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CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982)

Music composed by Basil Poledouris

The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Nic Raine.

2 CDs

Disc One: 18 Tracks (Total Playing Time = 60:21)

Disc Two: 14 Tracks (Total Playing Time = 61:48)

Album produced by James Fitzpatrick. Executive producer: Luc Van de Ven. Recording Engineer: Jan Holzer. Orchestra and Chorus Recorded at Smecky Music Studios, Prague. Edited and Mixed by Gareth Williams.
Booklet Introduction by Alexis Poledouris. Booklet notes by Frank K. DeWald.
Notes on the recording by James Fitzpatrick.

A Tadlow Production for Prometheus Records.

Prometheus XPCD 169

Rating: ****

For those fans waiting for the complete CONAN film score by Bail Poledouris, it has now arrived in all its robust glory in this world premiere recording. This is thanks to the team who also gave us the complete score of Dimitri Tiomkin's THE ALAMO. And the same album producer also released Maurice Jarre's complete masterful score for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. It's been quite a successful year for "complete" soundtracks by this album producer whose name is James Fitzpatrick.

I must admit to not being much of a fan of CONAN THE BARBARIAN with its excessive violence and miniscule acting by Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan and much of the rest of the cast as well.

But the film score is another matter altogether. It is the most memorable action score of the 1980s and beyond. Not only is there the intensely rhythmic sections as in track 2 (Riddle of Steel/Riders of Doom - 5:32), which may remind some of Orff's popular choral work, Carmina Burana, or Prokofiev's classic film score for ALEXANDER NEVSKY. But as Frank K. DeWald's booklet notes indicate: "Poledouris is no mere imitator - rather he speaks in a similar, musically 'primitive' language (open fifths, modal harmonies)." And that's what gives this film score its tremendous power. It sounds appropriately archaic.

But there are also cues with subdued beauty. For instance, track 7 ("Atlantean Sword" - 4:00), with its chant-like melody and Dorian harmonies mainly in the strings and with ample use of percussion. It is a very hypnotic cue and as DeWald's mentions reminds us of the great epic scores of Miklos Rozsa, such as EL QUO VADIS and KING OF KINGS.

Since I studied with ethnomusicologist Sam Chianis, one of the best cimbalom players in Los Angeles, it was a treat to hear this instrument used so effectively in this score. On track 15 ("In the Court of King Osric"), it is just a solo cimbalom, an instrument that can be traced back several thousand years and thus is well suited for this score.

There are also tracks where the percussion is the main force, like track 8 ("Wolf Watch" - 3:21) with tenor and bass drums plus a Japanese drum prevailing throughout and increasing in dynamics from soft to loud.

Disc Two opens with a long and dynamic cue ("The Kitchen? The Orgy" - 6:22) sung by men's chorus with a driving rhythmic pattern that switches to a softer passage for strings and repetitive bass on the notes G and D, the theme introduced by a solo bassoon and based on a theme on Poledouris' nine year old daughter, Zoe. This theme continues to grow in intensity similar to Ravel's Bolero, as DeWald mentions. This is one of the most intense and also thrilling cues in the entire score.

In addition to these cues, there are also numerous others that are previously unreleased (Disc One has 8 of them and Disc Two has 6).

The playing by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra is just right and the chorus also does a stellar job under Nic Raine's sensitive direction.

This CONAN THE BARBARIAN complete film score is a triumph of sensuality and savagery all presented with superb sound.

I heartily recommend this very exotic and exciting complete film score recording.

Grab your cash and pick up this 2 CD set. Then you can enjoy several hours of wonderful film music in a fitting tribute to this greatest of all scores by Basil Poledouris.

-- Roger Hall, 4 January 2011

 

To order this 2 CD Prometheus soundtrack, see

Screen Archives Entertainment

 

These CDs are provided for comparison only. Neither of them reaches the same level of excellence as the new 2 CD set:

Conan The Barbarian: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

CONAN THE BARBARIAN (Varese Sarabande, 16 tracks)

 

Conan the Barbarian

CONAN THE BARBARIAN (Warner Spec Mkt UK, 12 tracks)

 

Conan the Barbarian - Collector's Edition

DVD: CONAN THE BARBARIAN

 


 

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