Just when you think The Truth Inside The Lie is done with The Stand, here I come right back atcha with a review of the soundtrack CD. Reviewing music is a weird thing; I always struggle with finding anything to say other than "this is great" or "this kinda sucks." But I'll give it the old college try (whatever that means), and where feasible, I'm going to embed YouTube videos people have made from the tracks.
The CD itself, sadly, is long out of print. You can find used copies, but they'll run you anywhere from $25-50. I leave it to you to determine whether it's worth it.
Alright, so here's what we'll do: I'm going to pop the CD in the player -- by which I mean, open the folder containing the rip of the CD -- and listen to it track-by-track, and I'll just type whatever comes to mind.
#1) "Project Blue" (1:33): I couldn't find a video for this on YouTube, which surprised me a bit. Instead, I found this suite, which does contain "Project Blue" right at the beginning:
There's nothing hugely special about this theme, which serves sort of as an overture to the story. It's simple guitar music, with some ominous electronica lying beneath it. But doggone if it doesn't set a mood. As I recall, it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck the first time I heard it, and it was this piece that excited me the most when I found out the soundtrack was actually coming out on disc. I was a bit of a soundtrack hound in those days, and had a fairly extensive collection consisting of John Williams, James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith, Bernard Herrmann, Danny Elfman, and other such luminaries.
What I did NOT have was much in the way of Stephen King music. I had the score to Needful Things (excellent stuff from Patrick Doyle), and I had the soundtrack to Stand By Me, and I had AC/DC's Who Made Who, which is the soundtrack to Maximum Overdrive. And that was all. There wasn't much out there.
So obtaining Snuffy Walden's The Stand scratched by Stephen King itch AND my movie-score itch. Always love a two-fer-one.
#2) "The Dreams Begin" (2:06): In his liner notes, Stephen King refers to the score as "bluejeans music," and a lot of it is. But a lot of it isn't; there's a fair amount of synthesizer/electronica, and that's how this track begins. It soon brings in a vaguely gospel-tinged choral section for solo female voice -- representing Mother Abagail, one assumes.
The whole thing ends with a discordant crash that seems to signify Flagg. (Sadly, in most cases I don't remember exactly what scene the specific pieces come from. I could do better at that game with a James Bond score, or with a lot of John Williams' music. But here, it's mostly going to be guesswork. And anyways, a lot of times, score CDs don't use the actual pieces from the movie; instead, they'll use pieces created specifically for the soundtrack. Not saying that's the case here; just mentioning it as a possibility.)
#3) "On the Road to Kansas" (3:56): Walden's guitar returns, and it seems to be playing a lighter, less ominous version of the "Project Blue" theme. This music represents Nick and Tom's trek across Kansas, I believe, and if I'm not mistaken it begins as they are making their escape from the Julie Lawry Situation.
For those of you who were wondering, that's Walden himself playing the guitar. Walden has been a professional guitarist for about the same amount of time King has been a professional writer, so it comes as no surprise that his work here is quite good. This track is jaunty, adventurous, light-hearted...but not to a distracting degree; Walden is able to continually put in enough darkness to keep it all centered.
#4) "The Trashman in Vegas" (1:57): Couldn't find a video of this one, sadly. Or not so sadly, perhaps. It's one of my least favorites. The track represents exactly what the title indicates, and it's heavy on percussion, electric guitar, and extremely cheesy synthesizer. It sounded vaguely edgy in 1994; in 2013, it's a little embarrassing in the way only out-of-date music can be.
#5) "Headin' West" (1:55): The electronica is back, but in an ethereal mode. Soon, Mother Abagail's theme comes in, this time played beautifully on piano. This track, then, represents Mother Abagail and her flock leaving Nebraska. In her case, it is an abandonment of a home she has known for over a century. Imagine how painful that must be.
Snuffy Walden has already imagined it for you, and he's done his best to say it in music. He did a pretty good job. It's sad, but with an undercurrent of determination. There is resignation here, and finality; but there is also grace.
#6) "Larry and Nadine (The Rejection)" (2:37): A bluesy electric guitar -- representing Larry's musical heritage, perhaps -- comes in, sounding bummed out and confused. There is some sort of rumbling in the background, indicating that things may be even more serious than Larry knows.
The end of the track seems to cut off abruptly, and that's because if you're listening to it on disc, it blends right into the beginning of the next track. That happens, as anyone who listens to MP3s probably knows; it's occasionally annoying, too.
#7) "Mother Abagail" (3:09): Mother Abagail's theme returns, this time played in guitar. Walden's playing here is terrific, and the theme -- unsurprisingly -- is well-suited to the guitar.
Couldn't find a video of this one. Sorry.
(Side-note: there were several Mother Abagail-centric videos, and most of them seem to not know that you spell her name like that, rather than "Abigail." Understandable, but kind of annoying, too.)
#8) " 'Sorry Mister, I Don't Understand' (Tom & Nick Meet)" (2:53): Walden's theme for Tom Cullen is played on the piano, and it's a simple, lovely tune that, one assumes, is intended to represent Tom's simple, lovely nature. It's a little on the cloying side, but not to poor effect. There's some other instrument I can't quite place in there carrying part of the theme. A reed instrument of some sort? A synthesizer? I'm not quite sure, and sadly, I can't ask you for help, because I couldn't find this on YouTube.
#9) "Mid Country: By the Stream" (3:21): Gentle guitar music comes in, indicating placidity. This represents Glen Bateman as he sits painting by the river. He meets Stu shortly thereafter, and the two strike up an immediate friendship. The music eventually becomes a bit worried-sounding, because hey, it's a worried world these two fellows are still living in.
#10) "Mother Greets the Multitudes" (1:25): Harmonica shows up on the scene for the first time, and gives way to a violin, which soon gives way to a fuller orchestra as a large procession of newcomers arrive in Boulder, signifying hope.
#11) "M-O-O-N...That Spells Suicide" (2:12): Tom's piano theme returns, but is soon disrupted by Larry's worried electric blues guitar. Tom is being asked to become a spy, and Larry is none too pleased about it. The track ends suddenly as Tom is awoken, and blends into...
#12) " 'One Will Fall by the Way' " (3:43): A piano version of Mother Abagail's theme appears, in a lamentative -- is that a word...? -- mode. The piano is weak, hesitant; these are the sounds of a woman whose time has come to its end. And the time may be rapidly approaching for several other people, as well. Soon, another theme appears, carried by guitar, violin, piano, and cymbal acting in concert; this is the beginning of the journey for Stu and his compatriots. Good stuff; this is one of the better tracks on the disc.
#13) "Beginning of the End" (3:20): A guitar theme -- the theme I associate with the journey to Vegas, although it might well be Stu's theme -- appears, played moodily but with determination. The determination gradually gives way to hesitancy (representing Stu's injury and abandonment), but the full version of the theme with violin kicks back in as the others resume their journey. The music becomes troubled as they finally come in sight of Flagg's men.
At least, I think that's what this music represents. I'm too lazy by far to put the movie in to check it, some if somebody else wants to take that bullet for me and find out, be my guest.
#14) "The Stand" (3:45): This track is done mostly with an orchestra, and sounds like what we think of as traditional movie score music. (Or what we used to think of that way; I'm not sure that holds true in 2013, but let's roll with it.) The music is somewhat chaotic and troubled, but before too long, awe-struck strings, brass, and chorale inform us that something awesome is happening; the Hand of God is about to smite everyone in its vicinity.
The track ends by returning to a non-symphonic mode. The music in this section is plaintive, and likely represents Stu and Tom witnessing the atomic blast that destroys their friends. I believe that the music is playing bits of the journey theme, but don't hold me to that.
#15) "Tom & Stu Go Home" (2:33): Tom's theme again, this time primarily on guitar with piano backup. The woodwinds -- I think they're woodwinds, because Jon Clarke is credited with playing woodwinds on the back cover -- come in and play the other part of Tom's theme, and eventually a lovely version of the journey theme kicks in, mostly conveyed via piano.
#16) " 'Ain't She Beautiful' " (5:59): Mother Abagail's theme makes a return, and this does a much better job of implying that she is still present in Fran and Stu's lives than does the moment in which Ruby Dee's face is inserted over the image. The music here is hopeful, but not without hints of sadness, worry, and uncertainty.
Sorry I couldn't find more of this for you to actually listen to, but hey, I can only do what I can do. There's a good chance some of what I couldn't find is present in that extended suite at the top, or possibly in this next one:
I've listened to neither fully, and can't say for sure.
It's a solid score; I wish an expanded version of it would get released by one of the several soundtrack-specialty labels. The miniseries seems to be popular, so my guess is that that will happen eventually. If so, I'll try to follow this review up with a new one.
Before I sign off, I wanted to take brief looks at two other (vaguely) King-related CDs, both of which I bought months ago and never got around to reviewing. Mostly, that's because I don't quite know what to say about them. So follow me, and let's muddle through it!
Nettle is evidently the name of a band from by DJ Rupture, and here's where I get to sound like an old, out-of-touch dude and say that I have no clue who DJ Rupture is. I live in 2013, and I could probably find out fairly easily. For example, I could check DJ Rupture's Wikipedia page. It bills him as DJ / rupture, which doesn't match the back cover of Nettle's CD. Don't believe me?
I'm sticking with DJ Rupture. And the fact is, I just don't really care who he is, or how his pseudonym ought properly to be spelled. My interest is minimal, and is restricted entirely to the extremely tenuous Stephen King connection provided by El Resplandor: The Shining in Dubai.
Let's have a listen to the first track, which is ethereal and haunting and really rather good:
Yep, I like that. Sadly, most of the rest of El Resplandor fails to hold my attention. The opening track leads me to expect something haunted and spare, but most of the rest of the music is of a completely different sort. It's all instrumental, and so could theoretically be the soundtrack to something; but apart from the first track, I have a hard time imagining most of it as the soundtrack to The Shining, or to any potential version of The Shining. One suspects DJ Rupture must have had a movie in his head to which the music can correspond, and that's all fine and good. Let's see if the CD's liner notes explain it at all:
Let's have a listen to one other track, just so there's some context for what I'm saying here. On this one ("Espina," which is maybe my favorite track on the album) I can at least hear a few notes that make me think of John Carpenter, and Carpenter may not have directed The Shining, but I can theoretically imagine him having done so:
As for the overall album, it isn't bad music; it isn't the sort of thing I have much desire to listen to, but I wouldn't call it bad. It's just not for me, and who knows...? It might grown on me as time passes.
That abstract painting, or wallpaper, or whatever that is, is doing double duty: it's also the front of cover of Vexations, an album by the rock band I Was Totally Destroying It. It's a terrible cover. I'm sure it made sense to somebody, but it makes no sense to me.
The music is fairly good, though, which is theoretically what matters.
But wait! What does it have to do with Stephen King?!? Glad you asked. There's a credit on the inside that says, and I quote: "Much inspiration for this album was derived from The Dark Tower book series by Stephen King. We say thankya."
Let's look to the back cover and see if any specifics might be found there:
Well, there's a track called "The Prisoner." That sorta stands out, doesn't it? "It took so long for the venom in me to fade," go the lyrics, "but I'm in love; she keeps the devils in me at bay." It's a nice little pop-rock song, but apart from the notion of two lovers who seem to be doing a lot to keep each other sane, I don't know that it has much of anything to say to a Dark Tower fan.
And that's okay. As the credit says, the band merely took inspiration from King's work. Nobody is trying to convince anyone that this is some sort of a soundtrack to
Other lyrical moments that might sound vaguely familiar to the Towerphile:
"And you want to take control, to reveal, to rely; but everybody knows, now...you're never going home, now..." (from "Vexations," a song I like a lot)
"...a promise to myself to course along this broken shore..." (from "Hello, Salty Ghost")
"...with flower I walk to the Tower, but don't let me fall through; don't let me fall again..." (from "Follow Me")
"Time's a face on the water. Water if your God wills it, maybe..." (from "Blood on Film")
"When we were young the world was not as grey, but it is getting dimmer every day..." (from "Give Them What They Want")
"I am a daughter of none..." (from "Give Them What They Want")
"She falls through portals; she opens doors to places of old and without escape..." (from "Seasonal Low")
I'm sure I missed a few, but those stood out.
"My Internal Din," doesn't seem to have much lyrically to say on the subject of the Tower series, but that's alright; it's a catchy song, and hey, there's a video for it!
Bottom line for me on the subject of Vexations: I like it. It's not, like, the best album I've ever heard or anything, but if the band was playing somewhere near me, I'd go see them play. They're solid, and there's not a single song on the album I don't like at least a little. The album seems to full of themes of people barely holding on; there also seems to be a theme of addiction, and one of creeping madness. I can see how The Dark Tower could inform songs like this.
This brings up a question: should I count El Resplandor and/or Vexations as Stephen King music? It's a purely academic question, but I wonder about things like this, and struggle for answers. Neither of them is a licensed musical adaptation, of course; so there's that. The Nettle album seems obviously to be the more blatant attempt to connect to the King material, but apart from two or three tracks, I don't hear the connection; and on the others, I hear a complete lack of connection.
As for Vexations, it's hard to blatantly hear The Dark Tower in it, but I don't mind that, because I understand and respect what the band is doing. And, more importantly, I like the songs. They make me think I should listen to more bands who haven't quite made it yet; I suspect there's a lot of good music out there that I don't know about.
But I've only got time and money for so many obsessions, and the one labeled "Stephen King" takes preference. In this case, it led me to two albums I'd probably never have heard otherwise. I like one and am mostly left cold by the other, but that's a decent batting average. Let's call it an overall success!
Be back soon with a review of next week's episode of Under the Dome, and at some point after that, I'm going to continue my investigation of The Stand by reviewing each of the five graphic novels that form Marvel's comic-book adaptation. There'll be a review for each of the five, and within each review I'll be looking at each issue, complete with brief summaries of what issues contained, art samples, and opinionated opinions about whether it all works or not. That's going to take a while to get together, because I've got to reread the whole shebang first.
But when I've got it, I'll pass it along to you.
I leave you with a photo of I Was Totally Destroying It: