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Tex Avery (Music from the Tex Avery Original Soundtracks) - EP

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Album Review

Carl Stalling is the 500-pound gorilla in the room when music written for classic American theatrical cartoons is considered. However, Stalling was not the only player in the game. There was Winston Sharples at Famous Studios, Philip Scheib at Terrytoons — who on his own scored nearly 800 cartoons — and Scott Bradley at MGM. Bradley is a figure of particular significance, as he scored all of the theatrical cartoons of the world's most popular cat and mouse duo — Tom & Jerry — through 1958, and was a significant contributor to the work of classic animation's most certifiably insane director, one-eyed tall tale spinner and spot gag specialist Fred "Tex" Avery. However, serious interest in Bradley has been comparatively slow to develop in comparison to Stalling, and although Bradley's name is only acknowledged in the small print, Milan's Music from the Tex Avery Original Soundtracks is a small step in the right direction.

The disc includes a mixture of complete and condensed soundtracks from six cartoons and totals a mere 35 minutes. However, the sound is terrific, especially in material taken from original soundtrack elements without the voice actors, and particularly when compared to anything that might come squawking out of the speaker on one's television, the most common reproduction medium used for experiencing such music. Bradley's score for "TV of Tomorrow" (1953), without its ingratiating narration, comes off well on its own and contains good examples of Bradley's innovative scoring techniques, nurtured in silent films and early talkies, but further informed through his contact with Arnold Schoenberg. On the downside, Deputy Droopy (1955) is a little harder to appreciate without the hilarious screaming of the actors that would have been part of the voice track — we get the musical passages leading up to the yowling, but then the yowl itself isn't there. By comparison, with "Little Johnny Jet" (1953) we get the whole soundtrack, complete with dialogue and sound effects, and the additional elements are noticeably distracting vis á vis Bradley's music. One might deduce that availability of elements would have played a large part in determining the final content of this short disc, but there is no explanation of this part of the process in the notes, of which eight paragraphs are devoted to lionizing Tex Avery and only three to Bradley's part in their collaboration. These concentrate mainly on Bradley's use of pre-existing material, despite that Bradley's relative departure from stock tunes and interest in music that follows action is what largely sets him apart from his colleagues.

Tex Avery's name, in large letters, is above the title, and indeed, he is the focus of this collection. Avery was a visual artist — a superb one — but this disc doesn't give us any insight into Avery's work that can't be gained from a good video collection of it. However, little details do come to the fore that are not readily apparent from watching; when "the fly up on that mesa thar yonder" is shot in "Drag-A-Long Droopy," and falls with a horrible shriek to his long-delayed Averïan death, you can tell that the scream does indeed continue until he finally hits the ground. Therefore, Milan's Music from the Tex Avery Original Soundtracks isn't perfect, but despite its flaws is a good start in exploring a region of cartoon scoring that could use a bit more attention.


Born: 26 November 1891 in Russellville, AK

Genre: Soundtrack

Years Active: '90s

Although the music of Scott Bradley has been heard by millions of listeners worldwide through his work in MGM's popular Tom & Jerry and Tex Avery-directed cartoon series, very little is known about the man or his life. Born in Arkansas, Bradley is known to have studied music at the conservatory level, but does not show up in film credits until 1928, when he is credited for synchronizing early talkies at the Fox studio. Bradley spent some time at the Disney studio, where he first met Carl Stalling...
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