Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2015 July 27 • Monday

The 381st Soundtrack of the Week is Jerry Goldsmith's music for Planet of the Apes.

This is one of the greatest scores of all time, unsettling, agitated, suspenseful, eerie, all with a driving, modern energy. Like Herrmann's music for The Day the Earth Stood Still, if Goldsmith's Planet of the Apes had been composed for the concert hall, the course of "classical" music would be very different.

Some of the staccato piano and snare drums work anticipates Goldsmith's First Blood score. Though this is a sci-fi movie, Goldsmith relies heavily on acoustic instruments, generating weird sounds through the use of unusual percussion and unusual writing for conventional instruments.

Tape delays are deployed subtly and effectively, in "The Searchers", for instance.

This CD release of the complete score concludes with a suite of Goldsmith music from Escape from the Planet of the Apes, a much friendlier and groovier concoction that nonetheless connects to the previous gnarly masterpiece.

2015 July 22 • Wednesday

Steve Rude has been one of my favorite comic book artists for about thirty years, since I started reading Nexus and Badger. In fact I think I read and enjoyed all of the titles that First Comics published.

Nexus is in the process of making something of a come-back, along with a lesser known Steve Rude character, The Moth.

I've joined their Kickstarter campaign. Now it's your turn!

2015 July 20 • Monday

There have been several fun, big budget Hollywood summer movies this year, but none as satisfying as last year's Guardians of the Galaxy. The Tyler Bates score is the 380th Soundtrack of the Week.

Brian Tyler is the composer most associated with what is known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe and his scores are just right and quite enjoyable.

Bates has the same knack for propulsive action cues—and you generally need a lot of those for these movies—but, it seems to me, brings a stronger gift for melody and greater depth of feeling to his work on Guardians.

"To the Stars", for instance, is similar to Brian Tyler's Thor: The Dark World theme (which itself is very similar to Hans Zimmer's main title theme for The Contender) but has a delicacy and poignancy that Tyler eschews for a more direct and powerful approach.

But the music that everybody remembers from Guardians of the Galaxy isn't Bates's work but the collection of pop songs that Peter "Starlord" Quill listens to on his Walkman.

The tape is Awesome Mix Vol. 1 and it actually is pretty awesome

. Blue Swede's "Hooked on a Feeling" was featured in the preview and is memorably placed in the film itself.

"Escape (The Piña Colada Song) also has a spotlight moment in the movie. Other favorites of mine include The Raspberries' "Go All the Way"—and I actually got a Raspberries CD to see if they had any other songs that were as good, which they don't—and Elvin Bishop's "Fooled Around and Fell in Love".

And this is part of the reason why Marvel is so far ahead of DC in the movies. The Marvel movies have wit and fun and don't preach to the audience. Seeing a preview for the new Batman/Superman movie (which also has Wonder Woman in it somehow) before a screening of Ant-Man illustrated the contrast.

DC wants you to take everything very, very seriously, which is how we ended up with those absurd, leaden, bloated Christopher Nolan Batman movies. Marvel, on the other hand, is recreating a tradition of adventure movies, followng a trail that leads from Errol Flynn's Robin Hood through Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I suppose that when you're spending hundreds of millions of dollars on something, it can be hard to remember to make it fun for people. But this has been a consistent feature of the Marvel superhero movies and undoubtedly a big part of their success. Let's hope they keep their cool.

2015 July 13 • Monday

Tippi Hedren made this movie with a bunch of lions and other big cats in it. Her husband and their children were in it too. The cinematographer was Jan de Bont. Pretty much everybody got attacked and mauled by these wild animals.

Roar is the 379th Soundtrack of the Week.

It starts with a bunch of songs in various styles: reggae, soft rock, folk, Beach Boys, etc. The lyrics are pretty direct about finding harmony with nature and working toward peace. There's kind of a hippie soft-rock feel to a lot of it.

The score part is well done, finding lots of ways to use a few themes very effectively. The themes are usually based on the songs from the first half of the CD, such as "Isn't It Time?".

It's not the most compelling music I've ever heard but it's not bad. The movie is high on my list of films to watch. It came out in 1981 but took eleven years to make and cost $17 million.

While Roar wasn't much of a commercial success, it did lead to Hedren creating the Shambala Preserve animal sanctuary.

2015 July 08 • Wednesday

Books pile up here faster than I can read them but whenever there's a new reprint of Leonard Starr's On Stage, I drop everything to read it right away.

Also known as Mary Perkins, On Stage, it was a comic strip that followed the life and career of an actress from trying to get that first audition to becoming an international star.

The writing and plotting were consistently great. I can only remember one false step, in a story involving Mary Perkins on LSD. Like many other acid trip storylines of the time, it wasn't convincing.

But Leonard Starr, who created, wrote and drew the strip, did brilliant work at an incredibly high level, consistently and over a very long period of time. His characters had depth and the stories would pull you in and surprise you.

As a draughtsman he must have been one of the best who ever lived.

June 2015 found us saying goodbye to Ornette Coleman, Patrick Macnee and James Horner. On the last day of that month we also lost Leonard Starr.

2015 July 06 • Monday

The 378th Soundtrack of the Week is some important music from my younger days, John Williams's Raiders of the Lost Ark score.

Is any other John Williams score as engaged with the movie as this one? Listening to it is like eavesdropping on a conversation or admiring a dance partner.

The famous theme music for Indiana Jones is a re-working of a motif Williams used in The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing. Both simplified and expanded for Raiders, it becomes as powerful and memorable as the famous themes Williams wrote for Jaws and Star Wars.

But there's so much more here. Music for mystery, suspense, dread. Mysterious temples, spiders, chases, fights, love scenes, supernatural forces—even God!

It's almost impossible to imagine Raiders of the Lost Ark without this music. And as is so often the case with scores by the greatest film composers, the music is the final surge of power that brings the movie to life.

2015 July 03 • Friday

Michael Gilbert has never disappointed but this book, Fear To Tread, exceeded my high expectations.

Set in London shortly after the end of World War 2, it's about a mostly ordinary, entirely believable middle-class man, the headmaster of a boys' high school, and his unexpected, accidental and inexorable progress, as if drawn by a magnet, into the center of a labyrinth of organized crime.

The crime in question is mostly black market activities, the theft and resale of rationed foodstuffs but also, well, anything that can turn a profit.

It's an intricately constructed book. No words are wasted and no detail is irrelevant. It's surely a sign of Gilbert's skill that everything is so neatly connected, often poignantly so, and all loose ends so neatly tied up but without ever seeming artificial or contrived.

The day after you finish the book, you might find yourself regarding its ingenuity with a slightly more critical eye, but of course you would be no longer under the spell of Gilbert's writing, his impeccable pacing and jeweler's touch.

It's a very "British" book, in the old school tie sense of Britishness, and you have to accept this particular reality to accept the book. Most satisfying, though, is that our hero, Wilfrid Wetherall (who does indeed "weather all"), never becomes a man of action or violence. There is no hidden tiger inside him. He remains the same and perseveres by way of simple virtues that could be exercised by any sane person.

It's also perhaps a tip of the hat to Eric Ambler, woh wrote some similarly plotted novels. As I remember, the only character ever mentioned who doesn't have some part to play in the actual story, is a Mr. Ambler.

The first line is "When Wilfrid Wetherall learned that the boys called him 'Wellington' Wetherall he was not displeased".

2015 July 01 • Wednesday

Here's another book I found on the street recently, George Alec Effinger's Felicia. One of its previous homes was a public library in South Dakota.

The story is worthy of Mission: Impossible. A criminal mastermind is feeding a small Gulf Coast town fake weather information to trick them into evacuating before a deadly hurricane hits. There isn't really going to be any such hurricane, of course, just an empty town ready for plundering.

This is a fairly ludicrous idea. But don't worry, Effinger's got it covered.

First he makes the book about a handful of characters all fighting personal demons. Then he builds the story so gradually and so realistically that its implausibility gently fades.

Best of all, though, is the twist that comes near the end.

It's an excellent crime novel and also more than that. The first line is "The Lousiana town was named Arbier, after a French priest who had ministered to the spiritual needs of the area's Indian population, back when the area's population had been only Indian".