Intrada: CONEHEADS/TALENT FOR THE GAME/THE ITSY-BITSY SPIDER - DAVID NEWMAN

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David Newman was firmly established as one of Hollywood’s preeminent composers by the early 1990s, and this album offers a trio of previously unreleased Newman scores: his delightfully retro contribution to the 1993 Paramount comedy Coneheads, a dramatic score from the 1991 baseball drama Talent for the Game, and a wacky underscore for the animated short T he Itsy Bitsy Spider (1992).  Each offers a taste of Newman’s redoubtable talent  for composing a perfect score to whatever project came his way.

The Coneheads features a pair of invasion-hungry extraterrestrials who speak in a monotone voice and are instantly recognizable from their large, cone-shaped craniums. En route to taking over the galaxy, the Coneheads crash in New Jersey and are forced to assimilate to life on Earth.  They balance an endless quest for intergalactic domination with raising a daughter a bit more accustomed to terrestrial existence than her parents. Highlighted by a playful homage to Bernard Herrmann’s The Day the Earth Stood Still written in Newman’s signature style, Newman grounds his score with the familiar tritone and ostinato from the Herrmann classic, incorporating electronics and eerie sounds that evoke the musical colors of 1950s science fiction. Newman’s intermittently ethereal music acts as a perfect counterpoint to the film’s slapstick gags.

Director Robert Young’s Talent for the Game (1991) stars Edward James Olmos as Virgil Sweet, a baseball scout for the California Angels. A former player whose own career is cut short before the big leagues, Virgil’s time cultivating prospects for the Major League Baseball franchise has also run out. The Angels’ new owner wants to clean house, but Virgil talks his way into one last chance—provided he can find a legitimate talent. David Newman’s lyrical score is certainly one of the film’s strongest assets, recalling the melodic grandeur of scores like The Natural, Field of Dreams and even Hoosiers, while also underscoring the rural nature of small-town life and the rise from anonymity to a heavily hyped big-league prospect. Introspective, poignant underscoring is the main ingredient of Newman’s work.

Concluding the album is Newman’s delightfully frantic score for The Itsy Bitsy Spider, a comedic, revisionist take on the nursery rhyme. The seven-minute animated short, which played in front of Paramount’s 1992 feature Bebe’s Kids, gave David Newman the opportunity to craft a madcap score in the vein of Carl Stalling’s Looney Tunes shorts.

All told, these premiere presentations of three David Newman scores showcase his compositional diversity and make for a colorful, varied listen.

INTRADA Special Collection Vol. 318
For track listing and sound samples, please visit:
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Jeremy [Howlin' Wolf]

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