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Film Music Review (Volumes 1-7)





LIFEFORCE-Complete Original Soundtrack Recording


Music by Henry Mancini. Additional music by Michael Kamen.

Disc One: 23 Tracks (Playing Time = 68:49)

Disc Two: 23 Tracks (Playing Time = 74:58)



Mancini Material:

Original Score: 26 tracks (82:28)

Bonus Track: (4:11)

Soundtrack Album: 11 tracks (37:39)

Kamen Material: 8 tracks (19:29)


Original Soundtrack release produced and conducted by Henry Mancini. Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and London Voices. Music edited by Robert Hathaway. Music recorded and mixed by Eric Tomlinson. Recorded at EMI-Abbey Road Studios, London, December 1984.

Additional music composed, conducted, and produced by Michael Kamen, assisted by James Guthrie. Performed by the National Philharmonic Orchestra. Recorded in London, March, 1985.

Deluxe CD reissue produced by Ford R. Thaxton and James Nelson. Analog to digital transfers by Alan Howarth. Audio restorative consulting by Chris Neel. CD assembled and mastered by James Nelson at Digital Outland. Art direction by Mark Banning.

BSX Records BSXCD 8822

Limited edition of 3000 copies.

Rating: ****


BSX Records presents here for the first time the complete LIFEFORCE score. In this case, it means not only the score provided by Henry Mancini, but the additional music required after the film was truncated and re-edited. The latter was composed by Michael Kamen and appears hear apart from the film for the first time. The album, and subsequent CD release on Varese Sarabande attempted to arrange the score in segments like a large tone poem and was one of the most satisfying releases in Varese’s catalogue. If you missed out, BSX has included that complete release at the end of disc two.

LIFEFORCE was Tobe Hooper’s next film after the successful POLTERGEIST. But LIFEFORCE was not to match that film’s financial success. Many felt that the studio’s re-edits, including excising of some thirty minutes, was to blame. Mancini, who worked to bring just the right tone to the opening of this film felt this way. The opening ended up being re-edited and cut the most with additional music composed by Michael Kamen who was asked to add more eerie touches and some electronic sounds on top of Mancini’s existing cues and to provide music to fit the re-edited sequences. Kamen was brought in because Mancini was unavailable to retouch the score. He also was essentially working with studio executive direction as to what to provide instead of Hooper’s intent. So, his contribution needs to be appreciated in that light. Taken on its own, even with the original score release, Mancini’s score is one of the best sci-fi scores from the 1980s and here one gets to hear it sequenced in film order.

The most striking music, after the superb main title music, will be that of “The Discovery.” The music is presented as one long sixteen minute sequence that is probably one of the finest things Mancini wrote. The textures here are fascinating. Here is an accomplished orchestral style that provides the big science fiction orchestral sound in ways not taken by Williams or Goldsmith. There is so much more subtlety here in the way Mancini uses his thematic material through the orchestra. Five minutes into this track there is an amazing low string rumbling coupled with harp arpeggios that sounds both beautiful and eerie. Later there are some rhythmic punctuations that seem to have different scoring with each harmonic punctuation until these are strung together with brass building moving up the scale and the whole orchestra enters with female voices for a gothic horror music moment. The amazing detail in the recording captured here by Tomlinson is also different from that of the STAR WARS recordings with the same orchestra—apparent especially in the wind writing. This segment of disc one is practically worth the price of the release.

Of primary interest to fans will be “Rescue Mission” presented on disc one with Mancini’s underscore, and on disc two with that written by Kamen. It allows for a chance to hear two approaches to the scoring the same scene that one rarely gets. The other thing that is equally fascinating is hearing Mancini take his musical material and slowly unravel and rework it throughout the score’s playing time. There are so few Mancini scores available in his dramatic style that most forget just how good he was at providing this sort of non-pop music. After the amazing music of the opening twenty minutes, Mancini’s underscore exists in smaller segments of a minute or so with occasionally longer scenes. These all provide windows into his creative orchestral style and motivic development. It is worth listening to that main title track a couple of times so that you can get its rhythms and sound in your ear. These ideas reappear in subtle ways throughout the score folding in and out of the texture sometimes as long weaving lines, sometimes as piled up harmonies, sometimes as strange orchestral atmospheres. In “ Carlson’s Story” it is fascinating to hear how that driving rhythm of the main theme is combined with rhythmic punctuations and segments of the theme to create this exciting action cue. This is followed by the gentle opening of “Carlson Sleeps” which opens with a breathy flute sound and then works down into bassoon and bass clarinet before all three are combined to create a most fascinating texture in this briefer cue.

Listen to “The Vampire Lives” to appreciate the full power of a large orchestra. Mancini uses that power by finding ways to explore the variety of sound in a quiet eerie way. Here there is power in the way the music is reined in only to grow into long angular melodic lines growing to a brief full orchestral climax before folding back into itself again. The darkest regions of the orchestra are explored to their fullest in this score and we can thank Tomlinson for letting us hear that detail and the folks at BSX for helping restore it to its full glory.

Kamen’s additional music was written often to play against sound effects and so sometimes it is less effective on its own. It definitely though pulls out all the stops for unsettling musical sounds. In Kamen’s version of “Rescue Mission” there are more atmospheric electronic additions and higher unpitched string writing. He still manages to incorporate some of Mancini’s rhythmic pulses from the opening title music. The fourth track of this score presents several cues together as they play out over seven minutes. Throughout it is obvious that Kamen met the need and then some to provide unusual music to notch up the horror. Some of the segments have wow and flutter problems which are intentional in parts. Kamen’s style is in perfect keeping with other 1980s horror genre films creating a mix of ambient sound and rhythmic tension. Standard gestures are all there but even this early in his career, Kamen’s contribution illustrates he has mastered the genre.

The recording here is a bit muddier than that for the Mancini score and seems to have more source deterioration. It works less separately from the film, but oddly those familiar with the accompanying visuals will remember this music. While the re-edits may have destroyed Mancini’s opening music, it is striking how well Kamen’s contribution matched the segments for which it was provided. The music is somewhat connected by an ostinato pattern that shows up most in the later cues. Looking back now, though, the sound of his music stands alongside other genre writing of the period.

The complete score would not fit entirely on disc one, so the first three tracks of disc two are the concluding moments of Mancini’s score. Kamen’s music follows. A “bonus track” separates this “additional music” from the album presentation. It is the film version of “Grandson of Web” which features choir. Randall Larson provides an excellent essay about the film and its score. There is no track-by-track analysis however. The text is white on a black background filled with fine stills from the film. The CD case fits both discs in the same space as a single disc.

One of the best releases of 2006 with only 3000 copies available.

This is definitely worth adding to your collection.

--Steven A. Kennedy , 4 December 2006

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