Welcome to the second in my occasional look at the most valuable resources on the internet. For my previous installment... click here.
Lukas Kendall, the man behind this most precious of resources to musical cinephiles started off his magazine, Film Score Monthly, in the form of xeroxed copies 20 years ago. Over the years, this little newsletter grew in format, scope, sales and reputation into a really great magazine which was a good companion to me on many a train journey home from London over the years. As time wore on and the economic strains of maintaining what was an exceptionally high quality and well written niche product grew too great in the “internet age”, FSM finally folded as a printed magazine (a sad day it was too) and went to an exceptionally inexpensive and highly recommended online version - which you can proudly subscribe to at www.filmscoremonthly.com
If it was just on the strength of the track record of the magazine and the accompanying website (with a very much “alive” online community in the form of its message board), FSM would be remembered fondly as it has found a special place in the hearts of many a soundtrack fan. But Lukas Kendall and the behemoth that was his creation didn’t stop at that. Back in 1996, FSM chanced its arm at releasing limited CD editions of scores that had never had a proper release in the format and they continue to this day with over 200 CDs currently released (many of them are still in print if you want to try and pick up some of these little gems from their website). That first release was released on their “Retrograde” imprint... David Shire’s "12 tone score with a jazz funk edge” to the original movie version of The Taking of Pelham 123. This was followed by John Barry’s score to Deadfall and then in 1996 they had their first release using their own name as the label, Jerry Goldsmith’s score to Stagecoach backed with his music to the TV show The Loner.
After that the releases just kept getting more frequent, with much loved scores getting out to the afficianados and FSM are currently releasing around 24 albums a year. Most of these are limited editions and a lot of them have never seen the light of day before in any format. They are always exquisitely remastered from the finest available materials and more often than not provide the most complete listening experience available from the surviving elements.
Some highlights for me over the years would be Ron Grainer’s The Omega Man, Bernard Herrmann’s On Dangerous Ground, Scott Bradley’s Tom and Jerry and Tex Avery Too, Ennio Morricone’s The Five Man Army and their three disc Shaft Anthology - His Big Score and More, which includes for the first time the actual original film tracks from Isaac Hayes’ Shaft (the best selling album was a rerecording) and also the scores to Shaft’s Big Score and various episodes of the Shaft TV show.
Their website has links to the scores which haven’t sold out and includes some generous sized sound samples for browsing customers. Their message board is where you can find a community which collectively has a very impressive knowledge of the history of films and the music used to score them. True, sometimes individual board members may let themselves get a little over-enthusiastic to the point where their arguments can reach Jerry Springer levels... but this can be entertaining in itself.
Frankly, I believe Film Score Monthly as a magazine, website and especially a music label has done more to help forward the cause of film score appreciation, both in bringing the people who like to listen to these things together in the form of an online community and in restoring and getting classic music out on CD which might not have seen the light of day without FSMs particular business model, than many of the great composers themselves.
A valuable resource for a less recognised sub-section of the music listeners around the world. If you’re still reading, you should go check it out.