As a young man, Roy Budd's talent as a jazz pianist was widely recognised. He was much in demand playing in halls, clubs and pubs in and around London. His versatility stretched over a variety of genres from classical music to the jazz piano of his idol Oscar Peterson. As an instrumentalist and band player he released albums in the 60s before moving effortlessly into film composition in the 70s. In this new direction he continued to show a broad range, though he never strayed far from his jazz roots and the percussion section always got a good workout on his scores. A tireless perfectionist, Budd would often record the same music using different arrangements and combinations of instruments, allowing room for experimentation and improvisation.
In many ways, the music of Roy Budd and John Barry in the UK paralleled the direction taken by Lalo Schifrin and Quincy Jones elsewhere. His musical style seemed well-suited to the suspense genre, violent thrillers and gritty reality films though again his versatility allowed him to score adventure stories, war movies and even a few comedy films like the Steptoe and Son movies. Budd's music characteristically made easy transitions from one soundscape or style to another, yet the thriller category seemed to be his natural home and had him paired frequently with the actor Michael Caine. A particularly successful war film was "The Wild Geese" which spawned a sequel. The music for this is full scale orchestral, with millitary marches not unlike those created by Elmer Bernstein, Ron Goodwin and John Williams. The soundtrack includes a song by Joan Armatrading and arrangements of Borodin's String Quartet no. 2 in D. The original soundtrack can be found at Amazon.com in the US or Amazon.co.uk.
Get Carter was a pivotal film for both actor and composer. The main theme is extremely simple, even minimalist using bare harpsichord, electric piano, acoustic bass and tablas, although some of the arrangements give it a little bit of flesh. The score also contains some jazz-influenced sounds, and a few songs courtesy of Roy and Jack Fishman (one of Budd's frequent collaborators). Apart from these, the soundtrack is as stark as the visuals with a whistling wind being the sole accompaniment at times. The CD soundtrack of the film contains a number of snatches of dialogue featuring the mild but menacing voice of Michael Caine. This soundtrack therefore fulfills the double role of showcasing the music but also immersing the listener into the cult world of the movie, in the same manner as Taxi Driver from the pen of Bernard Herrmann. The digitally remastered video of the movie contains a few extras including the opening titles featuring Michael Caine travelling up North by train interspersed with Roy Budd himself playing the theme on a variety of electric keyboards with the visuals projected on a screen behind him. It is a testament to the cult status of "Get Carter" that a remake is currently under development and planning to use Budd's theme. Let's hope they don't spoil it!
Silva Screen have been releasing or re-releasing new Budd soundtracks recently, including "Fear is the Key" (at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk) and a double release (2 soundtracks on 2 CDs) with "The Stone Killer" and "Diamonds" in September 2011 (at Amazon.co.uk).
We recommend the soundtrack to Get Carter as a way to dive straight in to the music of Roy Budd. This album has been lovingly restored and converted to digital format from the original tapes which were begining to disintegrate. The music includes the few songs from the movie and is liberally interspersed with dialogue from a number of key scenes. Although sometimes out of stock, this is generally available from Amazon.com in the US or Amazon.co.uk. If possible seek out the "Special Edition" for the bonus CD of remixes of the main theme. These can get a little tiring after a while, but the bonus CD is free and you'll like one or two of the remixes. Another showcase for Budd's talents is the "Buddism" album which has restored a selection of recordings, either tracks used used directly within movies or recordings of movie tracks with alternative arrangements. Most of the movies featured are the gritty dramas featuring shady members of various underworlds for which Jazz seems to be an ideal musical accompaniment. "Buddism" is available at these links: Amazon.com in the US or Amazon.co.uk