The career of composer Angelo Badalamenti
has been a varied and fruitful one he has involved himself with numerous genres and styles of music and has excelled in the film scoring arena creating haunting and dramatic soundtracks for a plethora of motion pictures and television series. My first recollection of his music was in TWIN PEAKS, and more recently I was bowled over by his exquisite score for STALINGRAD. I think, and I am not being disrespectful when I say this, the composer is an artist that at times seems to be forgotten and even sidestepped by collectors of film music, but his contributions to film have been immense and certainly original. Music Box
records in France have recently released the composers impressive and alluring soundtrack for TOUGH GUYS DON’T DANCE, the movie which was released in 1987, stars Ryan ‘O Neal and Isabella Rosselini and contains an intriguing if not some what complicated plot that involves headless bodies and a central character that is prone to alcohol fuelled black outs and because of a history of excessive drug taking and a life of bed hopping his past begins to catch up with him causing him numerous problems. The music for this crime/drama that also includes tinges of comedy is as diverse and also as absorbing and fascinating as the film it was written to support. Badalamenti has fashioned a score that at times I feel evokes the atmosphere of the soundtracks to movies such as THE LOST WEEKEND, THE MALTEZE FALCON and LAURA and thus dips its musical toes into a style and sound that we experienced during the era of film noir, with composers such as Rozsa, Steiner and Raksin a sound that also made a comeback in later years when Jerry Goldsmith
provided the Smokey sounding score to Polanski’s CHINA TOWN. The central or core theme although simple is an effecting one, and has to it romantic and also dramatic elements, the fullest rendition manifesting itself in the films MAIN TITLE which is track number one of the compact disc release, the theme is melodic and pleasing and has to it a lushness that as I have already intimated is linked with film music from another age. Woodwind opens the track, and establishes the eight note motif, subtle interrupt the woodwind and introduce a lonely sounding horn rendition of the central composition, that is augmented and punctuated by luxurious sounding strings and woodwind that is interspersed by scatterings of harp and piano, with further brass adding their weight t the proceedings with strings finally taking on the theme underlined and enhanced by melancholy horns. His is a beautifully haunting piece, which the composer re-introduces in various forms throughout the work, on each occasion presenting it in a different arrangement or intertwining it with other thematic properties, keeping the piece fresh and vibrant. The score also contains a few cues which are somewhat atonal in their sound and construction. Track number 4 for example CACOPHONIC BUGS, begins with low threatening strings that ooze darkness and foreboding, swirling strings begin to gain volume and become more prominent, the composer utilizing strings that are struck or plucked to create a harrowing sound. Track number 5, RENAISSANCE PRINCE to is a more shady sounding affair with chilling voices opening the cue, Badalamenti then underlines these with somewhat subtle woodwind, but then brings into the equation a growl of brass that is an introduction to a brief but effective burst of activity on the harpsichord. The atonal sounds continue in track number six, INFINITYCITY, which is a modern sounding piece for sinewy sounding strings and apprehensive brass flourishes that are further supported by the use of woodwind. Track number seven opens with an urgent and threatening introduction performed by brass and piano, but the urgency melts away after a moment or two, the piece segueing into a more downbeat affair that still remains anxious in its style and sound. The score remains in this mode until track number thirteen, FROM CHEERS TO YOU, which is a delightfully laid back and luxurious arrangement of the scores central theme, this however alters towards the end of the composition with an uneasy atmosphere returning to bring the cue to its conclusion. One of my favourite cues on the CD is track number 15, LOVING EMOTIONS, which is the main theme performed at first on a mournful but also romantic cello, that is accompanied by woodwind and joined by the string section that is supported by a solitary horn. I have to say I was pleased with this score; it is a surprising and delighting work from the pen of Badalamenti, and one that I am sure will appeal to film music fans everywhere. The darkness that he achieves is wonderful, the romanticism is appealing and the at times comical sounding interludes are welcome. It even includes a stirring take on LAND OF HOPE AND GLORY in track number 20, POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE and two affable songs, YOU’LL COME BACK (YOU ALWAYS DO) and REALMAN. Presented to the normal high standard that we have come to expect from Music Box
Records with informative notes by Daniel Schweiger and over 45 minutes of music, well worth adding this to your collection.
Read other recent reviews by John Mansell: Addio, Fratello Crudele
, The Dark Side of Light