Last week, I wrote an article about the newly issued score for a film called Berberian Sound Studio by Broadcast (here) and casually stated that it was “probably the best soundtrack album ever released”. After listening to it several dozen more times, I stand by my somewhat hasty claim of greatness but it made me wonder if I hadn’t been a little rash in making such a proclamation. The obsessive in me has therefore gradually taken over and I have spent a good deal of time over the past few days playing a selection of other, much loved soundtrack LPs in a bid to reaffirm that initial statement – I do not take my opinions about music lightly! And so then dear reader, here is my pick of the best of the rest;
1. The Wicker Man – Paul Giovanni & Magnet (Trunk Records – 1998)
I might as well start with the soundtrack to one of my favourite films of all time; Robin Hardy’s 1973 British folk horror classic, The Wicker Man. If you’ve ever seen this work of cinematic genius then you’ll already appreciate what makes it such a powerful film, if not then you owe it to yourself to order a copy immediately with following caveat; make sure it’s the Director’s Cut edition which restores almost 15 minutes of vital footage which was butchered from the theatrical release. And so to the music, it’s hard to believe that the soundtrack for a film which uses music as such an integral part of the narrative was only released 15 years ago. Paul Giovanni succeeds in crafting a masterful collection of songs which take in gently psychedelic folk (Corn Rigs), nursery rhymes (Chop Chop), bawdy carousing (The Landlord’s Daughter) and various other lysergic treatments of traditional Scottish, Irish and English songs. There’s even room for a jaunty singalong featuring the richly sonorous voice of Christopher Lee (Tinker of Rye). In all, it’s a wonderful, deeply affecting collection of music which is essential listening for anyone who appreciates the strange and the beautiful.
2. The Andromeda Strain – Gil Mellé (Kapp Records, 1971)
Mellé Was an American jazz musician and artist who created iconic LP covers for such luminaries as Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins. He also constructed his own electronic instruments and used them to compose music for dozens of films and TV shows, including 70s classic The Six Million Dollar Man. The score for this futuristic thriller about the discovery of a deadly organism of extra terrestrial origin in a New Mexico town is my absolute favourite. Over the course of it’s brief 22 minute runtime, Mellé constructs a tense audio collage of electronically treated instruments, found sounds, white noise and tape manipulations. The soundtrack LP which was Originally released in 1971 deserves an article all of it’s own. It was issued in limited quantities as a hexagonal 10″ disc and came housed in a foiled, die-cut hexagonal enclosure which folded out to reveal stills from the film. Copies of this version of the LP now change hands for ridiculous sums of money amongst collectors.
3. The Dunwich Horror – Les Baxter (American International Records, 1970)
I have often wondered how the producers of this psychedelic 1970 adaptation of H.P Lovecraft’s weird tale of eldritch horror decided that the king of 50s/60s exotica would be the ideal person to provide the score. Baxter had previously issued a string of albums with titles such as ‘Caribbean Moonlight’ and ‘Bongo Party’ which I can confirm are most definitely not the stuff of nightmares. The music to this decidedly grade-B effort starring a fabulously moustachioed Dean Stockwell is fabulously groovy however and features some lovely touches of Moog, Theremin and eerie flutes and amongst the menacing arrangements.
4. Possession – Andrzej Korzyński (Finders Keepers, 2012)
Last year, the Finders Keepers label issued this rather essential album containing the complete and previously unreleased score for Andrzej Zulawski’s surrealist 80s horror classic and former ‘video nasty’, Possession. The enigmatic Polish composer Andrzej Korzyński originally delivered a series of 25 cues for the film, most of which were unused in the director’s final cut, but all of which are thankfully included on this album. There are enough synths, clavinets, Rhodes pianos, drum machines and proggy guitars nestled amongst the sweeping orchestral miniatures here to make this an essential listen.
5. La Planete Sauvage – Alain Goraguer (Pathé, 1973)
This rather surreal animated French sci-fi flick is a little seen, altogether odd affair but well worth tracking down a copy if you get the chance. The soundtrack is by jazz pianist Alain Goraguer who provided the orchestration on several early albums by a young Serge Gainsbourg. Here, Goraguer develops a series of reinterpretations of the main theme along with a number of other pieces which didn’t appear in the final cut of the film. The LP contains a great blend of styles, a few of which sound like a cross between Barrett-era Floyd jamming with Issac Hayes! It’s always a pleasure to sit down of an evening and listen to an album which combines raw wah-wah funk with pastoral strings and the occasional harpsichord flourish.