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CD Reviews: Brubaker and Varese Celebration Volume 2

Brubaker ****


Intrada Special Collection Volume 10

33 tracks - 65:11

If variety is the spice of life, then Lalo Schifrin is one spicy dude. He's a whole lot more than the guy who wrote the Mission: Impossible theme. While most readers are probably familiar with the wide variety of styles that he is capable of writing, a few of you might still need convincing. And for those of you, there's Intrada's new release of Brubaker.

While it's true that the public mostly avoided this Robert Redford vehicle back in 1980, the score is definitely worth spinning today. "Theme from Brubaker" has a familiar '70s pop vibe to it, with guitars and harmonica trading places in the spotlight against an easy, breezy backing. And if you like your country music old-fashioned, you're sure to be pleased with "So Far From Love," a vocal track that wouldn't sound out of place blasting out the window of an old rusty pick-up truck.

"Country Living" is a catchy instrumental with energetic players who all seem to be having a blast trading licks. "Fiddles & Broomsticks" features a similar combo bangin' out the crazy hillbilly jams of a real barn-burner. Hold on a minute -- isn't Lalo Schifrin from Argentina? So, where the heck did he learn this stuff?

But wait, there's more. How about some down-home blues like in "Wakefield Blues." And if you want some R&B to go with that, try listening to "Out of Town." It's got a sexy groove with a hot, sultry sax soloing over a small combo's urban funk. Say, did someone say funk? Well, that's on another track called "Relations." It features that early '70s organ combo sound with funky guitars and drums backing a cool stereo Hammond B3.

And yes, there's even more. The more traditional symphonic compositions take up about a third of the album, and feature interesting cues like "The Man on the Bottles" with it's repetitive strings and sinister brass. And let's not forget the big band number! Oh, you get the idea...

While it's not unusual to find film scores that feature wide ranges of music, they're usually compilations of various artists with some original score thrown in. Brubaker, on the other hand, is all Schifrin. And even with all the styles tossed together, the cues manage to work together and still sound like he wrote them. If you like a lot of variety in your film scores, then buying this CD is a mission you should accept!     -- Ian D. Thomas

Varèse Sarabande – A 25th Anniversary Celebration, Vol. 2 **** 1/2

VARIOUS (58 composers)

Varèse Sarabande – VCL 07031021

Disc One: 18 tracks - 75:48    Disc Two: 19 tracks - 76:59    Disc Three: 18 tracks - 75:32    Disc Four: 19 tracks - 77:37

A few years back, singer Joni Mitchell released two retrospective CDs: One was called "Hits" and the other "Misses." The "Misses" album was by far the more interesting, since it was comprised of songs Mitchell liked but that never caught on with the general public. This second volume of Varèse Sarabande's 25th Anniversary Celebration could also be dubbed "Misses," and strange as it may seem, it too is the better the other volume -- at least so far as serious score collectors will be concerned.

Collecting and appreciating movie scores is a highly specialized hobby, and much of the time it's the enjoyment of the esoteric that makes it all so fun. Producer Robert Townson had a huge task on his hands with the first volume of four CDs -- it had a wide release targeting not only film score fans but those casual listeners who might be attracted to the low price and huge amount of music. As Townson writes in his liner notes, this second volume has no such pretense. This one is for music he loves, regardless of the popularity or recognizability of the movie or its score.

And boy, was he right about that. For one, this set features the same number of Joel Goldsmith cues as it does Jerry Goldsmith. And just look at the back cover -- these entries could be a who's who of late, late show movie repertories. Yes, there are a couple of hits. Umm, Alien 3 was a hit, wasn't it? I think Cruel Intentions and Vertical Limit made some money, right? The Linguini Incident. Who was in that one again? Sky Bandits? Bloodline? Yikes.

But that has always been the charm and reliability of Varèse Sarabande. I mean, who else would even think to release William Ross' score to My Dog Skip? And thank goodness they did, because it's one of the most charming scores of the last few years. There are many similar gems in this second compilation. In fact, a great deal of my all-time favorites are here, along with several treasures I had yet to discover.

Some personal favorites include Basil Poledouris' dreamy piano score for It's My Party, Danny Elfman's moody Dolores Claiborne, Ray Cook's beautiful Careful He Might Hear You, and (I swear Cliff Eidelman is not paying me to be this score's cheerleader) the epic Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, which closes the collection with a rousing finish. Also worth mentioning -- composers overlooked in the first volume make a showing here, (including Elliot Goldenthal, John Ottman, Ennio Morricone and Bruce Broughton). One odd choice, however, is the first cut of the collection, Korngold's Kings Row, which seems to have been chosen to demonstrate how similar the theme is to John Williams' Star Wars. However, the short cue ends abruptly with a sonic glitch.

There also seems to be more rhyme and reason to the ordering on these CDs as well. There's a run of animal movies on Disc One, a jazzy stretch at the end of Disc Two, and an Asian motif taking over toward the end of Disc Four. The best grouping, however, is the action section at the beginning of Disc Two. It begins with what's probably the most recognizable score of the collection, Trevor Rabin's Deep Blue Sea. This theme has been used in so many movie trailers, it may soon surpass the champ, Randy Edelman's Dragon. From there, you get a fun theme from John Powell's Evolution, followed by a wonderful cut from Jerry Goldsmith's out-of-print The 'Burbs. And how wonderful to also have a selection from John Williams' contribution to the Amazing Stories TV series, "The Mission."

This is an amazing CD collection for film score fans, but it can only be purchased through the Varèse Sarabande website, and will only be available until the end of 2003. It costs slightly more than the first volume ($26.99), but it is worth it. It's an embarrassment of riches.     -- Cary Wong

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