This compilation of selections from four of Norwegian ex-patriot Libaek?s rarest and most desirable soundtracks is presented on CD for the first time. (Most folks may be familiar with Libaek?s work from its appearance in Wes Anderson?s ?The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,? although none of those tracks are repeated here. However, US audiences have probably heard his scores to nearly a dozen two-hour Hanna-Barbera feature films that he composed while living and working in the US from 1977-94, including The Jetsons, Flintstones, Huckleberry Hound, and Scooby Doo.) Libaek and his wife relocated to Sydney, Australia in the early 60?s, where he produced over 200 albums and singles and composed the soundtracks to numerous Australian movies and TV shows. This set comprises excerpts from two films and two groundbreaking TV series. From the 1970 Australian sex romp ?The Set? (the first gay film made in Australia, according to the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives), we get a vocal and instrumental version of the film?s main theme ?Start Growing Up Now.? The former features prototypical 70?s harmonies from a predominantly female chorus, not unlike The Fifth Dimension?s ?Up, Up & Away,? while the latter uses Don Burrows? cocktail jazzy clarinet runs to deposit the melody in your head where it will take up residence for days. Toss in John Sangster?s snappy vibes/xylophone solo and some rolling drums from Derek Fairbrass, add a few cocktail shakers full of martinis, and you?re ready for a wild night of unbridled bachelor pad boogie. Supplemented with more sexy sax and tasty guitar licks from ?Fate of Life? and you?ve got some upbeat, toe-tapping jazz that?s already got me scouring the ?net to find the DVD so I can hear more of this score.
Next up are four selections from Valerie and Ron Taylor?s 13-part 1974 underwater TV series that gives the disk it?s title, beginning with the slithering, aptly-titled ?Music For Eels,? a snappy little flute thing with wah-wah guitars beckoning in the background. Libaek introduces horns on ?Dark World,? a quiet-yet-ominous little ditty that?ll lurk around the dark corners of your grey matter like that great white shark on the album cover. Burrows? flickering butterfly flute work, Fairbrass? shuffling drums and Sangster?s cascading vibes suggests there?s one hell of a cha-cha dance party going on at the bottom of the ocean on ?Sounds of the Deep.? The free-flowing, almost weightless melodies and gentle, laidback vibes are almost enough to make one want to sign up for a snorkeling course and go deep sea diving with the great whites off the Barrier Reef.
In 1965, the (Australian) Channel 9 Network televised Vincent and Carol Serventy?s ?Nature Walkabout,? which followed their six-month, 15,000 mile trek filming Australian wildlife, and five selections from the soundtrack (Libaek?s first film score) are included, from the aggressive ?Main Theme? to the swaying ?Nature Waltz,? which juxtaposes the often violent nature of beasts in the wild with the beauty and grace of their movements into what Libaek labels ?nature?s waltz.? Burrows? flute lines on ?Desert? remind me of similar melodies that Gato Barbieri would later use on his soundtrack for ?Last Tango In Paris,? while his solo on the aptly-titled ?Peaceful Landscapes? illustrates that nature has no emotions ? it just exists for man to impose descriptive adjectives like ?peaceful,? ?extreme,? ?violent,? ?beautiful,? ?calm,? et. al. Part of Libaek?s genius is his ability to capture and bottle his own emotions at viewing the Serventy?s images and translate those emotions into music, such that, even without the images to guide us, listening to this soundtrack transports us to The Outback or the desert and the outer edges of the Australian wilderness, as all perfectly composed soundtracks should.
But make no mistake, these are extremely emotional tunes, whether they?re grounded in finger-popping cocktail jazz, reflective New Age or the rock-based final five selections from Bob Evan?s classic 1966 surf film, ?To Ride A White Horse.? A subgenre unto itself, surf music will either put you right up there on the board alongside the surfer (in this case, Nat Young) in the middle of the big waves or overpower the images and hijack the film. Thankfully, Libaek strikes a happy medium, with his dramatic, almost avant garde piano bursts on ?The Lost City,? his shuffling ?White Limestone Blues,? which bobs and weaves along with Young and his mates as they encounter everything from massive waves to brutal wipeouts and the odd great white shark circling for loose change and body parts. Again, Fairbrass? drums shuffle along, much like Burt Bacharach?s theme from ?Pink Panther.? Finally, Dave Brubeck?s familiar ?Take Five? theme strolls through the 60-second cue, ?Bush Fire? and the album ends on a lilting classical note with Burrows? dueling flute and clarinet perfectly capturing the images of Young and Co. ?Surfing Through The Birds.?
An essential purchase for collectors of cult soundtracks and space age bachelor pad albums that will hopefully introduce the world to what the small cadre of film soundtrack collectors have known for over four decades: namely, that Sven Libaek is one of the unsung geniuses of old school soundtrack composition from back in the day when they were properly used to support the director?s vision and not simply as a vehicle for releasing the latest disposable pap from the record label?s roster of untalented ?American Idol? rejects. 9/10 -- Jeff Penczak (9 October, 2006)