Lalo Schifrin - Black Widow/Towering Toccata [Robinsongs/Cherry Red Records - 2016]Argentinean Lalo Schifrin was most known & respected as a soundtrack composer in the late 1960’s through to the 1980’s. Composing classic US TV themes such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E & Mission Impossible. And celebrated & recognisable soundtracks for the likes of the Dirty Harry films, Enter The Dragon, The Amityville Horror, Bullitt, and many others. Here we have a reissue of two of his none soundtrack albums from the late 1970’s, and they are great/ classy blends of disco, jazz, and fusion.
This 2016 reissue appears on Robinsongs- which is another one of the great Cherry Red family of labels. And as you expect you get a nice presentation, with CD coming in a clear jewel case. This features a 12 page full colour inlay booklet, which takes in a new four page write-up about Schifrin, and both albums. As well a reproduction of single labels/ covers, and full album line-up listings.
Both albums are crammed onto one disc- so there are no sonic extras here. And first out of the gate we have the album Black Widow- this is from 1976, and takes in eight tracks. At the centre of the album, arranging & composing is Mr Schifrin- who also plays piano & keyboards. He’s joined by coming up to twenty other musicians, who add in brass section, more keyboards, flute, guitars, percussion, and violins. The eight tracks take in a selection of own compositions, jazz standards( given a disco edge), a exotica classic( in the form of a near unrecognisable take on Les Baxter’s Quite Village), and a few original takes on soundtrack themes. The most known track on the album is his take on John William’s theme for Jaws, which was released as a single- his arrangement on this most recognisable piece of music is most original & creative, bringing in this great wow wow funk groove, multiple percussive layers, jazzy Hammond organ fills, and swinging flute leads. The other seven tracks are none too shabby either, featuring great and creative arrangements, Disco grooves, and some great musicianship.
The second album here is 1977’s Towering Toccata, and this features another eight tracks. Once again Mr Schifrin is arranging & composing, as well as playing piano & keyboard. Sonically it once again features brass section, keyboards, flutes, guitars & percussion- with the addition of Viola & Cello. This album is often seen of the lesser of the two, as many critics accuse it of treading similar ground- but I’d say it’s just as good, and in some ways better than Black Widow. As the arrangement are just as effective, but you also get change of pace too on a few tracks- so it’s not all upbeat disco, with some more mellow/ romantic moment coming into play too. Once again the eight tracks are a blend of covers, own compositions, and a soundtrack cover in the form of his take on John Barry’s theme from King Kong.
In summing if you fancy something disco bound, that’s has a bit more depth & creativity than much of the genre’s often throw away charm, then this reissue is very worthy of your time & effort. Roger Batty