Cartoon Concerto (Bruce Broughton, 2003): I generally haven’t been including compilation albums in my reviews of my soundtrack collection (although I have many), but I am making an exception in order to call attention to this wonderful collection of cartoon scores composed by Bruce Broughton. The scores are generally complete and not available anywhere else. This is actually a promotional release, but copies can usually be tracked down with some searching. At the time I’m writing this, there is one copy available at a reasonable price from the Amazon link above and Percepto Records (which, I believe, produced the album) has copies available from their website.
The CD includes complete scores to the Disney animated short “Off His Rockers” (which played with the Broughton-scored film Honey, I Blew Up the Kid) and the two Roger Rabbit shorts “Roller Coaster Rabbit” and “Trail Mix-Up”. Also included is an 18-minute suite of music from Broughton’s numerous scores to the popular Steven Spielberg produced TV series “Tiny Toon Adventures”. The CD also includes another 18 minute suite entitled “Scherzo Berzerko in 3 Portions”, which isn’t identified as coming from a specific source. This is most likely a suite compiled from a variety of sources and, since this is a promo disc, it may be partly or entirely example music composed specifically for the promo.
Considering that the majority of the source music was pretty clearly inspired by the classic Warner Bros “Looney Toons” shorts, it isn’t surprising that Broughton’s style throughout this album calls to mind the work of Carl Stalling. The music is all orchestral and extremely brass heavy with a very fast paced and lots of quick stings and humorous motifs, including occasional samples of familiar melodies. The music is exceptionally well organized on this CD and it really does play like a cohesive symphonic work. This disc is simply a lot of fun!
Casablanca (Max Steiner, 1942): Casablanca is a pretty likely candidate for being the most truly beloved of American films. I’m sure there are people out there that don’t care for it, but I can’t say that I recall encountering any. The movie was a nearly perfect mix of drama, romance, intrigue, and humor. Max Steiner’s score and Dooley Wilson’s entertaining performances of several classic songs contributed a lot to the film’s success.
Rhino Records released a soundtrack CD, which contains a mix of dialog, songs, and score. A better, purely score and songs release would certainly be welcome, although the Rhino release is probably a more commercially acceptable approach for this film. The condition of the recordings is also surprisingly poor for such a famous film, with quite a bit of static and noise in many of the cues. The orchestral score portions are in much better condition than the songs and dialog segments and sometimes there is a noticeable shift in quality even within a single cue. In some cases, it sounds like the music may have come from LP sources.
The most famous music in the film is, of course, the song “As Time Goes By”, written by Herman Hupfeld. The song wasn’t originally written for the film, but is now pretty much inseparably associated with it. In addition to Wilson’s famous performance of the song, Steiner very frequently incorporates the melody into the score. The rest of the score is extremely romantic, with extensive use of lush strings and piano melodies. Some ethnic elements come into play, particularly during the medleys from the Paris sequences.
I’m generally not a fan of dialog on a soundtrack album and do feel that there is too much here. On the other hand, Casablanca has such a rich selection of exceptionally well-known lines and speeches that it isn’t hard to understand why it was included. Very little of the album features score that doesn’t have dialog and/or sound-effects over the top and it almost plays more like a story album than a score soundtrack. At the end of the album, there are 3 cues, running about 15 minutes, that do present some of the score cues without the dialog. A better presentation of Steiner’s score is definitely needed, but at least the key parts are there.