CD Review: Leverage – Original Soundtrack

By • August 2, 2010

Composers: Joseph LoDuca
Label: La La Land
Suggested Retail Price: $17.99
Grade: B+


If you’re going rip off corporate slimeballs to give to the poor, chances are you’re not going to be cooking up your scheme to the gently classical strains of Frederic Chopin. You’re going to take down those filthy-wealthy conglomerates with an attitude, if not an outright spring in your step. For whether you’re scheming for the right or wrong reasons, there’s a pure enjoyment in pulling off the caper that seems to be jazzy by nature- whether it’s having the ragtime strains of Scott Joplin to accompany THE STING’s grifters, or getting the kind of retro-60’s beat the David Holmes poured on over the course of three OCEANS’ movies.

If you want to hear the beat of TV’s most wealth recompinsators, you need look no further than Nathan Ford and his merry men, whose righteous grifts now enter their third season for LEVERAGE. And if you want to know how their cool acts of financial vengeance have gotten the right, jazzy guidance over the last two seaons, then you can tune to the ace caper music of Joseph LoDuca, whose best stylings now get their due on this entertaining La La Land LEVERAGE compilation.

If LEVERAGE particularly thrives on its hep Vegas-y groove, then as they say in that town, Joseph Lo Duca just might be one of the hardest working composers in show business- if not one of the most prolific when it comes to TV scoring. Though perhaps best known to movie fans for his gloriously sinister work on the EVIL DEAD films, BOOGEYMAN and BOTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF, it’s the inexhaustible hours of music for the small screen that’s seen LoDuca garner numerous Emmy and ASCAP awards. His forays into the mythical worlds of such shows as HERCULES, XENA and the ongoing LEGEND OF THE SEEKER have yielded hours of epic scores. And before he’d join Dean Devlin for LEVERAGE, Lo Duca had conjured fantastical work for that show’s creator on three LIBRARIAN telefilms and THE TRIANGLE miniseries.

But if genre scoring is an arena this former jazz musician seems busiest, the trust that Devlin gave him to do something completely different for LEVERAGE is what really makes this stuff sing, giving the 34 tracks offered within this generous 72-minute CD the sense of a composer really getting a kick out of working in surprisingly diverse amount of real-world styles, with the backbone of hip crime-jazz to cement them.

But while it’s possessed with up-to-the minute freshness, the swinging swinging vibe of LEVERAGE might be owed to its most obvious classic ancestor in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE- a show where IMF agents with specialties in disguise, gadgets and just plain subterfuge pulled off weekly scams for The Man, their best escapades given the jazzy swagger of composers like Lalo Schifrin, Jerry Goldsmith and Walter Scharf. LEVERAGE’s marks might be Big Greed as opposed to the Commies, but the musical idea of giving its heroes a vibrant swagger hasn’t changed all that much, whether its given modern-day hipness here with a Hammond Organ, fat brass, wah-wah guitars and the playful pizzacato that Lo Duca brings to such tracks as “The Team,” and “Parking Lot Mischief.”

Not only does Lo Duca work with a vibrant groove, he keeps LEVERAGE’s music thoroughly interesting by often employing several different styles in the course of one track, going from funk jams to nightclub jazz in “Viva Vegas,” or giving a film noir sax feel to “Zagreb.” And the City That Never Sleeps swing isn’t the only musical modus operandi that LoDuca’s working on, as an Indian Sitar gives a bouncy raga to “Mumbai International,” Italian GODFATHER stylings get saluted in “Father Daughter Dance” or having hard rock jam with Asian percussion in “Rattlin Pots and Pans.” And when you hear the orchestral bursts of “Inside Job” you know it’s the kind of music that Peter Graves would be proud to best evil with. For whether these suites go on for barely over a minute or over the course of several, all have a beginning, middle and end. LoDuca’s cues are as well constructed as Team Ford’s plans themselves.

You pretty much think that this album is going to be all fun and games for the first half of it. But unlike Jim Phelps, LEVERAGE’s leader has some pretty big demons in his closest, the biggest of which is his drinking problem. With the somber strings of “Nate Comes Clean,” the LEVERAGE album starts entering some way more serious tonal territory, with “Emergency Landing” and “Bellbridge” taking on a dark industrial action vibe, “Tank Fight” unleashing hard-ass metal guitar action, and the intense build of “Lifting Files” treading territory usually reserved for LoDuca’s more chilling cinematic work. The electric piano and downbeat suspense of “Do You Remember” wouldn’t be out of place in a political conspiracy film from the 1970’s. And when “Nate Gives Himself Up,” the music has an epically somber, near-patriotic tone that you’d imagine in THE PELICAN BRIEF. Lo Duca also continues to show off his chops for ethnic music in more reserved ways, from the tender Chinese music of “Madame Administrator” to the equally emotional Irish tones of “Metamora” and “All My Decembers.” Summing up this pleasingly diverse CD is the big string climax of “Elevator Bomb,” with Andy Lange’s alt. folk rock song for Nathan’s awkward romance with Sophie capping off this album off in style with “Not Sure Yet.”

La La’s been doing well with numerous Lo Duca soundtracks like BOOGEYMAN, THE MESSENGERS, THE LIBRARIAN and THE TRIANGLE. And they’ve given LEVERAGE the same attention to sound and packaging, with Devlin and director Jonathan Frakes paying tribute to LoDuca’s work in the glossy booklet. They couldn’t have asked for a more musically creative team leader in pulling off their scams. For as any good con artist knows, the trick is varying the con so as not to getting your mark wise to it. And when so much TV suspense stuff resides in the realm of “the drone,” LoDuca’s energy has never been less than high, the music always music. And with LEVERAGE, he’s been able to continually pull of the show’s schemes with the sheer, stylistic versatility of them- sticking to the jazzy energy that’s the foundation of its concept. Now as Devlin and company enter their third season, one can only guess where LoDuca’s tonal subterfuge will take these smooth operators. But right now, this LEVERAGE CD is a thoroughly entertaining return to the scene of the good crime.

Join Joseph LoDuca’s big score here

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