the world over) that range from the intimacy of a piano and strings to the emotional rush of a booming orchestra. It’s done very much in the “Popera” tradition of switching between more contemporary uptempo arrangements and classically symphonic renditions, which comes through powerfully with Arena’s duet alongside Marcello Giordani for “Per Amore.” But then, every aspect of “Morricone. Uncovered” impresses with its passion, right down its lavish booklet filled with impressionistic artwork by Melinda Surga. Well worth picking up for Morricone diehards and casual listeners alike, “Morricone. Uncovered” goes beyond a singular composer to reveal just how well film music can be interpreted for a whole new Arena.


Price: $19.99

What is it?: Not only would Bernard Herrmann’s rush hour “wild fandango” usher in one of the greatest opening title sequences in movie history, but it would also serve as the gunshot that signaled the far more frantically suspenseful scores, and pictures to come to feature movie stars outracing fireballs. Yet through the years, the innovative impact and black-humored fun of “North By Northwest” remains undiminished, always kept alive through the numerous soundtrack releases and re-recordings that have paid tribute to the most entertaining chase in the Herrmann / Hitchcock innoncents-on-the-run cannon. Now Intrada releases what will likely be the last CD word on this breathless masterwork, finessing the edits and amassing all the source cues that lead to the way to Mount Rushmore.

Why you should buy it?:
The over-the-top action template of “North by Northwest” couldn’t have found a more rousing voice than Herrmann’s, whose ominous tones serve as sly counterpoint to tell comely hero Cary Grant just what kind of spy-filled mess he’s gotten himself into, throwing him into escalating absurd set pieces with the thematic momentum of a runaway train, car or plane. But it’s a frantic pace that Herrmann can just as easily turn to soft, seductive coolness for ice princess agent Eva Marie Saint. Yet even at its most energetic heights, “North By Northwest” is full of the kind of elegant, orchestral refinement that made Herrmann an equal master of suspense to Hitchcock. If “Vertigo” stands tall as their epic of doomed romance, then “North By Northwest’s” idea of playing a 2,000 mile chase as a cliffhanging dance makes it a lark of breathlessly classic proportions, no more so than when the pounding brass of a near fatal fall takes a sweet tumble into a train compartment’s top bunk, the love theme and action theme simultaneously exploding as the locomotive hurtles into a tunnel for one of the screen’s most hilarious metaphors for vertical action of a whole different kind.

Extra Special:
While such composers as Laurie Johnson and Joel McNeely have waved their batons energetically with the material, there’s absolutely no substitution for the original Herrmann recording, whose landmark status has kept it in better shape through the years than most scores of the era. And now that soundtracks are bouncing between specialty labels like a pack of MacGuffins, Intrada polishes up the already exemplary presentations by Rhino and Film Score Monthly with the best booklet packaging and sound that “North” is likely to get for some time, complete with the entire score, Cole Porter source cues, Andre Previn’s extended easy listening “Fashion Show” and Herrmann himself signing off the affair with a hilarious snatch of one of his legendarily cantankerous freak-outs- the few seconds heard here more than worth making this “Northwest” purchase worth it.


Price: $13.13

What is it?:
Horror scoring seems to be rapidly transforming into some ungodly beast, composed of mutated sound effects, shrieking percussion and shards of what stands for melody. Not that this raging sonic flesh is such a bad thing, especially when in the hands of Tomandandy. Known to their relatives as Tom Hajdu and Andy Milburn, this duo has been responsible for any number of innovative works for the genre, including “The Mothman Prophecies,” “Right At Your Door” and “The Hills Have Eyes.” Now after accompanying Alice against the Umbrella corporation for “Resident Evil: Afterlife,” the composers make that adventure seem positively sedate with the head-mangling, take-no-zombie-beast prisoner thrash of the franchise’s latest entry for “Retribution,” a fist full of anti-matter music that will delight fans and send anyone saner to their stereo with an axe.

Why you should buy it?:
If it’s at all possible for a “Resident Evil” picture to make even less sense, then “Retribution” takes the cake by being a succession of action scenes that are in the continual process of leveling up. Ditto Tomandandy’s work, with its standout cue featured on Milan’s album straight off the bat, as a strong theme combines with equally muscular percussion and orchestra for an arresting flash-backward title sequence. From that point on, it’s head banging insanity as rock-electro thrash emulates various alarm sirens, monster-kata, machine guns and behemoth roars, giving very little rest for the weary listener as one amped-up number after the other is unleashed, as if the whole album was a rave with green creature goo filling the neon glowsticks. There’s also an enjoyable throwback quality to the score for all the sophistication of Tomandandy’s technical work, a retro sound that could be playing for a 70’s synth-scored zombie flick, as heard though 2012 computer gear roid rage. But what ends up making “Retribution” more than a lot of cool music-noise is how Tomandandy are hellbent on playing up the mythic resonance of the unkillable Alice, with chorus and bold orchestral emulations, creating a horror superheroine supreme for an end effect that’s far more exciting than it is particularly scary.

Extra Special:
Far more spooky and relatively sedate is “The Apparition” on Varese Sarabande, which is understandable given that Tomandandy is trying to capture a phantasm that likes to strike from the shadows, as opposed to waves of flesh-crazed zombies. It’s an approach more in line with the duo’s eerily effective score to “The Mothman Prophecies,” with melody a bigger presence in this effective mix of voices, electronic buzzing and a tolling piano, all of which tel us that something from the collective horror imagination has crossed over into our realm. Perhaps an even better title for “The Apparition” could be “The Atmosphere,” as Tomandandy puts more of a build into the materialization of this musical entity, playing a vast, creepily piercing soundscape that soon gives way to all-out percussive terror. It’s a score that will make you reach to pull a blanket over your head, as opposed to wrapping a finger around a machine gun trigger, not that there’s anything wrong with giving the supernatural a blast of hot sampled led.

5) SHANE (2,000 Edition)

Price: $19.98

What is it?:
After releasing Jerry Goldsmith’s entertaining scores to “Stagecoach” and “Rio Bravo,” La La Land Records’ wagon train hits a bona fide western classic with “Shane.” Perhaps no film, or score better personified the lone gunfighter in white than this legendary collaboration between filmmaker George Stevens (“Giant”) and composer Victor Young (“The Quiet Man”). The musician had plenty of experience on the range with scores like “Streets of Laredo” and “Rio Grande.” And while Stevens had served as he’d ridden it as a director since his time spent in 1935 with “Annie Oakley.” Stevens couldn’t have hoped for a more iconic musical soundscape than what Young provided for this intimate tale of a range war, an acclaimed score that finally has been mined in its full glory from the Paramount peak.

Why you should buy it?:
If Lassie packed a six-shooter, it might give you some idea of the tender relationship between Brandon De Wilde’s wide-eyed farmer’s kid and his warm, protective bonding with Alan Ladd’s nice-guy gunfighter who ends up at the family homestead. It’s this sweeping, emotional viewpoint that provides the thematic bedrock for Young’s warm, often bucolic score that reveals more about the soft-spoken good guy’ humanity than the character ever would. Singing with the Americana “Big Country” symphonic sound that would later be taken to market by Jerome Moross (as well as adding a “Varsovienne” dance feel to reflect Young’s Polish heritage), “Shane” is replete with the regional trademarks of harmonica and guitar, a lush tone that’s about the bond between the farmers and the land they’ll fight and die over. What makes “Shane” particularly interesting is that the cattle barons who’ll ultimately bite the dust share that same attachment, and Young is sure to give the musical shades of grey for both the good and bad guys. But when it comes to the steely-eyed Jack Palance, Young’s snarling, brassily menacing music would be just as apropos if it were attached to a monster movie score from the period, making Shane’s heroic orchestra all the more impressive when taking on the black hated desperado.

Extra Special:
“Shane” sounds mighty fine for a gunfighter who’s nearly sixty years down the trail, with La La offering a harmonica version of “Beautiful Dreamer” and film versions of “Ride To Town” and “End Title,” the swelling, heartbreakingly sweet theme ingraining a boy’s cries for Shane to come back into movie history. Top it off with Jim Lochner’s impressively researched liner notes, and you’ve got an album that pays due to this righteously enduring score and film that spelled out why a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do like few other pictures that strapped on six shooters.



His characters are often under intense pressure, with no easy way out in sight. Not that most of Cliff Martinez’s scores sweat their predicaments out in the traditional sense, preferring to speak volumes for the agitated states of bank robbers (“The Underneath”), drug dealers (“Traffic”) and the fate-cursed (“First Snow”) through the tides and ebbs of pulsing, rock-inspired rhythms and suspenseful, dream like sustains. Now the former Chili Pepper has segued from from the monosyllabic getaway man of “Drive” to the far more talkative, and rich antihero of “Arbitrage,” the kind of mogul who prefers to put others in the hot seat. It’s an equally exceptional film that’s very much in the same existential headspace, yet with a sleeker groove that isn’t about to get its hands dirty, let alone kick some guy’s head in. Beautifully contoured to a visual palette of Manhattan elegance that hides a wealth of financial and sexual cheating (as well as a woman’s accidental death), Martinez doesn’t so much turn the screws on Richard Gere’s sexy spin of Bernie Madoff as much as he caresses them. Clearly defined themes float through the score as tension is expressed through a sleek melange of pulses, heartbeats, sharp guitar chords and a Chinese water garden’s worth of bells, all rhythmically combining for the sense of an ethereal noose drawing ever-tighter. “Arbitrage” is proof positive of how smart adult suspense can be even more effective with a hushed, experimental indie whisper as opposed to a traditional orchestral scream, as delivered with Martinez’s transfixing style. Even more explicitly strange in an Asian tinkertoy way is Bjork’s quavering vocals for “I See Who You Are,” with the classy Bossa Nova of Getz, Jobim and Gilberto, Billie Holiday’s lush life vocals and Robi Botos’ lite piano jazz complementing a highly appointed Manhattan ambience that’s rotten to the core.


While better known for the sweeping period sea adventure of “Master and Commander” and the balletic Far East meets West beauty of “Mao’s Last Dancer,” English composer Christopher Gordon exceeds just as well in far more sanguine arenas. From the monolith vampire music of “Daybreakers” to treating the bloodsuckers with the unnerving voice of Lisa Gerrard in the exceptional TNT redo of “Salem’s Lot,” Gordon has shown a distinctive taste for horror. Now this two-fer veers from portentous black humor to insanity, beginning with the trembling strings of “Crawl.” Taking a chamber approach that’s playfully reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann’s most famous score, Gordon makes hiding out during a home invasion into an enjoyable homage. With a lyrical piano and string theme embodying the damsel in distress, the composer has much fun using nerve rending sustains, and string percussion that ranges between stabs and skittering, to poke about the darkness with knife and axe in hand. “Crawl” is stripped down, old dark house stuff that Norman Bates would be happy to stalk to. Gordon goes from stealth to roadrunner speed with “Ward 13,” a very funny short in which a patient does his best elude a bunch of mad doctors. For twelve straight minutes of batshit hilariousness, Gordon throws caution and good taste to the wind for a rush of helter-skelter insanity, throwing Herrmann-isms into kid’s bells and a full tilt grand guignol chase. Yet Gordon has a pretty great theme at the wheel, giving more musical structure to this musical looney tunes bin than you’d think. But then given Christopher Gordon’s pedigree for far more sophisticated stuff, that’s the least of “Ward 13”’s surprises in his growing genre resume.


While Craig Safan impressed with his big-budget 80s orchestral scores for “The Last Starfighter” and “Remo Williams,” the composer was first at home with a smaller sound that particularly befitted the drive-in speakers of red state America during the 1970s- two cases in point being the south-sploitation cult favorites “The Great Smokey Roadblock” and “The Great Texas Dynamite Chase.” First up is a 1976 Henry Fonda vehicle whose title road the coattails of “Smokey and the Bandit” knock-offs, while the film itself was a far more serious trucker flick about facing one’s final run by smashing into a bunch of black and white’s. Suitably not going for anything too exciting given this classic old codger, Safan’s score is laid back and folksy, playing with a bare bones, nicely sentimental orchestra that’s just right for an actor who personified a feisty hometown spirit. But what makes “Smokey” stand out is its wry humor for the guitar, eccentric pickin’ that comes across as being equally suited for slow country escapades as it does a Jewish Klezmer band, though a bit of gospel organ and quotes of “Dixie” firmly place “Roadblock” in the south. At other stylistic directional points, Safan jams the pedal with fusion of jazz, Dobro guitar and military percussion, trying to catch every stylistic signpost from Randy Newman to Aaron Copland on this dust-eating ride. Safan is far more down home and vivacious tossing “Dynamite” for the great, late Playboy centerfold Claudia Jennings. Starting out with a catchy country-jazz funk theme song, “Chase” rolls out a fun pursuit in the roadhouse action spirit of “White Lightning,” albeit a lot less seriously. Horns, ukulele, stride piano, harmonica and banjo keep the hotpants and fuses burning with energetic sass for these bank robbin’ vixens. It’s rollicking redneck exploitation music that shows off Safan’s equal talent at playing good old boys and girls, as he’d later have with spaceships and super vigilantes.


The team of director John Hillcoat and composer-screenwriter Nick Cave have resonated with a raw, innovative energy that’s made such pictures as “The Proposition” and “The Road” anything but the same old outlaw story. The duo’s in-your-face creativity now pays off with triple-proof results for their violently entertaining moonshiner flick “Lawless.” Sure they could have gone for tunes that would have sounded just like the prohibition period. But it’s a contemporary energy that suffuses this song album. Getting off to a bang with the r & b cover of “Fire and Brimstone” by Mark Lanegan, “Lawless” first impresses with a live-fast-die-young hillbilly energy, personified with the raw chords of Cave’s “Burnin’ Hell.” Yet despite the fiery country rock promised by this furious set-up, “Lawless” mostly becomes a series of poetic folk ballads by Ralph Stanley and Emmylou Harris, one old-timer’s weathered voice casting a strumming sense of destiny, while Emmylou Harris poetically expresses a backdrop of beauty and spilled blood, from the spellbound love of “Cosmonaut,” to the violent bond of three brothers’ “Fire in the Blood.” Lanegan contributes more energetic roadhouse numbers with Captain Beefheart’s “Sure ‘Nuff ‘N Yes I Do” and Lou Reed’s “White Light / White Heat” with Willie Nelson contributing a rocking bonus track for “Midnight Run.” These vibrant performances that make for a still-full of “Punk meets Nashville” anachronisms, impactfully showing how modern songs about pleasurable excess are just as fitting in a prohibition context. With Nick Cave’s haunting, rustic sound that ranges between a shimmer and a painful, stiletto scratch across a guitar’s throat chords, the only violation of “Lawless’” album is it only offers one instrumental track of Cave’s innovative score with Warren Ellis, an innovative score that continues to prove them as two of the most genuinely brilliant outlaws on the film scoring scene.


Richard Rodney Bennett, an English composer best know for such beautifully pastoral scores as “Far From the Maddening Crowd” and “Lady Caroline Lamb” got to remind people he’d also scored stuff like “The Witches” when he showed off is darker side again for this 1977 French picture, also known as “The Accuser.” Given a very droll, black comedy about American execs trying to ferret out the anti-capitalist who’s subverting their Gallic branch, Bennett treats their tunnel-filled headquarters like it was a haunted house. Asked by director Jean-Louis Bertuccelli to create music that sounded like the mist on a lake at dawn, Bennett composed an eerily shimmering masterwork of harpsichords, skittering pianos and jazzily plucked strings, melodies that wind their way about the corridors of power with tingling, ominous intent. It’s a striking sound of political paranoia that’s right up there with the work of American conspiracist maestro Michael Small (“The Parallax View”), if just a bit more traditionally melodic given Bennett’s past repertoire. In any case, this limited release of “L’Imprecateur” is a revelation for fans that only know Bennett for music that conjured historical countrysides as opposed to skulking about both the physical, and psychological depths of big international business. Following is another Bertuccelli film score for 1982’s “Lucy On Seine,” a far lower class drama about a young man who ends up involved in a double murder while trying to claw his way up the social ladder. However, a far more promising musical future can be heard for its rising composer Gabriel Yared. Still a ways off from the wind-swept romantic sands of his Oscar winning score to “The English Patient,” Yared’s early works like “Lucy” and “Invitation Au Voyage” are still some of his most haunting and listenable ones, making captivating use of electronics, ethnic instruments and poetic melody. At once gritty and ethereal for “Seine’s” view from the mean streets, Yared also employs cool, lite rock riffs for the guitar and keyboard, all making for an captivating tone poem that elevates the wrong side of the tracks to some dream-like realm, complemented by Anne Calvert’s haunting rendition of his main theme for “L’autre rive.”


For the last several decades, Randall D. Larson has been one of the pre-eminent soundtrack journalists for such magazines as Soundtrack and Cinefantastique, let alone one of the most readable writers in the craft. Larson’s strength has been explaining his appreciation of all genres of movie music in a way that’s approachable for fans without sounding like an academic dissertations for the cultural elite. Larson’s found not only time to review and cover just about every album and their composer, but to also write a few books on the side, the most essential of which now gets turned from one volume into a four-book series that’s likely to stand as the “Lord of the Rings” of score appreciation. First up is “Musique Fantastique.” First published in 1985, “Fantastique” has been re-worked to become the 500-page alpha in the omega of Larson’s thoroughly entertaining and informative 1700 page epic, the material come alive again in Creature Features’ presentation (complete with charming monster-conducting art by Bill Nelson). Covering silent movies like “Metropolis” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” to the songs of “The Muppets Take Manhattan” and “Day of the Dead’s” synth calypso, the author also hits such TV chestnuts as “Captain Scarlett” and “Star Trek,” with all points in between. Larson lucidly covers the scores as he breaks down their creators’ careers, giving a global ear as to how horror, sci-fi and fantasy stylings have evolved from orchestral to electronic expression, all with an enthusiasm and knowledge that’s remained unabated for the author.


Some of the better score re-performances in recent years have been done under the baton of Nic Raine, whose work with Tadlow Music has given vibrant new symphonic life to the likes of Maurice Jarre’s “Lawrence of Arabia,” Dmitri Tiomkin’s “Fall of the Roman Empire” and Franz Waxman’s “Taras Bulba.” But Raine is just as impressive when it comes to conducting his own orchestral music, continuing to prove he’s big in Germany with “Wir Wollten Aufs Meer” – or the “Shore of Hope.” For two Communist-bound dock workers in early 80s East Germany, that title translates to their dreams of sailing beyond the Berlin Wall. As his score charts a course of escape, imprisonment, betrayal and redemption, Raine creates a hugely impressive thematic score. Its driven by a suspense motif who gripping, ostinato pace for ticking percussion will remind astute listeners of such Morricone’s thrillers as “The Untouchables.” But while Raine makes powerful use of his lush, large ensemble, “Shore’s” intimate moments are equally impressive, from a waltzing piano melody that imagines a better life to some of the eeriest use of music box bell percussion outside of a Danny Elfman score. There’s a poetic sense of crushed humanity to “Hope,” a sadness that ultimately soars with hope as his music personifying the shattered emotional bonds of three friends to playing the betrayal of a country against itself. Complete with a gorgeously moving theme song by Poppy Alice, “Shore of Hope” is a beautiful musical gut punch that will hopefully give Raine as much time to spend in his own writing room as he does working magic for other composers.


While more than a few of Zacarias M. De La Riva’s impressive scores are about his decidedly unhappy adventures into Spanish language lands of exorcisms, suicides and serial killers, the composer finally gets a chance to unleash his inner John Williams in a far more family friendly way with “Tad the Lost Explorer,” which offers its “Up”-styled characters by way of Indiana Jones. While it gets off to a fun combination of vaudeville jazz, cliffhanging thrills and jungle percussion that’s reminiscent of Williams’ “Tintin”, most of “Lost Explorer” knows exactly where its stylistically going with reams of gigantically raucous, cliffhanging stuff that puts a surprisingly real sense of danger into the cuteness at hand. Having scored two “Tad” shorts beforehand, you can sense the fanboy passion in Riva’s approach to jam with every vine-swinging, jungle chasing and lost city-finding cue that doubtlessly made him want to become a musician in the first place (thankfully this a Paramount Spain, so he can outrightly quote the “Raiders” melody). And while Riva succeeds with one thrill and spill after the other, the only treasure “Tad” is missing are truly memorable themes to put all of his sweeping musical salutes together. As is, “Tad” plays as a fun sugar high for every kid the world over who imagined himself wearing Dr. Jones’ Fedora, fun adrenalin that’s enthusiastically, and assuredly performed by the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra. No doubt “Tad” would put a smile on Dr. Williams’ face as another of his adventurers sets forth with enthusiasm to spare.


Albert Pyun arguably never had it better than when he made his visually splashy directorial debut thirty years ago with “The Sword and the Sorcerer,” a film that energetically personified the wackier excesses of that titular 80’s genre. One element that made “Sword’s” low budget a virtue was a powerful score by David Whitaker (available on Buysoundtrax), whose rousing music impressed, even when the playing of it didn’t. Flash-forward now to the “Sorcerer’s” sorta follow-up “Tales of an Ancient Empire,” which takes on said kingdom with even far fewer shekels. But at the least, let it not be said that longtime Pyun composing collaborator Tony Riparetti (“Mean Guns”) hasn’t successfully given his all towards putting musical production value into this intended epic. Howlin’ Wolf continues its love for the Pyun efforts of this underrated composer with one of his best works, perhaps made all the more powerful by the fact that Riparetti didn’t have the London Philharmonic at this disposal. The sound of ancient instruments jams with voices, powerful action and evocative atmosphere that certainly conjure a mythical kingdom in the listener’s imagination. Even with the cues taking on surprisingly long quests of running time, Riparetti always keeps the music interesting by combining a modern ethnic action sound with the feeling of an older, adventurous sound. But what really puts metal into this “Kingdom” are Riparetti’s rocking guitar passages. It’s certainly fitting that Kevin Sorbo is the lead actor here, as “Empire” succeeds best as a fun flashback to the late Joel Goldsmith’s underrated heavy metal n’ orchestra score to “Kull the Conqueror,” a combination of thrash and fantasy stylings that one again proves here that musical resourcefulness, talent and a rock background are the three best blades of all.

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, Perseverance, Screen Archives and Varese Sarabande

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