Cinema Collectibles #9: Soundtrack LPs

greg's lps

by Greg Carlson

Another Record Store Day is upon is, and the vinyl business is a-booming. Recent articles from music and business websites alike have been treating 2015 vinyl sales as if they were stock from a hot e-commerce company, praising their 32% growth and over $400 million in revenue. When analyzing the surge of vinyl sales, Forbes included a list of the top 10 best-selling albums of 2015, with a decent mix of classic albums and current artists that cater to several generations of music aficionados. In at number 10 was the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. The cinephile in me was happy to see a movie soundtrack represented among Adele and Arctic Monkeys. Seeing as the GotG soundtrack consists of popular hits from the ‘70s, listening to it on a vintage audio device is apt. If you’re a Guardians purist, and argue that the ideal way to experience this soundtrack is on cassette, you’re in luck – Disney thought of you during 2014’s Record Store Day’s Black Friday Sale.

Film soundtracks have been given a major boost thanks to the vinyl resurgence, with corporate and independent boutique labels putting great effort into the 180-gram re-releases, digitally remastering the content, selecting film fans and scholars to write the liner notes, and bringing in hip designers to create album jacket artwork that looks nothing like the film posters or VHS/DVD cover art that we’ve seen umpteen times.

Out of the many movie soundtrack LPs in my collection, only two of them are recent 180-gram reissues. I came across the soundtrack for Riot on Sunset Strip during one of the Black Friday Record Store Day sales. It was the old-school physical equivalent of the “Since you purchased X, we think you’d like…” online recommendation: as a fan of ‘60s garage rock and Roger Corman-helmed “hippiesploitation” films, I figured I’d pick up this disc on instinct. I wasn’t disappointed. The titular track by the Standells is a great lead-in tune, three minutes of stomping, yelping rebellion that works outside of the film’s socio-political context. Complementing the garage rock nuggets are obscure yet catchy tunes representing several ‘60s sub-genres: instrumental surf, female folk chanteuses, harmony-laden sunshine pop, and Country Joe-style jug band ditties. In the case of this soundtrack, it was a wise decision to keep the original album cover design intact, retaining the pumpkin orange-colored jacket, duotone lettering, and pre-Photoshop front cover collage.

When I came across the Rosemary’s Baby soundtrack during 2014’s Record Store Day celebration, I had only seen the film once, but I felt that the LP would be a well-compiled reissue that could stand on its own. Like the Criterion Collection, Waxworks Records (the label behind this soundtrack) creates innovative packaging and thorough liner notes that will entice a film fan to add the soundtrack to their permanent collection. The Rosemary’s Baby album is no exception, and the inclusion of colored vinyl doesn’t hurt either, with the silver-colored platter adding an extra layer of mystery when listening to the soundtrack at home. Krysztof Komeda’s score is an aural rollercoaster of emotions, going from the soothing-yet-creepy “Lullaby” (sung by Mia Farrow) to calm period-piece instrumental, to downright unsettling sound collage with ritual chanting and suspenseful string/harp arrangements, and then back to the calm portion again. It would be memorable dinner party background music – make sure to serve steak and chocolate mousse.

Waxworks Records’ name came up when I was researching the reissue status of one of my prized records – the soundtrack to The Warriors. According to online articles, Waxworks had plans to create a 180-gram reissue of the soundtrack in late 2014, but no additional information has been posted to their site. An email response from Waxworks states that the reissue is still happening, and is scheduled to be released in early May of this year. Despite only containing ten tracks, The Warriors soundtrack is worth your time for the opening one-two punch of Barry De Vorzon’s dystopian-for-1979 instrumental theme and the cover version of “Nowhere to Run”, with a dialogue snippet of the Gramercy Riffs sandwiched in between. This part was a revelation, as I thought that Reservoir Dogs pioneered the usage of dialogue snippets on soundtrack albums. Also included between the tracks: the DJ’s updates on the gang crisis (voiced by the late, great Lynn Thigpen), and Rogue leader Luther’s bottle-clinking taunt. Joe Walsh’s “In the City,” used to perfection during the end credits, is also included. Surprisingly, it’s the first song on Side 2, rather than the closing song. It seems like an odd sequencing choice – was the Side 2, Track 1 listing the second-best spot to place your song on a compilation LP back in the day?

As John Carpenter mounts a tour performing his soundtrack compositions, vinyl reissues of classic, current, and cult film soundtracks continue to thrive. Whether it’s a mixtape-style compilation of songs that will take you back to a certain era (Empire Records, Valley Girl) or a masterwork score made by rock and roll wunderkinds (There Will Be Blood, The Social Network), people will always be rediscovering and reassessing film scores, and giving them the 12-inch circular treatment.

Greg Carlson is a huge movie fan who frequents Scarecrow Video on a regular basis. His top three films are (in random order): Time Bandits, Repo Man, and Taxi Driver. In his spare time, he likes to hunt for vinyl records and kitschy items old-school-style, via thrift stores and estate sales – eBay and Craigslist are not part of the strategery.

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