Varese Vintage has just reissued a pair of soundtracks on CD from an accomplished master of the film score genre (Nino Rota) and an American blues legend (Taj Mahal).
1979’s Hurricane proved to be Nino Rota’s final score. It found the Italian-born composer (The Godfather, La Dolce Vita) adding a lush layer to the romantic “man-against-nature” adventure story. Producer Dino De Laurentiis (King Kong, Flash Gordon) insisted the movie penned by Lorenzo Semple Jr. (the Batman television show, Three Days of the Condor) wasn’t a disaster movie, as it instead emphasized the romance between the characters portrayed by Mia Farrow and newcomer Dayton Ka’ne. The illustrious cast of the South Pacific-set drama also featured Jason Robards, Max Von Sydow, and Timothy Bottoms.
Rota joined the team assembled by Jan Troell, who had replaced Roman Polanski on the film. The composer immersed himself in the music of Polynesia, utilizing steel guitar and Hawaiian percussion in his richly melodic score. Rota’s music reflected the mood set by the physical hurricane as well as the hurricane of emotions swirling around these characters. Album producer Roger Mayer assembled the soundtrack with Rota’s suggested sequencing, and it was originally released on LP via Elektra Records. Sadly, Rota died on April 10, 1979 at the age of 67, just two days before the Paramount film’s premiere. Varese’s reissue presents the original 16-track album as newly remastered by Chas Ferry and featuring liner notes from Jim Lochner.
Varese has also reissued Taj Mahal’s Grammy-nominated soundtrack to 1972’s Sounder. Director Martin Ritt’s film, based on William H. Armstrong’s young adult novel of the same name, brought to life the story of an African-American boy living with his sharecropper family, and the crises they face. Cicely Tyson, Paul Winfield, and Kevin Hooks all made strong impressions in the movie which became one of the year’s highest-grossing films. The legendary Alex North (A Streetcar Named Desire, Spartacus) was originally commissioned to pen the score, but after he completed his work, the decision was made to use authentic blues-based music instead. Columbia Records artist Taj Mahal, who had a role in Sounder as the Morgan family’s friend and neighbor Ike, then wrote and recorded the score heard in the film and on its soundtrack album.
A multi-instrumentalist as well as a vocalist, Taj Mahal incorporated traditional southern spiritual and roots music in his flavorful, blues-based score, which was produced by Columbia’s Teo Macero (renowned for shaping many of Miles Davis’ finest LPs). Instrumentation was naturally kept to a basic minimum, with Taj playing steel guitar, harmonica, banjo, and fife. Guitarist Lightnin’ Hopkins joined Mahal on “Needed Time.” Three songs which didn’t appear in the film were included on the soundtrack.
Varese’s reissue marks the first appearance of Sounder on CD in over two decades, other than in a box set of Taj Mahal’s Columbia recordings. Chas Ferry has remastered from the original mono masters. Unfortunately, a true stereo version of Sounder does not exist, and the original album was issued in rechanneled (or simulated) stereo. Kevin H. Donan, the author of Black Film Tracks, has written new liner notes, and art director Bill Pitzonka has added a nice touch with a replica Columbia Masterworks label.
You’ll find order links to both releases just below!
- Main Title
- Guitar from the Quayside
- Coronation Percussion
- Pago-Pago Jazz
- Moana’s Dance
- Love in Blossom
- Joy in Love of Alava
- Moana’s Death
- Matangi’s Escape
- Matangi’s Love Theme
- Jazz in Dockland
- Matangi and Charlotte’s Escape
- Bruckner’s Death
- End Title
- Needed Time – The Great Sam “Lightnin'” Hopkins
- Sounder Chase a Coon
- Needed Time (Hummin’ and Pickin’)
- Morning Work/N’ Meat’s on the Stove
- I’m Running and I’m Happy
- Goin’ to the Country/Critters in the Woods
- Motherless Children (Hummin’)
- Jailhouse Blues
- Just Workin’
- Harriet’s Dance Song
- Two Spirits Reunited
- David Runs Again
- Curiosity Blues
- Someday Be a Change
- David’s Dream
- Needed Time (Guitar)
- Needed Time (Banjo and Hand-Clapping)