Soundtracks, library music & all that jazz...
Piero Piccioni - Babascio
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Listen to a selection of tracks from the OST ‘Sono Un Fenomeno Paranormale’ (AKA ‘I Am An ESP), music composed by Piero Piccioni. General Music Records, GM 30720, Italy, 1986.

It’s always bothered me that some of the brightest lights of the Italian film soundtrack scene wrote some wonderful music to some very average (even dire) movies. I’ve even made the mistake of seeing some of them. This effort, concerning a TV presenter who exposes charlatan psychics until a bump on the head bestows upon him paranormal powers, would seem to be no exception. Starring Alberto Sordi, mainstay actor of the Italian film industry, it appears to be another silly comedy complete with purile humour and casual sexism, maybe even racism to boot. I could also be mistaken as I’m making these sweeping judgements on the strength of a few YouTube clips in a language I don’t understand. Who spends time uploading this piffle?

Musically, Piccioni delivers a polished, if not outstanding score containing smooth lounge numbers, some light bossa, dinner jazz, bouncy disco tinged pop songs and a few odd bits and pieces to break up the general mood, which is one of poise and elegance.

Nobody seems to want to buy this record when it’s offered online, so wait for a cheap one if you like what you hear in the clip.

 - Francis Lai-"The Games" (ost)
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Listen to cues from ‘The Games’ o.s.t. composed by Francis Lai, released by Viking Records, LPS 105 (USA, 1970).

It was warm, sunny, and I had just been treated to an early evening birthday dinner in a trendy new Soho spot specialising in American whiskey based cocktails and meat. Only being seated next to some nice but dull Canadian tourists prevented me from feeling a little long in the tooth.

As it was my birthday, my main squeeze was unable to scupper a homeward bound detour via Berwick Street and its overpriced record shops. Having for many years habitually visited said shops whenever I’d found myself ‘up west’, I was not expecting to find anything of interest, and if I did, was not expecting it to be affordable. But today, as it was my birthday I drunkenly surmised, there in the racks was this genuine rarity- a record I was well aware of but had never actually seen in the flesh. Although not cheap, it was priced below what I knew it fetched online which was unusual, in fact a bit of a coup in Soho where almost nothing gets past all those expert vinyl sharks. The man on the till was even amenable to a spot of haggling! A birthday present from me to me (sometimes the best kind).

The score, to a Michael Winner oddity set in the competitive world of Olympic marathon running, is classic Francis Lai: an energetic, giddy ride that combines grand, dramatic orchestral jazz, lyrical, quasi-classicism, funky touches, easy grooves, pop, jerk and scat. There is even a lovely bit of singing from The Barbara Moore Singers.

I always knew that one of the reasons behind this record’s often high price tag was the inclusion of the song ‘From Denver To L.A.’ sung by a young and virtually unknown Elton John. His fans were always pushing the price up, dammit! I was expecting it to be of little interest but it actually turns out to be one of the albums strongest cuts.

Can’t wait for my next birthday…

Horace Silver - Song For My Father
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Horace Silver: the title track and ‘Que Pasa’ from his LP ‘Song For My Father (Blue Note Records, BLP 4185, 1965, USA).

Goodbye to jazz pianist and band leader Horace Silver who has died at the ripe old age of 88. Endless superlatives are, in Silver’s case, an inadequate way in which to praise his sublimely soulful playing and classy arrangements. So, just press play and enjoy, and apologies for the odd crackle but it’s taken from an original mono pressing.

By the way, that ain’t Horace on the cover- the clue’s in the title.

Maurizio Graf singing the wonderful Ennio Morricone song ‘Angel Face’ from the original soundtrack to Spaghetti Western ‘A Gun For Ringo’. Many more songs of equal worth and style will be found on the double lp featured in my previous post.

 - The Best of the Bloody Western Themes
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Listen to four tracks from “The Best Of Bloody Western Themes Double Deluxe” released on the Seven Seas/ King label (GW-168), Japan, 1971.

Nothing much turns up that’s quite to my liking in my favourite local second hand record shop these days. So fruitless in fact are my weekly visits, that I’ve become affectionately known as their ‘pickiest customer’ (I’ll wear that one as a badge of honour). So, it was with mild excitement that I plucked this Japanese only Spaghetti Western soundtrack compilation from the racks and shuffled over to the listening decks for an aural peek. I needn’t have bothered previewing the record really- it’s got me written all over it, and I love it:  bells ring, whips crack and lonesome, vibrato laden harmonicas weave sad melodies above orchestras of lush strings. We’ve got the hoot of ocarina and naive recorder, the tense dry click of wood blocks and funereal trumpet soliloquies that can break hearts. And of course the role call of Spaghetti Western leitmotifs would not be complete without piercing whistling and soaring, wordless choirs.

Aside from all of this, and to my great delight, this twenty eight track double album also contains a glut of histrionically camp songs that verge on the operatic. Anyone familiar with the fairly well know Morricone song ‘Angel Face’ (from the film ‘A Gun For Ringo’) will know what I’m getting at here: an overly expressive male vocal telling a tragic tale of love or death (or hopefully both), lyrics that will cause the occasional chortle, pathos leaking out left right and centre, and all this crammed into little more than a couple of minutes. For the amusement of all, here is a sample lyric:

"It’s time that man must prove the truth without guns,
He should pave the way for his sons
To a world where all men are free”

Two final points of interest, (and I may be using the word incorrectly in the opinions of some) are the inclusion of two Morricone penned themes and, the pressing itself. All the cues included here are the original versions as they appear in the films, all except the Morricone tracks. These are performed by the blandly named Movie Tones Orchestra who, I imagine, were drafted in by the label whenever a stroppy composer refused permission for their work to be included on some tawdry compilation album. Secondly, the pressing is a dream, and I’m not normally one to harp on about pressings and mastering and all that audiophile what not. However, the absence of snap, crackle and pop of any kind on these forty-three year old records, no matter how quiet, was thrown into stark relief when a brand new vinyl release from Cinedelic landed on my doorstep. So poor was the sound quality (repeated pops and clicks, deep bass pressed so loud it sounded as though the speakers had blown) that I sent it straight back. Unlistenable. So, hats off to the vinyl pressing plants of Japan- everything the aficionados say is true.

A montage of scenes from the 1974 film ‘Una Lucertola Con La Pelle Di Donna’ (A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin), directed by Lucio Fulci. Music by Ennio Morricone.

Just uploaded UptempoJazzMixer to Mixcloud. Listen now!

Rockford Kabine - Copenhagen Climax
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Four cues from the OST lp ‘Copenhagen Climax’ by Rockford Kabine and Marcella & The Forget Me Nots, Salon Elegance Recordings, 2013.

Yes! 2013. Blimey O’Reilly, an up to the minute contemporary soundtrack has found its way into my home and onto these pages. I was tipped off about this record by some idle chatter on a rather silly online forum devoted mostly to endless images of coloured vinyl horror soundtracks. Not my thing- I really don’t get it, the multi variant coloured wax collecting craze. But hey, mustn’t bitch, as without those odd bods I would never have come across this scary beast.

I’ve written before about the danger of seeing films because one enjoys the music. It can invariably lead to disappointment. In the case of ‘Copenhagen Climax’ I would suggest it may lead to revulsion (depending on your disposition) as the movie is billed as a ‘fuck film’, and I don’t think they’re exaggerating, judging by the image found on the film’s home page that I visited in order to place my online order for this lp.

Buying it also lead me to acquire Rockford Kabine’s equally murderous electronic soundtrack to the doubtlessly charming super 8 porn flick ‘HoxXxton’ (see what they did there?). Soon afterwards, related but unsolicited postcards began to arrive in the mail for me- I suspect that I was being invited, or worse, welcomed into the fold. The images were such that I felt a little uneasy about just popping them on top of the paper recycling. Neighbours will talk you know….

Anyway, enjoy the music, steer clear of the film, and do grab a vinyl copy online. It still seems to be under the radar and they’ll send it to you for a tenner all in.

Lastly, I copied the image above from the internet rather than take a snap of the album as it’s still in shrink wrap and therefore too reflective to photograph. I’m leaving it that way- it feels safer (and seems appropriate) to keep an impervious protective layer between this record and myself.

Kenny Burrell - Hot Bossa
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Kenny Burrell, ‘Hot Bossa’, Cadet Records, USA, 1966.

Little gem of a 7” that unexpectedly turned up in a box of 45s at my local vinyl shop. From the first bar, with its infectiously catchy drum beat, we just know we’re going to love this tune.

Staring through the centre hole is one of those creepy aliens from John Carpenter’s ‘They Live’.

John Carpenter, Alan Howarth - John Carpenter, They Live
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Listen to four tracks from the ‘They Live’ OST. Enigma Records (7-73367-1), USA, 1988. All music by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth.

Open for business as usual, John Carpenter (along with collaborator Howarth) turns out another great score for one of his own movies. Carpenter had a habit of writing the soundtracks for his films, undoubtably due to budget constraints early in his career and maybe, later on, once he’d developed a taste for it, because he just didn’t trust anybody else to do as good a job as he could. And rightly so, although Morricone was deemed a safe enough pair of hands for ‘The Thing’ (must have had a big budget too!)

As with many of his scores, Carpenter keeps it simple, (all in one key) because he knows what works; and here, what works, is the recurring bass hook and lonesome harmonica which I hear as the international (well Western at least) call of the drifter. The drifter. He’s our hero in ‘They Live’, moving from town to town, looking for honest work until one day he finds a pair of sunglasses. He puts them on (well I suppose it was sunny) and, lo and behold, he sees the world as it truly is- a doomed planet inhabited by a human race unknowingly brainwashed and enslaved by aliens. Hah! you think to yourself, sounds like something David Icke would dream up, but funnily enough, when one searches youtube for ‘They Live, John Carpenter’, it doesn’t take long for David to pop up: he actually references the film as some sort of companion piece to his deeply held belief that the world we live in is controlled by blood sucking lizards dressed in human skin. He’s fab, our Dave, especially when he moves on to enthuse over George Lucas’ ‘Star Wars’ with the words “C’mon George! It’s not happening in a galaxy far, far away! It’s happening right here, right now!” as though the director was somehow ducking his responsibilities by setting his story in another time and place.

One can waste a lot of time on the internet listening to David Icke, but after a while he just makes you sad. 

Carter Burwell - Raising Arizona
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As promised recently, selections from Carter Burwell’s soundtrack to the Coen Brothers’ ‘Raising Arizona’. Find it alongside Burwell’s score for ‘Blood Simple’, both released on one lp by TER in 1987 (UK).

The sometimes naive, sunny nature of these cues acts as a welcome contrast to Blood Simple’s deep dark heart.

Franco Micalizzi - Chi Sei?
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Listen to three tracks from the OST “Chi Sei?”. CAM records (SAG 9062), Italy, 1974. Music by Franco Micalizzi. Also released on the Barclay label in Canada under the film’s English title “Beyond The Door”.

Original soundtrack to what looks to be a low grade pile of cinematic schlock, that shamelessly manages to rip off the central plot ideas of both Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist. Happily for the soundtrack connoisseur, a terrible film can often mean a superb musical experience…

Ever since I began to take an interest in film soundtracks I’ve had a yen to hear and own this record. Whilst trawling online shops and auction sites its creepy cover would appear regularly, but with a price higher than I was prepared to pay. After all, it was always going to be a punt: just because it ticked all the boxes in terms of country, label, composer, year and film genre, didn’t mean that it would deliver musically.

Several years pass and youtube morphs slowly from an online cinema streaming rare archive footage, into a vast virtual juke box where obsessive (or shall we be kind and say ‘enthusiastic’?) music fans upload their favourite treasures. Suddenly one can hear samples of, or even entire albums that had hitherto remained mythical beasts cloaked in shrouds of secrecy.  So, I finally get to hear what all the fuss is about regarding “Chi Sei?” (translation- Who Are You?) and buy the first one I come across on the strength of some low bit rate youtube clips. It’s a stunner from start to finish, a goody bag filled to the brim with slow jam grooves, hypnotic bass lines, moog hooks, sleazy sax motifs and much much more. Listening to the record in its entirety is such a low down dirty experience that I sometimes need a bath afterwards.

Horace Silver, ‘Song For My Father’. Denmark, 1968.

Dudley Moore - Dudley Moore Today
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The best bits from the ‘Today’ lp, Dudley Moore Trio, Atlantic Records (K40379), UK, 1972.

Aah, bless his little cotton socks, all wrapped up in that fur coat sporting a soppy smile. How appropriate that Dudley and cuddly rhyme.

I won’t lie to you, this record doesn’t set the world on fire although it does contain moments of brilliance, notably the opening track in the sound clip. ‘Song For Suzy’ is an irresistible jazz groover with a confident rolling gait and scat vocals performed, I believe, by Dudley Moore himself. It’s one of at least three tunes Moore wrote with ‘Suzy’ or ‘Sooze’ in the title for his wife Suzy Kendall, to whom he was married from 1968 until 1972. Kendall, an actress, had roles in many swinging 60s films (Thunderball, The Liquidator, Up The Junction to name a few) before moving over to Giallo horror in ‘Torso’ and ‘The Bird With The Crystal Plummage’ (stunning Morricone soundtrack there, worth tracking down). She recently popped up in the much-hyped but ultimately disappointing ‘Berberian Sound Studio’.

There is a hilarious youtube film of the trio miming to ‘Song For Suzy’ on a UK television programme presented by Roger Whittaker- watch it here:

I did a little spot on the decks recently (in public!) and thought this track was worth playing out, as they say. I was very pleased to see a table of three hard looking men in their mid fifties tapping their feet and nodding along approvingly to Mr. Moore. Then things looked up as a couple began to dance! Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention to the general mood of the room because the next record I played saw my dancing couple leave and the man responsible for the music that night hastily bounce into the dj booth saying that he needed to “rescue the dancefloor”! There were only two people dancing in the first place and it was just a pub, but hey, playing records can be a life or death situation.

Carter Burwell - Blood Simple
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Having briefly mentioned the Coen brothers in my last post I was reminded of this top notch record that has nestled far too quietly on my shelves of late: the original soundtrack to ‘Blood Simple’, TER Records, UK, 1987. This ost takes up one side of the record- on the other is the score for ‘Raising Arizona’ which will appear here soon.

There is not really much I can tell you about the Coen brothers’ 1984 directorial debut that you don’t already know. It sticks in my mind for many reasons, not least for its plot (which strikes me as a perfect meld of simplicity and sophistication) but also for M. Emmet Walsh’s dead eyed portrayal of amoral Texan private dick Loren Visser. And who can forget the shocking buried alive scene? Suffice to say it is a deeply satisfying helping of modern film noir that bears repeated viewing well, so I will simply leave you with a taster of the appropriately dark sounds created by Coen brothers regular, Carter Burwell. You really need to get Carter.

By the way, Coen brothers? I thought it was only East End Jews who dropped their aitches…