Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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While shopping for vinyl a few weeks ago, I picked up a few titles that I was never really satisfied with the CD transfers of. One of these was the soundtrack album from the 1979 John Badham version of Dracula with Frank Langella and Laurence Olivier. I have never seen this film, but I have loved the CD on Varese Sarabande (VSD 5250) since I first heard it over ten years ago, but I haven't listened to the album in some time.

Listening to the album after such a long interval was a great experience. While I would give the CD a slight edge in sound quality over the LP in the quieter moments, when the score gets large and muscular, the CD tends to sound brittle, while the LP has the requisite power to handle the massive orchestral forces. Something I noticed with the Beatles LPs I've been listening to as well is that the some mixing choices make more sense with the inherent sonics of the LP medium. This was especially noticable in "Blue Jay Way" on Magical Mystery Tour, but one can also hear this occur in Dracula during the cue "Night Journeys," in which a solo vocal is heard over the orchestra. This always sounded a bit strange on the CD, but it fits perfectly on the LP. A good remaster like the one done for Close Encounters of the Third Kind would take care of any sound issues.

While I like how John Williams makes his album re-recordings (Jaws, E.T., etc), I generally don't like how he rearranges his original film score tracks for their album presentations. Dracula has always been the exception to this, and now that I've heard the album as it was originally concieved, I have to say that "Night Journeys," which closes side one, really does a great job of making you want to get right up and turn that platter over. Side two opens with a bang as well with "The Love Scene." This is a really well-arranged record, and I am really interested in renting the film now to hear more of the music as it appears in the film.

Yes, the music is this intense!

What music it is. Similar in tone if not style to Henry Mancini's Lifeforce, Williams' score is deliciously Straussian, a dark, Romantic grand opera. This was one of a string of film scores that Williams recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra in a period during which he was creating classic after classic, and if Dracula has been eclipsed by Williams' other efforts of the time it is due to the notoriety of those works, not any lack of quality here. As heard on the album, the score is much less thematic than most of Williams' output of the era, concentrating instead on textures and mood. There is a strong central theme for Dracula himself, as well as a secondary fanfare that I expect is a bigger factor in the film score than on the record.

I plan on watching this film on DVD at some point in the near future in order to hear more of the score, and to hear how it interacts with the visuals. My understanding is that the film is pretty decent, and so I expect to be entertained. The movie would actually have to be pretty bad for me not to enjoy it as the music will keep me interested.
Tags: audio, film music, henry mancini, john williams, vinyl

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