soundtracks

REVIEW: Solo – A Star Wars Story soundtrack (2018)

SOLO: A Star Wars Story original motion picture soundtrack (2018 Lucasfilm/Disney)

The second Star Wars spinoff movie, based on that ol’ scoundrel Han Solo, is also the second Star Wars movie with a soundtrack by someone other than John Williams.  He still helms the main “Saga” films, but this time out John Powell had the difficult task of writing new Star Wars music.  Powell’s career has mostly centred on kids’ movies like Antz and Shrek.  He had an Oscar nomination for How to Train Your Dragon.  He’s also known for action scores, like the Bourne movies and and X-Men: The Last Stand.  Though Solo has plenty of action, Powell doesn’t go for tired action cliches in his score.  And of course, there are plenty of callbacks and reprises of old Williams themes that you’ll never forget.

The opening cue “The Adventures of Han” begins sounding like an old film reel, before settling into something Marvel-like and heroic.  This track was actually composed and conducted by Williams himself, providing the essence of a new theme for Han.

Solo is a different kind of Star Wars movie, even from Rogue One (conducted by Michael Giacchino).  Likewise, its score is different too though still living in the same universe.  Modern percussion and instrumentation can be found alongside the traditional.  Han comes from a dark corner of the galaxy, and the score is fraught with tension over oceans of calm (“Flying with Chewbacca”).  The characters of Han Solo and Lando Calrissian are loaded with panache, and so are parts of the score.  Some of the best tracks are the dark “Spaceport”, which is contrasted by the rhythmic action of “Train Heist”.

“Marauders Arrive” features a children’s choir and a clue.  At this point in the film, the masked pirate Enfys Nest enter the scene to pilfer the score that Solo’s crew was in the process of stealing.  Later on, [SPOILER] we discover that Enfys Nest is actually a young girl.  A Rebel, in fact.  Some of her crew were first seen with Saw Gerrera’s rebels in Rogue One.  The quite awesome sound of the children’s choir in this scene is a clue to Enfys’ true nature — a child herself.  [END SPOILER]

Much of this score just sounds like a heist film.  “Is This Seat Taken?” has that kind of quiet tension (with some peaks of themes in the background).  It’s all very appropriate for sneaking around and trying to steal stuff like a scoundrel.  There there are some more familiar sounds, like when the Falcon shows up.  When it does, expect more hi-jinks, excitement and drama from this soundtrack.  It rarely gets dull, but strap yourself in for “Reminiscence Therapy”.  It’s a virtual greatest hits of themes, including the ones from Solo.

To be charitable, two tracks don’t work as well as others.  Star Wars movies tend to have a lounge or bar scene with a band.  “Chicken in the Pot” has annoyingly modern R&B beats, just not right for Star Wars, weird languages aside.  “Dice & Roll” is also a bit too close to home for a galaxy far, far away.

Solo turns out to be one of the pleasant surprises of 2018.  It’s a soundtrack far better than expected.

4/5 stars

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GUEST REVIEW: Rock and Rule (1983) by Robert Daniels

Please welcome guest writer Robert Daniels, from radio’s Visions In Sound 

ROCK AND RULE (1983 Nelvana)

“Oh what will the signal be for your eyes to see me…”

Back in about 1984 or 85 I remember watching TV one afternoon and stumbling on an animated movie. Interested, I stopped to watch. It had weird, trippy images and some scantily clad cartoon woman singing and a strange creature growling. My 14 year old mind was intrigued and then was completely blown when one of the animated characters said “Shit!” Cartoon characters were not supposed to swear!! Clearly this was a mistake. No, it was not a mistake, it was Rock and Rule. Although at the time I didn’t know the title and didn’t see the movie on TV again for a while.
Rock and Rule was set in a post apocalyptic future where the street animals evolved into a human like society. MOK is an aging rock star trying to find a specific voice in the guise of a worldwide talent search. MOK hopes to unleash a powerful demon from another dimension, his dwindling popularity driving him to destroy the world in vengeance and immortalize himself in the process. After returning to Ohmtown he finds the voice he’s looking for in Angel, a singer in a local band along with friends Omar, Dizzy and Stretch. MOK invites her to join him and when she refuses he kidnaps Angel and forces her to sing to raise the demon.

This was the era of the edgy “adult” cartoon, Heavy Metal, American Pop, Wizards, Starchaser: The Legend Of Orin and others. I do remember getting into an argument with my Mom back in 1981 about not being able to see Heavy Metal. “It’s a Cartoon…it HAS to be for kids!!!”.

It would be several years later when I was in high school that I described the ending scene to someone and they said “Oh yeah, that’s Rock and Rule…” Bingo, I had a title and looked high and low for a copy on VHS. Nothing. I was obsessed to find Rock and Rule. Of course, in the late 80s early 90s there was no internet so the only thing I could do was continue to bug the people at Steve’s TV to try and find a copy. Again, nothing. Then one day out of the blue I got a call from Steve’s. They said they found a copy and would order it for me. “Great” I said, “How much.” “$129.99”. My heart sank, that was far too expensive for my blood. So the film continued to sit in the back of my mind for years.

“My Name Is MOK, thanks a lot”

Then one day in (about) 2003, I heard of a showing at the former Hyland theatre. A local Anime expert and film buff rented the then-empty theatre to show the a cut of the film.

Also Don Francks, the voice of MOK, was going to be there. I jumped at the opportunity.

The film was nothing like I thought it was going to be. First, it was produced by Nelvana Studios that I only knew for Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, Droids and Ewoks, etc. All kids’ cartoons. It was also one of the first films I ever saw that listed “Songs by…” first above the main cast. This list included Cheap Trick, Debbie Harry, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, with a special performance by Earth, Wind and Fire. After the movie there was a Q & A with Don Francks, who I later found out provided the voices for such characters as Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget, Lackki from Captain Power and the un-credited voice of Boba Fett from the Star Wars: Holiday Special. I asked him if he based his performance of MOK on David Bowie. He said that he didn’t have any particular person in mind when he voiced MOK. I later found out that MOK’s full name was MOK SWAGGER a spin on Mick Jagger. However, the talent representation of The Rolling Stones’ lead singer objected and forced the producers to drop the character’s surname. It’s also interesting to note that David Bowie, Tim Curry, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger and Sting were all considered for MOK but the budget of the film couldn’t afford them.

“I dunno about this, nobody seems to be buying these ‘I survived the MOK concert’ T-shirts.”

This year (2018) is the 35th anniversary of this masterpiece of Canadian animation. Rock and Rule is the first English speaking Canadian animated feature film entirely produced in Canada itself. Unfortunately the film sat in near obscurity for years after being shelved by distributor MGM and never got released in North America. The film did develop a cult following after being shown on CBC (who held the Canadian TV Rights), HBO and Showtime. Bootleg copies would show up at comic book conventions oddly enough with Ralph Bakshi being credited as director.

“She can sing, or she can scream!!!”

Much like Heavy Metal from 1981 music was a huge part of the film and also much like Heavy Metal the music got tied up in rights issues.

Back in about 2005 just before the release of the Rock and Rule DVD, I was actually in contact with someone from Nelvana Studios who told me that director Clive A. Smith, whose wife Patricia Cullen had also written the score, had the tape masters for the soundtrack in his garage and that he might be willing to let me have them for mastering. Unfortunately nothing came of this as I lost contact but it was the closest I came to producing a soundtrack release. In 2010 the film was released on Blu-ray and unfortunately has become quite expensive on the used market.
It was previously believed that no official soundtrack album had ever been issued for Rock and Rule. In fact, Deborah Harry mentions on a “Making Of…” documentary that she hopes the music gets a soundtrack release.  However, as it turns out, a handful of film critics received a cassette tape featuring nine songs (“Hot Dogs and Sushi” and “Send Love Through” were omitted). All songs are extended from how they appear in the film and in familiar copies. “Born to Raise Hell,” “I’m the Man,” “Dance Dance Dance,” and “Ohm Sweet Ohm” have been officially issued on CD, along with an alternate version of “Pain and Suffering,” and “Maybe For Sure” (an alternate version of “Angel’s Song”).

Though a deliberate Google search will turn up a couple of versions of the soundtrack, this is the most common track list:

[2:46] 01. Born To Raise Hell (Cheap Trick – Album Version)
[5:14] 02 Angel’s Song (Deborah Harry)
[4:22] 03 My Name Is Mok (Lou Reed)
[2:11] 04. I’m The Man (Cheap Trick – Album Version)
[3:12] 05. Earth Wind And Fire – Dance Dance Dance
[2:49] 06. Ohm Sweet Ohm (Cheap Trick – Album Version)
[3:15] 07. Triumph (Lou Reed)
[1:28] 08. Hot Dogs & Sushi (Melleny Brown)
[3:28] 09. Invocation Song (Deborah Harry)
[3:41] 10. Pain & Suffering (Iggy Pop)
[5:56] 11. Send Love Through (Deborah Harry and Robin Zander)
[4:30] 12. Maybe For Sure (Deborah Harry)
[5:22] 13. Angel’s Song (Cassette Mix)
[3:29] 14. Invocation Song (Mono Cassette Mix)
[4:35] 15. My Name is Mok (Cassette Mix)
[3:42] 16. Pain And Suffering (Iggy Pop)
[0:52] 17. Triumph (Movie Mix)
[2:35] 18. Angel’s Song (Movie Mix)
[1:38] 19. Invocation Song (Movie Mix)
[1:49] 20. Pain & Suffering (Movie Mix)
[2:06] 21. My Name is Mok (Movie Mix)
[3:36] 22. Triumph (Mono Cassette Mix)

Rock and Rule falls into the category of “…what could have been”. Had MGM had more faith in the project and released it in North America it may have been a hit rather than the cult classic it would eventually become. If you haven’t seen it or are interested in a look at a piece of Canadian animation history check it out, you will not be disappointed.

A solid 4/5 stars.  Dark, and yet at the same time fun.

 

 

Robert Daniels

 

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Super Troopers 2 (2018)

Super Troopers 2 delights but is destined to become just another cult film

SUPER TROOPERS 2 (2018 Broken Lizard)

Directed by:  Jay Chandrasekhar

It took 17 years and a crowdfunding campaign, but we now live in a world where a sequel to Super Troopers (2001) exists!  Judging by the mostly empty theatre on Saturday afternoon, Super Troopers 2 looks to become…another cult film.  Which is a shame really, because these beloved screwup cops are adored for a reason.  And that reason is Rod Farva.

Fear not Farva fans, for your favourite character played by Kevin Heffernan is again the butt of everyone’s pranks.  Thorny, Foster, Mac, Rabbit (still the rookie!) and Captain O’Hagen are reunited once again by Governor Jessman (Lynda Carter), who insists it’s the entire original team.  That means they’re stuck with Rod Farva like deja-vu.  Maybe they can stick him with the radio.

You see, only Vermont’s favourite cops can handle this job.  It turns out a big chunk of Canada near the border was surveyed wrong.  It actually belongs to the United States, and custody is about to be handed over.  The local Mounties will be replaced by US cops.  And that’s our gang.  How d’you think that’s gonna go over in Canada, eh?  Will we still be allowed to listen to Rush?

Mayor Guy LeFranc (Rob Lowe) is an ex-hockey enforcer known as the “Halifax Explosion”.  (Fun fact:  in real life, actor Rob Lowe is “obsessed” with the historical Halifax explosion of 1917.)  He seems friendly, but the locals and Mounties take an instant dislike to the US cops.  (Will Sasso, who really is Canadian, plays the funniest of the three Mounties.  Brampton’s Tyler Labine plays another.)  As you can imagine the drama unfolds against a backdrop of US and Canadian stereotypes.  Guns and “MAGA” vs. beer and “Eh”.

Our favourite cops find a hidden stash of drugs on abandoned property.  Sending them to a lab for testing would take two weeks, so of course they sample the drugs themselves to identify them.  This is how Thorny played by Jay Chandrasekhar becomes addicted to a hormone product called “Flova Scotia”.

Fans won’t want any more spoiled.  There are cameos too, so don’t look at the Wikipedia page and just wait to be surprised.  It was pleasant to see Marisa Coughlan (Chief Ursulu Hanson) and Lynda Carter back from the original film.  Brian Cox (Captain O’Hagen) is a serious Scottish actor of impeccable reputation (the Royal Shakespeare Company for example), and the fact that he came back for Super Troopers 2 must mean he’s a good shit.

Original music was performed by Eagles of Death Metal.  Give them credit for a good soundtrack, including a cover of “Blinded by the Light”.

Super Troopers 2 follows the formula of the first, meaning the plot doesn’t matter because you’re just waiting for the next prank.  Honestly though, this drug smuggling plot is an original one that has probably never been done before.  Expect some jokes from the original to be sequel-ed.  Liters of cola, “meow”…just go see it.

Super Troopers 2 is playing now at a theatre near you.

3.5/5 stars

Super Troopers are:

  • Jay Chandrasekhar as Senior Trooper Arcot “Thorny” Ramathorn
  • Paul Soter as Trooper Jeff Foster
  • Steve Lemme as Trooper MacIntyre “Mac” Womack
  • Erik Stolhanske as Trooper Robert “Rabbit” Roto
  • Kevin Heffernan as Trooper Rodney “Rod” Farva
  • and Kevin Heffernan as Captain John O’Hagen

Soundtrack album tracklisting:

1. Tooth Fairy – Super Troopers 2 Cast
2. Blinded By the Light – Eagles of Death Metal
3. Got the Power – Eagles of Death Metal
4. Litre of Cola – Super Troopers 2 Cast
5. Saturday Night Blues – Natural Child
6. Caulk – Super Troopers 2 Cast
7. Shit Makes the Flowers Grow – Folk Uke
8. Penal Colony – Dog Trumpet
9. Fruit Gum – Super Troopers 2 Cast
10. Big Bear – Steak
11. Easy Eating – Naked Giants
12. Fuck a Moose – Super Troopers 2 Cast
13. Shasta Beast – Eagles of Death Metal
14. French Excerpt – Super Troopers 2 Cast
15. Baby, I Won’t Do You No Harm – The Sheepdogs
16. 80Kmh – Super Troopers 2 Cast
17. If You Ain’t Got the Money – Who Are Those Guys
18. Lyin’ – Charlie Patton’s War
19. Complexity – Eagles of Death Metal
20. All My Friends – Blackout Party
21. Secret Plans – Eagles of Death Metal
22. Wham – Super Troopers 2 Cast

#671: A Clockwork Orange

Expanding on Record Store Tales Part 58 – Klassic Kwotes VII

 

 

GETTING MORE TALE #671: A Clockwork Orange

“Do you like the drugs?” asked the creepy customer looking for the A Clockwork Orange soundtrack.

Let’s back up a bit.

One of our early employees, Scott, made a critical error one Sunday at the Record Store.  This is a great lesson for every retail employee, everywhere worldwide.  Never, ever, ever tell a customer that you have something if you can’t sell it to them.  Just lie.  Claim you don’t have it.  If you say, “We have it, but I can’t sell it to you,” then you are opening a potentially big can ‘o worms.

A very creepy dude came in one afternoon asking for the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange by Wendy Carlos.  It is a potent mix of classical music and synthesizer compositions.  Beethoven was a major part of the film’s plot, and Beethoven is also a huge chunk of the soundtrack.  This customer wanted the soundtrack to psych him up for his court date.

That’s right.  For his court date.

Too much information?  Customers often shared with us the weirdest details of their lives.  We didn’t need to know he wanted A Clockwork Orange to pump himself up for court.

Thinking he was being helpful, Scott said, “Yes we have a used copy, we just bought it today.  But we have to hold it for 15 days before we can sell it.”

Scott was an honest guy.  According to the bi-laws, all used inventory had to be held for a 15 day waiting period.  In a business where buying and selling stolen goods was always a danger, this helped protect us, and any victims of theft.  15 days gave the cops time to go over our purchase reports and see if anything matched up.  If they did, then we already took the seller’s ID.  The cops can track the thieves that way.

The 15 day holding period was standard but not all stores honoured it.  We did, without fail.  There was no breaking the 15 day hold.  Not even for your court date.

The creepy guy tried to cajole Scott into selling the CD early and wouldn’t let up. He needed it before the court date, not after!  He had to get psyched up!  So much was riding on this one CD.  The soundtrack was still somewhat rare as a used CD.  The 1998 reissue was yet to come.

Eventually the creep tried to bribe Scott.  “Do you like the drugs?” he asked, implying he could get Scott anything he needed.

To his credit, Scott didn’t budge, though he certainly wished he never told the guy about A Clockwork Orange in the first place.  The customer asked to speak to the manager instead (me).  He came back then next day when I was working.

The guy walked in, wearing a green suit and carrying a briefcase.  He told me the whole story about how he “needed” that CD to get ready for court, but that nobody else in town had it.  He begged me for the CD, though with me he neglected to ask if I “like the drugs”.  He even said he’d pay over sticker price, but there was nothing I could do.

Scott was a little shaken by the creep.  It’s not every day you are solicited at your workplace by a drug dealer bound for court.  I can’t help it, but I think of him every single time I see the soundtrack for A Clockwork Orange.

Oh, and by the way:  he did buy the CD when the 15 day waiting period was up!  I didn’t ask how his court date went.  Apparently well enough.

 

Deep Space Nine radio, tonight!

 

Do you like soundtracks?  Do you like Star Trek?  Well then!  I will be LIVE tonight at 12:30 AM (ET) Saturday morning with Robert Daniels on VISIONS IN SOUND. Tune in on your dial to 98.5 or internet to CKWR!  You folks in the UK can tune in as you enjoy some morning java!  Join Us THIS Saturday 12:30-2:30am (ET).

This Week On Visions In Sound – “The 25th Anniversary Of Star Trek – Deep Space Nine” – This week we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the third Star Trek series, Deep Space Nine. Also joining me this week is Treks-pert Bob Puersten and special guest Michael Ladano as we discuss this highly popular series. Featured music will be from series composers Dennis McCarthy, Jay Chattaway, John Debney, David Bell and Paul Baillargeon.

 

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Last Jedi soundtrack (2017) [spoilers]

STAR WARS: The Last Jedi original motion picture soundtrack (2017 Lucasfilm/Disney)

Rejoice, dear soundtrack fans, for John Williams is slated to compose the music for the final Star Wars saga film, Episode IX.  It will be a fitting close for the saga, because Williams will have done all nine films.  Star Wars is about the saga.  The anthology films are extraneous to the core Skywalker story.  Episode VIII, The Last Jedi, is mostly about two Skywalkers:  Luke, and his nephew Ben Solo, inheritor of the mighty Skywalker blood.  The film score revisits many classic cues related to the main characters.  Even Darth Vader’s shadow still looms, musically and spiritually.

The Last Jedi spends much time revisiting classic musical cues, such as “The Asteroid Field” from The Empire Strikes Back.  One of the best revisits is of more recent vintage.  It’s also very different.  “Rey’s Theme”, from The Force Awakens, stands atop the mountain in company with the best of the best Star Wars music.  Hearing it again in The Last Jedi is a ready reminder that Williams has the magic.  Rey is the hero of this particular trilogy, and in The Last Jedi she proved herself.  It’s all up to her, now.

One of the biggest and most delightful surprises was the return of Yoda.  Yoda’s theme recurs within “The Sacred Jedi Texts”.  The beloved Jedi Master brought hope to the film, and his music lifts the soul.  The Last Jedi, however, is a dark film and much of the music matches.  It could be argued that The Last Jedi is the darkest film of the whole saga, even more so than Revenge of the Sith.  “Revisiting Snoke” reflects the dark, while tension-filled pieces like “A New Alliance” keep you riveted to your seat.  There are some fantastic percussion beats in the latter.

The military-style marching of “The Battle of Crait” recalls classic Star Wars action, and the music for the Luke scene is stunningly emotional.  In fact, the music for any of Luke’s screen appearances gives goosebumps.  John Williams’ score is, in many ways, more successful than the movie at hitting home.  I think this soundtrack release will receive more home play with the average buyer than the overlong movie.

There are two minor critiques to be addressed.  One is when Leia’s theme is dropped into the end credits for the touching Carrie Fisher tribute.  Yes, it’s heartbreakingly appropriate, but the music doesn’t fit well.  It comes across as a cut and paste job without enough transition.  A second is in regards to the Canto Bight casino music.  On many Star Wars soundtracks, Williams has a chance to go outside the box.  “Cantina Band”, “Lapti Nek”, “Yub Nub” and the music by Maz Kanata’s castle band are prime examples.  The steel drumming in “Canto Bight” sounds a bit too much like a retread of the original “Cantina Band”, but with more…samba.

John Williams did it again, but will we ever see a proper 2 CD edition with all the music?  That would be nice.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Queen – Flash Gordon (with 1991 and 2011 bonus tracks)

Flash Gordon – Original Soundtrack Music by QUEEN (Originally 1980, 1991 and 2011 Hollywood CDs)

When mom and dad rented the movie Flash Gordon, we sat and watched it as a family.  “It’s terrible,” a family friend told us.  There were only so many movies available to rent at the local store (Steve’s TV), just one small wall of VHS and Betamax.  Flash Gordon came home with us one weekend, and because we tried to make the most of our movie rentals (including the VCR, also a rental) we watched it twice.

I have not seen Flash Gordon since that childhood weekend.  It really was awful.  Maybe we hoped for more because Max Von Sydow was in it.  Neither Sydow, nor Brian Blessed, nor a young Timothy Dalton could save Flash Gordon.

Flash Gordon, New York Jets

Queen also could not save the movie, though their soundtrack is certainly one of the best things to come of it.  (Another is the movie Ted, basically a love letter to the original Flash Gordon).   All four Queen members wrote music for the film, and recorded it as a band.  Brian May wrote the lion’s share of material, though Freddie Mercury was responsible for “Vultan’s Theme”, later ripped off for an Atari video game called Vanguard.  I wonder if Freddie ever saw a dime from that?  I knew Freddie’s song from the video game by heart, long before I ever heard the album by Queen!

The soundtrack gave us one Queen hit single, “Flash’s Theme” written by May.  The 2011 double CD has a single version, and a live cut from Montreal in ’81 (also on Queen Rock Montreal), as bonuses to the album track.  “Flash’s Theme” is sparse but catchy, featuring movie dialogue that makes it seem like the film should be much better.  Queen’s bombast was ideal for this.  When Roger Taylor sings the highest notes in the chorus, it’s sheer musical delight.

The album plays like a soundtrack, with lots of atmospheric keyboard instrumentals and movie dialogue.  Because of its ambient nature, you might not at first recognise some tracks as Queen.  Some is similar to the ambient work that closed their last album, Made in Heaven.  The music is far more grand than its onscreen imagery.

One of the most memorable instrumentals is “Football Fight”, a Mercury synth workout.  Perhaps sometimes we forget what a great keyboardist Mercury was, simply because he was such an amazing vocalist.  “Football Fight” is super fun, and you can also get it in a piano-based demo version on the 2011 CD.  Check out a Queen-tastic version of Wagner’s famous “Wedding March” performed by May on guitar.  Finally there is the rock track “The Hero”, a riffy song with full vocals by Freddie.  It reprises some prior themes from the soundtrack, such as “Vultan’s”.  Queen is augmented by an orchestra on “The Hero”, which is as grand as you would expect.  Like “Flash”, you can also get “The Hero” on disc two in live form, in Montreal 1981.

A long forgotten bonus track for this album was released on the 1991 Hollywood Records CD.  A remix by somebody called “Mista Lawnge” starts off well enough, with a grinding beat synched to May’s guitar.  It goes downhill when somebody starts rapping, “Flash, one time!  Flash, two times!”  Note to all remixers:  Never, ever add random rappers to rock songs.  Don’t.

Rest assured, no matter which version of Flash Gordon you pick up, there are some definite musts on the album.  Much of it will only appeal to fans of soundtracks.  If that sounds like you, take a ride with Flash to planet Mongo and get down with some Queen.  Skip the movie!

4/5 stars

#618: Qui-Gon’s Noble End

GETTING MORE TALE #618: Qui-Gon’s Noble End

The excitement for a new Star Wars movie was never higher than it was in May of 1999.  After all, before Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released, George Lucas could do no wrong.  Sure, sure, he hadn’t actually directed anything since the original Star Wars in 1977.  That only added to the mystique.  He had served as a writer/producer on all three Indiana Jones films, but other than that his credits were not that impressive.  Surely, with George Lucas directing Star Wars again, we’ll get something just like we always wanted, right?

Were we ever naive.

There is one figure that never let us down, and that is composer John Williams.  His soundtracks always had a few key themes that would stick with you forever.  And he was busy through the 80s and 90s, working with his pal Steven Speilberg frequently.  Of course, Williams had to return for the new Star Wars.  There was nobody else who could do it.

The hit single “Duel of the Fates” premiered worldwide before the movie itself.  Hit single?  “Duel of the Fates” had a stunning music video…really, a long kick-ass extended trailer.  It made the rotation on MuchMusic and MTV, for good reason.  Not only was the video a showcase for Darth Maul and our heroes Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn, but the music resonated with people too.  It’s tense track with a choir, which Williams always saves for the most dramatic moments in Star Wars.  It’s fraught with drama and it’s brilliantly composed, and performed by the London Symphony.

The sheer scale of everything Star Wars in May 1999 meant that we would be stocking The Phantom Menace soundtrack front-racked at the Record Store.  That was rare for us.  Previously, we stocked James Horner’s Titanic soundtrack, but that boasted Celine Dion’s massive “My Heart Will Go On”.  In a sense, perhaps “Duel of the Fates” was the “My Heart Will Go On” of Star Wars.  It wasn’t as big but it sure helped put the soundtrack CD on the racks.  There were some incredible themes on the soundtrack, but unfortunately also a lot of music that, to use a phrase of my friend Erik Woods, was just “sonic wallpaper”.

The CD was released on Tuesday, May 4, 1999, in advance of the film.  We received our copies on Friday, June 30.

Of course I was going to buy my copy right then and there, but I couldn’t believe what I saw when I scanned the back cover.  Track 15 caught my eye.

What.  The.  Hell?

“Qui-Gon’s Noble End”.  Everybody knew that Liam Neeson was playing a new Jedi character named Qui-Gon Jinn.  A little after that, another track includes “Qui-Gon’s Funeral”!

Why…the fuck…would you advertise that Liam Neeson is dying in the fucking movie, two weeks before the movie is even out?  Who named these tracks?  Why the hell would you spoil the end of the movie so badly for everyone?

It was baffling.  It’s still baffling.

The track list for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi has leaked.  I’ve seen it.  There are really no colossal spoilers on it.  You’ll still want to avoid it if you wish to remain completely spoiler free, but at least they’ve learned their lesson about naming tracks.

One of the most anticipated movies of all time was bound to sell more than a handful of soundtracks in advance.  That’s why The Phantom Menace was on our charts!  Every single person who bought that CD knew that Liam Neeson was going to die.

The Phantom Menace came out on May 19.  My sister and I sat there, watching the final duel.  As lightsabers ignited, “Duel of the Fates” began to play.  We both sat wondering exactly when Qui-Gon was going to meet his noble end.  It became obvious when he and Obi-Wan Kenobi were separated by a force field.  Right on cue, Darth Maul impaled him with his red-bladed weapon.

It could have been shocking, but the bigger surprise was that they killed off such a cool villain as Darth Maul after just one movie.  (Yes, I know he was resurrected on Clone Wars, a good TV series.)

As we gear up for The Last Jedi in a few short days, let those who wish to remain spoiler-free do so in peace.  There will hopefully be no Death Star-sized screwups like “Qui-Gon’s Nobel End”!

 

 

REVIEW: Spaceballs – The Soundtrack (1987)

I will be going LIVE at 12:30 AM (ET) Saturday morning with Robert Daniels on VISIONS IN SOUND. Tune in on your dial to 98.5 or internet to CKWR!  If you’re in the UK, why not wake up with us and some cool soundtrack music?

May was Star Wars month on Visions In Sound, but now it’s June and it’s also the 30th anniversary of the Star Wars parody Spaceballs!  We will be spinning music and discussing this comedy classic.  Jason Drury and I will help Rob with the celebration.  Join Us THIS Saturday 12:30-2:30am (ET)

 

SPACEBALLS – The Soundtrack (1987 Atlantic)

Hello, baaaaabay!

Composer John Morris has a long career working with Mel Brooks.  The Producers, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles…all that was John Morris.  He is also responsible for the “Spaceballs Main Title Theme”, which is intentionally cheesy complete with laser beam sounds.  Any spoof of Star Wars should also spoof the music, and the title theme suits that role.  It sounds 50% Star Wars, and 50% The Last Starfighter.  It’s rousing but not at all serious, and a fine indication of the kind of movie that Spaceballs is.  The film wasn’t so well received back in 1987, but today it is fondly remembered.  Mel Brooks is even considering a sequel.

Kim Carnes and Jeffrey Osborne provide the love ballad “My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own”.  I enjoy Kim’s rasp, always nice to hear, but I couldn’t tell you what scene in the movie this goes with (and I’ve seen the movie 100 times at least.)  You can safely skip this one. Berlin have a cool track called “Heartstrings”, produced by none other than Bob Ezrin! This one is worth a listen.

The “Spaceballs Love Theme” is a violin piece composed Morris and performed by Gerry Vinci.  It too has a hint of corniness, but it could also fit into just about any Hugh Grant rom-com.  Also by Morris is “The Winnebago Crashes”, the point in the film in which our heroes crash on the desert planet.  This is an action packed centerpiece, with drums pattering away and horns ablaze.  This is melded with a tension-filled “The Spaceballs Build Mega Maid”.  Too bad these bits had to be edited together for the album.

“Spaceballs” by the Detroit Spinners is a hoot.  This is pure 80s soundtrack music.  Who you gonna call?  You’re in the right ballpark anyway.   It’s fun, and funny.  The Pointer Sisters have “Hot Together”, and it sounds just like the Pointer Sisters.  Disposable 80s pop but fun in the moment.  In a similar vein is “Wanna Be Loved By You” by a group called Ladyfire.  If you miss the days of the Bangles and Bananarama, then you’d dig Ladyfire.

Of course the Spaceballs movie had a lot more music than this.  It’s clear that this CD is just a cross-section with an emphasis on pop, which would have been the selling point for most.  Those who have seen the movie know there were two more big songs.  One was “Raise Your Hands” from Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet.  That’s not on the CD, but Van Halen’s “Good Enough” is.  Fans will recall that this song is playing as Barf (John Candy) and Lone Star (Bill Pullman) enter the space diner, just before John Hurt’s chest explodes and gives birth to an Alien.  It’s good to know that Eddie Van Halen’s axe will still be wailing away in the distant future.  Van Hagar were perfect music for the sleazy diner and it’s nice to get one rock song on this CD.

There is also a 19th Anniversary Edition available, expanded with all the cues and alternate takes too.  Still no Bon Jovi though….

2.5/5 stars (for this edition)

REVIEW: Rogue One – A Star Wars Story soundtrack (2016)

I will be going LIVE at 12:30 AM (ET) Saturday morning with Robert Daniels on VISIONS IN SOUND. Tune in on your dial to 98.5 or internet to CKWR!  You folks in the UK can tune in as you enjoy some morning coffee.

Rob says:  “Star Wars For A New Generation – May is Star Wars month on Visions In Sound and we will be celebrating the 40th Anniversary with a slew of special shows. Joining me this week will be special guests Jason Drury, Michael Ladano & Erik Woods to help with the celebration. Featured music will be from Star Wars – The Force Awakens (John Williams), Star Wars – Rebels (Kevin Kiner) and Rogue One – A Star Wars Story (Michael Giacchino). Join Us THIS Saturday 12:30-2:30am (ET)”

ROGUE ONE: A Star Wars Story original motion picture soundtrack (2015 Lucasfilm/Disney)

A Star Wars soundtrack without John Williams?  Blasphemy!  Right?  Right guys and girls?  No John = No Star Wars, right?

Wrong!

It’s not like Rogue One is even the first!  20 years before, Joel McNeely composed Shadows of the Empire, the soundtrack to a massive multi-media Star Wars story.  It accompanied a novel, a comic, a video game and action figure line.  The only thing missing was a movie.  Since Disney’s $4 billion acquisition of Star Wars, Shadows of the Empire is now considered “legends”, or non-canon, so if you’re not aware of it, that’s OK.  The point is, a non-Williams Star Wars soundtrack is nothing new to long time fans.  And Rogue One is the perfect vehicle for such a soundtrack.  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the first non-episodic, non-Skywalker-saga Star Wars film ever.  There are two very obvious ways that it differentiates from the main line of films.  One is that there was no opening crawl (nor should there have been).  The second is that Williams didn’t do the music.  Michael Giacchino did, a man who has plenty of credits on his resume including a large number of J.J. Abrams productions.

Giacchino wisely didn’t overuse established Star Wars music.  You won’t hear the fanfare.  The sudden crash opening music of “He’s Here For Us” was actually a pretty cool moment of shock, and it’s right there at the start.  The music feels like the storyline.  When Director Kennic suddenly pays a surprise visit to his “friend” Galen Erso, you couldn’t ask for more abrupt and appropriate music.  The threat has arrived.  Better hide.

Though Giacchino borrows music only sparingly from John Williams, he seems to embody that classic style.  While unfamiliar, these new pieces sound like part of that universe.  There are memorable parts; not so many as the classic films, but they are there.  “He’s Here For Us” introduces one such theme, and there are more, such as the main theme contained within “A Long Ride Ahead” (and again in “The Master Switch”).  You’ll notice the Rogue One theme music in “A Long Ride Ahead” is very similar to the Star Wars main theme, in particular the first two notes.  It’s the same interval, transposed down to a different key.   That’s why the Rogue One and Star Wars themes sound similar, but different.

Other tracks like “When Has Become Now” have bits and pieces that recall prior Star Wars music without copying.  Another fantastic theme is “Jedha Arrival” which really captures the vibe.  You will get to hear the legendary “Imperial March” in “Krennic’s Aspirations”, in which he meets the Dark Lord Darth Vader in his castle on Mustafar.

For action scenes, “Jedha City Ambush” hits a double:  It’s different from past Williams work, but really gets the adrenaline running.  “Star-Dust” is more contemplative, and very unique.  The drama of “Confrontation on Eadu” has that awe-inspiring mix of ingredients that good Star Wars music always has.  Then, for sheer terror, the ironically titled “Hope” gives you all you need in pure musical form.  The solo violin on “Jyn Erso & Hope Suite” will make you weep.

The crux of the soundtrack is this:  It’s nearly impossible to listen to it without consciously or unconsciously comparing it.  That’s natural.  No matter who composed it, fans would notice it’s not John Williams.  Just like fans can tell the Kiss band of today is not the Kiss band of 1978.  What else could Disney do?  John Williams is 85 years old, and they plan on making these movies for years and years to come.  It’s reasonable to think John Williams will be able to complete the third trilogy of Star Wars, as we hope.  It’s not realistic to think he’ll be around as long as Disney plan on making Star Wars movies, as sad as that is.

We’ll leave this review with just some fun speculation.  It is widely known that, at some point in the late 1970s, George Lucas mentioned there would be 12 films.  Not 3, 6 or 9.  12 films.  He later backtracked and said, “Yeah, no, I meant 6.”  And of course he also used to deny he’d even make the prequel trilogy at all.  Then we found out he was already writing Episode I.  And recently, we learned he was actually planning to do the sequel trilogy after all, meaning you can’t trust anything Lucas backtracks on.  Fans always assumed 12 films meant 4 trilogies.  A fourth trilogy (probably focusing on Rey, Finn, Poe or Kylo’s children) does not seem impossible any more.   As long as these movies make money, it’s feasible that Disney could continue the actual saga beyond just these anthology films.  If we imagine that one day we’ll get Episodes X, XI and XII then who could compose the music?  Certainly not John Williams, since this could not happen until the mid-2020s at the soonest.  If it ever comes to pass, the fourth trilogy would have to be composed by somebody new, be it Giacchino or someone else.   Giacchino established himself as a real contender on Rogue One.  Well done.

3.5/5 stars