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Film Music Review (Volumes 1-7)





Laurel and Hardy Laughtoons Volume 1


Music composed by Fred Steiner, Jeff Alexander, Lyn Murray, and Ruby Raksin.

11 Tracks (Playing Time = 73:02)

Album produced by Ray Faiola and Craig Spaulding. Members of the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Angela Morley. Audio production and liner notes by Ray Faiola, Chelsea Rialto Studios. Design by Charles Johnston.

Screen Archives Entertainment CRS-016

Rating: ***

Those of us from Generation X owe our awareness of Laurel and Hardy to a series of re-packaged half-hour shows of the duos classic films syndicated in the early 1970s which subsequently led to the reappearance of the original shorts. This would introduce our generation to a whole different world of slapstick in contrast to the more familiar Three Stooges.

George Korngold was hired on to oversee the production of the music that would be specially composed for these incarnations. In addition to the inclusion of the “theme” music used for Laurel and Hardy, “The Dance of the Cuckoos” (composed by Hal Roach Studios composer T. Marvin Hatley), Korngold hired four television composers to create original accompaniments to the newly-edited versions. Original music along with classical and popular themes as well as the Hatley theme music were all incorporated to create the background music. Additionally, the orchestrators who worked on these projects (around 150 in all) included Tony Bremner, Christopher Palmer, and John Morgan. Roughly half of the suites included here were composed by Fred Steiner. The music is mostly for brass and winds with a small contingent of strings, essentially a theater orchestra set-up.

For this release, Ray Faiola has taken the music from the various Laughtoons and organized them into suites with titles that refer to the original short films. It is a feat that would seem more complicated than one could imagine but the results are quite wonderful to hear.

The sound is crystal clear. Each suite contains enough of the “main theme” to provide some glue and the various familiar tunes appear scattered within the contents of the sometimes mickey-mousing wah-wah trumpet and composed sound effects. In some ways the music does try to recapture the sound of an earlier day. It is not quite late-twenties theater music but it does a very good job of coming quite close to sounding like it. Some of the tracks include comic dialogue at the beginning before the music enters.

This is one of those releases that has very appealing music but which may have a fairly limited audience.

If you are interested in hearing a kind of updated, post-ragtime theater sound these are all little gems displaying a kind of innocuous joie de vivre and are superb examples of Steiner’s compositional gifts. Even the additional composer’s contributions seamlessly match the other musical material. The booklet notes include information for each track and plenty of excellent photo stills, all very attractive for the collector.


--Steven A. Kennedy , 29 March 2007

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Also available is this recommended CD with music from L & H comedies:

Trail of the Lonesome Pine - Laurel & Hardy Memories of the Silver Screen

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