SOUNDTRACK

How do you file the soundtrack albums in your collection? The Vinyl Connection library has them alphabetically under ‘Soundtrack’, a nice little section sitting snugly between Sonic Youth and The Soup Dragons (the CDs) and a bigger vinyl section sandwiched comfortably twixt The Someloves and Joe South.

If you browse any collection of soundtrack albums you can’t help noticing how oddly varied they are. Here are a few sub-groupings for starters…

Compilation

This used to be the most widespread and remains the least interesting sub-category. Someone (not always the most creative member of the team) compiles an album of existing songs that have appeared in the film, perhaps only for a few seconds, whacks a cinematic still on the cover and the company pushes it into the market in the hope that some poor sods who enjoyed the movie will shell out for this uninspired collection of unconnected songs. It’s true that these perfunctory efforts have become less common, and it is also fair to say that if you have a modest collection, sometimes these comps can fill a few gaps cheaply, yet generally they offer limited return on your investment unless you have such a strong connection to the film that such a collection transports you to another place and time.

Compilation with Benefits

Occasionally a rarity will sneak onto the disc, increasing the interest factor and perhaps making the album a lil’ bit collectible. An example is Against All Odds, an album I bought not for the Phil Collins title song, but for the contribution by previous Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel. ‘Walk Through the Fire’ has the moody intensity that characterises much of Gabriel’s work and while not a lost classic, is a solid—and rare—addition to the artist’s songbook. I also find it amusing that the two Genesis singers are separated by Stevie Nicks. Rumours abound.

Against All Odds soundtrack

Another type of benefit is when the soundtrack album contains snippets from the film or is configured in such a way as to provide an entertaining listening experience in its own right. One favourite in this category is the soundtrack album for Canadian Ron Mann’s 1999 film Grass: A History of Marijuana. After a catchy, electronically funky opening song by Mark Mothersbaugh (Devo) entitled ‘Quit Playing Games With God!’, we jump back to 1932 for a rollicking Cab Calloway number (remember him in The Blues Brothers?), ‘Reefer Man’. The soundtrack proceeds in a roughly chronological order via a couple of drug staples (‘Itchycoo Park’ by the Small Faces and the Quicksilver Messenger Service classic ‘Fresh Air’) and a mandatory reggae number (Peter Tosh ‘Legalise it’, the lyrics of which are an absolute hoot) to a closing bracket of three 90s songs. The rap one leaves me unmoved, but William Topley’s ‘(I don’t wanna go) Uptown’ is darkly grooving.

Grass OST

There is a fun Chevy Chase Saturday Night Live sketch, but my favourite dialogue excerpt is from the ‘science experiment’ segment. A volunteer has been administered (under controlled conditions, of course) a substantial hit of, er Fresh Air. Asked whether he would participate in a similar study again, he does not hesitate.

Oh, Suuure

So it was a very pleasant experience for you—

…Any time you want…

Do you think it would be—

ANY time at all…

Do you th—

Just call…

Do y—

Day…  or…  night…

Orchestral Scores

Composed for the film, often during the early editing stages, these soundtracks aim to underscore the story arc and enhance the emotional impact of key scenes. Yet I find that, separated from the images, such works often sound like so much posturing. Dragging them out of the enclosed darkness of the cinema can reveal grandiose clichés and a patchwork of filmic tropes that are rarely satisfying listening experiences.

But not all composed scores consist of dramatic swathes of strings and swelling orchestral waves. Where the Director and composer go for a smaller scale music, the results can be pleasing. An example is the music written for Brideshead Revisited by Geoffrey Burgon. Although it is a TV series and, strictly speaking, inadmissible here, I’m not going to let that stop me.

Brideshead Revisited music

I was always going to be biased towards the music due to a long-term infatuation with Evelyn Waugh’s great 1945 novel of awakening and disillusionment, yet the melodious ‘classical’ themes and chamber orchestra arrangements have a patina of elegance and the scent of a different, less troubled world. If you played this during an autumn afternoon tea with your Great Aunt Amelia, she would approve. You’d be eating cucumber sandwiches, of course.

Concert Films

Music played live and captured on film is a large category all on its own. From Jazz On A Summer’s Day, the 1960 film of the Newport Jazz Festival of two years earlier, to the almost mandatory tour film by today’s supergroup, diverse artists and events have been preserved on film and presented to the public via a theatrical release. For some, both album and film attain some sort of immortality due either to the brilliance of the musical performances or the historical significance of the concerts, or both.

As far as events go, no-one would argue against Woodstock being a pivotal moment in sixties youth culture. The film was popular at the box office when it was release a year after the festival in 1970, while the triple live album has had an enduring fascination for several generations.

Woodstock - the album

Single-artist Soundtracks

What it says on the packet. Or in this case, jacket. A soundtrack composed by an artist or artists who have taken the film commission seriously enough to attempt to create an entire album of quality music that works on its own.

One of my favourite film adaptations began life as a children’s picture book containing just over 330 words.Yet the music by Karen O and the Kids for Spike Jonze Where The Wild Things Are is boisterous and touching.

karen-o

Like a part-punk, part waif leader of a pack of eight-year-olds, Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) delivers a set of songs both innocent and gutsy. The film of Maurice Sendak’s book (novelist Dave Eggers co-wrote the screenplay) is a bit the same.

where the wild things are OST

The original Sendak story is so very good that it is worth having a child just so you get to read it to them. I’m not sure the film/soundtrack is quite in that procreative category, but it is a wonderful, human work populated by charming (and sometimes slightly scary) wild things. And ‘All is love’ is a great song in any context.

One for the Max in all of us.

Category, Splattergory

Of course, the most fascinating and frustrating aspect of all music collecting (and writing) is its absolute refusal to be divided into neatly defined sections. You could, for example, approach this particular task by looking at film genres.

Horror, Western, Rom Com, Sci Fi, Musical…

All categories are incomplete, partially inaccurate, and somewhat contrived. That doesn’t stop us trying to shove stuff into the boxes, but certainly limits the success. So we must cheerfully accept that attempts at sub-division are, at best, a rough and sketchy map and that many—perhaps even the most interesting—musical soundtracks comprise hybrids, variants or even uncategorizable offerings demanding individual attention. An example is When The Wind Blows, featured a while back at Vinyl Connection, where new and pre-existing material are combined successfully to create a cohesive and fascinating album.

Being curious about which soundtracks float the cinematic boats of others, I invited some blog colleagues to share their favourite soundtrack albums. A number bought tickets immediately.

So, fanfare please, as we proudly announce… the inaugural…

LP stack white soundtracks – Film Fest

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A special page has been added for the Program

(updated daily)

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Participating blogs

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The festival will run from

1 November – 14 November

All screenings are free.  BYO popcorn.
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42 comments

  1. I look forward to reading your guests’ lists.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fantastic idea, Bruce! I look forward to the Festival. In your stack of LPs, I see one of my own favorite soundtracks, for Woody Allen’s Manhattan; Gary Graffman’s performance of Rhapsody in Blue on that album is my all-time favorite, but maybe that’s because it’s linked in my mind with the film’s gorgeous black and white cinematography of Gordon Willis. And great to see Bernard Herrmann on hand…what would Psycho be without those screeching strings as Janet Leigh meets her untimely end…?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That opening sequence in Manhattan is one of my favourites in movies. And it is indeed a great performance of “Rhapsody in Blue”. I recently played it to the boy (who is learning clarinet) for that note!

      The image at the top of the blog (well spotted that it has been updated for this series) – and indeed the photo that appears in the Reader – should be considered in the same light as ‘Serving suggestion’ on cereal boxes. Mind you, if you were tempted to write a piece on Manhattan and its Soundtrack…

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      1. Would you believe I actually *did* do one–very short–on Augenblick? Almost three years ago to the day…tempus fugit…!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Aaaaaaargh. This is a constant source of uncertainty on my part. Something like Spinal Tap — I have that filed under Spinal Tap. So yes, single artist soundtracks, I file with that artist in chronological order. But my soundtrack section is a bit of an unsatisfying mess. I have my “various artists” albums mixed in. I know, I know.

    I’m due for an overhaul this Christmas holiday. I shall use this article for ideas when I get to soundtracks.

    As for the soundtrack festival, we have talked a little “behind the scenes” so you know what I was planning to do. Well I’ve been absolutely stuck on that one title. So I have two others ready to go. My original idea though remains in limbo!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kind of relieved to read that another comrade struggles with Soundtrack filing. Look forward to hearing how the renovations go!

      Well, Mike, no pressure, but ticket sales are strong and I know you wouldn’t want to disappoint your legions of fans. 😉

      Would like your (and others’) opinions: What about a list of the film titles, with year, linked to the writer’s blog/post? Like this…

      Chariots of the Gods? [1970]

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So many sub-groups within the Soundtrack category – probably why I tend to go alphabetically for non-soundtracks and then put all soundtracks at the end!
    A fine post Bruce, thanks for hosting the soundtrack series!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This sounds awesome, Bruce. So looking forward to this. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mine are in a section called Soundtracks. That includes most of your sub-categories. Just easier searching, that way, than trying to remember who did what.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Also, I don’t have quite as much disdain as you seem to for compilations. I love tracks tossed together like that. It’s the CD equivalent of hitting random on iTunes. I don’t really care if they have association with the film, I just like mixed CDs! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe we should do a ‘Various Artists’ Festival next?!

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      1. Er, I’ve included various artist film soundtracks in this upcooming series, so I’m ahead of the game!

        If it’s only supposed to be scores, I gotta switch my plan – and quick!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Do anything film soundtracky that you want, my friend. That’s the only rule.

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        2. Excellent. I’M ON IT!

          Liked by 1 person

      2. But as far as a Various Artists / compilations series, that’s a FANTASTIC idea! I have a ton here!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I struggle with soundtracks, they always seem just part of the story, I only own one and have never listened to it. Various Artist compilations are the same for me, they fill gaps for a mix but unsatisfactory on the whole, I always think I can do it better, the compilation that is.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. True enough that some soundtracks certainly are simply enhancers or connectors. But others – as I hope you might discover during the Festival – are interesting and worthwhile in their own right. Perhaps you might double your Soundtrack holding as a result!

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  9. I have the soundtracks filed alphabetically with all the others. I don’t have many ‘Various Artists’ soundtracks, though (only the Tarantino ones, I think).

    And yes, I’m all for the film title with year linkage!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers J. (I should have realised that all the bloggers would get stuck on the ‘filing’ introduction!)

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      1. I think you did that on purpose…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I know he did! We’re geeks about filing! Just don’t ask 1537 where he puts his bands that start with numbers in their names…

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Surely they’re filed under the letter the number begins with!

          Liked by 1 person

        3. YES YES AND YES! how could any gentleman do otherwise?

          Liked by 2 people

  10. I feel the same as Neil, could never get into soundtracks. But I’ll see what you all come up with and maybe it’ll all become clear!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Shine – filed with unloved Classical CDs -fails to bring back the enjoyment of the film. Same with Miami Vice, which is filed with my minor score of recent (by my standards) music.
    Thanks for the Post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe you’ll encounter something during the Fest that’ll tickle your fancy, DD.

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      1. In fact I will search out Manhattan

        Liked by 1 person

  12. […] My blogging friend Bruce is hosting a Soundtrack Series over the next two weeks. Lots of talented bloggers are participating, check it out @ vinylconnection! […]

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I have a ton of soundtracks and I may be going to see the one night only Rush movie soundtrack Time Stand Still November 31

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 1 – 14 November, Boppin’. Do join in. Post some Soundtrack posts!

      Don’t know how i’ll go keeping up with the links, but send them via the Facebook Vinyl Connection page and I’ll do me best.

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      1. Cool. Thanks.

        P.S. I typed Nov 31. That obviously was a typo.

        It should have read Nov. 3

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      2. I have at least 1 Australian movie soundtrack I have been wanting to post about anyway for a while.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Go for it. Wonder what it is?

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  14. Great intro Bruce – my favourites are always ones where movie dialogue features heavily. Blade Runner is easily one of my favourite albums ever.

    I’m also a big fan of soundtracks to imaginary movies too, that’s a great sub-genre in my view – Barry Adamson’s LP ‘Moss Side Story’ is a genius-level exemplar of that.

    Here’s hoping I get access back to my stereo soon (we’re having building work done, so my nice tranquil music den has become a makeshift kitchen this last week) so I can play along too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ‘Dad. How long do I put pizza in the turntable? Also, mom said we needed the storage space for food, so we moved your boxsets to the freezer.’

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      1. I did actually read up on whether proximity to a microwave affects vinyl … the answer is ‘Don’t you freaking understand how these things work, farm boy! Go back to walking on all fours and worshipping your primitive gods’.

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    2. I so wanted to write about Bladerunner (especially as I have the Mob Fid red vinyl version!) but decided that three feature posts was probably enough.

      Perhaps the kitchen in the music room is why you were drawn to re-visit ‘Grease’. Oh, no, it was that other Travolta thing, wasn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have that one too – it’s worth a bit already. It’s probably my most played album.

        ‘That other Travolta thing’ is one of the main pillars of Western post-war civilisation, as I will argue soon. Not that I’ve actually listened to it in a decade, or so.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Can’t wait. Always up for an extra pillar.

          Liked by 1 person

  15. […] invited to take part in a post series on film soundtracks by the incredibly awesome Bruce over at Vinyl Connection. I love soundtracks and blog posts and talking about them in great detail so I said absolutely. My […]

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  16. Sooooo many good ones!

    Like

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