Here is part four of my overview of our FSM CD catalog—which titles are sold out, which are getting low (including exact quantities) and which would be around for some time to come. Go here for The Early Years, Volume 5 (2002) and Volume 6 (2003) reports.
Low Quantity Update! 10/25/11: Checkmate/Rhythm in Motion (Johnny Williams), less than 50 left!
You'll notice none of the below are in immediate danger of selling out. I wish they were! But I hope you take this opportunity to pick some of them up.
Vol. 7, No. 1: The Prisoner of Zenda (Newman, arr. Salinger): We have pressed 2500 of the 3000-copy limited edition of which 468 are in stock. When we stopped our relationship with Fox one of my major regrets was losing the chance to release more Alfred Newman scores—so this was a fun, back-door way to release another Alfred Newman album. The 1952 Zenda was a remake of the 1937 Newman-scored film, and Newman’s music was reworked by ace M-G-M arranger Conrad Salinger.
Vol. 7, No. 2: Khartoum/Mosquito Squadron (Cordell): We have made all 3000 copies of the limited edition and have 573 in stock. Khartoum is an exciting epic score by the English composer Frank Cordell; Mosquito Squadron a fun (albeit obscure) bonus of an unreleased album master from the United Artists Records library. (Joe Sikoryak not-so-subtly headlined the liner notes about the film, “Bombs Away!”) It was frustrating that we only had the album re-recording to Khartoum, not the original soundtrack, though we did add the “End Title and Exit Music” from the DVD. I remember we were given a ½” album master for Khartoum but it had the wrong tape in it (some obscure cartoon score instead). No fun getting the wrong tape in the box. We used the ¼” stereo album master and the sound is very good. I enjoyed the music on Khartoum in that it was in the English Walton/Britten school that influenced John Williams on his epic scores—people sometimes refer to Williams’s writing as Wagnerian because of the use of leitmotivs but Williams is much more from the English school—his writing has little to do with the Germans. I was later disappointed to realize how much Cordell’s “Gordon Enters Khartoum” is an Alex North knock-off—I wonder if they had temp tracks even in the 1960s?
Vol. 7, No. 3: Diane (Rózsa): We have pressed 2500 of the 3000-copy limited edition of which 411 are in stock. Diane is a gorgeous symphonic score—classic epic-historical-romantic Rózsa. This was one of the first projects where I remember finding a large amount of unused music, and learning how to interpret the historical M-G-M paperwork and masters in order to present both the score as heard in the finished film, and also the original versions. There was a strange phase problem in some of the three-track recordings—the left and center were discrete channels, but the right was merely the left channel with the phase flipped. No idea why. We corrected it as best we could. Also by this time I was getting more into the idea of presenting every last note of a score (why not?), so I used the end of disc 2 to include some additional Moonfleet and Plymouth Adventure bonus tracks.
Vol. 7, No. 4: Logan’s Run TV (Rosenthal et al.): We have pressed 2500 of the 3000-copy limited edition of which 394 are in stock. I am very proud of this album and worked very hard (inspired by Jon Burlingame’s albums of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) to make listenable suites of the different episode scores by Laurence Rosenthal, Jerrold Immel, Jeff Alexander and Bruce Broughton. The problem was that this series…eh, it not so good. In fact I’d say it’s exactly the type of brain-dead juvenilia that cast a pall over sci-fi TV until, arguably, season three of Star Trek: The Next Generation. When the reruns used to air on TNT I would make a point to watch the opening just for the Laurence Rosenthal byew-byew-byew siren main title theme, then try to watch an episode and give up by the first commercial. The static nature of the episodes carried over into the scoring so it took a lot of pruning and crossfades and manipulation to make an enjoyable listening experience of the weekly scores but I am pleased with the results. I was also proud of the booklet with the new interview comments from D.C. Fontana, Rosenthal, Immel and Broughton—here’s a shock, booklets are better (and also harder to do) when they include primary research! From the great stereo sound to Joe Sikoryak’s art direction this was a very fulfilling project.
Vol. 7, No. 5: The Swan (Kaper): We made 2000 copies of the 3000 limited edition of which 498 are in stock. Every time we released a Kaper CD, people were disappointed it was not Mutiny on the Bounty, which came later in the year. My memories of this project mostly involve becoming more hands-on in the music-editing process. It was probably three or four years into our using Private Island Trax and their engineer Michael McDonald for our Pro Tools mixes. (Prior to that, mixes had to be done “live” in a recording studio which was much more expensive and I don’t think the results were as good because you didn’t have non-linear computer control.) Over time, by looking over Mike’s shoulder, I learned how to do the assembly work in Pro Tools—nothing involving the sound quality or mixing, but the selection and organization of takes, lining up the different waveforms, figuring out the segues, etc. There had been an LP of The Swan that presented the cues as suites, so I went through to identify the cues used on the LP. Trax had a small music-editing room that was sometimes used for sound-effects editing work on movies and TV shows, but other times it was vacant, so I would work on one score on a hard drive in the small room while Mike mixed another score from another hard drive in the bigger editing room. And I always ordered chicken sagwala for lunch from East India Grill on La Brea, which was so filling I didn’t need to eat dinner until 9pm. Isn’t this fascinating? Eventually I got Pro Tools for my home computer, but there was a several-year stretch where I would book the small room at Trax to do the music-editing prep for our CDs.
Vol. 7, No. 6: The Shoes of the Fisherman (North): We have made 2800 of the 3000 copies, of which 384 are in stock. I love this score! Well two-thirds of it—I never warmed up to the Russian theme, but I love the Super Pope music (repurposed from North’s rejected score to 2001) and the soapy music. It shows the different facets of North’s style—from the austere and avant garde, to the powerfully symphonic, and then the warm and contemporary. This was a terrific six-track recording and the CD sounds wonderful. You have to get it! I added the Where Eagles Dare LP master and some Ice Station Zebra demos on disc 2, with the rationalization that all three movies were M-G-M widescreen epics from the same period. Which they were, though the scores have nothing to do with one another.
Vol. 7, No. 7: The Fastest Gun Alive/House of Numbers (Previn): We have made only the initial 1500 units of the 3000-copy limited edition, of which 195 are in stock—and I would be shocked if we ever repressed this, given how slow a seller it has been. This was our first Previn CD and, like North, Previn is one of the greatest composers who ever worked in film—and yet he has a very small fan base. One of his biggest fans is our copyeditor extraordinaire Jeff Eldridge who recommended these two—please see the CD page and listen to the main theme for The Fastest Gun Alive, it is dynamite! Unfortunately these two scores survived in only monaural sound. The Fastest Gun Alive stars Glenn Ford—in one of the DVD commentaries or documentaries of Superman: The Movie, Richard Donner says Ford only liked to be photographed from one side of his face because he said a horse kicked it or something. I remember spending The Fastest Gun Alive watching which side of Ford’s face was on camera.
Vol. 7, No. 8: Big Wednesday (Poledouris): We have made 5000 units of this and have a good 800 or so still in stock—we intend to keep it in print. Of the 250 CDs in our catalog this one is special because I produced it with the composer, Basil Poledouris. This was a special project in every way: it was Basil’s first big Hollywood score—and a really great one—that had never been on an album. By 2004 Basil had more or less dropped out of Hollywood and moved to Vashon Island in Washington State, commuting to L.A. for the occasional meeting or gig. I remember he was driving an old VW jetta with the upholstery coming off, but it’s not like upholstery was a priority in his life. To many of us he had seemingly disappeared, but it wasn’t like he had gone hermit, he had just had enough of the Hollywood rat race and wanted to live elsewhere. But I phoned him about Big Wednesday, he was thrilled about the chance to make a CD, and we arranged to mix it with his engineer Andre Knecht at his friend Eric Colvin’s studio on Ventura Blvd. We did that over a few days midweek and I hung out with Basil and Andre and tried to stand upwind (or is it downwind?) of their cigarette smoke while walking to and from our lunch spot. Only rarely do we do our CDs in conjunction with the composer—David Shire and Stu Phillips being exceptions—and this might sound obnoxious but I like it that way: artists aren’t always the best judge of their own work, and it’s like having another cook in the kitchen who is only going to spend money or, worse, sabotage the meal by second-guessing his ingredients from thirty years ago. Basil’s engineer Andre was expensive but also very good and I learned a lot from watching him add just the right amount of reverb. The Big Wednesday CD came out great, and I had a fantasy that we might sell thousands of units to surfers…which didn’t happen. But the whole thing was a wonderful experience made bittersweet by the fact that Basil died only a few years later. (I wrote about him at length in FSM Online.) I don’t want to sound like one of the brainwashed troops in The Manchurian Candidate (“Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life”) or, even worse, try to filter an entire man’s art and life through the minuscule relationship I had with him…but I really did adore Basil and I treasure the time we spent together working on this CD.
Vol. 7, No. 9: Julius Caesar (Rózsa): We have made all of the 3000 copies and have around 500 in stock. This is one of my favorite Rózsa scores for a masterful adaptation of the Shakespeare play, so rich, interior and brooding—absolutely sublime. I became familiar with it through the Intrada re-recording. In all honesty, I am not a fan of re-recordings of film music—I think they are almost always dreadful and are done for financial reasons by the record companies (to have an ersatz version they can license for other media uses), not coming close to the intensity and perfection of the film versions. However, Intrada’s re-recordings of Ivanhoe, Julius Caesar and Herrmann’s Jason and the Argonauts are notable exceptions—the albums were given the time and budgets to sound like they are supposed to sound. So this was the rare case where I hope people keep the monaural FSM CD as a companion to Intrada’s stereo re-recording.
Vol. 7, No. 10: Born Free (Barry): We have made 5500 units of which 500 are in stock—we always intended this John Barry classic (everyone knows the theme) to be an unlimited edition. It is not an M-G-M film, rather a Columbia one, but the rights ended up in the Turner-Rhino licensing deal due to the soundtrack album being released by MGM Records: the MGM Records library was sold to PolyGram (today, Universal Music) but the rights to the film soundtracks ended up with Warner Bros., even for films not owned by the studio. (Whatever, we’ll take it!) I remember my high school French teacher telling the class how her high school graduation was set to a version of “Born Free”—that’s the kind of popular reach this score has had. The album is a classic and has much more than the theme, including some dark and dramatic music in the inimitable 1960s Barry style.
Vol. 7, No. 11: Cimarron (Waxman): We have made 2500 of the 3000 copies and have 177 in stock. I always enjoy the chance to release a later score by a Golden Age master—e.g. Waxman, Tiomkin, Kaper—because it is often one of the only chances to hear their classic style in terrific stereo sound. From the moment we started working with the historical M-G-M library I knew we would have to get to Waxman’s epic Cimarron, and special thanks as always to John Waxman who is a devoted custodian of his father’s legacy. Listen to “The Land Rush” which is the lengthy, insane “Ride to Dubno”-type cue (from Taras Bulba) of this score.
Vol. 7, No. 12: Ride the High Country/Mail Order Bride (Bassman): We have made 2000 of the 3000 copies and have 473 in stock. Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country is a masterpiece, and features a rather incongruously old-fashioned "Big Sky" score by George Bassman—but familiarity breeds affection (in the case of film music) and the theme is lovely. I still prefer Jerry Fielding’s style for the later films of Peckinpah but it was wonderful to get this one out, in great stereo sound—and with the bonus of Bassman’s Mail Order Bride, which is almost like a sequel score. Like many people, I am captivated by Peckinpah’s films and the man’s skill as a director is breathtaking. You spend most of your life watching crappy genre films, and along comes someone who can take the exact same subject matter and all of a sudden every single thing in the movie is the way it is supposed to be…from the acting to the editing to the staging to the way the old guys shake hands at the beginning of Ride the High Country and the one sees that the other’s sleeves are worn out.
Vol. 7, No. 13: I’ll Cry Tomorrow (North): We have pressed 2000 of the 3000-copy edition and have 213 on hand. This is a lovely Alex North score from his Streetcar era for the real-life story of alcoholic singer Lillan Roth, played by Susan Hayward, who makes alcoholism seem so entertaining you want to rush right out and get a drink. This is one of the few classic M-G-M scores where there was an overlap of interest I had (and have) with Warner Home Entertainment’s George Feltenstein, our production executive for the Turner-Rhino CDs who is the world’s foremost authority on classic M-G-M musicals. (Without George, none of our post-2001 CDs would have happened.) George’s primary interest is musicals, while mine is dramatic scores (especially sci-fi and genre scores)—perfectly complementary in that he would produce the M-G-M musicals for Rhino, while I produced the dramatic scores for FSM (under his supervision). I’ll Cry Tomorrow crossed over into his field of expertise due to the several numbers performed by Hayward herself and I was pleased that my assembly of them satisfied his high production standards. During this time I had taught myself Pro Tools (see The Swan, above) but musical numbers are vastly more challenging to assemble than dramatic scores, because the pre-recordings, vocals, post-scoring and sweeteners exist on different stems that have to be meticulously aligned and intercut…some of them could take up to 24 tracks, rather than just three or six for most dramatic cues. So it was a learning experience. The most upsetting thing that happened during production of this CD was that I tipped my vacuum cleaner over onto the LP of Call Me Madam/I’ll Cry Tomorrow I had borrowed from George and dinged the cover (I bought him a new one). We went out of our way to include the Hayward vocal of North’s theme to I’ll Cry Tomorrow which is not in the film itself.
Vol. 7, No. 14: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Vol. 3 (Goldsmith/Grusin et al.): We made and sold 4,000 units and we were going to print more artwork but this was a rare case where our wizard art director Joe Sikoryak lost the art files during one of his many computer upgrades/crashes/restorations. So we’ve decided to let it go out of print. This was perhaps my favorite of the U.N.C.L.E. albums Jon Burlingame produced for us, due to the Dave Grusin tracks for The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. which positively swing. Grusin was apparently someone who came out of the womb a born film/TV composer with his own style.
Vol. 7, No. 15: Saddle the Wind (Bernstein/Alexander). We have made 2000 of the 3000 copies, and have 319 in stock. This was a curio in that we discovered a rejected Jeff Alexander score along with the Elmer Bernstein score that is in the picture. I remember scouring paperwork at USC trying to figure out how to assemble the Alexander score and find out how it conformed to the version of the picture that existed at the time. The film is an anti-violence western written by Rod Serling, of all people, who I think quipped something we couldn’t use in the booklet along the lines of the most articulate performing in it being a horse. Neither score is among the composer’s best, and the sound is monaural—but how can you not release an Elmer Bernstein western? This project was also my introduction to problematic artists' contracts—we couldn’t get the rights to the Julie London main title that’s actually in the picture (due to her EMI single at the time) but we could present all the other versions she recorded.
Vol. 7, No. 16: Mutiny on the Bounty (Kaper): We have made 5500 copies (we intend to keep going), and have 300 in stock. The big enchilada! What a project. To give you an example: Most of the historical M-G-M scores had been transferred to DA-88s (an eight-track DAT format) which we would load into Pro Tools. Typically a score might be on one or two tapes, maybe three or four. Bounty was on eight or nine and the music went on and on and on—it was crazy and you could see how the movie was a runaway monster that devoured the studio's money and sanity for months on end. I organized the recordings as best I could, with the score in the film, the first version of the score, even intermediate versions—plus source cues, record versions, etc. It really is Kaper’s magnum opus and I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed by the music or our presentation. (One of the subtle things Joe Sikoryak and I have learned how to do—mostly Joe—is color-code the CD booklet and discs so you can easily find the correct pages to read for the disc you are listening to. Not always easy!) For reasons unknown, both this and the other big six-track M-G-M score of the early 1960s, King of Kings, were recorded “overblown” with a great deal of distortion which we were fortunately able to denoise on the most-affected channel (I think channel 3).
Vol. 7, No. 17: Valley of the Kings/Men of the Fighting Lady (Rózsa): We have made 2500 of the 3000 copies, and have 341 in stock. This was child’s play after Mutiny on the Bounty! Valley of the Kings is a typically stirring Rózsa adventure score for an Indiana Jones precursor. Men of the Fighting Lady is unique in that it is mostly unscored save for the 20-minute Rózsa piece that accompanies the climactic sequence, “Blind Flight.” We also included a Rózsa rarity—his trailer score to King Solomon’s Mines (the film of which itself is unscored). My obsession to release every last Rózsa M-G-M note eventually became the 15-disc Miklós Rózsa Treasury.
Vol. 7, No. 18: Penelope/Bachelor in Paradise (Williams/Mancini): We have made 3000 copies and have 639 in stock (we intend to keep it available beyond this point). I love Penelope and it’s a must-buy for John(ny) Williams collectors—curiously, his comedy scores of the 1960s are often more colorful and fun than his early straight dramatic scores. Penelope has so many great moments and foreshadowings of Williams’s blockbuster scores over a decade later. I remember one of the tracks of the Penelope record album had a drop-out on the only surviving master—like a second-long “black hole.” We checked the earlier Chapter III CD and found that they simply cut-and-pasted the “wrong” music to cover up the hole! So I went and bought a few copies of the vinyl and we recorded the vinyl in order to drop in a “patch.” Not only will you never hear the “patch” but I tried to find it in the process of writing this article and couldn’t even find it myself, and I used to know exactly where it is. The complete recordings to Penelope (film soundtrack plus record album) stretched onto a second disc, so we added Mancini’s Bachelor in Paradise, which seemed vaguely appropriate in that Mancini and Williams were friends and colleagues—Williams was famously the piano player on the original Peter Gunn soundtrack album. Bachelor in Paradise is classic ‘60s bachelor-pad Mancini.
Vol. 7, No. 19: The Subterraneans (Previn): We have made 2000 of the 3000 copies, and have 293 in stock. I had a fantasy that somehow this masterpiece jazz score by Previn would reach a whole new jazz audience for us...it didn’t happen. But I am very proud of this CD and it sounds wonderful. The movie is a ludicrous take on the 1950s beatnik movement and the score has to be the best thing about it—Previn was possibly the best and most authentic choice of a composer who could do both the symphonic scoring and jazz performances, and he even appears on camera playing piano. I considered running the entire score in film sequence but it made the most sense to leave the original LP program alone and then add a kind of “Volume 2” album program after that, arranging the previously unreleased cues for listenability—imagine that!
Vol. 7, No. 20: Kelly’s Heroes (Schifrin): Like Where Eagles Dare, this similar 1969-1970 Clint Eastwood/WWII action film (and Tarantino favorite) has been one of our best-selling CDs—7500 to date and we’ll keep it around as long as we can. There must be a few thousand WWII action-adventure buffs who have memorized this movie and sought out our CD after yet-another AMC viewing. We presented the previously unreleased original film soundtrack in its entirety as well as the re-recorded album tracks (the LP was a combination of both). My favorite is “Tiger Tank” which I love—it's one of those peculiarly cinematic musical inventions that starts softly with a simple rhythmic idea and builds it into a monstrous freight train of annihilation. The lovely song “Si tu me dis” was an exciting discovery—not a note of it is in the film.
Next Time: Vol. 8 (2005) CDs!