Finally the non-pop music from Buffy gets an outing. Unfortunately the only way CB's music has managed to gain a commercial release is as filler ("bonus track" status) for music from season 6's all-singing, all-dancing episode Once more, with feeling. The 23rd September release date (coinciding with the opening of Season 7 on the American UPN network) is now passed and the disc's tracks are as follows:
How has this one succeeded? Well, it may have something to do with the absence of the direct record label influence that had dogged previous attempts to pin down a date: The disc marks the debut release from Joss Whedon's newly-created Mutant Enemy Music. Thanks to the BBC's cult site for added information.
Buffy the Musical, aka Once More, With Feeling, aka Buffy 6.07, aka the Emmy-That-Never-Was was the acknowledged high-point of Buffy's critically pooh-poohed sixth season. It acted as the open-sesame catalyst into the motivations that defined the plot for the year, whilst leaving the pivotal character silent (Willow has only a few inconsequential lines). Show creator Joss Whedon's lyrics and tunes inject life and colour into the situation, whilst his own efforts are presumably magnified by the arrangements and orchestration from Chris Beck (mostly the orchestration side) and Jesse Thomas (most connected with guitar work and pop arrangements). The result is fun music and good television, playing on the vocal strengths of some of the cast and never leaving itself open to criticism for overstretching its reach. Beck's involvement doesn't stop with orchestrations, and he has some time to himself in track 9's wordless "Dawn's ballet" as well as the overture.
Ah well, technically this is illegal, and whilst downloading or bootlegging has some social agreement when scores are unreleased, this disc deserves to be paid for and thus encourage future excusions from record companies. Psyche's site does include the "Intro theme" (a major key version of Herder's title music where the sweet smiling faces of the cast appear on screen), and includes dialogue from the episode that makes it more understandable, but this leaves out titbits such as the end of Marti Noxon's Parking-Ticket-Lady snippet (the final couplet: I'm just a poor girl don't you care / I'm not wearing underwear.). It's other added track, "The Death of Fred Astair" is pretty difficult to enjoy without visuals and features minimal music.
Where the commercial disc wins out is in its overall quality. Quality of sound is improved, Whedon's sprawling liner notes are fun and unpretentious, track 23's demo from Whedon and his wife is a good bonus.
Well, after consecutive failures on the part of record company bosses to green-light music from seasons 2-4, Beck has at last been given a chance to show his contribution to Buffy. Suites from the thrilling Hush (season 4), the odd-cool Restless (season 4 finale) and The Gift (an excerpt from where Buffy sacrifices herself, season 5 finale) are more than enough to show how his talent helped shape the fame of the show, but still not enough to satisfy fans of his music, as continued mp3 and promo interest in his season 2-3 music testifies. This 15 minutes of fame all comes so much later than Beck really needed in his career (although I'm sure he's not complaining), since he has now moved on to score for films, and his reputation has not had the benefit of a good commercial push that might do wonders for the careers of fellow composers such as Joel McNeely (Young Indiana Jones Chronicles) and Joseph LoDuca (Xena, Hercules, and others).
15 minutes of music from the composer plus his heavy input into the rest of the respectable 57'20" running time is more than enough to convince the author of its worth. Current pricing on the web is competitive, and hopefully highstreet stores will follow suit. And when it has made its money separately, one might suggest its inclusion as a bonus with the release of the season on DVD in future (this has already been attempted with the animated film Shrek and is the perfect antidote to the 'isolated score' option on some DVDs). The cover is embarrassing (if you are not a 7-year old girl) and the more cheesy songs might raise a few eyebrows, but then the phrase "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was never a selling-point to one of the most successful television shows of recent years.