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John Carpenter – Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998 Review

John Carpenter – Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998
Sacred Boones Records – 2017

This thirteen-track collection is a real celebration of the master filmmaker/music composer’s film work to date.  It would be especially beneficial for the newbies who are just getting to know the legendary director’s prolific catalogue.

In the Mouth of Madness is a Metallica infused melodic theme that contains John and Cody Carpenter’s signature keyboard lines and Daniel Davies excellent guitar work. It’s amazing how John Carpenter’s work seems to grow better as time passes. All the years later this theme sounds better than ever, especially after the film came out to lukewarm response.

The rhythm to Assault on Precinct 13 is both hypnotic and haunting at the same time.  It’s not hard to see why the theme has been developed into a dance track in Europe, because it’s got a very contagious groove. The pattern creates a heroic, yet action slanted feel that anyone can appreciate. The keyboard line that sounds almost like a human voice that hangs over this track, is a great choice.

I’ve always loved the theme from The Fog. It has a real humanistic touch to a supernatural storyline. I know that Carpenter has said that without the soft side to the music for The Fog the movie didn’t work. I think that you can really see why when you listen to this cue.  Daniel Davies electric guitar that comes 3/4 into the track, really energizes it taking it to a different level.

This is a slightly altered version of Prince of Darkness, but no less cool. That dark-deep voice synth that hangs in the back of the mix is creepy. Prince of Darkness has always been one of my favorite scores and this piece encapsulates multiple scoring elements from the soundtrack, bringing some of its highlights.

“Santiago” from John Carpenter’s Vampires is a very sullen Southwestern tinged peace with steel guitar and soft instrumentation that hovers over the piece like a sinking Sun.  It’s not exactly the type of music you would expect from John Carpenter, which makes it even more impressive.

What can you say about Escape From New York (click to see the cool music video Carpenter directed) other than it’s just totally iconic, completely memorable and sounds great especially with Daniel Davies guitar infused into the mix. The sequenced keyboards, soft drumming next with the electric guitar is certainly a winner! It’s no real surprise that the band has opened with the song on the last two world tours. It’s purely and simply awesome.

One of the greatest movie themes of all-time is without a doubt John Carpenter’s Halloween.  The catchy repetitive piano led tempo, surrounded by quick tapping symbol, pounding single bass drum and in this case electric guitar, really makes you think of Laurie Strode being pursued relentlessly by Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis trying to stop it all. Just brilliant. I do believe with this band’s rendition takes the track into modernity without poisoning it.

“Pork chop Express” from Big Trouble in Little China is rendered with a spirit of fun and this band captures the excitement John Carpenter and Alan Howarth originally created back in 1986.

This version is much more striped down, simplified in terms of the keyboards and active percussion, which probably makes it easier to recreate for live performance. Which I believe is ultimately this bands purpose for re-recording it.

The band really hooks into the slow feel of They Live. Bluesy slide guitar and moody keyboard really set the stage for an almost a smoky bar like musical setting. This gels perfectly with the movie’s blue collar, almost poverty level living situation of the main character “John Nada” (Roddy Piper). Daniel Davies really stands out with some of his guitar picking, soulful riffs and leads.

Ennio Morricone’s heartbeat like theme for The Thing is reproduced by John Carpenter and his band. It’s not exactly like Morricone’s orchestrated version, but it is quite cool and captures the gloomy apocalyptic feel of what is one of the best films ever made. Inclusion of Davies’ electric guitar does give it a vitality not part of the original cue.

Jack Nitzsche’s main theme for John Carpenter’s Starman is redone in a very loving emotionally satisfying way. The main theme is touching, heroic and tragic all at the same time, which makes for a great listening conundrum. I especially like the little voice like keyboard part that gives this cut a humanistic touch and absolutely fitting for what is admittedly John Carpenter’s only love story.

Dark Star is the one track the band did not perform live when I saw them recently. It’s a short piece, but you can hear some of the compositional flair John Carpenter would later expand and refine.

I must be honest, the music from john Carpenter’s Christine (click to see the cool music video Carpenter directed) has just gotten better and better.  It’s not that it was ever bad, but I think his score for Christine got a bit lost in the John Carpenter Shuffle of things. But when you hear this band’s version, how emotionally driven it is, and because it’s so memorable, it’s easy to see why Carpenter choose to use it as the closing track both times I’ve seen them live.

It’s also a most definitely an excellent way to end this album. You could even argue that John Carpenter wraps with the high point of this release.

John Carpenter’s Anthology:  Movie Themes 1974-1998 would be an excellent addition to anyone’s soundtrack collection and an ideal gift for the holidays.

Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998

 

Anthology