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

R.E.M. – Murmur

MurmurIt’s very easy for me to take Murmur for granted – I didn’t hear it until well after I had become a fan of the band’s later work, and I didn’t start paying attention to the world of college/alternative/modern rock until almost a decade after this album helped establish its importance. The folky influence, the gentle layered harmonies, and the cryptic, emotive lyrics were such a natural part of my musical world by that time that this album didn’t come across as the shock to the system that it did in 1983, inspiring Rolling Stone to name it the album of the year. But while I can only appreciate its innovations secondhand, I can still enjoy the songs – and they’re still great 20 years later.

Both “Radio Free Europe” and “Sitting Still,” the songs on the band’s first single, were re-recorded for this album. The former is a classic, but I admit that I first heard and came to love the original Hib-Tone mix that appeared on Eponymous. On the other hand, the latter song encapsulates R.E.M.’s early approach – drummer Bill Berry and bassist Mike Mills drive the song forward and provide the basic melody while guitarist Peter Buck’s arpeggios seem to surround the framework and carry it aloft. Berry and Mills’ backup vocal harmonies create an atmosphere from which Michael Stipe’s lead vocals barely emerge, making themselves felt more than heard. Do not, under any circumstances, ask me what Stipe means in any of these songs. I have no clue. But there’s a sense of vitality and reflection in his voice that’s no less meaningful for not making any literal statement.

rating: 4 out of 4 Murmur is generally a fast and energetic album, with songs like “Shaking Through,” “Catapult” and “Moral Kiosk” in the same spirit as “Sitting Still.” “Pilgrimage” has a pretty quick tempo if you listen to Berry’s drums, but the relative sparseness of the instruments on the verses makes it feel more sedate and provides a nice contrast with the verses. When the foursome does slow down, they prove that their knack for beautiful but melancholy songs was ever-present. The Berry-written “Perfect Circle” is built around his and Mills’ complementary piano work, but it’s the pair’s soaring background vocals combined with Stipe’s almost mournful lead that make the song overflow with emotion. “Talk About the Passion,” meanwhile, complements Buck’s guitar lines with some well-placed strings, one of the few embellishments on the album. It’s quite remarkable how much of a layered sound producers Mitch Easter and Don Dixon were able to create with the band while still letting each musical voice be heard. But then, Murmur is quite a remarkable album.

After R.E.M. achieved international success with Warner Bros., IRS Records re-released the band’s early catalogue overseas with additional tracks, mostly live performances and remixes along with the occasional b-side. These additional tracks remain unavailable on U.S. versions of the album.

Order this CD

  1. Radio Free Europe (4:03)
  2. Pilgrimage (4:25)
  3. Laughing (3:52)
  4. Talk About the Passion (3:22)
  5. Moral Kiosk (3:32)
  6. Perfect Circle (3:23)
  7. Catapult (3:54)
  8. Sitting Still (3:07)
  9. 9-9 (3:02)
  10. Shaking Through (4:00)
  11. We Walk (3:04)
  12. West of the Fields (3:15)


(Track listing reflects original U.S. release; foreign re-releases contain additional tracks)

Released by: IRS Records/A&M
Release date: 1983
Total running time: 44:11

Journey – Frontiers

Journey - FrontiersQuite possibly the first rock album to have a video game based on it (the arcade game Journey actually predates an Atari 2600 cartridge called Journey Escape by several months), Journey’s Frontiers is one of those pivotal, everybody-remembers-it, all-things-to-all-people albums of the 80s. On the good side, it’s got some of the group’s most memorable songs. On the downside, it takes us away from songs like “Lights” and starts Journey on its slippery downhill slope toward being yet another glam hair band.

“Send Her My Love” comes real close to being – for those of you familiar with Plato’s concept of the “perfect form” – the perfect form of the ’80s power ballad. Not the first one to come along by any means, but all the prerequisite elements are there. It’s a decent song, good lyrics, and all the while it’s riding on a chunky bed of distorted guitar that seems to constantly want to break into the searing solo that finally comes 2/3 of the way into the song – the quintessential Slow Song With Power Chords. Before Bon Jovi was riding a steel horse regardless of being dead or alive, I might add. “Faithfully” runs a close second and adds another traditional power ballad touch, the wordless vocal restatement of the main melody in place of an actual verse.

And of course, everyone’s heard – or, more likely, seen the then-omnipresent video to – “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)”. That opening keyboard riff is about as ’80s as you can get. Play just that part of that song to someone over the age of 20, and chances are it’ll take ’em back to some kind of a memory of where and who they were at the time. This, too, is a decent song, but for my money, not as good as the hard rock anthem that 3 out of 4is “Chain Reaction”. Something about that song makes me want to get up and march, not dance.

Journey’s Frontiers wasn’t the band’s best album, but it was probably the most popular – and in those days, that consigned a group to repeating the formula ad nauseum. Just as it did here. Recommended, but not their best – stick around, and I’ll discuss Escape at a later date.

Order this CD

  1. Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) (5:28)
  2. Send Her My Love (3:57)
  3. Chain Reaction (4:24)
  4. After The Fall (5:02)
  5. Faithfully (4:28)
  6. Edge Of The Blade (4:34)
  7. Troubled Child (4:31)
  8. Back Talk (3:20)
  9. Frontiers (4:12)
  10. Rubicon (4:18)

Released by: CBS
Release date: 1983
Total running time: 44:14

Hall & Oates – Rock & Soul, Part I

Hall & Oates - Rock & Soul, Part IYou couldn’t swing a radio dial in the late 70s and early 80s without it hitting a Hall & Oates song. The original purveyors of “white boy soul” – and in many respects still the best – Daryl Hall and John Oates launched a string of hits into the airwaves.

Highlights on this collection include “Sara Smile”, “Kiss On My List”, “You Make My Dreams”, “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” and “One On One” – and those are just the ones I liked. Other hits include “Maneater” and “Private Eyes” (both major chart hits, though they were overplayed to the point where I tend to skip those tracks these days), as well as latter-day hits like “Adult Education” and “Say It Isn’t So”, which never really tripped my trigger like the earlier stuff.

I do, however, have an axe to grind here – how could they leave out the excellent live version of “Everytime You Go Away” from the Live At The Apollo album featuring David Ruffin and Eddie Kendrick!? That was one of the biggest hits Hall & Oates had, and it’s a rare case of a song which, despite radio 3 out of 4overexposure, I still like. The live version of “Wait For Me” is on here, but it’s hardly a substitute. What were they thinking?

Other than that, the oddly-titled Rock ‘n’ Soul Part I is a worthwhile collection – though maybe it’d help if more people knew this was the greatest hits album.

Order this CD

  1. Say It Isn’t So (4:18)
  2. Sara Smile (3:10)
  3. She’s Gone (3:27)
  4. Rich Girl (2:26)
  5. Kiss On My List (3:54)
  6. You Make My Dreams (3:07)
  7. Private Eyes (3:28)
  8. Adult Education (5:28)
  9. I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) (3:45)
  10. Maneater (4:33)
  11. One On One (3:56)
  12. Wait For Me (live) (6:05)

Released by: RCA
Release date: 1983
Total running time: 47:35

Police – Synchronicity

Police - SynchronicityI’ve long had a love-hate relationship with the final Police album, but upon a recent listening I finally decided I love it more than I hate it.

So what’s not to like? Quite simply one of the most overexposed songs of the 1980s, “Every Breath You Take”. And hey, I even like the song, but it was played so often that I can really only bear to hear it once a year or so. (That said, I’ll take “Every Breath” over anything the current crop of producer-packaged teenybopper acts can cough up, so my boredom with the song is a relative thing.)

What is there to like about Synchronicity? Possibly Sting’s best work ever, with some crisply literate lyrics and some excellent music to go behind them. Mixing mythological metaphors with literary references and interesting concepts, the songs are both memorable and thought-provoking. So much so, in fact, that I think it points out why I skip “Every Breath” most of the time – its somewhat repetitive and predictable lyrics are sharply out of place on Synchronocity.

4 out of 4Some of the better songs, including “King Of Pain” and “Wrapped Around Your Finger”, made a somewhat smaller splash as singles, while others – including the mesmerising “Tea In The Sahara” – can only be found on the album. Overall, even with the clichè-ridden “Every Breath”, Synchronicity is an outstanding album, engaging both musically and intellectually.

Order this CD

  1. Synchronicity I (3:23)
  2. Walking In Your Footsteps (3:35)
  3. O My God (4:00)
  4. Mother (3:03)
  5. Miss Gradenko (2:00)
  6. Synchronicity II (5:04)
  7. Every Breath You Take (4:13)
  8. King Of Pain (4:59)
  9. Wrapped Around Your Finger (5:12)
  10. Tea In The Sahara (4:11)
  11. Murder By Numbers (4:31)

Released by: A&M
Release date: 1983
Total running time: 44:30