Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Year in Review...

It's hard to believe that almost an entire year has gone by between blog posts! Mea maxima culpa. If you've been keeping an eye on the sidebar, you've noticed that it's been a very busy twelve months for soundtrack releases! I'll go through them now on a label-by-label basis, starting with Intrada.

Last year, I was thrilled to get my first Elmer Bernstein assignment: his jazzy, powerhouse score for Edward Dmytryk's The Carpetbaggers. This release features both the magnificent LP recording and, for the first time, the original film tracks. The former has been reissued as a part of Intrada's stunning Ava Collection—but if you want the total package (as well as my liner notes) this is the place to get them! Next up, I worked on James Horner's exciting, Colombian-fueled CIA thriller Clear and Present Danger. That was followed by another project with multinational flair, Laurence Rosenthal's rich and compelling The Forgotten. It's always a special treat to work on a project with Maestro Rosenthal, one of the great composers of his generation, and too often overlooked. Also, Henry Mancini's acclaimed, haunting score for The White Dawn finally made its CD debut last year! This one has been best-known to Mancini fans as a concert suite. I hope they will agree that the full film score is a revelation—exotic and engrossing, and a prime example of Mancini's ability to transcend the "pops" label.

Moving from intense character drama in the Arctic to disco among the stars, I wrote the notes for Intrada's 3-CD set of music from the first season of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, featuring scores by Johnny Harris, Stu Phillips, Les Baxter and Richard La Salle. Next came a double-feature from Craig Safan: his Korean-inspired score for the TV pilot Remo Williams and his noble Americana score for the TV movie Mission of the Shark, based on the true story of the U.S.S. Indianapolis. After that came two explosive scores: Alan Silvestri's engaging thriller Blown Away and Laurence Rosenthal's potent disaster-epic score for Meteor. This was followed by Bruce Broughton's superlative Young Sherlock Holmes—of one of the composer's most popular and in-demand works, in its very first commercial CD release. My essay covers the project's history and its place in the legacy of Sherlock Holmes, and is followed by Douglass Fake's terrific in-depth interview with Maestro Broughton. Finally, I wrote for two more double-features. The first was from Michael Small: his chilling, religious-themed horror score for Child's Play (not the "Chucky" movie) and his synth-laced drama Firstborn. The other pairing was a real surprise: a duo of obscure scores from the great Alex North. The shorter is a jazzy industrial score for the fifties documentary Decision for Chemistry. This is joined by the debut release of his unused score for 1972's Sounder. If you know Alex North, you know his affinity for the American South, and you will hear it here in spades. It's a wonderful treasure, unheard for far too long.

The last few years have allowed me to branch out to a few other labels. For GNP Crescendo, I co-wrote the notes (with Lukas Kendall) for the remastered edition of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Vol. 2The Best of Both Worlds, featuring the music of Ron Jones. I'm a huge Star Trek fan and a big admirer of Jones, so this was a real pleasure. I also continued to write for Quartet Records, currently celebrating their 5th Anniversary. First up for the label was Jerry Fielding's The Gambler (not the Kenny Rogers film), a fascinating score, almost wholly based on Mahler's Symphony No. 1. Not your run-of-the-mill assignment! Next up was another very special release: the debut licensed CD of John Williams' 1968 Heidi, for which I was generously granted a co-producer credit after helping parse the surviving score tracks. (They arrived jumbled, having been originally prepared for the narrated LP program.) This was an important release and a great privilege for me, as Heidi was among Williams' first opportunities to show what he could do with a large-scale dramatic feature. It is perhaps the most characteristic work of his pre-Jaws period. Rounding out the slate for Quartet were Lee Holdridge's epic fantasy The Beastmaster, significantly expanded, and Cliff Eidelman's vivacious and lovely action-comedy-romance score for Delirious.

Last but certainly not least is La-La Land Records. Anyone who knows me knows my devotion to the life and work of Shirley Walker. She was a hero of mine, and one of the most gifted and underrated composers I can name. La-La Land is second to none when it comes to giving Shirley's work the deluxe treatment. Last year, I worked on two such releases: Willard and Turbulence. The former is perhaps Walker's finest motion-picture score; its themes burrow deep into the psychology of the characters, and the contrapuntal writing as the story evolves is nothing short of brilliant. The latter is an ingenious study in obsession, warping the familiar "Carol of the Bells" into a twisted motif of Herrmannesque proportions. Speaking of warped, I was extremely happy for the opportunity to write about another Elliot Goldenthal score: his seminal Pet Sematary. It's a haunting, disturbing and strangely poignant work. But La-La Land isn't all doom and gloom! A cornerstone of the label is superhero soundtracks, and I was fortunate to write for several over the past year—all featuring the work of some of my favorite people in this industry: "Dynamic Music Partners" Lolita Ritmanis, Michael McCuistion and Kristopher Carter. These included albums from two relatively recent animated TV series: Young Justice and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. The former highlights captivating sound design, while the latter is founded on the twin pillars of bongos and "crime jazz"—although both sets are enjoyably diverse.

The last release is the closest to my heart: an epic 4-CD set containing 20 full episode scores from Superman: The Animated Series. There's so much I could say about this release. For now, I'll simply say that I think this is some of the very best work that Lolita, Michael, Kristopher, Harvey Cohen, and, of course, Shirley Walker ever did. I spent many years wishing for a release such as this—almost as many as I did for Batman: The Animated Series—and when it finally happened, I not only got to write for it, I got to co-produce it for La-La Land with my friend and colleague Neil S. Bulk. Michael Matessino prepared the audio, Jim Titus prepared the artwork, and the result is stunning. It's another spectacular entry in the label's long and continuing line of releases from the animated DC Universe.

That's it for now! Thanks for sticking around. And very special thanks to the many composers and filmmakers who were generous enough to share their time with me as I worked on these releases. It's been a fantastic twelve months, and I think the coming months are going to be pretty amazing as well!