The Black Hole – music by John Barry

The Black HoleMany, many years ago in’s Music Reviews, I reviewed the original vinyl release of John Barry’s near-legendary soundtrack from Disney’s The Black Hole, mainly because it had never hit compact disc (unless one counted bootlegs). It took over 30 years, but The Black Hole is finally on CD, now expanded to include every note of Barry’s mesmerizingly fatalistic score, and it’s time to revisit an old favorite.

The long-dormant Disneyland Records label was resurrected in 2011 by soundtrack specialty label Intrada, with its first release being the first-ever CD of Michael Giacchino’s music from Up, complete with nifty retro artwork hearkening back to the Disneyland read-along records of the 1960s and ’70s. The moment Intrada announced a soundtrack partnership with Disney, issuing both new and classic soundtracks from the Disney vaults, fans everywhere caught their breath, for surely Intrada had a pretty good idea of what classic Disney soundtrack everyone had been demanding for decades. But statements made by the producer of an iTunes release of the original LP indicated that anything more than a re-release of the LP was unlikely: despite being the first-ever all-digital soundtrack recording, The Black Hole‘s music had been recorded in a digital format which could basically only be played back on the machine that recorded it – a machine long since taken out of service in the music business. Even if the original session tapes existed, they simply couldn’t be played back without that machine.

Of course Intrada knew of the demand for The Black Hole, and the producer of the somewhat disappointing iTunes version of the soundtrack was on a mission from God to find and release the whole score. What followed was a quest to track down the original recording equipment, simply so the original tapes could be played back from it to be transferred to more modern media. Needless to say, soundtrack fans have a new hero, and his name is Randy Thornton. Intrada deserves a huge amount of credit too: unlike most boutique soundtrack label releases, The Black Hole is not limited to a couple thousand copies. Like Film Score Monthly’s re-releases of the out of print soundtracks from Star Trek II and III, The Black Hole won’t be going out of print anytime soon – and this ensures that this previously impossible-to-find title won’t wind up making more money on the secondary market (i.e. eBay) than it made for the label who released in the first place. Smart move. If it had been limited to the usual run of 3,000 copies, this one would’ve sold out within fifteen minutes of online pre-orders.

And the music itself? It’s crystal clear – the fact that the source material could be tracked down and remastered is a testament to the sheer fannish dedication that went into the project. Even though there are ten tracks who share their titles with the individual pieces on the vinyl LP, they’re not necessarily the same: rather than edits compiled for the LP, these are the original cues as used in the movie.

Released within days of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Black Hole also makes generous use of the creepy Blaster Beam instrument that most listeners associate with the former, and while Barry doesn’t use it as prominently as Jerry Goldsmith did, the distinct sound lurks menacingly in the background of many of the cues.

If anyone needs justification for an expanded version of this soundtrack, go straight to the cue “Hot and Heavy”, which was an incredibly prominent theme from the movie that went completely missing on the original soundtrack LP. A dandy little number with piano and pizzicato strings creating an echoing effect, it’s the major suspense theme of the movie and possibly its most distinctive piece of music. The motif returns, appropriately enough, in “Hotter and Heavier” – go figure. Another previously unreleased track worthy of attention is the brief track “BOB and VINCENT,” depicting the farewell between the movie’s two robot protagonists. For a scene between two props, it packs quite an emotional punch in a short space of time – so much so that Barry later reused and revised it in his score for the Oscar-winning Out Of 4 out of 4Africa, where nobody would’ve guessed it originally involved cute floating robots.

The Black Hole‘s music is much like that of the aforementioned Star Trek movie – in the end, the perception will probably always be that the music was better than the movie all along. In that context, this soundtrack is long, long overdue and worth a listen.

Order this CD

  1. Overture (2:28)
  2. Main Title (1:49)
  3. That’s It (1:43)
  4. Closer Look (2:02)
  5. Zero Gravity (5:48)
  6. Cygnus Floating (2:06)
  7. The Door Opens (4:09)
  8. Pretty Busy (:48)
  9. Six Robots (1:57)
  10. Can You Speak? (1:19)
  11. Poor Creatures (1:41)
  12. Ready to Embark (:44)
  13. Start the Countdown (3:47)
  14. Durant Is Dead (2:31)
  15. Laser (1:01)
  16. Kate’s OK (2:49)
  17. Hot and Heavy (2:43)
  18. Meteorites (1:31)
  19. Raging Inferno (:54)
  20. Hotter and Heavier (1:59)
  21. BOB and VINCENT
  22. (:54)
  23. Into the Hole (4:56)
  24. End Title (2:34)
  25. In, Through… And Beyond! (2:46)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2011
Total running time: 55:05