FILM MUSIC REVIEW
covering film scores and movie songs
on CDs also book and DVD reviews
Founder and Managing Editor:
Roger L. Hall
Steven A. Kennedy
All three writers are members of the...
"As a regular (though silent) reader of your e-zine, I just wanted to express my appreciation for your ongoing effort in reviewing titles. Among the review sites Film Music Review has something of a unique voice -- particularly in its attention to Golden Age classics."
Film Music Review - Introduction
Film Music Century
The Role of the Reviewer
Film Music Review Anniversary Specials
Film Music Review Interviews
100 Essential Film Scores of the 20th Century
Film In Focus Series
Best Film Music Releases of the Year
Book and DVD Reviews
The 27th Annual Sammy Film Music Awards, the longest running recognition of film music recordings, will be announced on 8 February 2015.
To see the choices for past years -
Downton Abbey soundtrack CDs, music by John Lunn
For sixteen years, Film Music Review (FMR)
has provided hundreds of reviews
of CDs, DVDs, and Books.
It is now one of the longest-running online e-zines devoted exclusively to film music (scores and songs).
Film Music Review was begun by Roger Hall, a film historian, composer, writer, and member of the International Film Music Critics Association. He has been the FMR managing editor since the beginning. Others who have assisted as Contributing Writers are: Steven A. Kennedy and Steve Vertlieb. Occasional guest writers have also contributed reviews or articles, such as Jeffrey Dane.
FMR began in 1998 on AOL and lasted until 2005. Most of the reviews from those years have been archived and are now available as files on a multi-media DVD titled,
A GUIDE TO FILM MUSIC (6th edition)
FMR has been online here since 2006. The reviews from 1999 to 2014 are now available on the A GUIDE TO FILM MUSIC.
Over the years, FMR has been a respected resource
for film music reviews
and other news.
The focus of FMR now is on the preservation
of film scores
from the past,
devoted mainly to older soundtrack reisuues,
re-recordings and other preservation efforts.
Some new film scores are also occasionally reviewed.
The Sammy Film Music Awards are chosen each year for best film soundtracks, songs and other categories, including occasionally also the worst of the year.
These awards (also called the "Sammys")
are named after the late great movie lyricist Sammy Cahn. These awards are now the longest-running awards chosen exclusively for film music recordings.
Note: FILM MUSIC REVIEW is now under renovation and will be available in a new format
Congratulations to our FMR critics!
Steven A. Kennedy, Steve Vertlieb and Roger Hall
are all listed in this
and very useful reference book:
FILM AND TELEVISION MUSIC -
A Guide To Books, Articles, and Composer Interviews
Compiled and Edited by Warren M. Sherk
See the scores and songs selected at the
Favorite Film Music Poll
Film Music Century
Music for the cinema was one of the most significant developments
in popular entertainment during the 20th century.
It remains important in the 21st century as well,
though many of the newer soundtracks lack the depth and quality
of the older film scores and songs.
There are still film fans and critics
who don't understand
the importance of music in a film. Music can be a major factor in the success of a film.
Just think of Max Steiner's monumental score for KING KONG or GONE WITH THE WIND,
Miklos Rozsa's haunting score in SPELLBOUND and majestic themes in BEN-HUR,
Dimitri Tiomkin's memorable song and score in HIGH NOON, Bernard Herrmann's frightening music in PSYCHO,
the John Barry music for the James Bond films, or the thrilling scores of John Williams for the STAR WARS series. All of these scores contributed greatly to the success of those films. Many more could be listed.
Excluding the silent era when little original soundtrack music was recorded,
the music in sound films
can be divided
roughly into the three eras
during the 20th century:
I. Golden Age (Studio System)
1929 (BROADWAY MELODY)
1959 (BEN HUR)
II. Silver Age (Music Innovators)
1979 (STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE)
III. Bronze Age (Big Blockbusters)
1980 (STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK)
1999 (TOY STORY 2)
And what about the first decade of the 21st century?
It is too soon to tell which film scores will last in popularity and influence.
The Role of the Reviewer
Over the years, I've read many comments in various newsgroups and message boards about soundtracks and movie musicals -- some have been fair and reasonable assessments, others are just personal ranting and raving. On these message boards, reviewers and critics are often criticized and attacked for their opinions.
This has been a trend that bothers me as a film music critic, since we are sometimes dismissed as morons, especially if someone disagrees with us.
The fact is that most reviewers offer their personal opinions of a CD soundtrack or compilation. You can agree or disagree with them, but it's not fair to dismiss them as no-nothings.
What then is the role of the film music critic? I'll give my opinion here...
As I see it, a reviewer writes a critical evaluation of a CD after carefully listening to it and relating it (if possible) to the film itself.
Oftentimes the CD soundtrack is released before the film itself opens in movie theaters. That makes assessment with how the music is used in a film very difficult.
Here are three questions I consider when reviewing a CD soundtrack or compilation:
(1) How does the music sound away from the film?
(2) What is the film composer's score intended to accomplish?
(3) Where are the strengths and weaknesses of the soundtrack CD album (the music, sound quality, notes, album design)?
It's not possible to consider each of these questions all the time. For example, years ago I reviewed Christopher Gordon's superb score without having seen the television film, ON THE BEACH. It was unavailable at that time. But I still evaluated the soundtrack based on what I heard and thought so highly of it that I named it "Best Overlooked Score for the year 2000.
I think it's okay to judge a score away from the film because often the soundtrack is meant to stand on its own anyway. That is why the track ordering is often different from the film, which drives some soundtrack collectors crazy.
Who made the rule that soundtracks have to follow the same sequence as the film?
Collectors seem to think they are the only ones who matter when they demand that every second of the music be made available and in the same order as in the film. That is nonsense! I believe that most soundtrtack or compilation albums are meant to be enjoyable listening experiences, not rote reproductions of the original film soundtrack.
Is it better to go along with the crowd or have your own opinion?
A good reviewer or critic MUST express his or her own opinion based on what they hear on the soundtrack, even if it offends the collectors or the film composer. It seems to be a general rule that if you praise a soundtrack you're great, if you don't like one that's very popular then you're an idiot. So praise is good, criticism is not? I strongly disagree with that view.
If you just want to collect everything by such fan favorites as Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Hans Zimmer or (name your composer) then reviews will be of little interest for you. Obsessive soundtrack collectors are often very close-minded.
On the other hand, if you'd like to read different opinions of a soundtrack before you decide to buy it, then reviews can be very helpful.
Film Music Review has been online for 16 years now. The objective of all reviewers on FMR have been to be as fair as possible when reviewing a soundtrack. We don't praise something just because of the fame of the composer or the publicity hype for the film.
Hopefully, after reading this essay, you'll have a better appreciation of what a reviewer does and if you like what they do, why not send them a message and let them know? I believe that most reviewers work long and hard without ever getting much credit for their writing.
Naturally film composers and CD producers deserve credit for their outstanding work, but so do reviewers.
So to all web site and print soundtrack reviewers, I salute you for your dedication to the film music cause!
And to all soundtrack collectors and fans, I wish you continued happy listening!
--Roger L. Hall, FMR Managing Editor
Film Music Review (FMR)
16th Anniversary Special
15th Anniversary Special
14th Anniversary Special
13th Anniversary Special
12th Anniversary Special
11th Anniversary Special
10th Anniversary Special
50th Anniversity Tribute
Bernard Herrmann and PSYCHO
50th Anniversity Tribute
THE TWILIGHT ZONE Revisited
A Centennial Tribute to Sammy Cahn
"River Of No Return"
A Centennial Tribute to Ken Darby
"I Hear Music"
A Centennial Tribute to Frank Loesser
"Acent-tchu-ate The Positive"
Johnny Mercer in Hollywood
first song hit
"Alexander's Ragtime Band"
50th anniversary of
Oscar-winning song and score
"Moon River" - Memories of Henry Mancini
Essential Film Music Resource
A GUIDE TO FILM MUSIC
by Roger L. Hall
The revised and updated 6th edition is now available
exclusively on DVD,
with the complete book
and bonus features, including examples of film music songs and scores,
an extensive image gallery,
past reviews from Film Music Review
and a video program with the author speaking about vintage movie songs and film scores.
Read how to get your copy
An Interview with Film Composer, John Frizzell
An Interview with Album Producer, James Fitzpatrick
An Interview with David Schecter
Ratings and Volumes
**** = Superlative (Highest Recommendation)
***1/2 = Very Good
*** = Good
**1/2 = Okay
** = Barely Passable
* = Poor
The Special Merit CDs are chosen for outstanding overall production of a soundtrack or compilation.
The Editor's Choice - Best of the Month designation is for those CDs that are singled out for their excellence. They are chosen anytime within a given month and may not be chosen every month.
CD reviews available on
A GUIDE TO FILM MUSIC
Volume 16, 2014
Volume 15, 2013
Volume 14, 2012
Volume 13, 2011
Volume 12, 2010
Volume 11, 2009
Volume 10, 2008
Volume 9, 2007
Volume 8, 2006
Essential Film Scores and Musicals
100 Essential Film Scores of the 20th Century
20 Essential Hollywood Musicals
For complete listings click on this link:
The Sammy Film Music Awards
Film In Focus
New additions in this series
A series of signifcant films and music scores
from the great films of the past (1930s-1960s)
The Best Film Music CD Releases
17th Annual Best Film Music Releases for 2014
16th Annual Best Film Music Releases for 2013
15th Annual Best Film Music Releases for 2012
14th Annual Best Film Music Releases for 2011
13th Annual Best Film Music Releases for 2010
12th Annual Best Film Music CDs for 2009
Best Film Music CDs of the Decade
11th Annual Best Film Music CDs for 2008
10th Annual Best Film Music CDs for 2007
National Carry A Tune Week
Pick a soundtrack theme or movie song
for this year's event which will be held
October 4-10, 2015
Film Actor Music Tributes
"I have been uncompromising, peppery, intractable, monomaniacal, tactless, volatile, and oftentimes disagreeable...
I suppose I'm larger than life."
-- Bette Davis
She was one of the most admired Hollywood actresses from the past,
known for her distinctive acting, her demanding work ethic,
and those beautiful Bette Davis Eyes.
She was also fortunate to have some of the
best composers working in Hollywood for her films.
Read her biography and reviews of recommended soundtracks
from her classic films at
"They're Either Too Young or Too Old"-
A Centennial Birthday Tribute to Bette Davis
“Well, I think one of the main things that you have to think about when acting in the movies is to try not to make the acting show.”
-- James Stewart
As with Bette Davis, James "Jimmy" Stewart was fortunate to have some of the best composers working in Hollywood for his films.
And like Ms. Davis, he also sang occasionally in his films.
Read all about it at this link:
"Easy to Love" -
A Centennial Birthday Tribute to James Stewart
Hitchcock's Music by Jack Sullivan
THE MUSIC OF JAMES BOND by Jon Burlingame
THE SONGS OF HOLLYWOOD
by Philip Furia and Laurie Patterson
The Soundtracks of Woody Allen:
A Complete Guide to the Songs and Music in Every Film, 1969-2005
by Adam Harvey
Recommended Film Music Books
Here are several recommended books on film music for useful for teaching purposes
or reading enjoyment...
The Art of Film Music(Paperback)
by George Burt
Comments: A very good textbook for aspiring film composers yet also worthwhile reading for any film music lover. Special emphasis on four film composers: Friedhofer, North, Raksin, Rosenman.
Film Music: A Neglected Art --
A Critical Study of Music in Films (Paperback)
by Roy M. Prendergast
Comment: A more technical study and
A HISTORY OF FILM MUSIC
by Mervyn Cooke
Comment: This is the best survey of film music yet written.
The Invisible Art of Film Music (Paperback)
by Laurence E. MacDonald
Comments: An excellent non-technical survey from the 1920s to 1990s. Many illustrations and easy to read format.
Knowing The Score: Film Composers Talk About the Art, Craft, Blood, Sweat, and Tears of Writing for Cinema (Paperback)
by David Morgan
Comment: Fascinating interviews with film composers who offer insights into film scoring and collaborating with film directors.
with film composer interviews
THE JOHNNY CARSON SHOW
(Guest: composer Dimitri Tiomkin)
THE PLOW THAT BROKE THE PLAINS & THE RIVER
music by Virgil Thomson
including an interview about his film music by Roger Hall