Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The forbidden dance is Intrada: The Bay Area film score album label turns 30

'Good morning, sunshine! Hope you're not seasick. How do you like my badly redubbed voice?'
Jason and the Argonauts (Photo source: DVD Beaver)

I had no idea the Oakland film score album label Intrada is actually 30 years old until reading about the label's 30th anniversary reception, which took place at L.A.'s Walt Disney Concert Hall over Labor Day Weekend. Besides being one of my favorite score album labels--selections from four of Intrada's expanded score album reissues are currently in rotation on AFOS--Intrada is one of the most professional score album labels/businesses when it comes to either handling production mistakes (when the label realized an expanded reissue of Alan Silvestri's Judge Dredd score contained a previously released re-recording of Jerry Goldsmith's beloved Dredd trailer music rather than the original recording as listed, it immediately stopped shipping copies and went back to correct the error) or simply being a music retail store.

Intrada is also a store that specializes in soundtrack albums. In fact, before Intrada started venturing into producing and releasing score albums in 1985 (its first release was the Basil Poledouris score from the original Red Dawn), it originated as a brick-and-mortar soundtrack store on Vallejo Street in San Francisco. When Amazon ran out of physical copies of Daniel Pemberton's excellent score to the new Man from U.N.C.L.E. two weeks ago, and I needed a physical copy of the U.N.C.L.E. score album for AFOS airplay (my laptop hard drive never has enough space to carry full albums in digital form), the first store I clicked to was Intrada. That's simply because of the Intrada online store's reliability in the past (whereas I had a lousy experience with some other soundtrack label/store, and unless I've thrown shade at it before, that store shall remain nameless). In just a few days rather than one week or more recently, three weeks, there it was in my mailbox, ready to be U.N.C.O.R.K.E.D.

What do you say, me, you and your Varese box packs go somewhere private where we can discuss soundtracks? Like, Intrada discs, Beck, Christophe. 'Legend replacement score'? Take that off.
Intrada's beginnings as a brick-and-mortar record shop in San Francisco (Photo source: Max Bellochio)
Timothy Dalton has got his sights on you, even though he's just a CD cover.
(Photo source: Bellochio)

Earlier this year, I vowed to never write a listicle again because 1) listicles at their worst are such lazy and vacuous writing; 2) the only list I want to read from anybody these days is the list of groceries I just scrawled down and stuffed into my shirt pocket a few minutes ago; 3) every time I see an article hed that consists of a numeral followed by a plural noun followed by "That You Didn't Know Were This," I feel like elbowing a millennial hed writer in the face; and 4) if your film music blog or pop culture site has posted tons of listicles where the hed begins with a numeral, and it continues to subject people to such lists, your blog or site sucks. So without ever succumbing to the listicle format, I will cite my favorite Intrada releases, just in time for the label's 30th anniversary. It's an intrada to Intrada, if you will. The first of these favorite Intrada releases of mine is the first Intrada release I ever snapped up for AFOS airplay, and this was back when AFOS was a college radio show and it wasn't an Internet radio station yet. Tombstone composer Bruce Broughton's 1998 re-recording of Bernard Herrmann's grand-sounding score from 1963's Jason and the Argonauts is no longer part of AFOS rotation due to station hard drive space, but if I did restore it to rotation, it would be the only film score re-recording that's part of any of the AFOS playlists.

I usually don't care for film score re-recordings because a lot of them don't sound like the film scores as I remember them--they sometimes don't even bother to replicate the same tempo--but Broughton's 1999 Jason and the Argonauts album is one of the better ones. Broughton and the Sinfonia of London's faithful and sonically pleasing reconstruction of Herrmann's score gives his Argonauts score the proper album release it never had. For many score album collectors, the 1999 Argonauts album is one of the first things that come to mind in regards to how Intrada label head Douglass Fake "pioneered re-recordings of scores unavailable on CD," as Film Score Monthly soundtrack CD artwork designer Joe Sikoryak once wrote on FSM's message boards.

Tombstone is the epic story of the brutal war between frozen pizza brands.

Jerry Fielding's Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia score album and the expanded score reissues for The Wind and the Lion (a rare collaboration between Goldsmith and director John Milius) and Kurt Russell's 1993 Wyatt Earp western Tombstone are three other Intrada releases that used to be part of AFOS rotation but currently aren't, and those three scores are indispensable parts of the action flicks they were written for. But of those three albums, the expanded Tombstone album is the most special for containing unused versions of Broughton's score cues and even Goldsmith's studio logo music for Cinergi (the '90s production company behind Tombstone), a logo jingle that could take on "Looking at Heaven," Broughton's imposing and swaggering Tombstone end title theme, in a duel of "¿Cuyos cuernos son más machos? ¿Bruno Broughton o Geraldo Goldsmith?"

The Intrada releases that do currently have selections that are part of AFOS rotation are, like the expanded Tombstone album, good examples of the high quality Intrada demonstrates in both extra content and packaging. The label's expanded reissues of the late James Horner's score from Clear and Present Danger--the score where a shakuhachi, a Japanese flute, became an effective way to make a suddenly empty printer paper tray sound like the end of the world--and Craig Safan's spirited Last Starfighter score are huge improvements over previous editions, as are the label's expanded reissues of the late Leonard Rosenman's score from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Cliff Eidelman's score from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It's fitting that Intrada wound up reissuing these Trek movie scores because of the label office's Bay Area location and Trek's use of San Francisco as a central Earthbound setting. Intrada's series of Trek score reissues from IV to VI continues the series of Trek score reissues that FSM began with Horner's scores to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and uses the same artwork and remastering crew members from the FSM editions (Sikoryak, reissue producer Lukas Kendall and digital mastering engineer Mike Matessino). The reissues carry comprehensive track-by-track liner notes and give Trek heads the option of enjoying both the albums as they first heard them on vinyl (or cassette) when they were younger and the score cues in their original and complete form.

The bonus tracks on the expanded Trek IV and Trek VI albums are as golden as the fleece from Jason and the Argonauts. Though Wrath of Khan is the perfect Trek film (sorry, Star Trek: The Motion Picture defenders, but a three-way between a robot lady, a NASA satellite and a child-molesting star of 7th Heaven isn't as affecting an ending as you think it is), it contains some last-minute reshoots, particularly a final shot of Spock's casket on the Genesis planet that Wrath of Khan producer Harve Bennett added to soften the blow of Spock's death after some negative test screening reactions, and Horner had to insert some new music in order to accommodate the reshot footage. FSM's Wrath of Khan score reissue includes as a bonus track the version of the end title cue before Bennett asked Horner to squeeze in additional music, and the original version gives us a glimpse into an intriguing alternate reality where Spock never came back and nobody kept trying to remake Wrath of Khan by half-assedly killing off major characters during starship battle scenes. Intrada's Trek score reissues are filled with equally fascinating extras. Rosenman's mostly light-hearted Trek IV score is the most divisive of the scores from the first six Trek movies, and one of my favorite parts of Rosenman's score is a cue that didn't make the final cut. It's Rosenman's update of the late Alexander Courage's opening title theme from the '60s Trek, a cue that was intended to accompany the film's opening titles and was meant to, as described by the Trek IV screenplay, announce that "We're in for a classic, good old Star Trek time."

But when the late Leonard Nimoy, who directed Trek IV, heard the new arrangement of Courage's full theme, he thought the cue failed to properly introduce Trek IV as a jubilant and tonally lighter change of pace in the big-screen adventures of Kirk and his crew, so he asked Rosenman to take the cue he already completed for Trek IV's end titles, which was full of the sense of fun and adventure Nimoy wanted for the opening titles, and reshape that for the opening. Intrada's expanded Trek IV album saves Rosenman's unused arrangement like it's an endangered whale, and that's the version of the Trek IV main title theme that's currently in rotation on the AFOS blocks "Hall H" and "AFOS Prime."

One other bonus track that makes Intrada's Trek IV score reissue worthwhile is the complete version of the previously unreleased "I Hate You," the source cue during Kirk and Spock's encounter on a San Francisco bus with an '80s punk played by Kirk Thatcher, Nimoy's assistant and an associate producer on the sequel (his name is a familiar one if you read the puppeteer credits at the end of Muppet projects). The source cue Thatcher wrote and recorded for his scene is basically a typical '80s sitcom version of punk rock, even after Thatcher objected to all the songs MCA Records, the label that first released the Trek IV score album, recommended for the boombox in his scene because he didn't think they were punk enough--which makes me wonder if MCA absent-mindedly forgot to suggest to the Trek IV filmmakers a bunch of cuts off its terrific Repo Man soundtrack (a classic punk album that also contains selections that are in rotation on "AFOS Prime"). Although that punk rock scene is the most sitcommy and Republican-dolt-reacting-to-10-year-old-changes-in-music-ish moment in Trek IV, the presence of "I Hate You" on the expanded album reminds you how funny Thatcher actually is in his mute bit part.

As interesting as those two Trek IV bonus tracks are, even they're outgunned and outwarped in terms of specialness by the two most noteworthy bonus tracks on Intrada's Trek VI score reissue: two versions of the exhilarating Trek VI trailer music, which marked the first time a Trek movie had original music written for its advertising campaign by the movie's composer, who was Cliff Eidelman in this case. Back in fall 1991, Eidelman's trailer music tantalizingly hinted at the more serious and dramatic direction Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer wanted for both the 1991 sequel and Eidelman's score (Meyer envisioned quoting Holst's The Planets throughout the sequel, but The Planets was too expensive for his blood, so he settled for a Planets-style score), and it did so in only less than two and a half minutes.

Fully loaded score album reissues and lavishly produced re-recordings are among Intrada's finest moments as a label (the same goes for Varèse Sarabande). But when Intrada presents a previously unreleased film or TV score in its entirety for the first time, more than 25 years after the film or show debuted, that's special too, especially when that world premiere release allows listeners to pay closer attention to subtleties in the music that could easily be overlooked due to action sequence sound FX or other circumstances.

Intrada recently reissued the Secret of NIMH score. The Sonic Images label once sent me a soundtrack for The Secret of NIMH 2, which is Exhibit A in 'Why the fuck did they make a sequel? I'd rather chew glass than watch the sequel.' Exhibit B is The Sting II.
(Photo source: designWELL)
Director Peter Hyams' 1977 NASA conspiracy thriller Capricorn One is one of the weirdest conspiracy thrillers from the '70s: O.J. Simpson plays one of the good guys; Telly Savalas shows up for a comedic cameo where he's basically playing Ernest Borgnine; Sam Waterston tells a lengthy joke to himself that turns into a monologue that's as crazy as the one his actress daughter Katherine delivers completely nude 37 years later during Inherent Vice; the reporter characters, who are often either expendable or simply evil in other films, actually get to live through the whole film and triumph; and the film is more concerned with pleasing the audience than with becoming as bleak as The Parallax View or Chinatown. It's a crowd-pleasing and enthralling conspiracy thriller in a lot of the same weird ways that the late Tony Scott's Enemy of the State is a crowd-pleasing and enthralling conspiracy thriller (speaking of Enemy of the State, what's with all the shots of people's pets, and why is the scene where Frasier regular Dan Butler barely says a word to Jon Voight and looks like he's about to jump out of his seat and fuck Voight up in front of the NSA my favorite scene in that flick?). Capricorn One wouldn't have held up as a thriller without either Hyams' action filmmaking skills, particularly during a still-remarkable-looking helicopter chase Hyams wisely left unscored, or Jerry Goldsmith's thunderous and menacing score, which was only available in the form of a less avant-garde-sounding Warner Bros. Records re-recording before Intrada got its hands on the score recording sessions and released in 2005 the score cues as they were featured in the film.

"The actual soundtrack has more to say [than the re-recording]. It still leaps out of the starting gate but then heads off to explore. It's more complex," wrote Douglass Fake in the liner notes of the Capricorn One score album, which went out of print and was recently reissued by Intrada with remastered sound. The album allows Capricorn One fans to discern those aural complexities, particularly in the film version of the end title theme, which is currently in rotation on "AFOS Prime."

Instead of the triumphant composition Goldsmith chose as the final track in his Capricorn One re-recording, Fake restores to the conclusion the end titles' restatement of the menacing motif Goldsmith created for the helicopters that chase the terrified astronauts who refuse to play ball and pretend their faked mission to Mars was real, a cue that's "neither triumphant nor in major" and is, as Fake adds, "powerful and thought provoking." My first encounter with that helicopter theme wasn't in Capricorn One itself. The helicopter theme was a fixture of '90s KMEL afternoon drive-time host Rick Chase's show, and whenever I'd hear that instrumental bed during Chase's show, I'd be like, "I wanna see the movie that instrumental's from because the movie's probably bonkers." When I did finally watch Capricorn One, I was right about its bonkersness.

We have Intrada to thank for allowing the audience to enjoy all these exemplary scores in their purest form and in the best possible audio quality. Listening to these scores in that caliber of audio quality and in their entirety really makes you feel like you're either an Argonaut, an Earp, a heroic Starfleet officer or a crusading reporter. Here's to 30 more years of bonus surprises and passionate reassessments of old but outstanding scores from Intrada.

Selections from Intrada's releases of the scores from Clear and Present Danger, The Last Starfighter, Star Trek IV, Star Trek VI, Capricorn One and Marvel's The Avengers can currently be heard on AFOS.

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