Shirley Walker's Flashes of Brilliance

Just uploaded is a review of The Flash, La-La land’s latest limited edition release (3000 copies) that gathers over 2.5 hours of music from the 1990-1991 TV series onto 2 CDs.

The theme was written by Danny Elfman during his ‘comic book’ period, when studios courted the hot composer to score their own latest comic book films or TV series after the massive success of Batman in 1989.

What’s amusing is that prior to that meteoric career success, Elfman was initially kept in the background during the publicity campaign. Prince’s songs and the song LP were released prior to the original score LP so that Prince was regarded as the musical auteur of the film. Several interminable months later, a score platter emerged on record shelves, and later CD, which featured more music than the vinyl edition (something that was common during the early years of the CD, and affected other early releases such as The Fly, Pirates, and The Big Blue).

Two important things happened because of Elfman’s career boost: he had less and less time to write grand orchestral scores within a short time-frame, and by writing just the theme and delegating scoring chores to one of his orchestrators, Shirley Walker finally emerged into the limelight she deserved.

Walker was one of the best action writers around, and The Flash – still an early solo work for the composer of the Batman animated series and the Final Destination franchise – undoubtedly served as a primo professional calling card.

The music budget for The Flash was big enough that it allowed for a sizeable orchestra, and Walker mined every instrument to create an expansive sound palette for a show that lasted a year before being axed by CBS.

My memories were of a rather juvenile series, but then I could never get into the drama because of persistent news alerts that interrupted, pre-empted, or kicked episodes off the air. One reviewer stated the bugger was the Gulf War coverage, but I have no memory of what news was mucking up the show. I just recall being increasingly fed up with a big square that appeared in the lower corner, where news footage feed distracted from the show’s drama.

(The early nineties were filled with nascent technological abuses: networks had text scrawls at the picture’s bottom, or they superimposed ‘coming next’ text during the last 10 minutes of a show. The logo watermark was also born around then, so a lot of the distracting crap we see now – as well as cutting mid-scene for an ad break and splicing a show’s last 2 minutes with the abbreviated End Credits - stemmed from that decade.)

The Flash died of network neglect, but many fans remember the beauty of the music, so it’s a thrill to not only rediscover a rich sound from nearly 20 years ago, but realize Walker’s brilliance, and what was lost when she died in 2006.

For a review of La-La Land’s CD set, click HERE, and afterwards I’d suggest heading over to the French site UnderScores, where the label’s co-founder, Michael V. Gerhard, is interviewed (in English) about how the company has evolved into a major player in the soundtrack market, releasing material from the Paramount vaults, and whether the life of physical media may be dependent on collectors nostalgic for a disc, a booklet, and a shelf to house their library. (I’m actually good with analogue and digital media, but further blather regarding my tastes and habits will be reserved for a later blog.)

If I can wish for the work of one Paramount-heavy composer to make its way to CD, it’s Leith Stevens, particularly his classic Paramount sci-fi films War of the Worlds and When Worlds Collide. The masters exist, the scores are brilliant, and be they in mono or stereo, it would certainly allow me to scratch a Holy Grail or two from my own wish list (that incidentally, and if anyone cares, is topped by Carmen Dragon’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers).



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