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
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
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
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
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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.
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