Gremlins – music by Jerry Goldsmith

GremlinsHorror and comedy are two film genres that many have tried to mix, but few have managed to meld successfully. Part of the problem is that horror films tend to fall into one of two categories: so overbaked as to be almost unintentionally funny, or so repulsive as to strip even the slightest opportunity for humor out of the proceedings. If you try to add “widespread popular appeal” to the mix, you’re begging for trouble, because that all but violates the Prime Directive of making a horror flick. One of the very few movies to have landed right in the middle of that improbable Venn diagram was 1984’s Gremlins, directed by Joe Dante and produced by Steven Spielberg. Gremlins manages to be funny – and even endearingly sweet – and scary all at the same time. And as for popular appeal, the last time my son and I ventured through the toy aisle, we spotted freshly-minted, newly-produced Gremlins figures on the store shelves. Not bad for a movie that’s nearly 30 years old, even if I did have to explain that the movie that they’re from is too rich for his blood since he’s only 4 years old.

Helping to sweeten the movie’s cute moments and lend bite to the scarier scenes was an outstanding Jerry Goldsmith score. Always experimenting with unconventional instrumentation and electronics, Goldsmith was firmly into a phase of adding off-the-shelf synthesizers to the usual orchestral palette. Early samplers were also in play here, adding strange howling-cat noises and an almost-funny “Gremlin chorus” to numerous scenes where appropriate. Film Score Monthly’s 2-disc set corrects one of the longest-standing gaps in commercially-available film music by presenting the full score, alongside the remastered-for-CD “mini-album” released in 1984 which was previously the only way to hear any of the movie’s score. (As it turns out, even the barely-adequate mini-album has its charms, of which more in a moment.)

Goldsmith’s music for Gizmo, the adorable Mogwai who was the movie’s most marketable image, reinforces the adorable part,

Of course, once Gizmo’s kids have their fateful post-midnight snack, Goldsmith gets into more, well, Goldsmithian material. The first strains of the “Gremlins Rag” – heard in full in the movie’s end Gremlinscredits – are heard in an off-kilter, almost toy-piano style as Billy’s mother gets her first look at the grotesquely mutated pods. Once these hatch, all hell breaks loose and Goldsmith upends his entire toybox on us, frequently using the unearthly cat-howl sample mentioned earlier. That occurs through several vignettes early in the Gremlins’ spree of mischief, but once that becomes an all-out reign of terror that threatens to raze the entire town to the ground, the music officially goes balls-to-the-wall. “Too Many Gremlins” would be an epic orchestral music cue for any horror movie, but it helps to sell the Gremlins as a serious threat here (don’t forget, the movie was made in 1984, and its effects were limited to the state of the art of puppetry and animatronics in 1984 – the music had a lot of work to do in making the Gremlins a credible hazard). (That being said, I’m glad that Gremlins has been neither remade nor – shudder – CGI “enhanced” in the years since it was made.)

The second disc will either be a jolt of harmless ’80s nostalgia, or a collection-completer. It’s hard to trawl through theLogBook.com’s music reviews without picking up on me being a Peter Gabriel fan, and the inclusion of “Out Out” may just be that song’s first official appearance on CD, and it’s a notoriously hard-to-find piece from Gabriel’s early career, not having appeared on any of his albums to date, right in the middle of the four-year gap between Security and So. For that alone, this is one “contractually obligated re-release of the original album” (a bugbear of these classic soundtrack remasters) I’ll let them skate by with.

4 out of 4It’s amazing that so much of one of Jerry Goldsmith’s most memorable scores had to wait this long for an official release, but the sound quality and the abundance of previously unreleased material make Gremlins worth the wait.

Order this CD

    Disc One: The Film Score

  1. Fanfare in C / The Shop / The Little One (4:30)
  2. Late for Work (1:46)
  3. Mrs. Deagle / That Dog (2:22)
  4. The Gift (1:45)
  5. First Aid (2:17)
  6. Spilt Water (3:02)
  7. A New One (1:10)
  8. The Lab / Old Times (2:35)
  9. The Injection (2:56)
  10. Snack Time / The Wrong Time (1:49)
  11. The Box (1:24)
  12. First Aid (1:39)
  13. Disconnected / Hurry Home (1:03)
  14. Kitchen Fight (4:06)
  15. Dirty Linen (0:43)
  16. The Pool (1:07)
  17. The Plow / Special Delivery (1:16)
  18. High Flyer (2:22)
  19. Too Many Gremlins (2:06)
  20. No Santa Claus (3:27)
  21. After Theatre (1:39)
  22. Theatre Escape / Stripe Is Loose / Toy Dept. / No Gizmo (4:36)
  23. The Fountain / Stripe’s Death (5:42)
  24. Goodbye, Billy (2:56)
  25. End Title / The Gremlin Rag (4:10)

    Bonus Tracks

  26. Blues (2:17)
  27. Mrs. Deagle film version (1:27)
  28. God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen (1:12)
  29. After Theatre (With “Silent Night”) (1:36)
  30. After Theatre (Without “Silent Night”) (1:36)
  31. Rabbit Rampage composed by Milt Franklyn (0:47)
  32. The Gremlin Rag full version (3:35)
  33. Gizmo’s New Song (0:35)
  34. Gizmo’s Trumpet (0:30)
    Disc Two: 1984 Soundtrack Album

  1. Gremlins…Mega Madness performed by Michael Sembello (3:52)
  2. Make It Shine performed by Quarterflash (4:11)
  3. Out Out performed by Peter Gabriel (7:02)
  4. The Gift (4:58)
  5. Gizmo (4:14)
  6. Mrs. Deagle (2:54)
  7. The Gremlin Rag (4:13)

Released by: Film Score Monthly / Retrograde Records
Release date: 2011
Disc one total running time: 76:01
Disc two total running time: 31:25

Galaxy Quest (Newly Expanded Edition)

Galaxy Quest (Newly Expanded Edition)Originally released shortly after the movie’s premiere, but only in a semi-official capacity on an obscure (and now extinct) label specializing in private-label releases for film and TVcomposers, Galaxy Quest has always been one of my favorite things on my soundtrack shelf. With David Newman tackling the movie as a serious SF film (and the cast and crew doing the same thing, keeping up kayfabe for nearly the entire show), the soundtrack was positively epic – the best science fiction film score of the ’90s. Yes, better than The Matrix.

La La Land Records has rescued Galaxy Quest from obscurity, finally giving the soundtrack a fresh remastering and a wide (if limited-edition) release. There are also a few extra minutes of music, but there was plenty of meat on the bones of the earlier release: this is full-bodied, full-orchestra film music at its finest.

The highlights are still the same as they were before: “Red Thingie, Green Thingie… RUN!” is still one of the best pieces of action movie music since the heyday of Star Wars. What this new La La Land edition has over the old Supertracks release is its copious liner notes booklet, telling me more in just a few pages than I ever knew about Galaxy Quest before, including how hard the studio came down on the writers and director to avoid “offending” the Star Trek franchise’s power players and fans. (As it turns out, Star Trek’s power players were among Galaxy Quest‘s biggest fans – Patrick Stewart, in particular, found the movie uproariously funny.) Also revealed is that David Newman was a mere session orchestra player on the first two Star Trek films, which explains how he nails the all of the little Goldsmith and Horner stylistic tricks so perfectly with Galaxy Quest. This score was Newman’s final exam in how closely he was paying attention in 1979 and 1982. 4 out of 4I think he passed.

Galaxy Quest has faded into relative obscurity as a theatrical event, so this soundtrack is getting only a limited release. That’s the only less-than-perfect thing about the whole package. It’s still the best sci-fi movie score of the 1990s.

Order this CD

  1. Galaxy Quest: The Classic TV Theme (0:57)
  2. TV Clip (1:32)
  3. Pathetic Nesmith (0:57)
  4. Galaxy Quest TV Clip #3 / Introducing Sarris / Revealing the Universe (1:50)
  5. Transporting the Crew / Meet the Thermians (1:33)
  6. The N.S.E.A. Protector (0:43)
  7. Crew Quarters & The Bridge / The Launch (3:24)
  8. Jason Takes Action / Sarris Tortures Captain (1:41)
  9. Red Thingie, Green Thingie… Run! (3:30)
  10. Shuttle to Planet / Trek Across Planet (4:26)
  11. Rolling the Sphere / Pig Lizard / Rock Monster (6:05)
  12. “Digitize Me Fred” (1:13)
  13. “I’m So Sorry” (1:42)
  14. Fight, Episode 17 (1:15)
  15. The Hallway Sneak / Alex Finds Quellek (2:16)
  16. Angry Sarris / Into the Ducts / Omega 13 / Heroic Guy / Reveal Chompers / Opening the Airlock (3:31)
  17. Big Kiss / Happy Rock Monster / Dying Thermians / Quellek’s Death / Into Reactor Room / Push the Button / A Hug Before Dying (4:08)
  18. Sarris Orders Attack / The Battle (3:34)
  19. Mathesar Takes Command / Sarris Kills Everybody (2:18)
  20. Mathesar, Hero / Goodbye My Friends / Crash Landing (1:45)
  21. Goodbye Sarris / Happy Ending (2:04)
  22. The New Galaxy Quest (0:59)

Released by: La La Land Records
Release date: 2012
Total running time: 53:07

Yoko Kanno – Be Human

Yoko Kanno - Be HumanIs there anything that songstress Yoko Kanno can’t do? Starting out as a video game composer in her 20+ year career, she quickly moved on to other avenues such as anime series and films. Her ability to combine styles and influences such as jazz, classical, electronic, and rock music give her a unique and delightful sound.

Be Human, which serves as the 4th (!!!) soundtrack album for the anime series Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex, contains more of Kanno’s signature sound. This album, however, focuses on the robots of the series, called Tachikomas, and carries this underlying theme throughout the whole album. For example, the leadoff song, the titular “Be Human”, is a dreamy pop song complete with mechanical whirring and beeping. “Trip City” shows off Kanno’s rocker side, with lyrics from longtime Kanno collaborator Tim Jensen. “Cream” combines a drum-and-bass rhythm with violin strings, while Japanese hip hop lyrics are sung over that. “What Can I Say?” instantly brings to mind the slow, moving songs from the old musicals of yore. But those are the good parts.

The rest of the album, quite frankly, feels like it consists of filler. Although the music itself is very good (and it’s hard not to like an album that jumps from the techno of “Patch Me” to the whimsical “Tachikoma No Iede (Runaway Tachikoma)”, which includes a flute solo), it often feels incomplete; like fragments or snippets of actual songs instead of a full soundtrack. And that’s what Be Human ultimately is, a collection of B-sides punctuated by an actual song or two.

2 out of 4Be Human, then, should be recommended to fans of the show or fans of Yoko Kanno (who, in all honesty, are probably to be the one and the same). Otherwise, people who are just starting to listen to Yoko Kanno’s works should probably get a Seatbelts album to find out why Kanno’s music is much lauded in the anime world.

Order this CD

  1. Be Human (4:05)
  2. Trip City (3:55)
  3. Patch Me (1:33)
  4. Tachikoma No Iede (Runaway Tachikoma)
  5. (1:55)

  6. Osanpo Tachikoma (Tachikoma Out For A Walk)
  7. (2:03)

  8. Bang Bang Banquet (2:00)
  9. Fax Me (1:26)
  10. Rocky Wa Doko? (Where’s Rocky?)
  11. (4:25)

  12. Spotter (5:56)
  13. Let’s Oil (0:45)
  14. Cream (3:54)
  15. Spider Bites (0:44)
  16. Good By My Master (2:09)
  17. Piece By Ten (2:50)
  18. What Can I Say? (1:11)
  19. Hi! (0:05)
  20. I’m Not Straight (1:23)
  21. AI Sentai Tachikomans (AI Combat Team Tachikomans)
  22. (1:05)

  23. Pro Bowler Tachikoma (Professional Bowler Tachikoma)
  24. (0:38)

  25. Don’t Sponge Me (0:36)
  26. Po’d Pod (1:02)
  27. Ciao! (0:07)

Released by: Bandai Entertainment
Release date: 2003
Total running time: 43:47

Godzilla: 50th Anniversary – music by Akira Ifukube

“Subtle” isn’t normally a word used in connection with Godzilla. However, Akira Ifukube’s soundtrack to the original Godzilla movie is deceptively subtle.

Most soundtracks have themes for characters and scenes that echo the main theme. But in Godzilla, nearly every piece of music is the main theme. With shifts in tempo or style, or emphasis on different types or individual instruments, the theme is reformed in many ways, each of them sounding completely unique and original. It’s a testament to Ifukube’s skill that he was able to stretch the theme into so many nearly unrecognizable shapes.

The main theme itself is a brisk and tense thriller, primarily using woodwinds with some brass for emphasis. When he appears in Tokyo Bay and moves on shore, the music becomes slow, dark and ominous using deep, throaty sounding muted trumpets to represent Godzilla and an almost disconsonant piano to highlight the people’s helplessness.

Ifukube often weaves two or more variations into the same piece of music. Among the most interesting are those hiding in a happy military march and tucked away in an island festival. There are even strains of the theme heard in a harmonica played by a sailor on a merchant vessel. The “Prayer For Peace,” which remains one of the most haunting pieces of music I’ve ever heard, brings the theme to a funeral dirge. When we see Godzilla on the ocean floor, the theme shifts to help us realize that the King of the Monsters is a victim as well.

4 out of 4The latest trend on the internet is to create original works in “mashups” of different source material. Akira Ifukube did it the old fashioned way- using only one source and without using “loops.” Godzilla: 50th Anniversary is an excellent achievement that is not only good to listen to, but can also be used as a study guide for budding composers.

Order this CD

  1. Godzilla Approaches (Sound Effects) (0:49)
  2. Godzilla Main Title (1:31)
  3. Ship Music / Sinking Of Eikou-Maru (1:06)
  4. Sinking Of Bingou-Maru (0:23)
  5. Anxieties On Ootojima Island (0:50)
  6. Ootojima Temple Festival (1:21)
  7. Stormy Ootojima Island (1:53)
  8. Theme For Ootojima Island (0:34)
  9. Japanese Army March I (0:42)
  10. Horror Of The Water Tank (0:42)
  11. Godzilla Comes Ashore (1:52)
  12. Godzilla’s Rampage (2:25)
  13. Desperate Broadcast (1:12)
  14. Godzilla Comes To Tokyo Bay (1:25)
  15. Intercept Godzilla (1:27)
  16. Tragic Sight Of The Imperial Capitol (2:18)
  17. Oxygen Destroyer (3:11)
  18. Prayer For Peace (2:48)
  19. Japanese Army March II (0:21)
  20. Godzilla At The Ocean Floor (6:20)
  21. Ending (1:41)
  22. Godzilla Leaving (Sound Effects) (1:04)

    Bonus Tracks

  23. Main Title (film version) (2:03)
  24. First Landing (film version) (3:37)
  25. Tokyo In Flames (film version) (2:17)
  26. Last Assault (film version) (2:21)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 46:28

Godzilla – music by David Arnold

Finally out after nine years (just one year shy of the movie’s tenth anniversary) David Arnold’s score for Roland Emmerich’s remake (a 2-CD set, limited to 3000 copies) of Tokyo’s resident bad boy displays all of the pluses and minuses of Arnold’s previous collaborations with Emmerich.

One of the most striking things that occurred to me when listening to this set was the fact that Arnold tends to compose similar music whenever the military is on screen at any given point. In fact, “Military Command Center” is a case in point. The drum beats alone tends to signify “Ten-shun!” whenever a military type enters the scene. Ironically, and much to Arnold’s regret according to the booklet’s liner notes (one of the most illuminating I have come across, by the way), the military in Emmerich’s opus doesn’t get as much screen time as one would expect in a film with the big G.

Another puzzling thing is that about halfway through the production process was the decision on Emmerich’s part to make his CGI big G as much a thing of wonder as of a thing of terror. Perhaps the most significant result of this sudden change of direction is “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”. At first the piece emphasizes the terror, but around the halfway mark it switches to an almost Williams-style feeling of awe and wonder.

Still, what this score does right, it does very right indeed. “The Beginning” does an excellent job of setting things up and while it’s not going to dethrone Akira Ifukube’s now-iconic theme anytime soon, it manages to display a sense of dread all its own. In fact, in the alternate version of this (no choir in the latter) it almost sounds remarkably similar to Ifukube’s previous work. Also, “Nick and Audrey” has a feel to it that’s more than a little reminiscent of John Barry.

4 out of 4In all, this is an album that many people have been waiting for a long time and whether you like the movie or not, the score itself should be listened to at least once, since it seems unlikely, despite Arnold’s optimism, that he’ll do another job for Emmerich anytime soon.

Order this CD

  1. The Beginning (3:29)
  2. Tanker Gets It (1:11)
  3. Chernobyl (3:13)
  4. Footprint (0:33)
  5. Footprints / New York / Audrey (0:54)
  6. Chewing Gum Nose (0:30)
  7. Ship Reveal / Nick Discovers Fish / Flesh (1:39)
  8. The Boat Gets It* (2:09)
  9. Dawn Of The Species (1:49)
  10. Joe Gets a Bite / Godzilla Arrives (3:11)
  11. Mayor’s Speech (1:03)
  12. Caiman’s Office (0:45)
  13. Animal’s Camera (1:39)
  14. Military Command Center / New Jersey (1:55)
  15. Audrey’s Idea (0:22)
  16. Evacuation (2:41)
  17. French Coffee (0:56)
  18. Subway Damage / Command Enters City (2:50)
  19. Fish (1:48)
  20. Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? (5:13)
  21. 1st Helicopter Chase / Godzilla Swats A Chopper (4:08)
  22. We Fed Him / Audrey Sees Nick (1:21)
  23. Nick And Audrey / He’s Pregnant / Audrey Takes The Tape / French Breakfast (4:46)
  24. He’s Preparing To Feed (0:34)
  25. Nick Gets Fired / Nick Gets Abducted / Frenchie’s Warehouse / Nick Joins The Foreign Legion (5:47)
    Disc two

  1. Chewing Gum (1:51)
  2. Rumble In The Tunnel (1:35)
  3. Godzilla O Park / Godzilla Takes A Dive / Godzilla Versus The Submarine / Egg Discovery (9:42)
  4. Baby ‘Zillas Hatch* (3:51)
  5. Nick Phones For Help (1:28)
  6. Eat The French (2:14)
  7. Phillip Shoots The Lock (1:39)
  8. Nick’s Big Speech / The Garden Gets It (7:07)
  9. He’s Back! / Taxi Chase & Clue (7:06)
  10. Big G Goes To Monster Heaven (4:30)
  11. The End (4:05)

    Bonus Tracks

  12. The Beginning (no choir) (3:32)
  13. Footprints / New York / Audrey (alternate) (0:50)
  14. The Boat Gets It (alternate) (1:09)
  15. Gojira (Album Version) (2:46)

* contains material not used in the film

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2007
Disc one total running time: 55:28
Disc two total running time: 53:47

The Best Of Godzilla: 1984-1995

The Best Of Godzilla: 1984-1995 is the second disc in a two-part set of the music of Godzilla (the first disc covered the years 1954-1975). This album contains selections from the films The Return Of Godzilla to Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, which also serves as the second “era” of Godzilla movies. Astute readers may notice a gap of 9 years between discs: This wasn’t a decision on GNP Crescendo’s part not to include those years, there just simply weren’t any movies being made then.

This compliation starts off with The Return Of Godzilla, which (as the name implies) marked the return of Godzilla to the big screen after a 9 year break. The first thing you will notice about the music is that, even though it was composed in the mid-80’s, it doesn’t contain the slick production style that marked so much of the music that came from this decade. The composer, Reijiro Koroku, also decided to keep the musical style of the earlier Godzilla films intact. This is a welcome change from the ’70s pop/disco-infused music that marred such films as Godzilla vs. Megalon.

This would not last, however. In the next film, Godzilla vs. Biollante, composer Koichi Sugiyama uses electric guitars and a heavy rock beat on the song “Bio Wars”, which makes it feel more like Cheap Trick than Godzilla. Needless to say, it’s sorely out of place, considering also that the other two songs that were taken from this film are more of a standard orchestrated style. Video game buffs will also recognize Sugiyama’s name — he’s the principal composer of the Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior series.

Out of the remaning five films represented on this disc, four of them contain a nice surprise: original composer Akira Ifukube is back on board, and it’s easy to see why. His music is so quintessentially “Godzilla”, it’s hard to think that anybody would try to take his place. This stuff is easily the best on the disc, although he does occasionally lapse into a case of “of the times” and uses synths and other modern sounds and techniques (his remake of “Mothra’s Song” from Godzilla vs. Mothra sounds like it could have easily been performed by Todd Rundgren). Of particular interest is the song “Requiem” from Godzilla vs. Destoroyah: after a dissonant piano/string part, a lone instrument slowly builds up with a few strings until an entire string section plays while a female vocalization sings over it. That description really doesn’t do it any justice — it’s very beautiful, and shows how Ifukube was capable of putting not only suspense and action into his music, but also emotion as well.

This disc is a bit different than its precedessor. Since this compilation only covers 9 years of Godzilla movies, more selections from each movie were included, giving the disc a better overall feel. One wishes that GNP Crescendo could have split the first disc into two parts and not had to include 21 years worth of music on just one disc. Another thing I thought was strange, but welcome — the SFX that were liberally peppered on the first disc are nowhere to be heard here. Maybe it’s because the SFX from these movies weren’t as memorable, but I was glad they decided to focus on the music this time around. One thing, however, that I wish they would have gotten rid of: The closing track, a remake of “Monster Zero March”, once again performed by Neil Norman And His Cosmic Orchestra. Like the first disc, its addition seems wholly arbitrary, and adds no real value (especially on a compilation of the original soundtrack).

3 out of 4So, if you could only buy one of these discs, which one would it be? I would have to give the nod to 1954-1975 because it contains the original Godzilla music, but listening to that disc alone paints an incomplete picture. Both discs are essential to each other to give a complete overview of the music of Godzilla, and both casual Godzilla enthusiasts and hardcore kaiju fans will find this collection enjoyable. One wonders if GNP Crescendo will be onboard to give us a 1999- compliation sometime in the near future…

Order this CD

  1. Main Theme (Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah) (3:18)
  2. Main Title (Return Of Godzilla) (1:49)
  3. Take Shelter/Godzilla vs. Super X (Return Of Godzilla) (2:15)
  4. Japanese Army March (Return Of Godzilla) (0:47)
  5. Godzilla’s Exit (Return Of Godzilla) (1:51)
  6. Ending (Return Of Godzilla) (1:47)
  7. Scramble March (Godzilla vs. Biollante) (4:27)
  8. Bio Wars (Godzilla vs. Biollante) (4:36)
  9. Ending (Godzilla vs. Biollante) (5:00)
  10. Main Title/UFO Invasion (Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah) (2:57)
  11. King Ghidorah Attacks Fukuoka (Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah) (0:37)
  12. Get King Ghidorah (Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah) (1:41)
  13. Main Title (Godzilla vs. Mothra) (1:25)
  14. Mahara Mothra (Godzilla vs. Mothra) (0:55)
  15. Mesa March (Godzilla vs. Mothra) (1:55)
  16. Rolling Title Ending (Godzilla vs. Mothra) (3:40)
  17. Mothra’s Song (Godzilla vs. Mothra) (3:47)
  18. Main Title (Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II) (1:35)
  19. G-Force March #1 (Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II) (2:50)
  20. Prologue/Main Title (Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla) (2:35)
  21. Bass Island (Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla) (1:21)
  22. MOGERA vs. Space Godzilla #1 (Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla) (1:28)
  23. MOGERA vs. Space Godzilla #2 (Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla) (2:37)
  24. Crystal (Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla) (5:33)
  25. Main Title/Hong Kong’s Destruction (Godzilla vs. Destoroyah) (3:09)
  26. Attack Of Super X-3 (Godzilla vs. Destoroyah) (3:00)
  27. Mesa Tank Super Freeze Attack (Godzilla vs. Destoroyah) (1:55)
  28. Requiem (Godzilla vs. Destoroyah) (3:49)
  29. Ending Title (Godzilla vs. Destoroyah) (2:48)
  30. Monster Zero March – Neil Norman And His Cosmic Orchestra (3:04)

Released by: GNP Crescendo
Release date: 1998
Total running time: 78:31

The Best Of Godzilla: 1954-1975

It’s no large secret that Godzilla’s popularity has helped him wreak havoc and chaos on Japan for over 50+ years. But while all the action and mayhem is displayed on the screen, one thing tends to get lost on moviegoers: the music. Fortunently, this disc helps rectify that. Containing the best selections from Godzilla’s tenure on the big screen, The Best Of Godzilla: 1954-1975 is the first part of a two disc set (a companion CD was released as well that covers the years 1984-1995).

Like the name implies, this disc covers the years 1954-1975, which ranges from the original Godzilla movie to Terror of MechaGodzilla, and also serves as the first “era” of Godzilla films. The songs here are listed in chronological order, which means that the disc starts off with selections from the original Godzilla, composed by Akira Ifukube. Ifukube’s music lays the groundwork for the film scores to follow: Here, we hear the string-and-horn driven main theme for the first time, as well as the “Japanese Army March” which would later be reused as a continuing theme in the Godzilla universe. “Godzilla’s Rampage” is another fine example of the early soundtrack: its dissonant piano and low, growling horns accentuate the sobering aspect of the giant lizard’s destruction perfectly.

The next major movie to be represented is King Kong vs. Godzilla, which music most Americans never got to hear, since it was replaced in the US with a re-used score from a different film. Akira Ifukube composed the music for this film as well, and keeps the theme that he employed for the previous movies, making the music tense and dramatic.

Mothra vs. Godzilla is next up, and it’s interesting to hear how the film scores have evolved from movie to movie. Ifukube is still onboard, but the music has taken a dramatic leap from the original Godzilla. For example, “Mothra’s Song” sounds like a cross between traditional Japanese music, and the 60’s pop that was so prevalent at the time. It also includes sung lyrics, which was only attemped once before in the “Main Theme” of King Kong vs. Godzilla, but even that didn’t sound nearly as polished as it does here. In fact, out the 3 pieces from Mothra that were selected for this disc, 2 of them have female vocals. This is the film where, I believe, Ifukube really comes into his own style.

Some other top tracks on this disc include the “Main Theme” from Son Of Godzilla, which was composed by Masaru Sato. The shift in musical styles is eminently discernible; instead of the tense, dark mood that Ifukube set with his score, this “Main Theme” sounds more suited to whimsy to gloomy — I can’t help but think this could also double as the theme for The Dick Van Dyke Show! Even though it’s not what you would think of when you think Godzilla, given the subject matter, it works. Another interesting track is the “Godzilla March”, a song specially made for the original LP of the soundtrack to Godzilla vs. Gigan, and composed by Kunio Miyauchi. The song is steeped in 70’s pop/faux-disco that the Japanese seemed to be so found of (see: Lupin ’78 theme song).

As another sign that the times were changing, compare the soundtrack of Godzilla vs. Megalon (composed by Riichiro Manabe) to any of Ifukuda’s original score. The rock beat that accompanies Manabe’s score may cause purists to turn up their noses. Indeed, while Manabe’s compositions may have worked under any different guise, being a part of the Godzilla canon gives it a weaker feel, and lacks the “punch” needed to add emotion to the Godzilla movie.

There are some other shortfalls on the disc as well. Obviously, to dedicate a complete overview of the Godzilla filmography would require nothing short of a box set, but yet it still feels incomplete in the fact that films like Godzilla Raids Again and Godzilla vs. Hedorah (and several others) only being represented by the obligatory “Main Theme” and nothing more. Another qualm I had was the fact that the disc was peppered with tracks of just SFX — classic movie buffs may dig it, but I felt they were included just to pad the disc’s length. Also included on the disc was a version of the “Godzilla Theme” performed by Neil Norman And His Cosmic Orchestra. It’s inclusion seems wholly arbitrary (why place a “modernized” version of a theme song on an album comprised of original music?), and it’s nothing really outstanding, either.

3 out of 4Your feelings on the disc may be skewed towards which Godzilla era you prefer. But as a primer on the not-so-humble beginnings of Godzilla, it serves as a wonderful introduction, and a nice jumping point for those who may want to explore further into their favorite film’s music, and maybe even try to locate the full soundtrack.

Order this CD

  1. Footsteps FX (Godzilla) (0:36)
  2. Godzilla Main Theme (Godzilla) (1:31)
  3. Ootojima Temple Festival (Godzilla) (1:19)
  4. Japanese Army March (Godzilla) (0:38)
  5. Godzilla Comes Ashore (Godzilla) (1:51)
  6. Godzilla’s Rampage (Godzilla) (2:25)
  7. Ending (Godzilla) (1:42)
  8. Main Title (Godzilla Rides Again) (1:24)
  9. Helicopter/Man Screams/SOS FX (King Kong vs. Godzilla) (0:23)
  10. Main Title (King Kong vs. Godzilla) (1:57)
  11. King Kong Roars FX (King Kong vs. Godzilla) (0:13)
  12. Planning King Kong’s Transport (King Kong vs. Godzilla) (2:13)
  13. Mothra’s Song (Mothra vs. Godzilla) (2:23)
  14. Mothra FX (Mothra vs. Godzilla) (0:09)
  15. Main Title (Mothra vs. Godzilla) (1:52)
  16. Sacred Springs (Mothra vs. Godzilla) (3:49)
  17. Main Title/Monsters Appear In Yokohama (Ghidorah, The Three Headed Monster) (2:33)
  18. UFO Approaches/Monsters Fight FX/Monster Battle March (Main Title) (Invasion Of The Astro-Monster) (2:56)
  19. Main Title (Son Of Godzilla) (2:07)
  20. Godzilla vs. Kumonga (Son Of Godzilla) (2:16)
  21. Ending (Son Of Godzilla) (2:46)
  22. Godzilla FX/Toho Logo/Main Title (Destroy All Monsters) (1:35)
  23. Title Credits (Destroy All Monsters) (1:23)
  24. Four Monsters Attack Tokyo (Destroy All Monsters) (1:46)
  25. Destroying The Remote Control (Destroy All Monsters) (0:40)
  26. Showdown On Mt. Fuji (Destroy All Monsters) (2:47)
  27. Ending (Destroy All Monsters) (1:26)
  28. Cute Kid Theme/Monster Fight (All Monsters Attack) (2:43)
  29. Godzilla’s Fight (Godzilla vs. Hedorah) (1:09)
  30. Main Title (Godzilla vs. Gigan) (2:11)
  31. Main Title Repeat (Godzilla vs. Gigan) (1:26)
  32. Godzilla March (Record Version) (Godzilla vs. Gigan) (3:09)
  33. Jet Jaguar/Megalon FX (Godzilla vs. Megalon) (0:15)
  34. Main Title (Godzilla vs. Megalon) (1:27)
  35. Godzilla Of Monster Island (Godzilla vs. Megalon) (2:13)
  36. MechaGodzilla FX (Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla) (0:30)
  37. Godzilla vs. Anguiras (Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla) (2:27)
  38. Miyarabi’s Prayer (Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla) (4:03)
  39. Main Title (Terror Of MechaGodzilla) (4:31)
  40. MechaGodzilla II (Terror Of MechaGodzilla) (1:44)
  41. Godzilla’s Entrance (Terror Of MechaGodzilla) (1:14)
  42. Ending (Terror Of MechaGodzilla) (1:15)
  43. Theme From Godzilla – Neil Norman And His Cosmic Orchestra (1:33)

Released by: GNP Crescendo
Release date: 1998
Total running time: 78:30