What a thing of beauty! Yes, I am talking about a soundtrack, one that figures heavily in my Best Of All Time list. This particular beauty is Get Carter – Music By Roy Budd Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Deluxe 3 CD Edition which includes Essays, film & poster images and recording information. Talk about a kid in a sweet shop, where do I start? Cherry Red Records, a British independent record label founded in 1978, released this gem in July of this year. Get Carter, taken from the novel Jack’s Return Home by Ted Lewis, was released in 1971 starring Michael Caine as Jack Carter, a suave and brutal London gangster who returns to his home town in the North to avenge the death of his brother. Director Mike Hodges’ use of the bleak Northern landscape, unrelenting violence and gritty dialogue changed future gangster films forever help along by a powerful performance by Michael Caine and a soundtrack of unbelievable coolness by the late Roy Budd.
CD1 ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
The Get Carter Theme was released as a 7” on composer Budd’s own Pye record label. The original soundtrack LP was only released in Japan on the Odeon label but as the film gained momentum the soundtrack was released in 1998 on the Cinephile label.
I remember this being one of the first soundtracks I listened to which included part of the movie’s dialogue, something which is now hardly done. This alone blew me away let alone the actual music. It made for a totally immersive experience. Track 1, Get Carter Intro, gets you straight into the grimy, unforgiving mood of the story with the now-famous refrain of a set of short notes of steel like sound played on harpsichord and piano that haunt the score. This repeats in track 2 – Carter Takes The Train Main Title which this time begins with a slick bass line enhanced by Budd’s genius jazz organ playing. In the background, a sound effect of a train pulling into the station is mimic by a pounding tabla. Is there an opening track anywhere near this much perfection? This is followed by the first of a number of songs which feature on the soundtrack that are so of their time that they enhance rather than distract from the album as a whole. Looking For Someone was composed by Budd as are all the other songs some of which also have the credit of Budd with Jack Fishman.
What I really like about the track listings to each of the CD’s songs is that it tells you where in the film it was playing, which is such a fabulous idea I feel like getting up a petition to make this legal! For example – Looking For Someone – ‘This track is the song on the jukebox as Jack Carter first walks into the pub near the train station.’ After more dialogue comes further keyboard playing, this time in a slow, relaxed song where the word ‘groovy’ would fit nicely, the title being Something On My Mind. Track 9, to me, is the standout song, entitled Gettin’ Nowhere In A Hurry both in its composition lyrics. The description for this is ‘this track is the second to play on the jukebox in the pub…’ As you can now imagine the next track, Girl In The Car, accompanies one of Carter’s bed partners Glenda as she drives. Towards the end it goes gloriously ‘off-piste’ jazz wise. Hearing these cues you can understand why many of these pieces were well sampled for TV adverts etc.
The refrain returns in Manhunt but this time a little muffled and muted, this is listed as a ‘Cross Cut’ and depicts the scenes of Jack chasing his brothers killer and a woman’s body being dredged up from a lake. You are startled out of the refrain by deep and random piano notes with frantic tablas,of which is highly atmospheric. In a complete change of gear, we have an almost classical piano piece playing as Carter kills his brother’s murderer. The song Hallucinations, complete with dreamy voices and echoes, follows this. It ends with Goodbye Carter a reprise of the Intro and Main Title track. Disc 1 is a replication of the original Japanese release I can’t praise the quality enough, it sounds sharp and new.
CD2 ORIGINAL BONUS MATERIAL
This is the CD I was most excited about, additional tracks not included in the original album including unreleased alternative mixes of the Main Theme. Get Carter Alternative Mix 1 makes you appreciate the basic elements of this iconic theme as it’s stripped of the train effects which focuses you on the bass, tabla etc. There is however a very short and sweet piano flourish dropped in after the first leitmotif. This is followed by Plaything, an alternative vocal version mix of Hallucinations which is slower and more trippy than the original, this is a little gem followed by gem number 2 – an instrumental version of Gettin’ Nowhere In A Hurry. It’s when you listen to the instrumental mix of Hallucinations that you get a sense of the genius of Budd. His dissemblance of time structures lends a more hazy feel making the whole very pleasing. Definitely another stand out track.
This CD ends with 5 more mixes of the main theme -yes 5! We begin with the 7” single version, which again does not include the films train sounds. Dope On A Rope US Mix is bass lead with a much-restrained use of the theme. It takes you to a very different realm where this would not be out of place on the nightclub floor. Just love it! Same could be said of the following De Few 2 Smoking Barrels Remix where the theme hangs in the background under an even deeper bass. It moves far away from the Get Carter theme structure, which is still there but somewhat encased. The Deadly Avenger Mix imports fragments of Hallucinations mixed with the Main Theme but wrapped in drum and bass. The Breakneck Dirtbox Remix is the least imaginative but still a welcome mix with the theme played under a four-note bass and dialogue. Obviously, you benefit more from CD 2 if you know the original score really well but they are still very listenable tracks with some of the changes being oh so subtle.
CD3 A BIT OF BUDD (Highlights from Roy Budd scores.
This is perhaps the most generous disc in this collection as Budd, who died at 46 from a brain haemorrhage, scored over 30 soundtracks most of which are still difficult to get hold of. Disc 3 treats us to tracks taken from his scores.
Mr Funker from FOXBAT 1977
The plotline for this movie is “In Hong Kong, a Chinese cook swallows a microfilm by accident and becomes a target”, obviously an action film of its day and not destined for the awards season. Budd captures the ‘funk’ with a cue mixed with driving drums and bass and a wah-wah guitar rift which was a must in this decade. Saying that this cue could easily slip into a current action movie.
Way Out from THE STONE KILLER 1973
A better known Budd score from a Michael Winner/Charles Bronson action-thriller. With its rousing string start it would be easy to imagine this as an opening to a large scale epic but it quickly goes into Budd mode with those trademark bongos. It’s high 70’s action music.
No Doubt from THE MARSEILLE CONTRACT 1974
A Michael Caine crime-thriller, this is a slowed down, ‘slinky’ cue so cool it makes me want to immediately listen to the rest of the score.
Diamond Fortress from DIAMONDS 1975
A heist film starring Robert Shaw – this is a masterful piece which lulls you in with it’s slow, minimal intro then moves to jazz sax & drum. It’s surrounded by a 7 note strand which builds … then it’s gone! Yet again you are left wanting more.
In The Shadows from THE STONE KILLER
Well just kick off your shoes, pour that cocktail and just give in to this soft jazz piano piece and melt!
Jazz It Up from THE MARSEILLE CONTRACT
A driving jazz piece with a kinda Matrix refrain – sadly too short to really get into.
Free Tarrant from THE BLACK WINDMILL 1973
Another Michael Caine action thriller, which stands out due to the superb tablas playing taking the lead towards the end. This score is again one of Budd’s better-known works.
Cassette Jazz from THE BLACK WINDMILL
Furious and fast piano jazz the speed of which will blow your mind!
For All My Days from KIDNAPPED 1971
This is an altogether different setting for both Budd and yet again Michael Caine. Set in 18th Century Scotland during the Jacobite rebellion. This is a mellow, plaintive Budd with harp, soft brass and strings. It’s quite beautiful.
No Coperation from THE BLACK WINDMILL
Dark and very edgy and I just love the leading jazz bass.
Teacher and Pupil from PAPER TIGER1 975
This adventure/drama has the intriguing casting of David Niven, Toshiro Mifune and Hardy Kruger! It has Budd’s typical percussion, bass and guitar treatment, more of a backing track than thematic.
Main Theme from FEAR IS THE KEY 1972
This is how I discovered Budd’s music. The main score is nothing short of majestic. Taken from the Alistair MacLean novel it’s a tense thriller, which also boasts the film debut of Ben Kingsley. A dramatic kettledrum introduces the proceedings followed by a series of orchestral punctuation. It glides into the most beautiful string-led melody. Strange you might think for a thriller but it so works. Perfection!
Love At First Sight from THE SEA WOLVES 1980
This is a sweet and touching re-arrangement of The Warsaw Concerto.
How Can We Run Away from SOMETHING TO HIDE 1972
This is a crime/thriller starring Peter Finch. With something of a short theatrical start, this is a piano and string-led melodic piece with a romantic feel.
Cresta’s Song from SOLDIER BLUE 1970
This movie caused much controversy on its release as it depicted the slaughter of Cheyenne Indians by the US Calvary. Not only did it cause historical controversy, but it’s level of violence was also criticized. It seems strange that this was Budd’s debut score This track does have an element of the west in his jaunty piano playing.
THEME FROM AUNT HARRIET
Unfortunately, I cannot find any information on this piece of music however it’s a lovely piano piece, quite laid back and jazzy and played in Budd’s impressive style.
THE CAREY TREATMENT 1972
A James Coburn thriller in which a doctor turns detective. A steely three-note leitmotif opens this score which sounds slightly more of TV theme than a thriller movie but good all the same.
VERSAILLES EXIT & WHO NEEDS LOVE ANAYWAY
These are previously unissued Budd tracks.
This set is a soundtrack collectors dream, well packaged and with not only essay’s on the soundtrack but also on writer Ted Lewis, how Budd got to compose the score, the session musicians and more. All accompanied by photos. posters and film stills. This obviously has been a labour of love as the detail is superb especially the original recording track listings with their basic short numeric system. Budd’s music, especially his scores, play well even if you have not seen the film plus they are infused with 1970’s musical influences.
One of the highlights of this year .
Special Thanks to Matt Ingham & Charlie Brigden