NOT A BAD WAY FOR ROBERT TOWNSON TO CELEBRATE HIS 1000TH RELEASE
I don't normally cover releases that aren't sent to me for review, but I just couldn't let this one pass without bringing it to your attention.
I had thought nothing could top Prometheus Records' release of Dimitri Tiomkin's complete score for The Alamo earlier this year - but that was a re-recording, albeit a very fine one, and here, in a triple celebration of the 100th anniversary of composer Alex North's birth, the 50th anniversary of the film's release, and the 1000th release by Varese Sarabande's Robert Townson, comes the complete original score, plus much unused music from the great 1960 epic Spartacus which, in the unlikely event you don't know, was directed by Stanley Kubrick, and starred Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Jean Simmons, Laurence Olivier and Peter Ustinov.
At the time, a 40 minute LP of re-recorded highlights was released which, though a fine listen, hardly represents what many consider to be Alex North's masterpiece. Here, in a project that has been simmering for many years, we have a splendid box set, featuring the complete score, in mono, over two discs; another featuring all the surviving stereo tracks; and yet another featuring alternate cues, plus some composed prior to, and used, during filming.
As a bonus, there's a double disc presentation of many variations on the love theme, recorded by musicians past and present, including Mark Isham, Dave Grusin, Patrick Doyle, Lalo Schifrin, Alexandre Desplat, John Debney, Brian Tyler, Randy Edelman, and of course the classic Bill Evans recording. That's 6 CDs, and Mr. Townson isn't finished there. Oh no, also included is a 90-minute DVD, wherein composers such as John Williams, Alexandre Desplat, Christopher Young, Mark Isham, David Newman, Lalo Schifrin, Brian Tyler, and Townson himself share their thoughts on North's magnum opus. To top it all off, there is a splendid 168-page hardback book, featuring Townson's notes on the film, its music and composer, including a complete cue-by-cue guide, all liberally illustrated with stills from the film and and many rare behind the scenes shots to boot.
Released as a Varese Sarabande CD Club title, I should warn you that this is a pricey item, and it's worth shopping around for the best deal. But, should you be able to afford it, this is a release that undoubtedly belongs in every serious film music enthusiast's collection.
Finally, one of cinema's greatest and most neglected scores has been given the treatment we have longed for. Bravo, Mr. Townson, and long may your work continue.