March 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings /March01/

Total Recall
The Deluxe Edition music conducted by the composer
   Amazon UK    Amazon US

I've been of the opinion that Goldsmith's career curve has been on a downward spiral over the last 10 years, but here's a crown jewel from just before that started.

Sometimes expanded editions don't do it for me. Case in point is Goldsmith's own Supergirl from Silva Screen, which is repetitive ad nauseum. That's certainly not the case here. The 1990 album had 42 minutes. This has about another 32! Whole new cues are also backed up with full starts and ends to cues which were previously missing. You're getting material either missing from the 1st album, missing from the film itself, or missing from your audio range because it was covered in sound FX.

A great slab of the film's action was previously missing, starting from when Quaid enters a "Johnny Cab" to escape Richter's mob, & ending with "Lies" when Melina refuses to accept where he's been. This 'slab' encompasses 8 cues ("Johnny Cab" / "Howdy Stranger" / "The Nose Job" / "The Space Station" / "A New Face" / "The Mountain" / "Identification" / "Lies").

I've always maintained that this was some of Goldsmith's most pleasingly written action material - being a sucker for loud, brash, near-dissonant stuff! But getting to play this all the way through reminds me what was so impressive seeing it the 1st time - it's just so much fun! (why else the irrefutable Conan homage opening "The Dream"...)

This 1st collaboration with director Paul Verhoeven (incredible to think there've only been 2 more - Basic Instinct & Hollow Man), really did signify a specific starting / stopping point in Goldsmith's writing - depending on which way you want to view it. He wrote plenty of action scores subsequently (2 Treks / Air Force One / Executive Decision / Chain Reaction / The Mummy / 13th Warrior all come to mind), but very little of any of that comes close to the musical achievement, or indeed the synchronicity to picture that this has. There are a couple of examples I'd like to back that up with: "The Mutant" always raises my hackles, & I know it's generally regarded as one of the best non action-oriented cues on the album. It works its magic as a standalone listen because it has a self-contained melodic consistency. The trick performed to picture is a masterful use of the sustain. Long, drawn out notes back the early dreaminess as Kuato enters the vision. Then they perform a rushing, surging majesty to match the dizzying camera moves about the secret Mars air refinery. But the real kicker is the overlay of French Horns swelling to underpin the importance of both the revelation on screen, and the one the viewer is supposed to interpret from it. Goldsmith's electronics palette remains endearing (to my ear) 10 years on for this score, and none more so than in the tinkling, manipulative way it's used here (unlike say, Star Trek: Insurrection...)

My other example is "Clever Girl". Although "The Big Jump" and "End Of A Dream" are more popularly respected as bigger and louder action cues, "Clever Girl" has far more range and achieves far more on screen. It starts as Quaid twigs that sly ol' Shazza Stone has been flashing her stuff to distract him from an army of goons headed his way. So for a minute and a half there's subtle and unobtrusive sneaking around accompaniment. It's a textbook example of how to underscore dialogue that's actually important exposition without distracting from it. Once the chase begins, the music strikes up a tremendous display of ducking and diving to match a superb editing job that accelerates each individual area of movement. Each ascent or descent of a staircase or escalator into the subway system follows its own burst of rhythmically-charged musical set-piece. There are little bursts of electronic percussion that emulate the futuristic guns' discharge noise. There's some CGI humour wittily underscored as Quaid sets off an X-Ray security system alarm. There's an essential, dramatic intensity played high above the general sound mix as Quaid uses some hapless passer-by as a body shield on an escalator.

This sort of screen violence & gore is where Verhoeven comes under censorship issues. So kudos to Goldsmith for making this feel like an important dramatic moment, as opposed to using any wry Mickey-mousing effect. A comedic 'hit' could so easily have played to the insert of the body shield getting subsequently trodden on. The cue does end with some humour however, with a long-line brass fanfare building to climax on an enormous outburst matching Richter's roar of rage.

I know both these cues were on the original album, but don't let that discourage you from finding all the goodies on this new one.

The booklet notes from album producer Bob Townson are comprehensive to say the least. But in doing so, highlights the album's only let down. A sidebar reveals that Goldsmith wrote a collection of source cues for the numerous TV adverts and news spots. Sadly, other than the Rekall jingle which is hidden away, none of them are on the disc. Also missing are Bruno Louchqarn's source music contributions for "Mutant Dancing", "Running Out Of Air", and "Rubble City". Since that means this isn't a complete album presentation, I've been mean and deducted half a star!

Paul Tonks

Gary S. Dalkin adds:-

When I originally saw Total Recall (1990) it was at a regional Odeon, which probably explains why, despite having already been a Jerry Goldsmith fan for well over a decade, I barely noticed the film had a music score at all (non-UK readers may like to know that many Odeons have cheap mono sound systems and truly wretched acoustics, the result of splitting single large auditoriums into multiple utilitarian boxes which don't deserve to be called cinemas, or even 'movie theatres'). It was sometime later, when I bought a cheap second-hand copy of the original original soundtrack album that I began to appreciate Goldsmith's work on this film. However, I was never entirely convinced by the claims that this was the landmark score many critics claimed. Excellent yes, masterwork no. And now I begin to realise that may have been because that 10 track, 40:41 minute-long first album was unbalanced, being all 'big' music, a distillation of spectacular action set-piece highlights from the monumentally bloody blockbuster loosely extrapolated from Philip K. Dick's short story We Can Remember It for you Wholesale. Without build-up, respite or ballast, it was too much of a good thing in too short a span. Ironically, this new album is still too much of a good thing, but this time it is not something to complain about.

Varèse Sarabande have decided to put things right. Presumably the original album was too short due to the ridiculous American situation of having to pay licences for music by the quarter-hour. This is not the place to get into those sorts of politics, only to say that the sooner the American unions come to their senses and negotiate a more sensible system for reuse fees the better things will be for everyone concerned with film music - including those paid to perform it. Meanwhile, and doubtless due the constant clamouring for a more complete representation of the score on CD, Varèse have issued Total Recall The Deluxe Edition. I get my review copy free, and while I understand the economic conditions under which Varèse operate, had I bought the original album full price then been expected to buy a second full price album to get the music that should have been on the album I already owned, I would have been seriously annoyed. It is not good enough to have to wait ten years and pay twice for something that should have been done right the first time.

So what do you get for your money second time around? The front cover is all but identical to the original issue, except that it is tinted red rather than blue, and Jerry Goldsmith's name is much more prominent. The original back cover, minus text, is displayed on the inside, behind a now transparent CD holder. The original fold-over insert has been expanded to a 12-page booklet with colour photos throughout and copious notes by Robert Townson, including a track-by-track breakdown and a section on the spoof commercial jingles Goldsmith wrote for the film. Sadly, only one of these is included at the end of the album, presumably so this current disc could sneak in under the 75 minute barrier and thus avoid even higher reuse fees. Nevertheless, this is now a properly packaged and documented album. Just the sort of thing classical music listeners expect from a full-price issue, but film music fans rarely get.

And the music? The 10 tracks from the original album are all here, though now properly sequenced in film order. Between them are 17 previously unreleased cues, totalling 33:19 minutes of previously unreleased music. It doesn't take a maths genius to work out these 'new' tracks are on average slight less than half the length of the ten which made it onto the first album. Rather than epic set-pieces, these cues tend more to the nature of underscore, scene setting and transitional moments, such as the very attractive 47 seconds of 'The Space Station'. Over all, the sound quality of the new album is an improvement on the original, the cues which are on both here having a slightly fuller, warmer sound, evidencing a little more base and fractionally increased levels of detail. Tape hiss is occasionally noticeable on the previously unreleased tracks, and there is even a little distortion on 'The Mountain'. Not that this is anything to worry about, and unless you are listening through headphones with the volume cranked right-up you might never notice. Numbers such as the dynamic opening, 'The Dream', have a demonstration quality sound, packing the sheer exhilaration some of us used to get from rock music.

Following Star Trek - The Motion Picture (1979) and Legend (1985), Total Recall reveals itself to be another of Goldsmith's outstanding fusion of orchestral and electronic scoring. The music here is not so subtle, but then Total Recall was not a film to call for subtly in the conventional sense. Filled with blisteringly powerful motor rhythms, but now interspersed with intervals where one can actually take a breath, Goldsmith's Total Recall perfectly compliments the kinetic fury of Verhoven's Total Recall. Sequences such as 'Clever Girl' and 'End of a Dream' remain among the most thrillingly well crafted action highlights in Goldsmith's catalogue. If there is now a downside, it is simply that there is too much to take in at once, given that by the nature of the film most of the 74 minutes, even though now interspersed with some gentler moments, consist of an aural assault. Even so, I'm not complaining; no one has to play the entire album in a single sitting.

So is it a film music masterpiece? On balance, I don't think so, but it's certainly one of Goldsmith's greatest action scores, given a thrilling performance by the National Philharmonic under Goldsmith's own baton. If you don't like it, you're probably not playing it loud enough. It certainly sounds tremendous on this new CD, and as the score led to Goldsmith's collaborating again with Verhoven on the even better Basic Instinct (1992) and just last year on the less accomplished but still worthwhile Hollow Man, we have much to be grateful for. Let's just hope it's not another eight years before composer and director work together again. Now excuse me, I'm off to the Odeon to demand a refund. Those interested in such things may spot the homage to Goldsmith's mentor, Alex North, his music for Africa (1967- recently re-released and reviewed this month on Film Music on the Web) and a sly reference to North's rejected score for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), the premiere album recording of which Goldsmith himself conducted with the National Philharmonic.

Gary S. Dalkin

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