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Archive for March 27th, 2013

Él is Flying High with Ennio Morricone and Joao Donato

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Ennio Morricone - PopsCherry Red’s Él Records label is going ‘round the world with a pair of recent releases.  Morricone Pops focuses on an oft-overlooked part of Italian composer Ennio Morricone’s ouevre:  that of his early sixties arrangements not just for film, but also for pop singers.  Él also turns its attention to a favorite country, Brazil, for Sambou, Sambou, a collection of two albums of tunes by composer-pianist Joao Donato.

With a staggering body of work including more than 500 films and television shows, 84 year old Ennio Morricone has deservedly earned a reputation as one of the greatest of all movie composers.  Yet before he teamed with Sergio Leone to define the sound of the spaghetti western with scores for films like The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Morricone was finding steady employment as an arranger in the Italian music scene.  He arranged and even ghost-wrote hundreds of songs in the 1950s and 1960s, working for the Italian RCA label, among others.  One such song – an arrangement of Woody Guthrie’s “Pastures of Plenty” as sung by American vocalist Peter Tevis – attracted the attention of director Leone, an old schoolmate of Morricone’s.  Leone hired Morricone to write the score for 1964’s A Fistful of Dollars, and well, the rest is cinema and music history.

Fistful wasn’t Morricone’s first motion picture; that honor went to 1961’s Il Federale.  But it was his breakthrough.  “Pastures” is just one of the 29 tracks on Morricone Pops.  Among the other notable songs here are Gianni Morandi’s 1962 “Go-Kart Twist,” Jimmy Fontana‘s “Twist No. 9” and “Nicole,” and Luigi Tenco’s “Quello Che Conta” and “Tra Tanta Gente.”  American jazz vocalist Helen Merrill’s RCA EP Sings Italian Songs (1960) is included, too,   with four choice Morricone arrangements.  Pops also includes highlights from early Morricone film arranging credits such as Il Rosetto (1960) and I Generale ½ (1961).  The CD stops short of including Morricone’s “Ogni Volta (Every Time),” the 1964 San Remo Music Festival entry sung by Paul Anka, but touches on the highlights of the early part of a legendary career.  As such, it’s sure to fascinate those only familiar with later, more mature works like Days of Heaven, Once Upon a Time in America, and The Mission – not to mention The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

After the jump, you’ll find details on Joao Donato’s Sambou, Sambou, plus order links and track listings for both titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 27, 2013 at 13:11

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

Ace Label Tunes In “Radio Gold” and Heads to the “Hall of Fame”

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Radio Gold - Bigger in BritainAce Records has another pair of aces (Aces?) up its sleeve with two recent releases, both of which continue ongoing series for the label.  The sixth installment of the long-running Radio Gold series turns the spotlight on those American records which were Bigger in Britain, as it’s subtitled, while the second volume of Hall of Fame takes in 24 rarities (20 previously unreleased) from deep in the heart of Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

The 24 tracks chosen for Radio Gold: Special Bigger in Britain Edition all hail from the pre-Beatles era (1956-1963) of rock and roll and feature some of that period’s biggest names: Buddy Holly, Del Shannon, Bobby Darin, Bill Haley and His Comets, Roy Orbison, and Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers.  It might come as a surprise that Roy Orbison’s beautiful “Blue Bayou” bested its No. 29 placement with a No. 3 showing in Britain, or that Haley’s rather unknown “Rockin’ Through the Rye” (No. 78) also hit that same lofty perch.  Del Shannon’s “Two Kinds of Teardrops” was an intentional sound-alike to his “Little Town Flirt,” but whereas it stalled at No. 50 in the U.S., Shannon’s constant U.K. touring saw it rise to No. 5 there.  (As for “Flirt,” the No. 12 U.S. hit was No. 4 in the U.K.!)

Compiler Tony Rounce hasn’t limited himself to rock-and-roll chestnuts, though.  You’ll find country artists represented, including Conway Twitty (“Mona Lisa”) and Jim Reeves (“Welcome to My World,” later popularized by Elvis Presley) and crooner Perry Como (the rock-ish “Love Makes the World Go Round (Yeah Yeah)”).  Even more surprising than Perry is an appearance by the Velvet Fog, Mel Torme.  His breezy 1956 live recording of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s 1926 standard “Mountain Greenery” didn’t make waves in the U.S., but accomplished an impressive No. 4 showing on the British chart. Rounce helpfully points out in his detailed track-by-track notes that Mel’s recording was the very first live recording to make a major dent on the U.K. survey.

On the R&B front, there’s a track from Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers (“I’m Not a Juvenile Delinquent”).  Straight from the Brill Building, Bobby Vee offers Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s “How Many Tears” (No. 63 U.S., No. 10 U.K., 1961).  Two famous television western themes are also included.  “The Ballad of Paladin” from Have Gun, Will Travel only made it to No. 33 at home, but across the pond, “Paladin” hit No. 10.  The occasionally overwrought pop star Frankie Laine specialized in musical tales of the Old West, and he brought his big pipes to Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington’s “Rawhide” from the program of the same name.  Its September 1958 release in America didn’t chart, but when “Rawhide” was issued in Britain in November 1959, it began an ascent to No. 6.

This entry in the Radio Gold series is accompanied by a thick 22-page booklet with plenty of label scans, photographs and sheet music covers.  Duncan Cowell has remastered all tracks.

Hit the jump for the full track listing and discography for Radio Gold, plus the details on Hall of Fame Volume 2! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 27, 2013 at 10:08