Here is part eleven 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), Volume 10 (2007), Volume 11 (2008), Volume 12 (2009) and Volume 13 (2010) reports.
Vol. 14, No. 1: The Big Bus (Shire): We have pressed 2,000 copies of which some 1150 are still in stock. This was another of our early picks from Paramount Pictures, an over-the-top action-comedy-parody score by David Shire. David was thrilled to get it released, and as with All the President’s Men we used his New York engineer, Martin Erskine, to remix the 16-track multis. One slight wrinkle was that the score was recorded both at Paramount and at The Burbank Studios (Warner Bros.) and the two stages had diametrically opposite aesthetics (lots of reverb at Paramount vs. dry as a bone at Burbank) to match in the mix. This CD has not sold well, probably because the film is not well known, but the score is a hoot. It was a disaster-spoof precursor to Airplane! except completely not funny. Okay—I’m being mean, I know it has its fans, among them our very good friend at Paramount, Jeff Cava, who has been extraordinarily helpful on all our Paramount projects. I went out of my way to add the insane “Oriental Lounge” piano performances by Murphy Dunne (the single most funny part of the movie) which was hard because the only master source was the film’s mono music stem. I considered hiring Murphy to re-record his performances but it was too expensive. I enjoyed talking and corresponding with him and will gladly steal a line he often used in his emails to me: “Keep me deformed.” I found that funny.
Vol. 14, No. 2: Rich and Famous/One Is a Lonely Number (Delerue/Legrand): We made 2,000 copies and have 645 in stock—no further copies will be pressed. (The license has expired and besides, we have no more artwork on hand.) Rich and Famous is a gorgeous score by Georges Delerue. The origin of this CD starts a few years ago when, one day, I was visiting the Archival Mastering dept. at Warner Bros. (on another project) who handle most of our master tape requests at the studio. On a stack of boxes were ½'' master tapes to Rich and Famous—hello, I say, what’s this? They were being pulled and transferred for the Universal France 4CD Georges Delerue collection, so I piggybacked onto the work to do our CD of the complete score. Rich and Famous is fairly short so I struggled for a couple of years for a score to pair with it from the M-G-M library…there were no other Delerue scores, so I chose a romantic score by another Frenchman (Michel Legrand), One Is a Lonely Number, for a little-seen soaper starring Trish Van Devere (Mrs. George C. Scott at the time). Funny trivia: it bombed as One Is a Lonely Number so they tried to re-release it as Two Is a Happy Number—nice try! It has lovely music by Legrand including one of his characteristic songs.
Vol. 14, No. 3: I Spy, Vol. 2—The LPs (Hagen): We have pressed 1,500 copies of which 643 are in stock. This follow-up to our 2002 CD of original television soundtracks to I Spy (down to 254 copies) was a long time coming. Earle Hagen recorded two LPs of I Spy music during the run of the series which, unlike most TV soundtrack albums, were faithful to the television arrangements. In fact, with their extended versions of the episode and character themes (and terrific stereo sound), the LPs are arguably better musical representations of the wonderfulness that is Earle’s work on I Spy than the actual television recordings. The first LP was distributed by Warner Bros. Records but the rights reverted to Earle (today, his estate). The second LP, however, was and is owned by Capitol Records (EMI)—which is why we did not release the LPs as our first I Spy CD back in 2002. You see, dear reader, at the time, the major labels (Warner Bros., Universal, Sony, EMI–Capitol) all had prohibitive “minimums” if you wanted to sublicense an entire album—you had to commit to 5,000 or even 10,000 units. Some would not license entire albums at all. Yikes! One of the few benefits to the utter collapse of the record business has been that these minimums are now negotiable to a point where they are workable for soundtrack reissues (1,500–3,000 units). So this CD was licensed from the Hagen estate (for the Vol. 1 LP) and EMI (Vol. 2). Sadly, neither Earle nor Robert Culp (who penned or, rather, dictated a foreword to me for the liner notes for our first CD) are around anymore...that was the only thing that made this follow-up CD bittersweet. There didn’t seem to be a lot of interest in this CD but I hope people take a moment to listen to the sound clips. I always loved the Tokyo theme with its 5/4 groove and Japanese flourishes. Earle’s gorgeous “Voice in the Wind” (turned into a song with lyrics by Gene Lees, though not recorded here vocally) has the peculiar historical oddity of superficially (and completely coincidentally) resembling the end credits theme to Dexter—at least to my addled brain—so after every episode of Dexter I find myself humming “The Voice in the Wind.” I Spy was both a product of its time and vastly ahead of its time with its innovative location photography, character interplay (Culp and Bill Cosby) and sizzling, world-flavored orchestral-jazz scores by Hagen and Hugo Friedhofer.
Vol. 14, No. 4: Telefon/Hide in Plain Sight (Schifrin/Rosenman): We have pressed 1,500 copies of and have 373 in stock. Telefon is a 1978 action-suspense score by Lalo Schifrin for the Soviet-spy thriller starring Charles Bronson. Unlike Lalo’s ’60s scores, this one is more symphonic suspense than jazz-funk-pop; the score has its fans and I was happy to release it. (Just today a buddy of mine, appropo of nothing, started saying, “I must kill the Queen”—from The Naked Gun, of course. I said, “You won't believe this, but there was an actual entire movie based on that, not as a joke.”) Hide in Plain Sight (to fill out the CD) is a short Leonard Rosenman suspense score to a little-known mob-related film starring (and directed by) James Caan. Caan didn’t even want a score, or so he has said, but the studio foisted one upon him, and I find Rosenman’s lengthy “Finale” one of his classic pieces of triumphant Americana.
Vol. 14, No. 5: Robinson Crusoe on Mars (Van Cleave): We have made 1,500 copies and have 299 in stock. This is still under license and we will make more when necessary. This is the kind of score that thrills me to be able to release it: we had it complete, in stereo and in great condition, and it is a cult sci-fi favorite that was the subject of several message board threads over the years. Maybe the posts were from forty people—or from two people who posted twenty times apiece (hi Charles Thaxton!)—but it was a thrill to be able to release this. The music is so evocative and emblematic of its period that even though I didn’t grow up on this film, I feel a kinship with those who did. Maybe you don’t know your Van Cleave from a hole in the ground but the music casts a wonderful, eerie mood about space travel that, alas, hard science has since disproven…I dimly remember those glorious days from my early childhood (though even then, hard reality was setting in) when we were so naive to think we would inevitably travel to the stars, and soon. I would definitely put this alongside scores like Fantastic Voyage, The Omega Man, The Illustrated Man, THX 1138 and Logan’s Run as sci-fi classics that represent the best of our FSM Silver Age brand.
Vol. 14, No. 6: The Homecoming/Rascals and Robbers (Goldsmith/Horner): We made 2,000 copies and have 378 in stock. (We’ll make more!) See my blurb about Hunters Are for Killing from last column for the long story about the several CBS titles—including The Homecoming—that took a decade to release. The Homecoming is the pilot TV movie for The Waltons, and the only Waltons soundtrack with surviving music masters (sorry to say). It’s a wonderful, lyrical Goldsmith effort, though it does not feature the familiar Waltons theme (which he wrote later for the series). The score is quite short, so we found a pairing from the CBS library: Rascals and Robbers, a Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn-derived tale that James Horner scored immediately prior to Star Trek II…and you’ll be able to tell! (Did Huck get captured by Khan?) Listening to early Horner is amazing—true, the classical influences are all too apparent, but he came to film as a fully formed composer, so talented and astonishingly accurate in his cinematic taste. Rascals and Robbers we found at UCLA complete and in stereo. This is a pretty nifty CD if I do say so myself.
Vol. 14, No. 7: Kenner/More Than a Miracle (Piccioni): We made 1,500 copies and have 877 in stock. Italian film music is a subculture all its own and as I did not grow up with the material it has taken me some time to learn it. But the more I hear of Piero Piccioni the more I like—somehow Italian composers and Piccioni in particular have a way of making everything in their scores so wonderfully melodic...not just the themes but the basslines, countermelodies, everything! This 3CD set was a long time coming: I have to introduce Claudio Fuiano, an Italian soundtrack CD collector and producer…is there an Italian word for “mensch”? Claudio and his friend Daniel Winkler have generously provided stills, information and even master tapes for our occasional FSM CDs of Italian scores (notably Morricone efforts like Navajo Joe and The Five Man Army). I can’t thank the two of them enough for their generous assistance and enthusiasm! In the early 2000s Claudio had the master tapes from Piero Piccioni (before the composer passed away) of Kenner and I tried to make a connection for him to license it from Warner Bros., who own the movie—but it didn’t work out. A few years later we revisited the project as a potential FSM title with Claudio producing, and we added More Than a Miracle, as Claudio had access to the original soundtrack masters from Piccioni’s family. It swelled to a 3CD set which was probably in production for some seven years. It hasn’t sold very well—I blame the obscurity of the pictures—but it’s lovely music and I’m glad we did it.
Vol. 14, No. 8: Testament (Horner): We have made 2,000 copies and have 647 in stock—these are all that will be pressed. Testament is the “other” nuclear holocaust drama from 1983 (besides The Day After), and I confess it seems so devastating I never worked up the courage to watch it. Originally produced for PBS, it was released theatrically by Paramount, and features a lovely, haunting and intimate score by James Horner for a chamber ensemble. The soundtrack had been bootlegged at least once; for our official CD, we went back to the film mixes on the 32-track 1'' 3M masters (which can only be transferred by Walt Disney Imagineering—see the liner notes to Intrada’s CD of The Black Hole). The CD is rather short at 31 minutes—this is all that Horner recorded—and while I usually like to pair short scores with other projects for longer CDs...I’m sorry, I’m not sticking some unrelated movie onto a nuclear holocaust score. What should it have been, Testament paired with Bernstein’s Trading Places? If you only have a bootleg, I hope you buy our official disc, which is longer and sounds better. This is a wonderful, poetic score by the preternaturally gifted Horner.
Vol. 14, No. 9: The Comedians/Hotel Paradiso (Rosenthal): We made 1,200 copies and have 608 in stock. These two Laurence Rosenthal scores have been out before (on a Chapter III CD of the LP masters) but I wanted to do the complete version of The Comedians (in much better sound quality) as the ½'' masters were at Warner Bros. (not always the case for M-G-M movies scored in England in the 1960s—see Humphrey Searle’s The Haunting, or for that matter Hotel Paradiso, for which we had to use the same album master). I first heard The Comedians on Rosenthal’s 2CD promo in the 1990s and really liked the Haitian percussion and children’s choir coupled with Rosenthal’s elegant symphonic writing. When we were producing this 2CD set, originally disc one was going to be the complete score of The Comedians, and disc two the album programs. John Takis was working closely with Rosenthal for the liner notes, and reported back to us that Larry (Laurence) was concerned that the complete score was not playing that well for him as a musical experience (a typical problem for complete and chronological presentations). So here is an example of how much I have learned how to be a CD producer over the last 15 years: in lieu of panicking (“do we have to drop cues!!?”) I said just switch the discs, and put the album versions on disc one. We did and Larry liked it—problem solved! I have to say a few words about Larry, who has a summer home on Martha’s Vineyard (where I grew up) and I have by coincidence run into him and his family on the ferry boat during a few of my visits home (what are the odds?)—you will seldom find a more gracious, articulate and friendly man! I’m a fan, musically and personally. (Although he did scold me years ago when I asked about the rumor that he was hired for Return of a Man Called Horse because the studio confused him with Leonard Rosenman, who scored the original. He asked if I really thought Irvin Kershner was so ignorant as not to know the difference between them? I sheepishly conceded the point and resolved not to be such a dumb-ass, though it hasn’t quite taken, I’m afraid.)
Vol. 14, No. 10: The Belle of New York (Mercer/Warren): We have made 1,200 copies and have 651 in stock—these are all that will be produced. This was an easy production in that the master was produced several years ago by George Feltenstein for his Turner-Rhino musicals line but only released on iTunes—all we had to do was add liner notes and create the physical packaging. (There is one other title like this, Deep in My Heart, that hopefully another label will get to—I started work on a 2CD version, longer than the iTunes release, but didn’t have time to finish it.)
Vol. 14, No. 11: Pretty Maids All in a Row (Schifrin): We have made 1,500 copies and have 672 in stock—these are all that will be produced. I love this score from Lalo Schifrin’s “weird” period (his word), with its mélange of jazz-pop, avant garde, The Osmonds (really) and, above all, an eerie sensuality for one of the strangest Hollywood productions you will ever see. Pretty Maids All in a Row has to be seen to be believed (or better yet—don’t!). I think Jeff Bond put it best in the liner notes that the movie doesn’t just seem to come from another time, but another dimension. Let’s just say putting Gene Roddenberry (screenwriter) and Roger Vadim (director) together for the purpose of artfully exploring teen sexuality was rather like leaving a couple of addicts in a room full of high-grade cocaine. And who should play the gym coach lothario who is seducing and murdering his nubile female students? Yes, Rock Hudson, of course—can this get any stranger? Check out Lalo’s great combination of harp and Fender Rhodes in “Check Your Queen”—so beautiful and haunting!
Vol. 14, No. 12: Days of Heaven (Morricone): We made 2,500 and have 160 in stock, but we’ll keep this in print—what a masterpiece! So many CDs feel like they take a piece out of your hide to push them across the finish line—but then you hear a theme like this and remember instantly why it is all worth it. I made a beeline for this as soon as we started working with Paramount, though it involved a “trackdown” as the album rights are with Pacific Arts Entertainment (Michael Nesmith’s company) who released the LP in 1978 due to a relationship with the film’s recently deceased producer, Bert Schneider. Fortunately Pacific Arts was receptive and I worked out a sub-license. This was a complicated project, however: Morricone’s score was recorded in Italy and Paramount had the 16-track multis as well as three- and four-track mixes on ½'' tape. We decided to use the mixes, as they were very artfully done, but there was a tonnage of material: not only alternate versions of cues, but alternate mixes of alternate cues (favoring one instrument or another, dropping the melody, etc.). It was simply not practical to present everything, so I came up with the 2CD set that we released: disc one has the LP program, followed by the actual cues heard in the movie, followed by on disc two an entire “fantasy sequence” of the Morricone score (irrespective of the picture). Late in the production I noticed a glitch on one of the mixes which was not on the LP, and decided to remix that cue (or a fragment thereof) from the 16-track—it turned out that the glitch was from one of the keyboard channels. (I won’t tell you which cue!) What a gorgeous score by the Maestro...when I told Jeff Bond (liner note writer) we were doing this CD, he practically jumped out of his chair—“You know I played that at my wedding, right?” Needless to say, he was enthused. Here’s some fun trivia: I reviewed the written Morricone score at Paramount and discovered one of the ways in which the Maestro has been able to do so many films over his career—he often has one manuscript which functions for multiple cues. Some people may have told you he just records a bunch of music and lets the filmmakers track it—that’s not true, or at least typically not true. He scores everything to picture. But what he does is reuse cues by having one manuscript (say, the love theme) serve as the score for multiple cues—say 2M1 would be bars 1-10, 20-end, dropping the trumpet, in a certain tempo, while 5M2 would be a different number of bars with a different combination and different tempo—and on and on. Everything is written, but the cues are multi-purposed from one manuscript. Interesting. It turned out that the Doug Kershaw track, “Swamp Dance,” had an incomplete paper trail from the LP, so I did a new license with Kershaw’s label at the time, Warner Bros. Records, and found Kershaw via his Facebook page to ask permission—I love social media! The very last thing I did was license the “Aquarium” track which for some reason (never found out why) was a Vox Turnabout recording on the LP, not the Deutsche Grammophon performance (which is in a faster tempo) as heard in the film. I was seconds from using the Vox Turnabout version—then I thought, why not get the real one? So I licensed the film version from Universal Music. This is funny: on the Universal (Deutsche Grammophon) master, “Aquarium” is on the same track as another movement from “Carnival of the Animals.” I explained to the Universal licensing agent that I needed to crop the track so that it used just “Aquarium.” I was told, “You can’t just chop up our track to make a new version of it!” And I said, “Sure I can—watch me!” Maybe I didn’t say that, but I wanted to. Let’s just say I was persistent, and we got it worked out. So this album was a long time coming and very well received, and I’m glad!
Vol. 14, No. 13: The Great Santini (Bernstein): We made 1,500 copies and have 802 in stock. We did this CD because it’s a great Elmer Bernstein score, for one, but I was trying to impress an executive at WaterTower Music, the new in-house label at Warner Bros. I tried to show off by prioritizing The Great Santini (a favorite film of his) as we got up and running with a new administration at Warner Bros. For some reason, the best scores to dramatic films circa 1980 (this, North Dallas Forty, Whose Life Is It Anyway?) sell 700 units, then die on the marketplace. Oh well—I’m glad we got this one done. The last track, “Inauguration,” started out as a complete mystery. Bernstein had written this piece for the inauguration of a friend of his as chancellor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and used the end of one of the Great Santini recording sessions to make a recording—only we didn’t know what it was. We thought it was some unknown, unused Santini cue! We got in touch with Bernstein’s orchestrator, David Spear, and via David and USC’s Ned Comstock (home of Bernstein’s papers and personal collection) sleuthed out the piece’s identity. But I guarantee you—half the boutique labels out there would not have known how to do this. They would have just called it an unused cue from The Great Santini.
Vol. 14, No. 14: Not With My Wife, You Don’t! Vol. 2—Original Soundtrack (Williams): We have made 1,500 copies and have 630 in stock. When we did an earlier CD of the record version of Not With My Wife, You Don’t! (coupled with Duning’s Any Wednesday) we had been told that the original soundtrack performance was lost. This was not the case—I think it simply was being migrated from one archive to another at Warner Bros. and didn’t know up in the inventory. So we wanted to revisit this title because any John(ny) Williams is worth releasing, and this one has his crazy song with Johnny Mercer, “Big Beautiful Ball.” We got quite a lot of “Johnny” Williams released on FSM, from comedies, early dramatic scores and television—what a tremendous talent, and it’s so fascinating to hear how his style evolved from the ’60s through the blockbuster era.
Vol. 14, No. 15: The Space Children/The Colossus of New York (Van Cleave): We have made 1,500 copies and have 832 in stock. This was our follow-up to Robinson Crusoe on Mars, which didn’t sell as well (in part because the sound quality isn’t as good). The Space Children has some eerie, cool Novachord, while The Colossus of New York is a unique sci-fi score in that it was written for three pianos. Fred Steiner collaborated with Van Cleave on these and other Paramount scores and I reviewed the orchestrations to see which composer handled which cue: they usually split the orchestrations half and half. What is not clear to me is if Steiner’s orchestrations were based on sketches by Van Cleave, or if he ghostwrote the cues using Van Cleave’s themes. (No sketches were available.)
Retrograde 80130: Gremlins (Goldsmith): We have made 5,000 units (so far) and will keep this in print as long as we can. We released this around the time I announced my decision to close down the FSM label with CD #250 (coming up in a few months)...and this was pretty much the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s almost too soon for me to recount the whole sad story, and there isn’t any particular exciting anecdote, just a slow, steady plod of licensing hell getting Universal Music Group (who own the album rights due to the 1984 Geffen soundtrack) and Warner Bros. (who own the film) to communicate. There were executives on both sides who departed their respective company, after which I had to restart the project with his or her successor—blech! It felt like trying to work with a government after the previous heads of state were deposed—nobody was happy as to what they inherited and felt obligated (i.e. pressured by me) to resolve...but to their credit, they did it. Mike Matessino and Neil Bulk handled the master with Bruce Botnick and it sounds like a million bucks. I think I need another year or two before I can vent fully how long and frustrating this project was—and by the end of it I literally decided to quit having a record label. At least there’s a happy ending in how wonderfully the CD turned out, and I shouldn’t be a Debbie Downer as this CD was a huge project for us that was very well received. Hard to believe they left Gizmo in the car off the original LP (a “mini-LP” that pleased no one), but you can hear it now.
Vol. 14, No. 16: Nightwatch/Killer by Night (Williams/Q. Jones): We have made 2,000 copies and have 917 in stock. This was the last of the 1960s-70s CBS titles that took a decade to produce (see The Homecoming, above). It probably did not help sales that Nightwatch is not only an old TV show—and a pilot at that—but a TV pilot that only aired once and is available nowhere on video. (If anyone reading this has seen it outside of our production staff, please post in the comments, I’m curious!) We found a copy at the Paley Center for Media and with CBS’ permission were able to get a screener on DVD. It is a shame this is out of circulation because it is a very innovative and hard-edged police procedural directed by Robert Altman on location in Chicago and the Midwest, with a terse, pulsating score by Williams—I wish they would release it on DVD. While the underscore exists only in mono, we found three-track stereo reels of the main title and format music. Having lived with the music for a decade (unable to release it) it was killing me people couldn’t hear how cool it is—listen to this proto-Close Encounters passage. We filled out the CD with Quincy Jones’s TV movie score to Killer by Night (aka City by Night), which is stylistically different, but close enough with the urban and the night and the crime thing.
Vol. 14, No. 17: Frantic (Morricone): We have made 2,000 copies and have 360 in stock. This late-’80s Morricone thriller sold better than expected—I thought it would stiff, but it’s been quite popular. The Harrison Ford-Roman Polanski film has always been a favorite of mine, thanks to Polanski’s unmistakable directorial sensibility, and the first of Ford’s white-collar everyman action heroes. But I didn’t think anyone else cared. The Elektra CD was long out of print so we were able to release the old CD program plus a bonus section of the Morricone cues as heard in the film. It’s funny: something like “Airport” is just a shorter version of the action music in the garage, but l want it anyway! The bonus tracks took quite a bit of time to unearth and license at Warner Bros.—like Gremlins, I started this with one studio administration at WB and finished it with another. There were no music masters per se, only cut-up mag tracks edited to picture—and no paperwork at all. We ordered a bunch of boxes of mag from the out-of-state vault where all of this material is stored and I spent an evening with a Warner Bros. engineer identifying the score tracks vs. the source cues. He was very helpful and experienced, and he (inadvertantly) paid me a great compliment about a half hour in when he said, “Oh, I see—you know exactly what you’re looking for!” He was a real pro and I appreciated his help and nice words. If FSM CDs are good at all it’s because I have been able to recruit and maintain a team of skilled and above-average collaborators—from engineers to liner note writers to art director Joe Sikoryak—who function at a very high level.
Next Time: Vol. 15 (2012) CDs—then we’re done!