Blade Runner Trilogy -25th Anniversary 3-CD Special Edition Soundtrack Review

by Chris McEneany
Movies & TV Shows Review
Blade Runner Trilogy -25th Anniversary 3-CD Special Edition Soundtrack Review
At a time when the re-tooled Blade Runner seems to be cropping up just about everywhere - SD, HD, BD, cinema - to commemorate its 25 years of cult fascination and adoration, it seems only fair that synth-god Vangelis gets the opportunity to revisit his seminal score and give it a bit of a sprucing-up as well. Thus, in this new 3-CD 25th Anniversary Edition of Blade Runner's ominous and spellbinding score, we get not only a remastered - and better sounding - presentation of the original CD score (which was a long time in coming in its own right), but another disc of previously unreleased cues and then, to top it all off, a third disc in which the reflective and absorbing composer gets to throw in some new works that have been inspired by the film and its wholly unique atmosphere of futuristic soul-searching and revelation. Replete with liner notes from Sir Ridley Scott and a small, but image-filled booklet, this new release marks a turning point for the famous score. Unavailable for a long time, with only bootlegs and the strange orchestral version that was put out by the New American Orchestra to satisfy fans, Vangelis finally released his own official score back in 1994, twelve years after the film came out. But to many ears, though, this was a slightly lacklustre production that simply didn't do the hypnotic power of the score the justice it deserved. I have to say that I agree with that - to me, it just sounded too subdued and un-involving. Plus, it was incomplete.

Well, some of these issues have now been addressed and a fuller version Vangelis' score is now presented, although spread over the first two discs, as though to preserve the integrity of the original cue-line-up as a body of work in its own right. The remastered score now sounds better-produced and richer and features a wider range of dynamics. It may still not be quite as powerful as I'd like - but then I've since heard that opening Main Title cue in Dolby TrueHD and PCM Uncompressed on, respectively, HD and Blu-ray - yet this new recording represents a significant step-up in clarity and presence, just the same.

But the major bone of contention with this release is that that big red sticker adorning the front of the pack is telling lies. Contrary to what it would have you believe, this is most certainly not the score in its “complete form”. Far from it, in fact. There are still many cues that are missing from this release - all of which can be found on any of the unofficial bootleg versions - which is a definite irritation to Vangelis collectors and fans of the film. Disc 2, purporting to contain the previously missing cues, is actually quite sparse in regards to proper full tracks that appeared in the film. Much of it is, instead, a selection of re-arranged tracks that were either alternate cues or old ones adapted to fit Vangelis' “album” concept. Some of them you will not be able to place within the film at all, and considering that there is a third disc which is entirely composed of new music that is obviously not from the film, this just seems ridiculous. The soundtrack for Blade Runner has had almost as mysterious and chequered a history as the film, itself, and fans had every right to expect that they were finally going to be treated to the full score that they have craved for so many years. With many labels putting out complete and restored scores for even quite obscure movies, a golden opportunity has been severely squandered to do the same with such a renowned and popular piece of work as this.

But this isn't to say that this release is a waste of time. Not at all. There is still much to enjoy here for fans of Vangelis' highly individual style of music. Mood and ambience, so much a flavour of his compositions, is still certainly to be found in abundance. It is just that the new tracks here lack the darkness and haunting qualities that the original cues contained, meaning that the overall experience deviates far too much. Of the selection on Disc 2, only Deckard And Roy's Duel (Track 7) - which still doesn't play out in quite the same manner as it does in the film - Dr Tyrell's Death (Track 8), which is absolutely magnificent, and Fading Away (Track 12) offer the listener anything that really captures the grim retro-noir sound of what we love about Blade Runner. Fading Away is actually the original death scene for Roy, played here without Rutger Hauer's speech about C-beams and the Tanhauser Gate - which is fine, except that there are few new effects laced into it that kind of detract from its usual heightened resonance. There are even two supposedly new bonus tracks incorporated that, whilst nice enough, are possibly outtakes from the film, so, again, they sound a little alien to the overall scheme. So, Disc 2 may be cool for Van-fans, and slides at least part-way into the shadowy and enigmatic world of Blade Runner, but it can only leave the serious film-fan wanting.

Disc 3, entitled BR25, is possibly a further boon for the rabid Vangelis collector, but it can only bemuse or irritate the Blade Runner aficionado all the more. Basically just a collection of bizarre and slightly boring muzak, horribly layered with vocal passages from a number of guests, including Ridley Scott, Rutger Hauer, Wes Studi, Roman Polanski and Oliver Stone amongst others, this evokes as much of a Deckard/Batty vibe as a tin of beans. I'm perfectly happy with Vangelis' often threadbare and sombre keyboard doodlings, but there should be more than just a passing resemblance to the main topic at hand - which, here, is Blade Runner. Track 2, entitled Up And Running, just has to be a complete mickey-take, anyway. It's sly and comedic slant on the original's One More Kiss, Dear may raise a smirk but it still doesn't feel right. Once again, the package may leave you in a very cold and unsatisfied state.

But then there is the original 1994 soundtrack back on Disc 1 to fall back on. Still not enough - where are those full main titles? - but calming and beatific in its familiarity. The spoken elements that Vangelis had incorporated into it have been retained and, although, ordinarily I would probably have rather they had never had been incorporated in the first place, I have to confess that I kind of like to them now. There is an eerie quality to their placement within cues, the Blush Response exchange between Deckard and Tyrell, for instance, seems like the beginning of a story that Vangelis is able to continue with trancelike and melancholic musical narration throughout the rest of the score. And to think of this version sans Hauer's immortal “Tears In Rain” soliloquy would be almost blasphemous. The words are entirely lyrical and conjure up images that would normally be the gift that music bestows upon the listener anyway.

The Love Theme is justifiably famous - such a swooning, exotic saxophone sweep cannot help but incite a luscious, intimate reaction in the listener, and I have to wonder at the success rate of its seductive power on non-replicants, having had its unbridled romanticism brushed aside quite emphatically by my own wife during an early liaison in our relationship. Ahem. She must be a Nexus-10 or something. The latter half of the album is where the best and most mesmerising tracks reside. Memories Of Green (Ridley Scott's favourite), so delicate and poignant, sketched in with dissonant electronica, whilst a swirling jumble of ethereal and uneasy ambience paints a scene of melancholia. Tales Of The Future and Damask Rose are marvellously deep synthesised pieces that evoke curious impressions of a troubled world. The intoxicating Middle Eastern flavour really works well to create an unusual aural landscape of techno-squalor and rain-lashed cosmopolitan overcrowding. The fierce intermingling of Asian and Western thoughts and ethics collide with strangely vibrant and beautifully mysterious colour and texture, the sound of which is unique and vaguely carnival-esque - a riot of ethnic crossover designed for a film that probes the darker reaches of acceptability and tolerance.

The supremely powerful End Titles, actually termed Blade Runner, are the standout track of deliberate force and pounding aggression. If I'm totally honest it does not actually fit in with the rest of the score, nor even with the tone of the movie, for that matter, but it remains bravura and an enthralling signature for the dynamic, crowded world of unemotional humans and soul-yearning replicants. Vangelis' angle with Blade Runner is to convey the huge sense of a sprawling futurescape, alight with neon, flame and rain and to explore the hugely impersonal society of humanity's cold left-behinds. You can't deny that it suits the film - technology bent askew and emotions largely tucked away and unnecessary until they flare up with intensity, desperation and violence. His buoyant theme for the aerial views of Spinners buzzing through the vapour-drenched air is perhaps the most explicitly “sci-fi” sounding element of the score, combining soothing synthetics with wondrous speculative chords that find the magic of Scott's dark future. The film, itself, contains all the music that a fan could require. It is just a shame that to hear it all on disc, the same fan still has to make do with a poor quality bootleg.

Full track listing details:

CD 1: Blade Runner Original 1994 Soundtrack Album

Track 1: Main Titles (3:42)

Track 2: Blush Response (5:47)

Track 3: Wait For Me (5:27)

Track 4: Rachel's Song (4:46)

Track 5: Love Theme (4:56)

Track 6: One More Kiss, Dear (3:58)

Track 7: Blade Runner Blues (8:53)

Track 8: Memories Of Green (5:05)

Track 9: Tales Of The Future (4:46)

Track 10: Damask Rose (2:32)

Track 11: Blade Runner (End Titles) (4:40)

Track 12: Tears In Rain (3:00)

CD 2: Blade Runner Previously Unreleased and Bonus Material

Track 1: Longing (1:58)

Track 2: Unveiled Twinkling Space (1:59)

Track 3: Dr. Tyrell's Owl (2:40)

Track 4: At Mr. Chew's (4:47)

Track 5: Leo's Room (2:21)

Track 6: One Alone (bonus track) (2:23)

Track 7: Deckard And Roy's Duel (6:16)

Track 8: Dr. Tyrell's Death (3:11)

Track 9: Desolation Path (bonus track) (5:45)

Track 10: Empty Streets (6:16)

Track 11: Mechanical Dolls (2:52)

Track 12: Fading Away (3:32)

CD 3: BR 25

This album contains all-new music, composed by Vangelis for Blade Runner's 25th anniversary.

Track 1: Launch Approval (1:54) Spoken word: Scott Bolton, Bryce Bolton

Track 2: Up and Running (3:09) Spoken word: Sir Ridley Scott

Track 3: Mail From India (3:27) Ney: C. Lambrakis

Track 4: BR Downtown (2:27) Spoken word: Oliver Stone, Akiko Ebi, Cherry Vanilla

Track 5: Dimitri's Bar (3:52) Spoken word: Akiko Ebi, Oliver Stone, Saxophone: Dimitris Tsakas

Track 6: Sweet Solitude (6:56) Saxophone: Dimitris Tsakas

Track 7: No Expectation Boulevard (6:44) Spoken word: Rutger Hauer, Wes Studi, Bhaskar Balakrishnan (Executive Director of the Asian Heritage Foundation), Shobhana Balakrishnan, Laura Metaxa, Sir Ridley Scott, Zhao Yali (Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to Cyprus)

Track 8: Vadavarot (4:14) Spoken word: Irina Valentinova, Florencia Suayan Tacod

Track 9: Perfume Exotico (5:19) Spoken word: Edward James Olmos

Track 10: Spotkanie Z Matka (5:09) Spoken word: Roman Polanski reciting excerpts from the poem “Spotkanie z Matka” by Konstanty Ildefons Gaczynski

Track 11: Piano In An Empty Room (3:37)

Track 12: Keep Asking (1:29) Spoken word: Bryce Bolton

All music composed, arranged, produced and performed by Vangelis.

The first album would have rated higher than a 7 but, taken as a whole venture even with lots of new tracks on two extra CDs, the impression is still one of infuriating disappointment.Well, if you are a rabid fan of the film or of Vangelis this is a complete no-brainer, isn't it? Three discs to enjoy - the terrific and remastered original score, the bonus cues that have, until now, always been missing and yet more pieces that continue to evoke the eerie majesty of Deckard's Los Angeles circa 2019. Vangelis, as popular and renowned as he is, remains an acquired taste, but the main caveat for Blade Runner fans is the lack of bonafide extras tracks actually from the film, leaving much of this presentation slightly bewildering and ponderous.

I must to confess to enjoying this set a lot less than I thought - hoped - I would. Somehow the new and alternate tracks just don't hook in quite the way you expect them to, feeling like filler cues and not gelling as an album. The third disc - the music inspired by the film - has barely a moment that captures the Blade Runner vibe and, on the whole, ends up being just synthesised mood muzak of the type that is always on sale in New Age shops.

Quiet, ambient electronica for the masses. Turn the lights down and sit watching the LEDs on your equipment to get the full effect ... but forget any notion that with this sumptuous looking release you are getting the “complete Blade Runner score.”



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