Posts Tagged ‘Friday Feature’
Look! Up in the sky! It’s the return of the Friday Feature!
When a mad scientist threatens Metropolis, it’s Superman to the rescue…right? What if Superman wasn’t there? What if the Man of Steel was otherwise occupied, being honored for his heroic deeds by a group of local kids at the very moment City Hall was being blown up? Faced with his inability to save the day, would the Last Son of Krypton finally be pushed over the edge?
That’s not a story you’ll find in any DC Comic, however, now or then. Rather, it’s the plot of the 1966 Broadway musical It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman, currently being revived in New York for a limited run through March 24 as part of City Center’s Encores! series. Years before Julie Taymor and Bono infamously brought Spider-Man to Broadway, producer-director Harold Prince, songwriters Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, and writers Robert Benton and David Newman saw the potential in bringing Clark Kent, Lois Lane and company to the musical stage. The team devised a plot about a revenge-crazed scientist and expanded the traditional Clark Kent/Lois Lane/Superman love triangle by adding Jim Morgan, a paramour for Lois, and Sydney, a suitor for Clark. Yet Superman folded after just 129 performances, despite three Tony-nominated performances and a deliciously enjoyable score that’s endured thanks to the Columbia Records cast album produced by the label’s chief, Goddard Lieberson. With Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s timeless creation once again taking down the bad guys on a New York stage, the time has never been better to revisit this oft-forgotten part of the Superman mythos.
Are you able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Okay, just “jump” to keep reading! Read the rest of this entry »
It wouldn’t be summer without cold beers, meat on your barbecue, kids splashing in swimming pools…or a 25-foot-long, three-ton great white shark intent on devouring your local bustling summer community.
Okay, that last one’s a stretch in literal practice, but the 1975 blockbuster film JAWS, based on Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel, is a summertime staple, in fact kicking off the notion of huge crowd-pleasing flicks grabbing for audience members as the temperature heats up. The movie was an out-of-nowhere success for all involved, namely its director, a 29-year-old prodigy named Steven Spielberg.
With the film due to make a major comeback, debuting on Blu-Ray on August 14 with an assortment of great extras, now seems as good a time as any to revive our Friday Feature column with a look back at how JAWS defied all odds to become one of the most critically and commercially successful events of its time – and how a gripping soundtrack helped make that possible.
This shark’ll swallow ya whole, after the jump.
When The Second Disc started two years ago, it didn’t take long to realize that catalogue soundtrack coverage was going to be well met on the site. Joe and I love the power and beauty of film music, and admire the work of those awesome individuals who are preserving it on disc for future generations.
Today marks the 30th anniversary of my all-time favorite film, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, a film with a powerful soundtrack if ever there was one. Recounting the tale of the music of E.T. is one of my favorite tales in all of music, so today I share with you this flashback Friday Feature from July 9, 2010 on the film and its Oscar-winning score. I hope you enjoy it!
The Second Disc is obviously all about those defining musical moments in our lives. Thus, on a day like today, it’s only natural to touch on what may be the most defining musical moment for your catalogue correspondent.
You see, today’s my birthday, and so I feel it appropriate to reflect on the music that got me into music in the first place, and by extension got me into catalogue pursuits. I’m referring to John Williams’ Oscar-winning score to Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (also my favorite film of all time). Arguably the apex of both creative talents (and the high point of Spielberg and Williams’ near 40 years of collaboration), the tale of a boy’s friendship with an abandoned space creature was augmented by a lush, soaring, string-heavy score, bolstered by that oft-imitated but never surpassed main theme.
One could go on forever about the merits of the E.T. soundtrack, but this one tale defines it all: the 15-minute finale of the film was scored as one continuous sequence, almost a mini-opera in and of itself. Williams wrote each cue and highlight to exactly fit the parameters of the picture, but could never attain total satisfaction with the tempo and tone of each take. Ultimately, Spielberg came up with an idea rare to film soundtracks: the director would not project the film as the composer led the orchestra, so Williams could lead as one would in a concert. Then, in an incredible display of trust, Spielberg had the finale re-edited to fit the score itself.
Unsurprisingly, the music of E.T. has a release history as interesting as the sound itself. Read on after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »
Earlier this week, Walt Disney World welcomed back an old friend: Florida’s Orange Bird, absent from the World since 1987! We thought this would be a great time to bring back the Friday Feature, which is usually dedicated to film soundtracks but occasionally takes a Disney diversion! Today, we’re turning the spotlight on the little Orange Bird’s one moment of recorded glory, on which he was joined by a future Oscar winner!
Move over, Jose, Fritz and Pierre. There’s a new bird in Adventureland. Well, this new bird is actually an old bird, but he hasn’t aged a day! On April 17, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom officially welcomed back the Orange Bird. Though the winged little fellow was a symbol of the Florida theme park since its 1971 debut (and actually made his debut a few months before Walt Disney World itself!), he flew to retirement in 1987 with only infrequent appearances since. With the adorable Orange Bird now restored to a place of prominence in the same land as those other, more famous birds of The Enchanted Tiki Room, we’re taking a Second Disc-style look at our feathered friend’s history and, of course, his distinguished musical career on record!
In 1969, the Florida Citrus Commission signed on to sponsor the Magic Kingdom’s Sunshine Pavilion, which included the Tropical Serenade attraction (known today as Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room) and the Sunshine Tree Terrace refreshment stand serving Citrus Swirl, a delectable blend of vanilla ice cream and orange slush. The notion was hit upon to create a character to represent both Florida’s history and the soon-to-be-iconic theme park. That character would not only be visible in Walt Disney World, but throughout the state, on billboards and in advertisements for Florida Orange Juice. Designed under the supervision of Bob Moore, now a Disney Legend, the little Orange Bird with the leafy wings could also count Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman among his fathers. The Academy Award-winning songwriting duo had already penned the theme song to the “Tiki Room” and numerous other park attractions including, of course, “It’s a Small World.” They were dispatched to create the bird’s origin, if you will, in a story with music that would be released on Disneyland Records and introduce him to the world-at-large.
The Sherman Brothers composed six songs for The Story and Songs of the Orange Bird, a “magnificent book and long-playing record from the Walt Disney Studio,” as the album cover trumpeted. Jimmy Johnson adapted the script from a story by Vince Jefferds. Tutti Camarata, who had produced many of the Sherman Brothers’ songs for Annette Funicello, handled the same duties for The Orange Bird. Studio stalwarts The Mike Sammes Singers functioned as the chorus. But the Orange Bird couldn’t speak or sing; his thoughts instead appeared in the form of orange puffs of smoke above his head. (Orange Haze?) How would the story be told, then? To narrate his story and sing a bit, too, Walt Disney Productions and the Florida Citrus Commission chose Anita Bryant. A former Miss Oklahoma and second runner-up in 1959’s Miss America pageant, Bryant had placed a number of songs on the Hot 100 chart including a cover of Meredith Willson’s “Till There Was You” from The Music Man. In 1969, she became a spokeswoman for the Citrus Commission, so she was a natural selection.
In retrospect, Bryant’s presence on the album may leave a taste that’s not as sweet as Florida orange juice. When a law prohibiting discrimination against gays was passed in Florida in 1977, Bryant became an outspoken crusader for its repeal, succeeding in having the law overturned. Her contract with the Citrus Commission was allowed to lapse in 1979, thanks to the overwhelmingly negative publicity surrounding her political actions and the ensuing boycotts on Florida orange juice. Bryant has maintained a low profile in the past three decades. In 1998, the anti-discrimination ordinance was reinstated in Florida. When interviewed by authors Tim Hollis and Greg Ehrbar for their definitive 2006 study of Walt Disney Records, Mouse Tracks, Bryant still harbored fond memories of the LP.
Bryant was joined by a future Academy Award winner as part of the album’s cast. You’ll find out all about him after the jump when we delve into The Story and Songs of the Orange Bird on Disneyland Records in 1971! Read the rest of this entry »
Let’s get the opinions out of the way: An American Tail is not a great movie. I’m not even sure it’s a good movie; I probably wouldn’t even be writing this had it not been an early childhood favorite. But while the film doesn’t quite pan out as a cohesive piece of work, there are some great parts – an interesting approach to plot and animation, and certainly a brilliant batch of soundtrack writing – that make the film worth writing about.
The thing you have to remember about An American Tail, released 25 years ago during the holiday season of 1986, was that the animated flick didn’t have much in the way of direct competition. Disney was three years away from their stunning reinvention as a pop-art animation studio, having most recently released The Great Mouse Detective months earlier. Adding insult to injury – at least for Disney – was the fact that the director was Don Bluth, an ex-Disney animator who had enjoyed some success with The Secret of NIMH (1983) and the laserdisc-based video game Dragon’s Lair (1983).
The story, however, is the kind of classic family yarn you’d expect from the film’s producer, Steven Spielberg. It’s the story of a family of Russian Jews who move to America, and the son, Fievel (named for Spielberg’s grandfather), who gets separated from the family before arriving at Ellis Island and has an adventure trying to find them. Of course, it’s an animated movie, so the family is made up of mice (the Mousekewitz family), but the fine-tuned pathos, not to mention a genuine interest in maintaining a modicum of accuracy to the real-life uphill climb of immigrants in America, is palpable when you watch this movie as an adult.
Part of the fun of An American Tail is its musical sensibilities, both in orchestral score and the four Disney-esque musical numbers peppered throughout the film. Anticipating the trend of classic Disney soundtracks from the likes of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (renowned for their offbeat Broadway-pop tunes in Little Shop of Horrors) in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the production team recruited rising composer James Horner to provide the musical score, and paired him with legendary songwriting duo Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil for the numbers “There Are No Cats in America,” “A Duo,” “Never Say Never” and “Somewhere Out There.” The work as a whole brims with hummable themes, from the mournful, Eastern European-flavored violin solo representing the plight of the Mouskewitzes to the multi-national pastiche of “There Are No Cats,” where various immigrants justify their risky travel to the New World.
But the film’s signature song, the yearning “Somewhere Out There” (sung in the film by Fievel and his sister Tanya, neither of whom realize they’re both in the same city), was a surprise to even Mann and Weil. The composers stated in interviews that there was no pressure to write a hit single, and were in fact surprised when Spielberg suggested that “Somewhere Out There” would have crossover potential. A version uniting Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram and produced by Peter Asher was recorded and indeed became a smash, peaking at No. 2 in the U.S. and winning Song of the Year at the 30th Grammy Awards in 1988. (It lost both Oscar and Golden Globes to Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” from Top Gun.)
After the jump, check out the soundtrack’s release history and read about the music to the sequel!
This month, it’s finally time to play the music and light the lights, with the release of The Muppets, a brand new film featuring Kermit The Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo and just about all of Jim Henson’s furry, felt-covered creations in an all-new story co-written by fabulous funnyman and human co-star Jason Segel (star of TV’s How I Met Your Mother and co-writer and star of Forgetting Sarah Marshall).
The film, which sees the Muppet gang reunite after years out of the limelight to save their old theatre, is unquestionably one of the major motion picture events of the year, bringing the characters back to a generation that hasn’t had many opportunities to catch them in film or television (the last theatrical venture was 1999′s commercially disappointing Muppets from Space). But more excitingly, it is a great movie. Segel and Nicholas Stoller’s script strikes the perfect balance between unabashed appreciation for the characters and accessible, tasteful humor for modern-day kids and their parents. It wouldn’t be out of place to imagine the dearly departed Henson appreciating its simple, timeless message of the power of friendship and laughter in the face of a pop-cultural landscape that too often dabbles in cynicism and irony.
And the music! Longtime fans will appreciate the appearance of some of the most famous Muppet tunes in the new film, but the new songs, most of them written by Bret McKenzie – best known as half of the comedy-folk duo Flight of the Conchords – possess exactly the kind of spirit you’d want from a Muppet movie. (In particular, “Life’s a Happy Song” is destined to score more than a few trips to the Disney parks.) Indeed, music has been an integral part of Muppetology since the very beginning: from the inescapable theme from Sesame Street to the endearing kitchen-sink/music hall playlists of each episode of The Muppet Show (often sprinkled with a dash of endearing originals, like Joe Raposo’s “Bein’ Green”).
It’s in that spirit that we present this weekend’s Friday Feature, which showcases the soundtracks of those first three Muppet movies which set the template for this great new one. All of them have some wonderfully captivating songs (and stories behind songs) as well as – what else? – checkered histories on CD. So for the lovers, the dreamers and you: this is our tribute to Muppet movie music, and it starts after the jump.
Happy Halloween! To celebrate this spookiest of holidays, we’re bringing you a special holiday reprise from The Second Disc Archives in which we revisit the immortal, undead “Son of Dracula,” starring Harry Nilsson and Ringo Starr!
October 2010 will bring a major reissue campaign devoted to the Apple Records discography, seeing most of that storied label’s output arrive in editions remastered by the same team behind the Beatles’ catalogue overhaul last year. But one Apple-related LP is among the titles not coming on CD: the 1974 soundtrack to Son of Dracula. Harry Nilsson and Ringo Starr’s musical horror/comedy romp was the sole release on the Rapple label (Nilsson’s label RCA + Apple = Rapple, get it? Good!) and has only enjoyed a CD appearance via a short-lived Japanese edition (RCA BVCP-7314).
The germ of the idea for Son of Dracula originated with Ringo Starr, who quickly approached his pal in debauchery, the talented, eccentric singer and songwriter Harry Nilsson. Harry had already explored the “rock Dracula” theme with the cover to his 1972 Son of Schmilsson (RCA LSP-4717) which followed up his breakthrough Nilsson Schmilsson (RCA AFL1-4515). Son of Schmilsson’s cover featured the artist in full vampire mode, cape and all, with the album’s title dripping in blood. The idea for the film must have been irresistible to Nilsson, though he was surprised to find that Ringo wasn’t inspired by his album cover at all (despite having played on the LP!), but rather arrived independently at the concept. Son of Dracula would be written by Jennifer Jayne and directed by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Freddie Francis, with Starr sharing executive producer credit and setting the film up with Apple Films. Francis had previously honed his B-moviemaking abilities working at Britain’s infamous Hammer studio in the 1960s and brought that unique sensibility to the project.
Got your plastic fangs in, and your cape on? Click on the jump to read more about the wild musical adventures of Count Downe (uh huh) and his arch-nemesis Baron Frankenstein (or is that Fronk-en-steen? Sorry, wrong movie!) set to the songs of the one and only Mr. Harry Nilsson… Read the rest of this entry »
Our enjoyment of music takes many shapes and sizes, from the most basic of digital files to the vast quantities of reissues and box sets we all enjoy around The Second Disc. Part of the nervous excitement in being a collector is really never knowing what your latest musical obsession will look or sound like – and that’s, I think, what keeps us coming back.
Now, replace “music” with “an alien virus from another planet” and “nervous excitement” with “crippling terror” and you have the subject of our latest Friday Feature, John Carpenter’s sci-fi/horror classic interpretation of The Thing. Far too often overlooked is the rich history of the story that became one of the most chilling alien flicks of the past three decades – or the musical pedigree of both film adaptations. So bundle up, grab your flamethrower and get ready for terror – musical terror – to take shape.
In 1941, the werewolf mythology gained an iconic set of lines in the Universal horror classic The Wolf Man: “Even a man who is pure at heart/and says his prayers by night/May become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms/and the autumn moon is bright.” Forty years later, from the same studio, a less delicate line was added to the lycanthrope canon: “I will not be threatened by a walking meat loaf!”
Such is the tone of An American Werewolf in London, one of the best horror-comedies of the past few decades. It’s rare that a movie can strike such a perfect balance of laughs and screams, but AWiL has them in spades. With Halloween coming up – and the film’s 30th anniversary having occurred this past August – The Second Disc triumphantly brings back the Friday Feature for a look back at this classic film, and the interesting musical history that surrounds the film, as well.
Beware the moon after the jump!
Hal David’s lyrics expressed a sentiment shared by many of the optimistic generation who hadn’t yet felt their ideals vanquished by the reality of Vietnam and growing dissension under the White House of President Richard M. Nixon. David’s words were captivatingly sung by folk artist Shawn Phillips, signed at the time to the A&M label, and set to a haunting melody from Burt Bacharach that’s removed from both the exuberance of “I Say a Little Prayer” and the soul of “Walk on By.” Bacharach and David composed the song for producer Ross Hunter’s 1973 motion picture Lost Horizon, described at its release by The New York Times’ Vincent Canby as a “big, stale marshmallow.” Canby continued to call out the film’s “surprisingly tacky…appearance,” asserting that “the second rate auspices just about destroys everyone in the film, with the possible exceptions of [Peter] Finch, [Bobby] Van and Michael York.” And Canby was one of the kinder critics. Lost Horizon became one of the costliest flops and most notorious disasters in film history. What happened? Where did it go wrong?
Yet against all odds, Lost Horizon is finally arriving on DVD on October 4 courtesy of Columbia Pictures’ MOD (Made on Demand) DVD-R program. But this won’t be a bare-bones release; the studio is promising that it will be “packed with extras” and fully remastered; in other words, the kind of treatment usually reserved for a classic, cult or otherwise. If the time hasn’t come and likely won’t for Lost Horizon to be reappraised as a cinematic masterpiece, we can still appreciate it without irony for its one unmistakably terrific element: its music by Burt Bacharach. Today’s Friday Feature celebrates the music of Lost Horizon.
The saga of Lost Horizon began in 1933 with James Hilton’s novel, imagining an idyllic Shangri-La tucked away in a Tibetan valley where illness, age and poverty are unknown. One year later, after the success of Hilton’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips, readers discovered Lost Horizon, and it became a bestseller. In 1937, Frank Capra adapted it into a well-regarded film version starring Ronald Colman, which won two Academy Awards out of seven nominations, and in 1939 the paperback edition of the original Hilton novel became Pocket Book No. 1. Both the novel and Capra’s film can be interpreted as explicitly anti-war; when a 1942 re-release of the film cut one of Colman’s speeches in which he mocked war, Capra balked.
The story remained in the public consciousness, and was first musicalized in 1956 with a book and lyrics credited to Hilton (who had died in 1954), Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee (the team behind Auntie Mame) and music by Harry Warren (42nd Street). Despite this pedigree and a cast including Jack Cassidy, Alice Ghostley and Carol Lawrence, the musical expired after a mere 21 performances at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre, now the home of Mamma Mia!. Hallmark Hall of Fame resuscitated the Warren/Lawrence/Lee musical for television in 1960, and Ghostley even reprised her role. But Shangri-La (with song titles including both “Lost Horizon” and “Shangri-La”) was destined for obscurity. The next chapter of the Lost Horizon story, though, would make a splash in every respect. Hit the jump, and I’ll meet you in 1973! Bring your popcorn; we’ve provided the clips! Read the rest of this entry »