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The Groovy Yak Reviews:

Danny Elfman's
Music For a Darkened Theater Volume Two
Film and Television Music

Label: MCA Soundtracks (MCAD2-11550)
Music Composed by: Danny Elfman
Orchestrations by Steve Bartek
Album Produced by Ellen Segal and Danny Elfman
Executive Producers: Richard Kraft and Laura Engel
Mixed by: Shawn Murphy
The Groovy Yak's Rating for this Compilation Album: * * * *

Track Listing

Disc 1

Edward Scissorhands
01. Main Titles (2'36")
02. Storytime (2'35")
03. Suite (4'19")
04. Suburbia - Edwardo the Barber (3'05")
05. The Grand Finale (3'26")
Dolores Claiborne
06. Main Titles (2'44")
07. Vera's World (2'35")
08. Flashback (1'32")
09. Sad Room (0'51")
10. End Titles (4'48")
To Die For
11. Main Titles (4'08")
12. Suzie's Theme (1'40")
13. Busted (2'01")
14. Wheepy Donuts (1'49")
15. Finale (1'18")
Black Beauty
16. Main Titles (2'27")
17. Baby Beauty (3'11")
18. Jump for Joy (0'57")
19. Frolick - Sick (4'03")
20. Bye Bye Jerry (2'27")
21. Memories (1'28")
22. End Titles (1'38")
Batman Returns
23. Birth of a Penguin - Main Titles (4'36")
24. Trouble Suite (2'15")
25. The Finale (3'13")
26. End Titles (4'41")
Total running time (71'33)

Disc 2

Mission: Impossible
01.Trouble (3'20")
02.Looking for Job (3'53")
03.Betrayal (2'56")
Sommersby
04. Main Titles (4'40")
05. Return Montage (4'26")
06. Finale - End Titles (7'21")
Dead Presidents
07. Main Titles (4'01)
08. Daughter (1'24")
09. Montage (2'27")
10. Nam (5'49")
11. Nightmare (1'17")
The Nightmare Before Christmas
12. Overture (1'47")
13. Jack and Sally Suite (5'03")
14. Christmas Eve Montage (2'10")
Freeway
15. Main Titles (2'44")
16. On the Road (2'58")
17. Back in the Car (1'20")
Shrunken Heads
18 .Main Titles (1'55")
Televisions Odds 'n Ends
19. Amazing Stories "Family Dog"
20. Amazing Stories "Family Dog" (2'21")
21. Amazing Stories "Mummy Daddy" (2'23")
22. Nike Commercial "Barkley Superhero" (0'31)
23. The Flash "Main Theme" (1'33")
24-27. Pee Wee's Playhouse (suite)
28. Beetlejuice Animated Series "Main Theme" (1'02")
29. Original Demo The Nightmare Before Christmas-
This is Halloween (3'19")
Total running time: (1:14'16")

Reviews

Orange = Groovy Yak
Grey = Ian Davis

Music for a Darkened Theater Volume 2 is my favorite compilation album of all time. If I had to spend the rest of my life on a deserted island with only one CD to listen to, I'd pick this one. It is a must-have for anyone who enjoys the work of Danny Elfman.
Music for a Darkened Theater Volume One was a good album, but Volume Two has some improvements over its predecessor. First of all, MFADTV2 is a 2-CD set. That's almost 2.5 hours of music. (As opposed to the 70+ minutes of MFADTV1.) Each score on the album is from the years 1990 through 1996. The television tracks span from 1986-1992. All of the movie scores are represented well. In fact, I'd say a little too well. If you are not an Elfman completist, I'd recommend saving your money and buying this album and not the soundtracks themselves. (With the exception of Mission: Impossible and The Nightmare Before Christmas.) All of the best cues from these scores are on this album.
All of the cues from each score have their own track, an improvement over MFADTV1. MFADTV2 also has some pleasant surprises. The most noteworthy is the last track on CD 2. It's the original demo of "This is Halloween" from The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Overall, MFADTV2 represents Mr. Elfman's music well. In this installment we get a clear picture of the "mature Danny" sound as well as the old Elfman style that we've grown to love. The packaging and art of this album is fantastic. If you are an Elfman fan and don't own this, shame on you!
Rating * * * *
"Shamed" must be my middle name as this is one album I have no intention of buying. It is, not to put a finer point on it, utter tosh. An evil marketing exercise designed specifically to entrap the Elfman newcomer as well as hardened (and near destitute) enthusiasts such as ourselves. The CD includes bulk-loads of "suites" ripped from soundtracks which deserve to be heard in their CD "entirety" at the very least (and I include here such masterpieces as Edward Scissorhands, Dolores Claiborne and Mission: Impossible!!) together with some novelties and (infuriatingly) some essentials such as Dead Presidents tracks to lure us hardened critics into purchasing the whole caboodle. I refuse to pay the £25 it costs in the UK for this double CD purely as a protest against being cheated.
As a marketing ploy MFDT1 was understandable: it included a similar mix of high profile projects (although from earlier in the composerís career) together with never-before recorded items and curiosities. Not only do the two halves satisfy both types of listener (the casual and the fanatic) without mutual irritation (there is just enough of each to satisfy both parties) but they co-exist on a single CD (which I can get very easily for a tenner, partly, I assume, because it sells well, and thus proves my point!).
No doubt eventually I will have to make the purchase, if only for the sake of (sadly distant) completism, but I feel that this second volume of compiled tracks tips the balance between value and needless exorbitance. If Danny were to go into the "suite" business like many a composer before him, I suggest he returned to his works and round off a few edges to satisfy a listener who has most likely not seen all the movies scored.
My star ratings must allow for the generous playing times of MFDT2 and for the sheer splendour of the tracks chosen, but I do so under protest.
Rating: * * *

Included below is a review of the scores represented on this album:


Edward Scissorhands (16:01) * * * *
1. Main Titles (2'36")
2. Storytime (2'35")
3. Suite (4'19")
4. Suburbia - Edwardo the Barber (3'05")
5. The Grand Finale (3'26")
All of the best tracks from Tim Burton's fairy tale are included on this suite. I'm glad "The Grand Finale" was included. It's by far one of the greatest tracks of all of Elfman's works.

Dolores Claiborne (12'29") * * * 1/2
6. Main Titles (2'44")
7. Vera's World (2'35")
8. Flashback (1'32")
9. Sad Room (0'51")
10. End Titles (4'48")
The excerpts from this score are a perfect example of the modern Elfman sound. It's a shame the "Eclipse" cue wasn't included, but the other cues more than make up for the oversight.

To Die For (10'59") * * *
11. Main Titles (4'08")
12. Suzie's Theme (1'40")
13. Busted (2'01")
14. Wheepy Donuts (1'49")
15. Finale (1'18")
Elfman's wild, and schizophrenic score to Gus Van Sant's dark comedy compliments the somber nature of the Dolores Claiborne tracks that preceded it. It's truly a fun score and is well-represented on this album. However, as with Dolores Claiborne, one of the best tracks is left out. It's called "Murder."

Black Beauty (16'13") * * * *
16. Main Titles (2'27")
17. Baby Beauty (3'11")
18. Jump for Joy (0'57")
19. Frolick - Sick (4'03")
20. Bye Bye Jerry (2'27")
21. Memories (1'28")
22. End Titles (1'38")
Black Beauty is Danny Elfman's sleeper masterpiece. Few people know of the score and even few own it. (I'm one of the many that don't but would give my right kidney for it.) Black Beauty is one of Elfman's most intelligent and beautiful works. At first listen, it's difficult to tell if this is an Elfman score. It reminds me a lot of Williams work. (More specifically, Williams work on Far and Away.) Every note of this score is entertaining. Parts of the score are fun and feisty. Other parts are so sad and sentimental that it's hard to resist tears. The violin main theme that dominates the score has a folksong quality to it. (This is partly because of the folk instrumentation and the use of the 6/8 meter throughout the score.) The delicate phrases of the score are so raw and strikingly beautiful in their simplicity, it's clear that a genius wrote the music. If you see this score somewhere, it's imperative that you buy it. (If you don't keep it for yourself, please send it to me.) You'll be glad you did. This score is as beautiful as anything Beethoven, Chopin, or Mozart could write.

Batman Returns (15'47") * * * *
23. Birth of a Penguin - Main Titles (4'36")
24. Trouble Suite (2'15")
25. The Finale (3'13")
26. End Titles (4'41")
The suite for Batman Returns is a nice representation of Elfman's score, but if you like the music from this movie, I'd recommend buying the album. Some of the better cues for the Penguin and Catwoman have been left off this suite. Also, some of the cues have been butchered slightly and renamed "Trouble Suite." Still, the explosive finale is great to listen to without wading through some of the more uninteresting parts of the score.

Mission: Impossible (10:11) * * * *
1. Trouble (3'20")
2. Looking for Job (3'53")
3. Betrayal (2'56")
Mission: Impossible is my second favorite Elfman score to date. So, I am slightly biased about the representation of the score on this album. It's nice, but it doesn't give you an accurate depiction of this score. The first track entitled "Trouble" is the result of pasting together the cues from "Sleeping Beauty" and "Zoom B" (Note: this version of Zoom B has a few seconds of music that isn't heard in the original score. It almost sounds like a few measures were just looped.) The cue is butchered badly. I think this is mostly because they wanted to avoid playing the Mission: Impossible theme when it makes a grand entrance in that particular track. "Looking for Job" and "Betrayal" are included in the suite. While both of the tracks are wonderful, they aren't really a good representation of most of the music on the original soundtrack. Oh well.

Sommersby (16'27") * * * *
4. Main Titles (4'40")
5. Return Montage (4'26")
6. Finale - End Titles (7'21")
Ahh. Another sleeper masterpiece of Elfman's. Most of the emotional impact from this movie came from this sad, sad score. The three tracks from the score are a perfect representation of Elfman's work on this movie. (The downside of this score that sets it apart from Black Beauty is the fact that it repeats itself often and may feel a tad bit monotonous.) The suite on this score is just the right amount of music and it keeps you from getting bored with it. If you haven't heard this score, give it a listen. It really will secure your faith in Elfman's music.

Dead Presidents (14'50") * * *
7. Main Titles (4'01")
8. Daughter (1'24")
9. Montage (2'27")
10. Nam (5'49")
11. Nightmare (1'17")
Mini-Review
Dead Presidents is one awesome score. Since the Mission: Impossible excerpts didn't exactly show Elfman flair for percussion writing, the unreleased material from Dead Presidents MORE than makes up for it. The Hughes Brothers needed a dark and unrelentless score to help show the impact of blacks who fought in the Vietnam War and how their lives changes once they returned home. Elfman delivered. The score is dominated by lots of ethnic percussion, synth, and that pipe-like instrument that dominates most of his darker scores. (Nightbreed, for a good example.) However, the star of the score is the Hendrix-esque guitar playing. The movie takes place in the 1970's and nothing conjures up visions of the 70's more than Hendrix-style guitar riffs. (Like I'd really know. I was born in 1977!) A large section of this score is quite atmospheric, though. It doesn't exactly hold up on its own. The suite ends with a bang, though. "Nightmare" is the love-child of Elfman's Boingo years and his new style of writing.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (9'01") * * * *
12. Overture (1'47")
13. Jack and Sally Suite (5'03")
14. Christmas Eve Montage (2'10")
The Nightmare Before Christmas is a well-known masterpiece of Elfman's and I think many fans of the movie and the music will be distressed to know that none of the songs were included for this suite. However, the score is beautiful and all of the songs are represented at one point or another. However, if you are new to The Nightmare Before Christmas, I must insist that you buy the score. The songs are just too much fun to listen to.

Freeway (7'02") * * *
15. Main Titles (2'44")
16. On the Road (2'58")
17. Back in the Car (1'20")
Mini-Review
Well, I'm going to take a stand and admit that I love Danny's score to this film. Well, at least I love about 2/3 of it. Many people are quite vocal about this score being one of Elfman's weakest works. I have to disagree, though. Freeway is pure madcap Elfman. It's nuts. It still retains a very cool edge, though. Freeway blends percussion, strings, electric guitars, and obviously fake voices into an interesting score for an uh... "interesting" movie. The "Main Titles" cue is neat, but the best cue is "On the Road." Wild, wild stuff. "Back in the Car" is a little too strange for my personal tastes. However, there's nothing really wrong with it. Overall, the material for Freeway is the oddest collection of music on the CD. After hearing Sommersby and then Freeway, one develops a true appreciation for Elfman's musical palette.

Shrunken Heads (1'55") * * 1/2
18. Main Titles (1:55)
Wrapping up the film score portion of the disc is the main theme to Shrunken Heads, a film by Danny's brother, Richard. It's quite odd and is reminiscent of the oddities of "Forbidden Zone." However, after hearing Freeway, one is ready for anything. Danny's main theme is nice, but barely memorable. It features savage chanting and the middle of the theme gets big and exciting. However, you'll forget about it once you enter the television portion of the album.

Television Odds 'n Ends
19. Amazing Stories "Family Dog"
20. Amazing Stories "Family Dog (2'21")
These tracks are fun and feature that 1950's "Suburbia" feel that Elfman used in "Edward Scissorhands" and "The Simpsons."

21. Amazing Stories "Mummy Daddy" (2'23")
A neat little track that features a jaw harp. It's very much like his themes to "Tales from the Crypt and Beetlejuice."

22. Nike Commercial "Barkley Superhero" (0'31")
A fast-paced percussive number that doesn't sound very Elfmanish but is entertaining nonetheless.

23. The Flash "Main Theme" (1'33")
This was written during the time of Elfman's success with Batman and Darkman. By listening to this main theme to the short-lived TV series, it's quite apparent.

24. Pee Wee's Playhouse
25. Pee Wee's Playhouse
26. Pee Wee's Playhouse (3'36")
I really don't enjoy these tracks at all. It's quite obvious that Elfman took parts of his work on "Face Like a Frog" and slowed them WAY down. This suite is badly edited and not very enjoyable.

27. Beetlejuice - Animated Series "Main Theme" (1'02")
I actually enjoyed this "watered-down" version of the Beetlejuice main theme.

28. Original Demo The Nightmare Before Christmas - This is Halloween (3'19")
This is one of the many jewels of the album. You get to hear Elfman's work on this film in the early stages where he performs each voice and plays all the parts on synth. Very interesting. Elfman rocks!

Read Fan Reviews for Music for a Darkened Theater Volume Two
Read the Groovy Yak's Music for Darkened Theater Volume One Commentary