Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2023 September 29 • Friday

I've been meaning to tell you to go buy Reuben Radding's new photozine, Portals in the Thing, but I put it off for too long and now it's sold out!

It's excellent as always. You can always take a look at my copy!

2023 September 27 • Wednesday

When it comes to crowdsourced projects, I'm generally pretty enthusiastic. But I might have been most enthusiastic about backing the recording of Sandy Bell's new record Entelechy.

And now it's here!

It's amazing, moving and gorgeous.

Check it out for yourself and buy it here!

2023 September 25 • Monday

For the 797th Soundtrack of the Week we return to one of our favorite composers still active today: Howard Shore and his music for the movie Sliver.

“Main Title/Naomi’s Fall” begins with a repeated figure om harp, soon joined by a heavy drum beat and a reverby trumpet melody. Strings come in and flute takes up the harp melody until the track ends with some stings and dissonant long tones that suggest something horrific.

The trumpet returns with lush string and harp accompaniment for the richly layered “Carly Comes to Sliver”, which mixes elements of jazz ballad and dramatic underscore.

Then the flute alternates between major and minor keys for the contemplative “Carly Meets Zeke”, followed by the short and suspenseful “She Jumped”.

“Golfing” presents a wistful and slightly mysterious melody that sounds like it’s played on a recorder or some other wood flute, again with strings and harp backing.

The main title theme is reprised for “Voyeur” while “Telescope” brings in clarinet for a different theme with ominous swelling bass tones and harp that gestures toward the main title theme.

Various long tones get stacked upon each other, leading to solid unison lines and then a second melody with chimes, brass and woodwinds in “Gus Is Dead/Microfiche”.

Piano and strings create a mostly sunny mood for “I’ll Call You” while the first half of “Laundry Room” is more or less one long mote and the second half two or three slightly shorter notes.

The main title theme is reprised for “First Sex” and then altered and built upon for “Zeke Owns the Building”, which has some very precise use of strings and chimes.

A gentler feel followed by sultry jazz trumpet comes next in “The Rose/He Was So Good”.

Then there’s the mini suite of “The Game/I Win, You Lose/The Rain”, which floats on delicate harmonic movement and serene, lyrical melodies.

Shades of Herrmann and Barry creep into “Vida’s Death/Carly Sees Vida” and Shore brings out timpani and string-driven energy for intensity.

After that we hear a reprise of the main title theme in “Monitor Room Reveal” followed by a longer, alternate take of “Golfing”.

“Rose II/Grab” begins with a soaring melody and ends in a more apprehensive mood, leading to “The Fight/To the Key”, which begins with the main title theme before reprising a secondary theme.

For “The End” we get some interesting variations on what’s come before, as opposed to simple restatements of the main theme. The big beat from the opening track is back but this time has an interesting string melody on top, for instance.

Then there are some alternate cues, apparently versions used in the movie, by Christopher Young.

“Microfiche” is light and airy but suspenseful with cool use of percussion and breathing sounds.

“The Fight” is sparse, percussive and electronic while “To the Key” uses synthesizers to create a mood not too different from Shore’s.

Young’s “The End” nods to Shore’s main title but brings in more electronic instruments and a different drum and percussion groove.

The work of both composers is very good but different enough that I wonder if the contrast in the actual movie was jarring.
2023 September 22 • Friday

Did you know that I had a Soundcloud page? Yeah, neither did I. I mean, I must have known at some point but I totally forgot about it until I came across it by accident a little while ago.

The only thing on it is an All Region Player recording session from eight years ago. This was at Peter Karl's studio when he was still on Douglass Street. Scott Friedlander took the pictures.

What was I planning to do with these recordings? I don't know. Presumably I wasn't entirely satisfied with how they came out and that almost certainly means that I didn't like my own playing.

Ben and Andy sound great, as always. And, you know, listening to it now, I like what I do on it also. And I don't play like this anymore so I'm glad there's this record of it.

Here's Scott's photo that I'm using for the "cover":

I was especially pleased that our cover of Akira Ifukube's Latitude Zero theme got several positive responses.

Click on the photo to check it out!

2023 September 20 • Wednesday

Here it is, almost autumn. And appropriately enough, the new Gutbrain release is out and it's the latest record by that master of autumnal moods, Bob Davoli.

Normally I would write about this record here but I actually already did that. I wrote the liner notes!

So buy it here and listen and read!

2023 September 18 • Monday

Merrill Jenson's score for Windwalker is the 796th Soundtrack of the Week.

The main title is a lush and gorgeous orchestral piece that sustains and swells while subtle percussion additions add nice sonic touches. It unexpectedly veers into dissonance at the end.

Wooden flute starts off “Love Flute and Birth”, or perhaps two flutes, one low and one high, in a call and response. A shaker, some chimes and hand percussion all delicately embellish the melody. Strings appear about halfway through to add another layer.

The birth theme gets a response in “Tashina’s Death and Search”, which has what sounds like harpsichord playing in unison with the flute while bass, strings and harp generate a beautiful sonic environment for them.

Long bowed bass notes and violent swipes at the harp strings create an ominous feeling for “Crow Village”, which also has wooden flute as its main voice. About halfway through it explodes into a full-orchestra action cue.

“Burial Ground” isn’t lighthearted but it starts out kind of swinging before flowing in a dramatic and romantic direction. Near the end it sounds like peril, though.

Swirling harps, sustained strings, triumphant brass pronouncements, a return of the “Birth” flutes, percussion, all combine for an intense “Resurrection”, which starts out sounding like Star Wars before veering into Star Trek II territory.

Something playful is usually appreciated after something as forceful as “Resurrection” and “Little Warriors”, while still solid and powerful and beautifully composed, does have a sunny frolic sort of energy to it.

The full orchestra is deployed at a high energy level again for the tremendous “Bear Kill”, which brilliantly alternates between dense and spacious, eventually having solo flute introducing a theme that gets taken up by the orchestra.

Flute and harp introduce “Return of Grandfather”, eventually joined by strings playing long tones that introduce an element of unease.

After a brief harp, piano and percussion bit of unusual timbres, the orchestra announces a surprisingly conventional-sounding fanfare for “Final Battle”. After that, there are fewer instruments and more space, giving a sense that the dramatic conflict is being played out by these instruments themselves.

“Walk in the Wind of Eternity” revisits the main theme, the “End Titles” start with a triumphant fanfare for brass before bringing in the strings for a soaring last hurrah.

Finally there’s a mini-suite for the last track.
2023 September 15 • Friday

Early on in the Rockford Files episode "A Bad Deal in the Valley", Jim Rockford walks into a trap, as frequently happens.

The first indication that it's a trap comes when Jim sits down in a waiting room, picks up a magazine to read and remarks, with disbelief, that the magazine is Collier's.

The Gutbrain library contains some issue of Collier's but it wasn't immediately clear to the archivist here, overworked as he is, why this should be a red flag for the redoubtable TV detective.

Well, "A Bad Deal in the Valley" was broadcast on March 19, 1976, and that's also more or less when it's supposed to take place. The month and day are fairly elastic but the year, not so much.

(March 19 is also Patrick McGoohan's birthday. COINCIDENCE?)

Collier's was long gone by 1976. The last issue's cover date was January 4, 1957. The actual one that Jim is perusing has a cover date of June 22, 1956. So his incredulity is understandable.

I forget who was setting this trap but I think it was a law enforcement organization, the FBI or the Treasury or something like that. How did they end up with a twenty-year-old magazine?

Whatever the case, it's a nice touch.

2023 September 13 • Wednesday

In the Six Million Dollar Man episode "The Day of the Robot", Steve Austin plays tennis with his old friend Frederick Sloan.

Their conversation indicates that Sloan usually wins. I think he even says that Austin has never taken a set off him before. BUt this time Steve wins, I think in straight sets.

But unlike Jaime Sommers, a professional tennis player who retired from competition once she got bionic limbs, which would give her an unfair advantage, to put it mildly, Steve Austin uses his bionic powers for exactly this purpose, to beat his friend at tennis.

Interestingly, he does this in the worst possible way, using not his legs or arm but his bionic eye to look at where he wants the ball to go when of course taking your eye off the ball is the most common way to make an unforced error.

Oscar Goldman shows up after their match and we can admire how their racquet covers match their outfits.

Two years later, Jim Rockford and sort-of client Marcus Hayes are in a foot chase, car chase, shots fired situation in what appears to be the same park.

I spent minutes comparing the two scenes and I'm satisifed that they, like, probably use the same location. There's a book about The Rockford Files that I'll probably read someday and there's probably also one about The Six Million Dollar Man and maybe they'll confirm this.

2023 September 11 • Monday

The 795th Soundtrack of the Week is this CD of music from Jacques Tati films.

The score for Jour de Fête, by Jean Yatove, is mostly breezy 3/4 accordion-driven cues, though there are some nice electric guitar bits as well as a player-piano piece.

Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot is represented by four jazz combo pieces. Three of them, by Alain Romans, are Peter Gunn-ish in their late-night, post-bop swing and use of electric guitar and vibes. The other, by Maxime Saury, looks back more to an earlier hot jazz era.

Franck Barcellini contributes three breezy and cheerful numbers for Mon Oncle while Georges Doumenq is responsible for the playful and perky "Voitures Ballet".

A frenzy of percussion and an unusual organ sound kick of the music for Playtime with an Alain Romans-written piece, which unexpectedly settles down into a flowing and lyrical cue complete with wordless choir. David Stein has a cue which starts as solo piano, appropriate for a hotel lobby, before a guitar joins in for a waltz.

James Campbell's contribution is more crazed percussion and organ and is considerably more out there then you might expect.

The remaining pieces are by Francis Lemarque and range from Mancini-like small group jazz, to very "French" accordion-powered compositions.

The last two films represented, Trafic and Parade are both scored by Charles Dumont, who shows a talent both for catchy jazz soundtrack music as well as ethereal vocal numbers and yet more accordion work-outs.

2023 September 08 • Friday

In "The Carriers", an early Mission: Impossible episode, the team has to infiltrate a deinitely-Soviet-but-technically-not-Soviet-because-the-foreign-countries-are-always-fictionalized-versions-of-real-countries training camp for agents who are going to be sent to the United States ton infiltrate everyday society.

Not exactly sleepers, the idea is that these agents will have jobs in which they interact with large numbers of people. Because the agents will all be infected with a deadly and highly contagious plague, of which they'll be unaware.

It's a good episode, notable for, among other things, the guest stars George Takei and Arthur Hill.

But what about your doctoral thesis? you ask. Well, pop cultural representations of small town midwest American life has been done to death, so why not try pop cultural representations of representations of small town midwest American life?

Here, you can compare the (presumably) behind the Iron Curtain fake Illinois town of Willow Grove, from "The Carriers", with the explicitly behind the Iron Curtain fake town of Indian Springs, Nebraska, from the movie The Experts.

The plot of The Experts is kind of like "The Carriers" in reverse. There's a fake midwest American small town in the Soviet Union where Soviet agents are undergoing immersive training to become so American that they blend in perfectly, with the idea that they will become undetectable sleeper agents in the United States.

The problem is, improbably, that all of their information about American life appears to come from 1950s Saturday Evening Post magazines. And so actual Americans played by John Travolta and Arye Gross are brought in as "experts" to bring the fake Americans up to speed.

These two don't know what they're doing, of course. They think they're in a real Nebraska town and getting paid to manage a night club. Since they're from New York City (where you can see posters for Fishbone and Sonic Youth concerts on the street), the time machine aspect of the situation just seems like a natural part of hicksville.

The plot of "The Carriers" was anticipated by the 1951 movie The Whip Hand and The Experts was certainly looking back at the success of Back to the Future (1980s guy in 1950s small town America) while also pointing forward to the movie Pleasantville.

Dancing is important to both "The Carriers" and The Experts, with IMF member Cinnamon Carter being assigned to study go-go dancing in the fake town and John Travolta hitting it off with future wife Kelly Preston on the dance floor.

When Pulp Fiction came out, I remember someone remarking that Tarantino had got Travolta to dance again. Well, it hadn't really been that long since The Experts.

And interestingly enough, Travolta's outfit in The Experts, and the centrality of the dancing scene, seems quite similar to the famous Pulp Fiction number, set in a retro 1950s club.

Dave Thomas of SCTV fame directed The Experts and there are actors playing parts that clearly could have and perhaps should have been played by Rick Moranis and John Candy. Certainly there could have been things for the whole SCTV crew to do, though the film's cast do an excellent job.

2023 September 06 • Wednesday

The assertion that all good things come to those who wait is insane but certainly some good things do. Or at least things.

It's been over thirty years since I heard of a late-1950s television show called 21 Beacon Street, a precursor to Mission: Impossible, so much so that the creators of the earlier show sued the creators of the later show for plagiarism.

The show definitely has some Mission: Impossible-type plots: getting information from a document in a mobster's safe without letting the mobster know that anyone has had access and posing as a film crew shooting a scene in a Mexican bank to cover up the team's theft of sensitive information from a safe deposit bank are two examples.

In the first episode they fake the death of a state witness so the mob will stop trying to kill him. The leader of the team, Dennis Chase, who lives at the titular address, introduces the other characters.

"Joanna is beautiful and a Phi Beta Kappa."

"Brian [is] a law school graduate and an ex-Marine."

"And Jim, a jack of all trades."

It's pretty easy to see how these track to the Impossible Missions Force. Instead of opening each episode with Chase receiveing an assignment, 21 Beacon Street generally shows the criminals in action first, then an appeal to Chase and his staff, after which they begin their planning.

Chase himself narrates the program and gives a bit of a teaser for the next episode, a la Rod Serling in The Twilight Zone.

The theme music for 21 Beacon Street is a very slow, moody, almost static piece for small jazz combo with baritone sax as the voice. It's not especially melodic and if it swings at all, it's only in trace amounts.

No composer is credited in the show itself but "the internet" claims it's Dave Kahn, a name not known to me.

So after watching the first four episodes, my impression is that 21 Beacon Street is definitely a neat idea and, while it's really interesting that this prototypical Mission: Impossible exists, presumably created to appeal to the same audiences that were making Peter Gunn such a popular show, it's just kind of boring.

And while suspension of disbelief is part of the standard package for a show of this sort, 21 Beacon Street makes it a little too difficult, often by imposing ticking-clock deadlines that just don't seem feasible and are probably only there to manufacture tension.

I intend to slog through the whole thing, however, even though I've already fallen asleep during a couple of episodes.

2023 September 04 • Monday

The 794th Soundtrack of the Week is Henry Mancini's music for Peter Gunn. Again! However many different recordings there might be of this repertoire, it's not enough. This time around we have Aaron Bell and His Orchestra paying tribute.

The LP doesn't have much to say about the band but, uh, some website I looked at asserts that in addition to Bell on bass—he also played with Duke Ellington, Teddy Wilson and Lester Young, among others!—we hear Seldon Powell on flute and tenor sax, Kenny Burrell on guitar, Ray Bryant on piano and Eddie Costa on vibes.

These are some of my all-time favorite musicians playing some of my all-time favorite music, so….

The album starts with what I consider to be an error in judgement, or at least a decision not to my taste. The famous Peter Gunn theme is done in an airy and syncopated style. This might have been intended to make it more "jazzy" but it sacrifices the essential mood and atmosphere of the composition, changing it from late-night menace to early-evening breeziness.

No such complaints about any of the other tunes, though. These are brilliant interpretations with fantastic playing from all involved. I wish I knew who the drummer was.
2023 September 01 • Friday

You can always count on Claire Daly. I wouldn't run to buy a new recording of jazz standards performed by most people but since this is Claire's group and Claire's record, there was no hesitation.

And sure enough, VuVu for Frances is absolutely brilliant and has been wearing out the turntable here at Gutbrain Headquarters.

Daly plays baritone sax, as usual, and is joined by the great George Garzone on tenor, Jon Davis on piano, Dave Hofstra on bass and David F. Gibson on drums.

The album was recorded as a tribute to Claire's friend Frances, a 98-year-old "consummate New Yorker and life long jazz lover". The program is exhilarating, ranging from a lively "Sweet Georgia Bright" to a mesmerizingly dreamy "Mood Indigo".

And there are a few surprises as well. You don't usually hear something like "Harlem Nocturne" in a program of standards, and several of the tunes were unfamiliar to me.

Another surprise might be Garzone's "inside" playing. He and Daly have known each other for decades and have a truly inspiring connection you can hear, working together with astonishing sensitivity and energy.

On one tune, "The Lonely Goatherd", they even go outside the lines a bit for a bit of a blast off into free-ville. And it's absolutely wonderful.

But there's no reason just to take my word for it. Go get it!