Twilight Zone: The Movie – music by Jerry Goldsmith

Twilight Zone: The MovieReturning full-circle to the early days of his career as a contract composer working for one studio or another, Jerry Goldsmith was no stranger to The Twilight Zone, having devised the music for some of its classic television installments. By the time he was tapped for the big-screen re-interpretation of it, however, Goldsmith was one of the major players in movie music…and in 1983, just a few years after Aliens and Star Trek: The Motion Picture and their knockout scores, that’s putting it mildly. According to the information-dense booklet that’s become a hallmark of Film Score Monthly’s impressive CDs, Goldsmith was more than happy to return to this particular dimension of sight and sound. This CD gathers, for the first time, every note of music recorded for Twilight Zone: The Movie, including background source music and even leaving room for the suites that were specially recorded or edited together for the original 1983 album release (in the back of the booklet, a running order is included for those who wish to program their CD players to reflect the original LP running order).

If there’s a composer better suited to this unusual movie – which did its best to reflect its short-story-length episodic roots – I can’t imagine who it would be. Goldsmith is called upon to deliver, effectively, four distinctly different scores for one film, as well as framing sequences bookended by Marius Constant’s immortal Twilight Zone theme. What’s all the more impressive is that Goldsmith doesn’t seem to have changed a thing about the original theme, completely forgoing the opportunity to update it or broaden it for the big screen. This is one of the elements that really works toward making the film an integral chapter of the franchise: whether you’re talking about the music or the scripts, it doesn’t completely betray the source material just to cash in on the name (which it very easily could have – the movie languished in development hell for some time as its structure was endlessly debated at the studio).

The first story in the movie’s four-episode format, Time Out, receives a deceptively old-fashioned score: heavy on rumbling piano bass notes and an occasional snare drum cadence, it’s nothing that couldn’t have been done with the meager musical resources at Goldsmith’s command in the original TV series. Kick The Can, the second story, has a broader musical palette, but it accomplishes this by way of synths which were, even then, obviously synths.

The third story, It’s A Good Life, receives an unusual musical treatment to say the least – there are moments of beauty and wonder that sound like they might’ve emerged from the Star Trek: The Motion Picture score, and then there are Carl Stalling-inspired slices of cartoon whimsy that inevitably descend into something with a much more sinister feel. Jarring, but effective; “The House” is one of my favorite pieces of Goldsmith music from this epoch of his career.

The fourth and final story, Nightmare At 20,000 Feet, is the crowning glory of Twilight Zone: The Movie, revisiting a segment of the original series that starred William Shatner. In the big-screen iteration, however, John Lithgow is the increasingly paranoid passenger who rants and raves that he’s seen “a man on the wing of the plane!” Nightmare is one of my favorite pieces of early ’80s genre cinema, and it gets a devilishly devious musical treatment with plenty of scratchy fiddle and wavering, almost-theremin-like synthesizer to signify the gremlin that’s tearing the plane apart before Lithgow’s eyes. And speaking of gremlins, in between the big, brassy suspense cues, the creature also gets a musical signature that one can tell was rhythmically built upon by Goldsmith for Gremlins a year later – though not madly similar melodically, the rhythmic resemblance is undeniable. In Gremlins, the same rhythm gained a playful-but-sinister tone, but here, it’s just plain scary.

The bonus tracks include the edited-down suites from the original LP, previously unreleased songs recorded for the backgrounds of certain scenes (which, while seemingly out of place next to the orchestral score, were still written by Goldsmith), and a few alternate takes. It was mentioned at the beginning of this review, but the booklet is an outstanding source of behind-the-scenes info about both the movie and its music, including the original LP liner notes. Twilight Zone: The Movie was a major release from a major studio, and Film Score Monthly’s presentation more than does it justice.

3 out of 4

Order this CD

  1. Main Title: The Twilight Zone Theme (0:48)
  2. Time Out

  3. Questions / The Ledge (4:03)
  4. Yellow Star (3:57)
  5. Kick The Can

  6. Harp and Love (1:27)
  7. Weekend Visit (1:34)
  8. Kick The Can (0:37)
  9. Night Games (1:54)
  10. Take Me With You / A New Guest (10:13)
  11. It’s A Good Life

  12. The House (2:30)
  13. The Sister / I Didn’t Do It (1:22)
  14. Carbon Monster (3:08)
  15. That’s All, Ethel (1:48)
  16. No More Tricks (3:57)
  17. Nightmare At 20,000 Feet

  18. Nervous Pills (2:39)
  19. No Smoking (2:07)
  20. On The Wing (1:21)
  21. A Face In The Window (2:11)
  22. Engine Failure (1:38)
  23. Overture: Twilight Zone Theme and End Title (6:03)
  24. Bonus Tracks

  25. Nights Are Forever (3:36)
  26. Anesthesia (3:04)
  27. Questions / The Ledge (album edit) (3:03)
  28. Take Me With You / A New Guest (album edit) (5:03)
  29. That’s All Ethel (album edit) (4:29)
  30. Cartoon Music (1:27)
  31. A Face In The Window / Hungry Monster / Twilight Zone Theme (album edit) (4:58)

Released by: Film Score Monthly
Release date: 2009
Total running time: 78:57

Alan Parsons Project – Ammonia Avenue (remastered)

Alan Parsons Project - Ammonia Avenue (remastered)At first glance, Ammonia Avenue had everything going for it – some great songs, a band in its prime, and, oh yeah, that whole riding-the-high-of-Eye-In-The-Sky-topping-the-charts thing. How could Alan Parsons, Eric Woolfson & co. possibly go wrong? The answer: studio interference. Ammonia Avenue was a detour into Arista mandating how the group should sound: since Eric Woolfson’s voice graced past Project hits such as “Eye In The Sky” and “Time”, his voice should grace as many songs as possible on the new album.

Originally recorded as a double album, Ammonia Avenue was pared down to a single album (with the excised tracks eventually seeing release as the Project’s 1984 album Vulture Culture), and on both Ammonia and Vulture, Eric Woolfson’s nearly-operatic, virginal voice is all over songs that just aren’t suited to it. Even Woolfson has admitted that Arista’s directive put his voice on songs that weren’t originally written for himself. It’s great for “Don’t Answer Me”, Ammonia‘s singular bona fide hit, but “Prime Time” and “One Good Reason” could’ve done with a rockier delivery. Lenny Zakatek, returning here for “You Don’t Believe” and “Let Me Go Home”, would have helped either of those songs tremendously, and Chris Rainbow could’ve done either of them proud too. John Miles is conspicuous by his absence here. Lathering up both albums with a thick coating of Woolfson vocals does a disservice to some otherwise fine songs.

The bonus tracks here offer interesting glimpses into the genesis of songs such as “Don’t Answer Me” and “You Don’t Believe” (which appears here in two forms, the second being a twangy, spaghetti-western-plus-synths instrumental that has to be heard to be believed). As usual, the “added value” tracks will really depend upon how much importance the listener places on hearing the musical equivalent of DVD deleted scenes. If there’s a real standout in the bonus tracks, it’s the rhapsodic minute-and-a-half selection of the orchestral overdub session for “Ammonia Avenue” – I think I like the song better in orchestra-only form than as released!

3 out of 4Ammonia Avenue was meant to be a great album, a worthy follow-up to Eye In The Sky, and by all rights it should’ve been. The group didn’t let the side down on the songwriting or instrmental performance fronts. But I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the group’s label hastened the demise of the Project by stepping in and demanding a particular vocalist. The beauty of the previous Project albums was that no two songs were alike, not even in vocal delivery; in “normalizing” the range of voices to favor Woolfson, the label took away a lot of the Project’s uniqueness.

Order this CD

  1. Prime Time (5:03)
  2. Let Me Go Home (3:21)
  3. One Good Reason (3:37)
  4. Since The Last Goodbye (4:35)
  5. Don’t Answer Me (4:11)
  6. Dancing On A Highwire (4:23)
  7. You Don’t Believe (4:26)
  8. Pipeline (3:57)
  9. Ammonia Avenue (6:45)
  10. Don’t Answer Me (early rough mix) (5:09)
  11. You Don’t Believe (demo) (2:22)
  12. Since The Last Goodbye (Chris Rainbow vocal overdubs) (0:30)
  13. Since The Last Goodbye (Eric’s guide vocal rough mix) (4:25)
  14. You Don’t Believe (instrumental tribute to The Shadows) (3:08)
  15. Dancing On A Highwire / Spotlight (work in progress) (3:57)
  16. Ammonia Avenue (Eric’s demo vocal rough mix) (2:42)
  17. Ammonia Avenue (orchestral overdub) (1:21)

Released by: Sony / Arista
Release date: 1983 (remastered version released in 2008)
Total running time: 63:52

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The Alan Parsons Project Played By Andrew Powell

While it might be easy to dismiss this as yet another string tribute “Mantovani Mangles Mott The Hoople” train wreck, there’s something compelling about Andrew Powell Plays The Alan Parsons Project – Powell was the orchestral arranger (and in some cases composer) on many of these original songs. He’s not completely removed from the proceedings. In other words, he’s not that easy to dismiss, even though this ultra-obscure 1983 album smacks of “cash in while you can”. (It may or may not be a coincidence that the only Project album with which Powell wasn’t involved as 1984’s Vulture Culture – maybe this is what he was doing with his free time, or someone decided to give him free time as a result of this album. Take your pick.)

The proceedings open in grand style with a musical mash-up combining “Lucifer” (from the Eve album), “Mammagamma” (from Eye In The Sky) and the heraldic opening horns of “May Be A Price To Pay” (the first thing you heard on The Turn Of A Friendly Card). Long before remix maestros were mashing it up for themselves, Powell was doing an interesting job of it himself, and somehow it works. Not everything on the album is so lucky.

I Robot Suite” and “Damned If I Do” are also interesting listens, with the former in particular covering ground that I wish the instrumental backing track medley on the remastered I Robot CD had covered. My one beef with the “I Robot Suite” is that it really plays fast and loose with the tempos of the original songs, moreso than just about any of this album’s other adaptations – “Some Other Time” becomes almost jaunty, something that the song’s subject just doesn’t lend itself to. “What Goes Up…” also fares well, combined with a very cool orchestral interpretation of its lead-off instrumental, “Voyager”, and, at the very end, some surprising (and neat) musical callbacks to “The Raven” and “Genesis Ch. 1 v. 32”.

Not all of these great Alan Parsons Project classics manage to avoid losing something in the translation, though. “Time”, “Eye In The Sky” and “Old And Wise” become – and I mean this in the nicest way – vapid elevator music. “Time” and “Old And Wise”, which leaned so heavily on the orchestra in their original recordings, actually manage to lost something in the transition to purely orchestral music with no vocals. This boggles my mind – I wouldn’t have expected the person who arranged these songs in the first place to misplace the magic. Somehow he does. “Pavane” (one movement of Tales Of Mystery & Imagination‘s “Fall Of The House Of Usher” suite) takes some odd turns in its arrangement as well. “Games People Play”, a largely synthesized song that had virtually no orchestral accompaniment in its original incarnation, at least manages to be energetic like its inspiration, but kicks off with a really bizarre, horror-film-style intro.

The truth is, I’ve heard far worse “string tribute to…” albums out there, and this one at least seems to have benefitted – at least in some places – from the involvement of the musician who concocted the original songs’ orchestral arrangements. Still, where this album misfires, that very involvement is what makes the misfires so utterly baffling. Two thoughts spring to mind: I wonder why some of these tracks haven’t resurfaced as bonus tracks on the songs’ respective remastered albums (does the label that owns these recordings want too much money, or is this album a point of contention between Powell 3 out of 4and his former Project cohorts?), and despite the misfires, I could easily come up with a second album’s worth of suggestions that could do well in this format. Obviously, 25 years later is probably not a good time to suggest either one (or, for that matter, to suggest a new pressing of this album), but it’s a curiosity that serves as an interesting sidebar to the Alan Parsons Project’s legacy.

Order this CD

  1. Lucifer / Mammagamma (5:34)
  2. Time (5:07)
  3. Games People Play (4:16)
  4. I Robot Suite (8:22)
  5. Damned If I Do (3:40)
  6. Pavane (The Fall Of The House Of Usher) (4:44)
  7. What Goes Up… (5:35)
  8. Eye In The Sky (4:27)
  9. Old And Wise (5:04)

Released by: Disky
Release date: 1983 (re-released on CD in 1997)
Total running time: 46:49