COMIC STRIP HEROES: Music from Gotham City and Beyond
Features “Main Themes” from SPIDERMAN (2002), SUPERMAN (1978), FANTASTIC FOUR (2005), and THE SHADOW (1994); Suites from BATMAN (1989), THE INCREDIBLES (2004); JUDGE DREDD (1995), and X2—X-MEN UNITED (2003), plus music from BATMAN BEGINS (2005)
10 Tracks (Playing Time = 56:38)
Performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic, conducted by James Fitzpatrick and Nic Raine. Produced by James Fitzpatrick. Mastered by Rick Clark. Engineered by John Timperley and Jan Holzner. Art direction and design by Damien Doherty.
Silva Screen 1210
H ere on one disc is an opportunity to essentially pick up some of the best superhero music written over the past decade. The lone “older” pieces come from 1978’s SUPERMAN which includes performances of the “Main Theme” and “Love Theme” repackaged from previous Silva releases (and essentially here to fulfill a connection to the new SUPERMAN RETURNS film which also reuses these themes), and Elfman’s suite for BATMAN (1989). This particular suite, at nearly thirteen minutes, is overlong, and really uninteresting even though it gives a good overview of the score. Several of the other selections included have appeared elsewhere on Silva discs. This time out there are some newer choices directed by James Fitzpatrick.
Nic Raine’s contributions have been general highlights in past compilations. What the SUPERMAN “Main Theme” loses in brash, occasionally overloud and out of tune brass playing it makes up for in enthusiasm. It is the least successful of Raine’s recordings but seems to reappear often in Silva’s re-issues. The “Love Theme” is a tad on the slow side but nice. The newest offering with Raine appears to be the music from Giacchino’s superb score to “The Incredibles.” With a sensibility closer to John Barry, this would appear to be a good choice for Raine to lead. Perhaps that is what makes this particular recording intriguing. The suite appears to have been recorded differently with a sound that is similar to Silva’s Barry re-recordings. That it shows up the similarities is musically interesting, but it does not do a lot to capture the spirit of Giacchino’s score. The other problem is that the individual cues have not been nuanced to proceed from one track to another. (My suspicion is that this is not Silva’s fault.) The conluding segment, “Glory Days” is a little bit more successful, but a little slow. Since this is essentially the first recording to come from this score, it remains to be seen how others may treat this material. Raine and the orchestra do a fine job covering the music here but this is one time where a re-orchestrated version of the theme might have been better. You cannot knock them for trying though.
The disc opens with a fine performance of Elfman’s music from SPIDERMAN (2002). I remember many who critiqued this score for being themeless, but the “Main Theme” as arranged here for concert performance will prove there was a lot more to this score as many fans discovered who gave it time to percolate in their CD players. This performance, conducted by Fitzpatrick, continues to improve one’s opinion of this house orchestra. Under his baton the orchestra does a fine job of recording a pops performance that stays somewhat faithful to the original. The music from FANTASTIC FOUR is actually given a fine performance here as well as does “Eptesicus” from BATMAN BEGINS (2005). The weakness of this selection lies more in the music itself than in any performance of it.
The more I think about the music on this release, the more I begin to realize that this disc not only provides some great music, but also inadvertently shines a little light into the state of contemporary film scoring. It is interesting to hear some favorites alongside newer selections whose freshness may taint our opinions somewhat. But among the newer film music selections, only those by John Ottman even suggest any consistent quality as music on its own. Or perhaps a better way of saying this is that his music appears to be capable of being interpreted apart from the original sessions. BATMAN BEGINS and THE INCREDIBLES, both scores I liked, seem like weakly inspired pieces laid down next to some of this other music. Even Silvestri’s JUDGE DREDD comes across as a fairly good effort musically here (incidentally, credited to being conducted by Paul Bateman on previous releases so this may be a newer recording with the orchestra).
Unlike some Silva releases that list the arrangements made by house orchestrators, the booklet simply provides the publisher information for these selections suggesting that these are at least more “authorized” and closer to the real thing. This is overall a fun disc to listen to and one to grab as you head out the door for the beach. If you want something that sounds like the original tracks then you need to stick with the OST releases. Silva is not trying here to recreate the original recordings, just provide a chance to hear some great music by a variety of composers. The one real complaint is that with all the back catalogue recordings that Silva does have, they could have padded out this release a lot more. But several well-done selections are always better than a lot of mediocre filler ones.
--Steven A. Kennedy 21 July 2006
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