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BATMAN

by Danny Elfman
I don't think this legendary score needs much introduction.  Elfman burst onto the film music scene in 1989 with his first major blockbuster, still regarded by many as his best score.  In fact, for many soundtrack fans, this was their first score and the major influence in their continued love of film music.  Although there are many subtle nuances in the score, most of the action cues are built around the phenomenal gothic Batman theme.  There is also a minor love theme, as well as various demented waltzes for the antagonist, Jack Nicholson as the Joker.  This CD release gives us a generous 50 minutes of Elfman's score, and the orchestral performance under the baton of Shirley Walker is admirable.  Even though this was an early CD, the sound quality is very robust, revealing all of the character, action, and fun of this score.

1. The Batman Theme (2:38)
Elfman begins with the first statement of the legendary Batman theme.  It starts with quiet low brass, and he eventually builds up to a huge choral climax, and this introduces the march section of the theme.  Gothic, thrilling, loud - what more could you ask for?  The main titles end in a frenzy.
2. Roof Fight (1:20)
In the opening, this has some groovy bongo drums, which lead into an action cue somewhat reminiscent of the main title, although the theme doesn't appear until the end of the track.
3. First Confrontation (4:43)
More gothic action work, but this is more playful than the previous track with a low piano ostinato.  Also, there are some breathless quotes of the main fanfare.  About halfway through the track, the storm quiets for some nice suspense work.  In the last minute, the action returns with that wandering piano line, and a mysterious rendition of the Batman theme rounds out a great cue.
4. Kitchen/Surgery/Face-Off (3:07)
We get a break in the tension with a tender string theme.  This abruptly ends, and the music takes on a threatening tone for the next few minutes.  After a gong, the first of the Joker's waltzes appears, this one to be heard later in track 18.
5. Flowers (1:51)
Overall, this is the highlight of the quiet music in the score.  It opens with descending winds, and eventually a moving, lush string theme appears, underscored by the Batman theme on the piano and celeste.
6. Clown Attack (1:45)
The playful action cues return with jumping piano bass lines, which are eventually played throughout the entire orchestra.  This dissolves into loud, mysterious music, which is later rejoined by the piano.
7.  Batman to the Rescue (3:56)
Although there are many highlights, this remains one of my favorite cues on the album.  It's totally based on the main theme, accompanied by soaring strings punctuated by brass and a battery of percussion, which makes for great listening.  Among the many excellent moments are several breathless renditions of the main theme accompanied by pipe organ, along with a few awesome brass fanfares.
8. Roasted Dude (1:01)
Basically an ambient track, punctuated by horn calls and weird percussion.
9. Photos/Beatiful Dreamer (2:27)
This quiet track begins with a tender piano motif with a solo oboe.  The weirdness returns with some kind of ghostly electronic instrument with celeste.  This leads into a statement of Stephen Foster's Beautiful Dreamer, which begins on celeste, goes to the strings, ends on an unresolved note.
10. Descent Into Mystery (1:31)
I'm going to have to say that, like many people, I think this is the best track on the album.  It opens with string arpeggios, and the choir eventually enters, singing a theme derived from Orff's "O Fortuna".  The Batman theme bursts into the orchestra, and Elfman combines it with the driving pulse and eventually the choir.  The rest of the track is a series of trumpet runs and fanfares based on the theme.  It's really a lot more exciting than I make it out to be, and shouldn't be missed.
11. The Bat Cave (2:35)
More quiet ambiance, with various string and woodwind meanderings.  It's easy on the ears, but I usually skip it to get to the climatic action music.
12. The Joker's Poem (:56)
Another waltz for the Joker, played on celeste.  A solo violin enters, accompanied by swinging low brass. It ends with a bang.
13. Childhood Remembered (2:43)
Opens with an ominous ostinato, leading to a solo violin passage with choir.  Not particularly important.
14. Love Theme (1:30)
This introduces the love theme (really?)  It's pretty typical, and not very memorable.
15. Charge of the Batmobile (1:41)
The first of the climatic action cues, this opens with timpani, which leads into a statement of the Batman fanfare with choir, and then a syncopated version of the theme.  The rest is a return of the trumpet runs and fanfares from "Descent Into Mystery."
16. Attack of the Batwing (4:44)
Easily the most complex action track on the album.  It begins with a string ostinato along with snatches of the theme.  It crescendos, and we get an awesome statement of the march from the main title.  The ostinato returns with glimpses of the theme, leads into some ambiance, and the march theme returns.  It gets more frenzied, the chimes enter, we hear a bit of the march, and the ostinato comes back.  Various sections of the main title work their way into it, and the climax is made up of several loud chime rings coupled with a piano run.  The orchestra continues to add to it, and just as it sounds as if it can't do anything else, the track ends.
17. Up the Cathedral (5:04)
Although slower than the above track, this is still very good, opening with various pipe organ meanderings, and eventually a statement of the theme, which leads into a brass section.  Next is a slow statement of most of the theme, accompanied with string arpeggios and pipe organ.  After a few more minutes, the brass section returns, this time played expressly on pipe organ and piano with a new string motif.  This continues to build, and the Batman theme later joins in.
18. Waltz to the Death (3:55)
Opening with a section reminiscent of track 16, this quickly becomes something completely different, as the Joker's demented waltz from track 3 is finally given a full reading.  As the piece continues, the variations become more and more bizarre and frenzied.  This track was meant to be played on a loud stereo, giving a hilarious effect.  The last minute is more subdued, giving more development to the waltz.
19. The Final Confrontation (3:47)
The final action cue of the album.  It opens with a spacious pipe organ reading of the main title fanfare, which leads into more variations on various aspects of that useful theme.  One of the motifs from "Up the Cathedral" is given a great statement.  As the Joker falls to his death, his waltz, along with a hint of Beautiful Dreamer, is given a final reading.
20. Finale (1:45)
The mood drastically changes to complete, unbridled enthusiasm in one of the best tracks in the Elfman canon.  After a foreshadowing trumpet fanfare, various quiet motifs from other tracks get one last statement.  What follows is simply extraordinary.  Elfman takes the Batman fanfare, transcribes it into a major key, and has the full brass section play it.  It climaxes with chimes, along with a final statement of the minor key fanfare.
21. Batman Theme Reprise (1:28)
A full reading of the march section of the main titles.  It is a nice epilogue to a phenomenal score.

All in all, this is not to be missed.  There is simply something in here for everyone, and if you don't have it, you should feel ashamed of yourself ;)



 
Batman: The Final Score
Music Rating 10/10
Packaging/Liner Notes N/A
Orchestral Performance 10/10
Sound Quality 10/10
Length 8/10




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Batman is Copyright 1989 by Warner Bros.  Its appearance is for informational purposes, blah, blah, blah.  Review Copyright 1999 by Andrew Drannon.  Opinions are not those of Tripod.  If you are reading this, you must really have a lot of time on your hands.  Free CDs can be sent to ME.  Isn't this fun?  Pessimism is great.  Fashion can be bought, but style one must possess.  Jumping out of buildings can be bad for your health.  This page is not approved by the FDA, and the FCC found harmful radiation emitting from this page.  In fact, you'll probably live a much healthier life if you quit viewing this page now.  Okay, if you're still reading this, you have a problem.  Go outside, get some fresh air, enjoy life.  Don't you have anything better to do than surf the net anyway?