on rotation …

Before I did the Xena: Warrior Princess Challenge, I posted an “on rotation” of my favorite soundtracks and felt it was incomplete, and after a bit of reflection, I realized it was because none of them included the scores. Like … I like lyrical music. I really do. There’s an artistry to creating words to pair with music that I do not have – my poetry is abysmal – and I am in awe of anyone who does it well. But instrumentals have always seemed to speak to me more. So today, I’m focusing on the scores that I have continued to love.

1 – ROMEO + JULIET, VOL. 2

I cannot tell you how many times I listened to this CD; sometimes, it put me to sleep. I actually may be listening to this tonight, if I’m being completely transparent. The majority of the score was written by Nellee Hooper, Craig Armstrong, and Marius de Vries (there are a few exceptions, of course), and there’s such angst and sorrow present in everything, even in the happy parts … like somebody has read the play and knows these kids are going to off themselves. But it’s seriously such a beautiful score, one that I hope will continue to be recognized for the masterpiece that it is.

“Morning Breaks” by Nellee Hooper, Craig Armstrong, and Marius de Vries

Tracks: 1) Prologue, 2) O Verona, 3) The Montague Boys (ft Justin Warfield of One Inch Punch), 4) Gas Station Scene, 5) O Verona (Reprise), 6) Introduction to Romeo, 7) Queen Mab Interlude, 8) Young Hearts Run Free (Ballroom Version – ft Kym Mazelle, Harold Perrineau, and Paul Sorvino), 9) Kissing You (Instrumental), 10) Balcony Scene, 11) When Doves Cry (by Prince, performed by Quindon Tarver), 12) A Challenge, 13) Tybalt Arrives, 14) Fight Scene, 15) Mercutio’s Death, 16) Drive of Death, 17) Slow Movement, 18) Morning Breaks, 19) Juliet’s Requiem, 20) Mantua, 21) Escape from Mantua, 22) Death Scene, 23) “Liebestod” (from Tristan und Isolde), 24) Epilogue

2 – AKIRA

I heard in an interview that Katsuhiro Otomo wanted music that sounded global so it couldn’t necessarily be placed in a particular period of time – similarly to how Bear McCreary did with the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack, of which I’m sure you remember I am a huge fan – and so you can just imagine how both alien and familiar it sounds, particularly in the most famous track from the movie’s score: “Kaneda.” But the rest of the soundtrack has that same epic feel to it, too, so I frequently put this on whenever I go hop on an elliptical or treadmill.

“Kaneda” by Shoji Yamashiro (pseudonym of Tsutomu Ōhashi)

Tracks: 1) Kaneda, 2) Battle Against Clown, 3) Winds over Neo-Tokyo, 4) Tetsuo, 5) Doll’s Polyphony, 6) Shohmyoh, 7) Mutation / Ohjifuchi, 8) Exoducs from the Underground Fortress, 9) Illusion, 10) Requiem

3 – STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI

I hesitated to put this on here, seeing as I’m going to be doing a blog challenge on the Star Wars universe in a couple of months, but hey, this was a formative soundtrack for me. Granted, all of them – yes, even the prequels and sequels – could be put on here, seeing as you can just start playing a track and I know exactly which movie it’s from, what part, and what’s being said and/or done. Because I am a dork. But with Return of the Jedi, I don’t know … I feel like this one had some great uses of character themes melding together, and John Williams kind of outdid himself with it.

“The Battle of Endor II” by John Williams

(NOTE: If you wanna hear what I think may be the best music that John Williams ever wrote, head to around 4:52 of this. Still gives me chills.)

Tracks: 1) Main Title / Approaching the Death Star / Tatooine Rendezvous, 2) The Droids Are Captured, 3) Bounty for a Wookiee, 4) Han Solo Returns, 5) Luke Confronts Jabba / Den of the Rancor / Sarlacc Sentence, 6) The Pit of Carkoon / Sail Barge Assault, 7) The Emperor Arrives / The Death of Yoda / Obi-Wan’s Revelation, 8) Alliance Assembly, 9) Shuttle Tydirium Approaches Endor, 10) Speeder Bike Chase / Land of the Ewoks, 11) The Levitation / Threepio’s Bedtime Story, 12) Jabba’s Baroque Recital, 13) Jedi Rocks, 14) Archival Bonus Track: Sail Barge Assault (Alternate), 15) Parade of the Ewoks, 16) Luke and Leia, 17) Brother and Sister / Father and Son / The Fleet Enters Hyperspace / Heroic Ewok, 18) Emperor’s Throne Room, 19) The Battle of Endor I: Into the Trap, Forest Ambush, Scout Walker Scramble, Prime Weapon Fires, 20) The Lightsaber / The Ewok Battle, 21) The Battle of Endor II: Leia Is Wounded / The Duel Begins / Overtaking the Bunker / The Dark Side Beckons / The Emperor’s Death, 22) The Battle of Endor III: Superstructure Chase / Darth Vader’s Death / The Main Reactor, 23) Leia’s News / Light of the Force, 24) Victory Celebration / End Title, 25) Ewok Feast / Part of the Tribe, 26) Archival Bonus Track: The Forest Battle (Concert Suite)

4 – MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

Few movies from the last ten years have impacted me as much as Mad Max: Fury Road has. I adore both Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel, but I was not inspired to buy the movies once they came out, but literally, the second that Fury Road was on BluRay, I bought it. And the soundtrack has stayed on my Top 10 lists on Spotify since 2015, which is no easy feat. It’s just as high octane as the rest of the movie is, and I definitely use several of these tracks when I’m writing action scenes.

“Brothers in Arms” (Extended Version) by Tom Holkenborg and Junkie XL

Tracks: 1) Survive 2) Escape, 3) Immortan’s Citadel, 4) Blood Bag, 5) Spikey Cars, 6) Storm Is Coming, 7) We Are Not Things, 8) Water, 9) The Rig, 10) Brothers in Arms, 11) The Bog, 12) Redemption, 13) Many Mothers, 14) Claw Trucks, 15) Chapter Doof (Extended Version), 16) “My Name Is Max” (Extended Version), 17) Let Them Up

5 – GHOST IN THE SHELL

I swear, this soundtrack had me obsessed with it and with Kawai Kenji, the composer. I pirated as much music of his as I could find and tried to watch every single anime that he had a hand in. It’s very similar to what Shoji Yamashiro did with Akira, where there’s a certain universal sound to the music so you can’t time stamp it, which is a brilliant way to score something. It can be hard to do – just look at all the futuristic movies and shows in the 80s and 90s where music / style was very clearly reflective of the era in which it took place – but for some reason, Kawai managed to do it.

“Nightstalker” by Kawai Kenji

Tracks: 1) Making of Cyborg, 2) Ghosthack, 3) Puppetmaster, 4) Virtual Crime, 5) Ghost City, 6) Access, 7) Nightstalker, 8) Floating Museum, 9) Ghostdive, 10) Reincarnation, 11) Bonus Track: 挿入歌 毎天見一見!

6 – BLADE RUNNER

Vangelis is a goddamn genius, and there is no one who can convince me otherwise. I love Blade Runner without his music, but the movie would definitely be lesser if Vangelis hadn’t been a part of it. The ambience, jazz and blues mixed with synth, influenced the sound of so many science fiction movies, and similarly to the Akira soundtrack, I feel like this score would definitely fit in with a more modern movie because it has that sort of universal sound. “Wait for Me,” below, is I think the best example of familiarity (the jazz brass) seamlessly blended with synth beats and instrumentation, but really, the entire album should be required listening, regardless of your music tastes.

“Wait for Me” by Vangelis

Tracks: 1) Main Titles, 2) Blush Response, 3) Wait for Me, 4) Rachel’s Song, 5) Love Theme, 6) One More Kiss, Dear, 7) Blade Runner Blues, 8) Memories of Green, 9) Tales of the Future, 10) Damask Rose, 11) Blade Runner – End Titles, 12) Tears in Rain

7 – ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST

Ennio Morricone is just one of those composers that everyone knows, even if you haven’t seen the movies that he scored. Like the theme to Jaws or Indiana Jones or hell, even songs like “Baby Elephant Walk” from Hatari or “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, several songs he wrote are part of our cultural lexicon. I could probably include The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly here, but instead I’m going with Once Upon a Time in the West. This was the movie that got me into westerns, and a big part of that was Morricone’s score, specifically, “Man with a Harmonica,” shown below. It’s a beautiful piece, even if you don’t have any context, but when it’s paired with the movie? Jesus, it’s so fucking powerful.

“Man with a Harmonica” by Ennio Morricone

Tracks:1) Once Upon a Time in the West, 2) The Man, 3) The Grand Massacre, 4) Arrival at the Station, 5) Bad Orchestra, 6) Jill’s America, 7) Harmonica, 8) The First Tavern, 9) A Bed Too Large, 10) Jill, 11) Frank, 12) Cheyenne, 13) The Second Tavern, 14) The Third Tavern, 15) Epilogue, 16) On the Roof of the Train, 17) Man with a Harmonica, 18) A Dimly Lit Room, 19) The Transgression, 20) Return to the Train, 21) Morton, 22) As a Judgment, 23) Final Duel, 24) Death Rattle, 25) Birth of a City, 26) Farewell to Cheyenne, 27) Finale

8 – MACROSS PLUS

Three anime in one post? Yes. Three of them, all of which have absolutely excellent scores. Back when Tower Records was a thing (RIP), I bought the two soundtracks for a bit more than I’m willing to admit, and then my sister kept stealing them. I don’t necessarily blame her, because they’re absolutely beautifully written by – who else – Yoko Kanno.

“Pulse” by Yoko Kanno

Tracks: I: 1) Fly Up in the Air ~ Tension, 2) After, in the Dark / Torch Song, 3) Myung Theme, 4) Bees and Honey, 5) In Captivity, 6) More Than 3 cm, 7) Voices, 8) Break Out ~ Cantabile, 9) Very Little Wishes, 10) SANTI-U / II: 1) Idol talk, 2) Jade, 3) Nomad soul, 4) Welcome to Sparefish, 5) Go Ri A Te, 6) Let’s News, 7) Pulse, 8) VOICES (acoustic version), 9) Pu Qua O, 10) Sweet feather, 11) A sai en, 12) Bad dog, 13) Child MYUNG, 14) Coma

(NOTE: check out the whole Macross Plus OST II album. I haven’t been able to find many good single videos of songs, and honestly, you probably should listen to the whole thing from the beginning, anyway.)

9 – MANDY

I watched this movie as part of last year’s Horrorpalooza 2020 (it’s so good, y’all – watch it), and ever since then, I have been obsessed with Johann Johannsson. His mastery of mixing music genres is astounding, and even though I’ve branched out into his other work, the soundtrack to Mandy will always resonate with me. Johannsson died in 2018 of what was believed to be a complication with the combination of flu medication and cocaine, and I often think about what else this prolific composer could have created had he not overdosed. Seriously, just go Google the man and see how much he wrote over the course of his fairly short career (he seems to have started back in the early 2000s). I could listen to everything he’s written every day and not be upset about it.

“Mandy Love Theme” by Johann Johannsson

Tracks: 1) Seeker of the Serpent’s Eye, 2) Starling, 3) Mandy Love Theme, 4) Horns of Abraxas, 5) Black Skulls, 6) Death and Ashes, 7) Sand, 8) Red, 9) Forging the Beast, 10) Dive-Bomb Blues, 11) Waste, 12) Temple, 13) Burning Church, 14) Memories, 15) Children of the New Dawn, 16) Chainsaw Fight

10 – LORD OF THE RINGS

This is yet another soundtrack that is played at least once a week at my house, by either me or my sister. I wouldn’t necessarily list Howard Shore in my Top 10 Favorite composers, but he did such a phenomenal job with Lord of the Rings that I almost feel bad that he isn’t. Since I’ll be doing a challenge on the trilogy of movies in November, I’m not going to pick a favorite movie soundtrack or anything so as not to spoil it, but I’ll have you know now that it’s a very difficult set of choices I’m going to have to make in a few months. #sarcasm

“Minas Tirith” by Howard Shore

I’m not going to list the tracks from all three movies because no. Just go HERE. There’s actually some really good information on that page regarding themes, too!

Art Credit: Best Buy, The Quietus, Pamono, Entertainment Weekly, Movie Art, HBO Max, His Name Was Bronson, Amazon, Amazon, Geek Tyrant

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