Die Hard

Retroist Scoreboard 3-29-17: Yippie-ki-yay, Mr. Falcon!

Yippie-ki-yay - Die Hard
A few years ago, La-La Land Records graced us with the complete score from 1988’s Die Hard, a movie that’s pretty much defined the one-good-guy-stuck-in-one-place-with-a-bunch-of-bad-guys subgenre for the past 30 years…and, no surprise given the size of the movie’s ardent following, that soundtrack sold out virtually overnight. The label is now reissuing it, with different cover artwork but identical musical content, in an edition of 2,000 copies. It’s the late, great Michael Kamen doing his tongue-in-cheek action thriller thing in his prime. Since Kamen and Bruce Willis make such a good combination, La-La Land is also marking down their already-released soundtracks from The Last Boy Scout and Die Hard With A Vengeance through April 10th.

Speaking of soundtracks that sold out in a hot second, Varese Sarabande has announced an April 14th release date for a vinyl reissue – on, appropriately enough, 180-gram sky-blue vinyl – of Bill Conti’s criminally underrated score from 1983’s The Right Stuff. This soundtrack has a long and winding history: Conti prepared an album from the original session tapes, which are now lost to time, only to see the planned 1983 album release cancelled because the movie wasn’t soaring at the box office. Conti hung on to the album masters, however, and Varese issued that long-overdue album on CD several years ago, and again, it sold out practically overnight. This is the first reissue of that album in any format, and is the first time it has hit vinyl, like it should have back in ’83.

Varese has also set the same date for the release of the score from season two of Game of Thrones on vinyl. Though a date hasn’t been set as yet, Varese is apparently also working on a long-overdue CD reissue of the original soundtrack album from Barbarella.

Fans of much-loved fairly-recent TV have another gift coming in April from Varese: a compilation soundtrack of music from the TV series Chuck, composed by Tim Jones, who sought fan input on which pieces of music from which episodes they wanted to hear on CD.

Kronos Records is now taking pre-orders for the April CD release of Italian composer Stelvio Cipriani’s score from 2001’s Death, Deceit & Destiny Aboard The Orient Express, but you’d better jump on that train now (as dangerous as it might sound), because Kronos is only pressing 300 copies of it.

So what’s the big deal with whether or not a score is “complete”? It might be the difference between hearing that one piece of music that stuck with you for years and years, or not having it show up on the album. And that, friends, brings us to another installment of the glossary.

The Retroist Scoreboard Glossary: What kind of release is it?

Box Set – some soundtracks are too big for one or two CDs, pushing them into more expensive box set territory. (Though it’s slightly subjective, the line between what is and isn’t a box set is whether a soundtrack release has a third disc, because at that point a thin double-CD jewel case will no longer contain the score’s magnificence, or at least its sheer length.) TV soundtracks have recently become the major source of box sets, such as La-La Land’s huge collections from Star Trek, Lost In Space, and Mission: Impossible, though epic films such as Ben-Hur and Spartacus have been the subjects of their own box sets. Some box sets may balloon in price due to elaborate packaging (the giant working zoetrope of the Danny Elfman/Tim Burton Collection box set, or Silva Screen’s Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Music Collection with its giant wooden TARDIS); if one of these sets goes out of print, may God or the higher power of your choice help you as you wade into the shark-infested waters of the secondary market.

Compilation Soundtrack – especially in TV music, this is a soundtrack release with excerpts of music from multiple episodes, but not necessarily the full score to any of them (see recent years’ Star Trek TV score releases, the X-Files box sets, etc.). Most TV soundtrack releases fall under this category.

Complete Score – this is a reissue (or perhaps a first-time release) that puts every note of music recorded, sometimes including music left on the cutting room floor for a variety of reasons, in the hands of soundtrack collectors. (Television soundtracks have an equivalent – see episodic soundtracks.) Since some film scores are rife with extremely short “stingers” or scene transition music, the result may be a great many short tracks, but listeners are free to skip these at their leisure in favor of longer cues.

Episodic Soundtrack – in terms of television soundtrack releases, this presents the complete score of one or more episodes of that series, usually in chronological order. Quite rare in comparison to more common Compilation Soundtracks, this is a category that includes Film Score Monthly (FSM)’s massive Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Ron Jones Project box set, Sonic Images’ series of Babylon 5 episodic soundtrack CDs in the late 1990s, and some of Silva Screen’s relatively recent releases of the scores from Doctor Who’s annual Christmas episodes. The equivalent for movie soundtracks is a complete score. Since television scores, and even some movie scores, are often heavy with excessively short (sometimes three-to-five-second) pieces of “stinger” or “act out” music heard just before commercial breaks, it is often felt that there simply isn’t interest in hearing every note of music recorded for a given television episode.

Expanded Score – a reissue that adds more previously unreleased tracks, but does not necessarily represent the complete score of a given movie or TV show. Issues at stake may be licensing costs, part of the movie’s music may be temp tracks or cues licensed from other soundtracks (the latter is a practice that didn’t exist 30-40 years ago but is growing in prominence now), some of the original session recordings may be missing or damaged beyond repair, or the composer may simply not wish for every track to be released for their own reasons.

Reissue – everyone has issues, but soundtrack collectors have reissues. While some film scores are just now seeing their first release, some are reissues that either duplicate or expand upon a previous vinyl or even CD release.

Songtrack – many movies have tie-in albums of either licensed songs, or specially commissioned songs by popular artists which may or may not even be heard briefly in the movie. Examples of movies with “songtracks” include Twister, The Martian, Ghostbusters, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Hidden Figures, and countless others; in some unfortunate cases, unless one of the specialty soundtrack labels releases a score at a later date, songtracks may be a movie’s only official music release. Some songtracks, such as the original 1984 Ghostbusters album, may include short selections or a suite of edited highlights from the score, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.