Thursday, December 31, 2009

Five Favorite Discs from 2009

Let's face it. 2009 sucked.

Unless you were a soundtrack nerd. For us, 2009 was a neverending roller coaster ride of holy grail releases. Hanover Street. Back to the Future. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Escape From the Planet of the Apes. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Freakin' Khan. Just to name a few. It's a wonder any of us have any money left to buy food.

Yet amidst this treasure trove, many of my personal favorites actually emerged from the more humble, ordinary releases. And, so, here are five discs you might have missed.

Twilight Zone: The Movie. Okay, so this one did not fly below anyone's radar. For me, though, it was a mind-blowing revelation.I've owned the LP since, well, 1983. But apart from enjoying the lovingly recreated theme from the TV series, the album got very few spins. It just never hooked me. Enter FSM's knockout expansion. From the thunderous percussion that opens track 2 to the sometimes slashing sometimes swirling strings that flit and surround the "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," this is a score that truly deserved an expansion. Each section contains delights that simply never appeared on the original suite-form release. I never understood why folks clamored for a rerelease of this music until I popped it into the cd player. Truly an outstanding release that would top the list any year it arrived. But the Jennifer Warnes song still blows.

Captain Nemo and the Underwater City. I've never seen the movie. I'd never even heard of the movie. But something compelled me to shell out for this disc and I couldn't have been happier that I did. Angela Morley's music is delightful, a sort of melding of golden age and silver age sounds that also plays like a cross between a sixties feature score and a sixties tv score. A few cartoon-y moments pop up around the more lyrical passages, but it makes for a solid album and it's remarkable that this kind of score could find a release anywhere at all ever, let alone a release so lovingly produced by the always thorough FSM crew. And, yes, one of the main themes does have a resemblance to part of Goldsmith's Supergirl.

Space 1999: Year Two. Look. If Space: 1999 is the red-headed stepchild of science fiction tv, then the second season of the show is some sort of freaky mutant zombie buried underneath a boarded up closet. It was juvenile and ridiculous when it first played on television and it's all but unwatchable now. But I still love it. I harbor a secret love of the 70's tracksuit-style jackets, the absurd dismissal of many fundamental laws of physics, and the leaden-paced, nonsensical storylines. And I've had a crush on Maya that's remained unabated since 1976. For years, decades even, Derek Wadsworth's jazzed up, synthy theme tune for season two stayed right at the top of my holy grail list, until the mid-nineties saw a promo release of some of his music for the show. When I saw that Silva Screen was releasing a new disc of his Year 2 music, I wasn't sure if I should spring for it, in light of the promo I already owned. But ultimately I did and I'm happy to say i made the right decision. The new disc is terrific, offering numerous passages that don't appear on the promo, and all of it crisp and gorgeous. I never heard the 2cd Fanderson release, so I can't compare it to that, and the new release lacks the nifty alternate themes from the promo, but as an addition it's simply invaluable. The music itself is dynamic and jazzy in a seventies Spyro Gyra kind of way. I can't always sit through a whole episode of this stuff, but I can always sit through this entire disc.

Inside Daisy Clover. I'm not really much of a golden age guy. But there are a few specifc scores that I'll snap up if they get released and, well, if the movie stars Natalie Wood, there's an ever bigger chance of me going for it no matter what era it's from. Inside Daisy Clover remains one of Natalie's better films and the score that accompanies it is also well done. I've long loved the "You're Gonna Hear From Me" song but to hear it done by Wood herself amidst the bonus material was another chance to realize why, sadly, she was nearly always dubbed. As we say in the South, bless her heart she tried her best. This is a dynamite 2 disc set of great Previn music and alternate takes and unused songs and I just love it. (By the way, I loved the original novel even more than the film. It's still a great read.) A real treasure for music fans and Natalie Woods fans alike.

Which brings me to Love With The Proper Stranger. This is easily my favorite Natalie Wood film, and the tender, lyrical score finally FINALLY got a release at the end of this year. It's a typically lovely effort from Elmer Bernstein and is paired with another score to a film called A Girl Named Tamiko. The score is short and sweet, with a few tougher passages depicting some of the rough times the characters face. You can easily add the Jack Jones song not included (and not missed) and give yourself the full bells and banjos treatment. Go see the film, then you'll get that last reference. Oh, never mind.

From the Film Score Monthly blog