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CD Reviews Secret Weapons Over Normandy and Ennio Morricone Remixes Volume 1

Secret Weapons Over Normandy ****


La La Land 1013

Disc One: 16 tracks - 68:57    Disc Two: 14 tracks - 14:02

Michael Giacchino is a name familiar to many video game fanatics. His scores for the Lost World game and other Lucasfilm/Spielberg collaborations have been very successful. His big break came with TV's Alias, but an even bigger one may be around the corner with next fall's Pixar release of The Incredibles. In the meantime, let's take a step back and look Secret Weapons Over Normandy, for which Giacchino returned to Seattle to record with the Northwest Sinfonia, a 25-piece choir, and a Taiko drum ensemble.

The first disc consists of the 15 primary scenarios and the main overture. The second disc features abbreviated bits and pieces that appear throughout segments of the game, plus supplements including Quicktime composer interviews playable on your PC or Mac. The opening "Main Title" is impressive and reminiscent of John Williams' Americana score (as featured in his recent "American Journey"). Giacchino's score goes even further back, reaching for the kind of 1941/Midway feel that makes it instantly accessible. Many of the orchestral gestures are out of that Copland/Harris/William Schumann school of Americana. There are a lot of action music to keep your blood pumping. These ideas are effectively offset by many longer, lyrical themes. Gorgeous moments in "Zauara" and "The Rescue of Pauline" are reminiscent of some of the love music in the Indiana Jones series.

It's hard to believe that this music is relegated to the video gaming industry, but at least that market allows access to a fairly wide audience. Highly recommended to Giacchino and John Williams fans.     -- Steven A. Kennedy

 Ennio Morricone Remixes Volume 1 ***


 Compost CPT 150-2

 14 tracks - 70:43

While purists will be spitting blood at the prospect of El Maestro's music being sampled, re-mixed, deconstructed and generally played-around with by a group of European DJs and electro-meisters, those with broader tastes will find much to enjoy here in the first of Compost's eclectic compilations.

Clearly aimed at the dance crowd (there's a version in vinyl for those who can't wait to spin it on their decks) the criteria by which a film music fan will judge these cover versions will clearly be different to that of dance room reveler. As such, any review in this magazine might miss the nuances that the target audience will identify. But what can't be ignored is how much the artistes love their composer. At no point are we under any illusion that these are variations on well-established classic themes. A snippet from "Leroy Langhofer" admits that "Every remix attempt of a pop-producer on Morricone's music is in fact an outrage...every attempt to interpret one of his works has to end inevitably in a ragged disaster." Perhaps a little harsh, but it shows the honor and respect that the performers show towards their idol. To all intents and purpose they are the eager children, trying to please their father. So, what we have are a series of re-imagined tracks that don't try to mimic the originals but rather put a new spin on them (literally).

Raw Deal's take on Cat of Nine Tails is a fresh fusion of Morricone and Goblin, while Swell Sessions' The Good, The Bad and The Ugly drifts too far away from its source material. International Pony's "We Love Ennio Mix" is a delightful '80s-style pop song that can't fail to make you smile and Temporary Soundmuseum's "Epitaph for James Coburn" is chilled-out take on Sucker's Finale from A Fistful of Dynamite.

Those who enjoy John Zorn's work or the Morricone RMX remix album will find much to enjoy -- diversity truly is the key to life. It's a great testament to Morricone that he can influence the modern music scene in a way that his American peers cannot. Volume 2 is released early in 2004.     -- Nick Joy

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