51 Shades of Geek

Ladyhawke (newly expanded edition)

Ladyhawke (newly expanded edition)Either an awkward or awesome fit for its movie, depending upon whom one asks, 1984’s Ladyhawke veered away from the usual (indeed, almost stereotypical) Korngold-inspired heraldry expected of swords-and-sorcery films and, courtesy of composer Andrew Powell and his producer/collaborator Alan Parsons (of Alan Parsons Project fame), dared to score a period piece with synthesizers and rock music.

The result is practically a lost Project album in style and execution, and not a bad one at that. La-La Land Records expands the Ladyhawke score (last issued in the 1990s by GNP Crescendo) to two discs, including every note of the score, plus goodies such as demos, unused cues, and bite-sized edits of the movie’s music intended for radio advertising. If you already like the score, this release will delight you: there’s more where it came from, including fascinating alternate cues. If you didn’t like the score to begin with, steer clear: nothing here is likely to change your mind about it unless you’re prepared to go in with an open mind and open ears.

3 out of 4The packaging is a huge improvement on the almost-generic presentation of the 1990s release, with liner notes including interviews with Powell, Parsons, and director Richard Donner. This 2-CD set balances out the synth-heavy Crescendo single CD release by revealing that Powell prepared as much “traditional” material as he did anachronistic material; it’s still a fun listen.

Order this CD

    Disc One

  1. Main Title (03:02)
  2. Phillipe’s Escape From Dungeon (01:51)
  3. Phillipe’s Escape Through Sewer (01:43)
  4. The Search For Philippe (03:27)
  5. Navarre At Sunset (00:22)
  6. Tavern Fight (Philippe)
  7. (02:10)

  8. Tavern Fight (Navarre)
  9. (02:43)

  10. Navarre’s Saddlebag (00:37)
  11. Navarre Dreams Of Isabeau (00:56)
  12. Pitou’s Woods (04:07)
  13. Marquet’s Return To Aquila Part 1 (01:01)
  14. Philippe Describes Isabeau (01:14)
  15. Marquet’s Return To Aqula Part 2 (01:17)
  16. Bishop’s Garden (00:45)
  17. Navarre Has Returned (00:27)
  18. Monk’s Chant In Bishop’s Garden (01:58)
  19. Isabeau Chases A Rabbit (00:25)
  20. Navarre’s Sunset / Philippe’s Capture (00:36)
  21. Navarre Is Ambushed / Hawk Injured (04:55)
  22. Philippe And Imperius Enter Abbey (01:18)
  23. Philippe Discovers Isabeau’s Secret (01:28)
  24. Imperius Removes Arrow From Isabeau (01:37)
  25. The Bishop Interviews Cezar (01:33)
  26. “You Must Save This Hawk” (01:07)
  27. Chase Up The Turret / Isabeau’s Fall Part 2 (02:49)
  28. Isabeau’s Transformation (00:39)
  29. Isabeau Flies Free (01:14)
  30. Navarre And Imperius (00:42)
  31. Navarre And Philippe Leave The Abbey (01:45)
  32. Wedding Party (01:45)
  33. Navarre’s Transformation (00:44)
  34. Wedding Dance (02:38)
  35. Cezar’s Woods (05:32)
  36. “She Was Sad At First” (02:09)
  37. Navarre Rides To Aquila (01:40)
  38. Philippe And Imperius (00:28)
  39. Wolf Trapped In Ice Pool (02:38)
  40. Navarre And Isabeau’s Dual Transformation (03:24)
    Disc Two

  1. Navarre Sees Phillipe’s Wounds (00:44)
  2. Return to Aquila (02:44)
  3. Phillipe’s Return Through Sewer (01:03)
  4. Bishop’s Procession Chant 1 (01:32)
  5. Bishop’s Procession Chant 2 (01:48)
  6. The Service Begins (Part 1) (00:50)
  7. Navarre’s Instruction to Kill Isabeau (00:50)
  8. The Service Begins (Part 2) (00:40)
  9. Navarre Enters the Cathedral (01:36)
  10. Navarre and Marquet Cathedral Fight (04:27)
  11. Marquet’s Death (02:02)
  12. Isabeau Appears (00:50)
  13. Bishop’s Death (02:30)
  14. The Final Reunion / End Titles (06:07)
  15. Chase Up the Turret / Isabeau’s Fall Part 1 (00:53)
  16. Chase / Fall / Transformation (02:10)
  17. Phillipe Discovers Isabeau’s Secret (01:44)
  18. Imperius Removes Arrow From Isabeau (01:33)
  19. Navarre and Phillipe Leave the Abbey (01:45)
  20. Navarre’s Transformation (00:46)
  21. Wolf Trapped in Ice Pool (02:36)
  22. Phillipe’s Jewel (00:51)
  23. Ent Titles (05:00)
  24. Spot 01 Radio Bed A – 30′ (00:35)
  25. Spot 02 Radio Bed A – 30′ (00:35)
  26. Spot 03 Radio Bed B – 30′ (01:05)
  27. Spot 04 Radio Bed C – 30′ (00:56)
  28. Spot 05 Radio Bed A – 60′ (01:03)
  29. Spot 06 Radio Bed B – 60′ (01:09)
  30. Spot 07 Radio Bed C – 75′ (01:16)
  31. Spot 08 Radio Bed A – 90′ (01:31)
  32. Spot 10 Radio Bed B – 90′ (01:38)
  33. Spot 09 Radio Bed A – Full (03:32)
  34. Ladyhawke Theme (Single) (03:37)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: February 10, 2015
Disc One total running time: 1:08:23
Disc One total running time: 1:01:38

Alan Parsons Project – The Turn Of A Friendly Card: 35th Anniversary Edition

The Turn Of A Friendly Card: 35th Anniversary EditionTime, as the hit single from this album croons, keeps flowing like a river, but the sight of a new 2-CD remaster of the Alan Parsons Project’s The Turn Of A Friendly Card makes me feel like time is bearing down on me like an oncoming flood. It can’t really have been 35 years, can it?

Indeed it can, and in that time The Turn Of A Friendly Card has already been remastered once, and deservedly so: while I Robot and Pyramid and the other early Project albums were nothing to sneeze at, there was some kind of harmonic convergence going on here, putting the right vocalists on the right songs at the right time to get massive radio airplay. “Time”, sung by the late, great Eric Woolfson, and “Games People Play”, sung by Lenny Zakatek, are immortal 1980s radio staples, and they’ve never sounded better. The remainder of the first disc is filled by the bonus material from the earlier remastered release.

The second disc, however, is completely new to this release, containing recently unearthed home demos – billed here as a “songwriting diary” – from the archives of the late Mr. Woolfson, who wrote all of the Project’s songs (despite what any shared credit on the album sleeves might state). There are basically cleaned-up transfers of garden-variety cassette tapes that Eric Woolfson kept rolling as he sat down to discover and shape his songs at the piano, long before any of them went into a studio. For those interested in the process of songwriting, this is fascinating stuff, as we hear Woolfson travel down various unexplored avenues, occasionally landing on gold…and occasionally putting it in reverse and backing up to his original idea.

But the highlight of the second disc, and the real reason to buy this whole album one more time, is down to a single track: the unaccompanied orchestral backing track from “Time”, which also includes backing harmony vocal overdubs performed by the late Chris Rainbow. This is, quite simply, one of the best orchestral backing arrangements that has ever graced a pop song, giving 4 out of 4what was already a gorgeous song incredible depth and power. I can listen to this one track over and over again (and I have done).

It’s rare that I recommend something on the basis of a single track of barely two minutes’ duration, but if you’re already a fan of the Alan Parsons Project and/or a student of how music is put together (by masters of the craft), that track, and indeed the whole second disc, is worth the upgrade.

Order this CD

    Disc One

  1. May Be A Price To Pay (5:01)
  2. Games People Play (4:23)
  3. Time (5:09)
  4. I Don’t Wanna Go Home (4:59)
  5. The Gold Bug (4:32)
  6. The Turn Of A Friendly Card (Part I) (2:43)
  7. Snake Eyes (3:17)
  8. The Ace Of Swords (2:58)
  9. Nothing Left To Lose (4:07)
  10. The Turn Of A Friendly Card (Part II) (3:31)
  11. May Be A Price To Pay (intro demo) (1:32)
  12. Nothing Left To Lose (instrumental backing track) (4:37)
  13. Nothing Left To Lose (Chris Rainbow vocal overdub compilation) (2:01)
  14. Nothing Left To Lose (early studio version with Eric’s guide vocal) (3:11)
  15. Time (early studio attempt – instrumental) (4:42)
  16. Games People Play (rough mix) (4:32)
  17. The Gold Bug (demo) (2:50)
    Disc Two

  1. May Be A Price to Pay (Eric’s Songwriting Diary) (3:26)
  2. Games People Play (Eric’s Songwriting Diary) (3:06)
  3. Time (Eric’s Songwriting Diary) (4:06)
  4. I Don’t Wanna Go Home (Eric’s Songwriting Diary) (2:12)
  5. The Turn of a Friendly Card (Eric’s Songwriting Diary) (3:19)
  6. Snake Eyes (Eric’s Songwriting Diary) (3:13)
  7. Nothing Left to Lose (Eric’s Songwriting Diary) (2:46)
  8. Turn Of A Friendly Card / Snake Eyes / I Don’t Wanna Go Home (Eric’s Songwriting Diary) (4:32)
  9. May Be A Price to Pay (Early Version – Eric Guide Vocal & Unused Guitar Solo) (5:03)
  10. Games People Play (Early version – Eric Guide Vocal) (4:32)
  11. Time (Orchestra & Chris Rainbow Backing Vocals) (4:19)
  12. The Gold Bug (Early Reference Version) (5:08)
  13. The Turn of a Friendly Card Part 1 (Early Backing Track) (2:18)
  14. Snake Eyes (Early Version – Eric Guide Vocal) (3:20)
  15. The Ace of Swords (Early Version with Synth “Orchestration”) (3:03)
  16. The Ace Of Swords (Early Version with Piano on Melody) (2:40)
  17. The Turn of a Friendly Card Part Two (Eric Guide Vocal and Extended Guitar Solo) (3:32)
  18. Games People Play (single edit) (3:35)
  19. The Turn of a Friendly Card (single edit) (3:44)
  20. Snake Eyes (single edit) (2:26)

Released by: Sony / Legacy
Release date: November 13, 2015
Disc one total running time: 64:05
Disc two total running time: 70:20

Alan Parsons Project – Gaudi (remastered)

Alan Parsons Project - Gaudi (remastered)The last Alan Parsons Project album to be released under that band name is also the last of the Alan Parsons Project remasters, and thus Gaudi ends two stories at the same time. I can’t really tell how much actual remastering was done here – Gaudi was originally recorded on fairly high-end digital equipment to begin with, and though that means digital-to-tape rather than a hard drive, it was always a very sharp recording. It’s probably best known for “Closer To Heaven” and “Money Talks”, both of which appeared on Miami Vice at the time of the original release, and “Paseo de Gracia”, which I remember being a staple of the Weather Channel forecast music at the time.

In remastered form, we get to hear the gestation of several of the songs, with early drafts of “Paseo de Gracia” and “La Sagrada Familia” on display, and an interesting look at the sonic components that made up “Money Talks”. The first draft of “Too Late” is heard here, with Eric Woolfson “la-la-ing” his way through the rhythm for the still-to-be-written vocals, though apparently it was already known that the song would be “Too Late” (however, even the placement and expression of that phrase within the embryonic lyrics is vastly different from what finally appeared). In this form, the song also has a wildly ’80s intro that vanished before the final recorded version.

I was never the biggest fan of Gaudi at the time of its release; it has, in “Standing On Higher Ground” and “Too Late”, two of the best straight-ahead, unaffected rock songs that the Project turned out in the 1980s, and in “Inside Looking Out”, one of Eric Woolfson’s best ballads. I seem to recall not being a huge fan of Stereotomy, Gaudi‘s immediate forerunner, too, though going back and listening to those albums with Woolfson’s post-Project musicals in mind, I can now appreciate Gaudi and Stereotomy for what they were: course corrections of varying degrees trying to keep the Project on a rock/prog rock/pop music path rather than giving in to Woolfson’s theatrical tendencies.

Don’t get me wrong: the final Project album with Woolfson (the concept album for Freudiana, which was credited to Woolfson himself rather than the Project despite featuring Parsons and all of the usual studio suspects) is great stuff, but in many places it really ceases to be rock music. Gaudi was the last gasp of Woolfson even trying to make it look like he wanted to be doing rock music. Following Freudiana, Parsons and Woolfson went their separate ways with wildly divergent solo careers both heavily influenced by the Project. Parsons’ first post-Project album, 1993’s Try Anything Once, was almost indistinguishable from a Project album except for Woolfson’s absence; Woolfson would go on to create a string of musicals using new arrangements of classic Project tunes revamped for the theater stage.

3 starsGaudi still elicits the same sitting-on-the-fence response from me now that it did back then – some great songs, but also some material that I can live without. In retrospect, perhaps it was best for the Project to split at this point, as the different musical directions of the group’s two principals was on the verge of giving us a schizophrenic sound. With Woolfson continuing to fill theaters with his musicals, and Parsons venturing solidly into electronica, it’s hard to imagine two more divergent musical directions – whether it ended at Gaudi or Freudiana, the only thing that seems certain is that it would’ve ended sooner rather than later.

Order this CD

  1. La Sagrada Familia (8:47)
  2. Too Late (4:30)
  3. Closer To Heaven (5:53)
  4. Standing On Higher Ground (5:48)
  5. Money Talks (4:26)
  6. Inside Looking Out (6:26)
  7. Paseo de Gracia (3:47)
  8. Too Late (Eric Woolfson’s rough guide vocal) (4:13)
  9. Standing On Higher Ground / Losing Proposition (vocal experiments) (3:58)
  10. Money Talks (Chris Rainbow / percussion overdubs) (0:37)
  11. Money Talks (rough mix backing track) (4:28)
  12. Closer to Heaven (Chris Rainbow / sax overdub section) (0:50)
  13. Paseo de Gracia (rough mix) (3:46)
  14. La Sagrada Familia (rough mix) (7:25)

Released by: Sony / Arista
Release date: 1987 (remastered version released in 2008)
Total running time: 68:46

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