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Publisher and Editor:

Roger L. Hall

Contributing Writers:

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Steve Vertlieb


 

 

Capsule Reviews 2009

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Capsule Reviews 2009

 

 

 

ANGELS & DEMONS
9 Tracks (Playing Time = 54:26)

 

Original score composed, arranged and produced by Hans Zimmer.
Additional music by Lorne Balfe and Artl Obvarsson. Ambient Music Design by Mel Wesson. Orchestration: Bruce Fowler. Other music arranged by Julian Kershaw. Synth Programming by Matthew Margesson, Howard Scarr, Jacob Shea and Noah Sorota. Music Soloists: Hector Pereira, guitar; Martin Tillman, cello; Ryeland Allison and Satnam Rangotra, percussion, Hans Zimmer, synthesizers. Orchestra conducted by Nick Glennie-Smith. Music Recorded and Mixed by Alan Myserson.

Sony Classical 88697-52096-2

Rating: * (Poor)

Hans Zimmer continues to run Hot and Cold. He has done some very good scores like CRIMSON TIDE and THE LAST SAMURAI. But then he turns some very bad ones, like this release.

I really enjoyed his score for THE DA VINCI CODE and named it to my Best of the Year for 2006. What went wrong on this one? Was it too many composers and arrangers involved in compiling the music? Or was Hans Zimmer afraid to write a memorable theme again as he did in THE DA VINCI CODE?

This soundtrack opens with extremely loud rhythmic patterns and a screaming chorus that sounds like Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" on steroids! And it goes on for far too long as well. Much of this forgettable score sounds too mechanical in its repeated rhythmic patterns with synthesizers and chorus. There is far more of the menacing variety of music in this score than the heavenly kind. The excellent violinist Joshua Bell is mostly wasted on this soundtrack with only a few solos, such as on "Science And Religion" (track 5) and "Election By Adoration" (track 8). All the composers, arrangers, synth programmers and soloists are listed but no mention is made of the chorus and orchestra, who must have really earned their pay with all the mind--numbing rhythmic exercises they had to perform. The quote of "Chevaliers De Sangreal" (track 9) from THE DA VINCI CODE hardly makes up for all the screaming chorus and ponderous pounding percussion that preceded it.

To sum up, this soundtrack is not recommended unless you enjoy being stupefied with loud mindless repetition. What a waste of talent!

-- Roger Hall, 30 May 2009

 

CULT CUTS: MUSIC FROM THE MODERN CINEMA



18 Tracks (Playing Time = 63:20)

Performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by James Fitzpatrick; London Music Works, National Youth Jazz Orchestra.
Release Co-ordination: David Stoner and Peter Compton. Mastered by Rick Clark. Art Direction and Design: Damen Doherty.

Silva Screen CD

Rating: **1/2 (Okay)

Silva Screen has released many outstanding compilations of score themes but this is not one of their better efforts.

It appears to be playing cutesy, first with the CD title, and then with the tracks themselves which emphasize violent themes. Or to put it more directly -- these themes are the "cuts" -- get the pun? But some ( most?) of these themes have been "cuts" on previous Silva collections, AMERICAN BEAUTY, THE FOUNTAIN, and ROAD TO PERDITION among them. The performances by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by James Fitzpatrick (tracks 1, 3, 6, 12-15 are all quite acceptable, while the ones with the London Music Works (tracks 2, 10-11,16-18 and London Ensemble (tracks 8-9) and National Youth Jazz Orchestra (tracks 4-5) are less impressive. Among the best tracks are the first one ("Twisted Nerve" by Bernard Herrmann) from KILL BILL, and Main Theme (track 7) from Jerry Goldsmith's great score for CHINATOWN. The information on the CD foldout isn't complete. Track 15 ("The Poet Acts") from THE HOURS fails to mention that the score was composed by Philip Glass. It also seems that films like THE HOURS and THE LAST EMPEROR (track 14) could hardly been considered as cult films. In fact, both of those tracks are the best of the lot on this CD.

This CD seems like another effort to cash in on violent films, none of which have particularly memorable themes. This isn't an essential collection, unless you want to wallow in mostly bloody bad "cuts."

-- Roger Hall, 30 March 2009

 

 

 

Editor's Choice:
Best of the Month for January 2009

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (2008)
2 CDs
Disc One, 23 Tracks (Playing Time = 60:10)
Disc Two, 23 Tracks (Playing Time = 52:02)

This 2 CD set has received a Sammy Award for Best New Film Score.

Original score composed, conducted and produced by Alexandre Desplat.
Orchestrations by Conrad Pope, Alexandre Desplat, Philip Klein, Erich Lundborg, Joseph Newlin, Nan Schwartz, Clifford Tasner.

Concord CRE-3123402

Rating: **** (Superlative)

This 2 disc set offers a beautiful flowing soundscape for this fascinating film journey of Benjamin Button, nicely portrayed by Brad Pitt and also Cate Blanchett as Daisy. Unlike the loud, noisy soundtracks of recent years, this one never assaults your eardrums with ponderous percussion or bombastic brass. Instead Desplat's score is lilting and lightly sensuous in its themes, at times with moments of melancholy, as in track 6 ("Meeting Again"). There are many cues that provide a sense of love and caring, such as track 14 ("Sunrise on Lake Pontchartrain") with floating strings and a celeste and a sax delicately adding their voices to accompany the mood.

The second disc has a diverse collection of vintage music with brief comments from Benjamin Button between the tracks. Among the jazz and pop artists are: Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra, featuring the legendary Bix Beiderbecke; Preservation Hall Jazz Band; Louis Armstrong; Sidney Bechet; and Perez Prado and His Orchestra. There are also a few pop songs, like "That's How Rhythm Was Born" by The Boswell Sisters, and The Platters with "My Prayer." Also a few classical pieces such as Robert Schumann's "Arabesque for Piano in C Major" and "Bethena (A Concert Waltz)" by Scott Joplin. All of this source music is well chosen and fits the settings perfectly.

A most attractive CD package with two discs sensibly separated and providing a most pleasant listening experience. Alexandre Desplat's sensitive and well paced score fits the film beautifully and helps keep the focus on this fascinating journey through a life.

This is a "curious case" of a diverse yet highly seductive soundtrack release.

Highest Recommendation.

-- Roger Hall, 30 January 2009

 

 

 

TRANSYLVANIA 6-5000 / KORGOTH OF BARBARIA [Soundtrack]

Transylvania 6-5000 (1985)/ Korgoth the Barbarian (2006)

 

Music composed by Lee Holdridge

20 Tracks (Playing Time = 42:04)

Album produced by Lee Holdridge and James Nelson. Score performed by the Zagreb Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lee Holdridge (TRANSYLVANNIA 6-5000). Orchestrations by Ira Hearshen. Main title orchestrated by Lee Holdridge. Synthesizer performance of “Pennsylvannia 6-5000”, written by Carl Sigman and Jerry Gray, by Wandy Waldman and Zlatko Tanobi. Music supervised by Alfu Kabiljo. Music edited by Nick Washing and Ken Johnson. Recording engineered by Miaden Skalec. Recorded at Lisinski Concert Hall, Zagreb, Yugoslavia. Re-mixed at Soundcastle Studios, Los Angeles, California. KORGOTH THE BARBARIAN recorded by Robert Irving in Woodland Hills, CA. Music performed by Tim Bryson, guitar; and Robert Irving, keyboards. Album digitally edited and mastered by James Nelson at Digital Outland. CD Art Direction by Mark Banning.

BSX Records 8850

Rating: ***

Limited edition of 1000 copies.

Lee Holdridge’s music is woefully underrepresented on disc and BSX has now corrected this mildly with the score for this mostly awful horror comedy parody starring Jeff Goldblum and a host of familiar 1980s faces. Try as it might to connect with Universal horror films of the 1950s, it tends to be more campy and its familiarity is due mostly to its seemingly non-ending appearances on cable after its release in 1985.

Holdridge’s score for TRANSYLVANIA 6-5000 is cast in the classic orchestral horror score mode filled with wonderful melodic ideas and gothic chiller sounds. The “Main Title” music moves from this classic sound to an almost pops-like hint at the 1940’s Glenn Miller hit “Pennsylvania 6-5000” (itself appearing in a couple of spots in the score, including a synth version). This was actually dropped from the film, one of many missteps by the director/producers. But the score itself moves beautifully through faux Hungarian gypsy music (“Madame Moravia”) to exciting churning action music (“Fight and Escape from the Lab”) always cast in a favorable nod to the Hans Salter scores of old with perhaps a little Hammer horror musical sound thrown in for good measure. A beautifully rich lyric theme appears as well in “Lupi’s Daydream.” The score is a close cousin to John Morris’ work on YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, both scores recalling Universal horror films and their music. Holdridge’s orchestral writing throughout constantly maintains interest and is a welcome addition to the film music catalogue.

The disc is padded with a midi-realized (with additional guitar and keyboard work) score for a Cartoon Network pilot from 2006, KORGOTH OF BARBARIA. The score mixes thrash/heavy metal guitars with the fantasy orchestral sound throughout its 10 minute playing time. It is a definite left-turn from the earlier score which may appeal more to younger fans. Either way one generation will be introduced to the versatility of Holdridge’s music, though one wishes that another of the composer’s earlier scores had been included to pad out a rather meager disc otherwise.


---Steven A. Kennedy , 11 June 2009

 

 



Film Music Books

 

The updated 3rd edition of
A Guide to Film Music
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Ratings and Past Issues

 

Ratings for CDs and DVDs:

**** = Superlative (Highest Recommendation)

***1/2 = Very Good

*** = Good

**1/2 = Okay

** = Barely Passable

* = Poor

The Special Merit CDs are chosen at any time during a month for outstanding overall production of a soundtrack or compilation.

The Editor's Choice - Best of the Month designation is for those CDs that are singled out for their excellence. They are chosen anytime within a given month and may not be chosen every month.

Past Issues:

2008 (Volume 10)

Number 1 (Winter)

Number 2 (Spring)

Number 3 (Summer)

Number 4 (Winter))

2007 (Volume 9)

Index to All Reviews (January - December)

Number 1 (January - February)

Number 2 (March - April)

Number 3 (May - June)

Number 4 (July - August)

Number 5 (September - October)

Number 6 (November - December)

 

2006 (Volume 8)

Index to All Reviews (January - December)

Number 1 (January - February)

Number 2 (March - April)

Number 3 (May - June)

Number 4 (July - August)

Number 5 (September - October)

Number 6 (November - December)

 

1999 - 2005

(Volumes 1 - 7, No longer available)

 

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