Just released -and weirdly (Twilight Zone-time again) announced around the time I recently rewatched the film – is an expanded, two-disc edition of Thomas Newman’s fine score for The Shawshank Redemption. Back when the film first came out, I recall the score sounded very fresh and unique, with that Thomas Newman ‘sound’ that afterwards defined his music in other films like American Beauty, The Green Mile and Road to Perdition, so much so that it is clear that Shawshank is the definitive Newman score.
It feels hand-crafted and personal, a deeply emotive score. It is dark though. Listening to this expanded edition, that as usual for these expanded releases, is sequenced in chronological order, it is a grim reminder of the darkness of the film itself, littered with moments of hope and light but overall quite relentlessly dark, until, like the film, the music reaches a valedictory finale. I hadn’t realised how bleak it would sound in this complete form. I listened to the score on the way to work last week and found its darkness had infected my own mood for remainder of the whole day (alas, I didn’t get to the grand finale before I got to work). I guess that might be an argument for the shorter, resequenced kind of soundtrack presentation albums usually tend to have (although I believe Shawshanks original album had a chronological sequence too, its brevity might have helped). Its certainly no fault of the music itself, its rather just the natural progression as the score matches the ebb and flow of the film. In this expanded edition, there’s just so much more of it and that hopeful finale just a longer time coming.
At any rate, it’s a great score and this complete presentation with a second disc of alternates/album versions and source cues is the definitive edition of the definitive Newman score. The booklet is as thorough and informative as these La La Land records releases are, making the whole package a great deal for fans of the film and its score. La La Land of course really are on a roll with some of their releases of late (the complete Braveheart and Dances With Wolves prior to this). It all rather feels like the last hurrah of the CD format/physical product era but it’s great while it lasts.