CD Review: October Soundtrack Picks

By • October 26, 2009

‘Dr. Who And The Daleks ‘ One Of The Top Soundtracks To Own For October, 2009
Get your copy here

Also worth picking up: ‘Children Of The Corn’, ‘Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs’, ‘The 5 Man Army’, ‘Fade To Black’, ‘Green Lantern: First Flight’, ‘Law Abiding Citizen’, ‘Lassiter’, ‘Pandorum’ and ‘The Vampire’s Assistant’

To purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD cover.


Price: $17.98

What is it?: Very few composers are given the chance to come on board for a remake of a film they’d already scored, let alone one from twenty five years ago. But then we’re talking about CHILDREN OF THE CORN here, a movie for which Jonathan Elias’ eerie strings, electronics and cult chanting set the tone for the zillion sequels to come- let alone this SyFy “original” (which ironically is the most faithful adaptation of Stephen King’s short story). And while SyFy might make some pretty big whoppers when it comes to their TV movies, putting Elias back in the cornfield isn’t one of them.

Why should you buy it?: Jonathan Elias’ original’s theme, complete with its primal percussion and chilling children’s voices, announce straight up that “He Who Walks Behind The Rows” is back in style. And the addition of composer Nathaniel Morgan helps makes this CHILDREN far more than a walk down musical memory lane. If anything, this new generation is even more ominously atmospheric, especially with Oriental-style percussion that makes the score into perhaps an even more intriguing chase through the fields- one that actually offers some heavenly redemption by its closing, along with catchy techno-style end titles to boot.

Extra Special: To accompany this new stalk on the CORN saga, Varese Sarabande also put out Elias’ original score as part of their CD Club-1,000 copies which of course got snatched up immediately. But check this column’s below-mentioned sites (foremostly including Ebay) to see if you can find the first CORN soundtrack.


Price: $16.95

What is it?: Before the such musical Time Lords as Murray Gold, Ben Foster, Dudley Simpson and or Mark Ayres tackled Gallifrey’s most famous citizen for TV, Malcolm Lockyear and Bill McGuffie scored Peter Cushing’s big screen incarnation in the 60’s with DR. WHO & THE DALEKS and INVASION EARTH 2150 A.D, – two scores which finally get their due from WHO music specialists Silva Screen Records.

Why should you buy it?: While the most popular run of WHO has accustomed fans to epic sci-fi strains for the Doctor, these retro 1965 / 66 soundtracks present our hero as the heppest time traveler this side of Austin Powers, especially with their abundant use of 007 fuzz guitars, swinging Shagadelic jazz and playful orchestrations. But if this music makes you think that Daleks spend most of their time exterminating at a Soho happening, Lockyear and McGuffie also get in an effectively dark marches and military excitement to remind you that the Earth is at stake after all, with even a bit of Bach piano thrown into INVASION.

Extra Special: There’s definitely a touch of Barry Gray’s jazz-adventure sound for THUNDERBIRDS to these two WHO scores. But beyond that, the puppet-rocket composer is on hand himself to provide eerie “electronic effects” for both soundtracks. So just plug in Gray’s phone booth impressions and over six minutes of Dalek City bubbling, and you’ll have enough samples to play through the speakers of any TARDIS or killer robot replications you might have hidden in your garage. Top that off with three DR. WHO singles (one called “The Eccentric Dr. Who”), and you’ve got a package that will delight old-school fans of the series, who briefly got to see their BBC favorite blast off to bigger, English beat-driven pastures.


Price: $19.95

What is it?: Film Score Monthly and Screen Archives follow up their terrific Ennio releases of NAVAJO JOE, THE GUNS OF SAN SEBASTIAN, HORNET’S NEST and the original HILLS RUN RED with this relatively unknown score from Morricone’s spaghetti western goldmine- the second movie he scored to feature a screenplay by ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST’s Dario Argento before the author became better known as a horror maestro.

Why should you buy it?: Those who love Ennio’s wonderful brand of oater pasta will want do dig in here, as 5 MAN ARMY features all of the ingredients we’ve come to know and love in spades, from whistling and bird cries to fiddles, harmonica and somber string themes as long as a Spanish mountain range. 5 MAN ARMY turns out to be a terrific, unexpected treat in the cloth from which Ennio’s GOOD, BAD AND THE UGLY was cut, suffused with the similar lyrical melancholy of anti-heroes (Peter Graves and a samurai here) going to their mythic rewards, with choral voices raised to ring in the kind of mythic greatness that makes Morricone the master of western music- no matter its country of origin.

Extra Special: In addition to featuring two alternate score cuts, FSM does their usually terrific packaging here with liner notes by Spaghetti aficionado John Bender.


Price: $19.98

What is it?: It’ll take a lot for the forthcoming live-action LANTERN to beat this soaring animated version, a major part of whose green juice derives from a cosmically powerful score by Robert J. Kral.

Why should you buy it?: Sure this Aussie may have started musically cartooning with DUCK DODGERS, but Kral’s impressive work on SUPERMAN / DOOMSDAY and BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT has taken him to the top of the musical Justice League when it comes to DC’s usually terrific animated adaptations. Now Kral’s muscular sound rises to new heights with FIRST FLIGHT, his thematically powered score communicating Hal Jordan’s ascension in the Green Lantern corps with equal parts interstellar majesty and propulsive suspense. While he might not have a real orchestra as such to police the galaxy with here, Kral’s terrific emulation of a hundred-piece symphony has all the wallop of a big green hammer, climaxing with a epic battle of heroic emerald-versus-evil red that ranks as one of the most exciting cues done this year for any superhero medium, let alone soundtrack in general.

Extra Special: When Kral’s score isn’t gallivanting around the space, it provides a surreal dance beat to “Labella’s Club,” turning the bar into a wretched hive of alien-techno scum and villainy.

5) LASSITER (1,000 Edition)

Price: $19.95

What is it?: Ken Thorne pours on the jazzy sophistication for Tom Selleck’s dashing jewel thief, who broke into safes and hearts for this terrific period caper flick that’s at least getting some soundtrack recognition.

Why should you buy it?: If England had a composer who could match the jazzy sophistication of America’s Henry Mancini, then it would be Ken Thorne (best known here for adapting John Williams’ music for SUPERMAN II and III). From HELP to ARABIAN ADVENTURE, Thorne had a flair for light-hearted suspense. And LASSITER might just be the jewel in the composer’s crown, as the former 40’s big band pianist mixed ragtime swing with Nazi-busting danger and lush romance. But what truly makes LASSITER sparkle is its beautiful main theme, whose piano melody reveals an unexpected poignancy for an emotionally impervious robber, a guy resigned to the illegal, elegant life.

Extra Special: Buysoundtrax’s release not only puts new sonic bling into LASSITER’s original LP program, but adds over 40 minutes of Thorne’s more dramatic material from the score, as well as jazz club’s worth of covers ranging from George Gershwin to Irving Berlin. But when it comes down to it, nothing’s quote so wonderfully gauche here as Taco’s theme cover with “Beware the Winners,” whose amplified vocals put an oh-so-80’s electronic spin on 40’s tough guy lyrics

Also for Your Consideration



Where most scores for Jane Campion films have been as weighty as an anchor chained to a mute, composer Mark Bradshaw creates pure, ethereal poetry which his aching violins and electronic washes for this love story between John Keats and his muse Fanny Brawne. At once capturing the corseted period with such neat touches as A Capella versions of Mozart, Bradshaw’s score also goes to a transcendent place of pure love beyond any time. His haunting music is nearly always accompanied by the recitations of stars Ben Wishaw and Abbie Cornish, making this short CD more of a spoken word album than anything else. While that might be slightly irksome to those who’d want to hear Bradshaw’s instrumental poetry on its own, there’s no denying the synchronicity between gossamer music, and the death-wish verses of one of literature’s greatest romantic figures.

CAPTAIN ABU RAED (1,000 edition)


From the nerve-tingling lullabies of GRACE to ABU RAED’s soaring dramatic score, composer Austin Wintory stands as a particularly promising composer. And while his latter killer baby score is on the way to release, it’s RAED’s beautifully melodic soundtrack that’s made it first out of the gate. Part of the album’s pleasure is hearing grand symphonic music for a Jordanian answer to GRAN TORINO, with the soundtrack’s emphasis on lush orchestral music a credit to writer-director Amin Matalqa, who’s dedicated his terrific film to composer Basil Poledouris. Wintory does a fine job of following in that maestro’s lyrical tradition, his music playing the sweet flights of fancy in an airport janitor’s head, and ultimately bestowing near-religious nobility on his self-sacrificing ascension. RAED might be a small film, but Wintory’s age-belying thematic talents helps it reach a far richer place.



From the likes of RUGRATS to GOOD BOY, Mark Mothersbaugh has probably done as many kid-centric scores as there are meatballs in the sky. And while those soundtracks had the kind of alternative charm he brought to his days with Devo, none of them have truly blown me away like this epically orchestral work for the biggest cartoon food fight of all time. CLOUDS reveals a new symphonic side to Mothersbaugh’s talents that make battling gummy bears and taking on flying saucer-sized pancakes as exciting as making a run down the Death Star trench, with a side of emotional sweetness that gives the endearing Muppet-like characters real humanity. Yet Mothersbaugh hasn’t left out his funky sound in the process, unleashing bites of mad science electronics and funky percussion that makes MEATBALLS no less eccentric for its wonderfully gigantic musical size.

FADE TO BLACK (500 edition)


Before he became one of the stellar synth-orchestral action composers of the 80’s with the likes of THE LAST STARFIGHTER and REMO WILLIAMS, Craig Safan got his auspicious genre start on this spookily underrated 1980 film, which featured Dennis Christopher as the ultimate movie nerd killer. Instead of trying to do some symphonic PSYCHO pastiche, Safan’s music budget dictated that he take an eerie, almost experimental punk-noir approach, speaking for the character-changing maniac with hauntingly echoed pianos, a stabbing rock groove ensemble, and shimmering strings that turn the nutcase’s fixation with a Marilyn Monroe look-a-like into the real thing. A French waltz also cleverly transforms Graumann’s Chinese Theater into the top of the world, all before Marsha Hunt’s beautifully elegiac ode “Heroes Die” rings FADE TO BLACK, and its score into my cult movie memory.



Rolfe Kent, the king of quirky comedy scoring with the likes of MEAN GIRLS and ELECTION, gets to take on the sweetly supernatural with GHOSTS and the simultaneous soundtrack release of 17 AGAIN. You could say that these two summer hits represent the same thematic side of the coin with male heroes who get spiritual makeovers to overcome past regrets. It’s a fond sense of regret that permeates GHOSTS, and reaches heavenly heights in 17. Yet as purposefully off-balance as Kent’s music might be here in all of its Calypso-jazzy fun, there’s also something as big and melodically broad as you’d find in Hollywood’s old, unabashed approach to comedy music. Leave it to Kent to restore that spirit with his eccentric brashness, which hits all the right oddball notes for these two releases.



After the likes of EAGLE EYE, FAST AND FURIOUS and THE FINAL DESTATION, the verdict is in that few composers can do pulsating suspense with the mean streak of Brian Tyler. Now he’s back with a vengeance for this dark, uptempo fusion of SAW and DEATH WISH, as his music keeps intriguing time with a wronged father’s machinations against the system. It’s the trademarked Tyler house mix that’s played out here with somewhat creepy samples and a mildly noble orchestra that speaks for city hall, two layers that constantly count down from one act of justifiable terror to the next. And Tyler knows how to vary his pace to keep things interesting, especially as solo piano that becomes the pained anti-hero’s downbeat attitude towards getting payback in between his exhilarating rushes to Judgement.



Composer Michl Britsch enters the kind of haunted spaceship where Jerry Goldsmith and John Murphy have dared to tread with ALIEN and SUNSHINE. But not even those previously intrepid musicians have splashed around in its bio-mechanical grunge like Bridge, whose relentless score alternately pulses and slashes with electric guitars, groaning voices and grinding samples, with just a bit of melodic melancholy thrown in. What results is an intriguing case of neo-musical space madness that will definitely please horror score thrill seekers. Bridge’s rhythmic, anti-matter approach succeeds as pure nightmare stuff, effectively conveying the suffocating terror of running, or clawing your through one dark corridor to the next, all the while with cannibal albinos on your tail.


Vampire's Assistant

Horror scoring, fairy tale magic, ethnic Indian percussion, and altsy guitar playing are but some of the delightful music acts that play under Stephen Trask’s malefic musical big top, all weirded-out styles coming together for this teen adventure spin on the vampire mythos. Having shown a talent for offbeat romance in ASSISTANT director Paul Weitz’s previous films IN GOOD COMPANY and AMERICAN DREAMZ, Trask really gets to strut his wild side here, making traditional stormy night musical stuff tasty for the hip kid crowd by amping it up with brassy supernatural fisticuffs, unnerving voices and an firm command of grand symphonic melody. And like such other fiendish musical ringmasters as Danny Elfman, Trask knows how to balance his creative darkness with a playfully hip sense of humor, making VAMPIRE’S ASSISTANT into a truly fun 71-minute act that you’ll want to attend on CD.

Find these soundtracks at these .com’s: Amazon, Buysoundtrax, Intrada, iTunes. Moviemusic, Screen Archives and Varese Sarabande

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