It never rains but it pours. Directly on the heels of Spartacus (though thankfully not too close afterward) the shipments from Intrada and La-La Land arrived on the same day, dumping an embarrassment of remasters in my lap!
- Predator: I got this landmark Alan Silvestri score because I wasn't all that hot on the sonics of the Varèse Club edition, not realizing the type of frenzy that would lead to a sell-out within twenty-four hours (my offer of the Varèse disc at its original cost on the Intrada board has thus far gone unanswered). I have to say that I definitely hear a difference between the two discs, the Intrada being much more explosive, better separation and significantly reduced hiss. I'm not bothered by the editing choices Intrada made, and love the restoration of the proper structure of the end credits piece. Along with the other La-La Land discs, I also received John Debney's score for Predators, which heard on its own is more distinct from its forbear but a legitimate follow-up. I'm wondering if Predators will lead to a new franchise here; I'd love to do a Predator mix, as Silvestri's Carribean-infused score for Predator 2 is quite an exciting follow-up in its own right (the film, while not great, is rather entertaining and unpretentious, and would be worth watching anyway for Silvestri's score alone), though I would hope for an expanded remaster of that score, as the original album misses several interesting cues and has tubby sonics with a distant orchestra (the score sounds much better in the more discrete sound mix in the film). I can say with respect to the first film's score that if you're not an audiophile, the Varèse issue is just fine, but there is a difference, and it really hits where it counts in this muscular score.
- Krull: This is one of my all-time favorite James Horner scores; while I'd seen the film in its first release, it was an airing on cable television that set me on a quest to find this score that has led me to quadruple-dip on it. While Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan certainly had a nautical adventure feel to it, here the swashbuckler element was completely unbridled and led to this delicious fantasy concoction. This new version is essentially the same as the Super Tracks edition save for the addition of a few minor bonus tracks and a different mastering. It does sound rather good (harp plucks are a bit more distinct, strings have a sheen to them absent on the Super Tracks edition, the soundfield is slightly more natural, but this is all relative) and the "concert version" concept that is "Theme from Krull" is rather effective, but the differences between this and the Super Tracks mastering are extremely minor.
- Batman: This is the one that really stands out. Not only is the more spacious sound mix a significant improvement over the old album, which sounds positively muddy by comparison (though much better in remastered form on the second disc), but the re-introduction of all of the minor cues trimmed out for the sake of a more concise listening experience actually end up adding quite a bit of variety and spice to an already exciting tour de force score. I had always been somewhat lukewarm toward the film itself (Uncle Jack did make for a great Joker, though), but I absolutely loved that cassette I had of the Batman score album, and it was among those albums that I played it throughout high school, nearly wearing out that tape. La-La Land included a remaster of the album, but I wasn't sure whether or not the additional material would work in context — because of my ambivalence about the film, I'd not really scrutinized the music in the movie save for the brilliantly scored "Up the Cathedral" sequence — but La-La Land's presentation of the complete score vindicates itself, and the more strident sound mixes are immediately apparent once those snare drums make their thunderous entrance in the main title. Hearing this score again this way, in some ways it's like discovering it anew. The sound isn't anywhere near perfect; the limitations of the source elements do show, sometimes within the same cue, but given the infamous sound (and personality) difficulties that were experienced recording this score, I honestly think that this is the best presentation we could have hoped for.