Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saturday Night Fever and The Brave Little Toaster

It's a shitty shitty shit '20s movie, and the version I saw had a shitty shitty shit '80s soundtrack. It was awful - Jennifer Orangio, film music critic, discussing the '80s handling of Metropolis.

As anyone who knows me will know, I like soundtrack albums. Especially instrumental ones that you can pretend to conduct to although I never really got the knack of it (I'm more of a keeping time type of guy), although I want to get the Happy Feet song and score albums - score because I've gotten to like John Powell a lot more than I did in his Face/Off days, and song because I can't pass up Brittany Murphy, Nicole Kidman, Robin Williams and Hugh Jackman on the same album. (Too bad nobody sang a cover of Laura Branigan (RIP)'s English version of "Gloria" to try and woo the penguin of that name [voiced and sung by La Murphy] in the flick, but never mind - still a good movie. Better than Casino Royale, as well.)

Anyway, last week while rushing to get the post out for the man taking them to the sorting depot, he noticed the stacks of my albums that I've had to store there ever since the Eviction (oh, that landlord will be getting a year-end Feltz next week, count on it friends and neighbours), and he tried to strike up conversation with me by telling me that the previous night he'd been listening to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack... don't get me wrong, he's a very nice man and he understands the pressures we're all under, but I mean to say, Saturday Night Fever? Unless you're '76, or another fan, or Mike, or coming to this from a film music-related blog, you won't understand what kind of a misstep that is; see also my ex-boss Ann Solomon, who waaay back when gave me a Kodak promotional soundtrack CD of songs from the movies, and my aunt Joy - who gave me a Billie Holiday CD. Quite simply not my type. Never has been, never will.

On the other hand, 1987's
The Brave Little Toaster is most definitely my type, both as an animated movie (the old chestnut about a group of household appliances going on a trek to find their beloved Master) and as an album. Jen asked me about it as part of her (successful) bid to find the song "City of Lights," but the non-Van Dyke Parks cuts are worth a listen too... this was the first venture into cartoons from David Newman, the most underrated member of the Newman musical family (his cousin's Randy, his brother's Thomas, and his dad's most famous work is the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare); since this movie his animated work's included Ice Age, Anastasia and, of course, DuckTales: The Movie - Treasure of the Lost Lamp, but this remains his best work for the medium (tied with Ice Age). It's also one of the few genuinely good movies he's blessed with his talent - Thomas is a must if you're seeking Oscars, and Randy has the Pixar movies on his side, but David's CV has precious few like Ice Age, Galaxy Quest, the Bill & Ted movies, The War of the Roses or Throw Momma From The Train (or even guilty pleasures like Critters and Man of the House) and far too many like Scooby-Doo (both movies), The Flintstones (ditto), The Phantom, Daddy Day Care, Fire Birds, Hoffa, Duplex...

Another irritation about Newman's career to date is that far too many of his scores either haven't been released commercially or only got the token score cut treatment - thank goodness for promos and specialty labels. Which brings us to Percepto, whose lovingly put-together CD came out in 2005, nearly 20 years after the film did; recorded in Japan (the movie was partly financed with Japanese money) with the composer conducting the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, it's a happy affair that doesn't clash with Van Dyke Parks's songs (unlike, say, Eragon - Avril Lavigne's end title song does not fit in at all, not to mention sucking); this does contain one of the bugbears of collectors, dialogue over music tracks (they're in Arial italics) - but while some soundtrack albums go overboard with this (The Truth And The Light: Music From The X Files, Babe, anything involving Monty Python or Quentin Tarantino) it's kept to a minimum here - and since the movie featured the voices of Jon Lovitz, Phil Hartman (RIP) and Tony the Tiger himself, Thurl Ravenscroft (RIP), we'll let them off the hook. This is a charming effort; he manages to weave the songs into the score without having them take it over ("The Pond" and "End Title" in particular) and the entertaining big band/Indian snake dance music for "They Look For Transportation" is a highlight. It's big and sweeping when it has to be ("They All Wake Up" and the seven-minute climax), but it's never cutesy - all cartoons should have music this strong. When they deserve it, that is.

And best of all, it's still available from Percepto... give it a go, Jen. Not all film music is as bad as Giorgio Moroder.

1. Main Title (2:23)
2. They All Wake Up (2:42)
3. Blanket's Dream (2:28)
4. The Air Conditioner Blows (1:20)
5. They Decide to Go (:52)
6. They Look For Transportation (:50)
7. Out Into the World (1:40)
8. City of Lights (2:59)
9. Blanket Looks for a Place to Sleep (1:04)
10. The Pond/Busby Berkley/The Meadow (5:35)
11. Toaster's Dream (1:16)
12. The Storm (1:36)
13. Blanket is Blown Away (1:37)
14. The Waterfall (:58)
15. Vacuum Rescues the Group (1:29)
16. They Sink in the Mud (1:26)
17. In the Shop (:56)
18. Blender's Motor is Sold (1:30)
19. It's A 'B' Movie (3:03)
20. Radio is Stalked (1:04)
21. Happy Travel (1:12)
22. Into the City (1:29)
23. Cutting Edge (2:29)
24. Junkyard Montage (1:25)
25. Worthless (4:26)
26. Finale (7:01)
27. End Title (3:36)


The Archivist said...


Ever since I tried -and failed- to find it for Jen, I've been interested in hearing it, to see what it was like.

I might have to track this one down.

* (asterisk) said...

It's funny, my missus loves movie scores (rather than soundtracks), but I just don't notice them unless they're awful, like in Ravenous. Now that was an awful score, and too damn loud.

I actually bought the Metropolis OST on vinyl back in the day. Sure it's very '80s, but some of it's okay, actually. I only bought it for the Adam Ant track, though.

Thanks for stopping by at my blog. Yours looks like a good one, so I'll keep you bookmarked and no doubt be back again soon.