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CD: Legend (1985)
Review Rating:   Good
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May 21, 2012

Tracks / Album Length:

20 tracks / (75:35)



Tangerine Dream


Special Notes:

Re-recording produced & arranged by composer Brandon K. Verrett / 6-page colour booklet with liner notes / Limited to 1500 copies

Comments :    

More than 25 years since Legend‘s release, only Jerry Goldsmith’s original orchestral & synth-embellished score has received a definitive CD release (via Silva Screen), whereas Tangerine Dream’s electronic replacement score for the North American edit has yet to be issued on disc in its complete unexpurgated form.

The original MCA LP was a re-recording of select cues (typical for the band, much like Firestarter or Flashpoint), and Varese Sarabande reissued the album on CD a few years later, but TD’s original score recording’s never appeared anywhere save on fan edit and bootleg albums (mostly as a pastiche of unreleased cues among other film & non-film bits & pieces).

When Universal was prepping their DVD of Ridley Scott’s film, the original special features details included an isolated score track of TD’s music, but what ultimately ended up on the disc were poor mono mix-downs from the album, fitted in close proximity of the original cues – a move either due to the band’s less than enthusiastic desire to have their original film scores released anywhere, or a legal compromise where Universal wasn’t able to negotiate original cues, and substituted the album recordings they owned.

BSX Records’ CD is not an original score re-recording: it is, as producer & arranger Brandon K. Verrett describes in the liner notes, a new interpretation of TD’s music, mostly transposed to an orchestral-synth palette.

On one level, it’s an intriguing transposition of contemporary synth music into a more classical orchestral environment, and some cues are striking and refreshing in their new incarnations – the most successful being the quiet intimate pieces featuring solo violin – but where TD’s thunderous synth beats, resonant drones, and wooden percussion emulations dominate, the transposed cues don’t quite work: the end-result in a sound closer to New Age fusion (if not stripped-down TD, as with “Kitchen Fight”), and it may be too drastic for TD fans tightly accustomed to the band’s heavy textures, looped percussion, and fat analogue chords that aren’t easily to emulate.

BSX’s production isn’t a misguided effort, just an interpretation that’s perhaps not radical enough from TD’s own sound. Instead of going full techno or perhaps avant garde orchestral, for example, Brandon’s straddling of orchestral and specific sonic concepts unique to the band & the original recording fails to blossom into something strikingly original. It’s a misfire, but it’s purely unintentional.

Where the album succeeds are cues like “Opening,” the acoustic guitar in “Cottage,” or the evocation of vintage synths, orchestra, and TD’s use of trance-inducing metronome taps in “Jack vs. Darkness” (the latter element evoking Firestarter). The retention of the vocal tracks is more problematic, although Brian Ferry’s “Is You Love Strong Enough?”  (slapped onto the End Credits by the studio without TD’s knowledge) is acceptable only because it’s the better of the three songs on BSX’s CD. Both Universal & director Ridley Scott created a serious discontinuity within the North American release version by adding and subtracting various music elements, and the integration of the songs within this interpretation just extends the final score’s gaping flaws.

Jon Anderson’s vocals (“Loved By the Sun”) – also added without TD’s desire to their final screen cue – have a nice harmonic arc but the lyrics remain laughable – “Two and Two go so close together / Whether there is hope that is torn apart / In the words of all that’s singing / Hand-in-hand the beginning is at the start” – and sound like a piecemeal cribbing of dialogue filtered through rock poetry and hastily rearranged to meet a looming mixing deadline. Katie Campbell’s vocals are fine, but there’s ultimately no improvement by re-arranging a protracted song for a new vocalist when it never worked in the first place in the film or on LP. As for a bonus vocal version of “Unicorn’s Song,” it’s easy listening synth-pop, and is the CD’s most peculiar addition, but the re-imagined Legend programme somewhat recovers with alternate versions of 4 cues.

Conceived because Scott was trying to think commercial (and pro-Universal), TD’s replacement score ended up being one of their best works, but until there’s a reconstruction of the originalscore tracks as the band intended for the film, fans will never be satisfied with the existing albums. It’s an ongoing gripe that’s more targeted at the band’s current member makeup & management for sitting on hours of unreleased score tracks rather than the genuine efforts of labels to at least bring the music periodically back into circulation in some form.

For a more detailed chronicle of Legend’s calamitous history on film and LP, readers should track down out Randall D. Larson’s 1987 essay & interview for CinemaScore 15.


© 2012 Mark R. Hasan

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