The Police Play “I Burn For You”

Brimstone and Treacle SoundtrackListen to this track by soundtracking blonde-headed trio The Police. It’s “I Burn For You”, a song as taken from the 1982 film soundtrack Brimstone & Treacle, a film with a very familiar presence on screen; bassist, singer, and head songwriter Sting.

The soundtrack featured a number of tracks from the band, most of which were instrumental. Other tracks were provided by The Go-Go’s, who were Police tour-mates around  this time, and Squeeze. Otherwise, this soundtrack provided something of a stop-gap between major releases for the Police after Ghost In The Machine and before Synchronicity.

Also, it was a way to support a film project that involved Sting in his pursuit as an actor. He’d previously been featured as Ace Face in 1979’s Quadrophenia, a part that relied on his ability to scowl with maximum cheekbone exposure. With this new role, as a charming but bestial deviant named Martin, things were more involved when it came to the demands of the script, written by the renowned playwright and screenwriter Dennis Potter. The film is based on his play originally made for television in 1976, but not broadcast due to its disturbing subject matter.  Plus, it was on this same soundtrack that would host Sting’s first solo single – “Spread A Little Happiness”. That song is a music hall-era tune written in 1929, and sung by Sting with a decided smirk. The song’s vintage didn’t stop it from reaching a top twenty showing on the British pop charts at the beginning of the 1980s.

Perhaps it stood to reason. By this time, The Police were the biggest band in the world, and still on their way up. Yet like that musical hall chestnut,  “I Burn For You” had a lot more to do with the past, reaching back into a pre-fame era for Sting before The Police, number one records, or international fame were even thought about. Read more

Peter Gabriel’s “The Feeling Begins” from The Last Temptation of Christ

Listen to this piece by world music enthusiast, soundtrack composer, and sometime pop star Peter Gabriel.  It’s  his ‘The Feeling Begins”, the studio version of which appears on his soundtrack album Passion, which is comprised of the music featured as the soundtrack for Martin Scorsese’s 1988 movie the Last Temptation of Christ.

Peter Gabriel 'Passion', is soundtrack to Martin Scorsese's 1988 film the Last Temptation of Christ, starring Willem Defoe as an introspective and vulnerable Jesus of Nazareth. The Christian Right weren't impressed.

The lead instrument here is a duduk, which is a double-reed wind instrument that is widely used in the Middle-East, as well as being related to a family of instruments that can be found in places as far flung as Armenia and Russia.  Its use is said to predate the time of Jesus by a thousand years.  And a more mournful use of it I can’t imagine. This piece is truly atmospheric, spooky even, and completely evocative of a stirring feeling that makes you think that there are forces in the world which have been deployed to challenge your mettle.   In short, it’s perfect for the story behind which it sets the emotional stage.

Yet, I think too that Gabriel designed this music to be listened to as well as to serve as a soundtrack to the story, so full of (here it comes) passion as it is.  And when you really consider a lot of his post-Genesis material, it’s really not too far away from his usual modus operandi in any case.

For instance, the percussion is way up front in this, and on many of the other pieces on the album too.  Even if this music is a bit of a departure in other ways, it’s still strongly flavoured with Gabriel’s unique taste for musical fusion cuisine, here throwing in some North African sounds in with those of the Middle East. Read more

Herbie Hancock Plays ‘Tell Me A Bedtime Story’

fat_albert_rotundaListen to this piece by post-bop keyboard innovator and soundtrack composer Herbie Hancock, ‘Tell Me A Bedtime Story’ as taken from the album Fat Albert Rotunda. The music on this album, including this piece,  originally served as the soundtrack to Bill Cosby’s first Fat Albert TV special, aired in 1969.

Herbie Hancock had served under the tutelage of Miles Davis for a significant period of both men’s careers, from 1963 to 1968, although he’d cut classic jazz records as a leader in between those years as well including Empyrean Isles, Speak Like A Child, and Maiden Voyage.  All of these records forged what is now known in jazz circles as ‘post-bop’, which is an amalgm of all that jazz had come to mean by that time, incorporating everything from modal jazz, bop, avante-garde, and free-jazz, yet still retaining something of an ear for mood and melodic effect. Like many of Davis’ proteges, Hancock was barely out of his teens, supremely gifted, and above all musically curious.  And therefore, his efforts in bringing the new ingredients in jazz together with the old would not be where Hancock would rest.

Hancock had been involved with soundtracks for films before. He’d scored the film Blow Up, directed by Michealangelo Antonioni. But, by 1969 he’d been invited to score an entirely different project; an animated special featuring the central figure of one Fat Albert, based on a boyhood friend of comedian Bill Cosby.  The special was among the first of its kind, a children’s  tale as set in the inner city projects based on Cosby’s Philadelphia upbringing. The music needed to follow suit with the material, which allowed Hancock access into another form of jazz – jazz funk.

Hancock assembled a nonet for the music he’d written, which included saxophonist Joe Henderson, Johnny Coles on trumpet and flugelhorn, Garnett Brown on trombone, and others.  Hancock played electric piano, and synthesizers, recently becoming enamoured of electronics and electric instruments, independent of his mentor Miles Davis’ similar interest as revealed on Davis’ Bitches Brew LP released around the same time. But where Davis’ exploration of electric instrumentation was about whipping the sound into a frenzy in order to produce a raw groove, Hancock’s Fat Albert Rotunda was about lyrical arrangements,  and a jovial, playful spirit in relation to his subject matter.

This piece in particular is something of a favourite for me, a melodic and atmospheric tune that could have come off as a throwaway from a lesser artist. But, there seems to be real connection with childhood here, with a feeling that Hancock wanted the sound of innocence to be captured, without it sounding trite or patronizing. I think he succeeds brilliantly, with his dreamy Fender Rhodes piano whispering behind the gentle lead voice of Coles’ flugelhorn.  And I love that the horns are used orchestrally, rather than held back until solos.  It really lets the melody, and the feel of the piece, breathe a bit more.  This is one of my favourite instrumental pieces by anyone.  It’s  gentle, and kind of sad too, capturing possibly the most central aspect of childhood innocence – the promise of its ending.

Hancock would continue to press the boundaries of jazz with his seminal 1973 jazz-funk classic  Headhunters, which made critics wonder whether Hancock was still a jazz musician, and whether his record was jazz.  Yet, Fat Albert Rotunda, and “Tell Me A Bedtime Story”  remains to be something of a unique statement between standard post-bop, and the blurry lines between genres that Hancock would explore while also taking on electro-funk and early hip-hop sounds in the decades to follow.

For more information about Herbie Hancock, check out his website.


Air Perform ‘Talisman’ From Their Album Moon Safari

AirHere is a track from French retro-futurist outfit Air off of their 1998 album (and a personal favourite) Moon Safari.

Something is stopping me from making this a part of my The Song In My Head Today series, maybe because I’ve added to that series so recently. But call this an unofficial entry, as this is, in fact, the song in my head today.

When I first heard Air, it was the lead single off of that album, ‘Sexy Boy’, which left me kind of cold on first listen. It’s grown on me since, but it’s still the weakest track (relatively speaking) off of a phenomenal, must-have release. What sold me on MS was the follow-up single, ‘Kelly Watch the Stars’, which is all vocoder fronted electro pop and dreamy piano arpeggios. Apparently, the titular Kelly is a reference to the character from Charlie’s Angels as played by Jaclyn Smith. You’ve gotta respect that.

The piece itself, much like the whole of the record, seems to be a soundtrack to the coolest European movie from 1975 that was never filmed. The songs and instrumental pieces seem to tell a story; the kind of tale you’ve dreamt , and have forgotten the details of once you wake up, yet feel as though you’ve been on a great adventure.

If you’ve not heard Moon Safari, and you have an affinity for the sound of lost 1970s soundtracks, with Moog synths, theremin, and Fender Rhodes textures, then I envy your discovery of this album. I plan to write a full review of this album, as it is one of my favourites, in an upcoming article – stay tuned, people!

In the meantime, take a look at the clip of Air performing their instrumental piece ‘Talisman’.

Blade Runner Soundtrack by Vangelis

One of my favourite movies of all-time is Ridley Scott’s 1982 dystopian sci-fi masterpiece, Blade Runner, based on Phillp K. Dick‘s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Apart from its revolutionary art direction and skillful melding of the film noir and science fiction traditions into something entirely seemless and original, Vangelis’ score is also revolutionary, and essential to the film. To me, this is the mark of a great soundtrack, that the sounds in the film help to make the world depicted in it that much more believable.

Here’s a clip, which gives you a taste of this must-see film, along with a sampling of Vangelis‘ sumptuous score.

P.S – Deckard is not a replicant. I don’t care what the director says!

To view the clip, hover over the image and click the ‘play’ icon. To enlarge the viewing window, click the maginifying glass icon in the top right corner. Alternatively, click on the image to view the clip in a new browser window. Enjoy!

Blade Runner

Bullitt – Cars, Cops, and Cool Hipster Jazz

Bullitt Chase Scene

Here’s a couple of links to the 1968 film Bullitt, starring the impossibly cool Steve McQueen, and featuring the smooth orchestral jazz soundtrack courtesy of one Lalo Schifrin, who would create the template for chase music in films well into the next decade, including soundtracks for the Dirty Harry movies, also set in San Franciso.

The first clip is the opening titles with a great sampling of the cool soundtrack.

And also check out this clip from the same movie; the immortal chase scene that set the tone for all chase scenes to come. McQueen did all of his own driving – natch.  This is not to mention another chance to hear the soundtrack again!