Soundtrack: Panic in Year Zero

Panic in Year Zero – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
LaLa Land Records LLLCD 1111
(Limited Edition of 1200 units)

Les Baxter wrote a lot of jazz. It’s too bad that most people these days remember him primarily for albums such as Tambo, Jungle Jazz and Ritual of the Savage. Not that those aren’t enjoyable, albeit narrowly focused, albums, but Baxter’s skills went beyond the exotica area and he made dozens of albums ranging from love songs to tango jazz. Not many realize he also wrote film music.

Baxter soundtracks are beginning to emerge. The soundtrack for the Jules Verne adventure Master Of The World is available, as is his slightly strange try at  Lovecraftian menace with The Dunwich Horror.

Baxter wrote and also conducts the music for Panic in Year Zero, an apocalyptic story released in 1962. This is jazz that’s fairly contemporary and accessible. Baxter uses a small to medium sized jazz band, a group similar to the ones Henry Mancini would use for recording his music for such shows as Peter Gunn and Mr. Lucky. To my ears, the sound is similar too: smooth, fast, sometimes snappy and tight, with an occasional sense of humor. It’s the opposite of the sweeping orchestral scores written for films in previous decades.

This is a jazz score in tune with it’s time. Much of this soundtrack reminds me of the West Coast Cool jazz to be heard at such famous clubs as The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, CA. (click here for some history on that storied venue). While the subject matter of the film necessitates some sharp, almost discordant moments, for the most part, this is just as listenable as a jazz CD as it is a movie soundtrack, and there are more than a few pleasing “warm wave” moments that are just plain hip and cool, man. I liked this one a lot.

As Chris McEneany said in his much more detailed review here:

“[This] is much like a warm Californian evening’s lounge session with a gaggle of young hipsters riffing relentlessly on some musical exploration none of whom know the final destination of. Indeed, it has that smoky, liquor-tainted mood”

Here’s a sample: Panic in Year Zero! Main Theme:

Note that this edition is severely limited to only 1200 copies worldwide. Fans of Les Baxter, jazz soundtrack fans and those collectors focused on musical interpretations of apocalyptic disaster would be advised to act quickly on this release. This is quickly becoming hard to find, and soon the price will begin to climb, as has happened with the 1000 copy release of Master of the World., which is currently selling at over $100, if you can find it.

Full Track Listing:

1.PANIC IN YEAR ZERO! Main Title 2:06

2. Vacation/Radio Improvisation / To The Phone booth / Atomic Tonic 2:52

3. Atomic Subdominant 2:43

4. Atomic Dominant / Just A Thug / Traffic / The Wreck 4:26

5. Trigger Happy 2:15

6. The Hoods 2:07

7. Stop Sign / Waiting / Wall of Fire 2:20

8. Bridge / To The Cave /Atavistic 3:26

9. No Girls / No Civilians / A Boy and His Gun 3:27

10. Johnson’s Act / The Slip / The Rape 5:36

11. Bang Bang / Marilyn 3:18

12. Rabbit Traps / Rabbits Due / Some Civilization 3:08

13. Chop Chop 1:44

14. First Aid 1:54

15. The Army / Five Good Ones / PANIC IN YEAR ZERO! End Credits 4:03

16. PANIC IN YEAR ZERO! Main Theme – Extended Version 3:29

Total Running Time: 49:33

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
This entry was posted in film music, Personal Opinion, Saturday Soundtrack and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Soundtrack: Panic in Year Zero

  1. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I liked it too, Rick. Since you didn’t mention it in the review, I thought I should add that the movie came out in 1962.

    I remember Baxter first from his “Poor People of Paris” (1956).

  2. I’m perplexed by the limited pressing. A 1000 copies? Eventually all music will be on iTunes. The music business model has completely changed.

  3. Richard says:

    Jeff – thanks, I’ve added that information. I had it but forgot to put it in.

    George – this one is 1,200, but I agree, especially since the previous CDs sold out quickly. The only Baxter music currently available on iTunes is his exotica.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s