2018 December 10 • Monday

Sometimes only ELO will do. And that's why the 547th Soundtrack of the Week is their score for Joyride.

It isn't 100% ELO. Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil wrote a theme song, "The Best That I Know How", which Barry Mann sings. It's the first track on Side A. I guess you could describe it as '70s gold. It has strings backing up a session combo that uses mostly drums and electric piano, though with some very minimal and tasty guitar embellishments. It's a tender song and you'll hear it again as the last song on Side B.

There's also an instrumental version arranged by Jimmie Haskell. It opens the B side of the record and uses what sounds like a Fender Rhodes to great effect.

Haskell also contributes four original tracks to the Joyride soundtrack.

"Dancin' in Alaska" is a country honky-tonk tune that’s brasher than most and with a sharp edge, some of the electric guitar playing giving it a pleasantly nasty sound.

Harmonica takes the melody for "Eatin' Dog Food", a subdued country instrumental that sounds haunted and lonesome.

“The Getaway" is a late-night piece with an eerie elctronic instrument creating an instant atmosphere of shadows and intrigue, floating over a percolating disco-ish foundation. It’s short and resolves quickly.

And then the last one from Haskell is "Train Stuff", a savage disco instrumental that has a tense and aggressive energy with relentless drums amd rhythm guitar as well as some acid rock electric lead guitar work. Easy to imagine this as being for a car chase or similar action scene.

The rest is ELO.

First up from them is "Tightrope", which has a big rich sound with different voices playing lines of different speed and mood before swinging into a straight rock groove with vocals about having more losing days than winning days. There are “classical music” influences and elements that increase the drama.

"Can't Get It Out of My Head" is a moody and atmospheric love song. Was this a hit or does it just sound a lot like some other song that was a hit? It’s a really nice song with a somewhat daring keyboard solo.

After that is "Boy Blue", an upbeat, relatively normal rock/pop song with an interesting mix of triumph and melancholy and an unexpected mixture of breaks from acoustic instruments playing “classical” influenced lines and electric instruments delivering the 1970s sounds.

“So Fine" opens with a chorus of angelic voices and then the band bursts in with a bright and fast energy and a mixture of rock, pop and soul that would probably go over okay with the disco crowd. As usual, ELO does interesting and unexpected things with instrumentation and arrangement. This song has a startling cut to a totally different soundscape with percussion up front and then effortlessly slides back into the song we started with.

Computery bleeps and bloops introduce "Telephone Line", which is actually a piano ballad enhanced by ELO's strings and electronic sounds.

"Rockeria!" starts with an opera singer presenting what sounds like a fragment if a delicate and lovely aria before the band smashed down the door with pounding drums and slide electric guitar. Of course the band plays hide and seek, disappearing and being replaced by the opera singer and strings, only to come crashing back in again. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, there’s a surf drums break.

And that's it! Probably there's music in the movie that isn't on the record. Maybe someday there'll be a complete release of Joyride!

2018 December 07 • Friday

First things first.


John Le May's book of lost Japanese giant monster films inspired me to get my own copy of one of his sources, a handsome volume that's called something like Godzilla Toho Tokusatsu Unpublished Material Archive: The Era of Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka.

It's all in Japanese, of course, but there are a few neat photographs.

Most impressive is how they printed an image of Godzilla on the edges of the pages!

2018 December 05 • Wednesday

After two books that explore sixty years of Japanese giant monster movies, what do you do? If you're John Le May, the author of those books, you turn your attention from films that were made to films that were never made—or might have been made but were lost or banned or never commercially screened except maybe one time at a convention or something. That kind of thing! It's The Big Book of Japanese Giant Monster Movies: The Lost Films.

The most interesting reading in this book is in the first part, "Unproduced Scripts", where you can try to imagine what a Toho-Hammer Loch Ness monster co-production might have looked like, or Batman Meets Godzilla...

That last title gets a very detailed synopsis in the bok's first appendix, "Short Treatments for Unmade Films". There are nine appendices in total, each one narrower in range than the one before.

Part Two of the book is "Proto-versions of Finished Films", which is less of a revelation but still has interesting information for the fans.

Part Three, "Banned, Unreleased & Lost Films" is all over the place, with tantalizing glimpses of two Japanese King Kong movies made in the 1930s (probably lost forever) as well as exciting titles such as Legendary Giant Beast Wolfman vs. Godzilla.

One of the most intriguing pieces of information was that the first Gamera movie started out as Giant Horde Beast Nezura, a movie about giant rats invading Tokyo. The miniature city built for them would end up being given to Gamera.

The production began to fall apart once the real rats arrived on set and containing them proved to be a nightmare. Soon, the set was plagued with fleas, ticks, and lice. Ironically, another of the problems with the rats was cannibalism, an element ironically scripted for the film's climax. As pesticides were sprayed across the studio, the crew had to begin wearing gas masks. Eventually the neighboring businesses began to complain about the runaway rats.

You might have noticed that the author uses the word "ironically" twice in the same sentence there. It's one of his favorite words and is rarely used to indicate something actually ironic. While this book is a terrific achievement and labor of love that should be on every Godzilla fan's bookshelf, it would have been improved by editing, copy editing and proofreading.

2018 December 03 • Monday

Sonia Rutstein's music for Igor and the Lunatics is the 546th Soundtrack of the Week. And it's on groovy lunatic vinyl!

You can see this whole movie on YouTube. It's extremely low budget and was apparently a production fraught with conflict and difficulty. It was also filmed in "Dementovision"!

In addition to composing the music, Sonia Rutstein also contributed rhythm guitar, synthesizers, keyboards and vocals, and was aided by Bill Monroe on electric lead guitar, Donna Bowman on electric bass and Janet Guerra on drums and percussion.

The first track is a country song called "All Across the Cornfields of My Heart". It's a nice tune with relaxed vocals from Rutstein and catchy melody and lyrics.

Synth arpeggios are a foundation for other soaring and stinging electronic sounds in the sci-fi sounding "Bedroom Scene".

Electric bass guitar belts out a rhythmically inviting but menacing line for "Sucker Punch". Guitar, synth and drums come in gradually, building up the song from its foundation. Sounds like there could be some Gobin influence here.

“More Murder and Mayhem” returns to the same idea as "Bedroom Scene" but with a different keyboard sound and a more active electric guitar part.

And it's only after all this that we get to the "(Opening) Theme for Igor and the Lunatics". It's a prettier number than you might expect, kind of ethereal and poppy at the same time, even though it's just a simple repeated keboard phrase.

Things get more intense with "Paul's Theme", a driving rock instrumental with a snarlingly primitive bass part and some exhilarating wailing from other instruments on top.

"Murder Theme" uses musical blocks and lines to create a strange atmosphere, somewhat reminiscent of Doctor Who scores from the 1970s and also deranged calliope music.

Then comes "Heroic Feat", which does sound heroic, with a martial snare drum pushing everything forward and bright synth horns playing various motives that suggest strength and energy.

“Marianne Finds Hawk" begins with lush keyboard pads creating a rich sonic atmosphere. It could lend itself to a few different moods but the occasional minor chord does suggest danger or at least unease.

Feelings of suspense and peril are, unsurprisingly, immediately up front in "Running in the Night Woods — Paul's Been Shot" There are some startlingly low rumbling keyboard sounds and some plaintive and vulnerable higher frequency voicings also. It's a short cue but covers a lot of ground.

The B side opens with "Cops Beat Up Scene", a groovy number that owes a lot of its success to the drummer in this combo. The music is well written but the drums give it a great feel.

“Just When You Think It's Safe — Marianne's Back Home” is somewhat similar to "Bedroom Scene" and "More Murder and Mayhem". There's wailing electric guitar soloing here, as there was in the previous cue and several others.

One keyboard plays a stabbing motif in "Barn Scare Massacre — Marianne Fights Back", while another keyboard part jumps all over the place doing different things.

"Old Friends Gone Astray" is a really nice song form, a nice set of chords played by the cool band on this session.

Moody synth swells are the setting for "Hank Saves Marianne".

Another nice set of chords, similar to "Old Friends Gone Astray", make up "Hope for the Innocent".

Then things get creepy and unsettling, with some low, solo synth voicings for "Worse Than Your Imagination". The low synth is soon joined by rough and jagged synth parts in a higher register.

"Derangement" doesn't sound particularly deranged. It's a short cue, actually sounds kind of hopeful.

Then we get to what might be the best track on the record, "Leave Me Alone", a straight-up rock song with vocals by Rutstein and echoes of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". It's just too short, though!

It segues into another great rock/pop number, again with Rutstein singing, "Now Is the Time". Both of these last two songs are great and if they had been a little longer and the movie had been a lot better, they could have been a nice single to release as a tie-in to the picture.