Top Film Score Soundtrack Releases of 2010

There are so many. So many!

Last year saw the release of more film score soundtracks from specialty labels than I think most collectors were able to afford. The fact that most of them are limited editions with a ridiculously high demand makes them items that you just have to have even if you didn’t think the music was the very best, they still hold the status of a coveted “Holy Grail”. I had the privilege of buying many of these in 2010 before they sold out (some are still available), but that’s the game of film score collecting since most of them are limited to only 1,000 to 3,000 copies, then there are the more popular releases that get 5,000 to 10,000 copies.

I’ll cover the very best ones here, and gosh-darn-it there were a lot! Sorry it’s such an arbitrary number as 26, but that’s how old I’m turning this year, so there’s luck for you.

26. Rocky IV

Composer: Vince DiCola
Label: Intrada Records
Limit: unlimited

One thing I love about the 1980s is that everything had to have some sort of Cold War intrigue or movies had to have synthesized scores, and Rocky IV has both, as well as montages! I think most fans have the song album, but I actually think DiCola’s 80s synth pop version of Bill Conti’s Rocky theme is even better than how it is in the original 1976 film.

25. Speed 2: Cruise Control

Composer: Mark Mancina
Label: La-La Land Records
Limit: 3,000 copies

The movie was a piece of junk, but this premiere release of the score was a revelation. The music itself is more accessible than Mancina’s other score to the first Speed flick. A very fun and lively 1990’s action score.

24. Alien Resurrection

Composer: John Frizzell
Label: La-La Land Records
Limit: 3,500 copies

Not the best Alien movie, but Frizzell’s brooding score makes for an interesting listen on this new complete and chronological release. Not in the highest demand because it already had a satisfactory original soundtrack release in 1997, so many buyers will probably put this one on hold in favour of other releases that they anticipate will sell out soon.

23. Patton

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith
Label: Intrada Records
Limit: unlimited

With that repeating trumpet motif played into an echoplex, this is a score that really deserves to be unlimited. No Goldsmith fan or film score collector should be without this truly magnificent classic by the master. This 2-disc set is the definitive example of how a score for a biopic should be done.

22. Nightflyers

Composer: Doug Timm
Label: Varese Sarabande
Limit: 1,000 copies

The late Doug Timm, who was tragically murdered in the late 1980s was just beginning his film scoring career with Nightflyers, which gives it a notoriety that probably caused it to sell out so fast, since I don’t think many people have actually seen this obscure little sci-fi film. I believe it’s the only CD release of anything by the composer.

21. The Goonies

Composer: Dave Grusin
Label: Varese Sarabande
Limit: 5,000 copies

Never had a release of any kind until 2010, so it’s gained a cult following as one of those “holy grails” that some people wanted even though they might not have necessarily liked it that much if it did have an earlier release in the 80’s – or at least that’s what people say! Still a fun score and great to have.

20. Uncommon Valor

Composer: James Horner
Label: Intrada Records
Limit: 3,000 copies

A robust Horner score from the mid-80s that allowed many collectors to retire those old bootlegs they had for years.

19. Conan the Barbarian

Composer: Basil Poledouris
Label: Tadlow Music
Limit: unlimited

Unfortunately, the original masters for the score for this early Arnold Schwarzenegger film are apparently lost, so Tadlow went about in recreating the whole thing in crisp sound quality for this majestic fantasy adventure score. Highly recommended for those who love their heroic bombast.

18. SpaceCamp

Composer: John Williams
Label: Intrada Records
Limit: 3,000 copies

This is identical to a previous Japanese release from the early 1990s that was limited to only 1,000 copies, which had become valued extraordinarily high. I know a guy who actually paid $500 for the original release on eBay, but thankfully I was able to buy it for only $20 on the single day that it was available. It’s a quaint little score done in Williams’ concert style of the mid-80s.

17. Flesh + Blood

Composer: Basil Poledouris
Label: Intrada Records
Limit: 2,000 copies

I only ever had this one on LP, so it was nice of Intrada to give it a new CD release. I can only describe it as very rich and very lush. Grab any copy you can!

16. Krull

Composer: James Horner
Label: La-La Land Records
Limit: 3,000 copies

This already had a complete release by the Super Tracks label about ten years ago, but La-La Land cleaned up the sound a bit more and re-released it for those who missed it before. It sounds a lot like Horner’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, only without the sea-faring bravado. It’s thematically rich, boldly written, and beautifully orchestrated. Fantastic presentation.

15. Islands in the Stream

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith
Label: Film Score Monthly
Limit: 5,000 copies

For years, collectors had to be content with Goldsmith’s own 1986 re-recording of this score, but FSM finally gave the original score a decent release it deserved. It’s a very mellow, dark, and heartbreaking score from the composer. I’d describe it as highly masculine sensitivity.

14. First Blood

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith
Label: Intrada Records
Limit: unlimited

I’m not sure if I can recommend for anyone to get this straight away since it’s an unlimited release, and especially if you already have any of its adequate previous releases, even if they were incomplete. The biggest surprise about this new edition is the pop orchestral version of the main theme, which doesn’t even sound appropriate for the film’s tone or subject matter, but I guess it was a trend to record stuff like that back then.

13. The Edge

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith
Label: La-La Land Records
Limit: 3,500 copies

At first glance, it seems like any other old 90s action score that Goldsmith signed on to, but it’s unique in that it’s the first time in years that Goldsmith had to avoid using synth elements, so in the orchestrations, you can actually hear where he might have put those elements. Not an immediate pick-up if you already have the OST, but it deserves a second look.

12. RoboCop

Composer: Basil Poledouris
Label: Intrada Records
Limit: 3,000 copies

After two tries by Varese, Intrada finally got it right. Poledouris’ music seemed a little fragmented on previous editions, but it’s all nicely rounded out by that glorious end credits suite at the very end. Remarkable marriage of orchestral and electronic elements in this awesome action score.

11. Predator

Composer: Alan Silvestri
Label: Intrada Records
Limit: 3,000 copies

Subject to controversy because of its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it release, Predator sold out before anyone actually knew it was available. After so many bootlegs, Varese gave it a 3000-copy release in 2003, which sold out and became a highly sought after CD for some years, fetching prices upwards of $500 on the secondary market. The speculators gobbled up the new Intrada version so they could protect their investment. What is it about this score that attracts so much niche market attention? I suppose it’s because it has an intensely high geek-factor attached to it and those action/adventure scores from the 1980s make for big sales.

10. Home Alone

Composer: John Williams
Label: La-La Land Records
Limit: 3,500 copies

I have to admit, I was never really into this one all that much even on the OST. I always preferred Williams’ score to Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, which was a masterful presentation by Varese. Though I should say that this new presentation is an eye-opener and I can’t recommend it enough as a piece of Christmas ambiance at that time of the year.

9. Batman Returns

Composer: Danny Elfman
Label: La-La Land Records
Limit: 3,500 copies

I was always a little disappointed by the OST, the sound was harsh and tinny, and the track titles were difficult to understand. All of that is solved and mended on this new 2-CD release, with boosted sound quality, where the acoustics are given better range, and the added music is handsome, dazed, and to die for. I was waiting for this one for years.

8. Poltergeist

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith
Label: Film Score Monthly
Limit: 10,000 copies

It’s heeeere! The main reason to get this new release is the significantly improved sound quality, and to hear the original album presentation on Disc 2. The Rhino expanded release from 1997 might do for most casual listeners, but hardcore fans will want to get this new edition eventually.

7. Black Sunday

Composer: John Williams
Label: Film Score Monthly
Limit: 10,000 copies

A thriller from Williams that never had a release before 2010 at all, so it was like listening to a new Williams score since I’ve never seen the film.

6. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Composer: James Horner
Label: Film Score Monthly
Limit: unlimited

After FSM’s phenomenal release of Horner’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, it was inevitable that they’d give his second score for the franchise a similar treatment. The complete score on Disc 1 contains many previously unreleased tracks, but I still find myself drawn to the OST presentation on the second disc because I find the performances more eargasmic for some reason.

5. Family Plot

Composer: John Williams
Label: Varese Sarabande
Limit: 5,000 copies

An unusually quirky score by the maestro for Alfred Hitchcock’s final film. Aside from one track on a previous Varese compilation for Hitch’s movies, this has never had a soundtrack release before. Bravo on filling the gap, Varese!

4. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith
Label: La-La Land Records
Limit: 5,000 copies

This new complete and chronological presentation is a revelation as to how diverse this score is, and really shows the thematic development that the OST never did. I particularly like how this is so complete, it even has a source cue of Spock plucking what sounds like a sitar or some exotic sounding Vulcan instrument. Row, row, row your boat… gently down the stream…

3. Batman

Composer: Danny Elfman
Label: La-La Land Records
Limit: 5,000 copies

I actually didn’t think Batman really needed a complete and chronological presentation because it already had a rather strong OST release from 1989 with decent sound quality. Yet I caved in an bought this anyway because I’m such a Bat-fanatic, and even though the sound quality on the complete score on Disc 1 is a little degraded, there’s some interesting new material, plus the alternates and source music on Disc 2.  La-La Land has had me eating out of their hands this year.

2. Independence Day

Composer: David Arnold
Label: La-La Land Records
Limit: 5,000 copies

I didn’t think it would ever happen. I actually expected Intrada to give ID4 a complete release someday because I was so impressed by their 2007 presentation for Alien. Never mind that now, La-La Land gave this score a similar treatment to how they tackled David Arnold’s score to Godzilla in 2007, and I was as giddy as an alien with a city blaster. It is two discs of complete and chronological patriotic action adventure nirvana, and nearly blew my speakers out when I wasn’t careful.

1. Spartacus

Composer: Alex North
Label: Varese Sarabande
Limit: 5,000 copies

Great, merciful, blood-stained gods! This release by Varese was a labour of love by producer Robert Townson, and I cannot think of a more comprehensive release of any one single film score ever. The stereo version of the expanded score is wonderful, the mono version is all that exists of the complete score but it’s worth having, plus all of those interpretations of the love theme are delightful. Then there’s the DVD documentary on the score, and that gorgeous booklet. It’s a little pricey, but I think it’s reasonable for what it is. Spartacus isn’t my favourite film score of all time, but its influence gives it a must-have status, especially given how thorough this release is. It’s a boxset like no other, and they want to phase out CDs? Noooooooooooooo!

~~~

Funny that the Top 5 were all limited to 5000 copies each. It seems La-La Land was the champion of having the most awesome releases of the year, even though Varese had the No. 1 spot for Spartacus.

Anyhow, there were (shockingly) some new good scores to come out of Hollywood in 2010, so here are what I thought were the best. Not necessarily the best in terms of presentation, editing and music selection, but the best in terms of the quality of the music itself. I just hope the creative bankruptcy in Hollywood is soon exhausted.

5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Composer: Alexandre Desplat
Label: Watertower Music

I was a little disappointed by the score overall, but it’s the most John Williams-sounding score since the composer left, so it has its merits. There’s a beautiful theme in there that appears during “Godric’s Hollow Graveyard” and “Ron’s Speech”, which I believe is Desplat’s friendship theme, a rather melancholy motif without being too melodramatic.

4. Tron: Legacy

Composers: Daft Punk
Label: Walt Disney Records

An unexpected hit. This sort of stuff usually isn’t my cuppa tea, but it makes for some interesting electronic ambiance.

3. Predators

Composer: John Debney
Label: La-La Land Records

It’s more of an adaptation of Silvestri’s original themes from the first film than something that wanted its own identity. That said, it’s probably the best action score of the year. Some really wild and propulsive tracks in this score.

2. Alice in Wonderland

Composer: Danny Elfman
Label: Walt Disney Records

Reminiscent of many of Elfman’s previous scores from the early 1990s, but assembled in a manner that sounds original. A real departure from the composer’s coma-inducing noodling from the last few years.

1. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Composer: David Arnold
Label: Sony Records

This was a long-anticipated score from David Arnold because everyone expected that he would return to his very bold and bombastic orchestral style of the 1990s, and so he did. After a swath of frenetic, techno oriented 007 scores from the composer for many years, it was so refreshing to almost think I was listening to something from Stargate all over again. Delicious.

~~~

Rounding things off, what limited edition scores would I like to see in 2011? Many speculate that La-La Land will be working on Hook by John Williams, but I fear that being a Spielberg/Williams project, mainstream producer Laurent Bouzereau will just have to get himself involved and invite Williams himself for input, then we can kiss a complete and chronological presentation goodbye, knowing how Williams just loves his bizarro “listening experience” that annoys the hell out of collectors. I’d really like to see Gremlins by Jerry Goldsmith, as well as a complete presentation of his final score to Looney Tunes: Back in Action, which I’ve heard rumours that his score had many rejected alternates. La-La Land also wanted to release Batman & Robin by Elliot Goldenthal, but that might become more unlikely if Warner Bros.’ new label Watertower wants to give it a go. But we’ll see.

Have a happy 2011!

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