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CD Reviews Dances with Wolves and Robocop

Dances with Wolves (Expanded) *****


Epic Soundtrax EK 63555

24 tracks - 75:29

As with this year's expanded The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West re-releases, there's something strange about listening to a revised classic score that has entered your psyche in such a significant way. You're humming along, anticipating the next note or chord change when suddenly something sounds wrong. Where did that horn or flute solo come from? I've listened to this score hundreds of times, and that's wrong! It's your ability to overcome the intrusion of "rogue" stanzas and bonus segments that will determine whether you want or need this expansion of John Barry's score. If you treat the original release as a sacred cow you might be offended by the tinkering, but if you just can't get enough of this Oscar-winning classic, you'll be in Dunbar heaven.

To review the regular tracks would be folly. Who doesn't already know the gorgeous slow string Americana of the ubiquitous John Dunbar theme or the expansive journeying material for Forth Worth. These staples of modern American culture are just as likely to crop up in a high school band concert, a "film hits" compilation or shopping mall muzak; quite simply, they are beyond review. Instead, I'll focus on the "extra value" additional and alternate tracks.

But before you discard your "Definitive Collector's Edition" of the score, note that this new release does not include the two radio-friendly pop remixes of the 1995 release. These remixed tracks are not missed, but completists might want to hold on to them. Furthermore, in the way that the "Definitive" release proved to be anything but, this new "complete" release might add nearly 20 minutes of new material, but still runs 25 minutes short of the full 100+ minutes recorded by Barry. However, it's unlikely that a more complete CD set will get released (it would have to be two CDs), and presumably the principal reason for this new release is to tie-in with Barry's 70th birthday.

First the bad news: There's no great undiscovered gem that has finally seen light of day after 14 years. The previous releases contained such an abundant mix of thematic material, and there was no suggestion that significant tracks or themes were missing. However, what the new CD does offer is a set of variations on the main themes. To compliment the wide-open vistas of the Old West, Barry's score in this new form is given greater space to breathe. Familiar themes return in different tempos and arrangements, augmenting the familiar with welcome new colors and unexpected slants. The new material is peppered throughout the length of the disc and debuts in "Main Titles /Looks Like a Suicide" which now has an extra three-and-a-half minutes to introduce a solemn variation of the John Dunbar theme as well as a perky precursor to the Fort Hays material.

"The Buffalo Hunt" is presented in its original film version, two minutes longer than the original album mix (which is also here at the end of the album), this time embellished with choral material in a new central section. "Falling in Love" is a flute-led variation of the theme subsequently developed in "Love Theme." Elsewhere, the "Pawnee Attack" is bolstered by two- and-a-half minutes, while "Victory" is a rousing finale to the last battle. The whole experience is completed with the film version of the John Dunbar theme, a slight twist on the album mix.

Topped off with liner notes by the legendary Jon Burlingame, this is an essential irresistible package for anyone who was waiting for the best possible release of the score, while also sitting comfortably alongside the other version(s) you've had on the shelf for years.     -- Nick Joy

Robocop ****


Varèse Sarabande 302 066 429 2

19 tracks

Finally, a re-issue of a classic score that not only lists the right track titles, but even shows the disc's running time! Of course, the playlist is exactly the same as the old release, with the exception of four pieces of source music. And that's really the problem with this release. Most of us have it already. Thus, we all know that Basil Poledouris' score kicks the hell out of the audience when it needs to, and then pokes at the heartstrings moments later.

New liner notes and four not-so-amazing source music cues don't hold a candle to Varèse Sarabande's previous efforts with the expansions of the other Paul Verhoeven films, Total Recall and Basic Instinct. It's not worth the hype when all you get is a few extra cues and supposedly re-mastered sound quality (it sounds about the same). The completists will buy it, because that's what they do. Come on, Varèse, why don't you re-issue something everyone is really clamoring for, like The 'burbs?

That said, Robocop still has plenty of kick. The action music is rousing and the emotional touches of Lewis' theme are ethereal. Then we've got the synths that are never overpowering, the thrusting horns, and the droning strings for Clarence Boddicker. The score jumps all over the spectrum and nails every emotion it needs to. Sort of makes you wonder why Verhoeven went with Jerry Goldsmith for Total Recall, regardless of how great it turned out (especially since Total Recall's main titles sound a hell of a lot like Conan). And if not that, it definitely makes you wonder why they replaced Poledouris with Leonard Rosenman, who turned in a less-than stellar score for Robocop 2. The bottom line: Robocop rules. If you don't own it already, go buy it right now.     -- Luke Goljan

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