Film Music Review
The Sammy awards






Alien [Complete Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

ALIEN (1979)

Music composed by Jerry Goldsmith.

Disc One: 30 Tracks (Playing Time = 76:54)

Disc Two: 17 Tracks (Playing Time = 49:26


Orchestrated by Arthur Morton. The National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Lionel Newman. Originally recorded February 20-23, 27, and March 1, 1979 at Anvil Film and Recording Group, Inc., Denham, Bucks, England. Engineered by Eric Tomlinson. Music edited by Bob Hathaway. CD re-issue produced by Mike Matessino and Nick Redman. Multi-track transfers by DJ Audio, Studio City, CA. Restoration, mixing and assembly by Mike Matessino. CD mastered by Douglass Fake at Intrada, Oakland, CA. Album art direction by Joe Sikoryak, designWELL.

Additional arrangements by David Cerrejon, Jorge Magaz, and Jose Villalobos. Vocal solos by Sussan Deyhim. Hollywood Studios Symphony conducted by Michael Nowal. Score recorded and mixed by Jose Luis Crespo Duenas. Also includes songs performed by Ahmad Zahir, Ehsan Aman, and Sami Yusaf. Music edited by Jay Richardson. Score recorded at Cata Studios (Madrid), Warner Bros. Eastwood Scoring Stage, Conway Studios, and Remote Control Productions. Score mixed at Old Firehouse Recording Studio. Album mastered by Lennart Jeschke. Art direction by Nikolaus Boddin.

Intrada MAF 7102

Rating: ****


ALIEN is kind of the Holy Grail of film scores for Goldsmith aficianados.  The score is probably one of the most horribly mutilated in film music history and the score album that was released featured horrid sound though it was still a representation of the general music.  Its re-sequencing and combination of cues provided a mystifying and frustrating listening experience. 

About all one could say for it was that it was some of the most visceral music the composer ever wrote.  Personally, after hearing it on CD for the first time, I really did not see why anyone would think that highly of the score.  But, the isolated score tracks on the last DVD incarnation piqued my interest. ALIEN’s troubled musical history perhaps also raised it on the radar of a generation of young film music fans who grew up hearing his music throughout the 1970s. It had seemed to get better with each passing score (STAR TREK—THE MOTION PICTURE appeared this same year) and so for a small little science-fiction film, this might have gone unnoticed. Except ALIEN became an important movie franchise and as rumors spread about the music it acquired its legendary status.

The DVD re-issue a few years ago tried to restore Goldsmith’s music as an alternate music-only track which helped discover some of the ways his score would have been used had it not been re-edited. But that presentation was never truly satisfactory. Now Intrada has laid to rest any question as to the true magnificence of this score.  The 2-disc set includes just over 2 hours of material composed for the film and allows us to hear Goldsmith’s vision for this music. 

Disc One features the entire score as originally conceived followed by some 20 minutes of re-scored alternate cues.  The original score's concept is truly amazing.  Moving from more lyrical writing to advanced aleatoric compositional techniques and a variety of electronic innovations, the score is one amazing piece.  There is an arch, ebb and flow, to this score that is totally lacking in whatever final version of it ended up on screen.  The richness of the recording available here on its own for the first time is an achievement worthy of Tomlinson’s best, and more well known work from the STAR WARS films.. 

You can now toss out your old Silva re-issue on CD as well because dDisc two presents the original soundtrack album.  Here the sound is just as rich as that of the score. Goldsmith chose some of the film’s more unusual selections here, re-edited to create an album experience that is distinct from that of the score proper.  There are an additional 13 minutes of bonus material on this disc as well.

Intrada’s work on restoring this particular score helps us to see why restoration of film music is vital. Here we experience what a great composer, like Goldsmith, brings to a film. If we are honest, we canalso see where his decisions may not have been best for the film that resulted, as hard as that may seem. It is clear from this release that Goldsmith's original vision for this film caught the emotional core of the film.  But, perhaps that is why it was re-edited to create the cold hardness of Ridley Scott's vision. The music of the commercial release feels like a colder, harsher world than what we hear for the first part of the original score material. It is this harsher music which was re-tracked often into the front half of the film.

Something else we are reminded of in this release is that there is nothing like hearing a great score on its own, in film order, to gain the best appreciation of it. Other arrangements, or re-edits of a work might be helpful to create a musical arch for a recording, but they become separate pieces on their own. And that leads me to state the seemingly redundant fact that a soundtrack album is not always the best way to experience a score. Intrada’s current release reminds us that many commercial score releases tend to be a sort of “Cliff Notes” hit-the-highlights sort of release. Lest we forget too that making a buck off a film’s score is often more difficult, it is no wonder that we have such a plethora of minor, uninteresting new score releases glutting the market. A score release can give you a taste of what the music was like, at least a little bit, and serve as a souvenir of the movie experience. It’s place becomes more precarious in a market that can release a whole film quickly to DVD (remember when albums and CDs were all one had of a film for a year or more).  A separate score release tells us more about a composer’s, or in some cases a producer or music editor’s, way of making sense out of the essence of smaller cues. It is a reminder of how important knowing this last aspect of the film music business is to a composer. In fact, if you pay attention to many of ritics review music this inability to create a decent CD from a score often becomes a common complaint.

When we hear Goldsmith moving deftly between an almost Penderecki-esque sound world to one of a latent Romanticism it all makes perfect sense musically. This is the hallmark of Goldsmith’s ability and I would be willing to bet that the experience of this film informed the composer’s own choices for what made it to an album release in the future. 

You will find yourself saying more than you think, how much more you prefer the original score conception to the album or alternate material as you listen to this release.  And the fine notes help you move through the variations that Goldsmith was asked to create while walking the fine line of a balanced retelling of the history of this genre-breaking sci-fi film.

This non-limited release is already in its second pressing but is easily one of Intrada’s finest releases in a string of superb surprises.


--Steven A. Kennedy , 18 December 2007

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