Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2023 July 31 • Monday

The 789th Soundtrack of the Week is John Barry's Chaplin.

Much of what distinguishes 1990s-era John Barry is here. A plaintiveness and sparer quality to the strings, for instance, and the use of lonely-sounding piano as a main melodic voice. The main theme establishes this right away, gesturing back toward Moonraker while “From London to L.A.” is reminiscent of Somewhere in Time.

“Early Days in London” is mostly lighthearted while also evoking a sense of a clown.

Most of the cues tend toward the melancholy, though. “Madness, Charlie?” brings in harp and harpsichord to join the strings and flute.

There’s also a bizarre cover of the song “Smile”, with electro-pop elements brought in and a club beat.

A sense of destiny is brought out in “Chaplin’s Studio Opening”, adding contrast to the alternation of brooding cue with peppy cue. When the full orchestra comes in, it’s glorious.

While this isn’t among Barry’s best scores, it might often remind you of some of those. It’s a must-have for admirers of this composer.
2023 July 24 • Monday

We are on one of a few short summer vacations. And what better way to celebrate than with Richard Band & Joel Goldsmith's score for all-time box-office smash summer blockbuster Laserblast? It's our 788th Soundtrack of the Week!

The main title uses synthesizers as if they were orchestral instruments to create a satisfyingly heavy and dramatic theme that has surprising lyricism, somewhat similar to the Madonna song “Live To Tell”.

“Mom’s Leaving” is a very short and sad-sounding cue for flute and cello in unison. It might be synthesizer versions of those instruments, of course.

Things get pretty cool with “Billy’s Radio #1”, presumably source music and a pretty cool rocking groove with a wailing synth solo over solid rhythm guitar, bass and drums.

Then there’s another sad-sounding cue, this one with piano as the main voice, for “Grandpa and Kathy”.

Things get more cheerful with “Billy’s Radio #2”, same band but with electric piano instead of synthesizer and a bass solo this time. It’s in 6/8.

“Deputy Chase” is a lampoon of silent movie piano music, almost as bad as saloon piano from western scores.

Then more radio! But this time it’s “Chuck’s Radio #1”, with distorted electric guitar soloing and a more aggressive drum part.

“Alien Blasted - Billy Finds Gun - First Laserblasting” is a long name for a short cue, mostly tense and suspenseful music with interesting blending of electric and acoustic instruments, most notably percussion.

A beautiful love theme featuring strings and flute is next, for “Billy and Kathy”. It’s a bit similar to Joel’s father Jerry’s “Ilia’s Theme” from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Agreeably weird synth sounds as well as electro ostinati shape “Aliens in Ship - Alien Boss on Screen” while “Tony Discovers Black Spot” is almost a lower pitched, more low key version of the same thing.

Another 6/8 groove for the band, with the distorted electric guitar returning is brought in for “Party Music”, followed by the delicate and sensitive “Love Theme After Fight”.

Some long tones from the synth create eerie and ominous textures for “Billy in Mirror - Chuck Goes to Car”. Just in time for “Chuck’s Car Gets Blasted”, a synth piece with a pulsing undercurrent and some synth brass sounds.

Low throbs, high ostinato, long tones and an intriguing flute line make up “Tony Arrives at Police Station” while “Operation Montage - Dr. Mellon Examines Billy” uses acoustic guitar, synth trumpet and long tones.

Nice use of delay on some gentle and mysterious synth lines gives “Lab Montage” an unsettling quality before things get more troublesome with the gradually building and almost avantgarde “Billy at Gas Station”.

The love theme returns for “Billy and Kathy Make Love” but as so often happens, love making is followed by “More Laserblasting”, a great cue with an almost paranoid edge to it, lots of little percussive bits and a monomaniacal piano part.

“Chuck’s Radio #2” is a straight-up rocker with electric guitar and piano soloing.

Martial snare drumming is brought in for the strong conflict music of “Billy Battles Plane”, to be followed by a longish cue, a mini-suite, “Billy Blows Town Up”.
2023 July 17 • Monday

Michael Kamen's score for Company Business is the 787th Soundtrack of the Week.

The first two tracks are quite long, about 11 minutes for the first and about 15 minutes for the second.

“Journey to Alexanderplatz” starts with a plucked European instrument (balalaika?) before the orchestra swoops in with a wonderful international intrigue theme, melodic and colorful. This yields to a more driving and urgent theme of tension and action, sustained until the end, which gradually slows and stops, punctuated by some unsettling pizzicato.

Gently swirling piano figures with restrained string accompaniment begin “Faisal’s Escape”. This was one is really like a suite of cues, with lots of spaces, changing textures and alternating orchestral and solo instrument voices, with woodwinds especially featured.

Romantic violin or viola starts off “Natasha”, which is also a somewhat perkier version of the first cue’s urgent suspense theme mixed with what sounds like romantic intrigue.

Then we get some relaxed, late-night jazz for the “Cafe Jatte”, with absolutely fantastic tenor saxophone and an intro by whatever European plucked instrument we heard before. About halfway through, though, it switches to tense dramatic underscore.

Something’s up at the “Eiffel Tower” in thr next cue, which is almost Bond-like in its tremendously effective use of the orchestra to suggest action and feeling, mostly of the dangerous kind.

The great tenor player returns for “The Island”, a light and breezy number that fuses jazz with European rhythms and playful string arrangements.

The next several cues were more or less covered in the long opening tracks or other cues. There’s some nice violin playing in “Grigori” and “Sam & Grushenko Meet Natasha” and some beautiful zither- or harp- or zither-like lined in “Natasha Is Followed”.

The other piece of note is a lovely bit of tropical island music, used as source music for whatever island location is in “The Island”.
2023 July 14 • Friday

If we're looking at license plates in television shows, what else are we looking at? Helicopter numbers, of course!

That's from an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man called "The Day of the Robot", which we watched on Father's Day this year for personal reasons.

After it ended, though, we were reluctant to get out of the rocking chair and so started playing another episode, "Population Zero".

Same helicopter! And used by the bad guys in both episodes. Is there a helicopter service that exclusively caters to villains? I think so!

2023 July 12 • Wednesday

Prepare to have your mind blown. The license plate number of Jim Rockford's Pontiac Firebird is 853 OKG… most of the time!

Presumably, however, they could save some time and money by shooting with two cars. Like if they just needed a shot of the car driving and they told the second unit to go get it while the first unit was filming actual James Garner also in his car.

And that's where the same car with almost the same license plate number, 835 OKG, comes in!

We'll get a better picture down the road… We've seen it several times in the first two seasons. (We're watching the series in order.)

2023 July 10 • Monday

The 786th Soundtrack of the Week is the third we know of that claims to be "the first completely electronically scored motion picture": Mort Garson's Didn't You Hear?.

So which one was really first? It has to be Forbidden Planet but Gil Mellé rejects that because it wasn't really "scored". That is, the composers didn't think of the sounds they wanted to hear and then produce them, they produced a bunch of sounds and said, here, use these in the movie. Whereas Mellé took the more traditional compositional approach to scoreing The Andromeda Strain, which is why he claims it's the first true all-electronic film "score".

The problem with that is that it denies spontaneous composition. If Forbidden Planet doesn't count as an electronic score because the music wasn't thought of and written out first, then that probably means that Anton Karas's music for The Third Man shouldn't count as the world's only completely solo zither score for a movie, for the same reason.

And now there's Didn't You Hear, which is from 1970, while The Andromeda Strain is from 1971. We're going to leave it at that. We don't really care which one came first but it has to be Forbidden Planet.

The main title for Didn't You Hear? would be a straightforward kind of sappy/poppy song if it weren't for the otherworldly sonorities of Garson's electronic music, which sounds like what a hippy Raymond Scott might have got up to.

The second track, "No Smoking", is more in line with less commercial electronic composition, a weaving, woozy, windy piece of electronica that sounds very sci-fi. It starts out smooth and then shifts abruptly to staccato and noisy.

Then there are "Dream Sequence I" and "Dream Sequence II". The first one begins with what sounds like an analog synthesizer imitating what a harp might conventionally play to suggest falling asleep and dreaming but almost immediately swerves into a tense and aggravated pulsating electro-prog groove before changing again into a brief cloud of texture. The second part is calmer and more spacious, suggesting cloudy feelings and milder anxiety.

"Kevin's Theme" has a descending ostinato line with a delicate melody played on top, actually pretty but also with an undercurrent of unease.

Then it's time for "Sail! Sail!", which is part electronic freak out and part Raymond Scott-ish melodious mood.

The A side wraps up with "Kevin and Paige", another sci-fi sounding cue that has a mysterious and lonely quality to it.

The B side opens with "Bamboo City", which begins with some Doctor Who-ish low tones before jumping into a brisk, percussive section that suggests considerable urgency.

"Walk to Grange Hall" is actually a light, relaxed, sunny-sounding piece that starts spacious before becoming a kind of happy, peppy, poppy sort of number. It also goes back and forth between 4/4 and 3/4. This is maybe Mort Garson channeling Burt Bacharach.

A more pensive, thoughtful mood is established in "Virgil's Theme", with the synth suggesting the plaintive tones of a violin.

After that comes "Walk to the Other Side of the Island", which starts out fairly minimalist but eventually becomes a cheerful and breezy waltz.

An eerie feeling appropriate to midnight ghost stories, complete with some bell-like noises, dominates the gratifyingly creepy "Death Talk and Jeep Approach", while "Jeep Ride" is an energetic and almost rocking piece that could probably be effectively covered by a live band.

"Dead Tree" is another outer space-sounding cue, agreeably weird and unusual. The synth!

Then there's a reprise of the main title, with vocals again. All in all, a great record!

2023 July 07 • Friday

We get a lot of recommendations from Paperback Warrior and we're also inclined to follow the Paperbacks from Hell trail. Our latest sampling from that worthy imprint is David Fisher's The Pack, which is sort of a Jaws-ish book but with a bunch of dogs instead of a big shark.

The story, which doesn't seem especially plausible, is about regular dogs who are brought by city people to a summer resort island and then abandoned there at the end of the season.

Did people ever really do this? Get a summer dog from the pound and then ditch it at the end of vacation, reasoning that it was going to be euthanized anyway? The island is modeled on Fire Island so these people mostly come from Manhattan, but still…

The protagonist is the pointedly named Larry Hardman, married with two children and a dog, a regular family dog, not the disposable kind. His family has come to Burrows Island in the winter to visit Larry's parents and to convince them that, at their advanced age, it's not advisable for them to live in such a remote, isolated place and that they should move into their son and daughter-in-law's Manhattan apartment.

Nobody wants this to happen except Larry and even he recognizes that the island is really the place for his parents.

Oh but the dogs. They're cold and hungry and an assortment of them have been sticking together as a pack, led by a bug gray shepherd. The main conflict in the book starts when the dogs meet up with Larry and Diana's very young daughter. The dogs are hungry enough to eat anything but they still connect humans with friendship and alliances, so child and dogs just kind of look at each other for a while.

Leave it to humans, though. Larry is understandably more than a little alarmed so takes a rifle and shoots at the leader, missing him but killing his mate.

Whoops. Now it's war.

The Pack is a great read, very well written, with a brisk pace and satisfying plot movements. The required suspension of disbelief isn't heavier lifting than it is in a lot of books, especially horror novels, and you'll probably finding yourself preferring to turn the page than to question the realism.

The characters are all especially well drawn, which is important in a book like this, and when Fisher decides to introduce Larry's younger brother, Kenny, not just an opposite but a lifelong rival, the energy level gets a spike at just the right time.

The body count goes up fast. Don't get too attached to anyone.

This was another good one. It was originally published in hardcover, though, so is it really a Paperback from Hell?

The first line is "It was the second day in September, the final day of the summer rental season".

2023 July 05 • Wednesday

We don't enjoy spending time on the computer much these days. And we're also not staring at screens as much as we used to. But the Gutbrain Records staff always reads the Paperback Warrior blog.

And perhaps we've mentioned in the past that our reading tastes heavily favor books about armored car heists or bank robberies.

So when the Paperback Warrior people said that Robert Page Jones's The Heisters was "one of the finest hardboiled crime caper novels" they'd ever read and that "you should definitely seek out a copy ASAP", we did just that.

They did not steer us wrong. This is a lean and mean novel, expanded from a short story, with nightmarish scenarios and tortured characters that would fit nicely into one of Cornell Woolrich's psycho hellscapes.

Things start when Johnny, an independent trucker who's broke and also gloomily pondering not only his lack of credit but also of money and love (he had just walked in on his wife cheating on him before he hit the road again), breaks down in the middle of nowhere.

First he gets a quote for repair that he can't afford. Then a sexy woman in a roadhouse picks him up only as part of an arrangement with the cops so they can pick him up and beat him up, too.

Then the repairs turn out to be even more than he was originally quoted. He's got no money and he's also badly injured.

But one of the cops, as well as the mechanic who worked on his truck, and the woman who set him up and her boyfriend, are all about to knock off an armored car carrying almost a million dollars cash for a nearby army base's payroll needs.

And they can use Johnny and his truck.

Does he even have a choice?

It would have been hard for us not to like this book, but it's even better than it sounds, as the author expertly brings the characters to life with vivid sketches and well-turned phrases. Even people who are more or less incidental to the plot—the guards in the armored car, for instance—seem like real people that you know and understand as soon as they show up.

Here's a little bit of our introduction to Johnny:

He remembered the first time he had held a gun. A long time ago. He had been a little boy. He had picked the gun off the floor by the body of his father. He remembered standing on tiptoe and looking into his father's coffin in the parlor of their home. And he still remembered the peculiar smell and he remembered someone saying, "Ain't it just marvelous the way they patched his face back together. Kind of magical almost. Like he never really blowed his brains out." And another voice: "Hush up, Sarah. You'll scare the boy."

As you can see, Johnny's bad luck has been with him a long time. And in that short paragraph we learn not only that, but that he's had a traumatic childhood and that he isn't from a rich family. All of that without saying so directly.

So the build up to the heist and the establishment of characters are great. The heist itself is terrific and also brutal. Then, after the heist, the book takes an unusual but very gratifying turn before hurtling toward one fairly predictable twist that functions as misdirection so you won't even be considering the real twist at the end.

The Paperback Warrior people know what they're talking about.

The first line is "It had begun to rain when he picked up Highway 77 outside of Friersville".

2023 July 03 • Monday

Fabio Frizzi's score for Un gatto nel cervello (Cat in the Brain) is our 785th Soundtrack of the Week.

“Un gatto nel cervella — seq. 1” is a slinky and suspenseful groove that builds in intensity, starting with electric keyboards, electric bass and drums before exploding with a wailing electric guitar solo.

The second sequence has the bass continuing the relentless pulse of the previous cue but this time with synth pads and other instrumental statements added.

“Giro di blues” is like an old New Orleans-style jazz number complete with banjo and mellifluous clarinet playing.

The third sequence is kind of a tense Spartan action funk thing with synth flute and distorted electric guitar. It also builds nicely.

Sequence 4 appears to be a full-blown love theme, synthed up to the max. It has a nice melody.

Things veer into straight-up horror score for the smeary dread of “Un gatto nel cervella — seq. 5”, a textural and monomaniacal cue.

Sequence 6 retains some of the previous track’s dread while also folding in some more romantic elements. The keyboard forms the harmonic shape with big chords driven into the piece like fence posts.

Most of the other sequences revisit the previous territories. There’s also a muscular choral number, “Sequenza coro e orchestra”, like a cue from The Omen on a strict diet.