Posts Tagged ‘OST’

Herman’s Hermits: Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter / Hold On

Friday, June 24th, 2011

OST two-fer featuring tunes from Sloan, Barri and Gouldman

With oldies radio having reduced Herman’s Hermits catalog to only a couple of their hit singles, many listeners may be unaware of the group’s immense mid-60s popularity. The Hermits were the top-selling British group in 1965, besting even the Beatles, spurred manic responses from female fans, and starred in two feature-length films. ABKCO’s two-fer pulls together the soundtracks from both 1966’s Hold On! And 1968’s Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter. To be fair to the Fab Four, neither of the Hermits’ films holds a creative candle to A Hard Day’s Night (or even Help, really), and while the soundtracks haven’t the brilliance of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, they do combine charming hit singles, interesting explorations of folk-rock, good album tracks, and yes, some filler.

Hold On spun off two hit singles, the music-hall styled “Leaning on the Lamp Post” and the folk-rock “A Must to Avoid.” The latter is one of four titles penned by ace Los Angeles writers P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri. The Hermits’ original version of Sloan & Barri’s “Where Were You When I Needed You” hasn’t the venom of the Grass Roots’ subsequent hit, but Peter Noone’s double tracked vocal is a nice touch, and the band cuts an interesting groove that marries British Invasion beat music and West Coast folk-rock. The title track quickly reveals Sloan’s fascination with Dylan, and the tambourine, hand-claps and waltz-time of “All the Things I Do for You Baby” suggest the Sunset Strip sound of the Leaves and Byrds.

The remainder of Hold On includes the novelty “The George and Dragon” and a generous helping of tunes written by soundtrack specialists Fred Karger, Ben Weisman and Sid Wayne. Wayne and Weisman wrote several of the more passable songs for Elvis Presley’s films, and here they work up the foot-stomping “Got a Feeling,” Zombies-styled “Wild Love,” and, for film co-star Shelley Fabares, the mid-tempo ballad “Make Me Happy.” Mickey Most’s productions, heard here in true stereo, hold up well, sounding punchier and more nuanced than one might have heard through an AM radio in 1966. The entire album clocks in at just over twenty-two minutes, and so it pairs nicely with the Hermits’ second soundtrack.

The Hermits scored their second feature film two years later, but by this time the music scene had moved on from cute mod style to hippie couture, and the band’s commercial fortunes had waned. The soundtrack’s single, “The Most Beautiful Thing in My Life,” managed a measly #131 in the U.S. and didn’t chart at all in the UK. Still, the album contained several interesting songs from ace pop songwriter (and then soon-to-be 10cc founder) Graham Gouldman, including the Hollies-influenced “It’s Nice to be Out in the Morning.” Filling out the track list were the band’s 1965 title hit (reproduced here in mono) and their last top-five, 1967’s “There’s a Kind of Hush.”

ABKCO’s reissue (with fantastic digital transfers by Peter Mew, Teri Landi and Steve Rosenthal) adds a bonus rehearsal session of “Mrs. Brown” in which Peter Noone tries out an a cappella introduction and pins down the tempo. Noone was among the most charming front-men of the British Invasion, and his good nature and hard-work shines through on both the hits and album tracks. Much like the recent Herman’s Hermits documentary, these soundtracks show off an endearing band that cannily picked their material from top-flight writers. The two-fer CD is also available as individual album downloads [1 2], but both soundtracks are recommended, and the two-fer is the way to go. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Barney Kessel: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Kessel reinterprets Mancini’s film soundtrack

Those seeking Barney Kessel’s legendary jazz stylings should look elsewhere. As a guitarist in the ‘50s, Kessel was renowned for his cool, bop-inspired playing in small quartets on sessions with the Contemporary label. But in the early ‘60s he signed with Reprise and embarked on a series of pop records. This was hardly new territory for Kessel, as he’d been backing pop musicians for years, and was a first-call guitarist for pop titans like Phil Spector; but as a front-man, this was a break from the jazz sessions he’d previously led. On his debut for Reprise, Kessel reinterpreted Henry Mancini’s soundtrack for Breakfast at Tiffany’s with a septet that included the superb playing of Paul Horn on saxophone and flute. This is a fair distance from the harder jazz Kessel had been recording, but not nearly as out-and-out pop as his next album, Bossa Nova. Here he leans on the jazz roots of Mancini’s compositions and swings some original solos on “The Big Blow Out” and “Loose Caboose.” Surprisingly, the soundtrack’s centerpiece, “Moon River,” is rendered pedestrian here, as if Kessel couldn’t find anything new to say with it. This album is likely to disappoint those seeking hard-bop, in line with the guitarist’s earlier works, but if you seek a variation on the original soundtrack, this is worth hearing. This album is also available on CD as a 3-fer with Bossa Nova and Contemporary Latin Rhythms. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

RIP John Barry

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Five-time Oscar-winning composer John Barry has passed away at the age of 77. Barry is best known for his scores for numerous James Bond films, including the contested authorship of the series’ theme. Though a court awarded credit for the iconic theme to Monty Norman, Barry remained associated with the work throughout his life. More impressively, he authored signature music for dozens of films, including Born Free, Midnight Cowboy, The Lion in Winter, Somewhere in Time, Out of Africa, Body Heat, and Chaplin. Starting in the late ’50s he also wrote pop-jazz for his own John Barry Seven, producing singles and albums, such as Stringbeat, and teaming with vocalist Adam Faith for songs in the film Beat Girl. Many of Barry’s film scores are available on CD and for download, and you can find a sampler of his work on The Best of John Barry and the multidisc John Barry: The Collection.

OST: Original Music From the Addams Family

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

Vic Mizzy’s character themes and incidental music from the 1960s TV show

This is the original music composed for the 1960’s Addams Family television series, as written by noted television and film composer Vic Mizzy. The familiar vocal version of the main theme is presented at album’s end; the longer, instrumental version that opens the album is more in line with the jazzy themes and incidental music that Mizzy scored for the show. Alongside the trademark harpsichord (most prominent on “Gomez”), Mizzy mixed a healthy dose of electric guitar, jazzy woodwinds and bouncy bass into his charts, but the female chorus and tympani will remind you that these are easy instrumentals in the vein of Neal Hefti, Nelson Riddle, Billy Mure and others. If you’re a fan of the television show you’ll quickly recognize the character themes and incidental music cues, many of which were used in abbreviated form – here you get the entire tunes. This is a great find for Addams Family fans and anyone who collects ‘60s easy-pop. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Gene Autry: South of the Border – The Songs of Old Mexico

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

The singing cowboy sings of Old Mexico

Varese continues to round-up the stray works of singing cowboy Gene Autry, giving grown-up buckaroos a convenient place to find ephemeral performances from film and radio. Their latest volume corrals twenty Mexico-themed tunes from Autry’s feature films and Melody Ranch radio show. Among the titles collected here are some of Autry’s most celebrated, including “Mexicali Rose,” and movie themes “South of the Border” and “Gaucho Serenade.” The material is mostly drawn from Autry’s prime in the 1940s, but reaches back to the late ‘30s for “Cielito Lindo” and “Come to the Fiesta” and to 1950 for “El Ranch Grande.” Digital mastering engineer Bob Fisher has sewn the disparate audio sources into a tremendously listenable program, and introductions by Autry and his radio announcer provide vintage frames for several tracks. The eight-page booklet includes new liner note by Western music historian O.J. Sikes and detailed information on each song’s source. This is a terrific companion to the numerous Western-themed Autry collections issued by Varese and others. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

Gene Autry’s Home Page

OST: Hot Tub Time Machine

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

14 musical icons of the 1980s and a surprise!

The premise of Hot Tub Time Machine, four friends transported back to 1986, provides an opportunity to trot out some of the decade’s popular classics for this soundtrack album. One realization gained from the variety here is that the stultifying affect of MTV at decade’s end wasn’t nearly as overpowering at decade’s start, from which many of these tracks are selected. The tunes include boundary pushing rap, Australian pop, revivalist ska, synthpop, hair metal, post-punk, and alternative rock that dates to a time when there was rock to which one could be an actual alternative. It will remind you that once-upon-a-time MTV was a channel for artists rather than a brand to be worn. One of the film’s actors, Craig Robinson, performs a credible cover of Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” and transports the Black Eyed Peas’ “Let’s Get it Started” back to the ‘80s where it fits surprisingly well. Caution: these songs are addictive and may lead you to search out the bigger fixes of Hip-O’s I Want My 80’s Box! and Rhino’s even more extensive Like Omigod! The ‘80s Pop Culture Box (Totally). After all, everybody must Wang Chung tonight. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

Elvis Presley: Clambake

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Three great tracks and some all-time clunkers

There are a number of commonly held misconceptions about Elvis Presley’s film career: Elvis couldn’t act, his movies were all throwaways, and the soundtracks were populated entirely with substandard material. But key films in the King’s catalog show that he could indeed act, if called upon, there are several high-quality dramatic and musical films in Elvis’ oeuvre, alongside many good lightweight romantic musical comedies, and his soundtracks are laced with hits and terrific albums sides. To measure the highpoints of Elvis’ soundtrack catalog by virtue of the low points (of which there are admittedly many) is to miss out on a valuable dimension of Presley’s musical career.

1967’s Clambake was Elvis’ twenty-fifth film and the third to co-star Shelley Fabares. Unlike the bulk of Elvis’ Hollywood-recorded soundtracks, this one was waxed in Nashville with a host of Music City A-listers, including drummer Buddy Harman, guitarist Charlie McCoy, pianist Floyd Cramer and steel guitarist Pete Drake. Also on hand were Elvis long-time associates, Scotty Moore and the Jordanaires. By this point the soundtrack songwriters were etched in stone, with contributions from Sid Wayne, Ben Weisman, Sid Tepper, Roy C. Bennett and Joy Byers. The soundtrack’s best cuts come from the few outside writers: Jerry Reed, credited as Jerry “Reed” Hubbard, contributed the super fine “Guitar Man,” Elvis struts his stuff on a cover of Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man,” and Cindy Walker and Eddy Arnold’s “You Don’t Know Me” blows the regular soundtrack writers’ material out of the water.

After the success of “Do the Clam” (from the soundtrack of Girl Happy), the RCA brain trust must have thought releasing “Clambake” as a single would typecast their star as a seafood singer. That’s too bad, as it’s a catchy tune even if Elvis does have to sing “mama’s little baby loves clambake clambake.” Elvis rarely sounded less than professional on his soundtracks, even as he was dodging or hurrying through sessions, but you can always hear him engage a second gear for the better material. He doesn’t quite sleepwalk through the worst material, though a few vocals sound like first takes for which Elvis refused to soil himself with a second pass. Clambake features some of the most embarrassing lyrics Elvis was ever asked to sing (key evidence: “Hey Hey Hey”), and adding children on “Confidence” didn’t help.

This may be the most schizophrenic of Elvis’ soundtrack albums, featuring several highpoints that match the quality and artistry or his non-soundtrack singles. but intermingled with awful songs that could only have been contractual obligations. Just when “The Singing Tree” has robbed you of hope, Elvis closes with a superb, stone-country cover of Rex Griffin’s “Just Call Me Lonesome” that has him intertwined in Pete Drake’s steel guitar. Sony’s reissue features a four-panel booklet and no liner notes discussing the music or its making. The 30-minute running time suggests that Follow That Dream’s collector’s edition might be more compelling to Elvis diehards. Still, the budget price and remastered sound make this reissue attractive, especially if you pick out the hot tracks and skip the rest. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

Elvis Presley: Frankie and Johnny

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Elvis is taken for a ride on a riverboat

There are a number of commonly held misconceptions about Elvis Presley’s film career: Elvis couldn’t act, his movies were all throwaways, and the soundtracks were populated entirely with substandard material. But key films in the King’s catalog show that he could indeed act, if called upon, there are several high-quality dramatic and musical films in Elvis’ oeuvre, alongside many good lightweight romantic musical comedies, and his soundtracks are laced with hits and terrific albums sides. To measure the highpoints of Elvis’ soundtrack catalog by virtue of the low points (of which there are admittedly many) is to miss out on a valuable dimension of Presley’s musical career.

1966’s Frankie and Johnny was Elvis’ twentieth film, and co-starred Donna Douglas who was then starring on television’s Beverly Hillbillies. The soundtrack was recorded in Hollywood with the usual mix of West Coast studio players (including guitarist Tiny Timbrell), and longtime Elvis associate Scotty Moore. The Jordanaires are replaced here by the Mello Men on background vocals, and a brass section (trumpet, trombone and tuba) was brought in to give a New Orleans edge to several of the songs. The songwriters included many of the usual crew, such as Sid Tepper, Roy C. Bennett, Ben Weisman, Sid Wayne, Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman, and the trio of Florence Kaye, Bernie Baum and Bill Giant.

Many of the album’s songs are meant to evoke the era of river boats and music calls, but they’re campy, faux-Dixieland theatricality doesn’t survive the transition from film to soundtrack album. Elvis sounds as if he’s being forced to march along to “Down by the Riverside,” though he loosens up for the second half of the medley with “Saints Go Marching In.” Pomus & Shuman’s “What Every Woman Lives For” would be a more appealing blues if the message wasn’t so retrospectively sexist (though, to be fair, it is Elvis singing, and it’s possible that every woman does live to give him their love). The revival “Shout it Out,” though lyrically light, gives Elvis a chance to rock it up, and the blues “Hard Luck” features Charlie McCoy on harmonica.

Several of the tracks feel under-arranged, as if producer Fred Karger was in a hurry to get these tracks finished. Perhaps when you have the film’s director Fred De Cordova (of Tonight Show fame) waiting on you and you’re asking Elvis to sing mediocre material, you get what you can get. Sony’s reissue features a four-panel booklet and no liner notes discussing the music or its making. The 27-minute running time suggests that the earlier import two-fer or Follow That Dream’s collector’s edition might be more compelling to Elvis diehards. Still, the budget price and remastered sound make this reissue attractive. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

Elvis Presley: Girl Happy

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Elvis catches an ocean’s worth of memorable pop songs

There are a number of commonly held misconceptions about Elvis Presley’s film career: Elvis couldn’t act, his movies were all throwaways, and the soundtracks were populated entirely with substandard material. But key films in the King’s catalog show that he could indeed act, if called upon, there are several high-quality dramatic and musical films in Elvis’ oeuvre, alongside many good lightweight romantic musical comedies, and his soundtracks are laced with hits and terrific albums sides. To measure the highpoints of Elvis’ soundtrack catalog by virtue of the low points (of which there are admittedly many) is to miss out on a valuable dimension of Presley’s musical career.

1965’s Girl Happy was Elvis’ seventeenth film, the second of three with the word “Girls” in the title, and the first of three featuring co-star Shelley Fabares. Though the beach party plot was nothing new, Elvis generated some sweet chemistry with Fabares, and seemed more interested in the soundtrack than he had on the previous Roustabout. The soundtrack was recorded in Hollywood with the usual mix of West Coast studio players (including guitarists Tiny Timbrell and Tommy Tedesco), Nashville transplants Floyd Cramer and Boots Randolph, and longtime Elvis associates Scotty Moore and the Jordanaires. The songs were penned by the usual crew of Sid Tepper, Roy C. Bennett, Sid Wayne, Ben Weisman, and the trio of Florence Kaye, Bernie Baum and Bill Giant. Unlike Elvis’ previous outing nowever, the lightweight songs are quite surprisingly memorable.

The film opens with Doc Pomus and Norman Meade’s exuberant title theme, and even the throwaway lyrics of “Startin’ Tonight” can’t dim it’s rock ‘n’ roll energy. Elvis and the Jordanaires just about run out of breath on Joy Byers’ “The Meanest Girl in Town” with Boots Randolph adding a wailing sax solo. The calypso “Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce” is cleverly written, the ballad “Do Not Disturb” gives Elvis a chance to do some romancing, and “Puppet on a String” is sweet and tender. The film’s performance centerpiece, “Wolf Call,” is just as much fun on CD as it was in the fictional club scene, and makes you wish that Gary Crosby had really been in Elvis’ band!

“Do the Clam,” one of the album’s two hits (the other was “Puppet on a String”), will have you dancing the sensation that didn’t quite sweep the nation, and the CD includes the original soundtrack bonus, “You’ll Be Gone.” Recorded in 1961 the latter song is one of Elvis’ few co-writes, and was tacked onto the album despite not having been used in the film. Sony’s reissue features a four-panel booklet and no liner notes discussing the music or its making. The 24-minute running time suggests that the earlier import two-fer or Follow That Dream’s collector’s edition might be more compelling to Elvis diehards. Still, the budget price and remastered sound make this reissue very attractive. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

Elvis Presley: Roustabout

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Mediocre soundtrack songs and a 21-minute running time

There are a number of commonly held misconceptions about Elvis Presley’s film career: Elvis couldn’t act, his movies were all throwaways, and the soundtracks were populated entirely with substandard material. But key films in the King’s catalog show that he could indeed act, if called upon, there are several high-quality dramatic and musical films in Elvis’ oeuvre, alongside many good lightweight romantic musical comedies, and his soundtracks are laced with hits and terrific albums sides. To measure the highpoints of Elvis’ soundtrack catalog by virtue of the low points (of which there are admittedly many) is to miss out on a valuable dimension of Presley’s musical career.

1964’s Roustabout was Elvis’ sixteenth film, and had the unenviable job of following the smash Viva Las Vegas. Though the plot was formulaic, Elvis spiced things up by performing his own stunts. The soundtrack was recorded in Hollywood with the usual mix of West Coast studio players (including guitarists Billy Strange, Barney Kessel and Tiny Timbrell, and wrecking crew drummer Hal Blaine), Nashville transplants Floyd Cramer and Boots Randolph, and longtime Elvis associates Scotty Moore and the Jordanaires. The songs are mostly penned by Elvis soundtrack stalwarts, including Sid Tepper, Roy C. Bennett, Ben Weisman, Sid Wayne, Joy Byers and the trio of Florence Kaye, Bernie Baum and Bill Giant. Unfortunately there’s little here befitting a King.

The film’s carnival-related songs, “Roustabout,” “It’s Carnival Time,” and “Carny Town” are novelties that fail to transcend their ties to the film. The rest of the album isn’t much better, with throwaways like “It’s a Wonderful World” leaving Elvis bored. The best of the lot are a cover of the Coasters’ “Little Egypt” and Joy Byers’ throw-back rock ‘n’ roller, “Hard Knocks.” Elvis seems to connect with Byers’ lyrics of growing up poor, and Hal Blaine really stokes the beat. This was Elvis’ last #1 album until 1973’s Aloha From Hawaii: Via Satellite, and Sony’s reissue features a four-panel booklet and no liner notes discussing the music or its making. The 21-minute running time suggests that the earlier import two-fer might be more compelling to Elvis diehards. Still, the budget price and remastered sound make this reissue attractive. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]