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.