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Friday, April 23, 2010


Music by Alex North
La-La Land Records LLLCD 1128 (US)
25 Tracks 73:24 mins

1981's Dragonslayer is the great Alex North's last big symphonic score and as such should have a place in any self-respecting film music fan's collection. Having said that, I remember eagerly snapping up the expensive limited edition 2 LP collection from Southern Cross when it was released in 1983 and, attractive item that it was, being hugely disappointed. So much so, that I soon parted with it when the right offer came along. That was then, this is now, and in my maturity I can appreciate the score more, and welcome it back into my collection, albeit with reservations. To call the music challenging would be an understatement. Yes, stylistically it recalls the composer's great epic scores for Spartacus and Cleopatra - but without the memorable melodies.
That's not to say that the score doesn't have its moments, but they seldom last very long, like the melancholy string theme in "No Sorcerers - No Dragons;" the thrusting brass of "Ulrich's Death;" an almost drunken, comedic scherzo, first heard in "Forest Romp, and subsequently reprised a number of times;" the spiritual "Jacopus Blasted," which is based on Gregorian chant; the tender love theme for woodwinds and strings, first introduced in "Still a Virgin;" the triumphant "Resurection of Ulrich;" the awe-inspiring "Destory that Amulet!;" the Spartacus-like moments of conflict; and presiding over all, the powerful low brass of Vermithrax the dragon's theme.
The "End Titles" bring together Galen's scherzo and the love theme to end the predominantly dark score on a very light and airy note.
At the end of the day, I think it's fair to say that, whilst this is not an instantly likable score, it is undoubtedly masterfully done, and definitely rewards with repeated listening. It is one of those occasions when the music is better than the film it was written for.
The score clocks in at just under 66 minutes, with a further 7 minutes of bonus tracks, including some medieval-styled dance music, an alternate take, and the original "Main Title," deemed too light an opening to the film.
The disc is accompanied by the usual quality booklet one has come to expect from La-La Land Records, with detailed notes by Jeff Bond, including the invaluable cue-by-cue guide, and plenty of colour stills.
Given a generous limited release of 3000 units, hopefully there will be enough to go around, but you'd best get on over to and order your copy. Oh, and if you're not familiar with the score, and I have left you with doubts, you can check out some samples before buying.


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