The Soundtrack

THE SOUNDTRACK: AUTUMN/WINTER 2008

By • Jan 18th, 2009 •

Share This:

Greetings once more and welcome to another of my soundtrack round-ups, this time featuring GET SMART, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, MEET DAVE, TRAITOR, The X-Files: I Want to Believe, STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS, BODY OF LIES, SPOOKS and INDIANA JONES & THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL.

So, let’s head ‘em up and move ‘em out…

GET SMART

Original Soundtrack by Trevor Rabin

Label: Varese Sarabande

GET SMART, directed by Peter Segal and based on the 1960s TV series, follows protagonist Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) and his partner Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) on their mission to defeat crime syndicate KAOS and save the world from evil domination. The score is provided by South African born Trevor Rabin whose other scores include the action thrillers CON-AIR and ARMAGEDDON, the eerie Exorcist: The Beginning and Disney favourite Remember the Titans. He also scored the blockbuster hits National Treasure, Snakes on a Plane, Flyboys, and Bad Boys 2.

Rabin had never seen or heard of the series prior to working on the film adaptation and literally watched full seasons of the show on YouTube, non-stop, before interviewing with the director. In addition to writing the score he created a rock rendition of Irving Szathmary’s original GET SMART TV theme. In composing the score Rabin primarily has used a dramatic action approach as opposed to a comedic approach as he wanted the music to be the ‘straight man’. The result is a highly listenable-to rock and jazz orientated album with an appropriate cool, sixties spy-jive and an easy stand-alone from the movie, which is always a good benchmark. Fulfilling its function and also succeeding as an entity in itself is a rare thing as far as soundtracks go.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER

Original Television Score by Christophe Beck

Label: Rounder Records

Emmy-award winning Christophe Beck composed, mixed and produced this latest BUFFY soundtrack. Beck has scored most of the BUFFY series, including Once More, With Feeling, the musical episode and soundtrack that has sold over 200,000 copies in the U.S. alone. Beck has also scored many films including We Are Marshall, What Happens in Vegas, Under the Tuscan Sun and one of my personal favourites, the Michael Douglas/Kiefer Sutherland thriller THE SENTINEL. He also composed the music for ANGEL, the television spin-off to BUFFY.

To come up with new motifs, melodies and themes and still maintain the ambience of such a long running series must be a daunting task. Beck does this masterfully. His music aids the series immeasurably; I would even go so far as to say his music makes the series the obvious success it is. Let’s face it, a show about a teenage high-school girl who fights vampires and other ghouls on the side could easily have taken the easy route and played it for laughs, and which would have probably run out of steam after one season. But Beck’s music, as with all the music contributed to the show by the other composers, gives it the gravitas it needs to hold your attention. His is the tie that binds it all together. This album contains all the mischievousness, ominousity, excitement, solemnity and fun of the series. The score contains 29 tracks, all drawn from seasons 2, 3, 4 and 5. You need never buy another Buffy album.

MEET DAVE

Original Soundtrack by John Debney

Label: Pinnacle Records

Academy Award-nominated John Debney provides the score for this sci-fi comedy which stars Eddie Murphy and follows a crew of miniature aliens as they operate a spaceship in human form (Murphy) and attempt to save their home planet. Debney’s ability to create memorable work across a variety of genres has led him to score such films as comedies Elf, Liar Liar, Bruce Almighty; the cutesy horse-opera DREAMER to the action adventures The Scorpion King, ZATHURA and Spy Kids (1 & 2) as well as the score for the controversial The Passion of the Christ.

This is from the outset plainly in the ZATHURA, feel-good family movie arena and consequently the music is nice and safe and does exactly what it says on the can, but as expertly crafted as it is, there is nothing to differentiate it from scores of similar scores (sorry) that are out there, and in some instances is somewhat TOO reminiscent of some. John Debney tells me it was a very tongue-in-cheek movie to work on, so maybe I’m missing a point somewhere and doing him a disservice.

It’s pleasant enough though.

TRAITOR

Original Soundtrack by Mark Kilian

Label: Varese Sarabande

TRAITOR is a taut international thriller set against a jigsaw puzzle of covert counter-espionage operations. Kilian has written an exotic and riveting score for the film. Although he has only a handful of film scores to his credit, his music has already received critical acclaim from his African-inspired score for the Oscar winning film Tsotsi to his Indian score for Before the Rains. Like Trevor Rabin, Kilian is South African and returned to those roots for inspiration in composing this score, and anyone who remembers the music that accompanied James Bond’s frenetic pursuit of the villain at the beginning of CASINO ROYALE, titled African Rundown on that soundtrack album, will have some idea of its flavour. His obviously deep understanding and appreciation of world music, jazz, electronica and modern classical music has formed a musical style which has been described as rhythmically sophisticated, evocative and driving, while retaining a raw emotional simplicity.

I thoroughly enjoyed this. It is exciting, evocative and, most importantly, distinctive and refreshing, and as you know, I like any soundtrack that fulfils its function yet stands alone from the movie in is own right. More please.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe

Original Soundtrack by Mark Snow

Label: Decca Records

Award-winning composer and “X-files” theme creator Mark Snow returns to the paranormal with The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Directed by X-Files creator Chris Carter, the film reunites original cast members Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Andersen). Last year Snow was also the only American nominated for a César Award (the French equivalent to an Academy Award) for his score to the French romantic comedy COEURS (PRIVATE FEARS IN PUBLIC PLACES), but more about that in Part 2. Snow’s name is synonymous with some of the most popular TV themes over the years, including STARSKY & HUTCH, and he continues his TV work with the scores to Ghost Whisperer and Smallville.

Anyone who’s ever watched an episode of X-FILES knows exactly what to expect here, and Snow doesn’t disappoint, presenting a totally original score. In fact the soundtrack is a lot less disappointing than the movie. Curiously we don’t even hear a whisper of his X-FILES theme until the end of track 20, then a full version, the UNKLE variation, as track 21, with the main melody played on bass strings, giving it an almost far- eastern accent reminiscent of Williams’ MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, which is very interesting, and perhaps a clue to its musical roots. They could’ve left off the two vocal tracks at the end for me though. They ruin the ambience the rest of the album has set up.

STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS

Original Soundtrack by Kevin Kiner

Label: Sony Classic

Film music aficionados might know composer Kiner’s work for feature films including Madison, Wing Commander, The Other Side of Heaven, Leprechaun, Tremors III, and The Pest, and he has composed music for network television series and shows such as CSI: Miami, Star Trek: Enterprise, Stargate SG-1, The Invisible Man, Walker Texas Ranger, The Visitor, and Dead at 21. He’s also received Emmy nominations for outstanding achievement in music composition for Johnny Quest and Stuart Little.

Kiner, to be honest very bravely, has taken on the musical baton of the Star Wars universe and created the music for this all-new animated feature film, which was also followed by the television series debut in the autumn.

The album kicks off with typical STAR WARS-ian fayre, with a slightly altered version of the main theme and the usual Williams-esque cues to introduce us to the locales and characters in this, albeit animated, STAR WARS universe (though almost everything you saw in the last three movies was animated anyway, so this movie/series just dispenses with the actors, which would worry me if I were an actor…). Then we hit track 5 – ‘Obi-Wan to the Rescue’ – which employs a heavy rock guitar riff never heard in a STARS WARS movie before. From here on the album treads very different ground than any other SW incarnation, blending GALACTICA-like world music ethnicity, Arnold/Bond and Powell/Bourne action motifs with John Williams style arrangements to get a grip back on the fact that it is a SW movie after all. It’s a fascinating mix. It’s almost a conglomerate of every action movie score of the last ten years. I’ll leave this one for the listeners to judge.

BODY OF LIES

Original Score by Marc Streitenfield

Label: Varese Sarabande

The movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe and is about a CIA operative (DiCaprio) that is sent to Jordan to track a high-ranking terrorist. The spy is aided by the head of Jordan’s covert operations (Crowe) in an uneasy alliance that leads to a cultural and moral clash between the men.

This is German-born Streitenfeld’s third score in a row and eighth consecutive music collaboration with director Ridley Scott This string-laden score, laced with north African percussion and other instruments from the region, captures the mood and location of the film perfectly. Now this is where reviewing these things gets tricky: Was my last statement correct? Does the score capture, or does it actually create, the mood of a film? This of course varies from movie to movie, and here I believe it’s the former. Director Scott is well able to establish his own mood and also able to employ a musician who he knows can provide exactly the right kind of accompaniment to his images. Here the word collaboration is well used. This album is a fine example of images and music working hand in hand, though here of course you’ve only got the music! If you want comparisons, then Desplat’s SYRIANA is up there, along with TRAITOR listed above. It’s a powerful and evocative score.

SPOOKS

Original Score by Lalo Schifrin & Andy Garfield

Label: Aleph Records

This has to be a first. Never before have I reviewed the soundtrack to a book. Lalo Schifrin (who needs no introduction to any of my regular readers) and Andy Garfield (HATCHET) have provided this score to the comic-turned-graphic-novel SPOOKS, which was co-created by Lalo’s son Ryan Schifrin (ABOMINABLE).

The two composers share the album with four tracks each and with Lalo taking the first and final tracks where he is in battle mode, the last track almost being a more frenetic version of his Tiger Tank track from KELLY’S HEROES. There are some great titles for the tracks also: ‘Headless Jack’; ‘The Witch’s Manor and ‘The Department of Supernatural Defence’, a piece of music which could easily be another of Lalo’s 70s TV themes.

Aleph Records have released a limited edition CD, limited to 500 copies, available exclusively on www.schifrin.com. The first 100 copies of the CD sold via the website will be autographed by Lalo. It’s a must have simply for the curiosity and uniqueness of it.

INDIANA JONES & THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL

Original Soundtrack by John Williams

Label: Concord Records

Nineteen years after the last Indiana Jones flick, John Williams actually returns to themes he wrote 27 years ago for RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, notably ‘The Raiders March’ of course, ‘Marion’s Theme’ and his leitmotif for the Ark of the Covenant itself, here reprised as ‘The Spell of the Skull’. This is a typical Williams swashbuckling/action/adventure soundtrack and he is on top form and thoroughly enjoying being back scoring for our eponymous hero. The music as presented on the album does not however follow the chronology of events in the movie; ‘A Whirl Through Academe’ comes after ‘The Journey to Akator’ and ‘The Jungle Chase’ comes before ‘Orellana’s Cradle’ and ‘Grave Robbers’, with ‘Ants!’ a further five tracks on, whereas ‘Ants!’ should come immediately following ‘The Jungle Chase’. Whilst I appreciate the impulse to present the pieces of music in a more varied and perhaps more pleasing listening format, to me this detracts from the growth of the themes presented. I like to listen to a soundtrack and follow, in my mind’s eye, the action taking place. This certainly does not correspond to a ‘soundtrack’ as described. The tracks can easily of course be rearranged into the right playing order by those discerning enough who wish so to do. That said, the music from John Williams is, as always excellent, and I know that nothing I can say will prevent Indy or John Williams fans from adding this to their collection.

That’s all for now folks. See you in Part the Second, and as always – keep listening.

Tagged as: , , , , , , , , ,
Share This Article: Digg it | del.icio.us | Google | StumbleUpon | Technorati

Leave a Comment

(Comments are moderated and will be approved at FIR's discretion, please allow time to be displayed)