Escape From The Planet Of The Apes – music by Jerry Goldsmith

Escape From The Planet Of The ApesJerry Goldsmith was among those who didn’t return for the second installment of the Planet Of The Apes film series, but he was back on board for the third, which was an attempt to reboot the series without ditching the established continuity. If anything, the third film was the most clever of the sequels, drop-kicking the story back into the present day (or something like it) for an Apes-style meditation on the spectrum of prejudice (from sublte to savage) and the fleeting and entirely disposable nature of celebrity, two topics which have helped Escape From The Planet Of The Apes retain its ironic bite over the years rather than allowing it to become increasingly dated (as with the other sequels).

Goldsmith, keenly aware of what the movie needed (as always), came out swingin’. No, not swinging, but swingin’ – as in groovy, baby! His opening theme for Escape is one of my favorite pieces that Goldsmith has ever written, period. It sounds nothing like the opening to a science fiction movie. It sounds like the opening to a ’70s comedy, which is what the movie’s admittedly funny opening scene is trying to trick you into expecting. With its jazzy beat and straight-outta-the-late-sixties electric organs, guitar and sitar, Goldsmith’s opening number completely belies the story that’s about to unfold. And I love it. The whole movie is about appearances deceiving, and Goldsmith was clearly in on the joke.

The swingin’ mood carries into the next track, “The Zoo”, which is a bit more mellow – almost into Barry White backing-track territory, again completely unexpected for Goldsmith. It’s at the beginning of this track, however, that the composer begins to slip in some of the unorthodox, almost animalistic instrumentation from the Planet Of The Apes score, but subtly – you can be forgiven for not noticing (especially while watching with the movie’s dialogue and sound effects).

“Gorilla Attack” is a burst of brutality that seems out of the place with the movie’s decided gentle first reel, but it’s a preview of things to come. Goldsmith resumes the grooviness with the “Shopping Spree” montage, but things quickly become more unsettled as the movie’s plot becomes darker and more serious to a shocking degree. As suspicion mounts that the two talking apea – now revealed to be expecting parents – may well signal the end of the line for homo sapiens, the music becomes darker by several orders of magnitude. Tracks such as “Labor Pains” and “Mother And Child” distract a bit by sounding like the score from a more domestic drama, but the sheer brutality of immediately adjacent tracks like “The Breakout” and “The Hunt” leave little doubt that the story is still about the impending extinction of the apes as we know them at this point in the saga. “Final Chapter and End Credits” brings it all home, no longer the gimmicky laugh at the beginning of the movie, but closing off a tragically brutal story. The latter half of that track revisits the basic melody of Goldsmith’s jaunty opening, but in a much more somber treatment.

I can caution you that there’s barely a half-hour of music here (and on one of those pricey, limited-edition releases, no less), but this is a Goldsmith masterpiece – possibly even moreso than Planet Of The Apes itself. Escape From The Planet Of The Apes was all about getting the audience in their seats with some popcorn for some kooky, zany fish-out-of-water comedy, only to 4 out of 4serve up a slice of blistering social commentary that, frankly, audiences probably needed in 1971. (I’d put this movie, completely unchanged in front of an audience now, too: the 1971 timestamp would probably put them even more at ease and make it even more shocking.) Goldsmith’s music was part of the process of tricking the audience into letting its guard down, and it’s downright hummable too – a great combination.

Order this CD

  1. Main Title (2:32)
  2. The Zoo (1:06)
  3. The Gorilla Attack (0:56)
  4. I Like You (1:05)
  5. Shopping Spree (2:19)
  6. A Little History (1:23)
  7. Interrogation (3:18)
  8. Labor Pains (1:05)
  9. Breakout (0:38)
  10. The Labor Continues (3:55)
  11. The Hitchhiker (1:06)
  12. Mother And Child (3:52)
  13. The Hunt (4:06)
  14. Final Chapter and End Credits (1:42)

Released by: Varese Sarabande
Release date: 2009
Total running time: 29:03

The Andromeda Strain – music by Gil Melle

The Andromeda StrainIn the early 1970s, while the British viewing public had been treated to electronic music in films and TV via the likes of Tristram Cary and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the film scoring scene in America had stayed rooted in orchestral scores and, increasingly, pop-music-compilations-as-soundtracks. The Andromeda Strain was a bit of an aural shock for moviegoers in the U.S., and its score, rooted in radiophonic methods and sounds, was extremely unusual – probably the strangest film score since Forbidden Planet.

Melle is associated with more traditional scoring, especially in the suspense/horror genre (Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Rod Serling’s Night Gallery being among his best-known work), but for this movie he used decidedly non-traditional means to create his music, with only a smattering of familiar instruments. The first three tracks really don’t make many concessions to an audience not already familiar with electronic music; “Desert Trip” is really the first truly tuneful track on the album. (“Desert Trip” also has a place in my own local history: one Fort Smith radio station which has held an annual Easter Egg hunt has used the middle portion of “Desert Trip” as the background music for on-air clues for as long as I can remember.)

“OP” and “Xenogensis” provide more material that borders on actually being melodic, but “Strobe Crystal Green” brings things full circle into the abstract. For those not accustomed to early electronic and radiophonic music, The Andromeda Strain soundtrack – away from the movie – can be a challenging listen at best, in the same vein as the music from the Doctor Who story The Sea Devils (broadcast the following year). Quite a bit of it isn’t just atonal, but eschews just about any notion of melody, harmony or rhythm, in either the western or eastern traditions. It’s not just noise, though: there is structure, just not in a traditional musical sense.

I frequently dock big points for a running time that clocks in well short of the capacity of a compact disc (especially at the premium price Intrada charges for its excellent limited-run soundtrack CDs), but there’s actually a historical reason for this one: when initially issued on 3 out of 4vinyl in 1971, The Andromeda Strain’s soundtrack was released as a hexagonal LP, and its running time was a byproduct of that unusual shape, since all of the tracks had to fit within a circular area within that hexagon. Intrada’s CD is round, but as it uses the LP master tapes as its source material, it has no more music than that hexagonal LP. Let the buyer beware of the running time vs. price ratio here.

Order this CD

  1. Wildfire (2:46)
  2. Hex (4:00)
  3. Andromeda (2:24)
  4. Desert Trip (4:14)
  5. The Piedmont Elegy (2:23)
  6. OP (2:45)
  7. Xenogenesis (2:40)
  8. Strobe Crystal Green (4:55)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2010
Total running time: 26:07

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

Electric Light Orchestra – First Light

Electric Light Orchestra - First LightElectric Light Orchestra - First LightIn the late 60s, one would’ve been hard-pressed to find a post-Beatles psychedelic power pop outfit more prominent in Britain than The Move. (How prominent? One of their singles was the first song played on BBC Radio 1.) So naturally, the members of the Move would’ve been crazy to knock a sure thing in the head and try something as drastically different as a live rock group with its own string section.

Fortunately for us, Roy Wood and newcomer Jeff Lynne were crazy enough to do just that. Frequently quoted as “picking up where ‘I Am The Walrus’ left off,” Wood and Lynne dared to throw layer after layer of cello on top of Lynne’s latest composition, “10538 Overture”, which was originally slated to be a Move B-side. The result thrilled them enough to continue forging ahead with their neoclassical aspirations in mind, and the songs grew more adventurous from there; “The Battle Of Marston Moor” has no rock elements at all, adding Wood’s historical spoken narrative to a largely baroque backing. “Whisper In The Night” adds layers of cellos and an angelic choir to a fairly simple ballad. Lynne’s “Mr. Radio” strives for an old-time radio sound, featuring no bass whatsoever (but plenty of cellos).

First Light is a 2-CD celebration of the band’s first album, dating back to 1971 (whose original no-frills single-CD release has been reviewed here previously). Remastered from the original session tapes, the original album tracks have never sounded better, and yet the cleaning-up of the material doesn’t strip it of its heady early 70s charm. A new version of the album, brought up to modern specs, would be worth the price of admission alone, but bonus tracks fill out both the CD containing the original album and and entire second CD. Some of the stuff – the incredibly rare live tracks from one of the group’s earliest performances, alternate takes of several songs from the album – is priceless. The live version of a song known only by the title “Jeff’s Boogie No. 2” (later heard on the group’s second album under the title “In Old England Town”) is particularly fascinating, with wildly different lyrics than what eventually accompanied that music. And the live “Whisper In The Night”, minus the cellos and choir but with a helping hand from the other band members’ more traditional instruments, is also worth a listen. And just for the record, I want to know who on Earth recorded the BBC Radio intros to the second disc’s two different versions of “10538 Overture” – who thought to keep that stuff!?

Both discs included copious liner notes booklets, with comments from Lynne and Wood and tons of photos. The first disc is also filled out with an extensive multimedia CD-ROM section featuring the session logs, the band’s discography, and even the rare promotional video from “10538 Overture”.

rating: 4 out of 4Overall, it’s a grand package for those already acquainted with the first album, or those interested in ELO’s beginnings. Sadly, only a few thousand copies of the two-disc Limited Edition have been made, and the title reverts to the first disc only after that. If ELO is up your alley, spring for the deluxe edition while it’s there.

Order this CD

    Disc one:

  1. 10538 Overture (5:37)
  2. Look At Me Now (3:20)
  3. Nellie Takes Her Bow (6:02)
  4. The Battle Of Marston Moor (July 2nd, 1644) (6:05)
  5. First Movement (Jumping Biz) (3:03)
  6. Mr. Radio (5:06)
  7. Manhattan Rumble (49th Street Massacre) (4:25)
  8. Queen Of The Hours (3:25)
  9. Whisper In The Night (4:49)
  10. The Battle Of Marston Moor – alternate take (1:00)
  11. 10538 Overture – alternate take (5:48)
    Disc two:

  1. Brian Matthews Introduces ELO (0:37)
  2. 10538 Overture – acetate version (5:24)
  3. Look At Me Now – quadrophonic mix (3:19)
  4. Nellie Takes Her Bow – quadrophonic mix (5:59)
  5. The Battle Of Marston Moor – quadrophonic mix (5:55)
  6. Jeff’s Boogie No. 2 – live (6:58)
  7. Whisper In The Night – live (5:45)
  8. Great Balls Of Fire – live (5:40)
  9. Queen Of The Hours – quadrophonic mix (3:18)
  10. Mr. Radio – Take 9 (5:18)
  11. 10538 Overture – BBC Sessions version (10:39)
    (includes Whisper In The Night – BBC Sessions version as “hidden track”)

Released by: EMI/Harvest
Release date: 2001
Disc one total running time: 48:40
Disc two total running time: 58:52

Electric Light Orchestra – No Answer

ELO - No AnswerGet ready for a very long stretch of ELO reviews, for these guys, as you probably well know, are my all-time favorites. This first album of theirs offers few hints of their future sound, and is probably the most atypical ELO album of all. The reasons for this abound, ranging from the crude studio technology available to the band at the time, to the schizophrenic feel of the album resulting from the presence of then-lead singer/musician Roy Wood, who had also fronted the Move. In many ways, ELO’s first album sounds much like a Move record – and in many cases the Move’s recordings were better engineered. That aside, the music is strikingly different enough to leave a lasting impression. Wood’s “Whisper In The Night” has an almost religious feel, and the early Jeff Lynne tunes “Queen Of The Hours” and “Mr. Radio” deliver his inimitable gift for composing a good song in 2 out of 4 starsthe Beatles mold. Other pieces, such as the cello-saturated “10538 Overture” and “Nellie Takes Her Bow”, both of them also Lynne’s creations, leave quite a bit to be desired in terms of being able to discern voices, instruments, lyrics, or much of anything else. The final verdict – an uneven but promising collection.

    Order this CD in the Store

  1. 10538 Overture (5:30)
  2. Look At Me Now (3:17)
  3. Nellie Takes Her Bow (6:01)
  4. The Battle Of Martson Moor / July 2nd, 1644 (6:04)
  5. First Movement (3:00)
  6. Mr. Radio (5:04)
  7. Manhattan Rumble / 49th St. Massacre (4:23)
  8. Queen Of The Hours (3:23)
  9. Whisper In The Night (4:48)

Released by: Jet
Release date: 1971
Total running time: 41:30

Carole King – Tapestry

Carole King - TapestryI’ll bet this one caught you way off guard, eh? Some of you may regard this as a definitively womany album, sort of a Fried Green Tomatoes of music, and I have to confess that I don’t have too many female artists in my music collection, but I’ve always found this album to be truly cathartic, particularly It’s “Too Late”, which, well, let’s just say the song has great personal significance to me and leave it at that. I’d been hearing the song for years during my “oldies” (ha!) radio gig before it even became significant to me in a deeply personal way, but it’s one of those things that you don’t understand until it lands right on top of you. Other familiar songs you might be looking for here include “I Feel 3 out of 4The Earth Move”, “You’ve Got A Friend”, and “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman”. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

  1. I Feel The Earth Move (2:57)
  2. So Far Away (3:56)
  3. It’s Too Late (3:53)
  4. Home Again (2:30)
  5. Beautiful (3:06)
  6. Order this CD Way Over Yonder (4:46)
  7. You’ve Got a Friend (5:07)
  8. Where You Lead (3:18)
  9. Will You Love Me Tomorrow? (4:11)
  10. Smackwater Jack (3:43)
  11. Tapestry (3:12)
  12. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman (3:49)

Released by: CBS
Release date: 1971
Total running time: 44:50

Moody Blues – Every Good Boy Deserves Favour

Moody Blues - Every Good Boy Deserves FavourWhat can I say for this album aside from the fact that it has one of the all-time weirdest opening sound-montages any rock act has ever assembled? Even though the piece to which the odd, UFO-like noises are attached is rather interesting, it’s quite a jarring departure from Future Passed. Still, there are many good things about the album, including the familiar Story In Your Eyes and one of my all-time favorite Moodies tunes, “Emily’s Song”. Despite these, however, this album has always managed to hit me in precisely the wrong way; I can’t put a finger on it. The album certainly falls within the 2 out of 4parameters that the Moodies settled into after Future Passed, but somehow it doesn’t trip my trigger like most of their other material.

  1. Procession (4:44)
  2. The Story In Your Eyes (2:56)
  3. Our Guessing Game (3:35)
  4. Order this CD Emily’s Game (3:42)
  5. After You Came (4:33)
  6. One More Time To Live (5:42)
  7. Nice To Be Here (4:23)
  8. You Can Never Go Home (4:15)
  9. My Song (6:20)

Released by: Threshold
Release date: 1971
Total running time: 40:10