37 Years From Home

etWell, here’s a twist. I’ve finally succumbed and ordered La La Land’s two-disc edition of the E.T. soundtrack. Released back in 2017 to celebrate the film’s 35th anniversary (as if I needed reminding I’m getting old) in an edition of 5,000 copies, La La Land revealed last week that the last batch of 500 copies have arrived from their manufacturer. So it seemed that the time was nigh to finally pull the trigger. Considering I’ve brought most of the other John Williams expansions of the last few years (really a quite remarkable run of discs/scores) buying this one was inevitable, but I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with this little critter in particular. The music is fine I guess (I had the original soundtrack release on cassette, eventually, once it dropped into a bargain bin) but it’s the damn movie, and the fact that it was such a flip-side of Blade Runner, both in style and in popular and critical response. Well, I guess I have to admit I bore a grudge for all these years, but I really struggled to even watch the film over those years since, considering it full of  Spielberg’s worst traits and excesses. I have a Blu-ray steelbook that I bought for some strange reason years ago that I have never watched.

But it does seem weird and rather silly on my part that the  music has always been lumped in with my general apathy for the film. Maybe this edition will make me warm to its charms. I will say this- listening to John William’s great scores again over this past few years of expansions, what has perhaps impressed me most is how well they have aged, and how well they stand up to the current crop of what passes for film scores these days. Jaws 1 & 2, The Fury, CE3K, 1941, Dracula, Superman: The Movie, The Empire of the Sun, and to a lesser extent Hook, are superb works that really shine brightly now that their style of film scoring has apparently become so redundant of late.

If only Vangelis’ Blade Runner score had received such care and attention for its own 35th anniversary. Well, I guess there’s always the fortieth anniversary (if we’re still buying music on CD by then)….

The Shawshank Redemption- Expanded OST

shawshank-coverJust 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.

 

Revenge OST by Jack Nitzsche

Revenge_cdSometimes film scores surpass the films they are originally written for, listening experiences that reward long after the original film is forgotten or dismissed. I saw the Tony Scott film Revenge just once, and it was so long ago it was on a VHS rental. I actually rather enjoyed the film, and in hindsight I can see it was perhaps a more thoughtful, personal film than most of those Tony Scott made. Perhaps a bit more like his brother Ridley’s kind of films (Tony was a master of popular mainstream films- Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Crimson Tide… my own favourite being True Romance).  But I only ever saw Revenge that once.

Whatever I thought of the film though, it was the music score by Jack Nitzsche which really made an impression on me. A mix of acoustic instruments and synthesizers, it’s a haunting score blessed with a tragic, melancholy love theme that is just so achingly beautiful. Its up there with the very best (i.e. up there with Wendy Carlos’ love theme from the original Tron) but unfortunately as it was written for a film that is pretty much forgotten, I guess few have even heard it. The score as a whole works brilliantly well, the love theme running through it in variations. The electronics are a sign of the times but have actually aged very well.

The score was released back when the film came out in 1990, on the Silva Screen label. At the time cash was tight so I didn’t buy it, but managed to rent it from my town library and made a cassette copy, thinking I’d buy a proper copy when I had the money. Alas the disc went OOP and over the years has been sold for the kind of crazy prices that make your eyes water. And it’s a testament to the quality of the score that people have actually paid those prices.

Fortunately for those of us with a cautionary eye towards such expenditure, Dragons Domain Records in the US have now released the Revenge score newly remastered with some previously unreleased tracks. As these soundtracks releases usually are these days, it is in a limited edition of 1,000 units, so anybody out there who’ve been hankering for a copy of the soundtrack should take action quickly. The BSX Records website (www.buysoundtrax.com) is the place to go for those willing to import but a few European websites will be getting stock too.

Of course for those many readers who never even heard of or saw the film, or have long forgotten about it, all this talk about the music will likely mean nothing at all. Pop onto Youtube sometime and give it a listen, there’s quite a few videos featuring the love theme. You might find you’ll like it.

Strange to think, Revenge really doesn’t feel that old a film, and yet both its director and its composer have passed away over the years since.  I don’t know how highly Scott rated the film (years later he recut the film twenty minutes shorter, a version I’ve not seen so I can’t comment on its merits over the original), but Nitzsche considered the score one of his best works. I’d certainly agree with that. It’s a brilliant, haunting score and it’s great to see it available again- one of the soundtrack releases of the year in my book, and something I never expected.

Mr Robot OST packaging

mrrobotostJust a quick post to mention the utterly sublime packaging thats been revealed for the two-volume release next month of Mac Quayle’s score for season one of Mr Robot. Anybody who owned an Atari VCS back in the 1980s will be gushing over this design work, from the silver slipcase design to the game cartridge-inspired CD case. Even the disc itself has been given some thought (as anyone who saw the show will recognise).

I ordered the discs a few weeks ago as the music (80’s-style electronica) was sublime and one of the things that impressed me most about the series, but this packaging reveal is the icing on the cake. Wonderful stuff. Its a good argument for the superiority of physical media over downloads when stuff like this is done. Pity the Blu-ray wasn’t given the same treatment.

mrrobotost2

I’ll do a review of the two volumes when they are in my hands next month. They look great, don’t they?

Ripper Street OST

ripostThe tv series Ripper Street has had many things going for it; a great cast, sharp writing, great production values. Add to that an excellent soundtrack score by Dominik Scherrer, but any chance of a physical release of the soundtrack died with the misguided cancellation of the show by the BBC following ‘weak’ audience figures for season two (albeit the BBC blamed poor ratings, it always seemed more a political thing between competing drama projects and limited budgets). But these are strange times for television- in a sign of these changing times for tv production Amazon, keen to compete with Netflix in original programming, stepped in to save the show and greenlit series three. This third season turned out to be excellent, and both very successful for Amazon ratings-wise and very popular with both fans and critics. It was one of those rare good-news stories where everything turned out well for everybody. Indeed, although the third series was designed to give a fitting closure to the show for fans, Amazon have since greenlit a fourth and fifth series, so the show continues to go from strength to strength, further indication of which is that Silva Screen records have released a soundtrack album of highlights from seasons one to three. Where will this all end, a Ripper Street movie perhaps? Well, you never know…

As soundtrack albums go, this one likely benefits from having three seasons to cull highlights from. It’s been assembled to provide a very good listening experience away from the visuals, and gives some idea of the scope and variety of the series itself. Indeed, impressed as I was with the music as heard in the series, this proves to be a better album than I expected it to be. Any fan of the show won’t be disappointed.

The Fury OST

The-Fury-HQJust received this new 2-disc edition from La La Land Records of John William’s fantastic score for Brian De Palma’s  rather lacklustre horror film The Fury. It’s another case of a great score serving a poor movie, and what a score it is. While it will never be considered one of Williams signature scores, nevertheless it dates back to, in my eyes (or to my ears?) at least, his finest period of work. Back when he did such breathtaking scores as Star Wars, CE3K, Superman: The Movie, Raiders of The Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back (my personal favourite score ever). You know, all those films/scores were released between 1977 and 1981, incredible as that now seems, and during this same period he also composed the scores for Dracula, 1941 (a little gem, that one) and The Fury. Williams was at the top of his creative form back then.

So while it might be a decidedly average film and not therefore one of William’s most popular works, nonetheless its notable for sharing much of the stylistic and thematic approaches as the other scores of that period, a dark cousin if you like. For someone like me who loves all those scores, hearing this score (which I’m really unfamiliar with) is like hearing a lost masterpiece. There are delicious moments of the music that recall moments from Raiders or Superman, and it must be remembered that, being a horror film score, it remains quite a rare departure for the composer. It seems to share an approach that Jerry Goldsmith took with his Boys From Brazil score, in that he used a waltz motif to heighten the strange ‘horror’ aspect of the score.  On De Palm’s suggestion it also has a very Herrmann-esque feel to it (by way of an homage to the then-recently deceased film music genius Bernard Herrmann). But that’s really rather incidental;  its 1970s John Williams at the height of his game. What’s not to love? Disc one is the complete film score with source cues previously unreleased, while Disc two features the original soundtrack album, which was a re-recording by the London Symphony Orchestra a few days prior to the recording of the Superman:The Movie score. Some listeners have always preferred the re-recording to the actual filmscore and its not hard to understand why, its got that lovely 1970s London sound. Both recordings are remastered to great success.

Just released on La La Land Records, its limited to 3,500 copies so should last awhile, but then again, considering the quality of the score, don’t be surprised if its OOP by year’s end if not before. Highly recommended particularly if you are a fan of Williams’ scores of that period. But of course, if you are, well, you’re not going to wait are you?