The Omega Man – music by Ron Grainer

As one of a trilogy of dystopian flicks from the ’60s and ’70s starring Charlton Heston, The Omega Man is notable for being a loose adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel “I Am Legend” and, in its own very mild way, anticipating the zombie subgenre of horror movies that was yet to come. For film music enthusiasts, however, Omega Man is a rare treasure – it’s an entire score composed by Ron Grainer, the British composer whose opening title music for such TV shows as The Prisoner and Doctor Who instantly captured the heart of those shows. But could he do more than coin catchy opening title music? That’s what I hoped to find out by giving Omega Man a listen.

Oh, this score is a rare treasure for another reason – a 2000 Film Score Monthly CD release has been its only CD release to date, and all 3,000 copies sold out in what seemed like the blink of an eye. If one of those 3,000 CDs shows up on an online auction site for anything that doesn’t have at least two zeroes to the left of the decimal, that too is a rare thing.

If there’s a previous Grainer work that Omega Man calls instantly to mind, it’s definitely the theme from The Prisoner. Of course one can really only spot this with hindsight; Omega Man hit theaters in 1971, just four years after The Prisoner’s UK premiere, and not everyone had seen The Prisoner (especially outside the UK), and certainly not to a saturation point where casual action moviegoers would recognize the music. The Prisoner’s unmistakable horn figure is heard many times, bringing a brash bravado to many a scene.

I could just about forget trying to make comparisons to Grainer’s previous work after hearing the main theme from this movie. It’s an extremely long-lined melody that just oozes a wonderful sense of world-weariness and manages to sound great at the same time. There’s still a hint of The Prisoner about it, but there’s less swagger and less certainty to it. There’s a feeling of longing, which is completely appropriate for Heston’s character, who’s literally the last man on Earth. As the story wears on, the bravado begins to seep out of the music as the situation gets more desperate. Once we’re past the first two or three tracks, things don’t really kick in and get interesting again until close to the end.

The Omega Man‘s music isn’t timeless, by the way; there are numerous elements which nail it down to a late ’60s/early ’70s sound, with the electric organ (and the way it’s played) frequently being the most obvious of those elements. Some people may find that unpalatable, but I just file it under “endearingly cheesy at times” and keep listening. It was the style of its time, and there’s no mistaking the soundtrack as anything but a product of its time.

As with all of Film Score Monthly’s CDs, the packaging is as impressive as the sound quality of the CD itself, detailing both the music and the movie itself. (It’s worth noting that “I Am Legend” is finally going to hit theaters under its own name, in a new version starring Will Smith, though how faithful the Smith version is 4 out of 4compared to The Omega Man is likely to keep movie fans, and fans of Matheson’s original story, debating for quite a long time.)

Great music, if you can overlook some of its dated elements. Did Ron Grainer have the chops to do more than just theme music? The Omega Man answers with a double-barreled “yes.”

Order this CD

  1. A Summer Place (1:38)
  2. The Omega Man (3:23)
  3. Surprise Party (1:41)
  4. Needling Neville (3:38)
  5. Swinging At Neville’s (1:07)
  6. The Spirit Still Lingers (4:30)
  7. Where Did Lisa Go? (3:41)
  8. ‘Round Midnight (2:22)
  9. Jumped By The Family (2:18)
  10. On The Tumbril (6:08)
  11. Bad Medicine For Richie (2:15)
  12. All Through The Night (3:53)
  13. Zachary Makes His Move (4:49)
  14. Hope Springs Eternal (4:05)
  15. Richie On The Roof (3:59)
  16. Neville Crashes Through (5:33)
  17. Matthias The Victor (5:13)
  18. Dutch Takes Over (5:20)

Released by: Film Score Monthly
Release date: 2000
Total running time: 65:33

Over The Hedge – music by Rupert Gregson-Williams

Over The Hedge soundtrackA pleasant selection of Rupert Gregson-Williams’ lively orchestral score combined with about an EP’s worth of material both new and familiar from Ben Folds, the CD from Dreamworks’ Over The Hedge may just be 2006’s most underrated soundtrack.

The score tracks are unapologetically bold and colorful, but it’s not without subtleties. Instead of going for the usual Carl Stalling-esque tendencies (not that there’s anything wrong with Stalling) for scoring a movie aimed at kids, Rupert Gregson-Williams delivers a rather in-your-face dramatic underscore. It’s fun and full of action. It seems like movie and TV music has tried to get away from this sort of full-blooded orchestral treatment in recent years, in favor of electronics or techno or ethnic/exotic music. There’s room for all of those styles on the same music shelf, and I can honestly say that I just don’t hear enough music like this these days – my compliments to the maestro.

Ben Folds’ contributions are a little more varied; I find myself shrugging a bit at the watered-down remake of “Rockin’ The Suburbs” (though I’d say it’s still worth it for the William Shatner rant that takes the place of at least one whole verse), but “Family Of Me” and “Still” won’t disappoint Folds fans. The latter rambles on a bit, so naturally, it’s on the album in two forms. “Trapped In The Supermarket” is another track that one has to be in the right mood for; its lyrics are a bit repetitive, so its strongest appeal lies in Folds’ relentlessly good musicianship and vocals.

Rating: 4 out of 4Rather than being yet another piece of tie-in merchandise for a massively-marketed kids’ movie, Over The Hedge makes for good listening material. I originally picked it up for the Ben Folds songs, but have wound up playing the whole thing quite a few times over the past several months – it’s all worth a listen.

    Order this CD in the Store

  1. Family Of Me – Ben Folds (1:28)
  2. RJ Enters The Cave (4:37)
  3. The Family Awakes (2:33)
  4. Heist – Ben Folds (3:02)
  5. Lost In The Supermarket – Ben Folds (3:30)
  6. Let’s Call It Steve (3:40)
  7. Hammy Time (2:28)
  8. Still – Ben Folds (2:38)
  9. Play? (1:49)
  10. Rockin’ The Suburbs (Over The Hedge version) – Ben Folds & William Shatner (4:57)
  11. The Inside Heist (7:38)
  12. RJ Rescues His Family (4:18)
  13. Still (Reprise) – Ben Folds (6:07)

Released by: Epic
Release date: 2006
Total running time: 48:45

OK Connery – music by Ennio Morricone & Bruno Nicolai

OK Connery soundtrackHow far removed can one be from a film and still enjoy something about it? This review – and the fact that I bought this CD – will be an exercise in answering that question. For, you see, I’ve seen this movie – but I’ve only seen it with the benefit of a guy and two robots sitting in the bottom right corner of the screen, cracking wise at the movie’s ample supply of foibles. Mystery Science Theater fans will instantly recognize this movie as Operation Double 007, while most parts of the world know it as Operation Kid Brother. The idea behind the movie was simple. Step one: get Sean Connery’s little brother (whether he has any acting experience or not) and as many supporting players as you can from the James Bond movies, and put them in a Bond-esque superspy spoof. Step two: ??? Step three: profit!

How much profit did OK Connery pull in? The existence of this album seems to be proof that, not long after the film’s release, it was at least popular enough for composer Ennio Morricone to get everything together that one would need to release a record of the soundtrack. And really, it’s fine music – it’s a bit much in places, but that description could just as easily apply to the movie as a whole. Morricone and Nicolai do a fine job of sending up John Barry’s already-nearly-over-the-top style, and it’s a testament to their work that, even despite having only ever seen this movie with the MST crew cracking wise over the movie audio, the music is so memorable. It’s all here, from the theme music (presented in English, Italian and instrumental forms on this CD, just in case you feel the need to sing along), to the brass-with-60s-electric-guitar action cues, to the hilariously extravagant music from the scene where Adolfo Celi’s supervillain waltzes around in a bathrobe, lights a cigar, and admires what seems to be a personal collection of reclining nude women. Everybody needs a hobby, but man, this guy and his hobby get some killer theme music!

The sound is surprisingly crisp (the master tapes are nearly 40 years old now) and everything has been remastered until it sonically shines. It’s a stunning amount of effort for a movie that, even in regions where it’s better-remembered, was an extremely marginal footnote in cinematic history (and even then, probably only due to the leading man…and his brother). Now, to be fair, you can be sure that the work was undertaken to preserve an unreleased score by one of the cinema’s most famous composers, and I really do appreciate that – but you can also bet that around half of the copies of this CD that have been sold to date have probably been bought by folks who, like myself, have only seen it with Joel and the ‘bots taking well-observed potshots at the movie.

3 out of 4OK Connery sports some dandy music – if you’re in a specific superspy spoofin’ kinda mood. I just hope that I can someday accumulate my own collection of reclining nudes so I, too, will be worthy of the music on track 2. (I’ve already got a bathrobe.)

Order this CD

  1. Man For Me (3:19)
  2. Connery (1:58)
  3. Allegri Ragazzi (1:44)
  4. Primo Amore (4:37)
  5. A Passo D’uomo (2:39)
  6. Varco Nel Muro (1:36)
  7. Connery (2:19)
  8. Missione Segreta (1:07)
  9. Verso Il Mare (1:48)
  10. Fiori Gialli (1:17)
  11. Gli Enigmi (1:11)
  12. Diapositive (1:24)
  13. Can Can Delle Amazzoni (1:46)
  14. Connery: Congiura (2:42)
  15. Contrabbando (1:15)
  16. Turbinosamente (1:25)
  17. Gatto Parlante (1:14)
  18. Missione Segreta (1:44)
  19. La Preda (0:50)
  20. Man For Me – Italian version (3:04)
  21. OK Connery – Sequence 1 (1:44)
  22. OK Connery – Sequence 2 (2:03)
  23. OK Connery – Sequence 3 (1:58)
  24. OK Connery – Sequence 4 (1:13)
  25. OK Connery – Sequence 5 (1:26)
  26. OK Connery – Sequence 6 (3:05)
  27. Man For Me – Instrumental (3:11)
  28. Man For Me – Alternate version (3:10)

Released by: DigitMovies / Beat Records
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 57:02

Out of Africa – music by John Barry

 soundtrackThis is an absolutely sublime score, one of the very few movie soundtracks which radiates enough simple beauty to rank up there with the classical repertoire. Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, you’ve probably heard the first few wistful minutes of the main theme before. The secondary theme, which resurfaces in other cues, is no slouch either. I can’t recommend this highly enough, nor can I even come up with a description that adequately describes the beauty of it all.

    4 out of 4

  1. Main Title – I Had a Farm in Africa (3:07)
  2. I’m Better At Hello – Karen’s theme (1:15)
  3. Have You Got a Story For Me? (1:12)
  4. Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra in A, K.622 (2:46)
  5. Safari (2:40)
  6. Karen’s Journey / Siyawe (4:46)
  7. Flying Over Africa (3:22)
  8. Order this CD I Had a Compass From Denys – Karen’s theme II (2:27)
  9. Alone on the Farm (1:55)
  10. Let the Rest of the World Go By (3:12)
  11. If I Know a Song of Africa – Karen’s theme III (2:11)
  12. End title – You Are Karen (4:03)

Released by: MCA
Release date: 1986
Total running time: 33:34