Category Archives: Vinyl Records

Rocks In The Attic #633: Ramin Djawadi – ‘Westworld (O.S.T.)’ (2016)

RITA#633It’s a hard life being a soundtrack nut. Last week, I was waiting online to order a copy of the score to Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter [spoiler alert – as the fourth instalment of eleven films, it was far from being the final chapter] from the always excellent Waxwork Records. At 2am, when I found out that the record was going on sale in the USA at the equivalent of 5am NZ-time, I went to sleep for three short hours before waking up to place my order (a double LP in Tommy Jarvis blue & white swirl with green splatter), and then going back to sleep.

Last week I also received Waxwork’s repressing of John Harrison’s 1985 Day Of The Dead score in a lovely blood-smear double LP set; and earlier this morning, the postman brought me a trans-Pacific package from Newbury Comics, featuring John Carpenter and Allan Howarth’s score to Christine (1983), in a blue and gold split red splatter, and this, the soundtrack to HBO’s Westworld TV series, in blood red vinyl.

I have to admit, I was a little cautious when I heard that they were remaking Westworld into a television show. The 1973 sci-fi western is an old favourite of mine from when I would tape films off the TV in the middle of the night, and although a recent rewatch showed that it has dated quite a bit, you still don’t want TV companies from ruining something you hold in high regard.

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But it’s HBO we’re talking about – the company behind The Sopranos and The Wire, arguably the two best TV shows of the 21st century – so the subject matter would surely be in safe hands. Ultimately those hands belong to Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, as creators of the show. Jonathan Nolan has been an integral part of his brother Christopher’s work, co-writing Memento, the Dark Knight trilogy, The Prestige and Interstellar, so I was sold on his involvement alone.

Supported by an intriguing all-star cast (Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton and Jeffrey Wright), the show was very good, although structurally it felt a little too unbalanced with its numerous narrative twists all taking place in the last couple of episodes. Nolan and Joy have suggested that the show will run to five seasons, so if anything, the groundwork has been laid for some more cerebral television.

My favourite aspect of the show however, was the music. Not only does Ramin Djawadi’s score give us a lovely bit of cello in the ominous title theme, but the real aural treat is the show’s diagetic music. Played on a pianola, the anachronistic soundtrack features honky-tonk piano renditions of Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun, the Stones’ Paint It Black, the Animals’ arrangement of House Of The Rising Sun, Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black, the Cure’s A Forest, and Radiohead’s Fake Plastic Trees, No Surprises and Exit Music (For A Film).

Hit: Main Title Theme – Westworld

Hidden Gem: Black Hole Sun

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Rocks In The Attic #632: Amen Corner – ‘Greatest Hits’ (1977)

RITA#632Greatest Hits can mean a lot of things. Some collections can cover decades, some much shorter. This disc represents the latter: twelve songs from a band that had a very short life, in that they only recorded across two years – 1968 and 1969.

Opening with the #1 single, (If Paradise Is) Half As Nice, things slip downhill quite suddenly with a cover of the Beatles’ Get Back. It’s not a bad cover – in fact, they re-imagine the song quite well from the original – but the prospect of a cover song as the second song on a Greatest Hits collection doesn’t bode well.

In fact, of the record’s twelve songs, another two are well-known covers – a more straightforward, yet sloppier, version of the Band’s The Weight that outstays its welcome, and a peaky version of the American Breed’s Bend Me, Shape Me – while the album’s final four songs are all live recordings. Surely this is the dictionary definition of scraping the barrel; but good on Immediate Records for trying.

Released in 1977 to benefit from frontman Andy Fairweather Low’s burgeoning solo career (and sideman to the likes of Eric Clapton and George Harrison), the album is a nice little nostalgia trip, and a snapshot of the band’s short life at the headier, and musically more interesting, end of the 1960s.

Hit: (If Paradise Is) Half As Nice

Hidden Gem: Get Back

Rocks In The Attic #631: Cat Stevens – ‘Teaser And The Firecat’ (1971)

RITA#631.jpgI think these pink Island Records centre-labels might just be my favourite. They’re also a mark of quality, appearing in my collection on the discs for Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left and Fairport Convention’s Liege And Lief.

Sometimes shovelled into the same brand of benign soft-folk as James Taylor, Cat Stevens has a timeless appeal. Much of the soulful acoustic pop I hear on pop radio these days sounds like it owes a debt to his body of work.

Aside from the well-known Morning Has Broken, which I remember being forced to sing in school when I was growing up, and the album’s lead single Moonshadow, this record really hits it out of the park with it’s opening track, The Wind. Utilised to melancholic introspective perfection in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore, it’s a cracker of a song in a cracker of a film.

RITA#631a.jpgI recall a story a few years ago, in the wake of 9/11, of Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam being held at an airport on suspicion of being a terrorist. About as way-off an accusation as you can get, it’s comparable with suspecting the Dalai Lama of a drink-driving hit and run. I’ve always wondered if those airport security guards felt stupid after that.

Hit: Moonshadow

Hidden Gem: The Wind

 

Rocks In The Attic #630: Krzysztof Komeda – ‘Rosemary’s Baby (O.S.T.)’ (1968)

tp0004c_SP_DPGate_CoverThere’s a moment in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby where, during what we’re initially led to believe is a dream sequence, Mia Farrow’s Rosemary is raped by an unseen person while the residents of her apartment complex look on, naked. As the camera pans across the small crowd, from left to right, we spot Rosemary’s husband, Guy.

‘She’s awake, she sees,’ he says to their neighbour Minnie.

‘She don’t see,’ Minnie replies.

‘THIS IS NO DREAM! THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING!’ shouts Rosemary.

This small exchange is one of the most horrifying moments in American cinema. The prospect of being targeted by a Satanic cult is one thing; the realisation that your husband and protector might be part of the conspiracy is even more shocking.

RITA#630b.jpgIt provokes the same gut-wrenching sense of doom as the final moments of Tommy Lee Wallace’s Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (1982), in which Tom Atkins’ character screams down the phone to the television company, pleading with them to not play the commercial that is going to cause so much carnage.

This is when horror really connects; when it really matters. Hollywood loves jump-scare horror, because it sells tickets, but psychological horror is far more effective. The truly disturbing thing about Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) isn’t the shower scene, it’s the thought that one day you might stay at the seemingly benign Bates Motel; and no matter what precautions you take, that nice motel manager you just met always has a key to your room.

RITA#630aSpielberg’s Jaws (1975) – often derided when labelled as a horror film – is just as shocking as Polanski and Hitchcock’s work. What could be more horrific than the thought, just the lingering idea, that a killer shark might be circling in the gloomy darkness beneath you as you swim? It plants a seed, just like the prospect of Norman Bates making plans behind closed doors.

Released in June 1968, Rosemary’s Baby is an oddity for the horror genre. It’s an urban horror, taking part in a metropolitan area (New York) as opposed to the conventional rural- or suburban-set horror. The lighting of the film also goes against type. This isn’t a film of shadow and darkness; much of the picture takes place during the daytime, and in the scenes that do take place after the sun has set, most shots are well lit. This isn’t the kind of film where evil lurks in the shadows; instead it exists in plain sight where you’d least expect it.

Komeda’s score is the strongest indicator that the film rightfully belongs in the horror genre. The location, the cast and the script might all scream drama – or at most, thriller – but the music is right out of a haunted house. Most unnerving is Mia Farrow’s lullaby over the waltzing opening titles; an ominous foreboding of innocence corrupted.

The film left a sour taste in popular culture. Not only are there the obvious parallels with the murder of Polanski’s pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, a year later at the hands of the satanic Manson cult, but the final shot foreshadows yet another tragedy.

RITA#630c.jpgThe film’s end credits roll over a high crane shot looking down at Rosemary’s apartment complex, the Bramford. In reality, the location is the Dakota complex in Manhattan, which was used for external shots only. Well-known as the residence of John Lennon and Yoko Ono from 1973 onwards, the Dakota’s architecture looks well-suited as the location of a film about devil worship in New York City. As the camera pans down, the final frame of the film shows two people walking into the building’s south entrance, the same archway through which Lennon was walking as he was gunned down by his assassin, Mark Chapman, in December 1980.

Hit: Main Title

Hidden Gem: Furnishing The Apartment

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Rocks In The Attic #629: America – ‘America’ (1971)

RITA#629You’d be forgiven for thinking that the band America was from that side of the Atlantic. Aside from their name, they also sound a lot like an American proposition; not a million miles away from the soft-rock and smooth harmonies of the Eagles.

Formed in 1970, the trio (one British-born, two American-born) met each other while studying in London where their respective fathers were stationed in the U.S. Air Force. They wisely named themselves America to avoid people thinking they were a British band trying to sound American.

Unfortunately they’re the type of band that is now relegated to charity shops. Future singles A Horse With No Name (later added to this album upon its release as a single) and Ventura Highway are both fantastic and still sound great today.

Produced by Ian Samwell, the man who wrote Cliff Richard’s Move It, the band’s self-titled debut is a nice slice of somewhat melancholic folk pop. More than anything, they follow the template set down by Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young) – in fact, the lead single on this record, I Need You, bears more than a passing resemblance to CSNY’s Our House from their Déjà Vu album.

As an aside, surely Neil Young’s sometime-membership of that band should compel us to refer to them as Crosby, Stills, Nash Or Young…

Hit: I Need You

Hidden Gem: Riverside

Rocks In The Attic #628: Huey Lewis & The News – ‘Huey Lewis & The News’ (1980)

RITA#628Before Huey Lewis and his band struck the big time with the Sports and Fore! albums, they were just another band struggling to get noticed. Neither this debut album or its two singles – Some Of My Lies Are True (Sooner Or Later) and Now Here’s You – charted, and with a result like that it’s a blessing that they got a second chance.

Many other bands – thousands in fact – would have fallen by the wayside, its players moving on to more promising ventures. Not only did Chrysalis Record give Huey Lewis & The News another shot, the band also managed to (alongside Bob Brown) self-produce their second album, Picture This, a decision that surely couldn’t have been taken lightly at Chrysalis. The risk paid off, and the band was allowed to mature into the ‘80s chart-toppers they are now remembered as.

It wasn’t an easy road though. Lewis and keyboard player Sean Hopper first joined Clover, the band that, without Lewis, went on to become Elvis Costello’s backing band on his 1977 debut, My Aim Is True. In the resulting fallout, Lewis and Hopper created a new band, enlisting players from Clover’s rival San Fransisco band, Soundhole. With guitarist Johnny Colla, bassist Mario Cipollina and drummer Bill Gibson on board, the band – initially named Huey Lewis & The American Express – signed with Phonogram in 1978 on a singles-only contract.

A year later, they brought another guitarist – Chris Hayes – into the fold and signed with Chrysalis Records. Not surprisingly, Chrysalis didn’t care for the name of the band, fearing litigation from the credit card provider, and so the name was changed to Huey Lewis & The News. Ironically, American Express credit cards would probably have loved the free publicity a few years later when Fore! struck gold.

The debut record is full of energy, and has a New Wave tinge that is missing on their later albums. The soulful backing vocals are there though, and if anything the record suffers from a lack of strong material and a rock-by-numbers production.

Hit: Some Of My Lies Are True (Sooner Or Later)

Hidden Gem: Don’t Make Me Do It

Rocks In The Attic #627: Jean-Michel Jarre – ‘Oxygène’ (1976)

RITA#627It is the year 1976. Or should that be 2076?

Oxygène Part IV – another song recently utilised to great effect on the Grand Theft Auto soundtracks, on the similarly numbered GTA IV.

This record features no song-titles, just Oxygène parts I through VI. In 1997, Jarre released a follow-up, Oxygène 7 – 13, and he’s still going strong, recently releasing Oxygène 3 in 2016, which features Oxygène parts 14 to 20.

Here’s to synths, futuristic French musicians, and a lazy song-numbering system.

Hit: Oxygène Part IV

Hidden Gem: Oxygène Part VI