CD Review: September Soundtrack Picks

By • September 20, 2010

‘Lost: The Final Season‘ One Of The Top Soundtracks To Own For September 2010

Also worth picking up: Avanti, Beach Blanket Bingo, The Deep, Jack Goes Boating, Lawrence Of Arabia, Never Let Me Go, Supernatural And Vampires Suck

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

1) BEACH BLANKET BINGO (1,200 edition)


Price: $19.98

What is it?: If there was a court composer for American International Pictures (let alone the wild world of 60’s indie exploitation) than it would have been Les Baxter. Whatever avenue AIP boss Roger Corman was looking for, Baxter had the appropriate sound for it, from the gothic strains of Edgar Allen Poe (THE RAVEN) to drag racing energy (FIREBALL 500) and orchestral adventure for the budget-conscious Nordic invader (ERIK THE CONQUEROR). But if one movie genre was the closest to the kind of lounge-exotica that Baxter was revolutionizing the jazz world with in his other musical career, then it would have been the antic surf pop of AIP’s “beach” flicks for Frankie and Annette, the most famous of which still stands as 1965’s BEACH BLANKET BINGO.

Why should you buy it?: For the days when things were a lot more innocent (and the swimming suits a lot less revealing), goofball hijinks were this genre’s name of the game. And with BINGO, they certainly were a gateway for just about every other style that Baxter was playing for AIP, albeit in a far more comedic way. For Baxter’s real ability here is his ability to turn musical genres about at the drop of a surfboard, with guitar rock, winsome strings, military action and plucky cartoon percussion Swahili-ing it from one minute to the next. And with Buster Keaton on hand to mix it up with those crazy kids, Baxter also gets the opportunity to make his surf-jazz jam with comedic silent movie music. Yet Baxter has the chops to keep it all melodically cohesive as opposed to having this score sound as disjointed as sand on a beach. It’s a groovy sense of go-with-it invention that rocks out beyond BINGO’s obvious nostalgia appeal- much like those popular Beach Boys songs of the time, if the boys kept up the surf guitar beat while being blasted full-force with laughing gas.

Extra Special: A special tip of the surf board to Mark Banning for his fun album design that recreates the feel of the 60’s score album that this soundtrack never had (though the song record one did come out on Capital Records at the time), as well as copious liner notes by Baxter authority Randall Larson that shine new light on this mostly unsung, teen-groovy side to Les Baxter.

2) THE DEEP (3,000 edition)


Price: $29.99

What is it?: An author’s giant moray eel was an immediately appealing follow-up to a great white shark when it came to Hollywood cashing in on the sudden popularity of Peter Benchley’s work. And if anything, Peter Yates’1977 adaptation of THE DEEP proved itself no slouch in its ferociously suspenseful underwater adventure, even if John Barry’s score spends much, beautifully languid time luring you with the sea’s aquatic spell.

Why should you buy it?: Where Spielberg’s first Benchley film might have been about swimming for your life, THE DEEP is about exploring the turquoise sea for all of the dangers and booty it holds. And with his talent for lush thematic melodies (not to mention having proved his suspenseful water wings with 007 on THUNDERBALL), composer John Barry proved to be the perfect choice to score THE DEEP’s probing about of ancient wrecks, as well as the nefarious pirate action above the water. While there are certainly shrieking strings for when that big moray shows off its head-crushing jaws, Barry’s score is at its best when immersing itself with the poetry of the great below. For whether its flying in OUT OF AFRICA or diving here, Barry’s sonorous touch captures an elemental sense of wonder, his wall of strings easily gliding between numerous themes as danger inexorably rises to the surface, along with Jacqueline Bisset’s famed wet t-shirt.

Extra Special: Though Barry did an admirable job of condensing his DEEP music into a 24 minute suite funkily named “Return To the Sea – 2033 A.D,” side two of the original soundtrack album gave almost as much time to his collaboration with Donna Summer for the disco DEEP theme, its title of “Down, Deep Inside” certainly hitting a sexually suggestive highpoint for the singer. While that album is presented on a second CD, THE DEEP’s true treasure is the long-awaited release of all 58-plus minutes of Barry’s true underscore. It sounds as luxuriously languid and spellbinding as ever, with the hit film and music’s history entertainingly chronicled in Julie Kirgo’s liner notes.

3) EL MAL AJENO (FOR THE GOOD OF OTHERS)


Price: $19.95

What is it?: Spain’s composers are dabbling in the uncanny like never before, and one of the most promisingly eerie musicians to emerge from that country is Fernando Valazquez, whose strikingly melodic scores have accompanied THE ORPHANAGE’s ghost children, SHIVER’s serial killer, and perhaps most creepily, the incestuous son-mother socialites of SAVAGE GRACE. Now Valazquez delivers one of his brighter, and most contemplative genre entries with this thriller that finds an uncaring doctor being granted supernatural healing powers at a cost.

Why should you buy it?: There’s far more humanity than fear to these OTHERS, especially given the sweepingly poetic score that Valazquez has conjured. It’s the kind of lush melodic writing that might increasingly be an anathema in Hollywood, but is practiced with sweeping panache by emotionally fearless international composers like Valazquez. And while the themes might sneak up on you with a gentle nudge, it’s the unceasingly melodic whole of OTHERS that really impresses.

Extra Special: Though the plot of EL MAL AJENO might read, and play with somewhat less brooding intent than an M. Night Shyamalan vehicle, there’s no doubt The Man himself was taken with Valazquez’s sound, as he hired Fernando to score DEVIL. His well-deserved Hollywood arrival is further proof that the sound of truly striking music has the ability to be heard beyond borders, especially given Valazquez’s moving, and perhaps most effective approach to death and transfiguration here.

4) LAWRENCE OF ARABIA


Price: $26.95

What is it?: After doing massive recreations of the entire scores to THE ALAMO and EL CID, Tadlow now gets to completely play the epic picture with the most memorable theme of all. Of course, we’re talking about the sand-swept melody that stands for 1962’s LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. Maurice Jarre’s classic motiff instantly brings to mind all the romantic vastness of the desert and its Arab people, as seen through the gallant eyes of its British great white hope. There’s no doubt the thematic talent of France’s great movie tunesmith helped put this film on the map, with an Oscar-winning score that would lead Jarre (always along with director David Lean) to the equally hummable likes of DR. ZHIVAGO and RYAN’S DAUGHTER. Yet LAWRENCE will always remain the jewel in their crown, a score now that gets revealed with renewed, fresh majesty by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.

Why should you buy it?: While it’s The Theme that will always be LAWRENCE, hearing Jarre’s score in all of its glory shows how it truly helped herald a new era of grand musical storytelling. While the wall of orchestral sound of Hollywood yore is here, Jarre brought out something more humane, playful and even off in his lushly percussive approach to have Lawrence’s conflicted character stand out amidst the visual pageantry. This might just be the first epic score with a sense of fun as well, especially as Jarre gradually transcends Lawrence’s British pomp to make him as much of an Arab hero as an English one. Arabic exotica, often surreal melodies and quivering, mirage-like electronics drive Lawrence on his quest, with Jarre’s rhythms truly getting inside the turbulent, tormented mind of a hero becoming a man of an untamed people his culture views as barbaric. Its music that questions, rages and beautifully accepts the power of the legend he’ll become- a quirky emotional tapestry that’s unveiled here with over 30 minutes of unheard music.

Extra Special: A second 71-minute disc offers a wealth of unfamiliar Maurice Jarre music, including a dance suite from THE MAGICIAN OF LUBIN, the poignant violin playing of THE FIXER, the Christmas cheer of Santa’s main reindeer PRANCER, the Carmina Burana-like climax of SOLAR CRISIS, a folksy RESSURECTION and the heroic march of Jarre’s all-too brief score to Clint Eastwood’s FIREFOX.

5) VAMPIRES SUCK


Price: $18.98

What is it?: There’s no way you’re going to get me within five miles of a movie theater playing this, or any spoof by the anti-Zucker team of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. That being said, Christopher Lennertz’s score for their latest teaming with these so-called satirists definitely does get me a hell of a lot closer to said multiplex doors.

Why should you buy it?: The two schools of comedy scoring are yuck-yuck stuff and the scores that seek to play it straight. And while Lennertz has certainly (and capably) done the latter with scores like ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS and MARMADUKE, his work for the Friedberg and Seltzer on MEET THE SPARTANS and DISASTER MOVIE is thankfully serious about playing the silliness of whatever pop culture flicks and singers that struck the team at the second they were making the movie. Team Jacob would certainly be very happy with the melodic gravitas that Lennertz now gives to the TWILIGHT spoof VAMPIRES SUCK. All of the musical trappings are there to romp through the Northwest woods with his score reflecting the rock chords, eerie voices, and lush orchestrations that have played a part in the vastly different scores for the TWILIGHT saga. And all these approaches are wrapped up here into a strikingly good whole that rarely winks, let alone reveals its plastic fangs. And since SUCK is a comedy after all, there’s a modicum of brightness to Lennertz’s score, yet with a sound that could easily accompany some carnage if the composer so desired it. If anything, the wealth of bloody good themes reveal Lennertz as scoring straight man second to none. And with VAMPIRES SUCK, Friedberg and Seltzer can at least be congratulated for letting Lennertz go to town with a “spoof” score for them like never before. It’s almost enough to make me anxiously await their next collaboration, just to hear how Lennertz will fool me into thinking he’s not scoring one of their movies.

Extra Special: Lakeshore’s accompanying rock soundtrack doesn’t SUCK either, especially with Magicawandos’ “My Panties” and “Succubus Baby” hilariously ripping apart the angst-ridden tunes that are part and Goth parcel for the TWILIGHT movies.

Also for Your Consideration

AVANTI! (1,000 edition)

In addition to their country’s own soundtracks, Spain-based Quartet Records is rapidly becoming a player when it comes to releasing such eclectic, and seemingly forgotten English-language scores as Henry Mancini’s SANTA CLAUS- THE MOVIE and Richard Rodney Bennett’s LADY CAROLINE LAMB. But perhaps none of Quartet’s releases nail the foreign-Hollywood thing on the head like Carlo Rustichelli’s soundtrack to Billy Wilder’s 1972 comedy AVANTI!- in which the director’s favorite star Jack Lemmon, and British actress Juliet Mills, have an affair in the romantic wilds off the Italian coast. Rustichelli (whose prolific career ranged from the Paul Newman comedy THE SECRET WAR OF HARRY FRIGG to Fellini’s SATYRICON) came up with a delightful song adaptation score, with his thematic use of such Italian standards as “Senza Fine” practically singing “That’s Amore!” Rustichelli’s swooning orchestra mixes with every rustic Mediterranean instrument and dance you’d expect to hear from the terrain, making AVANTI! a charming cross-pollination between a very Italian approach to romance, and the lush Hollywood needs of its English-speaking stars in a lovers’ paradise.

BURIED

What kind of music do you hear when you’re entombed several feet under the ground in a coffin barely big enough to fit you, let alone one with 90 minutes of oxygen left? That sound is nearly an hour Victor Reyes’ poundingly suspenseful score (on iTunes), which truly takes the idea of music “opening up” a film to a whole new level. Starting off with a Danny Elfman-style barrage of swirling darkness, Reyes gradually illuminates the hapless situation of an U.S. army contractor. Though some uncertain orchestral samples might not give much hope for the music at first, Reyes’ command of the situation definitely grows throughout the claustrophobic set-up, his score varying between the excited hope of some exit and depressed fatalism, with the above-ground Iraqi location communicated through militaristic percussion and Arabic winds, with a Muezzin’s call to prayer segueing to the very ironic country song (written by Reyes and director Rodrigo Cortes) “In the Lap of the Mountain.” Reyes’ BURIED ends up being powerful, nail-biting exercise in terrified modulation that proves this Spanish composer as a talent to watch inside his first major English-language score. In fact, the best thing about his BURIED is that you’d think it was written for an aboveground action film at first listen, which seems pretty much the point here.

THE GOING UP OF DAVID LEV

You could say TV was where famed composer Jerry Goldsmith went to Shul. For his scores to such miniseries as QB VII and MASADA were full of rich, Hebraic rhythms that ranged from the weight of the religion’s tragic history to dancing with the zest of the Hora on a wedding day. However, none of Goldsmith’s entries into musical Judaica would get a Rabbi’s blessing like the rediscovery of his soundtrack to a 1973 TV movie about a boy’s adventures across Israel. Goldsmith’s gorgeous, lush stylings for orchestra and violin are resplendent in folksy tradition, with even FIDDLER ON THE ROOF’s Topol on hand here to give the score wailing wall cred, even if his tunes are more than a bit on the silly side. DAVID LEV now stands as Goldsmith’s real going up, as the score sings with the feel of a composer getting in touch with his own cultural and religious traditions, an energy that becomes a true musical mitzvah in Goldsmith’s supremely talented hands.

JACK GOES BOATING

After releasing the terrific soundtracks to LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, it’s no wonder that Lakeshore’s picked a title like JACK GOES BOATING to continue their winning streak of song-centric indie albums. But if SUNSHINE and KIDS’ strumming tunes captured the vibe that comes from a plethora of mis-matched relationships, then the tender acoustic and piano quality of JACK is equally adept at playing the haunted loneliness of two social misfits who gradually find love. It’s a feel that’s expressed in the folksy playing and reverbed voices of Fleet Foxes’ “Oliver James” and “White Winter Hymnal” and the jazzy, melancholy pianos of Cat Power’s “Where is My Love” and Bill Evans’ “Peace Piece,” as well as co-composers Evan Lurie’s “Snow” and Grizzly Bear’s “All We Ask.” Even SUNSHINE’s Devotchka is on hand for the melancholy guitar of “Dearly Departed.” But then again, if you’ve ever been alone and longingly looked out a window for the soulmate you know is somehow out there, then you’re well aware of JACK’s sound, and the optimism that can be heard amidst its longing.

THE LEGEND OF SILKBOY

One of China’s bigger entries into the world of 3D CGI animation gets an appropriately grand score by Canadian Alain Mayrand in his first major, and very promising effort. An obvious admirer of the sweeping John Williams sound, Mayrand’s work comes across more as a rambunctiously pleasant cross between Carl Stalling and Bruce Broughton, with antic cartoon asides comfortably residing in larger, thematically luxurious framework that plays with the adventurous sweetness of a mid-80’s fantasy score (as cleverly updated with a surf guitar). Even though Maynard is definitely pitching his score to the small fry with its grand fanfares for the obvious musical heroes and villains (along with subtle Oriental references), SILKBOY mixes the sillies with the quality of its orchestral ambitions (very well performed by Taipei’s Evergreen Symphony Orchestra), capturing an all-out sense of wonder that reveals Maynard off as a fanboy composer with the talented goods to pull of this Williams love fest.

LOST: THE FINAL SEASON

All good islands must come to an end in a metaphysical afterlife. And longtime castaway Michael Giacchino gives a fitting finale to the six seasons of LOST scoring here. The concluding emphasis is as much on our heroes’ poignant emotions as it is the danger that leaps from the unfathomable forces of the place itself, with dark orchestral forces always giving way to the simple melancholy of just a few piano notes, or a mournfully gentle violin. It’s a forceful contrast that always sounds as polished as Giacchino’s more traditionally scored bigscreen efforts like UP and STAR TREK, yet works here in far stranger, and maybe even more interesting ways the small screen. Giacchino’s talent for writing brooding, brassy string lines also oftentimes recalls the more fantastical work of Bernard Herrmann. Yet we’re not talking Sinbad exploring a monster-filled island here, but a long-wearied group of crash survivors sorting out their own personal penances and salvation, with Giacchino’s work finally soaring with touching acceptance. Having released every other season of LOST’s music, Varese pays final tribute to the series by making this one a two CD edition with about two and a half hours of score. Yet it all flows together as one thematic piece that might not provide the Big Answer, but has certainly provided a path to it as ominous at is beatific, no more so than for LOST’s finale.

NEVER LET ME GO

As different a clone-centric score as you can get from THE ISLAND’s, Rachel Portman’s achingly beautiful soundtrack paints replicants as bittersweet, screwed-up lambs going to the slaughter instead of making a hovercraft run for it. Portman’s score luxuriates in its tragic themes, with delicate strings and poignant violins conjuring the gilded cages of an English boarding school, and the seaside cottage where its tender ménage a trois will bond, and inevitably break. Though Portman’s always busy weaving for costume dramas like EMMA and THE DUCHESS, NEVER LET ME GO once again displays her ability to play well beyond the chick flick, though GO is certainly nicer in its approach than the harshly effective suspense she brought to HART’S WAR and THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE remake. Indeed, the ghastly fate of youths more human than human has never been rendered with such gorgeous, or literally heartbreaking delicacy. Also on hand is titular song by “Judy Washington,” a spot on recreation of the kind of yearning, bluesy 60’s pop sound that’s enough to possess a heroine from beginning to completion.

SUPERNATURAL

For five seasons and running, brothers Sam and Dean Winchester (and their trusty shotguns) have been battling all forms of evil, up to and including the Devil himself. And though it’s taken just as many years to finally get an on-demand score album for this hit series, fans will definitely be pleased by the wide variety of the tunes provided by Christopher Lennertz and Jay Gruska for the most popular creature-killers since The Monster Squad. While Team SUPERNATURAL’s screeching terror stuff is definitely hear in spades, it’s definitely their wackier musical stops on the show’s road trip to hell that impress with a gnarly country rock feel that’s summed up with selections like “Luci’fer You Got Some ‘Splainin’ To Do!” “’Salmon Dean’ In the Heartland” and the dastardly funk of “Dean’s Dirty Organ” (you’ve got to love this album’s cue titles). There are also stabs of Aaron Copland in “Americana,” while knowingly gonzo humor jumps about “Demon Agitato, Mr. Ostinator” and “Old ‘Monster Movie.” Overall, these SUPERNATURAL selections are suffused with a down and dirty attitude of Z.Z. Top as crossed with the more traditional sounds of today’s sample-driven ghost busting, a quirkily effective sound that continues to hit all of the horror bases for the show’s fans.

2001 MANIACS: FIELD OF SCREAMS

If you dig redneck horror music, think the South should have won, or just enjoy pure musical insanity, then you’ll be sure to feast on this generous helping of “splatstick” score and song satire. It’s a sign of filmmaker Tim Sullivan’s ambition to make this more than just your average Herschell Gordon Lewis-inspired confederate cannibal soundtrack, beginning with an energetic new banjo pickin’ and fiddlin’ take of the original, Gordon-penned theme “The South’s Gonna Rise Again” (co-performed by Ahmed Best, who makes up just a little bit for playing Jar Jar Binks with this). MANIACS’ song affronts range from the ersatz Paris Hilton pop of “Nottie Hottie” and the beyond-sexual suggestiveness of “All Up In My Candy” to the hair rock of “All Fall Down” and the Cramps’ style “Redneck Zombie”- with every tune interspersed with sound bytes that warrant the album’s Parental Advisory singer (as if a number titled “Someone to F**K” didn’t already). But what make the song-filled SCREAMS more than some one-note joke is that its tunes are as funny as they are well produced, a fact made even more shocking when you find out a good amount of these numbers were provided by Sullivan’s fans. There’s even room for Patrick Copeland’s underscore, which mostly plays FIELD’s shlocky shenanigans like an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon. His goofy, ominous country-style score is the cherry on one of the more enjoyable horror-comedy efforts to appear every hundred years, music which shows off this little horror movie’s soundtrack as being better than most of the bigger song-driven albums those damn Hollywood Yankees throw together all the time.

CLICK on the album covers to make your hardcopy or download purchase, and find the soundtracks at these .com’s: Amazon, Buysoundtrax, Intrada, iTunes. Moviemusic, Moveiscoremedia, Screen Archives and Varese Sarabande

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