by Dan Goldwasser
When "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David's 1999 HBO special "Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm" was developed into a television series, the result was a five-season hotbed of neurotic frustration, situational misunderstandings, and laugh-out-loud comedy. The show, "Curb Your Enthusiasm", blurred the lines between fiction and reality, with David playing himself - but with a cast of real and fictional characters that included Richard Lewis (as himself), Cheryl Hines (as Larry's wife), Jeff Garlin (as Larry's Manager), and Susie Essman (as Jeff's wife).
Each 10-episode season would feature a major plot arc, but every episode was unique and put Larry in various uncomfortable situations that would give everyone the wrong impression about him. There were no real scripts, and much of the dialogue was improvised. The view of Los Angeles (primarily the West Side) as seen through the eyes of Larry David was a treacherous place, filled with traps and pitfalls that only someone as paranoid and neurotic as Larry could fall into.
The music for the first season of the show was written by composer Wendall J. Yuponce, but it was the main title theme, a piece called "Frolic" composed by Luciano Michelini that was licensed from Killer Tracks' BMG music vaults. Ultimately, the remaining four seasons would be filled with "needledrops" from the library, and feature music from the best that 1950s and 1960s Europe had to offer, including the works of Alessandro Alessandroni, Luis Bacalov, Franco Micalizzi, and more. Even a track by Ennio Morricone was used in the show.
Larry David's life was like a carnival of errors, and this Fellini-esque approach to the music perfectly underscored the absurdity of nearly every situation he found himself in. After the fifth season, David announced that he was done with the show - but with this new compilation album from Mellowdrama Records, we can all relive our favorite bits in musical form.
What follows here is a track-by-track description of the soundtrack album, coming out later this month. It's not as in-depth as our previous "First Listen" articles, because due to the nature of library tracks, it is difficult to describe the on-screen action that it underscores. The audio clips are tasty, though, and so we hope you enjoy this exclusive "First Listen" of the soundtrack to "Curb Your Enthusiasm".
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1. "Frolic" - Luciano Michelini (3:30)
The main title to the show, "Frolic" has a "slip-and-fall" beat, as well as a jaunty tuba bass line and string counter-melody. Instantly recognizable, the playfulness in infectious.
2. "Bubba Dub Bossa" - Robby Poitevin (1:48)
Smooth Bossa Nova rhythms start out, with the main theme whistling out. Soon it is joined by a soft background organ, and male and female echoing chorals. It has that classic 1960's South American beach vibe, with a dash of Henry Mancini.
3. "Beach Parade" - Armando Trovaioli (1:40)
A playful organ and percussion are soon joined by the strings in the main melody. You can almost make up lyrics to the theme, but it ends on a sweet and string-heavy note.
4. "For Whom the Bell Tolls" - Gianni Ferrio (1:04)
This Spaghetti Western track is used whenever Larry David faces down a perceived adversary. A strong trumpet line, castanets, and heavy strings are all featured - and even a bell.
5. "The Stranger" - Alessandro Alessandroni (2:21)
This other Western track features guitar and whistling, and then gets down and dirty as wah-wah muted brass blare out in a mocking tone. It all builds to a tense yet energetic climax.
6. "Tango Passionata" - Piero Umiliani (2:15)
As expected, this is a tango. Featuring melodic strings and an accordion, it provides about as much drama as the show would ever need, but keeps it energetic and fresh.
7. "Ein Swei March" - Renato Rascel (1:57)
This German-infused march works great because Larry David (on the show, at least) is always using his Judaism as a crutch or excuse to get out of any responsibilities. The shout of "Ein Swei!" adds to the amusement factor.
8. "Suspicion" - Ennio Morricone (2:46)
Morricone at his best will knock your socks off, and this tense and mysterious track is aptly named. The groaning bassoons midway through can only be described as cautious, and whole track just feels rife with uncertainty as it builds.
9. "Solo Dance" - Arcangela Wertmuller & Italo Greco (3:35)
Whistling and guitar start out this track, which is then joined by a violin. It is slow-paced, and has a bit of a romantic edge to it.
10. "Moulin Rouge Waltz" - Teddy Lasry (2:23)
This track is typically heard when Larry David is in transition to a location. The upbeat rhythm is catchy, and the playful accordion gives way to a guitar halfway through before regaining the main theme. It ends on a bit of a positive note - rare, considering how nothing usually goes well for Larry.
11. "Walk Cool" - Nino Oliviero & Luigi Zaninelli (2:14)
With a hip bass line, a soft saxophone and piano play out this jazzy track. Each instrument takes a turn giving a solo, and it just exudes coolness.
12. "Slow on the Uptake" - Luis Bacalov (2:59)
It's not as menacing as "Suspicion", but this track by Luis Bacalov slowly builds intensity, as a violin and cello duel with a piano and accordion. There are a few moments that are downright Herrmannesque.
13. "Corfu" - Eric Gemsa (Arr.) (1:59)
This traditional Greek melody is played on what sounds like a balalaika, and gains speed as the track goes on. It has a peppy beat that only gets more excited as time progresses.
14. "Thrills and Spills" - Guido Cenciarelli, Catalano Massimo & Stefano Torossi (2:48)
File this track under the "circus music" category. Clearly performed by a marching band type of ensemble, this fast-paced music has all the zany acrobatics needed to underscore the absurdity of Larry David's misadventures.
15. "The Puzzle" - Franco Micalizzi (1:21)
Whenever Larry David tries to think, this music plays - usually accompanied by him walking down the street somewhere, only to end up getting into more trouble. It has the same vibe as 1970's sitcom transition music, but with a mouth harp giving it a bit of that Spaghetti Western edge.
16. "Au Vieux Sebasto" - Christian Toucas (2:30)
More accordion music here, and it works well as fast-paced incidental music. It has a very European edge and a catchy melody.
17. "Merry Go Round" - Armando Trovaioli (1:33)
This waltz sounds perfectly suited for an actual merry-go-round, so it's not surprising that it's used in this show, since Larry David is always getting himself into the same problems, and never actually learning from his past mistakes. The reverb gives the track an almost underwater tone, but it ends up making it feel more like actual source music.
18. "Riviera Nostalgia" - Philippe Lhommet & Jacques Mercier (3:02)
This accordion track has a more laid-back pace than "Au Vieux Sebasto", but it isn't quite "lounge" enough to be smooth - but it comes very close. Again, a pleasing melody that thrusts you into the European mindset.
19. "La Ballada Di Periferia" - Philippe Lhommet & Jacques Mercier (2:16)
Composed by the same duo as the previous track, what sounds like a honky-tonk piano and woodwinds play a smooth melody. The reverb is so loud that it almost sounds like they're playing underwater, though.
20. "The Little People" - Carlo Rustichelli (1:34)
Starting out tense and over-dramatic, this track has a marching rhythm, but a playful melody that builds over the course of the cue.
21. "Mazurka Bastiaise" - Jean Michel Panunzio (2:50)
Heavy on guitar, this track has a medium pace, with plenty of European influences. As with many of the other tracks, it establishes a mood quite well, and you can settle in for the full listen.
22. "Spinning Waltz" - Piero Piccioni (1:12)
Another track that is used for transitional moments in the show, it has a playful innocence (through the use of vibes) that, due to the waltz rhythm, fits in with the other waltz-based tracks.
23. "Amusement" - Franco Micalizzi (1:10)
More transition music here, but with a rather unique synth sound. It has the same type of oompah feeling as "Frolic", with a dash of 1950's production library music in the strings that you would hear during an educational film.
24. "Frolic (30 second edit)" - Luciano Michelini (0:30)
This is simply a 30-second version of the first track on the album. It doesn't add anything different, but gives us the last part of the cue. The only thing missing from the album is the HBO logo static, to make the listening experience complete. (No audio is provided here due to the track's short length.)
The soundtrack to "Curb Your Enthusiasm" will be released in stores on May 15, but will be available through iTunes next week, as well as exclusively through the Mellowdrama Records Store. Special thanks to Rick Clark at Mellowdrama Records for his help with this article.