Black Widow/Towering Toccata
Lalo Schifrin is one of the most prolific film composers of our time. Since being discovered in the late 50s, he has been responsible for hundreds of scores, and his solo career has been equally abundant. His work is instantly recognizable; it’s vivid, it’s action-packed, and it’s compelling; and at 84, he’s still going. This twofer collects two of his non-soundtrack albums, 1976’s Black Widow, and its 1977 follow-up, Towering Toccata.
If there’s a unifying sound here, it’s disco. Though the proposition seems scary on paper—it seems ripe for mediocrity—the easy listening/disco connection wasn’t as far-fetched as it might seem. Sure, there were some terrible moments (witness Percy Faith’s final single, “Summer Place ’76“), but Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra proved that easy listening’s lush arrangements could incorporate a disco groove and blossom wonderful results.
That being said, these two albums are a mixed bag. Schifrin is a masterful composer, and while nothing found here is necessarily bad, some moments are a bit more forgettable. The best moments, however, are superb; “Black Widow,” while never released as a single, would find its way onto radio playlists—yours truly remembers it being used as bumper music in the late 70s—while “Towering Toccata” is a funky reimagining of Bach’s famous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. “Dragonfly” is a gorgeous, slightly trippy, lighter-than-air number, and “Midnight Woman” is a slow-burning dance groove, not unlike Herb Alpert’s 1979 hit, “Rise.” “Baia” is a gentle easy listening number, whilst “Eagles In Love” is a romantic ballad.
Sure, you might want to pass on his arrangement of “Jaws,” and you might wonder if you’re listening to “Local on the 8s” when you hear “Frances’ Theme,” but on the whole, this twofer does a good job of highlighting a masterful composer’s lesser-known work.
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