Friday, August 6, 2010

Roy Budd — Get Carter (1971)

Get Carter (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, 1971)

Roy Budd (piano)
Chris Karan (drums, percussion, tablas)
Jeff Clyne (double bass, bass guitar)
Brian Daly (guitar)
Judd Proctor (guitar)

Anyone who knows me well is aware that I have a serious jones for crime jazz soundtracks of the '50s, '60s and '70s. That's a pretty broad range, covering everything from Henry Mancini's brassy music for Peter Gunn to Lalo Schifrin's propulsive jazz score for Bullitt to Quincy Jones' atmospheric funk for heist flicks like Dollar$ and The Split. More recently, I'd include David Holmes' groovy Ocean's Eleven/Twelve/Thirteen soundtracks.

Any discussion of crime jazz must also include Roy Budd, a former child prodigy who was an in-demand UK jazz pianist before he scored more than one dozen movies (his career was cut short when he died in 1993 from a brain hemorrhage). Most of Budd’s scores are in the crime thriller vein, and are characterized by the use of spacious string arrangements, passages of virtuoso piano and bottom-heavy modal grooves. Next to John Barry, Budd is the British thriller composer of the '70s.

Budd’s most stunning theme music came on his second feature in ’71 for the original Get Carter, the soundtrack for which is being reissued by Silva Screen on August 23. It’s one of the era’s most exotic and evocative of crime jazz themes, as it features tablas, a hypnotic double bass figure, Budd's electronically treated harpsichord, plus the sounds of locomotion and crashing waves. It's a stunner.

Unfortunately, Get Carter is one of those soundtracks that relies heavily on Budd-backed pop songs that offer little appeal for the crime jazz fan (on the other hand, if you're a fan of post-flower-power rock and soul, it has some pleasing nuggets such as ""Love is a Four Letter Word" and "Livin' Should Be That Way".)

Only Budd's fast and light instrumental "The Girl in the Car" is likely to excite with its shimmering piano chords and pitter-patter percussion. At the very least, Get Carter demonstrates Budd's tremendous range.

Another potentially annoying feature of Silva Screen's and previous editions of Get Carter is the heavy use of movie dialogue cuts in between every music track. For the most part the dialogue is forgettable and fails to engage repeated listener interest without the accompanying visuals. Better to just watch the movie, which is a hard-bitten classic of revenge and redemption that helped make Michael Caine a huge star.

Silva Screen intends to reissue some of Budd's later (and in my opinion more interesting soundtracks) as well, including the high octane Fear is the Key and truly dope The Stone Killer. Hopefully, they'll also reissue Diamonds, The Black Windmill and The Marseille Contract, among others, because Budd's deep and Get Carter only scratches the surface.

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