Caboblanco (Jerry Goldsmith, 1980): This film was essentially a low-budget remake of Casablanca set in Peru and starring Charles Bronson in the Bogart role, so it isn’t too surprising that this isn’t a particularly well remembered movie. This was the first collaboration between Jerry Goldsmith and director J. Lee Thompson (their best known project together was King Solomon’s Mines) and the composer delivered a pleasant, if unspectacular, Spanish-styled score for the film.
The soundtrack CD opens with a fun “Main Title” cue that establishes a primary theme for the film that is characterized by Latin rhythms and instruments, including acoustic guitar, tambourines, castanets, and a solo trumpet. The theme is typically distinctive for Goldsmith, but isn’t developed very much during the remainder of the soundtrack. Outside of the titles, Goldsmith’s main theme and Latin-influenced styling is on best display in the cue “Beckdorf’s House” and in a very nicely melodic arrangement in the opening portion of the cue “The Drowning”.
The primary romantic theme in the score isn’t actually composed by Goldsmith at all. Instead, Goldsmith adapted the classic Nat King Cole song “The Very Thought of You”, which was written by Ray Noble. The soundtrack includes a few different instrumental arrangements of the song’s melody. Goldsmith also composed another period-appropriate song entitled “Heaven Knows”, which is sung by his wife Carol on the soundtrack.
A soundtrack CD for the film was originally issued in 1993 by Belgium film music label Prometheus Records. That same label reissued the same program in a limited edition release in 2005. Both editions are relatively easy to find at reasonable prices.
Cain’s Hundred (Jerry Goldsmith, Morton Stevens, 1961): This early 60s TV series was one of the earliest scoring projects for Jerry Goldsmith (he was actually billed as “Jerrald” instead of “Jerry”). Film Score Monthly released a CD containing the scores to the four episodes of the series that were scored by Goldsmith as well as one episode scored by Morton Stevens.
The disc opens with Goldsmith’s end title cue, which is a full arrangement of his main theme and also includes a couple bumpers and alternate arrangements of the theme. Goldsmith also pretty regularly incorporates the theme into his scores and even Morton uses it occasionally. The theme has kind of a swing-style to it, while still being reasonably dark in tone. It is a style that Goldsmith would return to pretty regularly for his TV series themes.
The music is very atmospheric and suspense oriented and is generally a precursor to the style that Goldsmith would use for a number of crime dramas (particularly for TV) over the course of his career. Strings and percussion dominate as well as some occasional piano and some punctuating bursts of brass. The scores seem to be played by pretty much a full orchestra, which is somewhat surprising for a TV series. As is typical for TV scores, the cues tend to be short, although the soundtrack CD is organized to sometimes combine multiple short cues into longer ones.
The Morton Stevens score does follow the basic musical style that Goldsmith had established for the series, but is also recognizably the music of a different composer. In particular, Stevens’ approach included a bit more use of solo instruments, particularly piano and violin.
Cannon for Cordoba (Elmer Bernstein, 1970): Varese Sarbande released this Bernstein western/war movie score as part of their CD Club series on a 2-CD set that paired it with Bernstein’s score to From Noon to Three. While a limited edition of 3000 copies, this set is still available from their website.
The CD opens with an absolutely tremendous “Main Title” cue. The cue starts with some exciting percussion music before transitioning into a wonderfully brassy march. While the little-known film that it came from has kept this theme from becoming very familiar, I think it is in the same league as Bernstein’s famous themes to The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape.
The film is set during the early 20th century border skirmishes between Mexico and Texas and major parts of the score has a definite Mexican flavor to it, although mixed with some of Bernstein’s usual military-style action cues. The main theme is brought in periodically throughout the score, although Bernstein does use it somewhat sparingly. Acoustic guitar and trumpet are featured pretty prominently during much of the score. There is a particularly nice secondary theme that plays regularly in the score, usually on the acoustic guitar.
The score includes some Bernstein-composed source music, such as the cue “One Man Band” that is a fun tune played primarily on the acoustic guitar and harmonica, while the later “One Man Band II” and “One Man Band III” are other Mexican-style cues that bring in a larger range of instruments, particularly violin and trumpet. The last 25 minutes of the hour and 10 minute disc is all source music, mostly Bernstein’s arrangements of traditional street mariachi music, which is highly entertaining. The last couple tracks also include a belly dance and a fairly traditional, patriotic-sounding march.
Cape Fear (Bernard Herrmann, Elmer Bernstein, 1991): For Martin Scorsese’s 1991 remake of the 1962 thriller Cape Fear, they made the somewhat unusual decision of hiring Elmer Bernstein to adapt Bernard Herrmann’s distinctive score from the original film instead of commissioning an original score. The resultant soundtrack is an exceptionally crisp and skillful performance of Herrmann’s classic music.
The most-familiar theme is a darkly menacing 4-note trombone fanfare, regularly used throughout the score to herald the moments of darkest tension. After seeing the film, or even just listening to the soundtrack, it is a theme that is difficult to forget. The theme has also gained some extra familiarity from its parody-use on The Simpsons as the primary theme for the Sideshow Bob character ever since an episode that directly parodied Cape Fear.
This is among Herrmann’s most relentlessly dark and menacing scores, pretty much always remaining in the low registers with lots of very deep brass and screaming strings. One of Herrmann’s real gifts was his ability to keep the music generally melodic even while working with this kind of score. This allows this score to remain much more consistently listenable than might be the case had the score descended more into dissonance.
Adapting the music to the newer film was likely quite a challenge for Bernstein as Scorsese was not entirely faithful to the source material, instead choosing to rework various sequences and characterizations. This certainly was not a shot-by-shot remake like Gus Van Sant’s version of Psycho, which meant that Bernstein had to adapt Herrmann’s score to fit a different film. Bernstein is usually thought of as a co-composer for the film (although his credit was “adapted and conducted”) and it is pretty likely that he did compose some original cues. Musically, the style is so consistent, though, that it is unlikely anyone would be able to distinguish any Bernstein compositions without having the original film’s score essentially memorized.
My only major complaint about this soundtrack is that the album ends very abruptly. The last cue is entitled “The End”, but doesn’t really come to much of a conclusion. I suspect that this final cue was probably from the film’s climax instead of an end credit suite and the album definitely could have used a better wrap-up.
Capricorn One (Jerry Goldsmith, 1978): One of Jerry Goldsmith’s most popular science-fiction scores was from this late 70s Peter Hyams conspiracy thriller. At the time of the film’s original release, Goldsmith conducted a re-recording of about 35 minutes of the score with the National Philharmonic Orchestra. This re-recording has been released on CD a couple times, including a GNP Crescendo CD that paired it with Goldsmith’s Outland and a more recent release from Collector’s Choice Music, which is still readily available.
A 55 minute CD of the original film recordings was released by Intrada in 2005 as a 3,000 copy limited edition. That is the version that I have in my collection as I had never actually bought the re-recording before. The Intrada release sold out extremely quickly and now typically costs hundreds of dollars on the secondary market. The re-recording is typically a value-priced CD now and is likely a worthwhile purchase if you don’t have this score in your collection at all.
The brass and percussion main theme is one of Goldsmith’s most memorable and appears on enough compilation albums that it probably will be pretty recognizable even to Goldsmith’s more casual fans. This theme is introduced during the “Main Title” cue and is interpolated into some of the other action/suspense portions of the score.
The other primary theme from the score is the secondary, romantic theme, which is regularly featured during the quieter parts of the score. A particularly good piano and strings rendition of the theme is presented in the cue “Bedtime Story” while a lounge-style source music version of the theme is provided in the cue entitled “Kay’s Theme”.
Careful, He Might Hear You (Ray Cook, 1983): Even though the composer is virtually unknown (this is only one of two films he scored) and the film was mainly an art house release in the US, Varese Sarabande was able to very quickly sell out a 1000 copy CD Club release simply by strongly encouraging people to listen to the samples. The music is so good that it was an easy decision to purchase after hearing what it sounds like. Although sold out at Varese, a quick check on Amazon found several copies available at very reasonable prices.
While the title might at first suggest a horror movie, the film was actually a highly acclaimed Australian drama set during the depression era. Cook’s score is simply beautiful. It is a lush, highly romantic score that is consistently highly melodic. The score is dominated by soaring strings and gentle woodwinds. Choral elements are added periodically in a manner that sometimes gives the music an almost dreamlike quality, such as in the lovely cue “P.S. Saying His Prayers”.
One particularly interesting and unusual cue is “P.S.’ Piano Practice”. As the title implies, this cue is characterized by a piano solo, but it also features an effective use of a ticking metronome as a rhythm instrument and overlaying orchestral elements that serve to elevate the performance. The melody used is Cook’s main theme for the score, which keeps it firmly connected to the rest of the score rather than sounding like a separate source cue.
I really can’t recommend this score highly enough. The composer and the film are likely to be unfamiliar to most, but this is an exceptionally impressive orchestral work that stands very well on its own.
The Caretakers (Elmer Bernstein, 1963): This Elmer Bernstein score to this psychological thriller was released in a deluxe edition on a Varese Sarabande CD Club release where it was paired with Bernstein’s score to another medical drama, The Young Doctors. The CD is sold out at Varese, but reasonably priced copies are available through Amazon.
The album opens with a “Main Title” cue that starts with a some suspense-style bursts of brass, followed by a fast-paced main theme that has kind of a 60s pop sensibility to it. The theme is orchestral, but with an underlying percussion rhythm that moves it into the pop direction. This theme shows up during other parts of the score as well, although string and brass suspense music is also commonplace.
Another recurring theme in the score is a woodwind melody that brings to mind a child’s lullaby, but played in a vaguely unsettling style and context. This first appears towards the end of the “Main Title” cue and is re-visited periodically, providing one of the score’s most distinctive features.
Quite a few cues on the soundtrack are Bernstein jazz instrumental cues, starting with “Blues for a Four String Guitar” (which is more horn-centric than the title would suggest) and continuing through “Picnic 3”. Bernstein had a talent for this type of music and these are good, but they do feel a bit out of place with the otherwise more suspense-oriented score. Most of these are likely source cues, but I think the listening experience might have been improved by grouping these at the end of the album.
The Carey Treatment (Roy Budd, 1972): Film Score Monthly included 35 minutes of music from this film, which was based on a novel that Michael Crichton wrote under a pseudonym, as part of a 2-disc set that also contained the scores from Crichton’s much better known Coma and Westworld. The album is a limited edition in their Silver Age Classics series, but is still readily available. Note that the CD only had cover art for the other two titles, so the above image is makeshift cover art I created from the poster art that I found online.
The score has a generally jazzy style, although with a mostly melodic approach. It is symphonic, but with some electronic elements and a lot of percussion, trumpet, piano, and saxophone. A lot of the score has a smaller-ensemble sound and quite a few of the cues sound likely to be source cues from party scenes or other similar settings. One of those cues is even entitled “Party” and another is named “Source”.
Other parts of the score have a more tension-filled sound, with deep bass strings and horns. “The Heavy” and “Hospital Attack”, both cues fairly late in the score, are particularly strong examples of that. Both cues do bring in bits of piano and trumpet that occasionally add a touch of chaos to these cues while also giving it a bit more of a connection to the main themes.
Carried Away (Bruce Broughton, 1996): Bruce Broughton’s score for this little known Dennis Hopper/Amy Irving drama is one of his quietest and most subtle scores with an overall feeling of melancholy. The score is fully orchestral, dominated by gentle strings and woodwinds. Broughton also makes pretty frequent and effective use of solo piano, as in the cues “Time To Marry Me” and “Momma”. The score doesn’t really establish extremely distinctive themes, but instead develops an overall melodic atmosphere that is carried through the score.
Intrada released a soundtrack CD at the time that the film was originally released. It is out of print now and Intrada sold off its inventory during a sale on Broughton CDs a few years back (which was when I got it), but it looks like used and new copies are pretty easy to locate.
Cars (Randy Newman, 2006): This is one of the most listenable soundtracks to a Pixar film and, I will note, it is pretty much my 6-year-old son’s favorite music album. Most critics and adult fans often rank the film pretty low among Pixar’s films (although that is admittedly an extremely high bar), but it is absolutely beloved by pre-teens, particularly boys, and the album really does reflect the film exceptionally well.
The album is a mixed score and song album with Randy Newman’s score only taking up 20 minutes of the 52 minute running time. The songs are all used pretty prominently in the film itself, so this is probably a pretty appropriate mix. Only one of the songs, “Our Town” performed by James Taylor, was written by Newman. That very effective song was used during one of the most emotionally-charged sequences in the film, a montage that looked back at the film’s town of Radiator Springs during its heyday.
The other two best known original songs from the film are Sheryl Crow’s “Real Gone” and “Life Is a Highway” by Rascal Flatts. The Rascal Flatts song is a particularly catchy tune, although I admit that I’m fairly tired of it due to my son playing it over and over and over… The Sheryl Crow song is ok, although how much one likes it is probably going to be dependent on how much one likes Sheryl Crow and I admit I’m not really a fan. The album also includes two original songs by country star Brad Paisley. The better of the two, and the most prominently used in the film, is “Find Yourself”.
Because of the film’s Route 66 setting, it isn’t surprising at all that the soundtrack contains two versions of the classic Bobby Troup song “Route 66”. The first is Chuck Berry’s famous recording of the song and the second is a cover version performed by John Mayer. Other non-original songs included on the soundtrack are “Sh-Boom” by The Chords and “My Heart Would Know” by Hank Williams.
Randy Newman’s Americana style of composing is very appropriate to the film and fits extremely well. With the race sequences, as well as the chase music in the cue “McQueen Lost", he provides some nice, brassy action music as well. Newman also provides some fun rural/country style sounds during some parts of the score. The short cue “Bessie” and the cues “New Road” and “Tractor Tipping” are particularly good examples of this. The Americana aspect is particularly well-represented in the wistfully emotional cue “Goodbye”.
The opening score cue entitled “Opening Race” is one of the best demonstrations of the more action-oriented aspects of the score. It opens with a short statement of Newman’s very Americana main theme for the film and then ends with some some very fast paced race music. In the middle, Newman is given the chance to use some of his rock composition skills with some purely rock-style instrumental music. The score is bookended with this approach, ending with the highly brassy and action packed “The Big Race”.