Here is part eight 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), Volume 6 (2003), Volume 7 (2004), Volume 8 (2005), Volume 9 (2006) and Volume 10 (2007) reports.
Before I get into the title-by-title reminiscences…2008 was the apex of our productions as far as ambition and degree of difficulty. Although we “only” did 12 Silver/Golden Age Classic releases (not 20), we also had two huge box sets, a revision of one of our own titles (The Omega Man) and the beginning of our online liner notes. The year for me was very strange and trying: I spent roughly the middle of February to the middle of March 2008 back home on Martha’s Vineyard due to a death in the family, and then in July of the year, my roommate and best friend from college passed away. In the fall the economy crashed, calling into question the long-term viability of our business.
FSM Box 02: Superman: The Music (Williams/Thorne/Jones): The so-called “Blue Box” was a beast to produce. Fortunately I had Mike Matessino to handle the master production and liner notes, while I did the licensing and manufacturing (as well as the 1988 cartoon disc). Even so, proofreading the hardcover book was an overwhelming task and inspired the creation of our “online liner notes” for subsequent box sets—as I told Mike, it’s hard enough to be an album producer, we don’t also have to be a book publisher. We made 3,000 units of the first pressing which sold out rapidly, but we had some manufacturing issues with a broker using inferior binding (we had him removed from the project). We then made a second pressing of 3,000 units (as well as extra books to replace ones that were falling apart) and have been packaging those with finished discs in increments of 500. So, if you’re wondering, we have manufactured 4,500 units overall and have 390 in stock. I’m thrilled with the box set and it has proven to be a very popular item. Between the definitive presentation of the John Williams original, the complete versions of the sequels, and the above-average 1988 Ron Jones cartoon music—and it fits snugly onto your CD racks, with vivid and informative packaging—this is a steal at $119.95 and a really great collectible.
Vol. 11, No. 1: Eye of the Devil (McFarland): We have pressed 1500 copies of which 446 are in stock. This is a real gem I was inspired to seek out and rescue by Doug Payne who runs a great website. Gary McFarland was an underrated jazz artist who died young and never got his due; Eye of the Devil was the first of only two film scores he did but it is a melodic gem—please check out the sound clips on the CD page (“Catherine to Tower”). There had been a somewhat legendary unreleased album prepared for Verve—I got a hold of that master for reference, though it was falling apart—but our CD presents almost the complete score (a few cues were missing) from the 35mm magnetic scoring masters. I’m very proud of this one. It did not sell very well because so few people know what it is…but seriously…please listen. Gorgeous theme.
Vol. 11, No. 2: Heavy Metal: The Score (Bernstein): We have made 4,000 copies and have 470 in stock. Perhaps the biggest thrill you can have as a CD producer is surprising the film score community with a perfect edition of one of their all-time “wants”—so imagine my joy in plastering a picture of Taarna on the SAE website in early 2008 to link to this CD product page. In the 1980s Elmer Bernstein did four symphonic sci-fi scores—Saturn III, Heavy Metal, Spacehunter and Slipstream—and this one might be the best of all…think “Elmer’s Star Wars.” The rights were difficult to sort out not only for the album that was released by Asylum Records (the “A” in WEA, aka Warner Bros. Records aka Rhino) but the unreleased music; it came down to a fax from Irving Azoff (famous music manager who produced the music for the film) to help sort it out. The master tapes were safely in Elmer Bernstein’s personal collection and sound spectacular. Have any of you out there not bought this? Seriously? What film score fan would not enjoy this album? Bonus anecdote: when we were working with Nicholas Meyer on liner notes for Time After Time and Star Trek II—Nick is a big classical music and film music aficionado—I told him I would send him a copy of Elmer’s Heavy Metal CD. He said, politely, “I don’t really like that kind of music…” and I was like, “Ah…that’s right…you may not be aware”…this is the kind of symphonic score that got many of us into film music in the 1980s in the first place.
Vol. 11, No. 3: The Wreck of the Mary Deare/Twilight of Honor (Duning/Green): We have pressed the first 1500 copies of the 3000-copy limited edition of which 584 are in stock. If I had this to do over again, I would have pressed only 1,000 copies. The music is quite good: a moody George Duning adventure score and an unusual Johnny Green one (with a terrific main title), both in excellent stereo. But these are, admittedly, obscure works.
Vol. 11, No. 4: Under Fire (Goldsmith): We have pressed 2500 copies of which 381 are in stock. This is a classic Goldsmith score that deserves to be in print forever. We could not find any master tapes to use to expand the previously issued program but I’m not sure it would have even been a good idea: Goldsmith meticulously crafted the album with unique takes, sweeteners and mixes so that it would stand alone as a listening experience. It’s a first-rate film (involving journalists in the 1979 Nicaraguan revolution) that offered the rare chance for Goldsmith (in the last third of his career) to score a mature, adult drama—for which he devised some great South American and keyboard colors. Very proud to have done this one.
Vol. 11, No. 5: The Ice Pirates (Broughton): We have made 2000 copies and have 633 in stock. I hoped this would sell better because it is Bruce Broughton and sci-fi—coming right before Silverado and Young Sherlock Holmes—but The Ice Pirates is an obscure camp-spoof that the composer scored on a limited budget. The music is inventive, but very ’80s and goofy (instead of big and symphonic). Doug Fake produced the master for us, as the only surviving tapes came from Broughton. Fun main theme. Don’t you want to own a CD that has a track titled “Space Herpe”?
Vol. 11, No. 6: The Accidental Tourist (Williams): We have made 2000 copies and have 170 in stock. Like Under Fire, this is a 1980s Warner Bros. Records album that should be in print: a sensitive John Williams dramatic score for the Lawrence Kasdan relationship film starring William Hurt. Because the composer’s intended album presents the score so well, we decided to forego trying to add any previously unreleased music. (If anyone revisits this, however, there is one piece to add: a 40-second source cue Williams wrote for an adventure film the characters go to see in a theater. It sounds like a rough draft for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.)
Vol. 11, No. 7: The Naked Spur: Classic Western Scores From M-G-M Vol. 1 (Kaper/Amfitheatrof/Alexander): We made 1500 units which SOLD OUT. (Had I known I would have made 2000...in which case people would have not bought it and we would have old sold fewer than 1500. That’s the paradox of limited editions.) This is a very nice collection with some rare Kaper, Amfitheatrof and Alexander western scores. My favorite is Amfi’s score for The Last Hunt. This album marked the debut of our “online liner notes” which was a brainstorm I had to save money by putting the track-by-track part of our notes on our website (and thus allow smaller booklets). I hoped it would save labor too but it turned out to be just as much work to post the liner notes online, as they still had to be written and typically proofread in conjunction with the production deadline, because that’s when errors would be caught.
FSM Box 03: MGM Soundtrack Treasury. SOLD OUT! We made only 1,200 and should have made more but I’ll explain. If you’re a collector who pays attention to which studios have had their titles released, you’ll see MGM has been the source of perhaps the most CDs over recent years (I haven’t counted), despite being, at the moment, only barely a movie studio for a variety of sad historical reasons. Because MGM makes so few movies, and don’t have a studio lot, they rely on merchandising their back-catalog for revenue—including music. Since the Rykodisc series of the 1990s they have licensed so many titles I can’t even begin to count them, including a lot of oddball content from the UA, Orion, Cannon and AIP catalogs. Some of that content has been released by FSM—our first CD ever was an MGM score (The Taking of Pelham One Two Three)—but by 2008 I was frustrated by a lot of the circumstances involved in working with MGM: they drove a hard bargain, their master tape inventory was problematic to use, the titles were becoming exhausted, etc. Nonetheless I had a list that I had made for myself of interesting obscurities they owned and had the bright idea of folding 20 scores (on 12 discs) into a kind of budget “black box” that would be a neat collectible: like a little black cube that opened up to reveal a treasure trove of bizarre, rare content that would more than justify the purchase price. (It would also, emotionally, be a good way for me to accomplish a big chunk of projects and scratch them “off the list.”) I figured we would put the liner notes online, concentrate on titles that only had album masters available (so there wouldn’t be mixing or sequencing involved) and make it easy on ourselves. Alas, there are few (or no) shortcuts in life...producing 12 discs is never easy, and we were scrambling to swap out titles when certain ones fell through. Track by track liner notes ironically become more difficult, not less, when working with old album masters, because you usually have to search the movies by ear to figure out what was included on the LP. Anyway, it was a bear, and it wore me out—I suspect MGM too, though they appreciated the final product. In the end, I’m very proud of the choices. I won’t go through the entire contents (you can yourself at the online liner notes) but I’m especially proud of the 2CD version of Legrand’s great score for The Happy Ending. Towards the end of the production I had a feeling that 1,200 copies of this box set would not be enough, but MGM didn’t let me make an adjustment in the deal that might have allowed for more copies (which was their prerogative, so I don't want to sound like I’m complaining). Several of these scores were reissued by other labels, I honestly forget which titles, but I am glad Billion Dollar Brain got further exposure—what a great Richard Rodney Bennett score. I toyed with doing a second MGM “black box” and started to make a list of titles, but in all honesty I had an epiphany and said to myself…“no more MGM.” And I have stayed true to that. (Most of what I had thought about including on a second box has subsequently come out on other labels.)
Vol. 11, No. 8: Shaft Anthology (Hayes/Parks/Pate): We made 2500 copies and have 570 in stock. This was a highly ambitious project but a delightful one in that I love the “blaxploitation” scores of the 1970s and Isaac Hayes’s Shaft is the granddaddy of them all—but the original soundtrack performance has only been heard in the film itself. This I had to license from Concord Music Group, who own the Stax library and had the rights to market a Shaft soundtrack whether or not it was the film performance or the existing album recording. (I made sure also to license “The Men” and “Type Thang” by Hayes.) Unfortunately the Shaft OST was not well recorded—one of the reasons Hayes wanted to re-record it for the album—and we had to deal with some overload and less-than-ideal mixes. Still—what a classic to have that main theme in its first-ever performance. Shaft’s Big Score! is my least favorite of the Shaft soundtracks but still has some great stuff—and I know my pal Jon Burlingame loves the “Symphony for Shafted Souls” that concludes the film. I couldn’t get a license for the third film score, Shaft in Africa (which is terrific), released on a Universal label, but did include the little-seen Shaft TV show—talk about ruining a character for TV, oy!—by the same composer, Johnny Pate (who also did the arrangements for Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly). There is a lot of great stuff in this 3CD set, and I was surprised it didn’t sell better, but I don’t really have a sense of how many R&B/soul collectors are out there. While the CD was at the pressing plant (or practically so—it felt that way) Isaac Hayes passed away—very sad.
Vol. 11, No. 9: Grand Prix (Jarre): We have made all 3,000 copies and have 268 in stock—these are all that will be available! Hm, this sold better than expected...I wonder why? We definitely improved on the length and sonics of previous album releases...maybe it's more of a classic than I realized. I still have not watched the film straight through. I think there was a music stem available that I used as a guide for assembling the music cues in Pro Tools, so I didn’t need to record a guide track off the DVD (my usual practice back then). I remember being amused by the goofball source cue version of “Lara’s Theme” from Dr. Zhivago that we put at the end.
Vol. 11, No. 10: CHiPs Vol. 2: Season Three, 1979–1980 (Silvestri): We made 2000 copies and have 389 in stock. This CD was fairly easy to do, since we had a template in the first CHiPs/Silvestri CD. The big delight were the disco vocal versions of some of the score cues—a short-lived experiment that they did not use in any of the actual episodes. On all of the CHiPs albums, my remix engineer, Mike McDonald was a little bit surprised at how fast-and-dirty the tracks were laid down, with all kinds of bleed between channels. Hey, that was TV at the time—they recorded it three-track 35mm mag and ½” tape (strings/woodwinds-percussion/brass), folded it down to mono for the show and that was it—done!
Retrograde 80127: The Omega Man 2.0 Unlimited (Ron Grainer): We made 3000 units and have 186 in stock. We will make more as this is, after all, meant to be unlimited. I’m pretty sure I wrote upon this CD’s release about its circumstances—namely renegotiating the license and the AFM (musicians union) limited-edition “cap” to allow for more sales of a limited edition. It mainly came down to the fact that I wanted to fix the master, because when we did the first version, it was my first project with Warner Bros. and when a few organ overlays didn’t turn up, I didn’t know how to send the archivist back to look for them. It drove me crazy to release a few cues in incomplete mixes on that earlier edition—not so on this revised version which has everything intact. This is one of our signature titles and I love it. (From time to time I would listen to it so much that it would stick in my brain and keep me up at night, so I’d have to give it a rest!) Check out the online notes to read more about it.
Vol. 11, No. 11: Auntie Mame/Rome Adventure (Kaper/Steiner): We have made 2000 copies and have 380 in stock. This was a two-fer of Warner Bros. Records re-recorded albums. The original soundtrack performance to Auntie Mame exists at WB Pictures in mono sound if anyone wants to try to release it one day. I should discuss this in the same breath as the next release...
Vol. 11, No. 12: John Paul Jones/Parrish (Steiner): We have made 1500 copies and have 240 in stock. Again, two Warner Bros. Records re-recorded albums. I think we had some three-track masters for one of the titles. Funny that it took so long for us to release any Max Steiner music! I must have been really exhausted by this time (I think the “black box” did me in) because I don’t remember much, except for schlepping plastic cartons of tapes to and from Warner Bros. Records in Burbank.
Next Time: Vol. 12 (2009) CDs.