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CD Reviews: Falling Off A Clef and Extreme Prejudice

Falling Off A Clef *** 1/2


TDRS Music

26 tracks - 59:41
When film score fans hear the name Vince DiCola, most probably think back to 1984's Rocky IV. DiCola's "Training Montage" and "War" have become classics, and were both featured on the highly successful Rocky Story compilation CD from the early '90s. This is especially noteworthy considering that only one Bill Conti underscore track made it to the song-based album. In 1986 DiCola scored Transformers: The Movie in a continuation of his Rocky style, and then all but disappeared from the film scoring scene. Rocky IV and Transformers didn't give him the breakthrough he hoped for, so he instead concentrated on songwriting in rock bands like Thread and Storming Heaven.
In the new millennium things started to change. DiCola decided to return to instrumental writing and promotional/concept albums like In-VINCE-ible! and Piano Solos saw the light of day. In late 2003, he got a chance to score the Bill Gottlieb-produced movie Sci-Fighter with friend and colleague Kenny Meriedeth. This CD, Falling Off A Clef, features around 35 minutes of music from Sci-Fighter, along with other instrumental work by DiCola.
Sci-Fighter is professionally done, although not extremely original. Comparisons with Trevor Rabin and various Media Ventures-scores are inevitable on several of the tracks in the rock-based/energetic/up tempo mode. DiCola and Meriedeth are at their best in the softer moments, like in the brief "We Need To Talk" with a glorious, sad piano theme, and in the epilogue "The Master Returns." "Dance Of The Scorpion Queen" features a tasteful Spanish-flavored acoustic guitar, while "Daddy's Home" showcases clever rhythm programming. "Sci-Fighter Suite," running 9:44, is the longest score-track on the CD.
Falling Off A Clef features six other tracks, the best being the 11-minute "Castle Of The Gods Suite/Five Movements." It's an exciting, filmic, classic DiCola track that showcases DiCola's prog-rock roots to full extent. "A.P.B." is DiCola's personal tribute to Keith Emerson, and it sounds just like...Keith Emerson! Vince plays live drums on this track, and the tune is noisy but nevertheless vibrant.
This CD shows that Vince DiCola is back on the film music scene...hopefully with a vengeance.     -- Jon Aanensen

Extreme Prejudice (1987) *** 1/2


La La Land LLLCD 1028

20 tracks - 64:50

La La Land Records continues its successful run of resurrecting lost gems of the past with Goldsmith's '80's action score to this Walter Hill film. Extreme Prejudice has stylistic traits found in two other seminal Goldsmith works: Hoosiers and Total Recall. The main theme contains the same three-note rising motif under a minor 7th chord that was featured as the Quaid theme in Total Recall, his self-avowed last traditional large orchestral score. The other point is the inclusion of completely dated drum machines. With Hoosiers, it's less obvious because the composer chose a long thematic approach wherein the electronic percussion supported the themes. But Extreme Prejudice is a more motivic score with an emphasis on rhythmic complexities as opposed to fluid lines.

Aside from the aforementioned observations, this is vintage '80s Goldsmith. The opening track features unused trailer music and showcases the late composer's ability to balance electronics with the orchestra. Goldsmith was a pioneer in that regard, especially in the way he chose to integrate the two, by having the synths played through amps on stage with the orchestra. Perhaps that's why tracks such as "Cash," with its plaintive oboe melody contrasted by evolving electronic pads, has an expansive sound.

It is the reflective moments on the soundtrack that make for protracted listenings. However, much of the score is comprised of electronic ostinatos and repeating sequences that don't hold any intrinsic appeal when separated from the film source. Goldsmith was a master at textural scoring and it's understandable that he'd approach Extreme Prejudice in this manner. However, the problem when applying this ideology toward synthesizers from the '80s is that they didn't possess a great timbral variety, so much of this CD has a homogenous sound. And because of the proliferation of FM synthesis patches, the sonorities are harsh and overtly digital. An hour of listening to these sharp, grating sounds is trying on the ears. The orchestra is relegated to two- or-three-note utterances that mostly contrast the largely electronic timbres. Meanwhile the drum machine sound and rhythms are so mechanical that whatever interesting musical passages that occur in the acoustic instruments are obscured and trivialized.

La La Land is to be commended for the sound and overall quality of this disc. Generous running time along with the inclusion of several additional cues such as the nine-minute "The Plan -- Original version," absent from the original soundtrack release. The addition of the Carolco Logo is a nice treat too. But Extreme Prejudice holds a limited appeal applying mainly to two groups of film score collectors: rabid Goldsmith completists and '80s synth score fans. For those weaned on '70s Goldsmith orchestral scores, discretion is advised.     -- David Coscina

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