Friday 30 November 2007
It stars John Travolta as Chili Palmer a mob debt collector hitting on Hollywood. Ably supported by Gene Hackman, Rene Russo and Danny DeVito, this tongue in cheek gangster/ romantic comedy lifts the lid on how movies do... or don't get made.
The jazzy soul based score credited to John Lurie is as cool as Chili Palmer and owes a fair debt to Booker T and The MG's who also turn up on the soundtrack along with US3, Morphine and Greyboy. Musically, the Get Shorty soundtrack has less in common with Out of Sight, another Elmore Leonard adaptation and is more in tune with Jamshied Shariff's excellent score for the Nickelodeon feature Harriet The Spy or George S Clinton's swampy score for Wild Things. Each has that widescreen swagger that makes you want to wack up the bass and wear Ray Bans in restaurants.
As a result of the actions of David (Tobey Maguire) and his sister Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon), the Pleasantville population and the environment literally transforms from black and white into colour.
Pleasantville is for me one of those great heartwarming, lump in the throat movies like Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life or Lost Horizon. Apart from the stunning cinematography and an excellent cast, Pleasantville has two threads of great music. The first is an Americana-styled score by Randy Newman while the second is a dream jukebox of early Rock'n'Roll and Jazz classics.
You get some real crackers like Presley's Teddy Bear, Gene Vincent's Be-Bop-A-Lula, Miles Davis' So What, Brubeck's Take Five and Etta James' gorgeous At Last. Also included is Fiona Apple's sonambulistic rendition of the Beatles' Across the Universe and hearing la Apple's whistful vocals and Randy Newman's touching Real Rain fair brings a tear to the eye.
Tuesday 27 November 2007
Sunday 25 November 2007
Filmed in 1968 but not released until 1970 Perfomance was directed by Donald Cammell and Nicholas Roeg and was initially envisioned as a Swinging 60's romp starring Marlon Brando.
With a dramatically re-written script dealing with identity crisis, the lead role eventually went to distinguished actor James Fox who played 'on the run' psychopathic gangster Chas who seeks refuge in the basement of a house owned by former rock star Turner played by an androgenous Mick Jagger - a quantum leap from the wrinkly beknighted roue and corporate huckster of today.
With genuine gangsters turned thesps in the cast, it is rumoured that Fox took part in a real robbery as part of his research into his part and after the troubled production closed, he took a sabbatical from reality in the nether world of heroin addiction. There are also stories that some of the sex scenes were not simulated and footage exists of some of the principals engaged in some onscreen hanky panky.
The soundtrack produced and written by veteran knob twiddler Jack Nitzche (apart from Jagger and Richards' Memo from Turner), is both intriguing and terrifying, being a melange of folk, blues, wailing and primitive electronica. Ry Cooder's distinctive slide guitar is all over the score and his open tuned guitar style clearly made an impression on the Stones and can be detected on much of the band's late 60's and early 70's output.
The stand out track that most Stones fans seek out is of course Jagger's sinister solo spot Memo from Turner. Although the Stones recorded their own version which eventually saw the light on their patchy odds and sods release Metamorphosis, it fades in comparison to the snarling, satanic swagger of the film's original. Other highlights include The Last Poets' proto-rap Wake up Niggers and the scary Turner's Murder, which features Merry Clayton, who provided the soulful vocals for the Stones' Gimme Shelter, wailing over Beaver & Krause's thunderous electronica.
"The only performance that makes it, that makes it all the way, is the one that achieves madness."
I have seldom found a soundtrack collection that is so diverse. The first part encompasses such classic scores as: Things To Come; Casablanca; Ben Hur; Breakfast at Tiffany's; Dr No; A Shot In The Dark and 633 Squadron; while the second part features such cinematic delights as Dr Zhivago; Grand Prix; The Thomas Crown Affair; Out of Africa and The Piano to name but a few.
Unfortunately it appears to be out of print but if you are looking for a comprehensive collection of classic movie music, The Official Cinema 100 Album is an essential addition to any soundtrack collection.
Saturday 24 November 2007
The Demolition Man soundtrack introduced movie audiences to Elliot Goldenthal's off-beat style that came to fruition in Joel Silver's cartoony Batman movies. Goldenthal's signature big brass clashes and complex, dramatic string arrangements are very much in evidence throughout the soundtrack which won him an ASCAP award in 1994 for best original score.
Cutting a slight, stick like figure Barry took to the stage opening the first half of the concert with a majestic Goldfinger, followed by the regal We Have All the Time In The World.
Coming over as a slightly curmugeonly but likeable schoolmaster Barry introduced each movement throughout the night with the occasional anecdote. He certainly had little time for the likes of Duran Duran and A-Ha! Ultimately though he was there to perform and kept the small talk to a minimum. Themes from Zulu, Somewhere in Time, Moviola and Midnight Cowboy followed - the latter accompanied by the harmonica playing of Tommy Morgan who played on the original soundtrack as well as Dances with Wolves which closed the first half of the set. Not before the roof was raised with the stirring Space March. For a cue that was basically underscore for You Only Live Twice, Space March was deservedly a concert highlight along with the sultry Body Heat.
The second half opened with Born Free followed by All Time High and Out of Africa. Chris Botti took the stage to add his distinctive tones to the haunting Remembering Chet and Playing By Heart. A suite from the Beyondness of Things, a sparkling Girl withThe Sun In Her Hair and a medley of Bond themes closed a magical evening of sensational music by one of our greatest living composers. This man deserves a knighthood!
Sunday 18 November 2007
The music has always been a key element of Blade Runner and there have been various versions of the soundtrack over the years, some ‘official’ and some bootlegs. But they have all either been incomplete or have suffered from poor sound quality, until now. Blade Runner Trilogy: 25th Anniversary is a 3CD set which - for the first time - puts all the pieces together, providing the complete music from the film and a lot more besides.
CD 1 features the original and remastered soundtrack as it first appeared in 1994, twelve years after the film was released. The second CD contains all the remaining music from the film that did not appear on the original 1994 soundtrack, plus two bonus tracks ("One Alone" and "Desolation Path"). None of this material has been released before.
The third and final disc will be of real interest to Vangelis fans - as it contains an entire album of newly written material composed by Vangelis to mark the 25th anniversary of Blade Runner. The music is strong and flowing, and retains the dark, atmospheric sense of the original score. There are some intriguing spoken word contributions too, from Ridley Scott, Roman Polanski, Oliver Stone and a host of distinguished actors, personalities and world dignitaries.
Track 2: Blush Response (5': 47")
Track 3: Wait For Me (5': 27")
Track 4: Rachel’s Song (4': 46")
Track 5: Love Theme (4': 56")
Track 6: One More Kiss, Dear (3': 58")
Track 7: Blade Runner Blues (8': 53")
Track 8: Memories Of Green (5': 05")
Track 9: Tales Of The Future (4': 46")
Track 10: Damask Rose (2': 32")
Track 11: Blade Runner (End Titles) (4': 40")
Track 12: Tears In Rain (3': 00")
Track 2: Unveiled Twinkling Space (1': 59")
Track 3: Dr. Tyrell’s Owl (2': 40")
Track 4: At Mr. Chew’s (4': 47")
Track 5: Leo’s Room (2': 21")
Track 6: One Alone (bonus track) (2': 23")
Track 7: Deckard And Roy’s Duel (6': 16")
Track 8: Dr. Tyrell’s Death (3': 11")
Track 9: Desolation Path (bonus track) (5': 45")
Track 10: Empty Streets (6': 16")
Track 11: Mechanical Dolls (2': 52")
Track 12: Fading Away (3': 32")
Track 1: Launch Approval (1': 54")Spoken word: Scott Bolton, Bryce Bolton
Track 2: Up and Running (3': 09")Spoken word: Sir Ridley Scott
Track 3: Mail From India (3': 27")Ney: C. Lambrakis
Track 4: BR Downtown (2': 27?)Spoken word: Oliver Stone, Akiko Ebi, Cherry Vanilla
Track 5: Dimitri’s Bar (3': 52")Spoken word: Akiko Ebi, Oliver Stone, Saxophone: Dimitris Tsakas
Track 6: Sweet Solitude (6': 56")Saxophone: Dimitris Tsakas
Track 7: No Expectation Boulevard (6': 44")Spoken word: Rutger Hauer, Wes Studi, Bhaskar Balakrishnan (Executive Director of the Asian Heritage Foundation), Shobhana Balakrishnan, Laura Metaxa, Sir Ridley Scott, Zhao Yali (Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Cyprus)
Track 8: Vadavarot (4': 14")Spoken word: Irina Valentinova, Florencia Suayan Tacod
Track 9: Perfume Exotico (5': 19")Spoken word: Edward James Olmos
Track 10: Spotkanie Z Matka (5': 09")Spoken word: Roman Polanski reciting excerpts from the poem "Spotkanie z Matka" by Konstanty Ildefons Gaczynski
Track 11: Piano In An Empty Room (3': 37")
Track 12: Keep Asking (1': 29")Spoken word: Bryce Bolton
Saturday 17 November 2007
Benjamin Bartlett's soundtrack for Walking With Dinosaurs is a billion years away from the music that used to accompany Ray Harryhausen's cuddly stop motion antics of yore. Employing the BBC Concert Orchestra, Barlett presents a sumptuous score that echoes the experimental side of Goldsmith, the majesty of Williams and the romantic sweep of John Barry. Giant of the Skies could have easily been from the pen of Out of Africa era Barry, Antarctic Spring could have come from Goldsmith, while Time of the Titans is a fitting counterpart to Williams Jurassic Park theme.
Using the talents of the BBC Concert Orchestra plus sound samples and Indian players, Hooper creates a sweeping soundtrack that skillfully mixes both Indian and Western tones and textures that evoke the vastness and diversity of this fascinating continent.
Despite its Indian setting Hooper avoids the cliched sitar and utilizes flutes, violins, tablas, the otherworldly santoor and the beautiful vocals of Krishna Chakraborty. Land of The Tiger is no balti house background muzak, this is a musical feast to savour.
The soundtrack, provided by DJ David Holmes, is impeccable with classic cuts from the Isley Brothers, Dean Martin, Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo interspersed with dialogue from the movie and Holmes own Fender Rhodes led compositions. Tracks like The Trunk Scene, Tub Scene and No More Time Outs positively ooze the all too evident onscreen sexual chemistry between the movies' two attractive leads.
Out of Sight proved that Elmore Leonard could be brought to the screen in a way his many fans appoved of, George Clooney wasn't just a pretty face, Jennifer Lopez wasn't just a perfume commercial with generously proportioned gluteous maximus and Steve Soderbergh and David Holmes were a winning combination.
Friday 9 November 2007
Immensely popular and violent for the time, these minimalist movies such A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More and the epic The Good the Bad and The Ugly have rightfully become part of movie legend and iconography. Possibly the most famous Spaghetti Western Director was Sergio Leone whose partnership with composer Ennio Morricone set the style and tone for the entire Spaghetti Western genre. Morricone's influence continues today with Guy Zerafa's Spaghetti Western style score for Exiled
Most people with even a passing interest in the genre will be familar with Morricone's signature Spaghetti style. Twangy guitars, whistling, big strings, trumpets, bells, organs and almost wordless vocal interjections. I chanced upon this slightly inaccurately titled compilation called Western Spaghetti which is a fair introduction to certain aspects of Spaghetti Western music and Morricone, though quite why Hugo Montenegro's Man From UNCLE Theme is included is beyond me! Still any collection that includes A Fistful of Dollars, the stupendous Paying off Scores and the haunting Harmonica Man from Once Upon a Time In The West is alright by me.
Unlike Shaiman's shamelessly entertaining danceathon which features original compositions, Waters' Hairspray, apart from Rachel Sweet's gloriously Spectoresque title tune, uses actual dance tunes from the 60's. And what a collection it is. Some are so obscure, that they could only have come from John Waters' personal record collection.
It's hard to pick the standout tunes because virtually every one is either a dance floor shaker or a soulful smooch. If I had to choose I'd go for Ray Bryant's The Madison Time, The Ikettes' I'm Blue (The Gong Gong Song) and The Five Du-Tones' Shake A Tail Feather.
There's no question of whether one version of Hairspray is better than the other as they both have their magical moments. While Waters' original will remain a much loved 80's movie, Shaiman's musical could well become this generation's "Grease".
For those who don't know, here are a few 'Hairspray' facts:
- Jerry Stiller appears in both versions of Hairspray and is Ben Stiller's dad.
- Debbie Harry, Sonny Bono and Ric Ocasek (from 80's band The Cars) appear in the original.
- Talkshow Queen, Rikki Lake plays Tracy in the original.
- James Marsden who plays Corny Collins in the musical plays Cyclops in The X-Men.
- John Waters cameos in the musical as the 'Flasher who lives next door' in the opening song.
Thursday 8 November 2007
Part crime jazz, porno pop, shock rock and alt. rock, this slightly schizophrenic collection from 1998 mixes 10 tracks of dubious taste and quality, and 12 sexy boogaloo tracks from such artists as Jerry van Rooyen, Peter Thomas and Gert Wilden. There's big beats galore, parping brass, moody Moogs, hot Hammonds, shimmering sitars and furious fuzz guitar. A word of warning though, things do get a little scatalogical on track 13 and things don't really recover afterwards.
The change is quite sudden and I can only describe the experience as being akin to watching a cute nature programme on TV about Puffins or Meerkats and then someone comes in unexpectedly and switches over to the Kerrang channel and hits you over the head with a frying pan.
That aside Crippled Champions features some great music (provided you programme your CD player to only play tracks 1-12). Stand out tracks are Jerry van Rooyen's The Great Bank Robbery, Gert Wilden's Rolf Torring and Doris Troy's earth shattering opener Kill Them All. Play it loud at your next orgy!
In 2006 John Williams was interviewed by the BBC's Francine Stock. During the interview broadcast on BBC Radio's Film Programme he discusses his music, his influences and his close relationship with director Steven Spielberg.
Subject to official confirmation, the new release will be a deluxe set, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Blade Runner movie. Described as a three CD package titled "Blade Runner Trilogy", the set is said to start with the 1994 official Blade Runner soundtrack. The second disk will feature unreleased music from the film (bootlegs excepted click here for details), as well as unreleased music made for the movie at the time. Finally, the third disk is expected to be Vangelis' new album, inspired by and thematically linked to Blade Runner.
Confirmation and more details will be coming soon. It's expected that "Blade Runner Trilogy" will be released in December. Well that's my Christmas present sorted :)
Wednesday 7 November 2007
The Bedazzled soundtrack certainly deserves its fame - the classico/jazz main title theme, Lillian Lust, The Millionaire and the Ying and Yang pop of Love Me and Bedazzled fill me with enertia.
The diminutive Dud was so much more that the cuddly and cute comedic foil for genius satirist Peter Cook's acerbic wit. Classically trained Moore was an established name in the London jazz scene with the Dudley Moore trio comprising Moore on piano, Chris Karan on Drums and Pete McGurk on Bass. Evidently Moore taught himself the rudiments of jazz in about 30 minutes after attending an Errol Garner concert.
In addition to a regular jazz gigs, the Dudley Moore trio provided the musical interludes on Cook and Moore's hugely popular Not Only But Also TV Show. In 1965, Decca released The Other Side of Dudley Moore a stunning debut with a profound Oscar Peterson / Errol Garner influence and featured many of the compositions performed on the show including the melancholic Sad One For George, the stormy Sooz Blooz and a slinky My Blue Heaven. The album was issued on CD with two extra tracks under the title Authentic Dud Vol.2 which was unfortunately withdrawn due to copyright issues.
Without doubt, it was his partnership with Peter Cook that put Dudley Moore's name on the map followed by his lucrative career in Hollywood culminating in a sad demise in his latter years. However, there was more to Dud and thankfully his musical legacy lives on in the Bedazzled soundtrack and on the BBC Radio Four panel game Quote Unquote where his Duddly Dell composition provides the theme music.
Sunday 4 November 2007
Even if the Black Dahlia may be slightly lacking as a movie, there is much to enjoy in Mark Isham's soundtrack, which at times echoes elements of Jerry Goldsmith and the melancholy of John Barry's later work.
Many years ago my mum took me to see Ivanhoe at our local fleapit on its upteenth reissue, and I always remember the kids in the audience (including myself) getting very excited by the battle sequences even if some of the Saxons and Normans were plainly fighting with very floppy rubber swords!
Veteran composer Mauric Jarre supplied the soundtrack. Instead of reflecting the somewhat bucolic non-technical nature of the Amish by using traditional acoustic instruments, Jarre provided an entirely synthesiser based electronic score. The film's main title and the Building of the Barn are stunning examples of how well Jarre's soundtrack works. In less sensitive hands this juxtapostion could have been jarring (no pun intended). It is perhaps because Maurice Jarre as a trained classical musician regards a synthesiser in terms of the sounds it can produce as opposed to its technology thus injecting warmth and humanity into a pure electronic instrument. It's a gift that only a few other musicians like Vangelis have mastered. So watch the movie and let the sonic textures of Maurice Jarre's lush score for Witness envelop you.
Saturday 3 November 2007
Orchestrated by Hugo Friedhofer and Milan Roder, Korngold's lush and romantic compositions virtually write the book on leit motif based soundtracks. Each character and scene has its own memorable theme. Who can listen to Capturing Sir Guy without seeing Robin and his Merry Men literally swinging from the trees of 'Sherwood Forest' to do battle the villainous Sir Guy of Gisborne.
There are possibly three classic soundtracks from Hollywood's Golden era that the serious collector must own. Korngold's Robin Hood is most definitely one of them.
Sad fact for movie anoraks #1 - Maid Marion's white horse in the movie was Roy Rogers' legendary four-legged friend Trigger.
Sad fact for movie anoraks #2 - James Cagney was Warner's original choice for the role of Robin
Starring his then current squeeze Anne Parillaud, Nikita was a triumph. It was cool sexy and above all exciting. It also continued Besson's relationship with his musical partner, composer Eric Serra who provided the score for The Big Blue, Leon and The Fifth Element among others.
Throughout the soundtrack, Serra's signature (pochhhhh) percussion and fretless bass pervade the score as well as his Peter Gabriel style vocals. However it's when he chills out that things really take off. The Free Side and First Night Out are simply stunning and while they frame the movie visuals beautifully, they stand on their own.
It was perhaps on the strength of Serra's Nikita that he got the gig to score the first Brosnan Bond movie Goldeneye. Alas his first stab at the sacred 007 shrine was not a success, in fact even though it's recognisable as a Serra soundtrack alas everything that was good about Nikita is sadly missing from Goldeneye. But don't let the Bond bomb colour your opinion, indulge yourself in the bombe surprise of La Femma Nikita
The soundtrack for the film by Canadian guitarist Ben Charest is great fun and mixes songs and instrumentals that hint at Benny Goodman, Django Reinhardt, Lalo Schifrin, Surf Music, French Chansons, Musique Concrete, Jacques Louissier to name but a few. C'est magnifique
In all seriousness, Diva was, and remains a joy to watch. Vladimir Cosma's stupendous soundtrack is the perfect accompaniment and features the titanic tonsils of real life Opera diva Wilhemenia Wiggins Fernandez and Cosma's own thoughtful compositions, the creme de la creme being the appropriately named Sentimental Walk. The Diva soundtrack is a reminder that not all films in the Eighties had to have the obligatory 'exploding helicopter' sequence and a song by Kenny Loggins.