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

Howl: The Grunts And Groans Of All Toho Monsters

Howl: The Grunts And Groans Of All Toho MonstersHow many people drag out their CD of Halloween sounds every year and play them loudly for the trick or treaters, and the rest of the neighborhood? That is so ordinary. Pour out the boiling cauldrons. Reject the Rabid Dogs. Close the creaking door. For a change, how about whipping this bad boy out instead? Howl: The Grunts And Groans Of All Toho Monsters will probably make your house the one they remember the most. Not only is it quite different, but some of the sounds are unearthly.

This is the most complete collection of Toho Monster sounds up to the release date in 1993. All the usual suspects are here, Godzilla (several versions), Rodan, and Mothra. There are also many of the lesser known beasts, such as Varan and Manda. As far as I can tell, they are organized in chronological order, according to their appearances in various movies, not all of which are Godzilla movies, such as Dagorah and even Toho’s Frankenstein.

In addition to pulling this CD out for Halloween, if you’re inclined to use unusual sounds for Windows events, this CD would be handy because the sounds are clean, without voices or musical cues.

The weakest point of the CD is actually an attempt to spice it up a bit. It opens with an electronica instrumental edited to include many of the monster sounds. “Godzilla’s Coming To Town” is interesting as an experiment and works reasonably well, but it sounds like an extended dance-club remix of a lesser Miami Vice track.

Taken for what it is, however, Howl is a dandy collection of sounds.

  1. Godzilla’s Coming To Town Monster Mix (5:44)
  2. Godzilla ’54 (0:22)
  3. Anguirus (0:14)
  4. Rodan (0:30)
  5. Insect Creature (0:17)
  6. Varan (0:20)
  7. Mothra Larva (0:26)
  8. Mothra Adult (0:15)
  9. Walrus Monster (0:19)
  10. King Kong (0:31)
  11. Godzilla (Kong) (0:31)
  12. Manda (0:18)
  13. Growing Jellyfish Thing (0:24)
  14. Godzilla (Kong) 2nd Generation (0:32)
  15. Ghidorah (0:30)
  16. Barugon (0:23)
  17. Frankenstein (0:23)
  18. Brown Gargantua (0:23)
  19. Green Gargantua (0:19)
  20. Ebirah (0:19)
  21. Gorosaurus (0:26)
  22. Mecha Kong (0:21)
  23. Minya (0:27)
  24. Kamakiras (0:17)
  25. Spiga (0:16)
  26. Anguirus 2nd Generation (0:21)
  27. Gabbara (0:26)
  28. Gezora (0:15)
  29. Ganime (0:17)
  30. Kameba (0:21)
  31. Hedorah (0:32)
  32. Gigan (0:17)
  33. Megalon (0:24)
  34. Jet Jaguar (0:15)
  35. King Cesar (0:28)
  36. MechaGodzilla ’75 (0:37)
  37. Titanosaurus (0:20)
  38. Godzilla 3rd Generation (0:41)
  39. Shokilas (0:14)
  40. Biollante (0:35)
  41. Godzillasaurus (0:27)
  42. Drats (0:16)
  43. King Ghidorah (0:45)
  44. Mecha-King Ghidorah (0:20)
  45. Mothra Larva 2nd Generation (0:20)
  46. Mothra Adult 2nd Generation (0:57)
  47. Battra Larva (0:23)
  48. Battra Adult (0:43)
  49. Godzilla 4th Generation (0:37)

Released by: Sony
Date of release: 1992
Total run time: 25:38