have the rare ability to continuously satisfy. Not only does the label re-connect
us to the past with essential CD reissues, but also through re-recordings of
long forgotten and often overlooked classics. Vocalion’s three latest CD releases
continue to exemplify these principles, and all with a certain sense of style.
from The Exorcist (1974) and Flashpoint (1975) are two albums from Ray Davies
and the Button Down Brass. As albums, they formed part of an essential
collective, an audio treasury that would find their way into the hands of young
and enthusiastic kids, particularly of those who displayed an early interest
and love of both cinema and TV. They were usually the affordable route; a few
weeks pocket money would often result in one of these albums making it into the
comforting domain of your bedroom. Sat alongside your Geoff Love compilations, they
would provide countless hours of repeated enjoyment.
from The Exorcist and Flashpoint (CDSML 8526) offer a great twofer pairing.
Originally released on the Philips label, both albums contain a varied and
exciting selection of cuts. Aside from the ‘funky trumpet’ of Ray Davies, his
musicians including Alan Hawkshaw on keyboards, Alan Parker on electric guitar,
Herbie Flowers on bass guitar and Alf Bigden on drums, can all be experienced
here in top form and full flight. Covering the work of composers such as Lalo
Schifrin, Quincy Jones, Michael Small, John Williams, Elmer Bernstein and John
Barry, the selection is varied and vast. There’s a genuine refreshment to be
found in some of these interpretations, take for example Don Ellis’s The French
connection (1972) – Davies takes what could arguably be described as a frenzied
burst of dissonant trumpet sounds and applies a melody, a theme... Yes, it
perhaps lessens the intensity of its original, but instead provides a funky
reinterpretation, and one in which I believe works to a large degree. It’s
important perhaps to remember that these recordings were never in competition,
they’re not competing for supremacy – some are just far too big. Magnum Force
(1973) and its screaming, wordless vocals add so much to Schifrin’s original,
and any attempt to perhaps try and replicate that is left firmly alone, and for
good reason. However, a fresh approach certainly does it little harm, and can
be comfortably enjoyed as a separate listening experience and an addition. As
previously stated, it’s a really wonderful selection which takes in an eclectic
mix from television classics such as Kojak (1973-78) and The Magician (1973-74)
to cult movies of the day such as Mr. Majestyk (1974), Gold (1974), Point Blank
(1967) and even a couple of Bruce Lee Joseph Koo themes – The Big Boss (1971)
and Fist of Fury (1972).
high point of this SACD release is that it also contains both the quadrophonic
and stereo mixes. These titles were only ever previously available in 4-channel
sound through a Japanese release. Vocalion have again produced a dynamic sound
in their mastering process and provided a super set of notes which includes an
exclusive interview with Ray Davies and his recollections of the people and the
places relating to those exciting times. As always, Oliver Lomax provides a
fascinating and detailed journey which captures perfectly the essence of
yesterday. A great package, a great sound and a great journey; let’s hope there
is more of the same to come.
Scott of the Antarctic (1948) (CDLX 7340) starring both John Mills and Kenneth More has really become something of a British institution. The film celebrates its 70th anniversary next year- yes, 70thanniversary! Adding to that general sense of patriotism is, of course, the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Dutton Epoch’s new SACD release features the complete Vaughan Williams score performed by The Royal Scottish National Orchestra and conducted by Martin Yates. Whilst Charles Frend’s epic film has in the past received various incarnations, this new release brings together a great deal of world premiere cues in addition to sections excluded from the final cut of the film. The film music for Scott provides a wide and varied mix of styles ranging from the very regal and joyous to the haunting sensibilities of isolation and bleakness. It all works very well, tense and dramatic, it often echoes with the implication of impending doom. It reflects perfectly the perils of both man’s endurance and the dangers of the 1910 expedition. The score is also enhanced by its delicate use of soprano voices, provided here on this recording by Russian born Ilona Domnich. It’s also worth noting the contribution made by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Chorus, an amateur (unpaid) chorus they might be - but their level of importance (and level of standard) is quite astonishing. Combining the two elements of both wind machine and distressed vocal harmonies provides a perfect sound palette and are entirely reflective of Scott’s harsh and treacherous terrane. Scott of the Antarctic is without doubt a wonderful score, and I don’t believe I’ve ever heard it sounding so good. The CD is also packed to the brim at 79.48. Packaging comes in the shape of a detailed and enjoyable 16 page book. Would I have changed anything about it? As a soundtrack, I would have perhaps opted for a piece of film artwork to enhance its appeal, rather than the Thomas A. Binks painting of 1830 ‘Caught in the Ice.’ Nevertheless, it’s not to be seen as a distraction, overall it’s a complete joy.
Finally, Dutton Epoch has also released another in their SACD quadrophonic series of CDs which feature a selection of works by composer Hubert Clifford – The Cowes Suite and other works (CDLX 7338). Hubert Clifford composed for a number of shorts throughout the 1950s and a number of noted film scores during the latter half of the decade including Hell Drivers and The One That got away, both from 1957. In the middle of this period he also scored the Charles Crichton film Hunted (1952), a British crime drama starring Dirk Bogarde and Jon Whiteley. Clifford’s music for Hunted receives its world premiere here in the form of a 15 minute suite. Performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra and conducted by Ronald Corp, it’s a nicely condensed piece and probably a close representation of the sparse amount of music used in the film. Sound quality is again, of the highest calibre and we have come to expect from Dutton’s SACD releases and I’m sure this will be filling a few long-awaited gaps among soundtrack collector’s shelves.