While it's difficult to tag any score with "instant classic" status, particularly as aquired as Elfman's, it's safe to say that fans of the Burton/Elfman collabo will find plenty of grin-grinning to be had with Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. Featuring four original scores written by Elfman (with an assist by screenwriter John August), and a full-disem-bodied orchestral score with choir, Elfman has followed up his critically lauded Charlie and The Chocolate Factory with a memorable, dark delight. Whether or not the songs will click immediately with listeners who have spent the last twelve years with "This Is Halloween" or "What's This?" from The Nightmare Before Christmas remains to be seen. Elfman's tunes range from chugging storyteller ("According To Plan" - performed by Albert Finney, Joanna Lumley, Tracey Ullman and Paul Whitehouse), to showstoppers ("Remains of The Day" - performed by Elfman as the be-bopping skeleton Bonejangles) to contemplative character moment ("Tears To Shed" performed by Helena Bonham Carter, Jane Harrocks and Enn Reitel as a Peter Lorre inspired maggot) to the brisk montage-motor "The Wedding Song". "Tears To Shed" registers as perhaps the lightest of the bunch, and shares many of the same lilting whimsy as "Sally's Song" from The Nightmare Before Christmas. While "The Wedding Song" is probably the biggest crowd-pleaser for those in search of material most reminiscent of Nightmare. Written in Gilbert & Sullivan mode, it is busy and boisterous and goddamned rousing! When's the last time you heard "Huzzah!" in a song? It's the blasting crescendos at the end of this song that make me a bit misty-eyed that Elfman is not scoring Spider-Man 3. No one can cap it off like this man can.
Elfman establishes his score with a handful of themes, most notably an extended theme on celeste and chimes that is repeated almost non-stop in "Main Titles". To miss this main theme is to be a complete moron! There's plenty of period orchestration to dress things up too -- harpsicord, organ, bells and classically-influenced circular string ideas. Strangely, Elfman also dials in 1930s jazz -- sort of like slide-splitting New Orleans funeral music. Fitting for our dead characters, but chilling considering that city was engulfed in flood waters.
Two major piano themes permeate the score as well, "Victor's Piano Solo", which serves as Victor and Victoria's theme (expertly put through variations in "Into The Forest", "Victoria Escapes" and "Victoria's Wedding"), and "The Piano Duet", which morphs the first piano theme into material for Victor and the Bride. There is a strong resemblance to Elfman's early 1990s scores in The Corpse Bride. The intricate and vibrant orchestrations, the constant juggling of multiple melodies ("Victoria's Escape", "The Party Arrives", "Barkis' Bummer"). In fact, the album plays like one long, non-stop weave of thematic ideas (check out the screaming variation of the main theme in "Victor's Deception"!).
Score highlights aren't difficult to unearth. The second half of "Into The Forest" whips up enough of a frenzy (and some of The Frighteners too) to satisfy horror-music fiends. "Moon Dance" is Elfman at his most heart-achingly fragile and beautiful. "The Party Arrives" moves you through so much varied material - wonky '30s jazz to soaring, jaunty brass fanfares and back again - you can't help but enjoy the ride. For the tough guys there's plenty of solid emotional stuff here too -- "Victor's Wedding" features the scores most dramatic and tear-inducing statement of the main theme, and "The Finale" is just as good as Elfman's best for fade-outs.
The album concludes with two stand out "End Credit" tracks (listen for the vocals at the end of part II -- they're not in the film) and four bonus tracks of Chicago-esque source music from the Land of The Dead. It's these little added values that have been making Elfman's albums so much fun as of late.
Four fantastic songs and a full, varied orchestral score from a composer in not only his element, but also working in a fertile and rich period of his career. Danny Elfman may be an aquired taste for some, but Corpse Bride will become an essential album. Don't deny yourself the darkly romantic pleasures of this album just because you are one of a thousand, automaton OST fanboys who like bland, predictable film music! Buying The Corpse Bride may just have you clutching your copy and saying to yourself, "'til death do us part". And for many score dweebs, it may be as close as they get to having a real 'Bride'! - Review by Ryan Keaveney (October, 2005) from Cinemusic.net.
Songs and Score Composed and Produced by Danny Elfman
Orchestrations by Steve Bartek, Edgardo Simone, David Sloanaker
Conducted by Nick Ingman
Score Recorded and Mixed by Dennis Sands
Songs Recorded by Dennis Sands, Jake Jackson, Rupert Coulson
"According To Plan" Performed by Albert Finney, Joanna Lumley, Tracey Ullman and Paul Whitehorse
"Remains of The Day" Performed by Danny Elfman, Jane Harrocks, Paul Baker, Alison Kier and Gary Martin
"Tears To Shed" Performed by Helena Bonham-Carter, Jane Harrocks and Enn Reitel
"The Wedding Song" Performed by Danny Elfman, Jane Harrocks, Paul Baker, Alison Jier and Gary Martin
Label (Catalogue): Warner Sunset/Warner Records, (49473-2)
Availability: In print
Purchasing options: Available at Amazon.com
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