CD Review: November Soundtrack Picks
‘Night Of The Creeps‘ One Of The Top Soundtracks To Own For November, 2009
Also Worth Picking Up: ‘An Education’, ‘Black Dynamite’, ‘Bone Eater’, ‘Couples Retreat’, ‘The Fourth Kind’, ‘Jeremiah Johnson’, ‘Ninja Assasin’, ‘A Serious Man’ And ‘Toxic’
To purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD cover.
1) BLACK DYNAMITE
What is it?: This ultimate Blaxsploitation goof may have been kept down by The Man, but that didn’t stop Waxpoetics from releasing two CD’s of retro-funk goodness that will give any listener feel like they’re wearing a righteous ‘fro.
Why should you buy it?: Musically spoofing the r & b Motown sound of scores like SHAFT, SUPERFLY and its like isn’t anything new for such soundtracks as UNDERCOVER BROTHER and GOLDMEMBER. But Adrian Younge might stand as the composer (and picture editor) who’s gotten this groove down like no other Afro hepcat. Right from DYNAMITE’s title track that extols the killer mojo of a “Mean Motherf***er who’s superbad,” the song-driven DYNAMITE album doesn’t try to be funny so much as it attempts to pay energetic tribute to the cooing vocals, sleek organs and guitar riffs that brought true soul power to any number of in-yo-face heroes. And Younge expertly realizes it by using 70’s vintage musical machinery to get that funky, reverbed sound reverb just right.
Extra Special: Usually albums released in tandem with the main soundtrack lack any kind of soul. But the accompanying “music track” BLACK DYNAMITE CD is just as bad as the “original,” its grooves brilliantly assembled from classic music libraries to mesh with Younge’s funk by the film’s music supervisor, and music editor David Hollander. Here a soul collective of Adrian Younge, Alan Tew, Brian Bennett, Alan Hackshaw and Johnny Pearson replicate the urban funk styles of every artist from Isaac Hayes to Miles Davis for a collection that spans the spectrum of early 70’s jazz cool. In fact, you could slap this music into TRUCK TURNER to TROUBLE MAN without anyone noticing the switch. Sure you might laugh at the unavoidable, and knowing humor of these two DYNAMITE soundtracks, but take the movie away, and they’re seriously cool trips down a memory lane when the uninhibited groove of Blaxsploitation reigned supreme.
2) BONE EATER
What is it?: Chuck Cirino has composed the scores for just about a zillion B-movies, and pictures far down the alphabet scale from that. But just because your resume includes stuff like CHOPPING MALL, DEATHSTALKER II and MUNCHIE doesn’t mean that you can’t have a sense of humor about it, let alone consistently produce A-level music. It’s a point proven in a big way as Cirino delivers what might be the best spaghetti western horror soundtrack of all time for his biggest directing fan Jim Wynorski
Why should you buy it?: While I didn’t think I’d be jumping for joy to hear anyone’s accompaniment for a Sci-Fi channel movie about a Godzilla-sized Indian Skeletor, Cirino’s music has made a believer out of me. With the backbone of several dynamic themes that he skillfully varies to romantic, eerie and body-crunching degrees, Cirino pours on the kind of native flutes, suspenseful drums, trumpeting synth brass and charging guitar rhythms that The Man With No Name would be proud to wear- let alone a southwestern monster. It’s an explosion of Morricone love for this longtime fan, who’s finally able to run in the trademarked style for a filmmaker who also has the distinction of producing FSM’s NAVAJO JOE album. Sure Cirino might not have Ennio’s orchestra here, but making the most out of sampled bones has always been this composer’s strongpoint, as he turns limitation into a literally huge musical virtue, complete with all of the bells and whistles you expect to hear from such a bodacious genre outing.
Extra Special: The word-of-mouth among former soundtrack fan disbelievers surrounding BONE EATER will hopefully draw the industry curious to give this a spin. And those who indulge in the insane delights of this jaw-droppingly fun soundtrack will discover one of scoring’s most unsung talents, who will hopefully get a chance to jump to bigger pastures on the shoulders of BONE EATER.
3) JEREMIAH JOHNSON
What is it?: Robert Redford finds the acoustical magic of being a mountain man in this beautiful, authentic-as-a beaver trap western score by the unique combo of actors-cum-composers John Rubinstein (ENTERPRISE) and Tim McIntire (GUNSMOKE).
Why should you buy it?: Most western scores were huge, lush affairs before 1972’s JOHNSON and his ornery like brought out the fiddles, guitars and folk songs that were most likely heard on the prairie. And while JEREMIAH certainly has the kind of grand orchestral scoring that John Ford would have approved of, it’s director Sydney Pollack who can be thanked for giving this duo of Rubinstein and McIntire their big, innovative break. It certainly helped that John was the son of famed pianist Artur Rubinstein. And hanging out with dad certainly helped his natural musical ability allowed Rubinstein to bring out a folksy, lyrical sound as earnest and gorgeous as the film’s vistas. And when it comes to equally impressive ballads sung by co-composer Tim McIntire, fans of his talking canine from A BOY AND HIS DOG will immediately recognize the actor’s earthy voice.
Extra Special: JEREMIAH JOHNSON would pioneer the likes of such revisionist western scores as LONESOME DOVE and TOMBSTONE, where a symphonic sound as big as all get-out could intermingle with the few, simple instruments that could be found in the bags of any mule train. And Film Score Monthly’s excellent packaging and sound pays heartfelt ode to the late, and greatly missed Pollack and McIntire’s keen musical tastes, especially in the opening liner note tribute by Nick Redman. Add to that the demos that got Rubinstein and McIntire the job that helped change the face of western scoring, and you’ll get the ultimate soundtrack tribute to the days when men were men- strumming away on a mountaintop.
4) NIGHT OF THE CREEPS
What is it?: In conjunction with the CREEPS’ long-awaited DVD release, La La Land issues a deluxe edition of Barry DeVorzon’s ominous synth score for Fred Dekker’s classic alien-zombie fiesta.
Why should you buy it?: Few composers made such compelling use of electronics during the 70’s and 80’s synth score boom like DeVorzon, whose work on THE WARRIORS, LOOKER and STICK were notable for their cool, rhythmic eeriness. He’d take that sound to titularly eerie extremes for CREEPS, infesting his score with slithering sound effects, embodying the brain-exploding slugs as they skitter across memorably droning melodies. It might be a period synth sound, but DeVorzon’s CREEPS still pack the kind of subtle chills that today’s sample-heavy genre scores can’t begin to match, music that captures both the horror and humor of Dekker’s still-potent cult film.
Extra Special: NIGHT OF THE CREEPS was just as clever in its use of songs for a story that spanned the 1950’s to the 80’s, the ironic best of which are featured here with “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” “The Stroll” and Martha Davis singing “Nightmares” under the name C-Spot Run. There’s even an audio interview where Barry DeVorzon reveals his dark synth tricks, making this CD a truly geek-tastic celebration of this cult classic.
5) A SERIOUS MAN
What is it?: Coen muse Carter Burwell has contributed to their quirky brand of darkness from the start with BLOOD SIMPLE. Now after decades of playing darkly melodic, black-humored mayhem for the brothers, Burwell finally finds religion with them. But wouldn’t you know it, their SERIOUS MAN is subtly brooding wrath of G-D old testament stuff, as filtered through the equally scary vibe of the late 1960’s.
Why should you buy it?: It would’ve been easy for Carter Burwell to indulge in the “Jewish music” shtick to match the Coens’ subversive stereotypes. But there’s nary a fiddle to be had here, as the composer and the filmmakers are way to clever to play the obvious. Instead, A SERIOUS MAN offers ominous, tingling melodies that concentrate on its shmuck lead’s constant introspection. It’s an unexpectedly lyrical, pared-down orchestral sound for slithering brass and piano, with equal moments of calm and intellectual terror that making this one of the more introspective, and creepy soundtracks in a Burwell-Coen cannon that already includes such mental nightmare scores as BARTON FINK and THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE.
Extra Special: The songs of Jefferson Airplane plays a big, and hilariously unexpected part in this paean to Jewish angst, with Burwell using guitar to brilliantly segueing to such Airplane hits as “Somebody To Love,” “Comin’ Back To Me” and “Today.” Just try Daven-ing to that.
Also for Your Consideration
You’ll feel like you’re being taken for a night on Soho, circa 1962 with this jazzily nostalgic collection, culled from a time when London nightlife was king, especially for a girl who follows its siren call with questionable company. Numbers like Floyd Cramer’s “On the Rebound,” Mel Torme’s “Comin’ Home Baby” and Beth Rowley’s sultry update of “You Got Me Wrapped Around Your Little Finger” help AN EDUCATION cast its swinging spell. And when it comes to the heroine’s amorous activities across the pond, the use of ultra romantic Gallic standards by Juliette Greco and Madeleine Peyroux help get across EDUCATION’s feel of an Audrey Hepburn film with lax morals, especially with Paul Englishby’s soothingly dramatic score on hand to point fingers at the misguided gamine.
After his Oscar-winning splash on SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, it seems only natural that Indian music superstar A.R. Rahman should go Hollywood for a romantic comedy. And Rahman throws himself into this fun COUPLES RETREAT with tropical abandon, proving he can do slapstick boopity-boo stuff as well as the next American guy. But what helps separate this RETREAT from other generic soundtrack resorts is Rahman’s talent for lush string arrangements and infectiously danceable songs, both of which this album has in abundance. His orchestral music is as lush as the tropical blue seas, with upbeat island grooves and a rousingly romantic main theme. Topping off the mix is “Sajna,” which Rahman performs along with Blaaze and Vivian Chaix. It might not be “Jai Ho,” but the groove is as smooth as a Pina Colada on a hot day at the Antigua Sandals.
THE FOURTH KIND
While l I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn you can buy if you believe this movie’s “true story” about levitating alien abductions, I can offer you a soundtrack that sells the idea far more persuasively. Upcoming composer Atli Orvarsson (BABYLON A.D., SEASON OF THE WITCH) gets a sound that’s as hypnotic as it is unnerving, laying a suspensefully rhythmic pulse with surreal samples and a haunting female voice. Like its suspicious psychiatrist, Atli’s KIND is on a relentless, eerie search that blurs the melodic line between the supernatural and science fiction, creating a sound that really grabs you up from the couch, and then some.
GRAY LADY DOWN
Chuck Heston continued his disaster movie run with this effective submarine wreck film, which also featured a then-unknown Christopher Reeve as part of a crew desperately trying to get off an undersea cliff. Giving their impossible mission infinite tension is Jerry Fielding, the great musical iconoclast of THE WILD BUNCH and STRAW DOGS (as well Intrada’s just-released BIG SLEEP), who steers an equally daring course here. After a military fanfare fit for Heston above water, Fielding subtly unleashes dark, suspense that’s caught between melody and dissonance in the 70’s suspense mode, complete with shimmering synths, eerie brass effects and a steadily beating percussive theme. Things are tonally GRAY indeed as Fielding powerfully conveys the terrible pressure outside of the sub, a thick musical sea just waiting to drown or crush our heroes. It might be a more intellectual approach to the material than you’d expect, but par for the course with a composer of Fielding’s innovative stature.
HEROES AND VILLAINS
In his CD notes, composer Daniel Pemberton remarks how he said f**k it when it came to tempering down his epic musical instincts just because he’d be scoring for television. Those who take the chance on this impressive dual soundtrack will be glad for Pemberton’s hubris, particularly if they’re fans of Attila the Hun and Napoleon. The composer takes on two of history’s star conquerors with an orchestral stature that befits them, first playing The Hun’s dark presence with ghostly ethnic instruments and vocalese, Upon hearing Pemberton’s ominous, sometimes swashbuckling approach, you quickly realize how the known world cowered before Attila’s mystique. Pemberton makes NAPOLEON stand equally tall with a rousing, classical orchestra that plays like the symphony Beethoven would’ve written for the Frenchman if he hadn’t realized his true, tyrannical colors. Music swirls about the numerous battle scenes like cannon fire, making the program thunder with the history-changing importance that only epic music of this sort can provide, no matter the size of the screen.
After his impressive fantasy score for STARDUST, Ilan Eshkeri continues to cut a mean swathe through Hollywood- trading in that film’s rousingly pleasant orchestra for hard-ass strings, screaming rock guitars, loads of Asian percussion and other forms of nastily fun musical behavior to hit NINJA’s bewildering parade of body parts and throwing stars. It’s a dynamic way of playing the kind of martial arts thrash we’ve heard a zillion times before with new tricks, music that manages to be emotionally lyrical even as it’s slicing a few hundred people in half. Knowing that it’s insane to even try to hit the moves of ASSASSIN’s frenetically-edited action, Eshkeri becomes a composing ninja by slipping his mean rhythms and blasting orchestral statements in between the sound effects and screams, his near-continual climaxes giving the picture’s bloody shenanigans the kind of mythic, musical drama that makes these centuries-old warriors come to instrumental life at least.
Various unsavory characters’ paths cross to the tune of Scott Glasgow’s gritty score, whose tightly interwoven textures dance between percolating suspense, disturbing samples, tragic piano and jazzy melancholy, all of which make for an intense musical journey in the key of film noir. The criminally creepy TOXIC is also notable for a thrilling percussive pursuit composed by Movie Score Media label head Mikael Carlsson, whose “Rooftop Chase” fits like a dark charm into Glasgow’s fateful, melodic connections.
Find these soundtracks at these .com’s: Amazon, Buysoundtrax, Intrada, iTunes. Moviemusic, Screen Archives and Varese Sarabande