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"I've seen things people wouldn't believe ..."
on 27 November 2013
This is a review of the original one-disc edition of the soundtrack, released in 1994, twelve years after the film.
In his biography of the composer, Mark Griffin speculates as to the reason why the soundtrack was not released earlier. If it had, it would certainly have captured Vangelis's reputation for supreme mastery of film score composition, being not long after his triumph with `Chariots of Fire'. But Griffin notes that it may have been Vangelis himself who held back on the release, ostensibly because Vangelis did not want to overexpose himself. (From reading Griffin's biography one senses that Vangelis has only ever released a small percentage of all the music he has composed.)
However, the problem may have been contractual, a breakdown in relations between Warner Brothers (the film studio) and Polygram (the record company). There was also director Ridley Scott's decision to incorporate some other music within the film, which may have upset Vangelis. Scott was notorious too for constantly revising his edits which may have driven Vangelis up the wall with the requirements to rescore. (If so, this did not stop Vangelis doing the soundtrack for Scott's film `Conquest of Paradise' a decade later.)
Whatever the cause of the initial delay, when Scott released his director's cut of `Blade Runner' in 1994, Vangelis may then have thought it was time to release the soundtrack. "Finding myself unable to release these recordings at the time," is all that Vangelis reveals to us on the disc's sleevenotes.
The CD includes some music that did not appear in the movie, but it also includes extracts of the dialogue from the film, including Rutger Hauer's "I've seen things people wouldn't believe ..." speech. These all add to the atmosphere of the music, making it the most `tied' of Vangelis's soundtracks. Yet relief can be found by the segueing of some tracks, which equally makes it possible to view the music as a concept album rather than purely as a soundtrack.
The opening `Main Titles' and the penultimate eponymous `Blade Runner (End Titles)' always raise goosebumps for me; and since there is no duff track inbetween (except perhaps `One More Kiss, Dear') the whole CD is worth its five-star rating. I am particularly admiring of the sound of dripping water that Vangelis employs as the pulse to `Rachel's Song', whilst Mary Hopkin's voice wails in accompaniment. But for a sci-fi thriller it is surprising to realise that most of the music Vangelis wrote for the film is rather subdued, for this is a predominantly slow, moody, even meditative soundtrack: witness tracks four-five and seven-eight-nine. But is that part of its immense success?