Score Season #53
Below are more soundtrack reviews of recent and archival releases.
Another Stakeout (Arthur B. Rubinstein, 1993) *** Despite the dizzying pace wrought by Arthur B. Rubinstein for Another Stakeout, he plugs in some intelligent devices. The score opens with mysterious murder music where it’s unclear if something has happened or if high alert may be called for. The mood remains cool and flippant, exchanging dialogue with suspenseful measures on top of action-packed arrangements. Overall, there’s a better integration between orchestral and electronic elements compared to its predecessor. The first Stakeout relied too much on keyboards, the campy tone feeling awkward rather than natural. With lowered expectations, I went into Another Stakeout ready to blast the experience. Having stepped away after my first listen, the time seems ripe to dive in again. I had fun.
Four Days in September (Stewart Copeland, 1997) ** Perhaps the main issue with the underscore behind Four Days in September would be that it rarely challenges composer Stewart Copeland outside of his known bag of tricks. Although we get an atmospheric, colourful and percussive compilation, there’s barely two poles to hold up the towering structure. Record label Milan might have been better served by releasing Copeland’s truculent work on Surviving the Game. At least the latter didn’t cave to a genteel or civilized conveyance.
The Fox (Lalo Schifrin, 1967) **** Initially, Lalo Schifrin’s The Fox hit me like a boot to the abdomen. Certainly, I was unprepared for the infinite shades of subtlety and brutality. So I paused, regrouped and took the plunge once more. The result? I thought it was a mysterious, bittersweet and cathartic experience. It’s a triumph for Schifrin whose experiments have ranged from the head shaking (The Hellstrom Chronicle) to the superlative (The Planet of the Apes TV series). In The Fox, there’s a self-awareness and gift for tone which allow the heavier interludes to seem justified emotionally. Everything influences character. As such, he generates considerable suspense by reflecting what happens to each person inside the labyrinth. Highly recommended.
Joseph Andrews (John Addison, 1977) **** A score which does not feign sophistication, Joseph Andrews combines curiosity, tenderness and elation. Along with Swashbuckler, it’s one of the finest scores I have heard from composer John Addison. Every track holds something tangible in relation to the human heart. While pretenders shirk the responsibility of a theme, Addison tests the romantic waters and swims many lengths with ease. For delivering music of wit, charm, honesty, temperance and originality, I congratulate him. Bravo maestro!
On the Waterfront (Leonard Bernstein, 1954) *** There are a few film score guides available from Scarecrow Press. Among the titles: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The English Patient, Signs, The Ice Storm, The Big Country, The Conversation, The Godfather Trilogy and Rebecca. One subject I was rather surprised to see was Leonard Bernstein’s On the Waterfront. Although intriguing and extremely dramatic as heard in the film, this has never struck me as an essential score. Then again, neither does Ernest Gold’s Exodus. Regarding the opening track, there are two things I don’t like: a melancholy tone which felt like a slog and the dramatic “moment” as the camera pans up to the roof. Frankly, Bernstein got loud and busy, overselling the emphasis. Beyond these niggles, I am determined to meet the score halfway. Frankly, the love theme would play well in a Glenn Miller tribute. It’s a little raw in places. The question remains: did the score move me? Only in parts. “Blue Goon Blues” was unspeakably dull and “Kangaroo Court” tapped into some of Leonard Rosenman’s fury minus the care and sentiment. Overall, On the Waterfront won’t be a soundtrack I’ll revisit often, yet some of it was lovely.
The Scorpion King (John Debney, 2002) * Because I was weened at a young age on the magical sounds of Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and many others, my fondness for rock n roll goes very deep. I also like jazz and blues. Regarding The Scorpion King, the heavy rock guitar in “Boo!” serves as a departure from the golden age. Indeed, the album was relatively speedy at 40 minutes, yet the lousy “Main Titles” screams last minute tinkering. If composer John Debney were to be given the benefit of the doubt, he was following two fairly common place efforts by Jerry Goldsmith and Alan Silvestri in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns respectively. Granted the latter has aged well. Still, there are clichés piled upon repetitious arrangements which only serve the immediate goal, and don’t bear closer scrutiny. Action themes demonstrated by “Night Attack,” “The Cave,” “Balthazar’s Camp” and “I’ve Come for the Woman” are even more lackluster. In addition to measures lifted from John Williams’ Star Wars and Don Davis’ The Matrix, there’s a four note motif at 0:21 into “Die Well Assassin” ripped straight out of Danny Elfman’s Batman. Indeed, no theme remains sacred here.
Carrie (Pino Donaggio, 1976) **** It’s a pity the mood of Carrie was spoiled by “Calisthenics” and “The Tuxedo Shop.” These partners in shame are not alone for “The Retribution” dampens the enthusiasm further, but that’s nearer the end. The latter comes across like an electronic wind machine complete with incomprehensible bass line and distortion. Meanwhile, Pino Donaggio’s remaining underscore comes close to five-star quality. The twin atmospheres of innocence and evil are suitably conveyed by the woodwinds. Your heart shall melt, experience fright then you’ll want to jump back into the maelstrom.
Now for a poem:
One you wouldn’t want to marry
A troubled soul called Carrie.
Her powers are frightful
And the other girls at school are spiteful.
More than some can handle
Thoughtful woodwinds lit by candle.
Bernard Herrmann strings are present
Their brief presence I do not resent.
Fans might like to sing
About the virtues of Stephen King.
Movies are about sound and sight
Occasionally getting both right.
Lionheart (Jerry Goldsmith, 1987) **** Time to rhyme:
Every assignment can be a test
When acting on another’s request.
The choice between what’s felt and unearned
Listeners know and have always yearned.
Jerry Goldsmith made his mark
For him music was no lark.
It was an expression of art and self.
That was his wealth.
Lionheart proved a step above the grade
So glad it was made.
Regardless of what we perceive
No limit to what a composer can achieve.
Navy Seals (Sylvester Levay, 1990) *** A poem:
In the synthesizer pool,
Few rate as cool.
Some are mired in the lake
While others barely keep you awake.
Not so these Navy Seals
Working in tandem with fine reels.
Sylvester Levay offers charm
And a little tragedy, what’s the harm?
The film may have tanked
Yet strong men flanked.
On the left Charlie Sheen
On the right Michael Biehn.
“Training Camp” deserves a salute
Leaving dissenters mute.
“Freighter Raid” was a tonic
Proving ever so hypnotic.
SCORE OF THE MOMENT
Hamlet (William Walton, 1948) ***** In musical terms, few composers have generated what William Shakespeare achieved so eloquently in his prose. However, William Walton proves the exception. The latter’s thoughtful compositions yoke passion from a classic tragedy. Very moody, Hamlet plays like wild fantasy. Entirely character driven, Walton’s music floods the listener with unseen tears, the sadness of the story myriad and labyrinthine. For example, “Hamlet and Ophelia” proved simultaneously heartbreaking and exquisite.
Rhyme on time:
A masterpiece Shakespeare wrote.
Of Walton’s music, we took note.
Such tenderness and passion
Always remain in fashion.
Hamlet acted in the name of the king
Claudius spoiled the throne via incestuous ring.
Their words and actions
Are the stuff of shocked reactions.
When the smoke clears
I was left in tears.
A cry you cannot see
The price of eternal fee