Friday, 31 December 2010

Top 20 Film Music Releases on CD of 2010

Ok... here I am writing my very own End of Year List column because if it’s one thing that TV, radio and the internet has taught me over the years... it’s that people like to have a nice, juicy, opinionated list to read and then vehemently disagree with and argue about. So here’s mine.

Now, what I probably should be doing on here is giving you my top 10 or 20 movies of the year but, seriously, since I’ve started blogging I’m just not watching anything like the same amount of movies that I used to. A year ago a good 120 of the 300 - 400 films I would have seen would have been first run new releases... this year I’d be surprised if I’d been to the cinema more than about 50 times. And most of the movies I’ve seen this year have been US made releases... no point in trying to do a credible list from that lot is there.

But I did want to do some kind of End of Year List thingy so I’ve plumped for my top twenty favourite CD score releases of the year. And again... please understand that these are new CD releases (some of which are long awaited, limited and expanded re-releases of scores from years gone by) and not just releases for scores that were written this year. If I limited myself to just freshly written score releases then... well you’ll see from my list that I’ve only deemed five of those worthy of inclusion in my twenty.

Also... you may notice that, quite puzzlingly, there are no “golden age” scores on this, my inaugural film score list. This is not because I dislike them... it just means that out of this years golden age releases, none of them happened to take my fancy.

Anyway... about time I stopped waffling on my chosen parameters... here’s the list.

20. Jack The Giant Killer by Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter
Intrada 2 disc edition. Limited to 1000 copies. Sold out.
Sawtell and Shefter’s score for the 1962 Kerwin Mathews starrer was an unexpected bombshell of a surprise for the soundtrack community in general. It’s not a film I’ve seen myself but I ordered a copy assuming it would be trying to capture the same musical landscapes as Herrmann’s scores for the Ray Harryhausen flicks whose bandwagon this movie was so obviously trying to ride. Although nothing like what Herrmann would have composed for the same material, this score has a magical tone and dense, golden age style orchestration. I’m glad I didn’t let this one pass me by. The album sold out quick!

19. Alien Resurrection by John Frizzell
La La Land. 2 disc Expanded Edition.
Limited to 3,500 copies.
Still available at time of blog publication.
I’ve always liked John Frizzell since buying his score for an obscure TV show which was promptly cancelled after a few episodes (just after I’d bought it) called VR5. I’ve been following this composer for a while now and some of his stuff has been great... especially the score he provided last year for Whiteout. I remember the score for Alien Resurrection being met with a less than enthusiastic reception on its first time around. I always loved it though... it felt to me, and still does, like the Alien music mixed together with John Barry’s You Only Live Twice era Bond music. I was thrilled by this release.

18. Star Trek 5: The Final Frontier by Jerry Goldsmith
La La Land. 2 disc Expanded Edition - Limited to 5000 units.
Still available at time of blog publication.
Finally a proper release for Jerry Goldsmiths quite incredible and rousing score for one of Trekdom’s least loved movies. The expansion and development of his Star Trek: The Motion Picture Klingon sub-theme alone makes this album worthy of a spin or two. There are still some copies available but I am expecting them to go fairly quickly now. If you want this one... don’t delay.

17. Earth VS The Spider by Albert Glasser
Kritzerland. Limited to 1000 copies.
Still available at time of blog publication.
What? This was released very early in the year and I still can’t believe the measly 1000 units has not sold out yet. Admittedly I‘d never heard of the composer or even seen the film but, to me, this one was a no brainer for a fast pick up. It’s a 50s sci-fi B movie about a giant spider! You know what that means? Yep! Lots of big, bold, less than subtle statements of blaring clusters of notes and gallons of wailing theremin! And it’s still available! What are you waiting for?

16. The Andromeda Strain by Gil Melle
Intrada. Limited to 1500 copies. Sold out.
Ooh yeah! Experimental, avant garde film music to one of the more famous sci-fi films by the composer of the original Kolchak: The Night Stalker TV show. It’s a short album but one you can quickly lose yourself in.

15. Let Me In by Michael Giacchino
Varese Sarabande
Let Me In was a "not very good" movie when compared with the Swedish original but the soundtrack where composer Michael Giacchino channels that Big Barry Bond Sound is another matter altogether. Slow mounting repetition coupled with dustbin lid orchestration. A great but totally different listening experience to the original movie's score.

14. Tamara Drewe by Alexandre Desplat
Silva Screen
Alexandre Desplat is one of the best of the upcoming heirs to the soundtrack composing kingdom - I remember Jerry Goldsmith remarking just how good his score to Girl With A Pearl Earring was just before he passed away. Tamara Drewe is classic Desplat. Simplistic melody line used as a hook to build the rest of the score on. A classical way of doing things perhaps... but he does it so well.

13. Alice In Wonderland by Danny Elfman
Yeah, okay. I’ll be the first to agree that hit n’ miss celluloid genius Tim Burton’s take on Alice In Wonderland was, admittedly... a bit rubbish. But this is the funny thing about listening to soundtracks... the music can often be truly beautiful, regardless of how much of a mess the final film is. This is one of Elfman’s greatest scores and its catchy title theme is sheer brilliance. You won’t want to miss out on this one.

12. Manhunter by Various Artists
Oh, alright. This album is here mostly for the songs which are amazingly fantastic... but there’s some interesting scoring here too. This long overdue CD release is amazing and one of the best things about the movie which in itself is the ONLY decent version of a Hannibal Lektor novel adapted for the screen. Although you might want to replace the cut-down 8 minutes 20 second version of the Iron Butterfly song with the proper 17 minutes and 3 seconds version!

11. Batman Returns by Danny Elfman
La La Land. 2 disc Expanded Version.
Limited to 3500 copies.
Still available at time of blog publication.
Another Elfman classic which does away with the poor sound levels on the original, cut down release. This album is absolutely worth it for the Christmassy choral Birth Of A Penguin track and the brilliantly catty Selina Transforms sequence. La La Land also released a 2 disc expanded edition of Elfman’s original Batman album this year (and it was a near miss for inclusion here) but this sequel score is the real masterpiece.

10. Black Sunday by John Williams
Film Score Monthly. Limited edition of 10,000 copies.
Still available at time of blog publication.
Not to be confused with Mario Bava’s excellent movie Black Sunday, this Black Sunday is the one based on the Thomas Harris novel (yeah, that Thomas Harris). Just when I thought I'd had enough of John William’s scores, this little gem pops up on my radar. Not seen the movie but this has a really nice sound to it. Worth a listen.

9. The Organisation by Gil Melle
Intrada. Limited to 1000 copies.
Still available at time of blog publication.
Gil Melle’s jazzy little score for the third of the Sydney Poitier Virgil Tibbs movies doesn’t let the side down in regards to Quincy Jones’ scores for the first two movies in the trilogy - In The Heat Of The Night and They Call Me Mister Tibbs. A great, albeit short for the money, slice of pumped up jazz scoring. This has been out of its cage for a few months now and is still available for some reason. That won’t last!

8. Drammi Gottici by Ennio Morricone
GDM Club. Remastered and Expanded (kind of, see below).
Limited Edition - number of copies unknown.
This GDM Club edition release of Morricone’s score for the Italian TV show Gothic Dramas is a curious beast in that it contains several rare tracks that have never before been released... but still has a shorter running time than that of the original album. Nevertheless... if you like scary, atonal loudness that will drive your inner soul insane with terror... then this one is worth a purchase.

7. L’Umanoide by Ennio Morricone
GDM Club Limited Edition - number of copies unknown.
Long awaited CD release for Morricone’s score the Richard Kiel/Barbara Bach sci fi bandwagon movie The Humanoid. Don’t remember much about this movie since seeing it at the cinema in the 70s... but expect it was pretty rubbish. Nice bit of Morricone, however.

6. A Step Out Of Line/
The Brotherhood of the Bell by Jerry Goldsmith
Intrada. Limited to 2,500 copies.
Still available at time of blog publication.
Wow. Two Jerry Goldsmith scores I’d not heard of before on one disc. Both of them really excellent - comprising rhythmic jazz figures and masculine atonal noodlings. A great listening experience for the bus via ipod on the way home from work.

5. Outland by Jerry Goldsmith.
Film Score Monthly. 2 disc Remastered and Expanded.
Limited to 5000 copies. Still available at time of blog publication.
One of my favourite Goldsmith scores gets the expanded and remastered treatment. Music to listen to as your spacesuit is compromised, your head explodes and your blood boils off into the depths of space.

4. 2 + 5 Missione Hydra by Nico Fidenco
Digitmovies. Limited to 500 copies. Still available at time of blog publication.
Digitmovies is one of the most important soundtrack labels to have sprung up over the past few years. They are doing a huge service to fans of Italian movie music and it’s really unusual that only one of their releases from this year made it into my list. But it’s a good one. Science fiction go-go music with smooth Hammond organ and harpsichords in space. Groove your way past gravity with this future-tempo music!

3. Battlestar Galactica: Razor/The Plan by Bear McCreary.
La La Land
Bear McCreary’s Galactica scores are some of the great releases of recent years and this one for the two one-off specials is no exception. Ethnic wailing and percussion done as well as it ever could be. This album literally rocks!

2. Doctor Who Series Five by Murray Gold
Silva Screen
Murray Gold’s double album for Matt Smith’s first series playing The Doctor is definitely one of the strongest of Gold’s Doctor Who releases. A great, great listen. This one’s rarely off my ipod!

1. Cleopatra Jones by J. J. Johnson & Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold by Dominic Frontiere
Film Score Monthly. Limited to 3000 copies. Still available at time of blog publication.
Album release of the year! Not only does this double CD contain a really kick-ass expanded edition of Johnson’s original Cleopatra Jones score but it also includes the equally kick ass Dominic Frontiere score for the appalling sequel, Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold. What can I say? They couldn’t have come up with a funkier, funked up album if they had a special CD funkyfying pressing plant on the most funkiest day of the year. Get funked with these truly fun scores!

And that’s my end of year list done and dusted. Come back at the end of next year and I’ll try to sort out another one for you!

My thanks to Film Score Monthly once again for allowing me to use images of their CD covers on my blog.

Check out the following great sites for soundtracks...

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