One of my favorite end-of-year assignments involves choosing the top 20 albums of “classic film music” released during the previous 12 months. This year’s task seemed harder than ever, because several labels gave us truly remarkable discs — some of them expanded classics, some previously unreleased scores, some of them reissues of very rare LPs. I enjoyed all of these, from the music of John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith to that of Aaron Copland and Vince Guaraldi and many more. The list spilled well over the 20 slots, so I added an “honorable mention” paragraph to sneak in a few more titles.
On Monday night, it was my pleasure to lead a Q&A with composer Michael Giacchino after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of his latest film, War for the Planet of the Apes, on the 20th Century-Fox lot. It is Giacchino’s second film in the Apes series (after Dawn, in 2014) and his fourth film with director Matt Reeves (the Apes movies, Let Me In and Cloverfield). The composer reported that 90% of the score — played by a massive orchestra and choir on the Fox scoring stage — was original, and he even came with props: the mixing bowl used by percussionist Emil Richards on Jerry Goldsmith’s original 1968 Planet of the Apes, and a ram’s horn that he played himself on both of his Apes scores.
Composer Brian Tyler (The Fate of the Furious, Avengers: Age of Ultron) penned more than two hours of music for Universal’s remake of The Mummy, including a massive orchestra and choir recorded earlier this year at London’s Abbey Road. I interviewed Brian for Variety, which asked me to place the new Mummy score in the context of previous musical efforts along these lines — which gave me a chance to link to excerpts from past scores by James Dietrich, Hans J. Salter, Franz Reizenstein and Jerry Goldsmith. And not only did Back Lot Music gave us an exclusive four-minute track, but Tyler clued us in to an “Easter egg” of a hat-tip to Goldsmith that he quietly inserted into his own score.
From 1960 to 1962, horror-movie legend Boris Karloff hosted an hour-long anthology of tales of terror titled Thriller, produced by Revue (later Universal Television) and aired on NBC. Jazz great Pete Rugolo scored many of the first-season episodes and even released a wonderful LP of those themes in 1961. When a change in producers led to a fresh musical approach, Jerry Goldsmith succeeded Rugolo, composing 16 remarkable scores for some of the best, and scariest, episodes — a worthy followup project to his classic Twilight Zone scores for CBS. Producer James Fitzpatrick supervised a reconstruction and re-recording of six of these, and the result is a Thriller album of classic Goldsmith. I was pleased to recount Jerry’s history with the series — along with considerable musical detail about the scores — in a 2,200-word essay for the booklet (printed in glorious, and appropriate, black-and-white).
Oscar-winning composer Jerry Goldsmith finally received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today, May 9, 2017. For a section in this week’s Variety, I asked composers who knew him and directors who worked with him for a little perspective on the man and his career. Goldsmith, whose filmography included The Sand Pebbles, Patton, Chinatown, Planet of the Apes, five Star Trek films and more than 100 others, was among the most respected composers in the history of Hollywood. Directors Joe Dante, Paul Verhoeven and Fred Schepisi contributed thoughts, as did composers David Newman, Christophe Beck and Charles Fox. Goldsmith died way too early, in 2004, and the star is not only overdue but well deserved. Here is the main story and here is a sidebar discussing 10 of his greatest scores. Finally, here is a complete rundown of the ceremony, who attended and what was said.
This was another really fun project. Filmmaker Daniel Griffith (with whom I worked on the Twilight Zone box) asked me to participate in his documentary on the making of an obscure 1960s TV series called The Loner. I was delighted to accept, because composer Jerry Goldsmith’s theme and two scores for this Western starring Lloyd Bridges are among my favorites from the Goldsmith canon. But it so happens that I am also a fan of the series itself, which was created (and often written) by the great Rod Serling. CBS unfortunately scheduled it in an out-of-the-way Saturday-night timeslot in 1965, and it lasted only a single season. I had seen many of the episodes and I knew much of the unhappy backstory of the series, so in this case — unlike most of my DVD appearances — my comments cover more than just the music.
The upcoming L.A. stop on the national tour of Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage, a two-hour concert of Trek music commemorating the franchise’s 50th anniversary, offered an opportunity to examine the long history of Star Trek scores and the many composers who contributed along the way, from Alexander Courage to Jerry Goldsmith. Comments by veteran composers Gerald Fried, Dennis McCarthy and Jay Chattaway, along with concert conductor Justin Freer and even William Shatner himself, are included in this Sunday Los Angeles Times piece.
As many of you know, I have often written about music for spy films and TV. This story combines both. English composer Daniel Pemberton has scored Guy Ritchie’s new feature-film adaptation of the classic 1960s series The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which opens on Aug. 14. Pemberton finds a new musical signature for the movie by incorporating all kinds of classic ’60s spy sounds from harpsichord to cimbalom and mandolin. It’s great fun, so I interviewed Pemberton about his musical choices and the unusual recording techniques he employed. (There’s also a hint about precisely where fans will discover the original Jerry Goldsmith TV theme. But just a hint.)
One of my favorite year-end tasks is compiling a list of what I think were the best albums of classic film and TV music to be released during the previous 12 months. First-time-ever releases (like Leonard Bernstein’s original On the Waterfront tracks), re-recordings (John Barry’s The Betsy), reissues on CD (Jerry Goldsmith’s Our Man Flint and In Like Flint LPs), expanded classics (Michel Legrand’s The Thomas Crown Affair) and box sets of great film and TV music (Elmer Bernstein’s Ava LPs, Star Trek: Enterprise) are all included. I chose 20, and had to drop five or six more that I really liked because of limited space. Thanks to all the producers and label execs who work so hard to keep us film-music buffs happy.
On Saturday, I took part in “The Golden Anniversary Affair,” a celebration of the 1960s spy-series classic The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in Culver City, Calif. I moderated the afternoon music panel, featuring Lalo Schifrin and Gerald Fried (Robert Drasnin was unable to attend), and both produced and hosted a special, one-time-only evening concert of music composed for the series.
I chose 14 tunes (Jerry Goldsmith and Schifrin music from the first season, Fried and Drasnin from the second and third seasons), found most of the original charts from the 1964-66 recording sessions, and worked with six great L.A. jazz musicians in two rehearsals to get the music just right. Their rendition of Goldsmith’s romantic theme, “Meet Mr. Solo,” gave me chills, and their performance of Lalo’s Latin tunes like “Roulette Rhumba” were lively and colorful. Fried’s noirish “Lament for a Trapped Spy” and Drasnin’s cool-jazz number “Basic Black” were other highlights for me. It was an unforgettable night (the audience of 100 dyed-in-the-wool U.N.C.L.E. fans really loved it). My old friend Bob Short prodded me to do this and I’m so glad we did.