ScoreKeeper's CD Soundtrack Round-Up: Jan-April 2010 - DRAGONSLAYER, ROBOCOP, BATMAN '66, STRAW DOGS, and More!
Published at: May 3, 2010, 9:29 p.m. CST by scorekeeper
Greetings! ScoreKeeper here rounding up the usual suspects for an intimate aural inquisition of epic proportions. The major soundtrack labels of the world are in a bitter battle to release the next coveted "holy grail" film score. Along the way they are unearthing long forgotten masterpieces many of which have been out-of-print for decades or never before available to the public. While they meticulously toil and sweat over each cherished title, we sit back and reap the rewards of their bruises and wounds.
For the past five or six years, movie studios have flung opened their vaults allowing an avalanche of monumental scores to flood the small, yet noble, market of film music enthusiasts. If you are one, you've no doubt felt the tug on your bank account not to mention the time required just to keep up with it all.
I have amassed a survey of the latest and greatest releases from most of the major soundtrack labels around the world over the past several months. This is merely a starting point. There is still so much great film music being released on a near weekly basis. How many of your favorites are on this list?
(Click the album cover for more information including audio samples.)
DRAGONSLAYER (1981) - Alex North [Limited Edition of 3,000 copies] - Alex North's DRAGONSLAYER is an unmitigated masterpiece. There's no other way to catalog it. If you fancy yourself a lover of film music then this is an absolute requirement. Alex North was one of the pure geniuses of this craft and his legacy is marked by several scores that represent some of the best ever written. DRAGONSLAYER is one of these scores.
La-La Land surprised the hell out of me by releasing this one. My jaw dropped when I first found out about it. In typical La-La Land fashion, this release features superb sound quality (digital restoration and mastering by Mike Matessino) along with detailed liner notes and a track by track analysis by Jeff Bond.
Of all the new releases I've spotlight here, this is my number one recommendation.
INDEPENDENCE DAY (1995) - David Arnold [Limited Edition of 5,000 copies] - This 2-CD set features David Arnold's rousingly patriotic complete score for INDEPENDENCE DAY. It's interesting how much the popularity of this score has grown in the past decade and a half. At the time of its initial release I didn't think much of Arnold's music myself but over the years it has grown on me. "The President's Speech" alone is enough to laud this melody-laden ultra-American collection of anthems as an ambassador of endearing cinematic cheese-fests I've missed so much in modern film.
BATMAN: THE MOVIE (1966) - Nelson Riddle, Theme by Neal Hefti [Limited Edition of 2,000 copies] Before Zimmer, or Goldenthal, or Walker, or Elfman, there was Riddle and Hefti. As iconic as the aforementioned composer's scores are for the Batman franchise, none have endured as long or become as recognizable as the music of Nelson Riddle and Neal Hefti. This CD features the complete score digitally restored and mastered by Mike Matessino including the reassembled cue "Submarine Battle" which was previously unreleased. If you already own the FSM Vol. 3 No. 7 CD released in October of 2000 you may want to snatch up a few of these other titles before rushing to this one. However, if you don't yet own the score to BATMAN: THE MOVIE, La-La Land records has given you a reprieve. Once this version is sold out, you may not see it again for a long time.
THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972) - John Williams [Limited Edition of 3,000 copies] I've done a fairly admirable job keeping up with all of the Film Score Monthly CD releases over the years. I don't have them all but I do own most of the heavily coveted titles including all of the ones that have since gone out-of-print...all of them, except for one...THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. Thanks to La-La Land Records for making this cherished Williams score available once again.
So how does this version compare to other albums? For starters it sounds absolutely stellar! La-La Land mentions the following on their site...
"For this release, the 2” 24-track tape containing the original 35mm 6-track mag was transferred into Pro Tools, and restored and mixed with the advantages of another decade’s advance in sound processing technology."
WHITE DOG (1982) - Ennio Morricone [Limited Edition of 3,000 copies] - Ennio Morricone lovers be on alert. This score is a must-have addition to your collection. I saw the film for the first time at Butt-Numb-A-Thon 11 and the entire time I was mesmerized by the score. I didn't learn who composed it until after the film. I wasn't expecting Ennio Morricone's name to appear but I wasn't necessarily surprised either considering what an incredibly provocative and weighty score it was. This has never been released on CD before so grab this rare treat while it lasts.
MARATHON MAN and THE PARALLAX VIEW (1976 and 1974) - Michael Small [Limited Edition of 3,000 copies] - I haven't picked this up myself yet but I'm very anxious to. Michael Small is a very underrated composer and these two scores represent some of the best scores of his career.
ISLANDS IN THE STREAM (1976) - Jerry Goldsmith [Limited Edition of 5,000 copies] When a score is released that has the name Jerry Goldsmith on it, you really don't need any other reason to acquire it. Such is the case here. However, even among Goldsmith scores, this is a particularly cherished title. It's exquisitely beautiful on every level and the sound quality has never been so pristine. You'd swear it was recorded yesterday. What a treasure!
THE CINCINNATI KID: LALO SCHIFRIN SCORES, VOL.1 (1964-1968) [Limited Edition of 2,000 copies] - I haven't yet picked this one up either but I'm very anxious to add it to my collection. This 5-CD set features complete Schifrin scores from five major motion pictures including RHINO! (1964), ONCE A THIEF (1965), THE CINCINNATI KID (1965), THE VENETIAN AFFAIR (1967), and SOL MADRID (1968), along with a cornucopia of rare themes and bonus tracks. This is the finest treatment of Lalo Schifrin's music I've seen yet and the "Vol.1" designation already makes me pine for the next set.
ROBOCOP (1987) - Basil Poledouris [Limited Edition of 3,000 copies] - This is another no-brainer. It's Basil Poledouris dammit! There have been several releases of ROBOCOP in the past two decades and some of them still may be floating around random retailers and auction sites but this latest album is the bee's knees. It features more music at the best possible sound quality modern audio technology has to offer. Regardless of your affiliations with previous albums this is a must-acquire!
STRAW DOGS (1971) - Jerry Fielding [Limited Edition of 2,000 copies] - If you tell me you're not too familiar with the music of Jerry Fielding then I'll tell you to remedy that immediately! You can start with STRAW DOGS. Along with Alex North, I would place Fielding in my list of the top five masterminds of film music. He may be most recognized for his partnership with Sam Pekinpah and arguably created his most inspired work for the famously austere director. After STRAW DOGS you may take your pick amongst THE WILD BUNCH (1969), SCORPIO (1973), BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA (1974), THE ENFORCER (1976), THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES (1976)...You can't go wrong.
What's especially uber-cool is that soundtrack super-producer Nick Redman has practically made it his life's mission to release every available Jerry Fielding score ever produced. Along with Douglass Fake at Intrada, they're doing a damn fine job in their quest. You couldn't have picked a better composer to allocate such intense devotion. Keep up the great work!
ALIEN (1979) - Jerry Goldsmith [Unlimited Edition] - OK, this actually came out several years ago but I thought I would include it here just in case you spent the last four years in hyperspace on a trans-planetary voyage hunting extra-terrestrials. It's one of the prized possessions of my personal collection.
THE GOONIES (1985) - Dave Grusin [Limited Edition of 5,000 copies] - I already wrote about this last month but it warrants mentioning again because it's just so incredibly cool. I love that this score is finally available.
FREUD (1962) - Jerry Goldsmith [Limited Edition of 3,000 copies] - Another early Goldsmith masterpiece gets a proper release. FREUD redefined and set new bars for both psychologically functioning film music and characterizations. It's as complex and intellectually thick as you'll uncover in a film score. I know you think that Jerry Goldsmith was a master of his craft. Unless you know this score intimately you have absolutely no idea.
Although labels are doing a remarkable job releasing older scores, there are certainly a crop of new scores hitting the streets as well that are certainly worth devoting your undivided attention to.
IN MY SLEEP (2010) - Conrad Pope - I haven't seen this film but when you have one of Hollywood's most in-demand A-list orchestrators (John Williams, Alexandre Desplat, Alan Silverstri) at the helm, magic is bound to occur. Actually Pope is an extremely talented composer in his own right. His gifts as an orchestrator I'm sure are indispensable to the composers who hire him; however, I would really love to see him orchestrate less and compose more. Listen to IN MY SLEEP and tell me I'm wrong.
BABIES (2010) - Bruno Coulais - Bruno Coulais penned my number one favorite film score of last year, CORALINE (2009). Although he was already a composer firmly entrenched on my radar he has since become one whom I now pledge a mildly religious devotion. Since CORALINE, Coulais has been extremely busy. I could have written about his scores for BRENDAN ET LE SECRET DE KELLS (2009), or OCEANS (2010) as both are incredible manifestations of pure unadulterated film music brilliance; however, his score for BABIES is epoch-making.
Already on my radar as a 2010 favorite, BABIES is absolutely heavenly! Everybody creates scores utilizing ensembles ranging from tiny chamber groups all the way up to giant orchestras backed with large choirs. How many composers can score a film using a box full of toys? I'll give you one guess and it better be Bruno Coulais.
His infections melodies, colorful harmonies, unique and charming orchestrations combining western and ethnic instruments along with a store full of toys, makes this score an absolute treasure! I've had it on continual rotation since I acquired it and it has invaded a space in my heart reserved only for the film music I cherish the most.
TRUE BLOOD (2009) - Nathan Barr - I'm not an active watcher of television but a score like this makes me wish I was. When I do watch television, I pick a show and watch it through from beginning to end on DVD. I don't have vast quantities of time to engage in this activity so it takes me a relatively long period of time to get through a particular show. People tell me all the time to watch show "X" or you'd love show "Y" and they're constantly pointing out how great the scores are for these programs. It's easier for me to become acquainted with a show through its music which I've done on several occasions even though I've yet to see a single episode.
TRUE BLOOD, composed by Nathan Barr, fits this bill. I've listened to the music numerous times over the past few weeks and I love it's simplicity, its exposed and unexpected momentum, and of course the solo and chamber ensemble sound which I've opined countless times is near and dear to my heart.
Television music is certainly experiencing a renaissance and TRUE BLOOD is an example. Now I'll just have to acquire the DVDs and place them in line. At my rate I'll get to watching the series sometime in 2026.
I'll try to maintain a watchful eye on any new soundtrack releases as they appear. I won't be as diligent as Harry's weekly DVD column (which is my personal favorite here on AICN), but I'll do my best to call attention to the ones that deserve it. Since most of the soundtracks spotlighted here are limited editions, they will sell out. Some of them a lot sooner than you think.
Since record labels are pulling out all the stops to release so many coveted titles, what could possibly be left? Actually, a lot! I've got a short list brewing of titles I'd love to see get the royal treatment from any of these fine soundtrack establishments. What is at the top of my list?
For years it used to be THE RIGHT STUFF (1983) by Bill Conti but that was issued late last year by Varese Sarabande (and is already sold out). After that, THE GOONIES (1985) by Dave Grusin moved into the top spot for a short time before it was eventually released earlier this year by Varese Sarabande. DRAGONSLAYER by Alex North (1983) was next but La-La Land remedied that desire in a hurry.
So what is now in my top spot? I could easily say GREMLINS (1984) by Jerry Goldsmith, or SPARTACUS (1960) by Alex North, or even an expanded THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956) by Elmer Bernstein or TOP GUN (1986) by Harold Faltermeyer.
Right now I would have to say that ICEMAN (1984) by Bruce Smeaton is now at the top of my list. It's such a beautiful and haunting score composed primarily of small orchestra, synthesizers, and shakuhachi.
What is your number one "holy grail" soundtrack you'd love to see released on CD?