Album Review: Escape to Witch Mountain (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by Johnny Mandel

Last week, I was witness to some small magic. Or perhaps it was a minor kind of miracle. Let me explain…

Some of us at Murfie HQ were sitting around one afternoon, discussing the music of old movies we loved as kids. Films like Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang were brought up, of course. I immediately thought of Escape to Witch Mountain, and we started reminiscing about the utterly creepy theme by Johnny Mandel that opens the film, with protagonists Tia and Tony running in silhouette from viciously barking dogs.

Escape to Witch Mountain

That opening scene scared me when I was younger, so I’d hit fast forward on our VHS player. I always thought it was an odd contrast to the whimsical scenes of Tia communicating telepathically with cats, or Tony using his harmonica to telekinetically control marionettes. But that’s what Escape to Witch Mountain is; it’s what you get when you put Hammer horror director John Hough at the helm of a novel adaptation for Disney. Kid’s movies in the ’70s weren’t afraid of scaring you (e.g. How creepy was almost everything in Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory?).

While we chatted, I did what I always do in these situations—I looked for the soundtrack. Much to my dismay, I couldn’t find it. Nor could I find very many releases of Johnny Mandel’s work in general. Digging deeper, I was saddened to learn that the only released version of any music from Escape to Witch Mountain was on an obscure Disneyland Records illustrated storybook LP narrated by Eddie Albert (who plays Jason O’Day). This news was particularly shocking since Escape to Witch Mountain was—at the time—one of Disney’s most successful live action films.

Escape to Witch Mountain Disneyland
Not quite what I was looking for…

I was beginning to lose hope that I could show my colleagues this wonderful music from my childhood without lugging in my parents’ VCR. I loved Escape to Witch Mountain so much that I learned Tony’s melodic riffs by ear during my brief stint taking harmonica lessons. It is, to this day, some of my favorite movie music.

But then the magic happened. A bit further down the search results, I stumbled upon a recent post on the INTRADA forums. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because they’ve released literally hundreds of film and video game soundtracks, both new and old. Imagine my surprise when, upon reading the post, I learned that not only was INTRADA releasing the Escape to Witch Mountain soundtrack, but it was out that very day! That’s right—40 years after the film’s release, on a day that I just happened to be wishing for a soundtrack, INTRADA was delivering with their full, limited edition Special Collection Volume 309 release.

Johnny Mandel—who is perhaps best known for “Suicide Is Painless” from M*A*S*H—was absolutely ahead of his time with Escape to Witch Mountain. Mandel’s deceptively simple themes were performed with a massive 50-odd-member orchestra, but with the addition of harmonica and eerie drones from the Moog synthesizer. The outcome feels like an alien adaptation of 1970s Disney fanfares. Playful tunes like “The Flying Camper” would be equally at home in any Disney film from the era, but Mandel’s biggest successes come when he subverts those expectations. There are ideas continually introduced throughout the film’s score which are later echoed via synthesizers that sound equally otherworldly 40 years later.

Not only has INTRADA teamed up with Disney to make this soundtrack finally available, but they’ve done so with more detail than could have been anticipated. The main themes are here, but so are all of the film’s musical cues and then some. For their limited CD release of the soundtrack, INTRADA (with producer Douglass Fake) have put together just about everything they could salvage from Disney’s long-term storage tapes ca. 1975.

Escape to Witch Mountain (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
That’s more like it!

The main score itself clocks in at just over 36 minutes, cues included. INTRADA has done a nice job of weaving together the more traditional soundtrack-type pieces and cues in a way that makes narrative sense within the context of the movie. The CD starts with Mandel’s “Main Title”—creepy dogs and all—and continues from there. While it may sound like overkill on paper, the cues are unique enough that they make sense tagging along. As mentioned in the liner notes (which are extensive and appreciated), many of these cues introduce motifs that reappear in future scored pieces.

It is worth noting that the thoroughness of this CD means you will likely hear many repeated themes throughout its duration, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In many cases, a score is not put together with the intention that you listen to it apart from the film, but to Mandel’s credit, the included cues combine their own voices to tell the story. While Tony’s telekinesis may be signaled by a theme for harmonica (in reality, master Tommy Morgan), Tia’s telepathy is portrayed by an accompanying swell of Moog synthesizers (played by jazz musician Paul Beaver). Furthermore, the emotional state of the characters changes how the themes are executed.

The aforementioned soundtrack and cues would be enough to satisfy a fan of the film, right? Not for INTRADA. When I said they released every piece of material they could find, I wasn’t exaggerating. After the main score, they’ve included ten extra tracks. Thanks to the diligence of some forward-thinking folks at Disney, the recording sessions were stored in a way that allowed INTRADA to re-assemble orchestral pieces without harmonica or synthesizer cues. The result is seven previously unheard arrangements of more traditional orchestration.

Continue reading Album Review: Escape to Witch Mountain (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by Johnny Mandel

Favorite New Releases of the Week!

The people working here seriously love music so much! We’re junkies. After gushing about our favorite new album releases to each other at the office, we realized we should really share our thoughts with y’all. :)

Here’s a list of our favorite new albums, which all came out recently.


steady-face2Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad
Steady

(Kayla’s Pick)

Steady has an incredibly fun, jammy, Grateful-Dead-y feel to it, while still holding true to elements of roots reggae. I love Giant Panda’s bouncy bass and conscious lyrics. My favorite song on here is definitely “Move,” a song that I’ve been waiting to hear a recorded version of for a long time. A pleasant surprise on this album is the very Americana-sounding song “Home.” People really dig Giant Panda for their live shows, so besides “Move,” the band was finally able to match “Solution,” “.45,” and other live favorites to equally awesome studio counterparts. I strongly recommend picking up this album if you like reggae or jam music, or any good, positive music in general!

389898-largeInterpol
El Pintor

(Jeff’s Pick)

I’ve been listening to the new Interpol album a lot because it is cool and they are old, and I am old and wish to be cool. “My Blue Supreme” is my favorite track to listen to before going out for the night. It’s about a car, which is great, and I imagine it came about from Interpol listening to The Beach Boys and saying “Hey, we could totally write songs about cars too, right?”

Sia 1000 Forms of FearSia
1000 Forms of Fear

(Steve’s Pick)

The first time I heard the song “Chandelier” I hated it. The second time I loved it. Originally, I was fascinated with the promotion around the album. Sia performs with her back to the audience! I picked up the album and have since played it many times over. Sometimes I listen to “Free the Animal” at my desk and imagine myself as a 100ft tall neon green tiger smashing the bugs that inhabit the metropolis of the Murfie codebase.

Shellac Dude IncredibleShellac
Dude Incredible

(Marc’s Pick)

It’s much like every other Shellac album: seething, wiry, lean, full of menace, as tight as miser’s grip on a Spanish doubloon, and totally amazing. Shellac makes clear their attitude towards systems of order and surveillance with their tautly unpredictable rhythmic assault, while Albini gives his best crow impression. Everyone I’ve met who knows Shellac either loves them or loathes them. Nothing here will change minds of the latter set, but there never can be. Shellac isn’t out to make friends. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to lurch along on my walks home with Shellac bruising my eardrums, content in my good taste. CAWCAW!

More new releases are on the way! Go to murfie.com/preorder to see what’s coming, and pre-order your favorites.

Which albums are you excited to see? Tell us in the comments!

This Week in Music History (July 31 – August 6)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

AaliyahJuly 31: On this day in 1994, Aaliyah and R. Kelly secretly eloped in Rosemont, IL. Aaliyah just 15 at the time, so the marriage was later annulled.

Brothers in ArmsAugust 1: On this day in 1987, MTV launched MTV Europe. The first video they broadcast was Dire Straits‘ classic “Money For Nothing,” taken from their 1985 record Brothers in Arms.

August Are You Experienced2: On this day in 1967, The Jimi Hendrix Experience played their first of five nights at New York’s Salvation Club. The setlist included hits like “Foxey Lady” and Purple Haze” from their debut, Are You Experienced?.

The Smile SessionsAugust 3: On this day in 1963, The Beach Boys released “Surfer Girl,” the first single that gave production credit to Brian Wilson. He would remain as the band’s producer until he gave up on the Smile sessions in 1967.

Purple RainAugust 4: On this day in 1984, Prince began his 24 week stint of topping the US album charts with Purple Rain. The album has since gone on to sell over 20 million records worldwide, and is currently the sixth best-selling soundtrack of all time.

NirvanaAugust 5: On this day in 1959, guitarist Pat Smear was born. Smear would grow up to play in the bands Nirvana and Foo Fighters.

Whitney HoustonAugust 6: On this day in 2001, Whitney Houston signed a new deal with Arista that made her, at the time, one of the highest paid musicians in the entire world. The contract was said to be worth more than $100 million.

Find these musical gems in our CD marketplace, and own your own pieces of music history. Each album purchase comes with unlimited streaming and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and ALAC.

Musical Memories of Dad

Kayla: Father’s Day weekend is here, and many of us are taking time to say “thank you” to the guy who showed us so much about life. If your dad is anything like mine, he’s a huge music lover. I remember sitting on the couch with Dad, watching Pop Up Video on VH1 for hours, singing along to “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt, and “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey.

RHCPMy dad tells a funny story about the first time I ever spoke a “complete sentence” in front of him. He said we were in our usual couch spot, watching Pop Up Video, when I turned to him and said, “Maybe the Wed Hot Chiwi Peppews will come on!”. (I’m from Wisconsin, but for some reason I spoke with a weird New-York-sounding accent when I was little.) My Dad said that he was so surprised and amazed to hear my first real phrase be about RHCP.

A lot of us have musical memories like these, whether your dad likes classic rock, funk, or classical composers. I asked the Murfie staff to share some musical memories they have of their dads, along with particular albums that come to mind. I hope you enjoy!

Beach BoysJohn: “Any album by The Beach Boys reminds me of my pops. I remember the ride home from daycare when I was little always seemed to include a Beach Boys tape. A lot of those songs are on Endless Summer.”

Blood, Sweat & TearsJeff:Blood, Sweat & Tears is one of my dad’s favorite bands and he plays them all the time. I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone else who likes this band.”

Prime PrineAndrew: “This CD [Prime Prine] never left my Dad’s ’94 Plymouth Voyager. It was a staple on all of our family vacations.”

Jagged Little PillSteve: “My dad use to listen to Jagged Little Pill in the car when we lived in Oregon in ~96′. He would turn down the music when she drops F-bombs to protect my young and impressionable ears”

Kingston TrioMarc: “There was very little music in my house growing up. Radio was almost always talk stations with NPR classical in the car on Sunday mornings. However, I do remember many car rides back from Sunday church with The Kingston Trio in the tape deck, and, with the amazing technology of bi-directional tape decks, on infinite repeat.”

Car and DriverJason: “My parents almost always had music on in the car, and on Sundays they would play ‘oldies’ on 101.5 FM in Madison for a few hours in the morning (this was before the 24/7 Oldies stations). My dad was in a band in the 60’s and was into a wide-range of music from that era, but this album [Car & Driver] has a lot of his favorites.”

Richard ThompsonMatt W: “My father was very particular about the music we had playing in the car when we went to see relatives. Depending on the relative we were visiting it would either be Richard Thompson or Wagner.”

James: “It was Pop’s duty to clean the house every Saturday while Mom worked; he needed to look after us kids as well, but he never really considered that a chore. Two things would usually accompany his cleaning: records and a cocktail. The drink was usually either a 7&7 or a CC&7, and while the records would rotate through whatever Colombia House had sent that month, he would always find his way back to AbraxasAbraxas or Steppenwolf Live. Whenever I hear ‘Oye Como Va’ or ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ it brings me right back to those golden Saturdays – and I am reminded of MY first drink, as a 5 or 6 year old. I had just come in from playing outside, parched, and saw his cocktail on the kitchen table. I mistook it for an inexplicably unattended, but probably refreshing, lemon-lime soda; the condensation glistening in the soft Steppenwolf Liveafternoon light, taunting my thirst, begging me gulp some down. Now, Pop was watching from around the corner as all this was happening, and as witness he loved to tell this story. At that point in the tale he would pantomime my reaction (sometimes with an added spit take for the extra funny) and double over in uproarious laughter – he said he could never forget the look of disgust and shock on my face after I lowered the glass from my lips, but unfortunately he could never remember whether it was a 7&7 or a CC&7.”

LegendPete: “My Dad loved music, and Frank Sinatra was without doubt his favorite artist of all time. I remember as a kid sitting for hours with my older brother flicking through his vinyl record collection—he had a lot of Beatles 45 EP’s too. One album I remember him asking us to buy him for his birthday during the mid 80’s was Legend. Whenever I hear the song ‘One Love’ or see this album sleeve, it always reminds me of my Dad.”

Chet BakerLena: “My dad consistently listened to show High Standards with Jonathan Schwartz and the Real Jazz channel on Sirius. Just hearing the name Wynton Marsalis reminds me of him. I think my dad has a soft spot for Chet Baker, and so do I—it’s hard not to once you start listening.”

Smash MouthLeah: “My dad has always been a blast to drive around with, since he loves to play all sorts of music at full volume in his car. During my childhood, his picks centered on rockers like ZZ Top, Spin Doctors, and Nirvana, but as I aged, his tastes progressed to everything from Rage Against the Machine, to The Used (yes, really), to The Shins, to a fantastic Argentine accordian player named Chango Spasiuk. However, the fact that my dad will to this day still randomly chant that main distorted guitar riff from Smash Mouth‘s ‘Walkin’ on the Sun’ (‘ehh-EH-eh-EH-EH’) made this an easy choice amongst all of his favorites for jammin’ out.”

Happy Father’s Day from the Murfie crew! :-)

Last Call: Your Murfie Week in Review

 


Sunday 5/11

– On Twitter: We shared some Mom-Approved music for Mother’s Day.

Monday 5/12

– On Twitter: We got a cool tweet from a new member overseas!

– On Facebook: A huge rainstorm hit Madison! We posted a photo to try to capture the intense storm.

– On Facebook: Daniel Edgerton won our #FreeFriday: The Mouse and the Mask giveaway!

Tuesday 5/13

– In the Press: HarborLAB posted an article showing how they are using Murfie’s recycled CD cases to restore wetlands and create a fun educational opportunity!

– In the Marketplace: A bunch o’ new album releases were added to our shop, including Dolly Parton’s Blue Smoke, Little Dragon’s Nabuma Rubberband, and The Black Keys’ Turn Blue.

Wednesday 5/14

– On Twitter: We thought it was pretty cool that Morrissey sent our his first tweet!

Thursday 5/15

– On the Blog: Ally gave us our weekly dose of music history, featuring facts about The Stones, The Beach Boys, Elton John, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, The Who and Adele.

Friday 5/16

– On the Blog: Our current #FreeFriday: Back to Black review was posted, featuring the late great Amy Winehouse. You still have a chance to win if you retweet our tweet or share our Facebook post!

– On Facebook: We challenged you to buy a Beach Boys album!

– On Twitter: James got a tat!!!


 

This Week in Music History (May 15th-21st)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

Rolling Stones - Black and Blue5/15- On this day in 1976, The Rolling Stones hit No.1 on the US album chart with Black and Blue. The album was the band’s sixth No. 1 hit, and its first featuring Ronnie Wood as the replacement for guitarist Mick Taylor.

Beach Boys - Pet Sounds5/16- On this day in 1966, The Beach Boys released their now-iconic eleventh studio album Pet SoundsThe album is considered their masterpiece and one of the most influential records ever released. In 2003, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it No.2 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.

7872-large5/17- On this day in 1975, Elton John released his ninth studio album, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. It became the first album to debut at No.1 on the US pop charts, and stayed there for seven weeks. It was eventually certified 3x platinum.

5820-large5/18- On this day in 2011, John Lennon‘s handwritten lyrics for The Beatles‘ 1967 hit “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” sold for $237,132 at auction in Beverly Hills, California. Although popular speculation held that the song was written about drug LSD, Lennon insisted that the song was inspired by a picture Lennon’s son Julian had drawn of a classmate named Lucy Vodden.

11051-large5/19- On this day in 1973, Stevie Wonder went to No. 1 on the US singles chart with his track “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”. The song, which was his third US No.1, won him a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

5943-large5/20- On this day in 1966, John Entwistle and Keith Moon of The Who were running late to a gig and unable to arrive at the venue on time. Bandmates Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey enlisted the help of a bass player and drummer from a local band in order to play the set. The replacements played until Entwistle and Moon arrived in the middle of the set.

12936-large5/21- On this day in 2011, Adele reached No.1 on the US singles chart with “Rolling in the Deep” from 21, her second studio album. The song was the Billboard Year End Hot 100 Number One Single of 2011 and received three Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Short Form Music Video. 

Find these music history gems in our music marketplace! Every CD purchase comes with unlimited streaming and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and ALAC. :-)


Ally Boutelle
@arboutelle

Ally is a communications intern at Murfie, blogging about all things music. When she’s not typing away, she cooks spicy food, does hot yoga, and reads weird history books. She’s also a college student double majoring in history and journalism.


This Week in Music History (February 12th-18th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

2/12- On this day in 1964, The Beatles arrived in New York City for two performances at Carnegie Hall. Tickets were in such high demand that show organizers hastily created last-minute seating around the stage.

2/13- On this day in 1960, Frank Sinatra launched his own record label, Reprise Records, in an attempt to gain more artistic freedom for his work. The label earned Sinatra the nickname “Chairman of the Board”, and would later sign acts including Jimi Hendrix and The Beach Boys.

2/14- On this (Valentine’s!) day in 1998, Celine Dion‘s “My Heart Will Go On” set a new record for the highest number of radio plays in the United States after it was played 116 million times in one week.

2/15- On this day in 1962, Ray Charles recorded “I Can’t Stop Loving You” at United Studios in Hollywood, California. The song would go on to top the charts in both the US and the UK and remain there for 14 weeks.

2/16- On this day in 1985, Bruce Springsteen went to No. 1 on the UK album chart with Born to Run, his first UK No. 1 album. The album was the best-selling album of 1985 in the United States and The Boss’s all-time best-selling album.

2/17- On this day in 2005, a 1965 Fender Stratocaster guitar that had belonged to Jimi Hendrix was sold for £100,000 at an auction in London. Other Hendrix memorabilia, including a poem and a signed copy of “Hey Joe”, were auctioned as well.

2/18- On this day in 1990, Queen frontman Freddie Mercury made his final public appearance onstage when he joined his band to accept the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. The ceremony was held at the Dominion Theatre in London.

Check out these albums and other music history gems in our CD marketplace! Stream and download your favorites!