Tag Archives: vinyl

Rocks In The Attic #715: Rod Stewart – ‘Body Wishes’ (1982)

RITA#715My Rod Stewart collection continues to grow and grow, despite me never having bought a Rod Stewart record in my life. I just keep acquiring them.

Even though his later records are junk compared to his more fruitful earlier material, both solo and with the Faces, I really don’t mind these later ones. I guess they could be described as mid-period albums, with his truly awful output these days being the ones to avoid like the plague.

I saw a documentary filmed at Rod’s house once. The guy loves football so much, he has a full-sized football pitch at the bottom of his house. I always thought that was a little extreme. It’s not like a snooker table or a dart board. You need twenty-one friends to come over and play on it to make it worthwhile. Not a problem, it seems, as he gets ten of his mates over and takes on the local amateur teams. Legend.

I’ve since seen that he’s bought another house and put a 7-a-side pitch in that one, so it looks like he’s slowly trading down.

This is Rod’s twelfth solo studio album and wasn’t received well despite a stonker of a lead single in Baby Jane, and a ‘so-1980s-it-hurts’ cover image paying homage to 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong.

Hit: Baby Jane

Hidden Gem: Move Me

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Rocks In The Attic #714: Enya – ‘Watermark’ (1988)

RITA#714Enya’s been on my mind recently.

I haven’t been thinking of her directly. She was just mentioned in passing online, and it really made me laugh. Apparently the ticketing agent Ticketmaster may be taken to court in a class-action lawsuit for being calculating, advantageous cunts when it comes to their business practices.

The outcome may be that Ticketmaster have to make good on everybody that they’ve sold concert tickets to in the last umpteen years – which is pretty much everybody in the western world.

‘Fantastic,’ somebody said. ‘Whatever they provide will be essentially useless. They’ll probably give us tickets to see Enya in the Philippines.’

Enya’s the type of music that I struggle to listen to, not because of how it sounds – which is essentially bland, inoffensive mood music – but more because I have trouble imagining the type of person that would be impressed by it.

We didn’t have any Enya on in our house when I grew up. I imagine it was played a lot in the home-counties, by boring, middle-aged married couples who don’t like foreign food or swearing.

Hit: Orinoco Flow

Hidden Gem: Watermark

Rocks In The Attic #713: Mantovani – ‘Hollywood’ (1967)

RITA#713I don’t know anything about Mantovani. This may be a good thing.

All I know about him is that he’s used as a reference in a joke in Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker film from 1988. In the film, a young boy and his grandmother (shot in claymation) are on a guided tour of a Hollywood film studio. The young boy spots Jackson emerging from a sound studio – after filming the ‘young kids’ version of the Bad music video – and excitedly tries to tell his grandmother who it is.

“Look Granny, it’s M… Mm… M… Mm…”

“Mantovani?” she asks.

“No! MICHAEL JACKSON!”

RITA#713aThis compilation is a run through of ‘60s film classics played through the lens of Mantovani’s easy-listening orchestra. Think Henry Mancini’s Lujon applied to the melodies of John Barry, Elmer Bernstein and Maurice Jarre. It’s not as bad as it could be…

Hit: Goldfinger

Hidden Gem: Theme From Ben Hur

Rocks In The Attic #712: Various Artists – ‘Negro Spirituals’ (1961)

RITA#712I watched Soundtrack For A Revolution recently – Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman’s 2009 documentary charting the civil rights movement through its music. The films blends archival footage with studio performances of contemporary musicians interpreting songs from the struggle.

The performances were a little sterile, a little too VH1 Classics for my tastes – and included a song from Joss Stone of all people. Joss Stone? Really?

The archival footage was fantastic as always though – and provided a history of the movement from its inception up to the assassination of Martin Luther King. As a film, it’s not as powerful as Raoul Peck’s brilliant I Am Not Your Negro from 2016, although the two films do overlap as you might imagine.

RITA#712aI often wonder whether we’ll see documentaries like this in 30 or 40 years about the #metoo movement, or about the rise of trans-gender rights, or the (almost) universal acceptance of gay marriage. Part of the fascination with the civil rights movement is that it was originally reported on by a right-wing, conservative media with an arm-length stance that is difficult to fathom now. Current issues instantly provoke outrage from the liberal majority, and are reported on by a (more) liberal media, and so a documentary might be less revelatory than we have seen for twentieth century issues.

The Eighties documentary miniseries from CNN (originally broadcast in 2016) included a fairly lengthy segment about the AIDS crisis. This is something I remember hearing a lot about when I was growing up, but didn’t really understand the finer details like the initial confusion and lack of understanding about the disease.  Even such a brief, potted history within the confines of a much larger series was fascinating – and a full retrospective would make for a great subject in a feature-length documentary.

Hit: He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands

Hidden Gem: Jericho

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Rocks In The Attic #711: Alan Howarth – ‘Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (O.S.T.)’ (1988)

11183_JKTOne thing I’ve learnt from my discussions with fans of horror movies and horror soundtracks is that the majority of them have poor, poor taste in films. They might have jobs and families, but it’s like they have the mental age of a 7-year old when it comes to films.

The first Halloween is a stone-cold classic. It’s more than a little responsible for the popularity of the slasher genre of horror films. It was made a shoestring budget, and became one of the most profitable films of all time.

Halloween II gets by mainly because of the same cast, the involvement of John Carpenter (now in the producer’s chair), and its continuity (it takes place immediately after the events of the first film).

Halloween III: Season Of The Witch is the outlier – a brilliant side-step away from the threat of murderous kid brother Michael Myers, into something far more terrifying. But there’s no accounting for taste, and its poor box-office performance almost killed the franchise.

John Carpenter walks away, and in steps Syrian-American film producer Moustapha Akkad, attempting to resurrect the series by returning Michael Myers to Haddonfield, Illinois.

Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers should have been subtitled The Disappearance Of The Roman Numerals. It is a bad film. The story is bad. The script is bad. The performances are bad – not least the dreadfully hammy acting by Donald Pleasance. The action sequences are bad. Everything is bad.

Probably the most unforgivable aspect of the whole film is the production design. Where Michael Myers once looked terrifying, he now looks comical. His white mask has changed since the earlier films. He now looks like a confused Asian businessman standing at a hotel buffet cart.

The only saving grace is the synth-laden soundtrack, by Carpenter’s musical collaborator, Alan Howarth. The Halloween theme, with its fantastically odd-time signature, makes a welcome return, and feels like the most Carpenterish element of the whole film.

Moustapha Akkad was killed along with his daughter in 2005, by a Al-Qaeda bomb in the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Amman, Jordan. The Rob Zombie directed 2007 remake of Halloween was dedicated to his memory.

Hit: Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers

Hidden Gem: Halloween 4 Reprise

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Rocks In The Attic #709: John Williams – ‘Jurassic Park (O.S.T.)’ (1993)

RITA#709What does William’s score to 1993’s Jurassic Park have to do with Dies Irae, a latin hymn from the thirteenth century?

After watching the latest disappointing Jurassic Park sequel, it’s refreshing to wash my brain out with the score to Spielberg’s original film. At this point in his career, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Williams would be washed-up. Surely the composer of Jaws, Superman, the Star Wars trilogy, Close Encounters, the Indiana Jones trilogy – and many, many more – would have nothing left. Somebody that prolific can’t keep on being prolific, can they?

The answer seems to be a resounding Yes. Not only does Jurassic Park contain two distinctly memorable main themes – Theme From Jurassic Park and Journey To The Island – but the rest of the score is just as strong as his ‘70s and ‘80s output. But what’s all this about Gregorian Chant?

The answer is in a descending motif in the ancient hymn. For centuries, this doom-laden melody has been used as short-hand for evil or foreboding – Dies Irae itself translates to Day Of Wrath. A host of great composers have used the motif in their works – Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Holst, Liszt, Mahler and Rachmaninoff, to name but a few – but it’s its use in modern film soundtracks that interests me the most.

The tune is easiest to spot in the first few notes of The Shining’s opening Main Title, played by Wendy Carlos on the Moog Synthesiser. Here, the melody isn’t even disguised, it’s as clear as the day in which it’s used to soundtrack, as the Torrances drive up the mountain approaching the Overlook Hotel.

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Williams uses it to great effect in Jurassic Park, throughout the cues entitled Incident At Isla Nublar (from 3:32), and High Wire Stunts (from 0:00). But this isn’t the first time he’s referenced it. It can be found a couple of times in his iconic score to 1977’s Star Wars. Here it plays as the accompaniment immediately before Luke’s Force Theme rises up in The Burning Homestead (from 1:28), and is echoed in the doom-laden brass line (from 1:43) as Luke’s fate realigns.

And it’s not just John Williams sliding it into his scores, the musical equivalent of directors inserting the Wilhelm Scream into their sound mix. Other famous composers have “borrowed” the melody too. In 2001’s The Fellowship Of The Ring, Howard Shore uses it as the bassline thoughout the cue entitled Weathertop (from 0:18), as the Ringwraiths attack the Hobbits. Jerry Goldsmith utilises it in his 1982 score for Poltergeist, Hans Zimmer uses it briefly in 1994’s The Lion King, and Bernard Herrmann used it back in 1963 for Jason And The Argonauts. Unsurprisingly the tune also makes for good horror music fodder.

RITA#709aEven back in 1927, Gottfried Huppertz inserted the motif into his Dance Of Death cue for Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (from 1:17) – confirming that the appropriation of Dies Irae in cinema is as old as cinema itself.

Interestingly, John Williams does something sneaky with Dies Irae in Jurassic Park. Usually the sequence of the first four notes in the motif is enough to suggest doom and despair, but Williams takes just the first three notes and does something unexpected with them. They serve as the starting point for the Jurassic Park’s main theme – as positive and upbeat a film theme as could be, even when played on a Melodica.

Hit: Theme From Jurassic Park

Hidden Gem: Dennis Steals The Embryo

Rocks In The Attic #708: Rowan Atkinson – ‘Live In Belfast’ (1980)

RITA#708Sometimes the wife comes homes with records for me from the charity shop. Sometimes they’re only so-so, and other times I already have them. Strangely she doesn’t have an exhaustive knowledge of what sits on my shelf, like the useless memory banks I have.

Other times, she brings me home records like this; records I didn’t even know existed. Records that make me so happy, it reminds me why I collect these strange, dusty things in the first place.

Rowan Atkinson is undoubtedly one of the greatest British comedic performers of the twentieth century. There are heaps of his early live material to be found on YouTube, but obviously the physical side of his comedy – or his amazingly expressive face – doesn’t come across on LP. The content, written and performed by both Atkinson and long-time collaborator Richard Curtis, still makes for a great listen.

The record has a lovely dedication on the rear sleeve:

This album was recorded in the week of the re-opening of the Grand Opera House, Belfast, at the end of a four month tour of the United Kingdom squeezed in between the second and third series of that infamous ‘bundle of laffs’ Not The Nine O’Clock News. It is a record of not only a coupla jokes told and a coupla laughs gained, but of a wonderful week spent in a troubled province. The kindness shown to us by people in Northern Ireland was truly beyond compare, and this album is dedicated to them.

Hit: I Hate The French

Hidden Gem: The Father Of The Bride