Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


Danny ELFMAN Batman. Batman Returns
Elliot GOLDENTHAL Batman Forever
Neil HEFTI (arr David Slonaker) Batman TV Theme

Joel Mc Neely conducting the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and ChorusVARÈSE SARABANDE VSD-5766  

Crotchet (UK)

It is appropriate to include a late review of this spectacular 1997 album after the reviews of the two Danny Elfman albums above which, of course, included the composer's own take on the first two Batman scores listed above. The Batman score has plenty of power and excitement and the RSNO play it with full gusto and commitment although their account, perhaps, lacks just a little of the raw energy that Danny Elfman himself brings to that marvellous Batman theme in "Main Title." McNeely underlines the Gothic elements of the score and the Wagnerian connections are more obvious in his more grandiose, classical treatment. The second cue "Flowers" speaks of Bruce Wayne's mourning at the loss of his parents and the beginnings of his dedication to revenge and a life of obsessive crusading against crime so much so that the following "Love Theme" is cool and unfulfilled because of his total all-exclusive dedication. "Joker's poem" is child-like games edged with menace while "Clown Attack" is a grotesquerie for piano, percussion and pizzicati strings - a sort of dark Tom and Jerry caper. "Up the Cathedral" rivals Elfman's version in its excitement - upwardly reaching violins, heavy cymbal crashes, snarling brass and snare drum rolls; in contrast comes the bizarre "Waltz to the Death" - a duel in waltz-time. "Final Confrontation" has heavy Wagnerian poundings and right triumphs of course in "Finale" which has a pointed reference to Richard Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra.

McNeely really excels in Elfman's second Batman score, Batman Returns which starred Danny De Vito as The Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. The RSNO choir if anything is more expressive than that which Elfman has at his disposal. The opening cue, setting the fate of the abandoned ugly baby which is reared by the penguins is excellently played with plenty of eerie and damp subterranean atmosphere. You really feel that Elfman is basing his writing on Debussy's Sirènes for his Catwoman choral music but Elfman's sirens are pronouncing not only Catwoman's feline allure but also a warning of her terrible powers. Elfman's imaginative scoring for "Selina Transforms" - into Catwoman is, for me, the highlight of this score; it is an uncanny description of a whole range of feline characteristics. McNeely also cleverly develops his Batman theme so that it is not only heroic but darkly terrifying, suggesting an almost blood lust to crush evil. "The Cemetery" is a furtive, yet poignantly tragic piece underscoring The Penguin's visit to the cemetery to discover his parentage. More feline shenanigans are evident in "A Shadow of A Doubt" when Batman is bewitched by Catwoman's charms. But the claws are out and the cat spits and screams spitefully (the RSNO ladies really let themselves go here) in the five minute "End Credits."

Goldenthal's music is somewhat different for a different Batman cinematic approach with a new director (Joel Schumacher succeeding Tim Burton) and comedian Jim Carrey (The Riddler) plus Tommy Lee Jones (Two-Face) adding a lighter touch to the villainy. Goldenthal mixes Elfman's Gothic with a jazz element in keeping with the Gotham City story being set this time in the jazz era. Goldenthal's "Main Title" presents a new theme for Batman after a brash cynical jazz trumpet introduction; it is darkly heroic and savage but it is not so definite, not so arresting or memorable as Elfman's original theme. The music varies between the manic in mad circus/carnival mode, the sentimental, (sometimes slyly, cloyingly so), the slinky and sexy, and the sinister. A nocturne whose basic serenity is edged with shadows breaks up the generally fast paced music.

The album ends with a delicious spoof, after a portentous opening, on the old Neil Hefti comic-cuts type score for the fabulously camp Batman TV series.

This album is fabulous.


Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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