Soundtrack Picks: “SHIN GODZILLA” is the top soundtrack to own for November, 2016
Soundtrack Picks: “SHIN GODZILLA” is the top soundtrack to own for November, 2016
Also worth picking up: FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, FRIGHT NIGHT, HACKSAW RIDGE, HORROR CASTLE, LUKE CAGE, THE NIGHT OF, NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, THE SERPENT, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and many more!
To Purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD cover
THE TOP PICKS
1) FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF / LESS THAN ZERO
What Is it?: Whether spread onto the whitebread upper class suburbs of Chicago or the exclusive mansions of Beverly Hills, two impactful 80’s soundtracks showed that they could rock youthful ennui with alt. pop music and mature symphonic sweep. Now La La Land, a baby boomer label if there ever was one, releases these two superior classes in youthful musical contrast with the long-awaited, ageless albums of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Less Than Zero,”
Why Should You Buy It?: Writer-director John Hughes may have been a positively over-the-hill 34 year old when he made the first of his teen classics with 1984’s “Sixteen Candles,” but as evinced by the songs by The Stray Cats, Annie Golden and Patti Smith on that film’s still-to-be CD-ized mini LP, few directors working in the bubblegum genre had as much good bubblegum movie taste in being simultaneously old-school and cutting edge. Hughes’ subversiveness reached its apex with 1986’s ultimate hooky player, a wonderful wise ass represented by his decade-defining mix tape of classic kitsch and British-centric new wave energy. It was certainly a tangled cassette ribbon of rights to get the likes of Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Yello, Wayne Newton and The Dream Academy that took three decades to unravel, but the inventive energy of these trend-setting tunes are just as much catchy fun with the long-awaited CD premiere of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” But most importantly, they embody a musical character in the same way (if less seriously) in the same way that director Mike Nichols’ used Simon and Garfunkel to define the angst of “The Graduate’s” Benjamin Braddock. Except “Ferris’” whitebread WASP is totally assured of his future and just wants to kick it, an energy to outwit adult authority that’s captured in the hyperbeat, insanely sampled “Love Missile” and the Yello’s hilariously suggestive “Oh Yeah.” New wave 1950’s energy runs through The Flowerpot Men’s “Beat City” and Zapp’s “Radio City.” But for all of the kinetic energy of Ferris’ English beat accented escapades, my personal favorite tracks are The Dream Academy’s “”Please, Please Please Let Me Go” and “The Edge of Forever.” With gentle guitar rhythms and organ guiding the truants through The Chicago Museum of Art, and the other tune promising that Ferris will indeed mature into Sloane’s husband-to-be, these song touchingly reach into the trio’s vulnerability and hopes for the future. But the instrumental importance of Hughes’ frequent composer Ira Newborn’s work also can’t be understated in its often over-the-top hilarity. For if the songs are Ferris’ fun time, then Newborn is the manipulative schemer. His work has the knowing orchestral lushness of a sunny TV family sitcom from the days of black and white. Segueing at a Carl Stalling minute from alarmed, principal-on-hold suspense to militaristic marches, swaggering Vegas big band, Bugs Bunny pizzicatos, doo wop and polka, Newborn captures “Ferris’” pop culture humor like a stream or channel-changing consciousness, with the overall bombast he’d soon give to the “Naked Gun” features. Most importantly, Newborn is equally adept at creating his own distinctive pop rhythms to effortlessly jam with the songs. Filled with nearly every tune that “Ferris” cult following has been salivating for, including snooty restaurant source, baseball organ and the marching band version of “Twist and Shout,” “Bueller’s” soundtrack day is finally here in terrific style, exceptionally produced by Dan Goldwasser and Neil S Bulk, with Tim Grieving’s extensive, excellent liner notes featuring new, insightful interviews from such soundtrack band mates as music supervisor Tarquin Gotch to editor Paul Hirsch and Hughes’ son James on how the DJ filmmaker put together the ultimate soundtrack mix tape.
Extra Special: No mainstream Hollywood composer has so beautifully balanced experimental funk with soaring, lush orchestration as Thomas Newman, the scion of a film scoring family whose humble musical beginnings were spent in bands and writing the funky beat-driven scores of such youth-oriented comedies as “Revenge of the Nerds” “Desperately Seeking Susan” and “Real Genius.” Newman’s way of combining his hip 80’s rhythms and his father Alfred’s 50’s symphonic swoon never met more beautifully than in 1987’s “Less Than Zero.” Ostensibly a time-old don’t do drugs fable, “Zero’s” predestined fate was told with uncommon, color-gelled visual style and somber maturity by “Another Country” director Marek Kaneivska, who should have had a far bigger career after his Hollywood debut. For a film with inexorable tragedy, Newman created haunting romantic themes full of sweeping regret, an approach perfect for hopelessly rich and jaded brat packers who fill their lack of parental love with cocaine and fast cars. It’s richly melodic despair that makes for some of Newman’s most strikingly heartbreaking themes. Yet as opposed to a straight-up string sound, Newman instills his distinctive way of blending futuristic electronics into a mesmerizing wall of sound, fashioning samples that are every bit as cool as the Beverly Hills architecture and its neon streets. Set at Christmastime, Newman employs bell percussion that only captures the hollowness of the holiday, but the sound of little children lost for all of their hip affectations. Given “Zero’s” memorable soundtrack filled with the likes of The Bangles take on “Hazy Shade of Winter” and Public Enemy’s “it’s Christmastime in Hollis Queens,” Newman draws on his own progressive rock background to give the score a dreamy, guitar vibe that casts a U2-like spell as it drives into the desert of lost innocence. Few “teen” movies were so haunting, or emotionally impactful during the era, and Thomas Newman’s gorgeously wrenching, soothingly anguished score for “Less Than Zero” is a thing of haunted beauty.
2) FRIGHT NIGHT (Song Soundtrack)
What is it?: After too long an absence, Perseverance Records rises back to life with the first-ever CD release of one of the 80’s cheekiest, and most delightfully fanged horror soundtracks for 1985’s “Fright Night.” Sure the decade offered such great rock-and-pop fueled song albums “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4,” “The Lost Boys,” “Maximum Overdrive” and “Trick or Treat,” but few were as well tailored to the tastes of Jerry Dandridge, a vampire who loved the nightlife, as well as the oddball rock rhythms of the teen horror geeks out to prove his existence.
Why should you buy it?: The enduring appeal of “Fright Night” comes from how nimbly writer-director Tom Holland, along with music supervisor David Chackler, walked the tightrope between humor and horror, an effectiveness that its song album exemplified right off the bat with the J. Geils Band’s spooky-ooky title track. Already a band with a sense of humor from such songs as “Love Stinks” and “Freeze Frame,” the Boston-based group was a perfect choice, with its howling, syncopated chorus, gnarly synths and catchy beat carrying lyrics that represent the hapless voice of Charley Brewster, the kid who cried vampire. But then, just about every song in “Fright Night” was written for the actual movie, which gave its tunes the power of actually commenting on the action and characters. Spark’s catchy, devilish chorus reminds Brewster that “The Armies of the Night” are coming for him, while 80s fixture Devo’s always playfully ironic beat further compounds his girl troubles. Proving heroic, romantic energy is White Sister’s Journey-like ballad “Save Me Tonight,” while jukebox 50’s energy blasts through the Fabulous Fontaine’s “Boppin’ Tonight.” But “Fright Night’s” musical centerpiece belongs to its club seduction scene as Jerry puts the Studio 54 moves on Brewster’s ammorata Amanda, her dance with an invisible man given burning cool new wave licks with Ian Hunter’s “Good Man in a Bad Time,” a sort of more accessible Bauhaus-styled, if way peppier Goth-rock number, brilliantly cut to Dandridge’s dance moves. Disco sensation Evelyn “Champagne” King provides the electric groove of the continuing dance, and rising passion of “Give It Up” as Jerry and Amanda’s moves veer into dirty dancing territory, only to be followed by Dandridge’s hair metal fury of having Charlie cut in to his dance floor seduction with Steve Plunkett’s “You Can’t Hide the Beast Inside.” They’re songs whose apropos lyrics sing out the intense combination of terror and attraction that marks for one of the era’s coolest choreographed scenes that gets down with a vampire’s rhythmic allure.
Extra Special: Where most of these song-driven albums would relegate one instrumental cue to the end of the “B” side (and you’ll need to unearth Intrada’s “Fright Night” score album from Ebay to hear its score), composer Brad Fiedel was able to perform his love theme “Come To Me,” adding his voice, and lyrics to Dandridge’s memorably seductive theme. Perseverance’s mastering truly swings for the undead cult of “Fright Night,” with horror music specialist Randall D. Larson showing that he has as much flair for describing song albums as he does score ones with his new interviews with Holland and Chackler on creating an album that was thoughtful fang drop as opposed to a cash-in needle one when it came to its songs.
3) LUKE CAGE
What is it?: Where the mainly PG13 Marvel movie Universe has a rousing orchestral-electric sound that’s most definitely super heroic, their non-costumed cousins on Netflix help to make up for what they might lack in an epic music budget with an edgier, R-rated vibe, John Paesano has applied captivatingly bleak, radar-sharp percussion to “Daredevil,” while Sean Callery just won an Emmy for his neo-noir approach for “Jessica Jones.” But leave it to a brother Defender to call on the most tunefully audacious outfit of them all when it comes to the team of Ali Shaheed Muhammed and Adrian Younge’s take on “Luke Cage.” Sure the show has gone to great pains to transform Harlem’s comic book Hero for Hire into a way more altruistic, non-charging good guy who goes so far as to throw shade on his original costume during his origin story episode. But if this show is going out of its way to avoid the character’s Blaxploitation heritage (although throwing in a “Sweet Christmas” for fans’ sake), Muhammed and Younge go full 70’s with a throwback, funky approach that at first might be WTF, but then grows on Luke Cage’s exploits with all of the soul brother power of the yellow jacket and metal headband he refuses to wear.
Why should you buy it?: Muhammed’s movie and TV street cred is as a copious songwriter for “Crooklyn,” “Beverly Hills Cop III” and “Notorious,” while Young was both the picture editor, and composer of the hilarious spoof “Black Dynamite.” Except in “Luke Cage,” he’s playing those John Shaft-isms for real in a show that’s loud and proud about being unapologetically African-American, while still appealing to a way broader Marvel demographic. But beyond just breaking out the Hammond organ, wah-wah guitar and cooing voices, the musical duo have gone for something even crazier in their instrumentations. It’s rare that you get any superhero score so firm in its retro intentions when just about everything is a muscular fusion of samples, strings and brass. But Muhammed and Young stick to their guns for a bulletproof cat that refuses to carry a piece, and the effect is just a bit jarring. But soon enough, “Luke Cage” fits comfortably into those stylistic duds, which turn out have way many colors beyond “Shaft,” “Superfly,” “Trouble Man” and Younge, including Spaghetti Western showdowns, lush, John Barry-esque 007 strings and Eric Serra “La Femme Nikita” beats as mixed with wacky 80’s action-exploitation synths. Much like The RZA’s martial arts-inspired take on “Ghost Dog” and “The Man With the Iron Fists,” Muhammed and Younge are soulfully hipping up a bow down before seemingly unbeatable odds makes him way better suited for George Reeves’ Superman costume than Luke Cage might want to admit.
Extra Special: While a CD release would have been nice for old time’s sake, this 51-track digital album offers a dazzling amount of listening cool that pretty much covers the thirteen-episode run. Songs are very much part of this Power Man’s fabric, and “Luke Cage” offers choice tracks that sing with a soulful, old school spirit, including Raphael Saadiq’s “Good Man” and Charles Bradley’s “Ain’t it a Sin, with Aiden Younge’s “Stop and Look” creating a cool, criminal burn for Cottonmouth’s ersatz Cotton Club. Given how often the old school urban groove is played for cheeky humor, it’s nice to have Muhammed and Young stand up tall for the real, super-powered soul deal in “Luke Cage,” a Power Man with a musical identity as distinctive as any God of Thunder or super rich Iron Man.
4) SHIN GODZILLA
What is it?: Since he (or some say she) first rose from the sea off Japan, Godzilla has laid waste to Tokyo and its environs with extreme prejudice in thirty films (and counting) over thirty plus years. In that time, The Big G has fought equally giant moths, dragons, cicadas and a prawn. Numerous composers captured his homegrown battles with an equally impressive range, from the lumbering marches that Akira Ifukube first defined “Godzilla” with to Riichiro Manabe’s 60’s psychedelia for “Godzilla vs. Hedorah to gaijin Keith Emerson’s prog rock rhythms in “Godzilla: Final Wars.” But perhaps no musician has faced the truly unique challenge of Shiro Sagisu when looking up at “Shin Godzilla” (aka “Godzilla Resurgence”). For the first time in a franchise that’s continually rebooted itself, Godzilla is imagined as a massive public nuisance in a satirical, realpoliitk approach that might define a Japanese version of “The Office,” with an epic cast of indecisive bureaucrats running from one meeting to the next to figure out how to solve a problem like Godzilla. From the monster’s decidedly un-Godzilla like first appearance as a kind of cute turkey thing befitting a Hyao Miyazaki film, this is definitely not your typical Godzilla picture, especially given its insanely talky structure that starts off as energetic fun before becoming stupefyingly boring. Yet leave it to a constantly mutating score that’s unusual in all of the best ways to work throughout – perhaps the most memorable B.G. soundtrack at that since Akira Ifukube raised him marching from the depths.
Why should you buy it: Shiro Sagisu is best known for his work on the phenomenally successful anime series “Neon Genesis: Evangelion,” from which “Shin Godzilla’s” dramatic co-director Hideaki Anno hails – though one wishes his viz effects other half Shinji Higuchi (“Attack on Titan”) would have been way busier behind the camera here. Colorful, explosive spectacle is something that Sagisu is certainly familiar with, especially given his awesomely batshit scores for the unfortunately maligned live action “Titan” movies (whose music has also been put out by Milan Records). But if the sight of Godzilla-sized naked man things cannibalizing people made “Titan” particularly outrageous, “Shin’s” great effort to play the reality of a city-stomping lizard encourages a more artistic approach from Sagisu, his music conjuring the sheer, terrifying majesty of staring up at a skyscraper-sized behemoth as it slowly struts past you on a nonchalant walk of utter destruction. Urgent, bongos and a rocking electric guitar driven themes befitting a 70’s Action Team News report slam home civilian panic as contrasted with sleepy jazz for a city about to get a rude awakening, But it’s in the epic, orchestral cues where “Shin Godzilla” truly takes on a mythic majesty worthy of The King of Monsters,” as “Persecution for the Masses” rises with lush, elegiac power. Dire, brass rhythm and vocals pit “Black Angels” against the monster, with the full, gnarly weight of the brass section crashing down with a monstrous roar of seeming invincibility. It’s the dire, excited sound of Armageddon that really keeps the film’s momentum in spite of its continuous cutting back from the creature we really want to see to those damn boring bureaucrats, “Shin Godzilla” enters a far more elevated concert hall realm, given the intimate lyricism of piano and violin or the frenzied excitement trying to give Godzilla the ultimate brain freeze. Through it all, there’s an almost astonishing sense of artistry and daring to Sagisu’s work, especially given how motif-driven the score is. And at it’s best, “Shin Godzilla’s” score is transcendent, especially in the beautiful “Who Will Know.” Given the angelic presence of a female voice and sorrowful strings, Sagisu’s piece builds with the tragic power of the orchestra and a male chorus, making for a devastating contrast as Godzilla nukes Tokyo.. It’s music that you might expect to hear in a drama about The Holocaust, which is exactly the point as its melody sinks home the metaphor of a walking A-bomb like never before in the series, or its scores for one of the best singular cues I’ve heard in any movie this year.
Extra Special: While “Shin Godzilla” takes gigantic pains to re-invent the green-scaled wheel, there’s no doubt its creators are fans of the series, especially when contrasting Sagisu’s brashly unique scoring with any number of classic Godzilla tunes, Hearing Ifukube’s lumbering marches, rapid-fire rhythmic theme, frenetic military action from such scores as “King Kong Vs. Godzilla,” “Invasion of the Astro Monster” and “Battle in Outer Space” makes “Shin Godzilla” a terrific exemplar of the music that started Godzilla strutting decades ago with this high art scoring, their energy resounding off each other in a cool battle between O.G. Godzilla music and Shinjuro’s concert hall shock of the new.
5) THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
What Is it?: A composer who hailed from the Jewish Mecca of Manhattan, Elmer Bernstein found the cinematic savior to deliver him to Hollywood’s promised land like never before when Cecille B. De Mille, the grand pharaoh of the epic, assigned this young Turk to write a truly monumental score for 1957’s “The Ten Commandments.” An instant perennial classic that still endures in network TV airings to coincide with Easter and Passover, Bernstein’s score has often be re-recorded by the maestro himself. Yet its original tracks have seemingly been as hidden as the lost ark of the Hebrews. Now at last, Intrada Records uncovers this Holy Grail of heroic Jewish-themed scores with an exhaustive box set that can stand in good company with Varese’s “Spartacus” in the vaunted peaks of biblical scoring. But if “Spartacus” composer Alex North’s music was about the human spirit, Bernstein’s is most definitely about the holy one as he expedite several thousand Jews out of Egypt, With such bible spectacle scores of “The Robe’s” Alfred Newman already behind him for inspiration, Bernstein knew the well of massive, trumpeting brass and strings to draw from, imbuing themes with the kind of larger-than-life orchestrations that he’d later turn to comedic ends. Here, it’s about the utter heroism and commitment of The Bible’s prophet, who’s given special musical interest by his segue from “villain” to hero” as Moses shirks his luxurious Bernstein draws on Hebraic rhythm to define Moses and his chosen people, as well as a Shofar to launch The Exodus, or the exotic rhythms of Egyptian and desert tribe dances. His score is replete with thrills that gallop with western-like romance, romantically swoon at attempted seduction, or sparkle with the presence of The Almighty, while playing the plagues with a creeping Theremin right out of a horror film. There’s practically nothing that’s subtle about Bernstein’s awe-commanding approach of “The Ten Pharaoh’s army with all of the angry wrath of “The Ride of the Valkyries.” But it’s in this approach that Bernstein touches upon the raw, emotional power that’s made a mythic story last the test of time, let alone television reruns, while clueing in listeners to the many westerns, action films and period epics whose muscular tunes this score contained,
Extra Special: Intrada has done an impressive job of mastering the original “Commandments” tracks on the event of the film’s fiftieth anniversary, with the original score heard over the course of three CD’s. On top of that, Intrada includes three more iterations that the smash popularity of Bernstein’s score demanded. An hour-long compilation of Bernstein’s themes would be put out at the time of the film’s release. Then given far better recording techniques in the ensuing decade, the composer returned to the mountain to re-record a sonically impressive, and well-chosen “best of” album, then further reduced it a 30-minute presentation, all the while making his orchestrations lusher, and more interesting. It’s an odyssey of a composer enthusiastically dipping into his best-loved well that Intrada captures magnificently through the “Commandment’s” varied presentations. The set also offers numerous alternate tracks, the most notable being a slow exodus track that played its slow pace before Bernstein wisely sped up the musical movement at DeMille’s wise command. Just as memorable is hearing an “audition” session of Bernstein playing his treasure’s worth of themes. An equally lavish good book of the soundtrack’s history is presented with entertaining classic score authority by liner note write Frank K. DeWald, accompanied by Joe Sikoryak’s colorful layout that shows the label pulling out the stops with all of the worship bestowed upon The Golden Calf. It’s taken decades to reach the promised land of what’s likely the last soundtrack grail, a major release that finally, greatest accomplishment.
ALSO FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
. AMERICAN PASTORAL
When it comes to the universal language of melancholy, France’s Alexandre Desplat is one of the best composers in the world when it comes to speaking in beautifully sad and tender melodies, using all the emotional resonance of a flowing orchestra in such heartbreaking scores as “Suffragette,” “The imitation Game” and “Coco Before Chanel.” Where his recent soundtrack for “The Light Between Oceans” (also on Lakeshore Records) was awash in giant, romantic gestures, Desplat’s turn to an “American Pastoral” is a gorgeously downbeat score. But then, actor Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut isn’t a romance, but rather the pilgrim’s passage of an ordinary citizen Joe trying to live the middle class dream, only to see his small ambitions destroyed when his errant daughter turns to misguided, and deadly radicalism at the 60’s height of it. In a similar way that Jay Wadley accompanied this year’s other Philip Roth adaptation “Indignation,” Desplat conjures a spellbinding tone of solemnity as he accompanies a distraught family’s search to see where their child went so wrong. If there’s one sound that conjures Americana, then it’s brass, which Desplat uses in a way that’s all about mournfulness, as opposed to the kind of blank check patriotism the young woman is rebelling against. With dark, conflicted chords that bring to mind such shimmeringly dramatic Jerry Goldsmith happiness, Desplat’s horns are is always sure to bring it low, or bring in the dark suspense of Feds on the hunt. Yet opposed to a downer of a listen, “American Pastoral’s” score is nothing less than spellbinding, tapping into the American dream gone wrong in a way that’s lyrical as opposed to judgmental, marking for another low key triumph when it comes to Desplat’s universally keen dramatic instincts.
. DAY OF THE LOCUST (Expanded)
Beyond writing for the high class of England’s secret agents or star-crossed lovers, John Barry also had an affection for a particularly American brand of losers when teaming with fellow English director John Schlesinger – from the dark, scummy Time Square streets of “Midnight Cowboy” to Hollywood wannabe freakshow of “Day of the Locust.” Where the first 1969 film contrasted the lonesome blues of a hopeful Texan gigolo with the period psychedelia of NYC, “Locusts” was steeped in 1930’s jazz, all the better to convey moral collapse in a romantically ironic way. But then, jazz was also a natural for a composer who got his start with “Beat Girl,” and would go on to romance the 20’s and 30’s with the likes of “The Cotton Club” and “Chaplin.” Always important to Barry was creating a memorable main theme that could be used over and over again without becoming tiresome. For “Locusts,” he came up with a melody that resonates with a tenderness for the hopelessly deluded, always finding infinite variations that range from rhumba to a poignant Spanish guitar that builds with psychosis, as well as the glitzily lush orchestra that’s the composer’s trademark. Given “Locust’s” black, mocking heart for those locked behind the ropes of the era’s gala movie premieres, Barry’s music has a seditiousness as well, no more so than in his silent movie comedy way of playing Burgess Meredith’s desperate, way-too old vaudevillian doing the soul-crushing salesman rounds, ukulele, and “soft shoe” music mocking his pathetic efforts. And just as he played a sci-fi adventure for a movie unreeling in “Midnight Cowboy,” Barry re-scores a scene from an Arabian adventure comedy with cleverly affected audio to get across the dustiness of the film its bored patrons are watching. The score’s underlining darkness and frustration finally rises from the pit in “Locusts’” climactic explosion of movie premiere mob violence, with Barry’s dissonant, stromach-wreching sustain building with rattlesnake-like percussion, showing the ultimate end of the fans need to consume their idols. Indeed, it’s one of the composer’s most disturbing cues, especially as it reveals romance for the Hollywood illusion it is. Previously released on CD by Intrada with its original LP program, the label now terrifically expands on both Barry’s beautifully unnerving score and the film’s re-performed and original period songs, revealing the three 1930’s pitch-perfect tunes written around the main theme by “Goldfinger’s” Don Black. Intrada also powerfully re-sequences the score and song presentation, with its stripped down, instrumental solo alternates at first, followed by a wealth such period songs and source tunes as “Jeepers Creepers,” “Isn’t It Romantic,” Hot Voodoo. Barry even provides the patriotic newsreel march of a Paramount movie night. It pulls the listener into a depraved 1930’s Hollywood awash in swing, sin and madness, with John Barry the bandleader of the deluded and the damned finally clash for one of the composer’s his most haunting scores, if not his most disturbing film at that, given a superb liner note recollection by Barry expert Jon Burlingame.
As a composer with a shine to the pursuit of justice, particularly when it comes to the abuse of The Church in such riveting scores as “Spotlight” and “Doubt,” Howard Shore is a musician who offers a melodically reasoned and passionate approach for advocacy. Now he’s on the stand again with his powerful score for “Denial,” defending a female author whose mission it is to cement The Holocaust’s reality in the face of a blowhard denier of the Jewish genocide. But as opposed to viscerally detailing its horrors in music, “Denial” takes a very British approach to its defamation trial, a restraint that’s particularly well suited to Shore’s writing. Never a composer to outrightly hit dramatic incident as opposed to seeing its case a whole, Shore provides a strong, emotional flow to his melodic score that truly gets inside the determined, never-say-surrender headspace of its heroine, captivatingly playing the defendant’s need to put the survivors on the stand, all while her defense team expresses their dire concern of having The Holocaust’s truth invalidated for the world to see. It’s a strongly built case that rings with concern and outright devastation, yet has a sonorous optimism as well in its flowing, complex orchestrations (always a hallmark of Shore’s work) that are finally allowed to rise with elation in justice, and truth done. But for a movie that takes a subtle, gentlemanly approach to the unthinkable, Shore’s strongest moment is when visiting the ruins of Auschwitz, as a single, angelic voice becomes the plea of six million not to be forgotten, or outrightly killed again by an evildoer who knows how to play the media. Shore might have brought on the symphonic thunder in his battle against Sauron. But in this devastating, poignant moment, it’s music that’s about a very real, and international battle racist going on the world over for victims that sinister forces would deny existed, or would hope to kill again.
. THE GREAT WALDO PEPPER
If Henry Mancini’s cheerful, barnstorming score for Robert Redford’s coulda-been WWI fighter pilot has vainglorious period pomp, then it’s for bittersweet show in this wonderfully ironic score. George Roy Hill, fresh from Redford gambling hit “The Sting” sought to recreate that period charm for this dramedy that crashed at the box office due to its shocking character plummets to earth and a sad, mythic finale – a feeling of wry, unavoidable fate that’s wonderfully captured by Mancini. With his last WW1 flying ace movie being the loftily scored Blake Edwards’ box office disaster “Darling Lili,” the composer certainly know how to play the romantic exuberance of flight and valorous battle, even if Waldo Pepper happens to have missed The Great War. Given a theme full of rousing pomp and circumstance that captures a charming ego going full speed into the days of Hollywood stunt barnstorming, Mancini’s daredevil marching band orchestrations do cheerful loop-de-loops worthy of John Philips Sousa, much like the players in the bandstand as they marvel at feats of derring-do just before the crash they know they’ve really come to witness. A former band player himself, Mancini is clearly in his joyful element here with his rousing tunes. Given Waldo’s rivalry with an actual German flying ace with a thirst for real battle, Mancini composes a wonderful, melancholic Blue Danube-esque waltz for the air. Another lovely theme comes for the melancholy duet between trumpet and piano, while said instrument energetically becomes a silent movie accompanist. Trumpet-led waltzes also help give “The Great Waldo Pepper” heft, while an exuberant orchestra conveys Tinsel Town’s lure to the pilot. There’s even a bit of Scott Joplin-esque ragtime to bring back fond musical memories of “The Sting.” But if there’s a real daring to Mancini’s score, then it’s how it essentially works as the source music playing in its hero’s mind. For a composer best known for exuberantly lush comedy scores, there’s a nice, fatefully stripped-down quality to “Waldo’s” surfeit of waltzes and bandstand hoopla that marks one of Mancini’s more unique, and pleasurable soundtracks. Now Waldo flies for the first time on CD from Quartet Records, given extra lift by Jeff Bond’s liner notes that details the history of a flyer-turned-director Hill’s unsung, bittersweet gem.
. HACKSAW RIDGE
Mel Gibson has fashioned a beyond powerful old school war film with modern bloodletting effects that would be unimagined back in the black and white days when the Hollywood action of our fighting boys was positively antiseptic in comparison. And it’s the ability to capture the rousingly emotional power of a time when good and evil were well-defined the also distinguishes Rupert Gregson-Williams’ rousingly emotional score – as told with a contemporary combination of orchestra, samples and rhythm that brings an immediate emotional reaction with far more subtlety than an outrightly flag-waving soundtrack would have. Williams begins with a tender, elegiac quality that conveys both the rustic, fiddle and guitar beauty of conscientious object hero Desmond Doss’ upbringing in rural Virginia, a joyful roughhousing youth that’s contrasted with a miserable, violence-plagued home life that fuels his moral determination. Full of the lyrical, innocent beauty of first love, “Hacksaw Ridge” soon enough plunges into a brutalizing military experience. Williams conveys the quiet nobility and tension of an aw-shucks gentle kid who won’t change his non-killing principles, no matter how much crap gets kicked out of him, a plaintive, earnest approach that’s a hallmark of actor Andrew Garfield’s approach for a role that would have been filled with Jimmy Stewart – had a studio back in the day had the guts to make a movie about a medic who refused to kill. But make no mistake that this is a guts and terror-filled war movie that will give Doss the chance to prove his faithful mettle, as far more nightmarish use of samples and brass transport him to Okinawa’s hell on earth. Fierce, tribal percussion, breathless rhythm and blaring brass become waves of suicidal Japanese soldiers. Williams levels up his war scoring considerably here from his work on the “Battlefield” video games for this way more realistic portrait of all-out savagery and valor as heard in the same musical passage. “Hacksaw Ridge” explodes into full-on heroic writing as Doss runs back and forth in his rescue of dozens of soldiers – a miraculous feat the has all of the adrenalin that Williams brought to the excitement of his work on the way-better-than-expected “Legend of Tarzan,” while also carrying the evocative, surreal passages of synth and sting stillness that’s also marked the work of his brother Harry. Given the stunning impact of “Hacksaw Ridge,” it’s that kind of career which Rupert will hopefully find as much as director Mel Gibson in the comeback In the end, Williams’ “Hacksaw Ridge” is a stirringly thematic score that has as much lyricism as it does blood and thunder, conveying the poignant angelically voiced, bell-ringing spirit of an unassuming man who refused to violate his peaceful principals in the midst of hell on earth. It’s a soaring respect for inner fortitude that Rupert Gregson-Williams waves with incredibly moving pride for a real non-violent American hero if there ever was one.
. HORROR CASTLE
You might not think you’re in a English shag pad as opposed to a mad fiend’s domicile when you hear the lush, John Barry-style jazz that opens the door to 1963’s “Horror Castle” (aka “The Virgin of Nuremberg”). And that kind of bat in the belfry stylistic madness is a big part of the charm of cult composer Riz Ortolani (“Mondo Cane,” “Cannibal Holocaust”) for this Italian horror movie. As a musical mad doctor for genres from Giallo to Spaghetti westerns and hep swing, Ortolani injects “Horror Castle” with the stuff of pure, crazily lurching Frankenstein’s monster stuff – though in this case it’s understandable as the evil heralds from Nuremberg’s Nazi past, Brass screams as wild, throttling percussion treats this castle like a repository of horror scoring on fire in the midst of a massive lightning storm. Theremin, singing saw, and the creepiest funereal organ this side of “Phantasm’s” Morningside Cemetery compliment the none-too subtle scares that make this score a pure delight, while also finding some more unexpectedly subtle secret passages. It’s unhinged melody doing the stuff of fear that many of today’s horror scores would handle with dissonance, But then, there’s nothing quite as delightful as running for dear life through Ortolani’s fire-swept passages to bumble into the midst of a then modern-day hip jazz swing party. Quartet Records, which has done a fine job releasing any number of wacky 60’s and 70’s horror scores from Italy and Spain, brings out “Horror Castle’s” resounding power for the first time in a two CD set, offering both the original LP program and the full swaggering madness of its complete score. Foreign score expert Gergely Hubai gives another comprehensive liner note journey through one of the more stylistically insane scores to accompany Christopher Lee’s bad behavior in particularly atmospheric surroundings.
Hans Zimmer has spent a decade playing history’s greatest hits with professor Robert Langdon as he’s tracked down Jesus’ descendants for “The Da Vinci Code” than pulled the white rug out from under a false Pope for “Angels and Demons.” Director Ron Howard’s adaptations of author Dan Brown’s series of religion-based thrillers are certainly interesting for offering a decidedly non-Jason Bourne-esque academic hero who’s constantly on the run between offering fascinating lessons on Catholicism’s greatest mysteries, affording Zimmer the opportunity to capture myth and excitement in the same musical breath. Now a composer who’s risen to composing godhood on the strength of his rhythmic wiles gets his most furiously strange workout as Langdon gets down the bottom of a viral Dante’s “Inferno.” Given a hero whom right at the beginning is hallucinating from a head wound’s fever pitch, Zimmer pours on warped effects, rock percussion and piercing sustains to deliberately disorient the listener with uncompromising effect. But if the music, and film do their best to throw the viewer with maddening, nerve-ripping hallucinatory effects, one’s fears that this will completely be the stuff of nightmarish madness are gradually tamed as both Langdon and Zimmer regain their harmony in this insanely plotted chase. The music rarely, if ever lets up, which gives Zimmer all the more fun in pouring on the rhythmic adrenalin, though no doubt the most eerie, and interesting passages belong to the music of Langdon deciphering hellish Easter eggs. And it’s the most interesting Langdon score as well as Zimmer goes for an approach that’s way more about being at a techno rave than a religious college conference, Zimmer lets loose with a thematically booming, apocalyptic fusion of electronics and orchestra with some of the craziest adrenalin he’s displayed since the nuke pursuit of “Broken Arrow,” which will certainly be a Godsend to fans who particularly love the composer when he’s trashing in the percussion Thunderdome where it’s a breathless chase to the apocalyptic finish. But given the exciting relentlessness of “Inferno,” one of the album’s most effective piece belongs to the love theme between Langdon and his Beatrice that could have been, a love theme, music that’s both emotional and haunted with loss, delivered with an exceptional, still simplicity as powerful as the composer’s craziest chase through Dante 101.
. JOHNNY QUEST
Aside from their adult-friendly cartoons like “The Flintstones,” “The Jetsons” and their kiddie-cloying limited animation ilk, Hanna Barbera did manage to create some truly gonzo sci-fi cartoons like “Space Ghost” and “The Herculoids.” With enough adult danger to debut on Prime Time as opposed to Saturday morning, “Jonny Quest,” was a delightfully un-PC textbook in western imperialism and child endangerment as a boy genius, his professor dad, a brawny man of action, adorable pet dog and Indian friend battled an astonishing array of beyond stereotypical super villains, killer robots, dinosaurs, giant one-eyed blobs and jungle savages. Where later kid’s shows would have these opposing forces settle their differences with lots of talky, moral lessons, “Jonny Quest” would have none of that – piling on bullets, punches and actual death along with beyond goofy pre-school jokiness – an outrageous combo that “The Venture Brothers” would mercilessly spoof. Jonny may have been a kid, but his music was pure manly stuff, as meted out with cool, jazzy brass power by composers Hoyt Curtin and his musical manservant Ted Nichols. But then, Barbera favorite Curtin was clearly ready for more macho stuff than such positively sedate animals like Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and Magilla Gorilla. Given a spin on the spy craze shows that were sweeping the nation (along with a healthy dose of sci-fi pulp), Curtin and Nichols (who’d go onto score the equally dangerous Hanna Barbera spy feature “A Man Called Flintstone”) were given the chance to travel across the globe to take on an array of would-be world conquerors. The result as heard on La La Land’s delightful two-CD collection is just about every bit as fun, and exotically diverse as such prime time fare as “Mission: Impossible,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E” and “I Spy.” Traversing the rhythms of India, South America, Asia and all ports of dangerous stereotypical call, the composers created a dizzying, punch-drunk variety to “Jonny Quest’s” music that fueled its comic book fun, especially when it came to the shrill, brass punchiness of their action scoring, lurching monster music or the foggy suspense of scurvy pirates. But where “Jonny Quest” truly swings is in its terrific jazz stylings. Curtin and Nichols are shaken and stirred as they cover every 60’s idiom of the form from coffee house beat to swing and exotica. It’s a hep vibe that goes through such collected episodes as “The Curse of Annubis,” “The Fraudulent Volcano” and “The Quetong Missile Mystery,” suggesting way more of a show set in a swinger’s bachelor pad than anything involving a bunch of kids fighting adult evil, music that beckons for an extra olive to woo a luscious female visitor as opposed to a laser gun to shoot down a monstrosity. That swing alone is more than enough reason to make this terrific-sounding album a delight for baby boomers whose manliness was more than inspired by the music of a kid getting into completely inappropriate situations. TV music ace Jon Burlingame provides a look back this memorably unique entry in Hanna Barbera’s cannon, while Jeff Bond offers an appreciation from such current fans as Fred Dekker and Robert Rodrigues of a cartoon show that they’ve tried to turn into live action, appreciations accompanied by a graphically enticing booklet by the equally nostalgia friendly artist Joe Sikoryak.
. LE SERPENT
Italy’s Ennio Morricone effortlessly conjured a Russian on the run from his Kremlin overseers for this French Cold War thriller from 1973, a score that at first might think of as run-up to his “Exorcist: The Heretic,” given its awesomely groovy theme for fuzz guitar, eerily chanting vocalese and organ. But for the most part, “The Serpent” is a far more level-headed and disturbingly weird as Yul Brynner’s defector is given a beautifully mournful theme for strings, the haunting voice of “One Upon a Time in the West’s” Edda Dell’Orso and a balalaika-like dulcimer to create a memorable portrait of a man without an Iron Curtain country. Again pairing Morricone with his “Sicilian Clan” director Henry Verneuil, “The Serpent” plays very much in the fashion of the composer’s crime and policier scores, carrying a lyrical sense of mortality as the agents its antihero fingers find a way of ending up dead, their fate enhanced by the use of a funereal organ. Silken, eerie metallic percussion and snake hiss-like musical gestures also enhance the composer’s talent for fusing melody and dissonance into a seamless whole, while the relentless grilling that Brynner gets is reflected in harsh, computer-like electronics. Other surreal cues come across like a bad LSD trip, using string sustains and nerve-ripping metallic percussion to sustain the tension to an almost unbearable third degree. “The Serpent’s” powerful combination of wild experimentalism and poignant melody makes for one of Morricone’s more deliciously oddball and poignantly thematic scores, especially when pompous Russian marches and groovy jazz-funk cues are factored into its mindgames and assassinations. Music Box’s does a sonically great job of expanding on the score’s LP release to 73 minutes, where each cue offers a new, striking surprise.
. LITTLE BOX OF HORRORS
Varese Sarabande is in a terrifying special edition frame of mind lately with expanded releases of Jerry Goldsmith’s “The Omen” and Marco Beltrami’s “Hellboy” and “Scream 2” as follow-up’s to their formidable box set of every original “Nightmare on Elm Street” score. While their new “Little Box of Horrors” might not be suited up with a miniature version of Freddy Krueger’s green and red sweater, its seemingly plain black surface holds within a plethora of 80’s-centric horror soundtrack goodness, many of them never before released on CD. Certainly the prime jewel in the crown to puncture Ebay prices swifter than a finger glove is a re-issue of Brad Fiedel’s barely released “The Serpent in the Rainbow.” The composer of “Fright Night” and “The Terminator” applied his distinctive synth sound to create a hauntingly exotic, and thematic voodoo ceremony for director Wes Craven, complete with drum percussion that conjures the feeling of being in an undead trance. Where Charles Bernstein’s classic, original score for “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is back for another lullaby here, the composer’s “Deadly Friend” hits CD to re-animates a robot-possessed girl next door with equal components creepiness and absurd humor, with the end title droid chants of “Bee Bee, Bee Bee” certainly one of the nuttiest vocal pieces heard that decade. Marco Beltrami’s combo of Spaghetti Western stylings and crashing shocks for Ghost Face is familiar company with a special edition of “Scream,” where the composer’s wacky creativity also heard with the giant cockroach tango of “Mimic.” But Beltrami truly got to bring out his thunderous, Gothic best with the Craven-produced “Dracula 2000,” making its debut as the vampire’s musical tropes were powerfully rejuvenated. Killers human and supernatural rampage through this impressive black box, as Jay Chattaway’s gritty “Maniac” brings 80’s NYC synth sleaze to Joe Spinell’s sweaty mannequin lover, while Michael Convertino’s strikingly original score to “The Hidden’s” body jumping alien slug still stands as one of the genre’s most bizarrely percussive and effective soundtracks, samples creating a sound that’s violently otherworldly, which also capturing the haunted spirit of the relentless E.T. cop out to bring him in. Jerry Goldsmith’s Old Scratch violins had a devilish field day playing “The Mephisto Waltz,” where “The Other” used rustic instrumentations to bring out fiendish child’s play in a seditious “Waltons”-like setting. Backwoods eeriness became the folksy spirit of vengeance for Richard Stone’s “Pumpkinhead,” another notable score premiere within that created a foggy, bayou atmosphere and rampaging presence for director Stan Winston’s fearsome creation. Old school musical scares also swirl out the box with its debut of Bob Colbert’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” a score that should please the composer’s “Dark Shadows” fans in his telefilm work for its Goth-obsessed creator Dan Curtis. But the most operatic score is saved for Howard Shore’s “The Fly.” For a movie that he’d actually turn into all-singing variation, Cronenberg gave wrenching emotion to David Cronenberg’s Kafka-esque heartbreak, conjuring music that’s about the creeping horror and emotional devastation of a transformation that no love can repair. Put on a spider’s web of twelve discs, Varese’s “Box” (exceptionally produced by the label’s retro specialists Peter Hackman, Bryon Davis and Cary Mansfield) is certainly one of the most formidable collections of genre scores in many a blood moon that will delight both uninitiated, and hard-core fans. Be sure to scare up a copy of this limited edition at this link now.
If the interracial couple of “Loving” has an unbreakable bond in the midst of racist adversity, then we can be thankful that director Jeff Nichols has a similar attachment to composer David Wingo. Beginning with playing a Twilight Zone-esque apocalypse to “Take Shelter,” Wingo has created a unique sound of southern gothic for the turbulent familial relationships of “Mud” and “Joe” before going to outright otherworldly realms with the unsung “Midnight Special.” “Loving” is a somber return to earth for many of the team that have graced Nichols impactful films. But where many righteously aggrieved social just pictures of this genre understandably raise their musical fists high, “Loving’s” couple has a relationship based in nearly silent respect and admiration – leaving it to Wingo to speak volumes for their courage in taking down prejudice that we’d only like to think of as in the past. It’s an affecting simplicity that’s heard in a memorable two-note theme that tells us of the emotion that keeps the couple together through unimaginable adversity – the fear that any second cops will be pulling up their dirt road to throw them into prison for the crime of cohabitation. Wingo comes up with unbearable, near horror film electronic textures for that dreadful tension, the crushing weight of an institutionally racist state (and country) slamming at them with samples that sound like steam presses. But these are people who won’t break so easily, as determined, even playful rhythms take their fight to the Supreme Court. It’s a fortitude that movingly comes across in long, poignant string melodies as Wingo recalls the dramatic work of Ennio Morricone, sustaining strings conveying both hope with the melancholy realization that it will be a long road to musical victory in this devastating, yet restrained film and score that truly gets to the emotional heart of a couple going through the trials of Job all to achieve their tiny, unbothered place in the world. It’s a tremendously moving achievement in Nichol and Wingo’s most intimate exploration of rural identity yet.
. MAFIA III
Not since “Johnny Handsome” sought payback in the mean streets of New Orleans, or Judd Nelson went to clean up “Blue City” for that matter, has a rock-blues score strutted with such mean-ass Ry Cooder attitude onto the southern-accented soundtrack scene like the one emblazoned by Lincoln Clay in “Mafia III.” That this harmonica blowing and angry Cajun strumming is meant for a video game sandbox as opposed to a Walter Hill movie says a lot for the energetic payback put into the score by James Bonney (“Mortal Kombat: Armageddon”) and Jesse Harlin (“Star Wars: Battlefront II”). What makes this title’s continuation even more interesting given its goombah “Grand Theft Auto”-ish origins is “Mafia III’s” late 60’s setting, wherein a black Vietnam Vet assembles a team of criminals to wage war against the white mob at the height of the Civil Rights movement. No one musically figured a consciousness given an orgy of gun-blasting behavior, but it’s a depth of conflicted feeling that you can hear through the raucous, electrified tracks that cover driving about and doing crime in the very recognizable city of “New Bordeaux.” There’s a sizzling, vengeful energy that Bonney and Harlin invest into the cool r & b sets which bring a real character to this thematic soundtrack, musical rides that pack high octane guitar riffs, organs and harmonica licks to the low, melancholy cello of regret for a road of betrayal Lincoln can’t get off of, a sound very much tied into the game’s unique African-American identity for a people under siege. Expanding beyond its New Orleans roots to crime jazz vibes and somber passages that could befit a doomed western gunman, “Mafia III” has a rocking, period-centric power that’s as sinister as it is sad, getting across the joy of crime with the price that will be paid through its energetic, Cajun-flavored tracks.
. THE NIGHT OF
A veteran of numerous TV shows from “The Returned” to “Extant” and the recently renewed Satanic jollies of “Lucifer,” Jeff Russo is perhaps best know for his concurrent Emmy nominations for TNT’s brilliant spin on “Fargo,” a show often delighting in dramatically over-the-top music for its unbelievably labyrinthine, ill-fated crime capers. To hear Russo’s subtler, yet equally impactful range, then you should enter the quagmire of the justice system on HBO’s equally acclaimed “The Night Of,” wherein the ne’er do well son of Pakistani immigrants makes one bad decision after the other after a one-night stand gone wrong. As he’s relentlessly sucked into the soul-destroying prison system and legal jockeying that will destroy a likely innocent man, Russo paints a haunting, neo-classical picture of morality that’s chipped away bit by violent bit. Led by a Baroque theme for cello and strings, Russo’s delicately melodic score is suffused in sadness, yet not suffocated by it. Instead, “The Night Of” is full of transfixing gloom as Russo combines the uneasy sampling of a prison world trying to eat a young man alive before he may ever see freedom with aching, emotionally muted tenderness. String percussion takes the slow march of trial after trial, where elegant, rhythmic writing might lead one to believe this is a costume drama. But if this certainly isn’t the groovy pop irony of “Fargo’s” second season, there is some humor to be found in “The Night Of’s’” haughty, tea garden violins and mocking female chorus, or the oddball feel of spare percussion. Where many procedural dramas of this sort might resort to “the drone,” (a style so hilariously explained by the hapless cop show composer in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”), “The Night Of” takes a musically humane and mysterious approach that’s poetic in evoking a trial where no will come off clean, or innocent. That Russo evokes the process with tremendous, yet incredibly subtle humanity is more than enough evidence of a composer with a powerful range when it comes to crime both funny, and sad.
. NOCTURNAL ANIMALS
Fashioned designer-turned filmmaker Tom Ford couldn’t have found a composer better suited to his cinematic brand of high art elegance than Abel Korzeniowski – a man as awash in delirious melodic beauty as Ford is in beyond perfect photograph and design. But then, there’s a certain romantic rapture to composers hailing from Poland, with Korzenoiwki’s own lush style emigrating to such scores as “W.E.,” “Escape From Tomorrow,” “Romeo & Juliet” and of course his true breakthrough with his co-score for Ford’s “Single Man.” Where that film was about the impeccably tailored, and closeted lifestyle of a social leaper, Ford’s new picture is an infinitely more sordid, yet even more beguilingly gorgeous look at sordid high society. His plot is an enigma wrapped within a fortune cookie as the pathetic, jilted nice guy ex of an artist awash in grotesqueries show’s he’s indeed become a macho man as he enthralls her with a story of rape and revenge that’s only a few highfalutin’ steps from “I Spit on Your Grave.” It’s Korzeniowski’s utterly gorgeous score that’s the very ironic window dressing on the depravity within the multiple stories of “Nocturnal Animals.” The knowing contrast between ugliness and beauty begins as Korzeniowsk’s lovely main theme graces the most aghast title sequence of an image-conscious Hollywood film within memory. In his shivering, haunted strings, one can positively hear the ghost of Bernard Herrmann, particularly his score to “Vertigo” (and even Philip Glass). with Korzeniowski orgasmically surrendering to female breaths. His exceptional symphonic writing helps to tie Ford’s narratives into a cohesively thematic whole, the score positively trembling with anticipation of the next awful chapter to come, The effect is spellbinding, a shining red ribbon wrapped around a golden box of sleaziness with a strong, thematic bow, as done with equal operatic and melodic restraint, Indeed, Korzeniowski seems transported from as much of an resplendent old-school scoring world in the same way that Ford’s pays fashionable tribute to a time and place when glamour was everything, even in the midst of unimaginable sin and payback.
Legendary director Akira Kurosawa was at his international height with 1985’s “Ran,” an inadvertent take on “King Lear,” that translated Shakespeare’s woeful tale to a ruler gifting his fiefdom to a bunch of disagreeable children in feudal Japan. Musically conveying a sense of timeless, tragic majesty was composer Toru Takemitsu, who’d last worked with Kurosawa for the contemporary setting of 1970’s “Dodes’ka-den,” which detailed the blighted lives of far lower caste Tokyo residents. Takemitsu had certainly commanded his country’s respect with such scores as “Woman in the Dunes,” “Kwaidan” and “Empire of Passion,” before going Hollywood one time with the international thriller “Rising Sun.” With one hand steeped in playing the ancient percussion and winds of his homeland, while the other evoked the sumptuously melodic orchestral style of the west, Takemitsu was as much of a modern classicist as he was a movie composer, writing evocative, challenging scores that fused modernism, jazz and melody. “Ran” epically conveys that talent with the powerful, shivering themes of a seemingly all-knowing ruler cast into pathetic, penniless exile by his hubris, with his court jester along to taunt him. Using ominous sustains, along with wind machines, Takemitsu conveys the elemental wrath for a shamed ruler’s hubris in his powerful use of Japanese instruments, the lyrical intimacy of the shinobuei flute, as contrasted with the furious percussion of warring troops to convey a militaristic country state torn asunder by grievously flawed judgment. Tension is cut with a sword in Takemitsu’s rumbling use of strings and woodblock percussion. But what’s most memorable about “Ran’s” score is its gorgeously ominous theme, and lush, tempestuously tragic power. Beautifully devastating in its funereal march to Shakespearean devastation, “Ran” is masterwork from a composer steeped in his own, richly melodic and emotional tradition. England’s Silva Screen does a terrific job at re-presenting the score’s original CD release in two extensive suites, followed by Takemitsu’s original score that more than ever grips us with a timeless sense of grand, lyrical tragedy.
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