Once soundtracks were primarily sought out by collectors of the genre, today they are marketed to and purchased by a complete cross-spectrum of consumers. Nearly every film, and more and more television shows, are producing and heavily promoting soundtrack CDs. Add these to the tremendous number of releases from the last several years, as well as countless reissues or re-creations of vintage scores (covering more than 70 years of film, stage and television music) and the choices are staggering. Advice on what to buy has never been needed more.
Fortunately, the folks at MusicHound have recognized this need and have just released MusicHound Soundtracks: The Essential Album Guide to Film, Television and Stage Music (Visible Ink Press, November 1999, $24.95) which rates and reviews 3,000 soundtrack recordings available on CD. The CDs are reviewed in an A-to-Z format with each being identified as film, television or stage soundtrack. Each entry provides complete production information and a review that takes into consideration production quality, musical quality, and the degree to which the music relates to the dramatic work that it supports. Finally, each entry is awarded a traditional MusicHound "bone" rating, from "5 Bones" (superb) to "Woof!" (a real dog). Five indexes make for easy cross-referencing.
Following the A-to-Z entries, MusicHound Soundtracks provides two sections on compilation albums. The first covers compilations based on themes ("Great Epic Film Scores"), sub-genres ("British Film Music") and actors or directors ("Music from the Films of Astaire & Rogers"). The second reviews composer compilations ("Sondheim: Putting it Together"), of which there are many. Also of interest are the books's two forewards, which offer insight into the two different approaches to soundtracks. The first, by Lukas Kendall, editor of Film Score Monthly, explains why "traditional" film music (music scored expressly for a film) is so unique and satisfying. The second foreword, by Julia Michels, former Director of Soundtracks at Capitol Records, takes us on a "tour" of how a "pop song compilation" soundtrack (also referred to as a "songtrack") is created.
MusicHound Soundtracks was published in an earlier edition in 1997 under the VideoHound banner. This new edition is completely revised and expanded with 1,000 new entries and the addition of 100 photographs. It has also been re-designed for easier use. Once again, the compilation of this massive undertaking was brilliantly commandeered by Didier C. Deutsch, one of the few practitioners in the business qualified to pull it off. Deutsch has over 65 soundtrack production credits to his name including West Side Story, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and My Fair Lady. Deutsch wrote the bulk of the reviews in MusicHound's Soundtracks himself, but compiled an impressive group of more than 15 contributors to complete the task.
So whether your idea of a great soundtrack is the symphonic lushness of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace or the collection of great songs that accompanied City of Angels, MusicHound Soundtracks will help you find what you want and will let you know if it is a worthwhile investment.
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