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A  L  I  E  N


by Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, and Elliot Goldenthal
The Facts: This compilation was put out by Varese Sarabande in 1996.  It features suites from the first three Alien movies performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra with Cliff Eidelman.  Goldsmith’s portion is about 22 minutes with Horner’s and Goldenthal’s each getting 15.  The excellent liner notes give a summary of the movies, information about each track, as well as the story behind Goldsmith’s battle with Ridley Scott over the use of his music.  Scott basically butchered the score, going as far a replacing the end credits with a portion of a 20th century avant-garde symphony.

Review:  This is a very good compilation that acts as a sampler for the three scores.  I originally had Aliens, but I no longer listen to it very much , as this has nearly all of the good action music.  My favorite selections are from Alien, and I plan to order the full album eventually.  This part also has some previously unreleased music.  Goldenthal’s Alien3 is by far the weakest, and although some people love this score, I’m just going to stay with the suite on here.

Track by Track Analysis:
1. Main Title (3:16)
Goldsmith wrote two main titles, both opposites of each other.  The alternate, which Goldsmith preferred, was put on the OST, and it supposedly is melodious and majestic.  This CD presents for the first time the film version of the main title.  This is much more dissonant and menacing than the original.
2. Hypersleep (2:45)
Introduces a repeated four-note woodwind motif that Horner would later utilize in the sequel.  Fragments of the main theme appear in the strings.  This is a previously unreleased track.
3. The Landing (4:33)
As the Nostromo lands on the alien planet, Goldsmith puts his rejected main theme through a number of interesting permutations.  He weaves the motif from the last track into the lonely, desolate main theme.  This cue, as well as the end titles remind me of parts of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  This is one of my two favorite parts in the suite.  Sadly, Ridley Scott totally killed this cue in the film and replaced it with sound effects.
4. Breakaway (3:11)
Another unused track.  It begins with savage horn and brass passages with a grunting, exotic instrument.  Then the action motif comes in.  It is played over and over until it exhausts itself.  Be careful, as I have had this segment run around in my head for days after listening to it.  Following the completion of the action music is a minute of tranquillity with the Time motif.
5. The Droid (3:46)
Probably the most dissonant track on the album, this introduces many avant-garde techniques common to Goldsmith score of the 60’s and 70’s. Not for the squeamish or people who despise atonal music.
6. The Door (1:28)
This is a counterpoint to Breakaway and combines some of the motifs with the main theme.
7. End Title (3:27)
This fully develops Goldsmith’s unused main theme.  As I said above, there are hints of his ST:TMP score in here.  The suite ends with a nice cadence.  The highlight of the album.
8. Main Title (6:21)
Horner’s dissonant action score begins with an atonal part, followed by his theme.  It sounds good, but it was lifted almost verbatim from Aram Khachaturian’s Gayane Ballet Suite.  This track also uses Goldsmith’s Time motif, this time with echoing trumpets instead of woodwinds.
9. Futile Escape (5:45)
An exciting action track.  This uses an action motif from Star Trek 2 (found in nearly every score I have by him, including Rocketeer, Krull, Titanic, etc.) with frenetic accompaniment.  A great effect is achieved when he uses the normally calm main theme with the violent music.  Later in the track, Star Trek 3’s Klingon motif appears, and the three sections converge to a brutal climax.  My only complaint is that it’s played much slower than the original.
10. Bishop’s Countdown (3:21)
This (I think) completely original cue has been used almost every action movie trailer since 1987.  It is complete atonal, except for the last minute, and has the clanging percussion used in the last track, except more frantic.  The ending provides an excellent climax to the suite.  Things settle down finally, as the rest of the track is a tranquil resolution of the previous material.
11. Lento (5:23)
Elliot Goldenthal’s section begins with a surprisingly melodic boy soprano solo singing a setting of both Agnus Dei and Dona Nobis Pacem from the Catholic Mass.  There is next an impressionistic string and horn fanfare, which sounds like the “sequel” to a section of Bishop’s Countdown (the string arpeggios.)  I think it provides a nice continuity between the otherwise different scores.  An instrumental reprise of the vocal material followed by a minute of foreboding music ends the track.
12. Candles in the Wind (4:16)
Demonstrates Elliot Goldenthal's 20th Century avant-garde sensibilities with striking glissandi.
13. Adagio (4:15)
A touching, triumphant theme emerges as Ripley jumps to her death.

All in all this is a great compilation, unless you can’t stand remotely dissonant music.  Even then, there are still some great melodic parts.

Alien Trilogy: The Final Score
Music Rating 8.5/10
Packaging/Liner Notes  10/10
Orchestral Performance 7/10
Selection of Music 9/10
Running Time 8/10

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The Alien Trilogy is Copyright 1996 by Varese Sarabande.  Its appearance on this site is for nonprofit, informational use and does not intend to infringe copyright.
This review is Copyright 1999 by Andrew Drannon.  These opinions are my own and do not reflect those of Tripod or any other parties.