Varese Sarabande (302 066 429 2)
Year Released: 1987 / 2004
Conducted by Howard Blake / Tony Britton
The Sinfonia of London
|6.||Robo vs. ED-209||2:07|
|8.||Across the Board||1:50|
|10.||Clarence Frags Bob||1:43|
|12.||Robo Drives to Jones||1:46|
|13.||We Killed You||1:44|
|16.||Have A Heart||0:31|
|19.||Big Is Better||0:27|
|Total Album Time:||41:43|
|by Brian McVickar
on March 26th, 2004
I remember reading somewhere in the past 10 years or so, how Basil Poledouris and Jerry Goldsmith, more than most other film composers, have a unique ability to provide genuine pathos and heart to the most testosterone-laced films. It is amazing how much warmth and melancholy Goldsmith wrung from the Rambo trilogy, a series a lesser composer would have treated one-dimensionally, scoring it in only a visceral fashion. Poledouris in turn colored the worlds of both Conan and Robocop with sonorous tonalities, intricate instrumental depths and subtext beyond what the normal audience expected from the experience. John Milius and Paul Verhoeven understood the importance of this type of scoring for their manly, blood soaked epics, where they wisely allowed Poledouris to supply context to the violence, musically hinting at deeper emotions which the strong-arm characters may not be able to convey visually on screen.
I am so pleased that Robocop is available in the stores again. I recall finding the first Varese album in summer 1990 and being overwhelmed with the orchestral and electronic dance happening within the score, representing the human and mechanical sides sparring within the body Peter Weller's unlucky cop character, Murphy. He is resurrected, after being brutally gunned down early in the film, as a cybernetic prototype, the first in a new line of defense officers in Detroit of the future. Most genre fans know the story of this modern science fiction classic inside and out, a sort of hybrid Frankenstein type parable plus a warning of fantastic new technologies swallowing our fragile human emotions. Poledouris's score is a violent, passionate work, seething angrily in ways the transformed Murphy can no longer aptly display.
There are numerous themes he weaves expertly, beginning with a furious, insistent action ostinato bellowed by low brass in "Van Chase" and heard again, in a slower tempo, in "Robo vs ED 209". It is extraordinarily exciting but one can also sense its cruel menace, foreshadowing that the chase will end very badly and bitterly. The action cues in Robocop rarely reach for heroic resolutions where we know the side of right has achieved victory. Even when Poledouris launches forth his memorably sturdy Robocop fanfare and theme in "Rock Shop", the theme never quite reaches a well-rounded conclusion; instead, the cue diminishes into uncertainty, mirroring Murphy's fear of letting his own bloodlust envelop him. Regardless, the theme displayed in "Rock Shop" is invigorating, immediately a classic, and Poledouris fans have always wished he had expanded on it further in this and his subsequent Robocop 3 score.
On the other side of the spectrum is an oboe led theme highlighting "Home", a scene where Murphy as Robocop visits the now empty home he once shared with his wife and child. A tentative beginning leads to electronic splashes (including the interesting choice of synth choir to perhaps represent the side of Murphy which was once truly human now being filtered through circuits and microchips), then into urgent strings as Murphy attempts to track down the source of his lost humanity. The cue has such an amazingly moving turn of phrase starting at the 2 minute mark and continuing forward, with gorgeously crafted melodies somehow seeming inspired by a fervent love scene rather than that of a robotic man stoically touring his abandoned home.
These are but of few of the highlights of Poledouris's powerful score, a landmark for him in terms of an orchestral and electronic blend and a benchmark for film score fans in what Poledouris is capable of in his finest hours. The Varese special re-release includes all the tracks from the original album, remastered and in the same order, but with the added bonus of four extra cues. Robocop was punctuated by mock news briefs and sardonic commercials selling outrageous items which we might seem to need in the not too distant future and each featured original music by Poledouris (a trait he and Verhoeven also experimented with successfully in 1997's Starship Troopers). His punchy, 'tele-type' sounding news intro begins the film and the disc, the other bonus cues range from the rapturous "Have A Heart" to the bombastic "Big Is Better", nicely fleshing out the musical universe of Robocop.
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