Salmon Fishing in The Yemen by Dario Marianelli

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Right next to Life of Pi, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is the other Best score of 2012.  One of my very favorite composers of the last five years has been Dario Marianelli.  He writes beautiful lyrical scores with class, elegance, and emotional depth.  Atonement and Pride & Prejudice are both excellent results of his collaboration with director Joe Wright.  This Lasse Halstrom film starring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt was an unexpected surprise.  I loved both the film and the score, which evokes a bright sun and a cool breeze mixed together.  Best of 2012. 

Get the full score on iTunes

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm by Shirley Walker

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Over the years Batman has provided composers with amazing opportunities for great scores.  I love the Danny Elfman 1989 reinvention, the Goldenthal madness, the Nelson Riddle classic and the Hans Zimmer trilogy.  But there is one amazing score that hardly gets mentioned.  That is Shirley Walker’s excellent action-packed Batman Mask of the Phantasm, the 1993 animated film.  Shirley Walker was one hell of a macho composer.  The real deal.  Known as a powerhouse orchestrator who helped Hans Zimmer on Backdraft, Brad Feidel on True Lies, and many others, she would also once in a while write her own masterpiece.  This is one of them.  Here’s a sampler on YouTube  

Listen to the mastery in how she weaves the sections of the orchestra together.  Bold brass, clear determined strings, delicate woodwinds, blazing choir (singing lyrics made up of crew names read backwards). I can never get enough of this action-packed score.  I used to go running in the woods at night listening to it when I lived in Ohio.  Awesome!

Here’s the original album on itunes

and if you want the complete thing, get the LaLaland Extended release but it’s out of print, so you’ll have to dig for it in the collector circles.  Also, there are a couple of volumes in limited edition from the TV show, also written by Shirley Walker and friends.

Total Recall by Jerry Goldsmith

Continuing where I left off last week…

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This 1990 Paul Verhoven/Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi presents Jerry Goldsmith’s busiest and most action-packed score.  It may not be for everyone, but if you like aggressive non-stop action with odd metering and lots of detailed writing and cool musical shifts, this is the ultimate action score.  In fact, this score was so difficult to play that after a day of recording in Munich, Goldsmith put the brakes on and took the recording to London’s National Philharmonic Orchestra.  It also showcases Jerry’s best use of electronics combined with orchestra.  Here’s a great sampler on YouTube.  This score demonstrates why most fellow composers consider Jerry Goldsmith the greatest action film composer of all time. 

Here’s the amazing Extended edition album from my favorite music label, Varese Sarabande

Waterworld by James Newton Howard

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Kevin Costner takes the trophy for actor with best film scores of the 90’s, and Waterworld is one of the most exciting action-packed soundtrack albums, no matter what you think of the film.  I remember being so thrilled with impatience when I found out that James Newton Howard was taking over scoring the film back in 1994.  This was at the beginning of his outbreak as the new hot composer, shortly after the success of The Fugitive, Wyatt Earp, and Dave.  

This score blends a huge orchestra with choir, electronics, African percussion, and a collection of odd ethnic instruments.  The Mariner theme is a lot of fun, and James Newton Howard finds all sorts of creative ways to play with it, like this for example. 

Then there’s the really meditative stuff like this track called Swimming.

Running at about an hour, the album is one of the most satisfying musical journeys on CD.  I’m surprised that it’s not available on iTunes.  If you like action, I can’t recommend this one enough, so find the CD at your local store. 

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves by Michael Kamen

This week I’m focusing on my favorite action scores.  They’re all going to be delicious feasts of exciting music.  If you don’t already own them, I can’t praise them enough.  So here we go.  I’ll start with my life-long hero: Michael Kamen.

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Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is Michael Kamen in top form and it’s the score that got me hooked on the orchestra.  It has everything you’d want from adventure music, especially if you enjoy relentless bombastic action.  Big brass and classic Kamen strings mixed with a whole collection of ancient Medieval instruments.  I’ve played this album a trillion times and to this day I can still hear something new in it every time.  This really is one of the greatest scores of all time as far as I’m concerned.

Most film score collectors already own this, but if you don’t, do yourself a favor and sample some Robin Hood action pie.

Also, here’s a great behind the scenes video with Kamen at work in 1991.

Get the full album on iTunes.

Django Unchained

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My favorite film of the year (if not years for that matter). What a fun soundtrack album! Much like Inglorious Basterds, Pulp Fiction, and all the Tarantino films, his use of songs as score is art at its most delicious, and in Django, coupled with Robert Richardson’s beautiful cinematography, he delivers at his best. This is a perfect film and a perfect soundtrack. In addition to the kick-ass Morricone/Bacalov Spaghetti Western tracks and 70’s ballads, I never thought I would enjoy listening to hip hop this much. Djangoooooo!!!!!