The Tourists – Reality Effect

The Tourists seem to be doomed to forever occupy an odd footnote in history, relegated to the description “the band Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart were in before they started the Eurythmics”. Technically, that’s not inaccurate, but there’s quite a bit more to it than that. Led by Peet Coombes, the Tourists were a new wave five-piece that rocked harder than some of their peers, leaving real guitars and drums in the mix as quite a few other bands in that genre abandoned them for wall-to-wall synths and drum machines. In many other respects, though, the Tourists were an absolutely typical new wave group, doing more modern cover versions of older songs (such as Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Wanna Be With You”, which was a moderate hit from this album, probably due in no small part to an early music video that demonstrated that Lennox was both a sonically and visually arresting performer).

But let’s not forget that Dave Stewart was in the Tourists as well (it’s bad enough to keep having to remind everyone that he was half of the Eurythmics). His classic rock guitar riffs are unmistakable, and give the Tourists a sound that wasn’t typical in those early days of new wave.

The wild card that really defines the Tourists’ sound, however, is Coombes’ duets with Lennox throughout. Their harmonizing is a sound unique to the Tourists; even on songs where one or the other seems to be taking the lead (as Lennox does on the aforementioned cover of “I Only Want To Be With You”), the other is a prominent co-lead, and their similar vocal ranges make for a unique sound. Really, the Tourists end up barely fitting into the new wave category, perhaps more due to their look than their sound, because in most respects they were very much a classic rock band, applying some of the new aesthetics of the late ’70s and early ’80s to rock ‘n’ roll. The highlights include “Nothing To Do”, “So Good To Be Back Home”, and “In The Morning 3 out of 4(When The Madness Has Faded)”, but even in less stand-out-ish tracks such as “In My Mind (There’s Sorrow)”, there’s a lot to love about the Tourists’ sound (and Coombes’ songwriting).

Are the Tourists just the Eurythmics with three extra people tagging along? Hardly. You can hear, in Lennox’s vocal stylings and Stewart’s precision guitar work, some of the seeds being planted, but if the Tourists had scored a bigger hit before breaking up, the ’80s music scene might have taken a very different shape with regard to one of its major success stories.

  1. It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way (3:38)
  2. I Only Want To Be With You (2:21)
  3. In The Morning (When The Madness Has Faded) (3:57)
  4. All Life’s Tragedies (3:43)
  5. Everywhere You Look (3:11)
  6. So Good To Be Back Home Again (2:33)
  7. Nothing To Do (3:22)
  8. Circular Fever (3:00)
  9. In My Mind (There’s Sorrow) (4:37)
  10. Something In The Air Tonight (4:04)
  11. Summer’s Night (3:16)

Released by: Epic
Release date: October 19, 1979
Total running time: 37:42

[…]

Meteor – music by Laurence Rosenthal

MeteorI have a long personal history with this soundtrack – namely, up until Intrada re-re-re-issued it earlier in 2014, I had managed miss every opportunity to obtain it. When the soundtrack was originally issued on LP at the time this all-star TV disaster flick was shown in 1979, I was living in the wrong country (it only came out in Japan). When La-La Land Records gave the Meteor soundtrack its first domestic pressing in 2008, I didn’t have the funds free to partake of it until it was too late (it was a limited edition of 1200 copies). Thankfully, Intrada seems to have turned “reissuing stuff that La-La Land previously released in very limited quantities” into its own lucrative sideline, and so here I am, 35 years after Meteor premiered, holding the soundtrack.

The appeal here is that Meteor is, along with The Black Hole (also released on CD by Intrada), one of the most prominent appearances of the Blaster Beam prior to Star Trek: The Motion Picture all but appropriating the strange-sounding electric instrument for Star Trek purposes only. Laurence Rosenthal (of Clash Of The Titans and Young Indiana Jones Chronicles fame) uses the Beam sparingly as a sonic signature for the meteor as it approaches Earth (it’s really more of an asteroid, but there are probably valid reasons they didn’t call the movie Asteroid instead). The most interesting examples of the beam occur in “Meteor”, “Tatiana” and particularly “The Assault”, which has the Beam slurring notes around like crazy – it’s a fascinating and atypical sound for an instrument that, it must be said, has limited applications.

Rosenthal’s score for one of the last gasps of the Great American Disaster Movie is lush, far more of a big-screen sound than might be expected for television, except that this was “event television” featuring big-name stars like Natalie Wood, Henry Fonds, and a thankfully fully-dressed, post-Zardoz Sean Connery. This was a Big Deal for mere TV, and Rosenthal’s score reflects that. In fact, the liner notes point out that John Williams had originally been offered the job, but as he was so busy with his big screen music assignments, he personally steered the movie’s producers toward Rosenthal.

3 out of 4The only thing that even remotely has a whiff of cheese to it is the fleeting appearance of numerous “spacey” synth effects early on, which are easy to write off as novelty effects thanks to the flavor of the era. Other than that one element that dates the score, Meteor makes for a dandy soundtrack that sounds like it should’ve been on the big screen – and best of all, more than 1,200 copies are in existence now. (If you’re worried about missing out on a meatier Meteor, fear not – the track list is sequenced a bit differently from La-La Land’s release, but the material is the same between the two albums.)

Order this CD

  1. Main Title (4:26)
  2. Challenger Two (2:47)
  3. The Meteor (2:11)
  4. The Russians Arrive (0:57)
  5. Siberia (2:02)
  6. 30,000 M.P.H. (0:54)
  7. Dubov’s Rage (0:58)
  8. Prepare For Aligning Peter The Great (0:50)
  9. Realigning Peter The Great (3:51)
  10. Alpine Innocence (0:59)
  11. Tatiana (2:00)
  12. Countdown (2:34)
  13. Manhattan Splinter (2:27)
  14. Malfunction (2:57)
  15. The Assault (3:22)
  16. Meteor Band March and End Credits (7:03)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2014
Total running time: 40:59

The Black Hole – music by John Barry

The Black HoleMany, many years ago in theLogBook.com’s Music Reviews, I reviewed the original vinyl release of John Barry’s near-legendary soundtrack from Disney’s The Black Hole, mainly because it had never hit compact disc (unless one counted bootlegs). It took over 30 years, but The Black Hole is finally on CD, now expanded to include every note of Barry’s mesmerizingly fatalistic score, and it’s time to revisit an old favorite.

The long-dormant Disneyland Records label was resurrected in 2011 by soundtrack specialty label Intrada, with its first release being the first-ever CD of Michael Giacchino’s music from Up, complete with nifty retro artwork hearkening back to the Disneyland read-along records of the 1960s and ’70s. The moment Intrada announced a soundtrack partnership with Disney, issuing both new and classic soundtracks from the Disney vaults, fans everywhere caught their breath, for surely Intrada had a pretty good idea of what classic Disney soundtrack everyone had been demanding for decades. But statements made by the producer of an iTunes release of the original LP indicated that anything more than a re-release of the LP was unlikely: despite being the first-ever all-digital soundtrack recording, The Black Hole‘s music had been recorded in a digital format which could basically only be played back on the machine that recorded it – a machine long since taken out of service in the music business. Even if the original session tapes existed, they simply couldn’t be played back without that machine.

Of course Intrada knew of the demand for The Black Hole, and the producer of the somewhat disappointing iTunes version of the soundtrack was on a mission from God to find and release the whole score. What followed was a quest to track down the original recording equipment, simply so the original tapes could be played back from it to be transferred to more modern media. Needless to say, soundtrack fans have a new hero, and his name is Randy Thornton. Intrada deserves a huge amount of credit too: unlike most boutique soundtrack label releases, The Black Hole is not limited to a couple thousand copies. Like Film Score Monthly’s re-releases of the out of print soundtracks from Star Trek II and III, The Black Hole won’t be going out of print anytime soon – and this ensures that this previously impossible-to-find title won’t wind up making more money on the secondary market (i.e. eBay) than it made for the label who released in the first place. Smart move. If it had been limited to the usual run of 3,000 copies, this one would’ve sold out within fifteen minutes of online pre-orders.

And the music itself? It’s crystal clear – the fact that the source material could be tracked down and remastered is a testament to the sheer fannish dedication that went into the project. Even though there are ten tracks who share their titles with the individual pieces on the vinyl LP, they’re not necessarily the same: rather than edits compiled for the LP, these are the original cues as used in the movie.

Released within days of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Black Hole also makes generous use of the creepy Blaster Beam instrument that most listeners associate with the former, and while Barry doesn’t use it as prominently as Jerry Goldsmith did, the distinct sound lurks menacingly in the background of many of the cues.

If anyone needs justification for an expanded version of this soundtrack, go straight to the cue “Hot and Heavy”, which was an incredibly prominent theme from the movie that went completely missing on the original soundtrack LP. A dandy little number with piano and pizzicato strings creating an echoing effect, it’s the major suspense theme of the movie and possibly its most distinctive piece of music. The motif returns, appropriately enough, in “Hotter and Heavier” – go figure. Another previously unreleased track worthy of attention is the brief track “BOB and VINCENT,” depicting the farewell between the movie’s two robot protagonists. For a scene between two props, it packs quite an emotional punch in a short space of time – so much so that Barry later reused and revised it in his score for the Oscar-winning Out Of 4 out of 4Africa, where nobody would’ve guessed it originally involved cute floating robots.

The Black Hole‘s music is much like that of the aforementioned Star Trek movie – in the end, the perception will probably always be that the music was better than the movie all along. In that context, this soundtrack is long, long overdue and worth a listen.

Order this CD

  1. Overture (2:28)
  2. Main Title (1:49)
  3. That’s It (1:43)
  4. Closer Look (2:02)
  5. Zero Gravity (5:48)
  6. Cygnus Floating (2:06)
  7. The Door Opens (4:09)
  8. Pretty Busy (:48)
  9. Six Robots (1:57)
  10. Can You Speak? (1:19)
  11. Poor Creatures (1:41)
  12. Ready to Embark (:44)
  13. Start the Countdown (3:47)
  14. Durant Is Dead (2:31)
  15. Laser (1:01)
  16. Kate’s OK (2:49)
  17. Hot and Heavy (2:43)
  18. Meteorites (1:31)
  19. Raging Inferno (:54)
  20. Hotter and Heavier (1:59)
  21. BOB and VINCENT
  22. (:54)
  23. Into the Hole (4:56)
  24. End Title (2:34)
  25. In, Through… And Beyond! (2:46)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2011
Total running time: 55:05

Lenny Zakatek – Zakatek

You may not know the name, but you do know the voice, at least if you’re of a certain age. Lenny Zakatek lent his distinctive, raw vocals to numerous Alan Parsons Project hits in the 1970s, including “I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You” and “Games People Play”; for Zakatek’s debut solo album, Parsons was on hand to produce, to return the favor. The result is fairly typical late 1970s fare, showcasing a wider range of material than one might expect from Zakatek if one’s only prior exposure was his Project guest shots.

For one thing, Parsons and cohort Eric Woolfson would “cast” new material with certain vocalists in mind, and Zakatek used to wind up with bluesy, throat-thrasing numbers. For his own album, on which he’s singing everything for a change, Zakatek gets a chance to show off some more soulful chops – he’s not screaming every song at you.

With Parsons in the control booth, some of the songs get turned into epics, with female backup singers and orchestral backing aplenty. Only two songs are strong reminders of his roaring vocal work for Parsons’ group, “Doin’ It Right” and the extremely memorable “It’s A Dancer.”

Sadly, this album has faded into obscurity, without even a CD release, then or now. The influences and styles prevalent in 1979 keep it from being mistaken for anything you’d describe as “timeless”; more than a few of the songs are disco-lite. I’d be extremely surprised to see this 3 out of 4album show up on anything other than the original vinyl. A pity, since it’s an album that offers a glimpse into the other side of one of the more distinctive voices dominating the radio in the 1970s. Given how popular his songs for Parsons were, it’s honestly a bit of a surprise that Lenny Zakatek’s solo debut didn’t make a slightly bigger splash.

Order this CD

  1. Do It Right (3:55)
  2. One Is A Lonely Number (4:30)
  3. Was It Easy (3:20)
  4. Keep A Little Sunshine (3:54)
  5. Memories (3:45)
  6. Viens (4:30)
  7. We Will Never Find (5:10)
  8. It’s A Dancer (4:45)
  9. Discuss it!Couldn’t We Try (4:30)

Released by: A&M
Release date: 1979
Total running time: 38:29

Alan Parsons Project – Eve (remastered)

Alan Parsons Project - Eve (remastered)One of my favorite Alan Parsons Project albums, Eve is a bit of a “dark horse” for most fans. Indeed, it really is an oddball in the Project canon: the only album (apart from Freudiana, which some fans refuse to count as a Project album) with female lead vocals, and the odd one out of the revolving future/past themes of the Project’s 1970s output. And yet, in breaking with all of the above traditions, Eve showed the Project’s seemingly limitless range, and I was disappointed that the group really didn’t get this adventurous again.

Remastered until they’re crisp and tasty, the original album tracks have never sounded better – really. “Damned If I Do” is one of my all-time favorite Project singles, and it’s fair to say that I’ve listened to it more than the average bear…and even so, I picked out stuff from the remaster that I’d never heard before, nearly 30 years later.

The bonus tracks start off with something that, for longtime Project fans, has to be close to the Holy Grail: a track from the legendary unreleased album The Sicilian Defence. I apparently had Sicilian misplaced in time; I thought it was recorded in the 1980s, not between Eve and Turn Of A Friendly Card. (Sicilian Defense was an all-instrumental album concocted and delivered by Parsons and Eric Woolfson with the intention of fulfilling and getting out from under their Arista Records contract, and while it did indeed displease the label – as intended – it did result in a contract renegotiation that, fortunately for Arista, kept the Project there for a few more albums which would be the group’s biggest.) “Elsie’s Theme” is the sole Sicilian track to see the light of day on any of the remastered CDs, and it’s a quiet solo piano piece – perhaps not what you were expecting, but almost certainly not what Arista was expecting either.

Following that are demos and intermediate, work-in-progress mixes of such tracks as “Secret Garden”, “Damned If I Do” and “Lucifer”, which – as with most of the Project bonus tracks – are interesting if you’re a diehard fan and/or fascinated with the recording/production process, but whether or not these tracks will hold any real appeal beyond that crowd is the real question. Unlike most of the other Project remasters, Eve at least gives us some “new” music in “Elsie’s Theme”, but a piano instrumental is probably not what Project fans envisioned when thinking of lost treasure bonus tracks.

Eve is a hard sell, even for the group’s biggest fans, and it may well be that those same fans may drool over the Sicilian Defence track and then shrug as the sum total of the bonus tracks. Given that Parsons himself holds The Sicilian Defence in much the same 4 starsregard as George Lucas holds the Star Wars Holiday Special, it’s amazing that we got to hear even one track (apparently under considerable pressure from the label, if the liner notes are to be believed), but ultimately the album remains very strong on its own merits. If you already liked Eve (surely I’m not alone there), the remaster is worth the price of admission; if you didn’t, the bonus material is unlikely to sway you.

Order this CD

  1. Lucifer (5:08)
  2. You Lie Down With Dogs (3:48)
  3. I’d Rather Be A Man (3:53)
  4. You Won’t Be There (3:43)
  5. Winding Me Up (3:55)
  6. Damned If I Do (4:52)
  7. Don’t Hold Back (3:37)
  8. Secret Garden (4:43)
  9. If I Could Change Your Mind (5:59)
  10. Elsie’s Theme From The Sicilian Defence (The Project That Never Was) (3:00)
  11. Lucifer (demo) (2:48)
  12. Secret Garden (rough mix) (4:42)
  13. Damned If I Do (rough mix) (4:46)
  14. Don’t Hold Back (vocal rehearsal rough mix) (3:43)
  15. Lucifer (early rough mix) (4:17)
  16. If I Could Change Your Mind (rough mix) (5:46)

Released by: Sony / Arista
Release date: 1979 (remastered version released in 2008)
Total running time: 68:40

Buck Rogers In The 25th Century – music by Stu Phillips

Buck Rogers soundtrackTeamed with Glen A. Larson for the second time in as many years, composer Stu Phillips created an interesting sound for Larson’s second swipe at big-budget television space opera. Buck Rogers shared many things with Battlestar Galactica – sets, props, special effects, and a tendency to decline after the show’s first season – but Larson’s new space adventure show got a different musical treatment. Where Phillips had unabashedly done a very serious pastiche of John Williams’ Star Wars stylings for Galactica, his music for Buck Rogers is, rather like the show, more lighthearted. When action or emotional scenes are called for, Phillips calls on a somewhat different feel than Galactica’s dramatic moments – a little more romantic and melodramatic in places – but even in action scenes, Phillips injects a little more “bounce” into the proceedings than one might expect. Buck Rogers dates back to 1930s radio serials, and in some ways, Phillips seems to be keeping that in mind – the music is frequently bold, brassy, and endearingly over-the-top.

First off, let’s not forget the opening theme song with lyrics (by Larson himself), sung by Kip Lennon; bearing in mind that this LP is really the soundtrack to the Buck Rogers pilot movie, this is how that particular installment started, and the opening title music that you might be more familiar with isn’t found on this album. “Suspension” is the same tune as the opening and end credits of the weekly series, but mellowed out until it’s in Manilow territory.

“The Draconia / Buck Awakens” follows, and is the first exhibit in my case for Phillips keeping an eye and an ear on the roots of Buck Rogers. Loud, busy, boisterous blasts of brass herald the arrival of a menacing warship, and even if you’re not looking at the screen, the music really hits you over the head with the message that something not good is going on. Princess Ardala gets an interestingly sinewy theme that still has an underlying menace, while “Buck’s Heroics” is a James Bond-worthy, brassy action theme with a great rhythm. Apparently this latter track impressed the show’s producers too, because you can hear various bits of it excerpted for the pre-show highlights teaser that appears before the opening titles of every subsequent episode.

My favorite non-action cue here is “Introducing Twiki And Dr. Theo”, which sets up a theme that would recur throughout the series even when composers other than Phillips handled the scoring duties on weekly episodes. Whimsical synthesizers introduce a lighthearted theme for everyone’s favorite 70s TV robot, and that theme is then handed off to pizzicato strings and segues to full orchestra, which then transforms the piece into a gorgeous passage covering a travelogue-style scene of New Chicago. Even with the whimsical elements dating it a bit, the latter half of this track is beautiful stuff.

The next real highlight is “Dead City / Attack Of The Mutants”, a dark, suspenseful piece underscoring Buck’s nearly-fatal trip outside of the protective walls of New Chicago. Phillips sounds like he’s trying to strike a balance between John Williams-style lyricism and Jerry Goldsmith’s brutally atonal music from Planet Of The Apes, leaning more toward the former, but for late 70s TV it’s not bad.

And then…there’s the music that dates the score almost as much as the copyright date on the back of the album cover. Well, this isn’t much of a surprise after the disco-fied “Love, Love, Love” cue from the Galactica soundtrack, but what is a surprise is that Phillips was at least a little bit more forward-looking this time around, concocting a funky synthesizer cue that anticipated just a little bit of the new wave sound that was already emerging in the late 70s with artists such as Gary Numan, Kraftwerk and Lene Lovich. Please don’t mistake this for a comparison between the “Something Kinda Funky” cue and those acts’ best works, but simply a statement that, while the material does date itself, it was at least – in its day – a little more ahead of its time and a little less of its time. (Subsequent viewing of the TV series beyond the pilot, however, reminds me that future scenes with source music – i.e. music that the characters can hear, as opposed to underscore – did slip back into a disco mode.)

More action music follows in “Buck Vs. Tigerman”, which continues to develop the action motif from “Buck’s Heroics”. “Fanfare And Appearance Of Draco” has the amusing distinction of being the music for one of the pilot’s most disposable scenes, featuring Joseph Wiseman (of Dr. No fame) in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo as the never-seen-again but oft-mentioned Emperor of Draconia. The action motif returns in a more desperate arrangement in Tailpipe Torpedo, though the final big action scene – and probably the pilot’s biggest concession to the then-recent musical influence of Star Wars – comes in “Wilma Saves Buck”, with “What An Ending” tacking on the kind of freeze-frame-the-final-shot-under-the-Glen-Larson-credit ending that became the de facto conclusion for every episode that followed.

3 out of 4So, with this title more than 25 years out of circulation, why are we even talking about it, aside from the fact that Buck Rogers was recently released in its entirety on DVD? There are rumblings on the ‘net from none other than Stu Phillips himself that the Buck Rogers soundtrack may at some point soon be released on CD for the first time (fair warning: any Buck CDs you’ve seen are bootlegs), though despite the slight resurgence in interest in the TV series that came with that DVD release, Phillips may release it as a “composer promo,” which is usually only a few steps removed from a bootleg. We’ll keep you updated on the release status for the soundtrack, because it’s one of those things that, if you were there, you remember the music pretty fondly. I know I do.

Order this CD

  1. Cosmic Forces (0:35)
  2. Suspension (Song From Buck Rogers) (2:59)
  3. The Draconia / Buck Awakens (2:05)
  4. Princess Ardala / Seduction (2:40)
  5. Buck’s Heroics (1:42)
  6. Introducing Twiki And Dr. Theo (1:05)
  7. Pirate Attack (2:21)
  8. Buck Returns To Earth (2:35)
  9. Dead City / Attack Of The Mutants (3:47)
  10. Something Kinda Funky (3:05)
  11. Buck Vs. Tigerman (2:43)
  12. Fanfare And Appearance Of Draco (2:09)
  13. Tailpipe Torpedo (2:10)
  14. Wilma Saves Buck / What An Ending (2:41)
  15. Suspension (Reprise) (2:20)

Released by: MCA
Release date: 1979
Total running time: 35:08

Lenny & Squiggy present Lenny and the Squigtones

Lenny & Squiggy present Lenny and the SquigtonesBefore A Mighty Wind, before This Is Spinal Tap, there was Lenny and the Squigtones.

Michael McKean and David Lander first created the characters of Lenny & Squiggy (then known as Lenny & Ant’ny) while members of the comedy troupe The Credibility Gap. When they were hired as writers for the Happy Days spin-off Laverne & Shirley (along with fellow Gap member Harry Shearer) they lobbied for their creations to be included as recurring characters.

After the show had gained success, an album was released, Laverne & Shirley Sing, featuring Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams performing in character. It sold well enough to justify a follow-up featuring the show’s other duo. On the show Lenny and Squiggy had often been shown performing with their band Lenny and the Squigtones, so an album by the erstwhile greasers actually made more sense than one by two bottling plant employees. Lenny & Squiggy present Lenny and the Squigtones is presented in the form of a concert and was, in fact, recorded live at the Roxy in Los Angeles. McKean and Lander stay in character throughout. The only thing that breaks the fourth wall is a joke that revolves around the “Happy Days gang” and a musical version of “In Cold Blood”.

The comedy shows an edge to the characters that is, no doubt, more in line with the original Credibility Gap version than the tamer presentation seen on Laverne & Shirley. The between-song sketches are perfectly tailored to the actors and they never fail to milk the most out of the jokes.

The music is also top-notch, expertly capturing an authentic 1950’s feel. Like the music in This Is Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind, the songs never make fun of the style, but have fun with it. And in an interesting connection to Spinal Tap (the one that lands this in the Tap canon), Christopher Guest plays guitar for the band and is credited in the liner notes as Nigel Tufnel. His guitar work is actually noticeable, most clearly on “Foreign Legion Of Love”, which bears distinct similarities to Spinal Tap’s “Stonehenge” and “Clam Caravan”.

4 out of 4Run, don’t walk, to your favorite record store to get Lenny & Squiggy present Lenny and the Squigtones. Then walk quietly home when you realize it’s long out of print, extremely difficult to find and darn expensive if you do. But by whatever means you employ, you must find this album. No fan of the Spinal Tap genre of recordings should be without it.

Order this CD

  1. Vamp On* (:50)
  2. Night After Night (2:30)
  3. Creature Without A Head (3:49)
  4. King Of The Cars (2:11)
  5. Squiggy’s Wedding Day (5:55)
  6. Love Is A Terrible Thing (2:52)
  7. Babyland* (For Eva Squigman) (3:16)
  8. (If Only I Had Listened To) Mama (2:10)
  9. So’s Your Old Testament* (1:29)
  10. Sister-In-Law (3:05)
  11. Honor Farm* (2:08)
  12. Starcrossed (2:59)
  13. Only Women Cry* (1:30)
  14. Foreign Legion of Love (4:20)
  15. Vamp Off* (:36)
    note: tracks with a (*) are spoken word tracks

Released by: Casablanca
Release date: 1979
Total running time: 39:40