Home Video Reviews
For serious collectors of movie soundtracks, Rhino Records has come to the rescue again. They have just re-issued the film soundtrack to King of Kings, the 1961 biblical epic about the life of Jesus Christ. It was directed by Nicolas Ray, starred Jeffrey Hunter in the title role (most critics were unkind about his performance, prompting one reviewer to remark that the film should have been called "I Was a Teenage Jesus"), and featured a magnificent score by Miklos Rozsa.
M-G-M's 1959 epic remake of Ben-Hur was a tough act to follow, not only for the studio, but also for Oscar-winning composer Miklos Rozsa. But the studio and composer once again rose to the occasion in 1961 with King of Kings. The movie has since become a holiday TV staple and a best-selling home video release.
George Feltenstein, who produced the Rhino release of King of Kings states in the accompanying CD booklet, that "the M-G-M score album went out of print in the late 1960s, and the recording became a highly prized item among collectors. In the early 1990s a CD containing music from the actual film soundtrack performances was released. That version featured more music than had originally been released on the 1961 M-G-M LP, but still represented only about half of the film's music. This long-awaited Turner Classic Movies/Rhino Movie Music album represents the premiere release of Rozsa's entire King of Kings score, exactly as it was recorded for the film on M-G-M's Scoring Stage in Culver City, California. In addition to all the music cues found in the final release prints of the film, this new album contains many extended versions of cues, longer than those used in the film. This release has been mastered directly from the original 6-track magnetic stereo session masters."
For more information, visit visit Rhino Records.
. THE MUSIC OF BUGS AND DAFFY - THAT'S ALL FOLKS!
One of the most interesting developments of the past several years has been a new interest in cartoon soundtracks, specifically the work of Warner Brothers musical director Carl Stalling. It's easy to understand why this is the music we grew up with while watching Saturday morning cartoons. The scores also happen to be inventive, tightly focused compositions frequently studded with fragments of other songs in a way that's familiar to our collage-and-sample minds today.
There have been two superb CDs of The Carl Stalling Project but now we get the wonderful overview That's All Folks: Cartoon Songs from Merrie Melodies & Looney Tunes (Warner Brothers/Kid Rhino). Produced by historian and musicologist Daniel Goldmark, the two-disc set is quite entertaining for both big and small kids but thanks to a small book with detailed background it's an ear-opener as well. That's All Folks includes the complete soundtrack to the immortal What's Opera, Doc? (remember Elmer's Wagnerian "Kill the wabbit! Kill the wabbit!"?) plus Book Revue, Back Alley Oproar, Katnip Kollege and Three Little Bops featuring music from West Coast jazz genius Shorty Rogers. Some assorted songs and medleys like "Bugs Bunny's Greatest Hits" round out the package. The only real flaws are that the book generally avoids giving dates and fails to identify the pops concert favorite "Light Cavalry Overture" as a Von Suppe composition.
With book in hand you can appreciate the sweep of, say, Book Revue. Among a few Stalling compositions you can hear the folk song "La Cucaracha," Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," turn-of-the-century classic "In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree," a bit of Donizetti's opera Lucia, several Gus Kahn pop songs and more. Accompanying the frenetic cartoon such a mix didn't seem bizarre and it's a testament to Stalling's arrangement that the music still strikes an appropriate balance with the visuals. You can easily hear why avant-gardists like John Zorn are big Stalling fans and wonder how much influence this might have had on the similar approach of hip-hop artists.
That's All Folks is one of those nice packages that's not only a lot of fun but of real historical interest as well. For more information, visit visit Rhino Records
By Lang Thompson