Score Season #45
Below are more soundtrack reviews of recent and archival releases.
Airport (Alfred Newman, 1970) *** Despite Airport being the swansong from nine time Oscar winning composer Alfred Newman (he still holds the record, John Williams has five), I hold no love for the overture. I like busy yet this type of barnstorming doesn't suit a blockbuster which unfolds as a slow burn. In fact, David Shire puts it to shame via his rambunctious main title for The Big Bus. However, where Newman excels has to be the suspenseful material, and especially those mischievous chords for Helen Hayes' flight hopping madame. Love her performance. Try as he might, Newman couldn't suppress the melodramatic which recurs at odd junctures. Nevertheless, a romantic excursion awaits. Also, I quite enjoyed "Emergency Landing!" although it's nowhere near as compelling as "Happy Landing" in Jerry Goldsmith's Executive Decision.
The Christmas That Almost Wasn't (Bruno Nicolai, 1966) **** A poem:
Clearly not a flash in the pan
Festive season requires dapper Dan.
Bruno Nicolai kept busy
His compositions bold and risky.
Sleigh bells stir my soul
Patching the bottomless hole.
A genius I did not see coming
More treasures incoming.
Playful like animated fare
Listen and take the dare.
Your heart will be glad
Reducing all that's bad.
A present with open arms
Ladled with unseen charms.
Creative, fresh and chirpy
Sparkling, nice and syrupy.
Feel better for hearing
Those melodies for reindeer appearing.
Mood and heart aglow
for the best in show.
Dredd (Paul Leonard-Morgan, 2012) Forming any attachment to the ethereal or rock elements in Paul Leonard-Morgan's Dredd seems delusional at best. This "either or" compromise ditches the fundamentals of rhythm, while extended passages denote lazy approval. Tapping, scraping and bashing are fully stocked. Atmosphere might be the objective, yet seldom has a score left me as puzzled as this retro, unimaginative, cliched battering ram.
The Great White (Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, 1981) So after three songs, the score for The Great White begins... and it's bloomin' awful. Following twenty seconds of boat engine noise, obnoxious electronics signal doom. It's all bad for composers Guido and Maurizio De Angelis. No doubt a hip alternative to the orchestral sound developed by John Williams on Jaws, it's curiously lacking in suspense, tension or even garden variety fun. What's next, blaster beams? Close. A little country and western disarms us further. Does the soundtrack ever pick up or think outside the box? Hardly.
Missile to the Moon (Nicholas Carras, 1958) * Admittedly, the music Nicholas Carras submitted for Missile to the Moon proves as carefree, gargantuan, repetitive, brassy and insulated as it gets. Much better was his score to She Demons, a tour de force by comparison. If every cue isn't neck tight and pockets empty, they couldn't obtain an orchestra big enough to drown the beast. An appalling lack of subtlety -- I'm missing the dramatic contrast -- means the bull remains locked up and cannot vent any steam. Honestly, Missile to the Moon seems invigorating to the same stepwise degree as a march for the Third Reich. Terrible? Yes, unforgivably so. By "Rock Man Rock," I was ready to halt the proceedings. Here's hoping Carras' The Doll Squad can meet the demand.
The Missing (James Horner, 2003) ** Time to rhyme:
Pretty as an orange peel
Stuck on the first reel.
How dark, desperate for a lamp.
I fell into a swamp.
A brush from woodwind smoke
Overwrought like the screaming bloke.
Try as one might wish
I lack fondness for this dish.
All that snarling and hissing
Nature made musical for The Missing.
A director needs artistry in their corner
The legendary James Horner.
Many good themes he could channel
Like a controller at the panel.
Yet The Missing meanders so
And left me full of woe.
My Geisha (Franz Waxman, 1962) **** Another poem:
My Geisha felt joyous
Many moods, some uproarious.
I am confident you will find it catchy
Little about it was patchy.
"Lucy's Arrival" was sweet and gracious
The theme rarely ostentatious.
Striking an authentic hum
I shall remember this plum.
It's said the capable may stress
when faced with a mess.
Calmness under pressure defeats
Any lingering retreats.
The pressing need for artistic pen
All about where and when.
Equally valid might be the form
And how the ideas swarm.
The Sword and the Sorcerer (David Whitaker, 1982) ** A run of the mill derivative, faint stirrings only occur in The Sword and the Sorcerer when composer David Whitaker imitates the high notes favoured by John Williams (Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark) and Alex North (Dragonslayer). Lacking the intellectual grasp required, Whitaker flounders in his fantasy conceptions. Frankly, neither the fanfares nor the leitmotifs carry punch. The lesson here? It's not enough merely using an orchestra because the ideas must strive towards originality. Otherwise, it's simply notes on a stave.
The Train (Maurice Jarre, 1964) *** Another poem:
Drums along the track
Signalling passengers on the way back.
The Train, a fast moving beast
Plug in your headphones, ready for a feast.
Much delight I found on this journey
which didn't involve a gurney.
Music the voice of the locomotive.
Ever so different from automotive.
A boiler and smoke
Finding new ways not to choke.
A theme which feels engrossing
Woodwinds ready for diagnosing.
Complaints? I have few
Not really affecting the stew.
The Train makes its destination
Free from procrastination.
Figures on barbaric line:
Spiky, the intention was fine.
Maurice Jarre - a grand old master
Proves a score doesn't only fix plaster.
SCORE OF THE MOMENT
The Last Fiction (Christophe Rezai, 2019) ***** Miraculously, Christophe Rezai's The Last Fiction transcends mere musical accompaniment for characters in a story. Such music felt rooted in the Iranian people and culture. By existing at a higher level both emotionally and historically, there's pure commitment. Unfiltered voices stack momentum in the gradients between faith and corruption. As such, language should not exist in a vacuum for the pulpit belongs to music makers who channel the soulful secrets of ancestral coincidence. They hone techniques so that greater beliefs might be served. There's not only longing behind these foundations... but a trial by hearing. Thus, it's possible to emerge and have your perception altered, the horizon a little more intriguing. Finally, I thank director Ashkan Rahgozar who with Rezai devoted five years to researching Iranian folk music. Their efforts changed my life.
Poem for a new classic:
The only time we hear rock
was in "Ahriman's Attack."
It was brisk and fierce
Any peasant boredom it did pierce.
Savage chanting behind "Two Snakes."
A contrasting mood, seamless lakes.
Much to learn outside the house.
"Kaveh the Ironsmith" did browse.
Hear them perform the ritual
A matter ancient and spiritual.
From ancestors much was learned
Even when books were burned.
Despite the mood, I sense light
in "Jamshid's Fight."
Glory for the victorious
Duties made them notorious.
Such full bodied feeling
and ideas break the ceiling.
It came from Ferdowsi's The Book of Kings
A rival for The Lord of the Rings.
Searching for redemption
via the fullest expression.
Intimate and broad
Discoveries made abroad.
To defeat a terrible ruler
Our hero must remain cooler.
Dual serpents on shoulder
Their victim much bolder.
All wisdom was fruitless
Unmade and rootless.
A moment before the strike
Time left inevitable hike.
Not on my watch
for Rezai was top notch.
Dedication in crucial code
Emotions penetrate abode.
For some it's daunting
to evoke a mood so haunting.
Fear not for The Last Fiction
does all that with conviction.