Monday, 17 October 2011

Lalo Schifrin - Bullitt - Shifting Gears (1968)

Yes, this is the theme music you will be thinking of everytime you see McQueen up on the silver screen. Even when he is kissing Natalie Wood in Love With A Proper Stranger you'll be asking yourself when he will pull out his pistol or ride off in his 1968 Ford Mustang.
The heart of this album is Shifting Gears because it leads into the famous streets of Frisco car chase scene that made this movie so famous. There is an air of brooding menace about it, that even without seeing the visuals attached to it, you're aware of the fact that it's leading up to something.
A word about the composer; Lalo Schifrin is an Argentine composer, pianist and conductor, best known for his film and TV scores, such as (deep breath) Mission: Impossible, man From U.N.C.L.E., Enter The Dragon and a ton of stuff with Clint Eastwood in the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, particularly the Dirty Harry films. Oh, and has four Grammy Awards and six Oscar nominations. If you haven't heard of him before, you've probably heard his work. Check out his discography, it's legendary.
Shifting Gears, as well as the Bullitt soundtrack is late 1960's acid jazz at its peak and somehow, after all of these years, it does not veer off into absurdity (or cliche) the way many of its contemporaries did. Who knew that it would remain stylish several decades after its debut? Apparently Schifrin had good instincts. And while the movie's staying power has certainly helped the soundtrack, one could argue rather persuasively that the music enhanced the film's reputation as well.
If you like greasy horns, clomping bongos, rolling maracca lines and lots of high hat stings accentuating the measures, this is your kind of music. It will make you wish you had your own cop drama where you had the time and money to become your own stunt driver.
It's sinful pleasure.

Quincy Jones - Theme from Ironside (1971)

Quincy Jones’s 1971 reading of the Ironside theme.
For those of you too young to remember, Ironside was a hit TV show that ran from 1967 to 1975  that featured Raymond Burr as a paraplegic, San Francisco police detective who went around solving crimes from the back of a specially engineered van.
The very groovy theme was penned by none other than the mighty Quincy Jones, the version you’re hearing today appeared on Jones’s 1971 LP Smackwater Jack.
Incidentally, while the opening theme music was written by Quincy and was the first synthesizer-based television theme song, much of the music score for the first few series of Ironside was by Oliver Nelson.
I can’t say with 100% certainty, but I suspect that like the version of Hikky Burr on the same album, this take on the Ironside theme was also re-recorded or embellished for that LP.
The whole affair manages to encapsulate a jazzy soundtrack feel, with some funky bass (Chuck Rainey), electric piano (Bob James), flute (Hubert Laws) and soprano sax (Jerome Richardson), taking the original theme and stretching it out for some solos. Jones manages to bring on the heavy brass without drowning out the rhythm section. This version starts out, like the TV theme, with (I think) a synthesizer imitating a police siren, with the Fender Rhodes bubbling underneath until the flute comes in to state the theme. There’s some groovy wah-wah guitar running in the background, and until the trumpet solo comes in, the feel is as much jazz rock as it is jazz. Aside from the impressive names listed above, the session was a who’s who of jazz and studio heavies, with Jones sharing producing duties with Phil Ramone and bass legend Ray Brown.
Very solid indeed.

Roy Budd - Get Carter (1971)

The classic 1971 film Get Carter, starring Michael Caine in arguably his most iconic role, is a great film. Part of what makes it great is the score from Roy Budd. As film scores go, I think it stands up there with anything by Lalo Schiffrin or Ennio Morricone. It forms a perfect backdrop for the film, from setting the mood as Carter travels North, to the grand slashing chords as the action reaches a climax in the emotionally charged finale.
The score is heavily influenced by the jazz and blues of the early 70s/late 60s. In its own right it is a series of classic tracks that stand up by themselves, and can be listened to in isolation from the film (although the film cannot be seen in isolation from the music!) It is track after track of great British jazz.
The Cinephile release of the soundtrack (the first official release of it outside of Japan) also contains several lines of dialogue from the film, interspersed between the tracks. These are some of the best lines, but might not mean anything to anyone who has not seen the film. If you haven't, now is your excuse to...