Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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nt size="-1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"> 2023 April 24 • Monday

The 775th Soundtrack of the Week is the brilliant Intrada re-recording of Bernard Herrmann's scores for The Man Who Knew Too Much and On Dangerous Ground with William T. Stromberg conducting the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

We already loved the recording of On Dangerous Ground that had already been made available, even though the audio quality suffered from lack of really good source tapes.

So hearing the Stromberg version is tremendously exciting, a brilliant performance with the exact right energy and absolutely gorgeous sonic presentation. You can listen to this over and over.

The same is true for The Man Who Knew Too Much, which we didn't have in any form, and offers several different classic Herrmann moods, many of them stirringly atmospheric or intensely stinging.

There's quite a bit of variety to it and already we're listening to it just a bit more than the other score.

All in all, just superb, couldn't imagine its being better.

2023 April 17 • Monday

Once again we dipped into this collection of soundtracks from Paramount westerns. For the 774th Soundtrack of the Week we listened to Johnny Douglas's score for Kid Rodelo.

The main title starts with acoustic guitar and a tiny bit of percussion. Then accordion comes in with the melody, hands it over to the guitar and takes it back again. It ends with open strums and percussion it started with.

Harp starts the “Kid Rodelo Theme” and then backs up the acoustic guitar until accordion and a few strings join them.

Deep, long tones on celli set a sombre atmosphere for “Escape”, which builds tension slowly, leaving lots of space for percussion and other instruments. Then the whole orchestra bursts in with intense action music, sustaining moods of movement and menace until the end.

“Link’s Death” starts with a sting and heavily bowed strings, establishing right away that something seriously unpleasant is happening. The strings keep bowing while bass clarinet plays quietly, leading to a brass fanfare and a very interesting electric guitar sound.

Harp, vibes and cymbal start “Real Gold” and generate a mood that would be appropriate for The Twilight Zone or any of a number of offbeat shows and movies from the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Stings and sustains shape “Cholla”, another dangerous sounding cue that has intense bursts of activity coming out of more subdued passages.

Tom Glazer contributes “Love Is Trouble”, a lovely and delicate guitar ballad that reappears in the next track, “Riding/Buzzards & Coyotes”, which has a spaghetti western feel in parts. It pretty much continues into the next cue, “Kid & Indian” as well, though the latter ends on a high-energy and dramatic note that features bass and flute.

Bowed bass starts off “Keep Moving/Transportation”, joined quickly by accordion and then flutes and strings for subtly layered textures. The electric guitar is also used sparingly and has a lovely tone.

Urgent tension develops into emergency situation for the fight cue “Indian Attack” and then we get another eerie harp and percussion opening for the “Finale”, which turns out to be a reprise of “Love Is Trouble”.
2023 April 14 • Friday

In the preface to his book Shooting Columbo: The Lives and Deaths of TV's Rumpled Detective, David Koenig notes that there is already an excellent book about Columbo, Mark Dawidziak's The Columbo Phile.

Was another such book needed? Koenig wanted more and Dawidziak himself told Koenig that he hoped people would add to what he had contributed.

And so Koenig got to work and we're glad he did.

We had read The Columbo Phile years ago and that volume probably tells you everything you might want to know about episodes of Columbo's original run in the 1960s and '70s.

Shooting Columbo explores what was happening behind the camera as various personalities navigated networks, studios and and agents, not to mention writers, directors and actors.

Peter Falk is perhaps as big a star here as he was in the show, though many readers will probably come away with the impression that they wouldn't have wanted to work with him. For every person who loved the experience, there are several who found it frustrating and exhausting.

But the stories about how the Columbo films got made are actually more thrilling than the murder mystery plots themselves.

Especially interesting is the look into the writing process, including the origin of Columbo's famous "Just one more thing".

If it's a subject that interests you at all, the book is essential.

The first line is "A great mystery, at its heart, is an intricate puzzle that stumps its audience despite providing all the pieces needed for solving it".

2023 April 12 • Wednesday

Caitlin Starling's The Luminous Dead was an incredible first novel, a blend of sci-fi, horror, adventure, drama and psychology, perfectly paced and structured and almost more like a brilliantly sustained performance than a book.

The story is told from the point of view of a woman Gyre, who's going deep down into a cave in a special suit that takes care of all bodily functions so that she never has to remove it, as well as protects her from the elements, provides medical services, can render various views of the environment on her Heads Up Display and keeps her in contact with another woman, Em, who has hired Gyre for this mysterious expedition.

The time is the future and the place another planet. Gyre has been climbing around in giant underground caves all her life. She's good at it and she likes it. She has a natural talent for it and has experienced many of the dangers as well as the thrills.

Like many people, she found herself living in borderline poverty with no other means of escape other than these extremely dangerous cave explorations.

Big corporations send people in to scout for valuable minerals and things like that. Gyre doesn't have the requisite experience or training so she commits fraud to get hired by Em. Usually you would have to do a few such missions to get enough money to make it worth while but Em is paying a lot more.

Enough money to make you think it's maybe not just minerals she's after.

The suspense builds with such perfect timing that we'll just leave it there, adding only that Starling is very good with the mysterious "Tunnelers" that inhabit these caves, as well as with other odd elements, such as fungi, insects, fish… and perhaps ghosts.

The first thing I noticed when opening the book was a map of the cave system. I wasn't pleased to see it, as I usually just like the book to do the work of keeping the characters situated for me.

But the setting is so complex and the twists and turns of the story so numerous—at several points I found myself wondering what could possibly be going to happen to get to the 400+ pages the book adds up to but it gets there no problem, never lagging—I found myself turning back to the map frequently and I was very glad it had been included.

It's an excellent debut, very unusual and rewarding.

The first line is "She'd never gone this deep".
2023 April 10 • Monday

The 773rd Soundtrack of the Week is music from Doctor Who: "The Invasion" by Don Harper and Brian Hodgson.

It starts with the 1967 version of the Ron Grainer-composed and Delia Derbyshire-realized main theme, then as now simply a great and powerful piece of music.

Don Harper’s score proper begins with the wobbly electronic piece “The Dark Side of the Moon (Music 2 Variation)”, which pairs a descending electric bass line against an organ drone. The effect is a bit like some of Raymond Scott’s music.

Then for “The Company (Music 7)”, bass clarinet joins electric bass, there’s more organ drone plus timoani and we get an intriguing melodic line that sounds like it’s played on cymbalom.

“Hiding (Music 8)” is a long cue with spacy percussion, call and response bass and chmbalom parts and an eerie melody played on what might be oboe.

Cymbalom takes the spotlight, backed by organ bass, for the short but strong “International Electromatics Headquarters (Music 3)”.

An ethereal electro space-loungey feel kicks off “Muzak”, which combines the otherworldy soundscape with cocktail jazz piano stylings.

A mixture of electronic and acoustic instruments creates a vivid sonic punch for the short and also somewhat Raymond Scott-like “The Cyber Director (Music 5)”, after which “The Cybermen My Allies (Music 7)” brings back cymbalom, piano, bass and organ for a suspenseful half minute or so.

“Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Music 12a)” is a jaunty and cheerful march that’s a bit similar to a piece of the Dawn of the Dead shopping mall music.

Strange percussion and weird sounds create a thick and shadowy feel for “Plans for Invasion (Music 8)” while “Mysteries (Music 12)” is as pretty as it is intriguing, effectively combining the lovely resonances of the cymbalom and vibraphone.

More weird textures combined with organ, bass and percussion generate tension for “Fire Escape (Music 11)”.

Then there are reprises of “The Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Cybermen My Allies”.

“Music 4 (Trapped in a Gas Chamber - V.1 & 2)” brings together the usual group of electronics, organ, cymbalom and percussion but this time the organ gets to shape the harmonic structure rather than just drone.

Next is kind of a groovy cue just called “Music 9”, easy to imagine for a chase scene or other pocket of brisk activity. The bass clarinet takes the lead here.

Similar but with oboe as the featured instrument and with more of a weird sway than a jazzy rhythm is “Music 10”.

“Music 13” is about a dozen notes in seven seconds. “Music 14” is seventeen seconds of ostinato. “Music 15a” is a six-second cymbalom flourish. “Music 15b” and “Music 15c” are stings, maybe on a zither. “Music 15d” adds piano. “Music 15e” adds percussion. “Music 15f” is an organ sting and “Music 15g” adds bass clarinet.

“Music 15h” is pretty similar to 15b and c. “Music 16a” is practically a mini-suite compared to the others, combining cymbalom, percussion, organ and bass clarinet and giving them all distinct parts at different times despite the cue’s being only six seconds long.

“Music 16b” is a seven-secind burst of panic while “Music 16c” takes the same urgent pulse and adds a woodwind freakout to it. It’s eight seconds long. “Music 16d” then does it in nine seconds. “Music 16e” is four notes in six seconds but still conveys an impressive amount of feeling.

The ten seconds of “Music 16f” feel pretty luxurious now, and combine organ with whatever this other instrument is, cymbalom or zither, for a startlingly unusual sonority. “Music 16g” has the organ in a descending line, some cymbalom strikes and a brief embellishment from bass clarinet in its ten seconds and that’s it from Mr. Harper.

The rest of the disc is dedicated to sound effects that border on music, created here by Brian Hodgson and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. They’re very difficult to describe. Let’s just say that they’re very striking audio images, mostly used to animate scenes of the Tardis and the Cybermen.

It’s an excellent release as well as something of a revelation. These were electronic music pioneers creating sounds nobody had ever heard before.
2023 April 07 • Friday

Steel guitarist B. J. Cole has been on tons of records, including many for very famous people: from Elton John to Olivia Newton John!

Here at Gutbrain Headquarters we only became aware of him because of Matt Berry's Phantom Birds, one of our favorite records. Cole's contributions the songs are considerable. It's hard to imagine them without him.

So when a friend said he had a B. J. Cole CD we could have if we wanted it, we said we wanted it. And so we have this beautiful and intriguing record called Transparent Things.

It starts with "Claire de Lune", which we weren't sure we needed to hear again, but this is a transformative rendition and also connected, for us, the Debussy piece to Santo and Johnny's "Sleep Walk", something of a steel guitar sacred text.

Then there's a sort of ambient piece called "Window on the Deep" written by Cole and keyboardist Guy Jackson. It started out reminding us of Ikue Mori's Painted Desert album but ends up in more of a spacy new age jazz zone.

"Pavane Pour Une Enfante Defunte" is a Bolero piece arranged by Cole and absolutely gorgeous. Cole's credit is as "Orchestral Steel Guitar" player and this shows why. Presumable that means overdubs?

"Slight Rhapsody" is another Cole/Jackson collaboration but simpler and shorter than "Window on the Deep" with more of a "Sleepwalk" energy.

Again, you might not think you need to hear anyone else take a stab at Saties's Gnossienes but Cole picks as his first subject "Gnossienne No. 5", which is our favorite and seems to be relatively underplayed. It's absolutely beautiful.

Another long Cole/Jackson tune, "Ely Cathedral", and this one suggests an Indian classical music influence.

The Cole original "Sun Tear Serenade" is a shimmering instrumental that sounds sometimes pop, sometimes spiritual, sometimes like soundtrack music.

Satie's "Gnossienne No. 3" comes next and this very familiar piece sounds freshly reimagined in Cole's arrangement, which adds an unsettling, almost menacing tone to it.

The record ends with Cole's arrangement of the English Christmas carol "The Coventry Carol", which retains some hymn-like harmonies but sounds very dreamy and otherworldly here.

It's a gorgeous record and we'll be looking out for Mr. Cole.
2023 April 05 • Wednesday

The newest release in the Ace Records Songwriter Series is Dolly Parton: A Way To Make a Living!

It's a great collection with well written and interesting liner notes that, detailed and researched as they are, can only gesture toward the story of Dolly Parton.

Even this compilation barely gets started on an overview of Parton's writing. She's been doing this for 60 years!

While a couple of these songs are performed by Parton herself—the collection starts with "9 to 5", from the movie of the same name, which was my own introduction to Dolly Parton—we had the sheet music for piano and I used to play it—"9 to 5" and the theme from The Greatest American Hero were my piano standards—it's fascinating to hear how many other voices have sung her stories.

Of course Porter Wagoner is here, and Emmylou Harris and Buck Owens and Linda Ronstadt and Merle Haggard and Hank Williams Jr. but the you'll also hear The Everly Brothers, Percy Sledge, Tina Turner, Glen Campbell, Chet Atkins, The White Stripes and Ru Paul!

(Dolly Parton has always been a supporter of the drag community and apparently secretly entered a drag impersonator contest as herself and lost.)

Every song is great but the highpoint might be Bettye Lavette's powerful, shadowy, menacing, bluesy and raw take on "Little Sparrow".

It's a disc that's going to get quite a few spins here at Gutbrain HQ.
2023 April 03 • Monday

The 772nd Soundtrack of the Week has to be the music from Rhinestone, brought to you by Dolly Parton with an assist from Mike Post.

First of all, this is a great movie. Sylvester Stallone said, more than thirty years later, that it was the most fun he'd had making a movie, ever, even though it wasn't the movie he had in mind at the beginning. (He co-wrote the screenplay.)

But we're only in it for the music. With one exception, all songs have words and music by Dolly Parton. She also sings the first one, "Tennessee Homesick Blues", which is not only a great song on its own but also works as exposition in the movie. It plays over the opening credits and by the time we're into the movie part of the movie we've already learned a lot of what we need to know about her character. This is the song with the line "It's hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world".

Likewise with "Too Much Water", not sung by Parton this time but by her friends and family back home in Tennessee. It's pretty and harmonious and obliquely indicates with the lyrics some of what might be going on for the main charaters.

“The Day My Baby Died" is the one song that Parton didn't write. Instead it's got music by Mike Post and words by Phil Alden Robinson. It starts out sounding a bit like "A Boy Named Sue" but then takes a turn for the serious and runs through various country-music tropes before totally overdoing it—which is the point. Again, this song has work to do in the movie.

Dolly Parton sings "One Emotion After Another", an intense song about the agonies and exhilarations of love, swooped up to great heights by Parton's tremendous voice: "I do love you baby but we can't get along / With or without each other it's all right or it's all wrong".

The next song, "Goin' Back to Heave", is sung by Stella Parton (Dolly's sister) and Kin Vassy. This is a somewhat boozy-sounding love duet and this particular recording is unique to the album and isn't in the movie. Maybe this is one of the Stallone Parton duets in the movie but given to Stella Parton and Kin Vassy for the record. I don't remember it, though.

"What a Heartache" is an intensely sad song and Dolly Parton is devastating with it. I should check if this is the song she does just solo in the movie. It's with a band here but the arrangement is great, particularly some of the electric bass slides.

Side A concludes with the big Act III number, "Stay Out of My Bedroom". This is the big moment the movie has been building to. Can Stallone sing? Can he sing and dance on stage in a glittery rhinetone cowboy outfit and win over an incredibly hostile NYC crowd? If you've seen a movie before, you probably know the answer! The song, like the movie itself, is infectiously joyful. The 1980s sucked in a lot of ways and one of those ways was the failure of this movie with both critics and audiences. And Sylvester Stallone, sure, he is who he is but I think it's actually kind of awe-inspiring that he did this movie, that he wanted to do this movie! He and Dolly Parton actually have wonderful chemistry and Stallone does his own singing. If you thought Brando in Guys and Dolls was impressive…

Side B opens with the first Stallone-Parton duet, "Woke Up in Love", which their characters perform at a Tennessee honky-tonk. In the movie this is also a significant test: can the Italian-American NYC cab driver be country enough for a real country audience? Again, if you've seen a movie before… but it doesn't matter because it's so much fun and all these Dolly Parton songs are really great. "Oh, I don't want to fall in love / I just want to fall in bed / Now that's exactly what we meant / But it's not exactly what we said."

Things get slow and serious for the gorgeous "God Won't Get You". How did Dolly Parton write so many incredibly good songs? The lyrics already carry devastating emotional impact but when brought to you by her flawless singing, they become irresistible forces.

To lighten the mood, Sly comes next to do a solo turn with the very strange song "Drinkin'stein'. But it doesn't really lighten the mood. Dolly Parton wrote this one, too, and this is a facet of hers that I wasn't previously aware of. In form and execution it's a drinking song but the lyrics are all about how some people are destroyed by alcohol. The chorus even has the line "Budweiser you've created a monster" while the verses report such things as "He's a good old boy at heart, like so many of us are / But when he's drinkin', that's something else again / Well, you can sneak on out and leave or you can sit and just agree / Or you can cross him, if you want your face knocked in". The arrangement is charged with Halloween energy, with sounds of howling wolves.

It's a relief to follow that with an upbeat and charming Sly/Dolly love duet. "Sweet Lovin' Friends" is a definite lift with the two leads trading lines: "Well, you're my kind of woman, you just naturally flow / You're my kinda man, you're always raring to go". The arrangement has some Mike Post in it for sure, particularly in the keyboard part.

Dolly Parton's brother Floyd Parton sings the next number, a song called "Waltz Me to Heaven". It's a sensuous waltz with dreamy steel guitar and the lyrics describe the lead up to a long-awaited romantic union: "Hold your heavenly body against mine so tight / As the band softly plays on this magical night".

After that we get physical and spiritual intensity of loving that rivals the Song of Solomon. "Butterflies" starts out with Dolly Parton singing "I would spin for you a blanket / Out of gold and silver threads / I would let my gentle bosom / Be the pillow for your head / I'd caress you perfect body / On a rosy bed at night / Play you love songs on a golden harp / And sing you Butterflies". Musically it has an insistent forward-driving pulse while keeping a sweet, swaying tenderness to the feel.

The album ends on a high note, with Parton and Stallone trading verses and trading lines in the chorus as they belt out lyrics declaring always to "be there" for each other. Such a great record and such a fun movie!