Project Spotlight

Breakfast at Tiffany's - Intrada Records
Breakfast at Tiffany’s

“I’m crossing you in style some-day” -- Lyrics to “Moon River” by Johnny Mercer

It is one of film’s most indelible amalgams: Audrey Hepburn, Hubert de Givenchy’s “Little Black Dress”, jewellery purveyor Tiffany’s, and the longing strains of “Moon River”. Iconic imagery and iconic music.

It is director Blake Edwards’ motion picture survey of Holly Golightly’s curious adventures that Henry Mancini superbly captures in scoring Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Armed with the complete Academy Award winning score courtesy of Intrada, we journey right alongside Holly wherever she’s goin’.

Whilst the lighter moments of Tiffany’s were proficiently distilled in the Dynagrooves of Mancini’s LP re-arrangement, Intrada’s disc rebalances the ledger revealing the more emotive and sombre trait of Holly’s existence.

Crucial underscore adds potent dramaturgical substance. Consider the superb forlorn arrangement of “Moon River” in “Poor Fred”. The morose orchestral tonalities evoked in the frightening “Feathers.” The desperate and dirge-like pounding piano in the final rain sodden sequence. And it’s all capped with the most astounding choral ascension of “Moon River” as a rain-soaked Holly, Paul, and Cat embrace whilst lofty camera angles close the film. Perfection!

Only now can we really truly appreciate the enormity of Henry Mancini’s aural contribution—one that confirms, without doubt, his veracity as a dramatic composer. It is this very skill that was overshadowed by Mancini’s own successes in producing accessible, easy-listening catalogue albums.

In 100 years from now, when the alluvium of music from the 20th century has been panned, sifted, and sorted, several significant gold pieces will undoubtedly remain. One of those nuggets will unquestionably be “Moon River”, the utmost achievement of Mancini and Mercer.

Maestro Mancini regretted not including Audrey Hepburn’s beautifully unpretentious, raw, and aptly bare rendition on his album. As early as 1964, interviewed in A World of Music, Mancini expressed that his favourite rendition was Ms Hepburn’s. Now we are able to hear all of Mancini’s stunning underscore crowned by that unique inaugural vocal performance.

The Breakfast at Tiffany’s elements available to us comprised four rolls of unmixed protection 35mm magnetic film containing the preferred takes for most cues. Audio content of these rolls varied somewhat in tonality and quality. Supplementing this material was: a roll with the separately recorded “Main Title” orchestra and chorus; the film’s up-and-down mono music stem from D/M/E splits; and a DAT with mono reductions of a select few pieces.

My prime concern was presenting Maestro Mancini’s masterwork in a way that was true to his likely intentions. By this I refer to what Mr. Mancini may have achieved if he elected or were able to issue his original Paramount recordings on stereo disc in 1961/62. Striving for this goal over 50 years later firstly involved coercing distortion, dropouts, high-end deterioration, brittle brass crackle, cyclical thumps, occasional wow, and managing noise in each of the individual multi-channel fields.

The second step was mixing this material (usually from three, sometimes four stripes) and to blend in what was necessary to secure from mono elements. Finally, a good deal of work was required to bring the disparate elements to the same page and infuse them with life. By virtue it is a different sound to that engineered by Al Schmitt on tape for the reshaped RCA LP. Even so, I invested many, many hours of effort into making this premiere of the actual film cues sound as worthy and inviting as humanly possible.

Whether you are an Audrey adorer, Mancini maniac, or a Tiffany’s treasurer, I hope you enjoy this knockout Mancini masterpiece.

What an absolute honour it was to be asked to preserve this unforgettable music for the future!

“You are the hippest of cats - and the most sensitive of composers!” -- Letter by Audrey Hepburn to Henry Mancini after seeing their film with score for the first time.

Released: 26 Nov. 2013.

Midnight Cowboy - Quartet Records
Midnight Cowboy

“Only the echoes of my mind…”

Midnight Cowboy offers one of the most potent combinations of music and image in cinematic history. It is almost impossible to think of the music without our mind conjuring specific imagery from the film. This is especially true of the various abstract montage sequences where music and sound design coalesce into a singular, almost inseparable, entity.

For Quartet Records’ special expanded edition, we preserved the original Grammy Award winning soundtrack album (for John Barry’s theme) on Disc One and present the music, in film order, on Disc Two.

The content of Disc Two was derived from the original monaural dialogue, music, and effects elements protected by M-G-M in the mid-1990s at about the time the Midnight Cowboy was inducted into National Film Registry.

While a surround sound mix was made for home video release, this was achieved by dropping in pieces from the stereo soundtrack album together with frequency splitting and filtering the mono material to create an acoustic space. For pure music listening, we have elected to preserve the integrity of the original mono sound.

Practically all the music heard within Midnight Cowboy was, rather appropriately, recorded in New York City. In 1924, the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company constructed two recording rooms on the seventh (top) floor of 799 Seventh Avenue, Manhattan. Brunswick made recordings from the site before selling it to Columbia Broadcast System (CBS) in the 1940s for $250,000. Many celebrated Columbia artists recorded in Studio A and B—perhaps most famously Bob Dylan, who made his lauded Highway 61 Revisited album there that included the iconic “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Phil Ramone’s A&R Studios acquired the Seventh Avenue space from CBS in 1967 and re-labelled the two primary recording rooms as A-1 and A-2. It was decided to retain much of the original acoustic properties of the rooms and their associated electronic equipment. The larger A-1 studio had dimensions of 40x50x30 feet and could accommodate 90 players. The smaller A-2 studio measured 25x30x12 feet and could hold 20. Both maintained mixing consoles custom built by Columbia’s in-house engineers with distinctive rotary level potentiometers, rather than now commonplace vertical faders, and supported 8 track recording.

A child prodigy on violin, Phil Ramone’s engineering ethos was to capture all musicians simultaneously as a live ensemble. Even when recording across multiple tracks, this quest for musical verisimilitude meant that Ramone’s recordings—across all the genres he worked—were infused with an energy and integrity. The Midnight Cowboy music recorded by Phil Ramone was captured live to 1” 8-track tape. With exception of ‘Toots’ Thielemans performing a second harmonica track for the 45 RPM single version of the “Midnight Cowboy Theme”, and some overdubs for “Everybody’s Talkin’”, every musician performs together.

During a search for audio elements, we discovered an 8-track reel containing several performances of the 45 RPM single version of the “Midnight Cowboy Theme.” We have included a new stereo mix of the very first take, heard for the first time since recording in 1969. Initially, the theme was performed at a different tempo and had the string section recorded with a stereo spread. This first take is cut from a rougher fabric than the final version and feels closer to the essence of the film performances.

“He Quit Me” is one of two songs by “The Groop” that we were fortunate to locate on a multi-track outtakes reel from the A&R Studios sessions. Whilst not the final take used in the film (or the soundtrack album), we have been able to make a new stereo mix as a bonus. The song was slated as 4M4 during recording and the mono film version is placed in its intended sequence.

“Tears and Joys” is the second song by “The Groop” and we discovered another outtake recorded on the same day as “He Quit Me.” Slated as 5M4, the music accompanies Joe Buck hauling a refrigerator upstairs to Ratso’s place. Ten seconds are also briefly heard at the start of the second reel of the film.

Finally, courtesy of engineer Phil Ramone’s estate, we were able to access the original 8-track recording of “Everybody’s Talkin’” and made a new stereo mix that takes advantage of the clarity found in the first-generation source. Nilsson recorded two separate vocal tracks, the second of which is used briefly in two sections of the versions that open both Disc One and Two. We have also included an alternate mix that uses the second vocal track in its entirety and dials down the string section.

Midnight Cowboy is a cornerstone in movie history. It was the first, and thus far only, X-rated film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. It was the first film to properly combine song and score not just by dropping in existing songs or substituting them for underscore, but as a true amalgam of musical styles deliberately selected to create an emotional journey and, ultimately, tell a crushing story.

Released: 8 Dec. 2020.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Quartet Records
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Three CDs is a lot of music. We’re
gonna have to earn it. 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly saw Ennio Morricone craft his most instantly recognisable music. While the film’s director, Sergio Leone, brought inventiveness, freshness, and flair to his photography—his composer achieved the same with his music score. Together, the two artists created indelible moments cut on an expansive canvas set to the backdrop of the American Civil War.

There is much to admire in Morricone’s invention of motifs, formation of thematic material, and adroit orchestrations (which Morricone considered can be more important than the act of composition).

On reflection, at the point in history that the composer scored The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, he seemed to be ahead of the curve of film music and, indeed, music more generally. Morricone created his own genre and utilised the recording studio as an instrument in achieving his vision by layering trumpets and varying echo to create depth.

This score is a kaleidoscope of nature call and response symbols, agonised shouts, grunting male chorus, epic wordless female voice, haunting harmonica, spiritual bugling trumpets, tolling chimes, vivid surf-rock Fender guitar, and sounds imitating gunfire. It’s stylised yet cinematic. It’s avant-garde yet embraces traditional film scoring—with some cues scored reverently for trumpet, harmonica, strings, and chorus. Yet in whole, it’s a rewrite of the film music rulebook!

Not only does The Good, the Bad and the Ugly contain one of cinema’s most impeccable marriages of music and image—it contains two! In “The Ecstasy of Gold” (“L’estasi dell’oro”), Morricone starts quietly and solemnly with chime, piano, and oboe. During just under three-and-a-half minutes, the composer perfectly matches the rhythm of Leone’s editing, increasingly intensifying the energy throughout before reaching an incredible ecstasy of music.

And at conclusion of the film’s epic ceremonial apex—that plays without dialogue for over five minutes—we realise how important Morricone’s outstanding “The Trio” (“Il Triello”) music is. The score creates tension and release by amplifying our emotions as Leone alternates his camera between wide angles and extreme closeups of the three protagonists in their Mexican standoff.

Disc 1 presents the score, chiefly in film sequence, as heard in the Extended Version film restoration. Disc 2 continues the presentation as well as offering a supply of alternates. Disc 1 and 2 were restored from monaural materials courtesy of M-G-M studios.

Also premiering on Disc 2 is a longer version of “The Story of a Solider” (“La storia di un soldato”) featuring three additional verses, remixed from the original International Recording studios ½” three-track tape.

Following an extensive search, Disc 3 showcases Morricone’s best-selling original soundtrack assembly remastered from the first-generation ¼” master tape.

This has allowed us to restore a two-seconds to the opening of “The Desert” and, crucially, restore 8 seconds to the start of “March Without Hope” rather than utilising the truncated fade-in present on other ¼” safety tapes and North American CD releases.

Now, nearly 55 years following its original release, we have opportunity to celebrate the musical genius of Ennio Morricone in this definitive edition of an iconic work to study and return to for years to come.

But when you have to listen, listen! Don’t talk!

Released: 8 Dec. 2020.

A Bridge Too Far - Quartet Records
A Bridge Too Far

“That, gentlemen, is the prize…”

Composer John Addison supplied A Bridge Too Far with a memorable, catchy, and upbeat march. It may seem superficially inappropriate to score a failed military operation with such positive bravado.

Deeper consideration leads us to realise that if any composer was qualified to score this film, it was John Addison, who served in the 23rd Hussars as a tank officer during the war.

His rousing march is filled with reverence and respect for the camaraderie and fortitude of those alongside whom he served. It evokes the strength and patriotism of the British war machine rather than the grim reality and futility of this operation and, indeed, war more generally.

Both the film and album recordings were held at CTS Studios—then branded as The Music Centre—in Wembley, England. CTS Senior Engineer, John Richards, expertly handled the recording duties on all dates. The sessions ran smoothly with a focused energy and respectful rapport between Addison, the musicians, and his engineer.

For this release celebrating the centennial of Addison’s birth, we accessed eight rolls of two-inch 24-track Dolby-A encoded tapes vaulted at M-G-M. These materials were in fine condition and allowed us to make new stereo mixes of both the album selections and film performances.

It seems that scoring A Bridge Too Far was to be a defining moment for John Addison. Shortly after completing this score, Addison permanently relocated his family to Los Angeles where he continued to achieve success—mostly in television, winning an Emmy Award for his theme for Murder, She Wrote—until his passing in 1998 at the age of 78.

Released: 8 Dec. 2020.

A Place in the Sun - Kritzerland Records
A Place in the Sun

Winning six Academy Awards, George Stevens’ A Place in the Sun displays film-making at its best.

Yet, following completion of three days scoring, in mid-January 1951, Franz Waxman’s score was cited as “too Teutonic” by its director. Notwithstanding Stevens’ view, the then 45-year old Polish émigré prudently selected an instrumental palette to render his beguiling milieu. After all, apocryphally or not, the composer is said to have “auditioned a hundred saxophone players” during his quest for the right intonation. Waxman was justifiably scrupulous—official documentation reveals that six soloists were formally tested prior to selection of William Hamilton Jr’s indelible dramatic accent. Furthermore, Waxman made austere foreground use of Aida Mulieri-Dagort’s harp, adding texture to his absorbing soundscape fulfilled by the 45 musician studio orchestra.

It seems that the composer was not available to attend to reconfigurations following additional picture editing. Doing so rested upon Paramount stalwarts Victor Young and Daniele Amfitheatrof who utilised the wonderful “Vickers Theme” and abided by the musical architecture that Waxman established. Several cues were revised by Young who supplied a few short inserts, connecting pieces, and the second half of the“Main Title” heard in the film. Amfitheatrof principally contributed towards the drowning sequence and the finale. The newly fashioned cues were recorded over two days in mid-February with Young and Amfitheatrof sharing conducting duties.

Now to a brief but relevant diversion to survey the evolution of magnetic recording in motion picture production.

The film industry’s use of magnetic sound can be traced to England in 1929 where Louis Blattner, based in Elstree, conducted experiments with solid steel tape punched with sprocket holes. These ultimately did not prove satisfactory compared with sound-on-disc reproduction and promising improvements in sound-on-film optical (photographic) soundtracks. 

During the years following conclusion of World War II, Allied technicians reverse engineered German machines that had perfected sound-on-tape. In doing so, much was learned about the formulation of ferric oxide particles, coating thickness, tape substrate materials, and the benefits of supersonic AC over DC biasing.

By 1946 experimental film-based magnetic recorders were emerging. One of these was developed by Marvin Camras, an electrical engineer from the Armour Research Foundation in Illinois. Camras was awarded a U.S. patent in June 1944 for describing the means by which successful magnetic recordings could be made. 

Loren Ryder, sound director and chief engineer at Paramount, extolled the benefits of magnetic recording over its optical counterpart. Ryder submitted that adopting magnetic sound would result in significant cost savings without sacrificing quality.

In February 1947 the DuPont chemical company supplied RCA with samples of 35mm cellulose tri-acetate safety film with a magnetic coating. However, it wasn’t until 1948 that commercially viable synchronous magnetic film recorders were made available by RCA and Western Electric. Initially, these were in the form of conversion kits, that replaced existing optical sound followers (exciter lamp and photoelectric cell) with magnetic heads, and instructions to make corresponding amplifier adjustments. Such a system was successfully demonstrated by RCA’s Dorothy O’Dea, on 18 May 1948, at the 63rd semi-annual convention of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) in California.

A rapid uptake of magnetic sound for post-production activities would soon transpire with Ryder founding his own company, Ryder Sound Services, in anticipation.

Ryder’s early embracing placed him at the precipice of any innovation. In 1949 he developed a dual-flywheel recorder that reduced flutter through increased film stabilisation and improved head contact. 

In fewer than three years from that foremost demonstration by O’Dea of RCA, Paramount’s sound team, led by assistant sound director Louis H. Mesenkop, would be capturing the music to A Place in the Sun via the new audio format.

In bringing this Academy Award winning score to CD, we had access to the contents of six cans of 35mm full-coat monaural magnetic film. Made during the dawning of the format’s “Cambrian explosion,” these master recordings were preserved to digital tape during mid-1990s archival activities at Paramount.

Unfortunately, time had not been sympathetic before that digital snapshot. Deterioration was all-encompassing in several sequences due to now known long-term instabilities with magnetic film. Passages were beleaguered by dropouts, afflicted by wow (due to uneven shrinkage), occasionally distorted and often frayed in sound quality.

With devotion, tenacity, and a love of the music, we have been able to create a program that showcases each enduring moment. In doing so, we decided not to push the restored audio too hard or fiddle much with the minimal hiss. Instead, we’ve respected its 1951 heritage, allowing the delicate original mono sound, expertly balanced by Paramount chief music mixer Phil Wisdom, to largely speak for itself.

Whilst some of A Place in the Sun’s music no longer exists and what does isn’t (and I don’t think can be) immaculate, we should be appreciative that Kritzerland’s world-premiere of the original score has opportunity to find place on the shelf of every aficionado of fine film music.

For historians, musicians and fans alike that have waited over 60 years for this, I do hope that you enjoy it. For those that haven’t yet experienced music from Hollywood’s Golden Age, this is simply a terrific place to start!

I was asked why we did not apply stereo ambience in the form of echo or reverberation to A Place in the Sun. The short answer is that it was my intention to preserve the original intended sound as much as possible. 

My basic tenet is as follows: If a score’s first generation recordings were mono then I would prefer to present the score that same way. Naturally, there are exceptions. Most common is when interspersing stereo and mono cues. The difference in positioning is usually plainly evident. In this circumstance, some light ambience fosters a better sequence-to-sequence blend.

In reality, presenting a source in its original mono is more revealing—any blemishes become more evident, not having opportunity to be masked by synthetic stereo. In the case of A Place in the Sun, to my ears, the restored mono sound had a proper sense of depth and perspective. For that reason alone, I felt it needed to be heard akin to how Franz Waxman and the engineering team at Paramount heard it. Now you can too.

Released: 15 Jul. 2013.

Star Trek: The Original Series - La-La Land Records
Star Trek: The Original Series

“Oh, you beautiful galaxy! Oh, that heavenly universe!”

15 CDs. 636 tracks. 17 hours, 18 minutes, and 17 seconds.

MV Gerhard and Matt Verboys of La-La Land Records, together with album producers Lukas Kendall, Neil S. Bulk, and Jeff Bond, have gone boldly and proudly delivered what fans have yearned for over four decades: the complete Star Trek: The Original Series scores!

Spread over 15 CDs, this unprecedented and definitive compendium of Original Series scores is the “whole kit and caboodle” as Mr. Scott might say.

For the first time collated in one handsome set, we hear the superb musical voices of: series steadfast Fred Steiner, woodwind wizard Gerald Fried, melodic muse George Duning, and, of course, the inaugural architect who bestowed us with the famous fanfare and theme: Alexander Courage. Also included are the two unforgettable and often tracked Sol Kaplan contributions, Jerry Fielding’s distinctive musical mode, and Joseph Mullendore’s Shakespearian setting.

In reality, this compendium is an overflowing cache of treasures from this much loved TV series. Wherever you dive in, there’s something to be relished or a warm memory to be evoked. Transcending usual television fare, these thematically rich scores sit comfortably alongside the Star Trek film canon replete with action, thrills, romance, mystery, and adventure. This is incredibly well-written and brilliantly performed music.

La-La Land’s gargantuan project had tight time constraints and it was therefore mandatory for us to appropriately divide the labour and work at warp speed.

Captain Lukas Kendall liaised with licensors, secured vault materials, reviewed every episode’s physical score, devised playlists, and learnedly skippered our endeavours making sure everyone had what they needed when they needed it. It is a testament to Lukas’ fine skills that it all ran like clockwork. In particular, this project further elucidates that Lukas is an expert producer and the best person to be in the Captain’s Chair for a venture of this magnitude.

Giving it all he’s got, chief engineer John Davis performed the herculean task of capturing over 150 quarter-inch and half-inch open reel tapes to modern 96 KHz digital. Aye, that’s a lot of tape.

With the patience and logical precision of Mr. Spock, science officer Bulk meticulously set up Pro Tools sessions by heroically scrubbing through the composite audio track of every episode, referencing recording logs to determine “printed” takes, and lining up every cue together with any overlays and segues. Quite an extraordinary effort to locate, catalogue, and organise each cue.

It was then my turn—as, I don’t know, Rodriguez! I restored the audio, pitch corrected it, and mixed in overlays. Some cues were up to a quarter-semitone too fast, others rather slow. There was considerable variation between scores, and cues within scores, that all needed to be adjusted.

In working with the elements, I filled dropouts and removed: prominent 60 cycle hum; pops; electrical glitches akin to bursts of static—perhaps from a suspect brass microphone; overtly creaky chairs; clashes with music stands; fender-benders with microphones; mishaps with gravity; and even musician and conductor discussions over sustain of “printed” takes.

There were also a few whole scores and individual cues that were recorded “hot” and needed delicate taming to assuage distortion.

Fortunately, the tapes were in mint condition, thanks to Neil Norman, and Johnny Davis’ transfers were of the highest calibre, as usual. Consequently, my course plot was more straightforward than it could have otherwise been. I must point out that some cues were worked on by Mike Matessino so it would be remiss of me to claim otherwise.

After I finished, the audio was beamed back to Neil and Lukas for review then transported onwards to mastering physician Doug Schwartz.

Prescribing the right medication, the Good Doctor of Audio made sure our patient’s vital statistics were within expected tolerances. He diminished hiss where intrusive, applied tasteful equalisation, created additional segues (per Lukas’ paperwork, mock-ups and his own expert musicality), and authored the discs for pressing plant replication. Whew! And it sounds brilliant thanks to Doug.

Wait! That’s not all! Trek music savant and communications officer Jeff Bond wrote pages and pages of eloquent prose chronicling every possible detail of these impressionable TV scores—It’s almost as if Jeff was born for this project.

Lest not forget the ever reliable style master, Joe Sikoryak, who fashioned arresting packaging that pays homage to the artists, designers, and actors that helped envision Gene Roddenberry’s adventures of the USS Enterprise and her crew. Joe is one of those hardworking unsung heroes that brings projects such as these to life and makes them tangible.

I was super fortunate to be along for a voyage with this cast of film music preservation heroes. And what a voyage it was! Thank you one and all.

As for the music, I hope you relish it as much as I. But first, the tranya.

Released: 4 Dec. 2012.