Monday, September 19, 2011
10 Great Film Soundtracks
Picking ten cool film soundtracks was no easy chore but I managed to pull it off. I've excluded music films that have a half assed plot thrown around them just to string together a bunch of cool songs (ie "Gonks Go Beat" or "The Ghost Goes Gear") and similarly omitted all of The Beatles flicks.
1. "Beat Girl"
John Barry had the fortunate knack for being able to be both the band leader for a bona fide rock n' roll combo (The John Barry Seven) and a composer/arranger with "The John Barry Sound" (aka "The John Barry Orchestra"). This 1960 film (titled "Wild For Kicks" in the U.S.) allowed him to flex both throughout the whole thing. The theme tune, kicking off with legendary Barry sideman Vick Flick's raunchy guitar lick and bursting into a brass barrage is one hell of a way to start a movie and nobody did that better at it's time than The JB 7. The film soundtrack also features a vocal version of the main title theme by then U.K. heartthrob Adam Faith (who stars in the film as well as singing on two other tracks ). The incidental music in the movie is equally amazing (esp. the gritty-jazzy "The Stripper") and the closing credit "End Shot:Slaughter In Soho" is chilling!
2. "The Knack (And How To Get It)"
John Barry again, this time it's 1965 and he loans his brilliant orchestral scoring ability to this understated cool black and white kitschy Dick Lester London flick. It's mostly an orchestral affair with snatches of jazziness (and a vocal track of the main theme done in a Mark Murphy styled smoky way) and quirky bits. The best of the lot being the trumpet/flute instrumental "Here Comes Nancy Now" and the quirky "Photo Strip" and of course not forgetting the brilliant main title theme tune with it's bits of jazzy organ, shimmering female backing choral bits and sweeping string arrangement!
3. "Blow Up"
Herbie Hancock's score for Antonioni's 1966 "Swinging London murder mystery" is atmospheric and perfectly suited from the moment we hear it's brief, but punchy opening title theme with it's excellent organ breaks and jazzy guitar licks (masterfully covered by The James Taylor Quartet in 1987). The funky organ groove of "Bring Down The Birds" (it's main riff was later sampled by Deelite on "Grove Is In The Heart" hit, something I took great pleasure in pointing out to my squad whilst in the army when it came out in 1990) and "The Thief" are equally on par with the main title. The films more somber moments are perfectly framed by Hancock's mellow pieces like "Jane's Theme". The Yardbird's cameo of the powerful "Stroll On" (a re-write of "Train Kept A Rolling") rates as one of the great moments of British 60's rock n' roll on celluloid and is included in the soundtrack. The CD reissue of the soundtrack contains The Loving Spoonful's "Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind" which features in the film. The "End Title" is a mash up of the opening title with some brilliant brass. I'd be dead curious to know who the session players were on this LP!
4. "Up The Junction"
Manfred Mann Mk.II's crowning moment is the score for this incredibly well done 1967 British film adaptation of a book by Nell Dunn about a deb slumming in the East End. Mike D'Abo's pop precision vocals on the main title track as well as other amazing tracks like "Walking Round", "I'm Just Looking" and "Just For Me" are slices of amazing "Pet Sounds" meets British 60's pop psych. My favorite track of the LP is Mike Hugg's excellent "Sing Songs Of Love" (featuring a lead vocal by Hugg himself as D'Abo takes a backseat). Indeed Hugg composed a great deal of the LP. There are several instrumental moments too, the best of the lot being the jazzy Hammond n' horns version of the main title.
5. "The Touchables"
This 1968 mundane caper about four dollybirds who kidnap a pop star and take him to their way out modular space age home to be their sex slave is a dreadful film (despite the sexy Judy Huxtable) . BUT it has an amazing soundtrack kicking off with Nirvana's"The Touchables Theme ("All Of Us)", an orchestrated piece of brilliant pop psych. There's also some killer r&b care of Wynder K Frog's upbeat instrumental "Dancing Frog" and The Ferris Wheel's version of "Respect" is not half bad. Used in the film but not on any soundtrack issues is an early pre-LP version of "Interstellar Overdrive" by The Pink Floyd. The incidental music by Ken Thorne is quite good, though far more "background" stuff than any of the previously mentioned tracks.
6. "Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush"
The soundtrack to this 1967 U.K. sex romp reads like a Who's Who of the Class of '67! The newly minted Steve Windwood act Traffic lead off with the title theme as well as contributing an alternate version of the "Mr. Fantasy" LP track "Utterly Simple" and "Am I What I Was or Am I What I Am". The decidedly dated Spencer Davis Mark II contribute the bulk of the album's work with boring workmanship r&b like a version of "Looking Back", but their gem of the film is an older Windwood era Hammond organ/percussion instrumental jam called "Waltz For Caroline" (previously known as "Waltz For Lumumba"). Andy Ellison of John's Children contributes the weary/wistful "It's Been A Long Time" which fits nicely into it all.
Few people realize that Dudley Moore's forte included being an accomplished pianist/composer. He composed all of the tracks for the brilliant score for him and Peter Cook's 1967 vehicle about downtrodden fry cook Stanley Moon (Moore) selling his soul to George Spiggot /Satan (Cook). The films most famous track is "Bedazzled" sung by Cook (as "Drimble Wedge & the Vegetation") in a spot on "Ready! Steady! Go!" pun sequence in the film with phlanging effects, organ and Ladybirds style female backing vocals. The orchestral version of the same tune is equally powerful in a wash of brass and strings, 60's film soundtrack kitsch doesn't get any better than this! "GPO Tower" is a perfect camp Swinging London film swatch, "The Millionaire" is a cocktail piano jazz version of the main title and "Strip Club" (we seem to have a lot of film tunes with "strip" in the title here don't we?) is a campy bit of horns and organ discotheque groover incidental music and Moore's vocal take "Love Me", his impassioned P.J. Proby meets Tom Jones style number (from the "RSG" sequence as well) rounds it all out rather nicely.
8. "Get Carter"
I don't think any film has ever benefited from such a tasty soundtrack as this Michael Caine 1971 "gangster comes home for revenge" tour de force has from the brilliant composing/scoring of the late great Roy Budd. The opener "Get Carter" (aka "Carter Takes A Train") is a classic. With it's upright bass plonking down a firm riff then the tabla, harpsichord and Doorsy electric piano fall in (interspersed with sound effects of high speed passing trains) and it's hard to surpass in my book. Most mods will know the dance hall scene music (sadly absent from any soundtrack issues thus far) from The Prisoners re-write/rip off of it as "Revenge Of The Cybermen", but I think the sequence's music is loosely based on Willie Mitchell's "30-60-90". There are a few female vocal non-instrumental tracks on it, the soulful "Looking For Someone" and the down right moody/jazzy "Getting Nowhere In A Hurry" that's accented by a staple of the soundtrack, the harpsichord as well as a host of other atmospheric instros.
9. "Vampryos Lesbos"
Manfred Hubler and Seigfried Schwab's groovy soundtrack (under the guise of "The Vampire's Sound Incorporation") to this 1971 Jesse Franco vampire/sex romp for the late beautiful Soledad Miranda is a stunner. Admittedly many of the tracks on this LP/CD (subtitled "Sexadelic Dance Party") are not all from the "Vampyros.." flick but from another Franco venture called "She Killed In Ecstasy" as well. Bursts of layers of horns are mixed with funky organ, throbby porn film bass runs, sitar and a host of trippy effects make it all a worthwhile venture, no filler, all killer as they say. Best of the lot: the "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" influenced "There's No Satisfaction", the jazzy guitar "Droge CX 9" and the wiggy "The Lion And The Cucumber", a way out tune punctuated by primal grunts and screams with fuzz guitar, swirling organ, trippy horns (some of which are phlanged) and sitar!
10. "The Italian Job"
Best known for it's Mockney lads chant # "Get A Bloomin' Move On (This Is The Self Preservation Society"), Quincy Jone's brilliant score has a lot more to offer than the previously mentioned lively sing-a-long. The soundtrack and the film kick of with Matt Monro crooning "On Days Like These" which is a nice light touch to kick things off. The LP varies and doesn't rely on the same melody oft repeated in different guises (ala 'the knack" or "Up The Junction"). My fave of the bunch is a mellow organ and acoustic guitar track called "Somethin's Cooking".