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The 8th Annual

Best Film Music CDs

Released During 2005

 


Best of 2005

Selected by Roger Hall

 

When reviewing film music, a writer can only express his or her own opinion based on what they hear on the CD and also, if possible, how the score works or doesn't work in a film. So this annual list is a subjective choice of the past year's film music. You may agree with some or none of the choices. But this list doesn't intend to discredit those who work so hard in the film music world. It's only one reviewer's choices based on what he feels are the best soundtracks,
compilations and DVDs of the year.

This is the eighth year for the list.

During the year I've heard some excellent soundtracks and compilations deserving high praise. And also some that fell to the lower end of scale. FMR has a star rating system to reflect how a soundtrack or compilation is judged based on its performance, production and art design. Some CDs were designated as Special Merit for their excellence in production. The highest honor is reserved for those CDs that I've selected as Best of the Month.
These are indicated on the list below.

My list is based on past FMR reviews. Some of the soundtracks were much better than the film, such as KING KONG, which I found a mighty big bore of a bad acting and too much CGI whiz bang stuff. A few soundtracks were from much better underrated films,
like DREAMER and LADIES IN LAVENDER.

But above all, this was another banner year for the most respected film composer working today and this year he is once again designated as the...


Top Film Composer
of the Year: John Williams


He had one of his best years in decades, with four outstanding film scores in 2005: STAR WARS: REVENGE OF THE SITH, WAR OF THE WORLDS, MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, MUNICH.

Here are the remaining choices (listed alphabetically in each category)...

Best New Soundtrack Releases

1. CORPSE BRIDE (Danny Elfman) - Special Merit

2. DREAMER (John Debney) - Edtor's Choice for October

3. HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE (Patrick Doyle)

4. KING KONG (James Newton Howard)

5. LADIES IN LAVENDER (Nigel Hess) - Editor's Choice for May

6. MARCH OF THE PENGUINS (Alex Wurman)

7. MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA (John Williams) - Editor's Choice for December

8. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (Dario Marianelli)

9. SYRIANA (Alexandre Desplat)

10.WAR OF THE WORLDS (John Williams) - Special Merit

Best Older Soundtracks

1. THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN (Max Steiner) - Editor's Choice for March

2. THE BOOK OF STARS (Richard Gibbs) - Special Merit

3. CUTTHROAT ISLAND (John Debney) - Special Merit

4. JOHNNY BELINDA (Max Steiner) - Editor's Choice for March

5. THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD & TAKE THE HIGH GROUND
(Dimitri Tiomkin) - Editor's Choice for April

Best Compilation Releases

1. BAMBI - Songs by Larry Morey and Frank Churchill/ Score by Ed Plumb -
Special Merit

2. The Essential Elmer Bernstein Film Music Collection

3. Three Choral Suites by Miklos Rozsa: BEN-HUR, QUO VADIS, KING OF KINGS - Special Merit

4. The Ultimate Movie Music Collection (4 CD set) - Special Merit

Best Record Labels and Album Producers

1. BYU Film Music Archive - James D’Arc

2. Silva Screen - James Fitzpatrick

3. Film Score Monthly - Lukas Kendall

4. La-La Land - Michael V. Gerhard

Best DVD Releases (Single and Multi Disc Sets)

Single or Two DVDs

1. THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY (1954)

2. WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005)

DVD Sets

1. KING KONG COLLECTION [4 DVDs: KING KONG (1933), SON OF KONG, MIGHTY JOE YOUNG]

2. ASTAIRE & RODGERS COLLECTION, Vol. 1 [5 DVDs: TOP HAT, FOLLOW THE FLEET, SWING TIME, SHALL WE DANCE, THE BARKELEYS OF BROADWAY]

Worst Soundtrack and Compilation

1.Soundtrack: LASERBLAST (Richard Band and Joel Goldsmith)

2.Compilation: MURDERBALL – various songs

To read reviews of the soundtracks and compilations listed above, click on this link:
Film Music Review (Volume 7)


Best of 2005

Selected by Steven A. Kennedy

 

2005 has been an interesting year for film music fans. The first few months yielded no real surprise scores, unless you count Alexandre Desplat’s HOSTAGE (I have not had a chance to hear SYRIANA yet), and one of the year’s betters scores (and films), Mark Isham’s CRASH, was somehow overlooked between the hype of REVENGE OF THE SITH and BATMAN BEGINS. Two Spanish composers had a chance to be heard by more American audiences with Roque Banos’ score for the interesting Hitchcockian film THE MACHINIST, and Alberto Iglesias showed off his ability to right world music along with dramatic underscore for THE CONSTANT GARDENER. Both are composers worth keeping an eye and ear out for in the future.

Danny Elfman scored two Tim Burton films this year. The Oompa Loompa songs for CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY were the highlights of that film while those for THE CORPSE BRIDE were reminiscent of his work on THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS mixed in with a little Gilbert and Sullivan at times.

Harry Gregson-Williams (my pick for composer of the year, 2001) had two high profile projects this year. I felt his score for the first Narnia movie to be too generic. Unfortunately, his score for KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is excellent and marred in the film by the inclusion of source cues that overwhelmed the music he wrote. I think it could have been his GLADIATOR achievement to parallel that of colleague Hans Zimmer.

Other voices seemed a bit silent this year. John Debney returned to slumming mostly scoring smaller and often little seen pictures like DUMA and DREAMER, Rachel Portman’s score for OLIVER TWIST had some fine thematic moments, Marco Beltrami was all but absent, and though Brian Tyler had a couple of projects none really clicked with audiences. I will point out here though that George Fenton, though somewhat relegated to comedy scoring, managed to provide a wonderful score to the underseen British animation import, VALIANT. The score pays homage to the great Ron Goodwin (and other) war scores and makes for wonderful listening.

In the re-release and vintage realm, there were many wonderful surprises from practically every label. La-La Land continued to release a number of rather unusual scores in a variety of niche markets. GDM kept up the steady stream of Spaghetti-Westerns. Film Score Monthly had a number of surprises of its own with rare television score releases as well as some re-issues of albums re-mastered and/or appearing on CD for the first time, though the print magazine is no longer. Varese’s CD club finally announced some releases in May and later in the year. On any other label the choices may have seemed less odd, but the preceding hype just did not pay off this year for most. Intrada also had several surprises in store, one of which was their release of DeVol’s HUSH…HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE, a personal favorite.

Finally, a brief note about some of the great artists we lost this year. Robert Farnon, who both John Williams and Henry Mancini acknowledged had some influence on their own music, died this year. He is perhaps known most for his television work and provided music for TV’s THE PRISONER. Kurt Graunke was an important German orchestrator and conductor. He founded the symphony orchestra which bore his name in the 1940s and 1950s (now the Munich Philharmonic) that Hollywood turned to often to record scores during musician strikes. Fans of the TV series THE INCREDIBLE HULK mourned the passing of Joseph Harnell. And Francesco De Masi also died this year. His score for the documentary INDIA is credited with introducing the sitar to a wider audience and influencing the Beatles to include the sound in one of their songs paving the way for Ravi Shankar.

And now on to the year in review…

Top Film Composer of the Year:   John Williams

It is probably no surprise that I have chosen John Williams as my pick for Top Film Composer this year. The choice was closer than it may appear however, but MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA and MUNICH all but cemented my decision. Williams had a stellar year reminding us with each new score of his growth as a composer and consummate ability.

REVENGE OF THE SITH was a less satisfying album, but brought the STAR WARS film series to a brilliant finale while bridging the gap to the original trilogy. This was the Williams of many notes and leitmotifs hinting backwards, forwards, and everywhere in between. “ Battle of the Heroes” is a monumental track that will likely take its place alongside many other concert pieces from the STAR WARS universe.

 Then it was on to Spielberg’s WAR OF THE WORLDS. Here we got a look at Williams the dramatist. The CD is an interesting listen, but it is really in the film itself where the score and Williams’ display of underscoring are best appreciated. The basement sequence, mostly unscored, is about as tense as the unseen shark scenes in JAWS. There music was used to heighten tension, in WAR OF THE WORLDS music is often absent appearing to only intensify the scene allowing the images to speak on their own.

In MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, Williams adapted other musical sounds making them into his own and incorporated thematic development and colorful orchestration in more subtle and exquisite ways then even the lush score for SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET did several years ago. This is a masterful score that plays equally well on its own with engaging performances by Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma. It may recall for some Tan Dun’s HERO suggesting the flexibility of Williams to continue to adapt into his own style those of other current musical trends.

Coming at the very end of the year, MUNICH quietly entered theaters. The CD was equally elusive but well worth the wait.

Best New Soundtrack Releases ( in alpabetical order)

CRASH– Mark Isham

HOSTAGE – Alexandre Desplat

KINGDOM OF HEAVEN – Harry Gregson-Williams

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA – John Williams

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE – Dario Marianelli

Honorable Mention...

DUST TO GLORY – Nathan Furst

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE – Patrick Doyle

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE – Howard Shore

KING KONG – James Newton Howard

STAR WARS III: REVENGE OF THE SITH – John Williams

Best Older Soundtracks ( in alphabetical order)

ALICE ’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND & PETULIA – John Barry (Film Score Monthly)

THE BOOK OF STARS – Richard Gibbs ( La-La Land)

THE CHAIRMAN – Jerry Goldsmith (Prometheus)

HUSH...HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE – Frank DeVol (Intrada)

INVITATION & A LIFE OF HER OWN – Bronislau Kaper (Film Score Monthly)

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (complete) – Howard Shore (Reprise)

NON SI SEVIZIA UN PAPERINO & NELLA STRETTA MORSA DEL REGNO – Riz Ortolani (Hexacord)

PENELOPE & BACHELOR IN PARADISE – John Williams/Henry Mancini (Film Score Monthly)

THE PUNISHER – Dennis Dreith (Persevarance)

THE SEA WOLF – Erich Wolfgang Korngold (Chandos)

 Best Compilation Releases

ALMODOVAR EARLY FILMS: BERNARDO BONEZZI (Silva Screen)

BOLLYWOOD: AN ANTHOLOGY OF SONGS FROM POPULAR INDIAN CINEMA (Silva Screen)

EPICS: THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HOLLYWOOD (Silva Screen)

MAURICE JARRE: MY FRENCH PERIOD (Play Time—Import)

THREE CHORAL SUITES BY MIKLOS ROZSA (Telarc)

 Best Record Labels and Album Producers

La-La Land Records / Prometheus - Ford A. Thaxton

Film Score Monthly - Lukas Kendall

Varese Sarabande - Robert Townson

 

 


 

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