Posts Tagged ‘OST’

OST: Alice’s Restaurant

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

Expanded reissue of the “Alice’s Restaurant” soundtrack

Two years after Arlo Guthrie debuted with Alice’s Restaurant, and the surprisingly wide popularity of its eighteen-minute title track, his comedic anti-authoritarian talking blues became a movie and a soundtrack album. In its original incarnation, the soundtrack was anchored by a two-part re-recording of the title track, but its studio setting seemed to sap the satirical audacity of the debut album’s live take. More interesting were the tracks recorded especially for the soundtrack, including Guthrie’s folk-styled instrumentals “Traveling Music” and “Trip to the City,” the meditative “Crash Pad Improvs,” and music supervisor Garry Sherman’s bluesy “Harps & Marriage.” Two vocal tracks include Al Schackman’s performance of Guthrie and Sherman’s “You’re a Fink,” and Tigger Outlaw’s poignant acoustic cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Songs to Aging Children.”

The original release was augmented with eleven bonus tracks for Rykodisc’s out-of-print 1998 reissue, expanding upon the soundtrack elements created by Guthrie and Sherman. Featured among the bonuses is instrumental continuity written and arranged by Guthrie, including the Hawaiiana “Big City Garbage” and the rock ‘n’ roll “Wedding Festivities,” and a pair of Woody Guthrie tunes sung by Pete Seeger (“Pastures of Plenty”), and Seeger with the younger Guthrie (“Car Song”). All eleven of these soundtrack bonuses are included on Omnivore’s 2019 reissue, and are augmented with a previously unreleased 24-minute rendition of “Alice’s Restaurant” that Guthrie performed in on Philadelphia folk radio legend Gene Shay’s program in 1968.

Although it didn’t appear in the film, the newly released performance reveals the folk tradition to which “Alice’s Restaurant” belongs, as Guthrie reinvents the song with lyrics that tell a shaggy, surrealistic tale of multicolor rainbow roaches and international nuclear war. In addition to the underlying guitar score, Guthrie leveraged many of the comedic vocal intonations that made the original “Massacree” so memorable. The new story hasn’t the deep cultural resonance of the original, but it does shed an interesting side light, and the short talk segment that follows provides a time capsule of late-60s FM radio. Omnivore’s reissue includes liner notes by Lee Zimmerman, quotes from Guthrie, front and back LP cover art, and stills, promotional photos and lobby cards from the film. This is an offbeat part of Guthrie’s catalog, but the film music and bonus radio track tell interesting stories about his development as an artist. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

Arlo Guthrie’s Home Page

Van Duren: Waiting – The Van Duren Story

Friday, February 15th, 2019

A 1970s Memphis pop act even more obscure than Big Star

Obscured by the success of soul music emanating from Stax, Hi and American, the 1970s Memphis rock scene was as potent as it was little heard. Decades after their commercial failure, Big Star actually became big stars, and others Memphians making pop and rock music at the time – Icewater, Rock City, the Hot Dogs, Cargoe, Zuider Zee – eventually caught varying amounts of reflected spotlight. But even among all the retrospective appreciation, singer, guitarist and songwriter (and Memphis native) Van Duren remained obscure; his 1977 debut Are You Serious? was reissued in limited quantities by the Airmail and Water labels, his 1979 follow-up Idiot Optimism got stuck in the vault for twenty years, and his later albums went undiscovered by many of those who would appreciate them.

That lack of renown is now set to be corrected by this soundtrack and a like-named documentary. Pulling together material from his two late-70s studio albums, a 1978 live show, previously unreleased sessions at Ardent, and the 1986 album Thin Disguise, the collection easily makes the case for Duren having been the artistic peer of his better-known Memphis colleagues. Duren’s public renaissance was stirred by two Australian fans, Wade Jackson and Greg Carey, whose latter-day discovery of Are You Serious? turned into a two-year documentary project that sought to understand why the albums didn’t hit, and why Duren didn’t achieve the fame that his music deserved.

No one is guaranteed fame, not even the talented, and as noted, Memphis wasn’t exactly a springboard for rock band success, yet Duren’s connections with Ardent, Chris Bell, Jody Stephens, Andrew Loog Oldham and Jon Tiven might have tilted the odds in his favor. From his debut, recorded with Tiven on electric guitar and Hilly Michaels on drums, the set’s opening “Grow Yourself Up” has the chugging beat of Badfinger and a vocal melody that favorably suggests the early-70s work of Todd Rundgren. “Chemical Fire” offers a touch of southern funk in its bassline, and the ballad “Waiting” is filled with the yearning its title implies. A pair of live-on-the-radio tracks show how well Duren’s material translated to performance, and how easily he could summon the same level of vocal emotion on stage as in the studio.

The earliest track on this collection, the 1975 demo “Andy, Please,” was cut at Ardent with Jody Stephens on drums and vocal harmonies. It’s as assured as the album cut two years later and features a hint of Eric Carmen in the vocal and a terrific guitar outro from Jack Holder. The second album’s cover of Chris Bell’s “Make a Scene” offers a slice of power pop, and two tracks from Duren’s latter-day band Good Question (including the local hit “Jane”) remain consistent with the quality of his earlier work. Listening to Duren’s music, your head will know that his lack of recognition wasn’t unusual in the breaks-based world of commercial success; but your ears and heart will continue to wonder how he could have fallen so thoroughly through the cracks. Here’s hoping the new interest in his career leads to full reissues of his original albums, and more widespread recognition of his more recent material! [©2019 Hyperbolium]

OST: Smokey and the Bandit I & II

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

Soundtracks to legendary Burt Reynolds films finally on CD

Smokey and the Bandit was originally developed by stuntman-turned-director Hal Needham as a cheap B-movie with singer-actor Jerry Reed as the star. But with the signing of box office dynamo Burt Reynolds, Reed was demoted to second banana, Universal quintupled the budget, and the film went on to gross more than $300 million worldwide. The soundtrack was scored by Nashville legend Bill Justis, and includes three vocal titles by Jerry Reed. The latter’s “East Bound and Down” became a signature song, and is included here in a second variation titled “West Bound and Down.” Reed also detailed the Bandit’s earlier adventures in “The Legend” and sings Dick Feller’s ballad, “The Bandit.” Justis mixes original country instrumentals with covers of chestnuts, including Ervin T. Rouse’s “Orange Blossom Special” and Jerry Wallace’s 1972 hit, “If You Leave Me Tonight I’ll Cry, with uncredited fiddle and steel players who are excellent throughout the album.

The 1980 sequel, Smokey and the Bandit II, didn’t have the box office power of the original, but its soundtrack spun off a number of hits, including Jerry Reed’s “Texas Bound and Flyin’,” the Statler Brothers’ “Charlotte’s Web” and Tanya Tucker’s “Pecos Promenade.” The Snuff Garrett-supervised soundtrack album also includes performances by Don Williams, Mel Tillis, Brenda Lee, Roy Rogers with the Sons of the Pioneers and Burt Reynolds, the latter of whom scraped onto the country chart with “Let’s Do Something Cheap and Superficial.” The album’s two instrumentals, performed by the Bandit Band, included a mashup of “Dueling Banjos” and “Wildwood Flower” titled “Deliverance of the Wildwood Flower,” and an original co-written by Garrett and Nashville legend Jerry Kennedy titled “Pickin’ Lone Star Style.” Both of these soundtracks are good spins, though the sequel’s collection of vocal material will likely be more memorable for country music fans. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

OST: Wheeler

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

The real music of a fictional Nashville up-and-comer

The soundtrack to the film Wheeler makes real the fictional Wheeler Bryson. Written and sung by screenwriter, producer and actor Stephen Dorff, the songs are neither workmanlike imitations nor certified hits – laying somewhere in between studied craft and the bottled lightning of stardom. In that sense, they’re perfectly tuned to a story of Nashville aspiration that sits on the precipice of success. Dorff has a bit of rock ‘n’ roll husk in his voice, and it serves both the up-tempo numbers and the ballads. The album’s single, “Pour Me Out of This Town,” was co-written by Dorff’s late Nashville songwriter brother Andrew, and Kris Kristofferson (who appears in the film) adds “New Mister Me” to the soundtrack. If the film struck a chord with you, this thirteen song soundtrack will be a nice souvenir; but even if you’re haven’t seen the film, there’s still something here to catch your ear. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

OST: The Greatest

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

1977 Muhammad Ali biopic soundtrack reissue with bonuses

Muhammad Ali’s 1977 biopic was drawn from his like-titled biography, and though Ali was arguably the greatest boxer of all time, he wasn’t the greatest actor, even when playing himself. Which is strange, because in real life he played the character of Muhammad Ali with incredible creativity, charisma and panache. Perhaps it was a disconnect with the script (courtesy of noted journalist and screenwriter Ring Lardner, Jr.) or director, but the physical and intellectual poetry of his real life didn’t come through on the screen. The film’s soundtrack is remembered largely for the song “The Greatest Love of All,” a #2 R&B hit for George Benson, and even more famously taken to the top of the charts by Whitney Houston in 1985. Others may remember the song from Eddie Murphy’s performance in Coming to America.

The original soundtrack album also includes an instrumental version of the hit and two versions of Benson performing “I Always Knew I Had It in Me,” once with a driving rhythm and jazzy guitar, and once as a ballad. The remainder of the soundtrack is filled out with atmospheric instrumentals by Michael Masser that revolve around the riff from “I Always Knew I Had It in Me.” Labeling the last of them “Variation on Theme” is about as on-the-nose as you can get. Varese’s 2017 reissue adds four bonus tracks, highlighted by Cassius Clay’s charming, melody-challenged cover of “Stand By Me” and the original recitation “I Am the Greatest.” The remaining bonuses are the DJ 7” of Benson’s “The Greatest Love of All” and a disco 12” of “Ali Bombaye.” This is a nice upgrade to a period piece. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Muhammad Ali’s Home Page

Matt Costa: Music From the Motion Picture Orange Sunshine

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

mattcosta_orangesunshineSuperb evocation of late-60s psychedelic soundtracks

If you were making a documentary on a renegade 1960s LSD collective, Huntington Beach singer-songwriter Matt Costa might not be your first thought for a period-evoking soundtrack. But Costa’s roots in Orange County match those of the Brotherhood at the film’s center, and the seeds of his nostalgic musical constructions can be found in his catalog. The resulting soundtrack for the film Orange Sunshine is the sort of ersatz experience one gained from AIP’s exploitation films – music that is of the era, but doesn’t define it. Costa deftly evokes the ‘60s with fuzzed guitars, hallucinogenic flights, West Coast jazz odysseys, blue funk, folk fingerpicking, ragas and even a touch of strategically placed vinyl surface noise.

The compositions lean to mood-setting instrumentals, but the vocal tracks – particularly the Airplane-styled “Born in My Mind” – are spot-on. What rats this out as homage rather than artifact is the crisp fidelity – something that couldn’t easily be achieved on a shoestring budget in 1968. Most impressive is that Costa wrote, engineered, produced and performed the entire album – especially remarkable on “ensemble” jams like “The Fuzz.” Several of the cuts are under two minutes – often leaving you wanting more – but this works nicely as a standalone album of ‘60s-tinged psych, jazz, soul and rock, and provides a terrific complement to the film. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Matt Costa’s Home Page

Sonny & Cher: Good Times

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

SonnyAndCher_GoodTimesSonny & Cher’s soundtrack outshines their film

The most notable element of Sonny & Cher’s 1967 film Good Times wasn’t the duo’s move into acting, the skit-based humor or even the meta-conceptual plot of a movie about making a movie. The film’s most lasting contribution to the arts was the introduction of William Friedkin as a mainstream director. Friedkin had been directing documentaries, but it was this collaboration with Sonny Bono that launched his feature filmmaking career. The film is an interesting lark, capturing mid-60s mood, design and a bit of artistic ennui, but without the acidic bite of Head. The original eight-song soundtrack gave Bono a chance to stretch out, and added several excellent titles to the Sonny & Cher catalog.

Leading off is a waltz-time instrumental version of the duo’s signature “I Got You Babe,” a title that appears again at the soundtrack’s end in a fetching acoustic arrangement. In between is Sonny’s perfectly self-deprecating “It’s the Little Things” in all its proto-Spectorian grandeur, its B-side Cher showcase “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” the sultry B-side “I’m Gonna Love You” (originally released as a Cher solo on Imperial in 1965), and several songs lifted from the soundtrack with lead-in dialogue. The latter include the stage-hall styled title tune and another of Sonny’s self-deprecating, average-guy love songs, “Just a Name.”

The bonus tracks include the single “Plastic Man” and its B-side edit of “It’s the Little Things.” The latter shortens the album track by dropping the middle stanza of the refrain. Earlier reissues have included only the edited version, so the full album take turns out to be the real bonus. Varese has used the true mono master, unlike One Way’s 1999 reissue, and though quite listenable, the fidelity still isn’t the best that the era offered. Friedkin’s original liners are included alongside new notes by Larry R. Watts, rounding out an obscure entry in Sonny and Cher’s catalog, but one that harbors several top-notch tunes. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Cher’s Home Page

Town Without Pity

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Few remember – or even knew – that Gene Pitney’s breakthrough hit, “Town Without Pity,” was both the title and title song of a 1961 film. Even more surprisingly, the melody was written by Dimitri Tiomkin, who scored dozens of westerns, five films for Frank Capra (including It’s a Wonderful Life), and composed the score and theme song for Fred Zinneman’s High Noon. He not only wrote the melody for High Noon‘s “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling,” he believed in it enough to buy the rights back and release it as a Frankie Laine single. It was recorded by Tex Ritter for the film and won Tiomkin an academy award for best song.

Tiomkin’s other enduring Western classic is the theme song to the late-50s television show Rawhide, which Frankie Laine also took up the charts. Two years later, Tiomkin wrote the score and title track for “Town Without Pity,” gaining another Oscar nomination, winning a Golden Globe, and giving Gene Pitney his first Top 20 single. Pitney’s recording is included in the film, but the song is also rendered as a jazz instrumental and as a transitional theme. Tiomkin garnered several more Oscar and Golden Globe nominations and awards, but never again cracked the pop or country charts!

OST: How to Stuff a Wild Bikini

Friday, September 12th, 2014

OST_HowToStuffAWildBikiniCharming soundtrack to AIP’s sixth beach party film

Although pop music was a key element of American International’s beach party films, it was surprisingly elusive on record. Perhaps the value of cross-marketing hadn’t yet fully developed by the mid-60s, as the music from these films was only spottily released as singles and album tracks, often in studio versions that differed from those featured in the film. In fact, this cast album for How to Stuff a Wild Bikini is the only original soundtrack recording released in conjunction with any of the seven AIP beach party films, but it’s an excellent example of the musical variety offered by the films.

By the time this sixth entry in the series was cast, singer-actor Frankie Avalon’s busy schedule had moved him into a supporting role, where he was not featured as a vocalist. Annette Funicello was still starring, and got two superb songs from the pens of Guy Hemric and Jerry Styner. Sung in her trademarked double-vocals, “Better Be Ready” has a sweet bubblegum melody and superb guitar hook, and “The Perfect Boy” includes clever rhymes that are memorably fractured by the background singers. The album’s ballad, “If It’s Gonna Happen,” is sung by one-time Arthur Godfrey show regular Lu Ann Simms, but this solo version differs from the four-part vocal heard in the film. The version heard here was also released as a single, backed with a solo recording of this film’s group-sung “After the Party.”

The bulk of the soundtrack is taken up by group and novelty numbers that gave the film a lot of its flavor. Harvey Lembeck lays on a broad Brooklyn accent for his turn as Eric von Zipper singing “Follow Your Leader” and the ironic “The Boy Next Door,” and guest stars Mickey Rooney and Brian Donlevy each get campy Broadway-styled songs. Co-star John Ashley, who’d recorded rockabilly in the ’50s, leads the cast on the title theme, the country-rocker “That’s What I Call a Healthy Girl” and the closing “After the Party.” The latter is particularly effective in communicating the film’s idealized summer beach mood. The Kingsmen close out the album with an original garage-rock tune, “Give Her Lovin’,” and a drums-and-organ take on the title theme.

The album runs a scant 24 minutes, but it’s 24 minutes of musical bliss for fans of the beach party films. The vinyl has long since become a collectors’ item, and the rare stereo release – as reproduced here from the master tapes – was hard to find even at the time of its original release. Real Gone’s reissue includes the original cover art and a 12-page booklet that features detailed liner notes by Tom Pickles and several full-panel photos. It’s a shame that the film version of “If It’s Gonna Happen” wasn’t available as a bonus track, but for those who maintain a soft spot for beach party films and their kitschy soundtracks, this is a truly welcome reissue. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

OST: Porky’s Revenge

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

OST_PorkysRevengeA terrific Dave Edmunds-helmed soundtrack to a forgettable film

If you don’t remember, or never knew, the film Porky’s Revenge, don’t be surprised. As the third film in the Porky’s trilogy (filled in the middle by Porky’s II: The Next Day), its sophomoric humor was a tired rehash that had little of the original film’s raunchy charm. What this sequel did have is an inexplicably fine period-influenced soundtrack piloted by Dave Edmunds and stocked with A-list talents that include Jeff Beck, George Harrison, Carl Perkins, Clarence Clemons, Willie Nelson, Robert Plant, Phil Collins, Slim Jim Phantom, Lee Rocker and the Fabulous Thunderbirds.

Edmunds was initially hired to produce only the film’s theme song, but he grew the project into a full original soundtrack – the only one of the series. And by selecting songs and then drafting friends and colleagues to perform (including a backing band of Chuck Leavell, Michael Shrieve and Kenny Aaronson), he elevated the soundtrack well beyond the artistic qualities of the film itself. At the time of the soundtrack’s mid-80s recording, Edmunds was a few years past a commercial run that began with 1979’s “Girls Talk.” But he’d maintained his well-earned reputation for modern-edged roots music, and had recently worked on projects with the Everly Brothers and the Sun class of 1955, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins.

The original album included two Edmunds originals – the bouncy “High School Nights” and the synth-laden instrumental “Porky’s Revenge.” The 2014 CD reissue adds “Don’t Call Me Tonight” (which had appeared two years earlier on Edmunds’ Information), and a Carl Perkins remake of “Honey Don’t.” The bulk of the album is filled with lovingly crafted covers, including Jeff Beck’s impressive take on Santo & Johnny’s “Sleepwalk,” George Harrison’s recording of the obscure Bob Dylan title, “I Don’t Want to Do It,” the Fabulous Thunderbirds torrid version of Lloyd Price’s “Stagger Lee,” Carl Perkins remake of “Blue Suede Shoes” with Perkins’ guitar and the Stray Cats’ rhythm section dialing up some real heat, and Clarence Clemons blowing his thunderous sax on “Peter Gunn Theme.”

Edmunds finishes out his contributions with a bright, double-tracked cover of Bobby Darin’s “Queen of the Hop,” which was also released as a B-side to Harrison’s track. The album included two tracks not overseen by Edmunds: a Chips Moman production of Willie Nelson covering “Love Me Tender,” and a Robert Plant-led cover of Charlie Rich’s “Philadelphia Baby.” Other than the closing instrumental, everything here resounds with Edmunds retro sensibility and the talent of his guests. Perkins shines especially bright, with Slim Jim Phantom and Lee Rocker stoking the rockabilly rhythm. If you missed this the first time around – and most probably did – here’s a chance to get your hands on a truly unexpected treat. [©2014 Hyperbolium]