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Radioland Murders
Composed, Co-Orchestrated, Conducted, and Produced by:
Joel McNeely

Co-Orchestrated and Arranged by:
David Slonaker
Michael Patterson
Matt Harris
Steven Bramson

MCA Records

Release Date:
October 21st, 1994

Also See:

Audio Clips:
20. Gork, Son of Fire (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

21. The Killer is... (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

22. Death on the Radio Tower (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

24. End Titles ("And the Angels Sing" Medley) (0:31):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Regular U.S. release, re-issued in 1998 with same contents.


Radioland Murders
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Sales Rank: 62032

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Buy it... only if you desire a likable and faithful souvenir of the film's musical numbers and the jazzy and snazzy original jingles written for source applications.

Avoid it... if only twelve minutes of immense and entertaining orchestral score from Joel McNeely near the end of the soundtrack cannot justify the entire product for you.

Radioland Murders: (Joel McNeely/Various) After Willow in 1988, writer, director, and producer George Lucas struggled to coordinate successful projects outside of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. Up until Red Tails in 2012, his only realized production outside of this comfort zone was 1994's Radioland Murders, a labor of love that he had been toiling with since he first optioned American Graffiti and Star Wars to studios in the 1970's. Originally set for filming in 1979, the Lucas film became one of the most discussed examples of what it means to be stuck in "production hell," and after several re-writes and the eventual combination of multiple scripts into one finished product by Lucas himself, Radioland Murders moved forward for its disastrous 1994 release. The producer's obsession with 1930's and 1940's radio shows was the basis for the film's plot, which details the opening night of a brand new radio station ("WBN") in Chicago circa 1939. The haphazard crew of this station, eager to impress the demanding sponsor on hand, stumbles through its initial programming while writing it on the fly. Unfortunately for the cast of mostly television personalities of the early 1990's, the characters get knocked off one after another, leading to a murder mystery conducted while the night progresses. By the end, the writer and secretary who lead the in-house investigation (while trying to reconcile their marriage) track down the murderer in their crew and are lead to an unlikely confrontation atop the roof of the studio's building. All of this is handled with slapstick at the forefront, cameos from the likes of Rosemary Clooney and Christopher Lloyd (among countless others) abounding. There wasn't much substance behind the constant, artificial attempts to generate laughs, however, and critics absolutely skewered the film. Its limited release in theatres netted only $1.3 million on a budget more than ten times that size, qualifying Radioland Murders as an embarrassment for Universal and Lucasfilm that in part caused Lucas his later difficulties finding a distributor for his other non-franchise endeavors. At the time, though, the success of "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" on television had made composer Joel McNeely a regular Lucasfilm collaborator, one who would handle a number of subsequent Lucas projects, including Radioland Murders. Whereas many of these scores involved the adventure genre, a realm that McNeely was making himself known for by 1994, this film required an entirely different set of skills. The role of music in this instance is integral due to the on-screen applications in the context of the WBN radio show and beyond.

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Not only are there the production numbers you would expect for the era in Radioland Murders, but you also have all the filler material heard around those features, including numerous commercial jingles. McNeely's primary job was to arrange a wide variety of era-appropriate songs and re-record many of them with fresh vocals and instrumental clarity. On top of that, he wrote several jingles (including some of the lyrics) for a range of products advertised on WBN, most of them stereotypically saccharine but a few on the funnier side. In between all of this is a limited amount of original score, most of it defined by the jazz of the era (to coincide with the songs) but some of the later cues of suspense requiring the services of the full orchestra. The period songs are exactly as you would expect for Radioland Murders, their high jazz style guided by Johnny Mercer, Gene Autry, Ralph Rainger, and Irving Berlin. Most of them are enthusiastic and optimistic to a fault, expressing the gleaming delight of the station's most attractive material but also serving as humorous counterpoint (embodied best by "Love is on the Air Tonight") to the many killings happening at the station. McNeely's original jingles are highly entertaining, from the feel-good (though nearly 1950's-styled) "Applebaum Shorts" to the faux-campfire "Gene's Pork and Beans." By "King's Washing Machines" and others, these little vignettes become akin to their own musical numbers, the xylophone seemingly a common thread in their background instrumentals. There isn't much original score to be found on the album release for Radioland Murders, and most of that material outside of the suspense music at the climax is directly tied to the surrounding big jazz numbers in style. One specialty cue, "Gork, Son of Fire," exhibits McNeely's orchestral sense of humor quite well, his spin on vintage sci-fi wonderment well executed. Even more memorable, however, is his duo of "The Killer is..." and "Death on the Radio Tower," nearly ten minutes of outstanding action and drama that isn't entirely original but clearly a lasting highlight in McNeely's career. Some of the bursts of force from the ensemble in these cues foreshadow the swirling magnificence of the storm cue in Virus. They both owe quite a bit to Bernard Herrmann, however, because aside from the fleeting, original thematic constructs that stomp through these two cues, it's Herrmann's classic Vertigo that really defines them. Hinted in the previous cue but absolutely saturating "Death on the Radio Tower," the Vertigo references become increasing prevalent. McNeely, who would conduct that famous score just a couple of years later for an acclaimed, full re-recording, handles it with admirable respect despite its humorous application. Overall, the soundtrack album is a lovable tribute to the doomed film, but with only 12 minutes of interesting score material, it isn't entirely recommendable. *** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Joel McNeely reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.31 (in 16 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.04 (in 7,541 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 2.68 Stars
Smart Average: 2.87 Stars*
*** 11 
* 13 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.

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 Track Listings: Total Time: 63:46

• 1. Love is On the Air Tonight - written by Johnny Mercer and Richard Whiting (2:03)
• 2. Welcome to Radioland (3:43)
• 3. WBN Logo/Applebaum Shorts (0:44)
• 4. A Guy What Takes His Time - written by Ralph Rainger (3:08)
• 5. Back in the Saddle Again - performed by Tracy Byrd (1:54)
• 6. Gene's Pork and Beans (0:58)
• 7. I'll Be Glad When You're Dead (You Rascal You) - written by Sam Theard (2:11)
• 8. Suspect Roundup/Spy Story (3:39)
• 9. That Old Black Magic - performed by Billy Barty (1:36)
• 10. Crazy People - written by Edgar Leslie and James V. Monaco (2:06)
• 11. Java Jive - written by Ben Oakland and Milton Drake (1:26)
• 12. In the Mood - written by Joseph Garland (3:16)
• 13. Interrogation Opera* (2:47)
• 14. King's Washing Machines/WBN Logo (1:15)
• 15. That Old Feeling - performed by Rosemary Clooney (3:13)
• 16. I Miss You So - performed by The Voltage Brothers (2:51)
• 17. Husdson Automobiles/Darabont's BBQ Sauce (1:25)
• 18. Tico, Tico/Don't Let Your Love Go Wrong/WBN Logo ** (4:06)
• 19. What'll I Do - performed by Joey Lawrence (2:44)
• 20. Gork, Son of Fire (2:26)
• 21. The Killer is... (4:36)
• 22. Death on the Radio Tower (5:05)
• 23. And the Angels Sing - written by Johnny Mercer and Ziggy Elman (1:59)
• 24. End Titles ("And the Angels Sing" Medley) (4:41)

* contains Grand Inquisitor's Aria From Verdi's "Don Carlo"/Queen of the Night's Aria From Mozart's "The Magic Flute"
** written by Aloysio Oliviera, Ervin Drake, George Whiting, Nat Schwartz, J.C. Johnson, and Joel McNeely

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes no extra information about the score or film. Despite the misspelling of track #17 on the packaging, the insert is abnormally well designed.

  All artwork and sound clips from Radioland Murders are Copyright © 1994, MCA Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 2/29/12 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2012-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved. A fond farewell to a great period of writing.