It’s a slow news week here at the Retroist Scoreboard – this week’s only new release is La-La Land Records’ CD of the soundtrack from the DC Animated Universe movie Justice League Dark, scored by Robert J. Kral (Angel, Jake 2.0, Superman: Doomsday, Green Lantern: First Flight, Batman: Assault on Arkham).
Perhaps even more exciting is La-La Land closing the books on the last few copies of some of its past releases, and when I say “last few” I mean “maybe a dozen or so”, which translates roughly to “they may be gone by the time you read this and go looking for them”. Not only will these titles be going out of print, but they’re being sold off at what the Firesign Theatre once called “unhealable deep-cut discounts!”. Titles include the late Shirley Walker’s masterful score from the 1990 TV iteration of The Flash, Haunted Honeymoon, Days Of Our Lives (yes, there was a soundtrack for that), and Les Baxter’s vintage soundtrack from “X”: The Man With X-Ray Eyes. Get ’em while they’re still there. Some of the low-quantity titles I mentioned in the last Retroist Scoreboard…some of those are already out of print. Life comes at you fast when you’re a soundtrack collector.
Since there’s a lull in the action, let’s talk about Holy Grails.
The two big fish in the boutique soundtrack label pond, La-La Land Records and Intrada, have something of a gentlemen’s agreement: this week, La-La Land releases something. Next week, Intrada releases something else. (It’s actually a pretty friendly unspoken rule: if you check the credits in the back of the liner notes booklets of any given recent vintage soundtrack releases, you’ll find the same producers, restoration experts, mastering engineers and liner notes writers are happily working for both labels.) You’ll notice this ebb-and-flow as the Retroist Scoreboard continues chronicling their releases this year.
Both labels tend to hit the pause button around Christmas and New Year, as well as other holidays during the year. So let’s assume that each label will be dropping one or two new items – or one big one, if it’s a box set – 20 weeks out of the year. The labels strive to find a mix of “crowd pleasers” (i.e. last year’s 30-years-overdue release of the complete score plus songs from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), “golden age” material from Hollywood’s postwar heyday, and more recent “silver age” material. Not all of them sell in huge numbers; La-La Land boss M.V. Gerhard has openly stated that the “crowd pleasers” foot the bill for some of the more obscure releases whose scores deserve preservation, remastering, and their own releases.
In short: you’re looking at 40 weeks out of the year with something dropping, not all of which you’ll like, but that’s okay. The late, great Jerry Goldsmith criticized soundtrack collectors who were less interested in music than in “collecting bottle caps”…point taken, Maestro Goldsmith. No one can afford to get all of them.
So…is your favorite out there? If it isn’t yet, someone’s probably working on it. One of the most surprising releases last year was the four-disc La-La Land Star Trek 50th anniversary compilation, one disc of which presented – for the first time ever – the incidental music from Filmation’s early 1970s Star Trek cartoon. (Sharp-eared Filmation fans will also know that this is, essentially, the soundtrack from Jason Of Star Command.) It wasn’t that new tapes had been found and remastered; it happened because two recording engineers who happened to be fans of animated Star Trek managed to piece together every instrumental piece from segments of the show where no one was talking! (These guys work hard for your money.)
Other grails have already seen release – the complete scores from all three Back To The Future films, the now-legendary restoration of John Barry’s complete score from The Black Hole (recorded on a no-longer-used digital tape format, which could be played back only on the same kind of tape deck that recorded it…of which there was only one left in the United States, and it fell victim to flooding just before engineers went to transfer those tapes to a hard drive for remastering), and the massive 15-disc box set of every note of music recorded for the original Star Trek.
Others that are high on people’s lists are lost to the mists of time: one frequently requested title is Disney’s The Rescuers, whose master music tapes seem to be lost forever. Intrada’s late 2016 CD release of the soundtrack from Silent Running suffered a similar problem; the CD was mastered from a pristine copy of the long-out-of-print original LP (!).
You’ll notice that there are some genres that get a little more love than others, but that’s often because their very nature lent itself to more epic music: westerns, historical dramas (especially epics like Ben-Hur and Spartacus), and sci-fi are, perhaps, over-represented. But there’s also a healthy selection of ’70s thrillers and a growing category of ’80s cinema (i.e. recent relases of Beverly Hills Cop I & II, Less Than Zero, the aforementioned Ferris Bueller) and ’90s material (i.e. Jurassic Park, Twister, DuckTales: The Movie, Galaxy Quest) that are on the rise. As the audience age range shifts, collectors are “into” the soundtracks from the movies they enjoyed in their youth, and the labels are obliging those changing tastes.
Be patient: someone is almost certainly working on that one soundtrack you’re waiting for, if they haven’t already made it available. (I’ll bring this up again in a more personal context in a couple of weeks.)
When he’s not keeping score at the Retroist, Earl Green is the founder, head writer and podcaster-in-chief at theLogBook.om, a site devoted in roughly equal parts to classic sci-fi, classic video games, classic soundtracks, and space history. You can catch him lining up carefully curated excerpts from TV, movie and game scores most months on the Log Book’s soundtrack mixtape podcast, In The Grand Theme Of Things.