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Archive for the ‘John Williams’ Category

Soundtrack Watch: La-La Land Rebuilds “Empire,” Gets Creepy and Kooky

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Empire of the SunTwo heavy-hitters were announced for release from La-La Land Records this week, including a major expansion in the Spielberg-Williams canon worthy of the label’s 300th release.

First up, LLL has a single-disc expansion of Marc Shaiman’s score to the 1991 hit comedy The Addams Family. Based on Charles Addams’ iconic New Yorker cartoon strips, The Addams Family film features Gomez and Morticia (Raul Julia and Angelica Huston) and their brood welcoming the return of Gomez’s long-lost brother Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd). But is Fester really part of a plot by Gomez’s lawyer (Dan Hedaya) to embezzle the vast Addams family fortune? Shaiman, a composer/arranger who would earn international acclaim writing the Tony-winning score for a Broadway adaptation of John Waters’ Hairspray, turns in a delightfully macabre score that makes good use of Vic Mizzy’s iconic theme to the 1960s television series.

For their 300th release, La-La Land have returned to the Steven Spielberg-John Williams partnership that served them so well before with an expansion of Williams’ score to Empire of the Sun (1987). Based on J.G. Ballard’s autobiographical novel, Empire told the tale of Jim (Christian Bale), a wealthy British boy in Shanghai who ends up in an internment camp in Japan during World War II. As one of Spielberg’s first “serious movies,” and the first which Williams worked on with his longtime friend (Quincy Jones scored Spielberg’s 1985 drama The Color Purple), the score is an underrated triumph, alternately full of wonder and wartime bravado (choral-based piece “Exsultate Justi” remains a staple of Williams’ live conducting). It’s been greatly expanded for this two-disc set, featuring both the original film score and a half hour of unheard alternate cues.

Addams is limited to 3,000 copies, while Empire is 4,000 copies strong. Both can be previewed and ordered after the jump!

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Written by Mike Duquette

June 26, 2014 at 15:04

You Must Remember This: TCM, Masterworks Compile “Classic Sound of Hollywood” From Mancini, Williams, Morricone, More

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Play It Again - Classic HollywoodOn April 1, Sony’s Masterworks division and Turner Classic Movies marked the cable network’s twentieth anniversary with a new 2-CD collection of vintage Hollywood movie themes. Play It Again: The Classic Sound of Hollywood continues the Masterworks/TCM series that has previously encompassed archival releases from Doris Day, Mario Lanza and Fred Astaire. Composers represented include Bernard Herrmann, Max Steiner, Maurice Jarre, Elmer Bernstein, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Henry Mancini, Ennio Morricone and John Williams.  Most of the tracks on Play It Again aren’t derived from the original film soundtracks, but rather from renditions played by the likes of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Boston Pops.

The first disc is drawn entirely from RCA Red Seal’s series of Classic Film Scores as recorded by conductor Charles Gerhardt and London’s National Philharmonic Orchestra in the early 1970s. It includes three suites from composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold featuring his themes from Of Human Bondage, Between Two Worlds, and The Sea Hawk. Underscoring the diversity of this set, the disc also contains cues from the sensationally steamy Peyton Place (Franz Waxman), the creature feature The Thing (From Another World) (Dimitri Tiomkin) and even the Biblical epic Salomé (Daniele Amfitheatrof).  In 2010, Masterworks reissued this series as it originally appeared on LP, orphaning a handful of recordings.  The three of these “stray” recordings are the Peyton Place main title, the “Dance of the Seven Veils” from Salomé and the suite from The Thing.  In addition, the Korngold suites for The Sea Hawk and Of Human Bondage are different edits from those contained on the reissued Korngold CD in the Gerhardt series; this disc marks their first appearance on CD in over a decade.

What will you find on Disc 2?  Hit the jump for that, and more – including the full track listing and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

“Lethal Weapon” Box, “Superman Returns” and More Due from La-La Land

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Lethal Weapon OST Box

La-La Land never fails to amaze when it comes to Black Friday. The soundtrack label often saves some of its biggest and highest-profile titles for announcements on the shopping weekend (see 2010, 2011 and 2012) – and this year is no different, with two premiere releases of acclaimed scores, an expanded edition of a superhero sequel and a box set devoted to one of the biggest action film franchises of all time.

Police Academy OSTFirst up: call them slobs, call them jerks, call them gross – just don’t call them when you’re in trouble! Officers Mahoney, Thompson, Jones, Martin, Tackleberry, Barbara and Hightower (plus the reluctant Lt. Harris) were the misfit newbie cops in the 1984 comedy Police Academy, starring Steve Guttenberg, Kim Cattrall, Michael Winslow and Bubba Smith – and while the series is perhaps best known for the increasingly madcap sequels it never seemed to stop spawning (the seventh film in the series bowed in 1994), its score by Robert Folk has long been in high demand. Now, for the first time, enjoy every cue from the film, including the unforgettably jaunty march for the recruits, and even Jean-Marc Dompierre and His Orchestra’s “El Bimbo,” a source cue that scores a classic gag in the unforgettable Blue Oyster Bar.  LLL’s release is limited to 3,000 units.

Gunfight at the OK CorralRussian-born composer Dimitri Tiomkin was a master of the Western film score (hear his work on High Noon for definitive proof), and one of his greatest achievements, the score to John Sturges’ Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957), is finally available on CD in a 2,ooo-unit pressing. Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas’ Hollywoodized portrayals of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday didn’t teach anyone facts about the real event, but it sure made for some great genre entertainment. This lengthy disc features the complete score in mono, with eight bonus stereo cues, source music and demos of the classic title song, originally sung by Frankie Laine but covered here by both singing cowboy/Disney voice actor Rex Allen and Bob Hope/USO sideman Tony Romano.  Laine’s recording is, of course, also included and in fact opens the album.

After the jump, a trio of men of steel and some of their most iconic music!

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Written by Mike Duquette

December 4, 2013 at 08:31

John Williams Welcomed to Kritzerland with Complete “Missouri Breaks” Soundtrack

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The Missouri Breaks OSTIn 1976, John Williams was between Oscars – for Jaws and Star Wars, to be exact.  The year was filled with great film scores from the future legend – among them, Family Plot, Black Sunday and Midway.   Another of his fine works during America’s bicentennial year was for Arthur Penn’s western The Missouri Breaks, headlined by Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson.  The actual score tracks heard in the United Artists picture have never been released, either on LP or CD; Williams re-recorded his compositions for an album, much as his old friend and mentor Henry Mancini frequently did.  And so the release of Williams’ original Missouri Breaks music would be cause enough for celebration, but its upcoming limited edition 2-CD presentation also marks another “first”: the first appearance from John Williams on the Kritzerland label.  The new Missouri Breaks is a deluxe edition befitting the ambitious film.  The label will present the original score recordings with bonus material on the first disc, and a completely-remastered edition of the familiar soundtrack LP on the second disc.

Arthur Penn (Bonnie and Clyde, The Miracle Worker) assembled a top-notch cast to bring Thomas McGuane’s screenplay to life, also including Randy Quaid, Frederic Forrest and Harry Dean Stanton.  Nicholson portrayed Tom Logan, leader of a gang of horse thieves being pursued by Brando’s Robert E. Lee Clayton.  Penn was no stranger to the western genre, having directed such films as The Left-Handed Gun (1958) and Little Big Man (1970), and McGuane had recently written the contemporary comic western Rancho Deluxe (1975).  The production was in the shadow of Brando’s eccentric behavior as well as some unfortunate mishaps that resulted in the death of one horse and the injuries of others.  Though a hotly-anticipated film, The Missouri Breaks ultimately became a box office disappointment best remembered today for the bold performances of its stars.

For his score, John Williams didn’t write in the symphonic style with which he soon became closely associated.  Instead, he composed for a small ensemble including guitars, electric bass, harmonicas, and mandolin.  Kritzerland describes Williams’ evocative score as follows: “Williams had already done big, brash, outdoorsy Americana before with The Reivers and The Cowboys.  But The Missouri Breaks wasn’t big and brash, and so required a different kind of score – smaller in scale, but one that would capture the characters and the drama as well as the period and the feel of the film.  And, of course, Williams delivered a perfect score (albeit atypical for him during this period), mostly composed for guitars, harmonica, percussion, and a handful of other instruments.  Williams never wants for coming up with an instantly memorable and beautiful theme and The Missouri Breaks has a beauty in its love theme – never overused, always right.  His main title music sets the mood with tense bass notes, and off-kilter harmonica and guitar – it’s wonderfully evocative and haunting.  There are up-tempo infectious cues and cues for Brando that are really off-kilter.  It’s Williams doing what he did (and still does) better than anyone, and it’s a score that’s completely unique to him.”

After the jump: more specs on what you’ll find on Kritzerland’s new release, plus the full track listing and pre-order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 1, 2013 at 10:37

Soundtrack Watch: Intrada is “Dressed to Kill,” La-La Land Goes to “Rosewood”

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DressedToKill_a_600Calling all soundtrack enthusiasts: the past week of film score reissues from our favorite soundtrack reissue labels has been a bountiful one, indeed!

Last week, Intrada debuted an expanded edition of the score to Brian DePalma’s modern suspense picture, Dressed to Kill (1980). Nancy Allen plays a call girl who witnesses a murder, and Michael Caine is the victim’s psychologist, who might have more of a connection to the murder than meets the eye. DePalma’s controversial film owed more than a little to Alfred Hitchcock and Psycho in tone and subject matter, but Pino Donaggio’s score was worlds apart from Bernard Hermann’s fearsome soundtrack to that film. Donaggio commands a full orchestra with an almost romantic main theme contrasted throughout by rhythmic passages representing the suspense and murder throughout.

For this release, Intrada greatly expands upon the original Varese Sarabande LP, featuring nearly an hour of music, nearly all of it newly mixed from the original multitrack session masters, which turned up after years of vault searching. Fans of Donaggio’s work for DePalma will not be disappointed by this one.

RosewoodAnd La-La Land delivers a special treat for fans of John Williams: an expanded edition of his score to 1997’s Rosewood. Comparably obscure to his works for Steven Spielberg, big-budget fantasies or even the dramas of auteurs like Oliver Stone, this John Singleton film dramatized a racially-motivated violent event in Florida in 1923, bringing together Ving Rhames and Jon Voight as an unlikely team who sets out to fight against the racists who are attacking the titular black community. Williams, of course, handled things with typical grace and gravitas, utilizing a choir for the haunting “Look Down, Lord” and infusing passages with period color, including light blues and gospel shadings.

Rosewood‘s expanded presentation, limited to 3,500 units, includes two discs – one featuring the original mix and edit of the score as heard in the film, the other featuring the original Sony Classical soundtrack album. Mike Matessino, who co-produced with Sony Music’s Didier C. Deutsch, masters the disc, and Jeff Bond writes a powerful set of liner notes. Also exciting: Rosewood is first in a planned series of scores from LLL celebrating the 90th anniversary of Warner Bros. Pictures – and it’s one of many titles you can get through the label’s current dads-and-grads/Memorial Day sale, where everything is 20% off with a coupon code featured on La-La Land’s website.

After the jump, you can order your copies of both titles and check out the track lists!

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Written by Mike Duquette

May 22, 2013 at 14:27

Review: John Williams, “Jurassic Park: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – 20th Anniversary Edition”

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JP20 coverReally, it’s almost pointless to speculate why John Williams never received an Oscar nomination for his score to Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993). The composer’s CV features several of the most iconic scores in the history of movies with synchronized sound. Five of his projects – an adaptation of the music to the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof and four originals (JAWS (1975), Star Wars (1977), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and Schindler’s List (1993)) have won gold statuettes, and he has more nominations than anyone alive in the film business. (He recently moved up on the all-time list, sandwiched between reigning champ Walt Disney and his fellow composer and mentor Alfred Newman.)

Such is the praise for Williams that it’s tempting to avoid even posting more about his work for the year’s top blockbuster, and still one of the highest-grossing films of all time. But in the 20 years since the sterling Spielberg-Williams partnership has grown and changed, the music of Jurassic Park is an astounding throwback to a very different era for both men. It was Spielberg’s last blockbuster before his “serious” phase of Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan and last year’s Lincoln, and one of the last times Williams took his tried-and-true approach – lush, lyrical themes and soaring fanfares against the backdrop of often dazzling visual effects – and made it work in an original context. (Outside of three scores and an iconic theme for the Harry Potter film series, Williams’ biggest blockbuster scores are tied to familiar franchises, from Star Wars to, indeed, Jurassic Park.)

Perhaps to a certain generation, Jurassic‘s bag of tricks pale to the rush of the themes to Superman or Raiders of the Lost Ark – but it’s worth noting that the musical themes in a film about dinosaurs wreaking havoc in a zoo-like setting (a brilliant high-concept piece if ever there was one) are as poignant to modern viewers as the Star Wars themes were to their parents. I once observed a group of high schoolers selecting Jurassic Park in a video store, loudly emulating both the lilting five-note pattern of the film’s main theme and the whimsical secondary fanfare used to establish the park as they left with their film for the night. Like the low-end terror strings of JAWS or Raiders‘ triumphant march, this is a score that works.

And just as it’s a pleasure to see audiences gear up for a 3D reissue of the film this weekend – a new way to view a picture that’s lost little of its technical ecstasy or Spielbergian popcorn-film charm, even 20 years and two (soon to be three) sequels later – it’s a pleasure to see Williams’ iconic score gussied up in a newly-expanded edition (Geffen, no cat. #).

How does this new edition stack up? We investigate after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

April 5, 2013 at 13:18

Welcome (Back) to “Jurassic Park”! Williams Score Gets Surprise Digital Expansion

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JP20 coverWell, this one snuck up on us like a pack of velociraptors: in honor of its 20th anniversary and impending 3-D theatrical reissue, Geffen has quietly snuck out an expanded, albeit digital-only, reissue of John Williams’ score to the 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park.

Michael Crichton’s 1990 technothriller novel asked an astounding question for a new decade of popular science: what if geneticists could extract preserved DNA of dinosaurs and recreate them in the present day? As is typical of Crichton fare (think Westworld with stomping predators), a trip to an as-yet-unopened theme park devoted to these re-engineered animals goes horribly awry, captured in a deft mix of rock-star science and good old-fashioned scares.

It was, of course, the perfect fodder for a big-budget movie, and, in the words of Jurassic Park’s creator John Hammond, Hollywood spared no expense. Steven Spielberg and a fine cast anchored by Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough (whose Gandhi bested Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for a Best Picture Oscar) bought the fictitious world of Jurassic Park to life – and a supporting cast of groundbreaking dinos (both lifelike animatronics by the Stan Winston Studio and digital creations by Industrial Light & Magic) propelled the film far beyond mere blockbuster status. For four years, it was the world’s highest-grossing film, and it won all three Oscars it was nominated for in the fields of Visual Effects, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing. It also spun off two sequels, with a third set for release next summer.

While Williams’ 12th score for a Spielberg film was not nominated for an Oscar (he in fact won his fifth that same year for Spielberg’s other film that year, the acclaimed Holocaust drama Schindler’s List), it still stands as one of the best and most beloved in the Spielberg-Williams canon. Two beautiful primary themes anchor the film, an E.T.-like motif with soaring strings to signify the majesty of the prehistoric creatures, and a trumpet fanfare for the overall sense of island adventure. But there are great atmospheric score moments throughout, from the dangerous percussion of “Dennis Steals the Embryo” to a woozy four-note motif that scores the raptor attacks in the last act of the film.

The generous 70-minute soundtrack album has been expanded with 11 minutes of additional material, including the humorously-titled “Stalling Around,” music that accompanied a light-hearted cartoon in the film explaining how dinos were recreated (a fine hat tip to Looney Tunes composer Carl W. Stalling) and some great subdued cues from the first third of the film.

While it is a bummer that this JP expansion is digital-only and, thus far, exclusive only to iTunes in North America, it is a pleasant surprise for both new and old fans of this “adventure 65 million years in the making” to have a brand-new edition of this classic score. A humongous hat tip to good friend of The Second Disc Charlie Brigden for informing us of this release through a review from his excellent Soundtrek column at Lost in the Multiplex, which discerning score fans would do well to bookmark.

Check out the track list after the jump!

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Written by Mike Duquette

March 27, 2013 at 10:47


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