Saturday, May 29, 2010

Marvin Gaye Trouble Man

I've seen loads of Blaxploitation movies. It is one of my favorite film genres, and by and large they are entertaining films. What I find even more entertaining than the films themselves are their soundtracks. These movies have some of the funkiest and grooviest tunes ever laid down for film. In many cases the soundtracks are the only redeeming element the film has to offer.

In the blink of an eye, any film lover, or music enthusiast, can rattle off a handful of essential titles whose soundtracks have transcended the film, and have become a powerful entity in and of themselves. These names would include Mayfield, Hayes, and, Ayers. This leads me to Trouble Man.

I must say I've never seen Trouble Man, another example of the music being more accessible than the film, but I'm here to write about the music. Specifically to lament that Marvin Gaye's score for the film is not more often mentioned in the same breath as those mentioned above. This score is fantastic. Gaye provides a soulful, laid-back, but funkified listening experience that should be in all soundtrack lover's collections.
Open your ears:

Monday, May 17, 2010

Blast from my past #2

A young and vital New Order playing perhaps their greatest song live from 1981.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Where the hell is this soundtrack!?

As a lover of Italian cinema and Italian soundtracks I have been scratching my head for about six years now, since Blue Underground first released this film on DVD, wondering where the hell is the official release of this soundtrack. To the best of my knowledge there has never been one, and this is a travesty. Fulci directed Contraband (aka The Smuggler) in 1980 and it stars one of the biggest heroes of Italian cinema Fabio Testi. Now the film itself, aside from a load of graphic violence and nudity, is nothing to write home about, but the soundtrack certainly is. Scored by longtime Fulci collaborator, the legendary Fabio Frizzi, creator of the amazing soundtracks (see my earlier post) for The Beyond, City of the Walking Dead, and Zombi 2, this particular score is puzzlingly missing an official release.
You would think that with the number of people who are longtime fans, and the fact that more and more people are discovering these films and their music, that someone would issue the complete score. Wouldn't you?
Oh well, here's couple gems from the score courtesy of Youtube. The second track is featured during the ubiquitous disco scene. Groovy!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

Needless to say, everytime there is going to be a new Terry Gilliam film I am thrilled. Problem is he hasn't made a good movie in ages, and then there's the Quixote debacle, which I truly hope gets resurrected. But when you've made shit as good as Time Bandits and Brazil, you earn a lot of leeway from me.
That being said what you get in Dr. Parnassus is a whole bunch of cool bits that remind you how good Gilliam can be. What you don't get, however, is an engaging story and engaging performances. Well, Christopher Plummer seems invested, and you can't really fault Tom Waits, who wasn't that bad, but the rest are taking a back seat to Gilliam's fervent imagination, which is on display unlike any recent film of his since Munchausen.
I'm not giving Parnassus a bad review, in my opinion it is far better than Tideland or Brothers Grimm, it's just that at the end of the film I wish Gilliam had spent as much time writing a truly captivating story as he did dreaming up the Imaginarium.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Alan Hawkshaw

There is no more revered name in the world of library, or production, music than that of Alan Hawkshaw. Hawkshaw played with a number of luminaries in his time; The Shadows, David Bowie, Serge Gainsbourg, et al, but it was through his work recording original music for production libraries that his mark was made. Working, for the most part, with KPM, Hawkshaw recording some absolutely essential tunes.

Whether solo, as the founding members of The Mohawks, or with other KPM all-stars (Brian Bennett and Alan Parker come to mind), Hawkshaw's music was at times groovy, funky, and laid-back. Sometimes all at once.

RPM records has released a superb collection of his tunes.

You can also find his work on many library compilations.

Here's a couple favorites:

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Books I read April 2010

The Strugatsky's masterwork and one of my favorite books of all time. This, my 2nd read, was just as amazing, if not more so, than the first. Similarly, I re-read Stanislaw Lem's outstanding essay About the Strugatsky Brother's Roadside Picnic upon completion. Very insightful. I am anxious to start Tale of the Troika.
This early MacDonald mystery pre-dates his Lew Archer mysteries, and since I enjoyed all of those so much, I am endeavoring to read all his non-Archer work. So far I have now read all but two of these and I must say they all fall quite short of the standard he set in the Archer novels. Oh well, two more to go.
Hill's second novel Horns starts off quite well. The first 70 pages or so really got me excited about the main character's transformation. Hill then splits the rest of the novel between back story and the plot thread he wove from the beginning. I like Hill. I liked his first novel, Heart-Shaped Box, I read the hardcover graphic novels for his series Locke & Key, and I really liked his collection of short fiction 20th Century Ghosts. Unfortunately, the remainder of Horns couldn't keep up with the interest he generated in the 1st 70 pages or so. I wasn't bad, it just went downhill after a spectacular start. I'll continue to read Joe's fiction.
What can you say but GENIUS!
I love 19th century fiction and I love the novels of Alexandre Dumas. I have long lamented the dearth of his writings that were available in easily accessible, quality translations. Well over the last few years we have seen a few nice additions to Dumas' available canon. I read the Knight of Maison Rouge a couple years ago and was thrilled to see Modern Library also release Georges, the release of the previously lost The Last Cavalier, and Penguin's release and new translation of Dumas' The Women's War. There is not much to say. If you are a fan, you will love it. It has all the hallmarks of classic Dumas. Swashbuckling, double-crosses, romance, clever interplay of the characters, and, of course, all loosely based around actual events from French history.
Each and every time I read a new book by brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky I marvel at how easily they are able to put the reader into a completely foriegn environment. Definitely Maybe is a stellar allegorical tale, deftly and economically told, about the suppression of the individual in Soviet society. Simply remarkable. If you are a fan of challenging, thought-provoking fiction, you need to check out the Strugatsky's.