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This mammoth 872-page book attempts to catalog, rate, and review every regular-release soundtrack.  Each release contains a 1-5 "bone" rating, as well as a 1-2 paragraph capsule review.  It may sound like a great idea at first, but the result is a widely variable book that is made somewhat obsolete by the Internet.  At least on a web site the reviews are (somewhat) coherent, but in the book the releases are reviewed by about 20 different people with a wide range of opinions.  In the previous edition they countered this by giving more facts about the music rather than opinions, but all the new reviews say either "I love this" or "I hate this" with not many reasons as to their opinion.  Also, they took out one of the most useful features - a tracklisting and times.  Of course, with all the new material, the book would probably be about 300 pages thicker, but at least with this they could have put the total time.  Also covered in the book is a wide range of television, Broadway musicals, and composer compilations.  There are lots of stills from both movies and the composers, and there are a few interesting sidebars such as Top 10s and composer commentaries.  Unfortunately, the Top Ten lists are really flawed, listing what a certain reviewer thought were that composer's 10 best scores.  However, the choices contradict themselves and lots of great scores are ignored.  Case in point: Jerry Goldsmith.  Here are the choices:
Star Trek: The Motion Picture - who could argue with that?
The Blue Max - um, not really.  Sure it's good, but one of his best?
Islands in the Stream - not really.
Legend - sure.
Chinatown - maybe.
Logan's Run - not really.
Coma - definitely not.
Planet of the Apes - definitely.
Gremlins - What the #$%^?

That's it.  What about Alien?  Lionheart?  The Final Conflict?  POLTERGEIST?  Um, what was this person thinking?  In another case, Titanic is ranked as one of Horner's best, but the review in the book gives it 2 bones (about right.)

The other features are better, such as long composer commentaries.  Again, the reviews don't let you make the choice for yourself, instead leaving it to a reviewer.  Here's an example: The Matrix, which you all know I love:

    Rating: **
    "The score by Don Davis, a combination of orchestral flourishes, percussive effects, and synthesizer riffs, is, with minor exceptions, not too terribly inspiring.  It sound (sic) perfunctory on a purely audio level, and while it may enhance the atmosphere of the film as a subliminal support to the screen action, it does little to attract a casual listener trying to get into it."

See?  No mention of the awesome atonality or choral effects.  Also, many of the reviews are far too glowing, and there's at least 2 5-bone albums per page.  I really think the original edition was better at this, but not much.

Finally, what is the deal with the artwork on the cover?  What does Madonna have to do with most soundtracks?  Why is the entire layout riddled with ridiculous pastel colors?  If I was tempted to buy the book, I might even be scared off by this artwork.

Although I may sound like I'm bashing this, it's still a pretty good buy, although not worth $25.  Most of it serves as a pretty good buyer's guide for soundtrack fans.  But, like I said, the Internet combined with all the book's shortcomings makes it a flawed piece of material.



 
MusicHound: The Final Score
Rating 6/10


MusicHound Soundtracks is Copyright 1999 by Visible Ink Press.  Review Copyright 1999 by Andrew Drannon.  All Rights Reserved.