Glory expanded edition

glory1Christmas is coming early. I’ve been waiting for someone to do this soundtrack proper justice for years, decades, and here it is at last- one of the last James Horner remasters/expansions, I imagine, certainly one of the last few I’ve been holding out for. What is left, Field of Dreams and maybe the 2-disc Brainstorm? Yeah, I’m still hoping for the latter: it’d be ironic and strangely fitting if that soundtrack, the first James Horner album I ever bought (on the old TER vinyl), turned out to be my last one too. But its a crazy enough world, this Glory is proof enough of that.

I look forward to being able to write a review in a few weeks.

Nothing ugly about this one

gbuostAbsolutely a surprise Christmas present for film score fans, Ennio Morricone’s classic score to the Sergio Leone western masterpiece The Good, The Bad and The Ugly has been announced by Quartet Records in the form of a 3-CD complete edition, following on from Quartet’s remaster of his 1982 score The Thing earlier this year. This western score is truly as iconic as its movie, instantly recognisable, back when film scores were Film Scores and intended to be noticed, front and centre of the film experience (the final stand-off practically an Operatic masterpiece that takes the film to some mythic level). This very surprising release looks magnificent- a dream come true for fans. Originally released as a standard 34-minute vinyl back in the day, and later expanded to a 55-minute CD that seemed to be the best anyone could possibly hope for (and a CD I bought some years ago) this edition is clearly definitive: the full score and alternates over the first two discs and the original vinyl edition (a re-recording I believe, as many soundtrack albums were back then) in stereo on the third disc, fully remastered. Pretty amazing news, and a fantastic release to close out the year with. Now that I think about it, it might be time to dig out my Blu-ray of the film for a watch over Christmas: they don’t make ’em like they used to, and no-one ever wrote film scores like Morricone.  

Quartet Triptych

Got to hand it to the team at Quartet, the art direction on their OST releases is pretty outstanding, particularly their horror scores. Just look at this trio of classics that the label has released over the past several months: each one is a re-release of an old album that came out when the films originally came out (all but The Thing expanded), but now afforded artwork far superior to their original releases, certainly on CD. Each one has generally returned to the  monochromatic artwork of their original movie posters, accompanied by better typography and original logo artwork, proportions resized for the CD format but I’m sure they would look great on full-size vinyl editions. 

Jacob’s Ladder has only just been released, to coincide with that films 30th anniversary, a milestone which is as terrifying as anything in the movie: couple that to Ghost Story being 39 years old, and The Thing 38 years old… that Quartet Triptych is really horrifying, just looking at it. Its so sobering to realise what used to be so ‘new’ is now actually quite ‘old’, although what that suggests regards my reflection in the mirror this morning… oh well. At least these lovely covers make the soundtracks look new again, my reflection being something else entirely.

Horner’s Magnificent Fall

legfallJust arrived from Intrada (via France and Music Box) is the expanded edition of James Horner’s magnificent Legends of the Fall soundtrack. I didn’t really ever see this coming- like the expanded The Thin Red Line set that La La Land Records released last year, this was an expansion that I figured would never happen. To be fair, the original score release was pretty good (Horner’s albums at that point -1995! crikey!- were usually pretty lengthy and a far cry from the paltry 30-minute highlights editions we were used to in the 1980s) but when a score is as good as this one, well, more is always better.

I don’t buy many soundtrack albums these days – part of this is just because, over the years, most everything I’d have wanted has fortunately gotten released, even Silent Running, and I’ve so many discs from Intrada and La La Land etc collected over the years that I often pick one off the shelf and can listen to it like its something new (except for The Thin Red Line, which as I have remarked upon before, I seem to be listening to all the time). Couple that with the crazy cost of shipping these days making the CDs so very expensive, I really have to think twice about releases (recent expansions of John  Williams’ Far and Away and The River failing to make the grade).

Didn’t have to think twice about this one though. This dates back to James Horner at his absolute peak, back when he was doing scores like Glory, Braveheart and Field of Dreams, when each one used to be fresh and thrilling, and, in the case with Legends of the Fall, sweepingly epic and dramatic. Scores like this were rare even back in the day, and today, well they are frankly non-existent. No-one scores films like this anymore, probably because nobody at the Studios asks them to. Listening to this album will be great, but also a little sad. 1995 and all that. Where has all the time gone?

(I plan on blasting this out while working at home tomorrow, should make those ten hours at the veritable desktop workface a little more bearable).

Last Week: Some hopes for disc.

Somehow in this digital age of downloads and streams and ever-declining physical format sales, new announcements still surprise- indeed, all things considered it’s possibly more surprising than ever. Soundtrack releases and news of such have become a little scarce of late (unless you’re a Planet of the Apes fan) as many of the independent labels have run into a few issues lately with the studios they license scores from. But Quartet Records last week announced the release of a remastered and expanded edition of Philippe Sarde’s score for Ghost Story from 1981. The score is one of the finest horror scores but has always had limited releases, first on vinyl and later on a Varese CD that has commandeered high prices on the secondhand market for years. Its a big lush romantic symphonic score that’s also quite gothic and dark, and comes from the era when so many films had such different and unique soundtracks. It was one of my friend Andy’s favourite films and scores. Expect a review towards the end of the month.

Another announcement has been the 4K UHD release of Angel Heart, which I posted about yesterday. Its a funny thing, the films that are getting 4K UHD releases these days (Nic Roeg’s haunting Don’t Look Now got a restored 4K UHS release a few weeks back, also from StudioCanal). Apocalypse Now in 4K arrives this month and Kubrick’s The Shining in September. If done right, these can be the final and definitive editions for the home – pity about my DVD and Blu-ray copies that got us here, but if physical formats are nearing their Retirement Date at least they’re going out with a bang. Hell, rumours were afoot this week that Disney is prepping the original Star Wars films for 4K release next year, and it’s an old adage that when Star Wars hits a format it’s officially hit its stride/become popular so hey, 4K may not be as niche as its cracked up to be.

So anyway, it’s gotten me wondering about James Cameron’s The Abyss, which is enjoying its 3oth anniversary this year. Incredibly we never got the film on Blu-ray at all, so a 4K release would be a big leap from the old DVD release, and there has certainly been rumours around for the past few months (although to be fair, there have been rumours before over the years of an HD upgrade, so wait and see).

The R1 special edition of The Abyss I have was from the halcyon days of the format, when studios repeatedly tried to outdo themselves with ever-more elaborate special editions with documentaries and all sorts of behind the scenes footage and fancy menu animations – one of the things that disappoints with 4K discs is the really primitive front-ends, having to trawl through seperate screens to get to the audio or scene menus? Really? Anyway, if there is any truth to the rumours, we should be hearing some announcement in the next month or so if its coming before the end of this year. It’d be great to cap off my irregular ‘Party like it’s 1989’ reviews with one about The Abyss hitting 4K UHD.

The Thin Red Line OST by Hans Zimmer (Expanded La La Land Records edition)

ThinRedLine-Large__42863.1549393387I listen to this all the time. Not a week goes by that I don’t listen to the first two discs, which comprise the entire score by Hans Zimmer as originally recorded in Autumn/Winter 1998, following two years of collaboration between himself and director Terrence Malick. Entire films can be written, shot and released in the time it takes Malick to edit a film, constantly reworking scenes and often editing, completing and then re-editing them with alternate music- TRL was no different, and when it finally got released, Malick would of course have further tinkered with the score, returning to classical choices he perhaps always favoured (something that no doubt irritated his composers before and after) and thus relegating much of Zimmer’s score to the cutting room floor (or Avid dustbin, however that all works in this digital age).

That The Thin Red Line was one of Zimmer’s finest efforts is nothing new- it was always a major part of the success of this haunting and magical film. However it is clear from this remastered edition, in which the original intended score is presented across the first two discs that this score is truly remarkable and more special than even its fans possibly expected (as the late Nick Redman comments in the liner notes, a two and a half hour program that is almost two-thirds unreleased). Some of it is familiar from the film but omitted from the original soundtrack album release, and some of it is totally new, cut from the film and never heard before. As a whole piece of music, it is in my mind clearly Zimmer’s masterpiece, his finest work. Richly lyrical, emotive, deeply soulful, mystical even. I have found myself listening to it as a musical work all its own, completely independent of the film it was written for.

I keep coming back to it. Its almost an ambient thing, something of a mood. Themes are woven throughout, returned to, dismissed, then later reprised. In this respect it is fairly routine of Zimmer’s work, in which he often populates a score with one or two admittedly fine themes and then constantly reworks them, remixes them throughout the whole, but goodness me, those themes he came up with for The Thin Red Line are quite extraordinary.  I am constantly reminded of Matt Irvine’s record reviews column in Starburst magazine, particularly his review of Jerry Goldsmith’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture score, in which he commented that the music was so strong as a narrative whole that it seemed akin to a modern symphony, a classical work in its own right. Irvine was absolutely spot-on and I do think the same could be said of this score too.

The score functions in a similar way to Vangelis’ Blade Runner score, in which it is mostly about mood and atmospherics, its music that you feel rather than even hear, sometimes. There are themes and leitmotifs just as in any score but they are almost secondary to the whole. One of the most iconic pieces of film music of modern scoring is the Journey to the Line track (as it was titled on the original OST album) which features here in an extended form with a different title- indeed this music is so popular and has been reused in so many trailers and temp tracks that it has become the bane of modern composers. Its interesting that in this complete score it turns up so often in so many different (sometimes subtly so) forms; woven throughout it forms the backbone of the score. Tellingly, it features in Nature Montage, the very opening of the score and a piece of music (some five minutes long) largely replaced in the actual movie. Its a lovely mood-setting piece, evocative of Witt’s dreamy, questioning narration (“What is this war at the heart of nature?”), the warlike, almost drone-like Journey to the Line theme falls to a lovely, soulful piece (Witts theme, really) that sets up the tensions of the film and the score as a whole. Its a genius piece to introduce the score and film and much of it all-new to our ears.

As we suffer the decline and near the end of physical disc formats and likely with it,  such perfectly curated score expansions such as this, it feels all the more special that we somehow got this expanded and remastered edition of this score.  It isn’t cheap, mind, and has come under some criticism. The new material is spread over the first two discs of a four-disc set, the third disc being a remastered edition of the original soundtrack album, and a fourth disc of Melanesian choir music- religious chants partially featured as source music in sections of the film. The inclusion of the original soundtrack is certainly well-warranted. It features music not used in the film, some music used in the film but not sourced from the original score, and edited suites unique to itself. While it is in truth the original album we fans loved for years, it actually feels like a standard third disc of alternates etc that an ordinary expansion such as this might contain. Whenever I listen to it now, that’s what it feels like. A collection of alternates and replacements to the score heard on the first two discs. The inclusion of the fourth disc is partially redundant -little of it was used in the film- but it was a major part of the films identity, and I believe Zimmer insisted on its inclusion, so who’s to argue? If nothing else, it makes the whole thing feel complete.

As far as soundtracks go, this is surely the release of the year, and having owned it a few months now, I often see it on my CD shelf and have a ‘pinch me’ moment of surreal disbelief. Its rather like La la Land’s own 3-disc set of Star Trek: The Motion Picture or Intrada’s 3-disc Conan the Barbarian– these are wonderful scores, some of my very favourites, and we have them in luxurious complete (or as near dammit) editions after waiting for years. Indeed, I would truly thought such releases were impossible, years ago. Just as films appeared in the cinema and then disappeared for years until eventually surfacing on television, so soundtrack albums were simple vinyl albums that came out during a films initial release and then quickly became OOP, relegated to second-hand speciality stores years later. We are very fortunate indeed now.

 

 

 

Soundtrack Shelf: Cherry 2000/The House of God (Basil Poledouris, 1987/1984)

cherry 2000It seems only fitting that following Edward Scissorhands, my next pick from the soundtrack shelf would be this charming double-bill from the late, great Basil Poledouris, as the Cherry 2000 soundtrack shares the same quirky, irreverent sense of inventiveness as Elfman’s score. The film itself was a b-movie sci-fi Western with inevitable nods to Blade Runner and Mad Max, which languished on the studio shelf for two years before getting an eventual release (I think it turned up late at night on television many years ago, don’t think I even managed to get through all of it- which was my loss, as it might have been nice to have heard the score years before I eventually did). The House of God, meanwhile, suffered an even worse fate- completed in 1980, it was eventually dumped onto television/cable networks in 1984, and I’ve never seen it. So with this Intrada release (hey, another link with Edward Scissorhands) we’re in the realm of blind-buying soundtracks for films we’ve never seen, either from recommendations online or simply due to the composer’s name.  Its something of a wonder either of these scores got an official release, but they certainly deserve to. Cherry 2000 is part orchestral, part electronic, reminiscent of his Robocop score (both would have been written around the same time, I imagine) but is a much lighter score, blessed with a gorgeous love theme that demonstrates the composers gift for melody. The electronics work really well, my favourite track is Drive, which thanks to the magic of Youtube I can offer a link to below-

I must say there is something utterly magical and fun about the Cherry 2000 score. Whenever I listen to it, it always brings a smile to my face. Its electronics are certainly of its time, adding a nostalgic bent to it with memories of other Poledouris scores, and also Jerry Goldsmith’s scores of the time, like Gremlins, Twilight Zone: The MovieExplorers and InnerSpace, among others, which often seemed to share that same ‘sound’. There are tender, intimate moments using that achingly sweet love theme, and big, brassy moments of almost traditional Western Movie scoring that hint at Poledouris’ later triumphs (Lonesome Dove for one) and sadly remind listeners that he later willingly dropped out of scoring Dances With Wolves.

Giving a telling insight to Poledouris’ range and ability, his score for The House of God is a rather baroque, chamber-orchestra piece, rather sombre and intimate and quite beautiful. Its got something of an Ennio Morricone feel to it. The penultimate track, The Turf of Jo, is one of the most exquisite pieces of score music I have ever heard, and to think it’s part of a 17-minute score that few have possibly heard (for a film few have likely had opportunity to see) is really quite depressing. I’ve included a youtube link below to a suite from the score- the track The Turf of Jo is featured at about 8:50.

As usual for my soundtrack CD collection, the Intrada disc I have is now OOP. Which is a pity, as both are very fine scores that demonstrate some of the sublime genius of Poledouris, a composer who never really seemed to get his due in Hollywood. I have several of his scores on disc and I’m sure I’ll feature some of them later in this series of Soundtrack Shelf posts, if only because I really should listen to them more often. I’ve really enjoyed revisiting this disc and shall have to do so more often.

Soundtrack Shelf: Edward Scissorhands OST (Danny Elfman, 1990)

int7146_booklet.inddSaw this just sitting there, looking awfully pretty as most of these score expansions do, and I hadn’t played the disc for awhile so I dropped it into the CD deck in the spare room to listen to a few tracks and… it took a longer time than usual to spin and read the disc and after awhile it refused to even play. Hmm, cause for alarm. Checked the disc, it looked fine, and fortunately a little later it played okay on my main player, so all was well (some players just don’t like certain discs, or maybe that old deck is on the way out).

The light was falling outside, damp and dreary, as if more Autumn than Spring, and I had the house to myself (other than Ed, who sitting by the window was more concerned with what was going on out in the darkening night than what I was doing). So I ended up listening to Danny Elfman’s magical score for longer than I had intended to, the music fitting the mood of the fading light outside and the warm glow of the lamp in the corner…

I saw Edward Scissorhands back when it released in 1990 at the cinema, and I really enjoyed it, although I haven’t really watched it many times since- it is likely Tim Burton’s best film, and it certainly boasts Danny Elfman’s best score. I recall, like most people I would imagine, being quite captivated by the score, a huge part of the film’s success. My cousin bought the original OST on CD, and as many of us did back in those days, I did a copy on cassette which would suit me fine. I didn’t buy it on CD until this edition was released by Intrada back in 2015, celebrating the films twenty-fifth anniversary (yes, another film anniversary). Its not massively expanded, as I think the original OST was about 50 minutes and featured the majority (and best) of the score- this disc totals 71 minutes, including the trailer music, an alternate and some Christmas source music and, er, that Tom Jones song. For once though, thanks to my cousin buying that 1990 edition, this was my first purchase rather than the dreaded double-dip upgrade that so many of these score expansions have been of late (it’s now OOP unfortunately, but I don’t know what the limited run was). I noticed that it was produced by the late Nick Redman, another sober reminder of how much fine work he did over the years.

Its a funny thing though, that I bought this disc when it first came out and have seldom listened to it over the three years since, even though the music is very beautiful and it remains one of the most distinctive film scores ever released- its music often features on tv commercials and you can tell when films have been temp-tracked with it, as Edward-like moments frequently turn up scores in a ‘I know what you’re doing there’ kind of way.

I really enjoyed just sitting back and listening to it. Years ago in my youth I used to sit back on my bed and listen to scores intently- maybe I simply had more time back then, maybe there’s just too many distractions now. Too often these days my soundtrack and general music listening is in the background or during my commute to/from work- perfectly fine but its not actually old-style ‘proper’ listening. I found the Edward Scissorhands score quite relaxing, and quirky and fun in that particularly Danny Elfman way.

So it occurs to me I really should dust off a few more CDs on my soundtrack shelf that I somehow fail to play much (instead of just looking at them all the time, thinking, ‘yeah, I really should play that again’ but seldom getting around to it).  So we’ll see; this then is the inaugural post of my ‘Soundtrack Shelf’ series, where I’ll make a point of listening to those scores and writing about them here- we’ll just see how successful I am in listening to them. But I think it’s rather fitting that the first one is Edward Scissorhands.

(I own only two Danny Elfman scores- the first being the original OST CD of his Batman soundtrack. Unfortunately, as thirty years of buying discs is wont to cause, I have no idea where that Batman disc is, and I never bought the expanded edition released by La La Land Records (twice), so unless something fairly miraculous occurs and it somehow arises from whatever dark corner/box it is in, this will be the only Danny Elfman score in this series.)