Film Score CDs Roundup

by | Dec 4, 2013 | Special Features

19 film scores by Howard Shore (3 in fact), Johnny Greenwood, Michael Nyman, Philip Glass, Cliff Martinez, James Horner, Thomas Newman, and more are covered in this soundtrack round-up. Here we have mostly recent films like Gravity and Stoker, but also a new soundtrack release from an older film, Ed Wood, scored by Shore.  They are all winners and should be given a listen to.


JONNY GREENWOOD: The Master – Nonesuch 532292-2:

The Master is Jonny’s second full-length motion picture soundtrack, with the first being another P.T. Anderson movie, There Will Be Blood. It begins with an orchestra sweeping in an out, creating an atmosphere of tension in “Overtones” but then jumps to a few woodwinds playing seemingly random notes in “Time Hole.”  Frankly, the music is creepy, but at the same time beautiful.  There are 15 tracks on this album, however not all are Jonny Greenwood originals. Scattered throughout are period song tracks by Madisen Beaty, Ella Fitzgerald, and Helen Forrest.0 Unless you are completely against experimental music, The Master Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is one to check out.  Highly recommended!


looperXNATHAN JOHNSON: Looper – La-La Land Records LLCD 1227:

Looper is a fantastic sci-fi journey about assassins who travel back in time to kill their targets. The movie itself is great and I highly recommend checking it out.  The score by Nathan Johnson, a newcomer to the soundtrack scene, is a high energy, synth-heavy rush that at times reminds me of work by Trent Reznor of NIN fame. The track “Her Face” invokes a feeling of curiosity and discovery, featuring mostly orchestral with some synth choral voices and is one of my favorite on the album.  With 26 tracks, there is plenty here to enjoy.


stokerXCLINT MANSELL: Stoker – Milan Records M2-36621:

In Stoker, a woman loses her father and best friend in a car accident and then deals with an unknown uncle appearing out of nowhere. I must first profess that I am a fan of Clint Mansell and love what he does with sometimes just a simple mix of instruments and chords. Stoker has a mysterious tone and even though I haven’t seen the movie, I can tell it must be on the creepy side. It isn’t my favorite Mansell soundtrack, but I am glad to have it as part of my collection and it will get plenty of play time.  18 tracks in all, with 11 of them by Clint Mansell.


ed-woodXHOWARD SHORE: Ed Wood – Hollywood Records HWR-1011 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:

Based on the life of Edward Wood, a legendary director of terrible movies such as Plan 9 from Outer Space, Ed Wood’s score has a vibe similar to those campy 60’s sci-fi movies. A musical saw is used prominently in the “Main Title” track which often reminded me of the works of Danny Elfman, specifically Mars Attacks. Once you get into the rest of the score however, similarities to Elfman’s style begin to wane. A few of the songs feature dialog from the movie’s narrator and some tracks take on a heavy influence from ‘60s jazz. The album is fun listening, and the movie is kick. There are 25 tracks on the Ed Wood album.


the-hobbitXHOWARD SHORE: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – WaterTower Music WTM39372:

This epic score to the first installment of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit accompanies the journey to reclaim the lost dwarf kingdom of Erebor.  I, like many others, love the scores from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, but I felt some of that magic has either gotten old, or just wasn’t up to the same level. [However, I loved the 3D movie itself…Ed.] As a result, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey music is good, but not great. It feels as if Howard Shore was not as inspired by this movie as he was for the original trilogy. The dwarf drinking song “Blunt the Knife” (included on the Special Edition set), is atrocious and I make a point to skip it as soon as it begins. I really have no idea what they were thinking. With that said, it is still a must-buy for any soundtrack aficionado and the regular 2-CD edition features more than enough music with 13 songs on disc 1 and 13 on disc 2.


jimmy-pXHOWARD SHORE: Jimmy P. – Howe Records HWR-1010 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:

Jimmy P. is based on a book by Georges Devereux, an early French psychotherapist, and stars Benicio del Toro as Jimmy Picard. Jimmy, a Blackfoot Indian, has returned from war with a brain injury and schizophrenia. Howard Shore has composed a melancholy score, with the title theme based around piano. Overall, the score is slow, quiet and haunting. I really enjoyed Shore’s score for Jimmy P. and this album holds up well on its own. There are 18 lovely tracks to enjoy on this original soundtrack for Jimmy P.


michael-nyman-j-parkXJOOHYUN PARK: The Film Music of Michael Nyman for Piano – performed by Joohyun Park – BuySoundtrax Records BSXCD 8925:

Pianist Joohyun Park performs the incredible minimalist music of Michael Nyman.  He takes some artistic liberties with many of the melodies, making them feel his own. While a bit of his stylistic choices threw me off guard, it is nice to have a slightly different impression of Nyman’s work. If he just made an exact replica of theme’s like “Big My Secret”, then there would be nothing new offered here. I appreciated his take on Nyman’s work. You will find music tracks from The Piano, Carrington, The Diary of Anne Frank, Drowning by Numbers, Enemy Zero, A Zed & Two Noughts, and Gattaca.


gravityXSTEVEN PRICE: Gravity – WaterTower Music WTM39478:

Gravity is a technical marvel, filmed by the visionary director Alfonso Cuaron. The score is heavily synth-based with some vocals throughout. Paired with the movie the score was excellent and did its supporting role justice, but on its own I don’t think I will listen it to it start to finish very often. Some tracks are more atmospheric than melodic and can be chaotic and jarring. The last couple tracks “Shenzou” and “Gravity” are triumphant and definitely shine as this album’s best tracks. A solid body of work by Price and one for most soundtrack nuts to own.


a-late-quartetXANGELO BADALMENTI: A Late Quartet – Decca Records B0017685-02:

This album features original music by Angelo Badalmenti along with Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C-Sharp. The movie is about a world-renowned string quartet who struggle to stay together as they grow old. Badalmenti’s Overture is a beautiful piece featuring a melancholy tone and features a string orchestra with a few woodwinds. Badalmenti’s knack for lush, velvety strings is again shown in this score. The performance of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 by the Brentano String Quartet is wonderful. A very solid album, I definitely recommend it!


ArbitrageCLIFF MARTINEZ: Arbitrage – Milan Records M2-36597:

Cliff Martinez’s unique style of heavily synth-based atmospheric music is well-represented in Arbitrage.  Although it is a bit derivative of some of his other works, it is still a welcome addition to Cliff’s portfolio. There are 20 tracks on this album, more than enough music to warrant a purchase.  Arbitrage is not one to be overlooked, give it a listen.


RidleyScottScoresVARIOUS ARTISTS: Music from the Films of Ridley Scott – Performed by The American Film Symphony – BSX Records BSXCD 8929:

This album of music from the movies of Ridley Scott is an interesting mix.  Going from the music of Legend to the eerie score from Alien and then over to Thelma and Louise isn’t the most natural of segues.  Still, some of this music is hard to find and I think fans of Scott’s movies will appreciate the contents of this album. “Charlie’s Badge” form Black Rain retains the original ‘80s synth feel and Dominik Hauser did an excellent job of recreating one of Hans Zimmer’s classic scores.  This album is almost worth it for the Black Rain track alone, if you haven’t been able to obtain a copy of the original score. The “Love Theme” from Blade Runner is also masterfully recreated on this album.  An interesting mix of hard-to-find music make this disc a great buy.


SkyfallXTHOMAS NEWMAN: Skyfall – Sony Classical 88765410402:

Skyfall is, in case you haven’t already seen it, the latest James Bond movie starring Daniel Craig. The movie itself, directed by Sam Mendez, is fantastic and one of the better Bond films. This marks Newman’s first score to a James Bond film and, if Mendez directs another film, probably not his last.  Thomas Newman follows up the work of David Arnold, who has done a great job at keeping the proper tone for a Bond movie. In Skyfall, Newman has added his own style, yet borrowed thematically from the franchise. During the movie, I actually felt his score to be too “in-your-face” at times. However, listening to it on its own proved to be a better experience.  Although I would rank Newman below the masterful John Barry and even David Arnold, the score to Skyfall is among the better soundtrack releases for 2012.


CompHarryPotterScoresJOHN WILLIAMS/ PATRICK DOYLE/ NICHOLAS HOOPER/ ALEXANDRE DESPLAT: The Complete Harry Potter Film Music Collection – Performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orch. – Silva Screen Records SILCD1381:

Normally I am not a fan of other performances of original motion picture soundtracks, but I have to say, the performances by The City of Prague Philharmonic are excellent. It sounds true to the composer’s original visions, while not sounding like a carbon copy.  There is more air and space to this recording, which I found added to the magical world of Harry Potter.  With two CDs full of music from all eight movies, I recommend picking it up, even if you already have the original soundtrack albums.


AmzingSpidermanJAMES HORNER: The Amazing Spiderman – Sony Classical 88725438052:

As a long time James Horner fan, I have heard most of his scores and am quite familiar with his habit of regurgitation. Unfortunately, there is more of that here in The Amazing Spiderman soundtrack.  Essentially, there isn’t really anything new on this album. The second track “Becoming Spider-Man” is pretty solid and one that I will return to, but that’s about it. If you are new to Horner’s work, then by all means this is worth listening to, otherwise feel free to skip most of the 20 tracks on this one.


LincolnVampireHunterHENRY JACKMAN: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter – Sony Classical 88691978332:

I had never heard of composer Henry Jackman before his heroic score to the mildly violent movie Kick-Ass.  Since then he has found quite a bit of work, scoring the likes of Puss in Boots, Wreck-It Ralph, Captain Phillips, and many more, including this release of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. I have not seen the movie, so I listened to it as a stand-alone work and the track “Emancipation” did a great job of showing off Jackman’s ability to create a theme that evokes what I would call heroic strength. The melodies aren’t particularly strong, but I imagine the score accompanies this film quite well. [I saw it and liked it; Lincoln got everybody in the North to donate their silverware and had silver bullets made to kill the mostly vampire Confederates!…Ed.]


AfterEarthJAMES NEWTON HOWARD: After Earth – Sony Classical 88883725472:

James Newton Howard’s score to this M. Night Shyamalan film ranges in tone from sinister to wild jungle beats.  Many different drums and percussion make up this soundtrack’s more energetic sections, while strings and piano fill in much of the rest. It sounds like a mix of his Blood Diamond along with his other M. Night scores. The second to last track “I Wanna Work With Mom” is very good.  Perhaps not James Newton Howard’s best score, After Earth feels merely like filler.  Given the movie’s poor response with reviewers and the public, my guess is that he had little to be inspired by with this one.


BladeRunnerReDoVANGELIS’s music performed by EDGAR ROTHERMICH: Blade Runner – BSX Records BSXCD 8917:

Similar to the collection of music from the films of Ridley Scott, and including a couple of the same Blade Runner tracks, this production of Vangelis’ iconic score is the most faithfully-reproduced to date.  There are other versions of the Blade Runner score, such as the orchestral version, and having listened to that, all I can say is that the magic of Vangelis’ work is lost here.  A good portion of Blade Runner’s success is due in part to the original score and there has never been anything quite like it since its release in 1982.  For whatever reason there has never been a soundtrack album of the original music used in the film.  Edgar Rothermich has painstakingly analyzed the original music from the movie itself and re-engineered the synth sounds in order to create this album. This new version of the Blade Runner score is an absolute must-own for soundtrack fans.

—above reviews by Stephen Hornbrook


LifeOfPiMYCHAEL DANNA: Life of Pi – Sony Classical 88725477252:

This American/Indian/British 3D film may be Ang Lee’s masterpiece, based on a 2001 novel of the same name. It concerns a 16-year-old Indian boy named “Pi” Patel, who survives a shipwreck in which his entire family dies and ends up stranded on the ocean on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Roger Parker, from his family’s zoo.  It had 11 nominations for the Academy Awards and won four of them. The soundtrack of 28 cues features a whole orchestra and often expresses the inexpressible. The music sounds sometimes very simple and innocent, yet at others times accompanies effectively scenes of terrifying events. Of course there are elements of East Indian music, but also elements of the three primary religions (because Pi has dabbled in all three): Hinduism, Christianity, Islam. A most unusual score which stands up extremely well even if you haven’t seen the movie (and you should).


VisitorsPHILIP GLASS: Visitors – Cond. by Michael Riesman/ Bruckner Orch. Linz/ Dennis Russell Davies – Orange Mt. Music 0089 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:

This is the latest from director Godfrey Reggio, of Koyaanisqatsi fame. All of his films had some of the best-known scores by Philip Glass. This one has a new intensity but is more minimalist, and the images are quite different from Reggio’s previous efforts: 74 very long takes, many static. It’s in black and white and nearly all the shots involve special effects. The hi-def film will be in the theaters in 2014 and will require an especially contemplative viewing. The strings of the Bruckner Orchestra Linz dominate the score, and the music serves to amplify the space in the images. Boo to Orange Mt. Music’s habit of including little documentation: there is no playlist of the selections here and no notes.

—above reviews by John Sunier

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