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Friday, March 24, 2006

CD REVIEW - King Kong vs. Godzilla

King Kong vs. Godzilla
Music by Akira Ifukube
La-La Land Records LLLCD 1041
33 Tracks 69:58 mins

Serving as a timely tribute to the recently deceased Japanese composer, La-La Land Records have released the definitive version of Akira Ifukube's original score for this 1962 clash of the titans. The Godzilla films are beloved classics, and this one even more so for pitting the all-conquering beast against another beloved character, King Kong.
David Hirsch's essay and guide to the cues presented on the album, relate the complicated history of the film and its various versions, including the American release version, which abandoned much of Ifukube's score in favour of tracked in cues from other films, mainly by Universal monster scorer extraordinaire Hans J. Salter. None of that is present here though, nor any of the cues tracked in for various sequences from other parts of the original score. What we have is Ifukube's glorious music as originally conceived, plus the addition of a few source tracks not from his pen, a comical Japanese song, an easy listening jazz band number, and a familiar marching band track.
The score gets off to a tremendous start with Ifukube's powerful choral/orchestral "Main Title," but then we're plunged into a number of mysterioso/menacing cues, as well as some ethnic-styled music for the natives of "Faro Island," including some variations on the "Main Title" theme.
Of course when Godzilla finally makes his appearance, it's to his theme from the original Godzilla, also composed by Ifukube of course. Kong soon also makes his appearance to a menacing twisted-brass-lead theme, and these themes are later pitted against one another in their titanic clashes, with the composer complimenting these with relentless marching music.
The other major theme in the film, a rousing martial one, doesn't surface until near the end in "The Plan to Transport King Kong." This precedes a number of action cues that conclude the film, where the composer somewhat surprisingly supports his familiar orchestral material from before with sustained chords on the Hammond organ.
Two bonus cues conclude the album; a mono version of the "Main Title" with more prominent choir, and a strange a cappella version by Japanese group Bukimisha, whom we are informed performed at Ifukube's 90th birthday celebration.
La-La Land Records are doing a fine job of presenting Japanese film music for western audiences to enjoy, and there is of course a great deal of fine film music from that land still out there, not just for the monster movies. Let's hope this enterprising label continue to send some of it our way.


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