MEGA MOVIES WARNING:
Compact Disc Stock Number: Telarc CD-80535 Recording engineer and Sound Effects (SFX) specialist Michael Bishop and producer Robert Woods are at it again. We're probably going to have to anoint Bishop as the Crown Prince of SFX the way he's going. This time the special effects, a total of six, each introduces or precede a selection (often the main title or theme) of a so-called mega movie. Each special effect has its own separate track. That way, if you ever tire of hearing the effects, you simply program your player to skip those tracks and simply enjoy the outstanding sound afforded to these sixteen varied selections. I can assure you that when any guests are present you will play all the tracks for them and if your system can handle it, you'll even turn the volume up a bit. Take Telarc's warning to heart, be careful, very careful if you don't want to cause some serious damage to your system. This record is rare in that it has full response in the 10Hz to 20Hz octave and in some tracks "frosts the cake" with high-level response in the 5Hz to 10Hz octave. If your system has tone controls or a bass boast/loudness control, don't even think of using them.
A pet peeve of mine is a review of a compilation album that mentions only a few selections. I want to know the titles of all the selections. So, instead of a great deal of information about a few tracks, I'll give you at least a bit for all the tracks. Here goes.
The Mummy has a bit of everything. Some show-off music, march rhythms and some beautiful melodic lines; a bit of a tour d'force. This score, plus two others in this album, was composed by Jerry Goldsmith one of my top ten all time film composers; no wonder I liked this track so much. Next is The Mask of Zorro. The main title track is introduced by fifteen seconds of obviously closely miked six channel 88.2 KHz, 24-bit PCM. Hopefully you have at least a minimal surround sound system to get something approaching full effect. Even in plain ol'stereo this sword fight staged with some members of the UCLA Fencing Club is sublimely impressive. If you have too much separation between your left and right speakers, much of the realism will be missing; try moving them closer together or possibly toeing them in more. Third up is Air Force One. The track of this Goldsmith composition has some particularly impressive natural sounding bass reproduction. Actually, the overall reproduction is very impressive.
A SFX selection only fourteen seconds long introduces The Rock; you should be able to guess what the title refers to. The Chopper introduction used a six-mike circle on a landing pad with results recorded directly to six-channel DSD, a world-first. For what it's worth, the picture behind my speakers visibly vibrated more with this track than any other.
Contact is an intriguing story inspired by a Carl Sagan novel. The soundtrack is by Alan Silvertri; my guess is that we'll be hearing much more from him. This is a very lovely melodic track from the movie. Mighty Joe Young, composed by James Horner, follows. The excerpt includes some nice chorus accompaniment. There are hints of his famous and well-recorded The Mission soundtrack here. The Phantom Menace follows a track introduction of Day at the Races, a great three-dimensional SFX even in stereo. Briefly the hero's old racer starts in the left channel and the new high tech model 500 m.p.h. rocket racer in the right; ultimately quite spectacular.
L.A. Confidential (another Goldsmith composition), selection opens with a big, really big, (the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra!) band sound and then digresses.
The Prince of Egypt selection offers the Academy Award for Best Song of 1998, "When You Believe". Composer is Stephen Schwartz, until recently more known for his work on Broadway.
The X-File, here the (SFX) is the recording of bees. The bee recording was done by putting honey on Popsicle sticks at the end of the six microphones and then smoking the bees out of the hive. This recording was the world's first made on six-channel Direct Stream Digital. Though a few people might have been injured, Telarc wants the public to know that no bees were harmed. Aren't you relieved?
A Bug's Life containing a very appropriate Randy Newman selection from his score - fun music, though the kitchen sink was missing - turn up your gain control and enjoy!
Elizabeth - main title is appropriately atmospheric, subtle and quite enchanting I found. Simply "easy on the ears" even with repetition.
Godzilla - what a change from Elizabeth, SFX to the extreme. You'll even hear Godzilla sniffing around you and opening her mouth and starting to engulf you - you can hear down her unbelievably large throat - what a weird, wild cool effect! Luckily she decides you're not tasty. Michael Bishop claims this to be one of his most complicated effects mixes he's ever made, with more than 500 individual sound clips. I think I heard the kitchen sink thrown, in piece by piece. The final six-channel mix is the result of eighteen passes of fifteen tracks each at 32-Bit, 88.2 kHz. Frequencies go all the way down to the 5-10 Hz octave!
Shakespeare in Love - main title features beautifully atmospheric music; impressive and impressively recorded. Titanic - the best selling James Horner film soundtrack; the (SFX) is titled Iceberg! You're probably guessed that it's the sound of the ship's hull being ripped open by the impact of colliding with the iceberg. Personally, the highlight of this track is the extremely realistic and impressive sound of the ship's horn. The musical track is a very familiar section of the new well-known Oscar wining score. Armageddon - main title, features impressive bass drum reproduction very slightly different sounding than on the other selections. Armageddon concludes the album in fine fashion, very impressive with no SFX neither added nor needed. I feel the same about the opening track from The Mummy, though ultimately the vice versa does not seem to be true; it is the more appropriate of the two as the introduction to the album.
This has turned out to be a successful compilation album. As always, you can argue about the selections and even the order in which they're presented. Michael Bishop's special effects are, again, simply outstanding. This time a few of them are at least unusual if not downright weird. I'd love to see some survey results showing if most listeners routinely play the entire album with all the special effects. Remember that this is not a studio recording with a studio pickup group of musicians. The microphone technique, for the most part, sounds like the usual for Telarc and the Cincinnati Orchestra. The orchestra sounds fine, as is now usual for them. Perhaps I'm simply getting used to him, but if not then Eric Kunzel is getting better or "more with it" when performing movie scores and so called light classical music. Admittedly my two all time favorites remain Arthur Fieldler and Frederick Fennell, but the gap is certainly closing. Are there other contenders coming to the fore?