CD: Scrooged (1988)

January 18, 2012 | By

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Rating: Very Good

Label: La-La Land Records / Released: November 29, 2011

Tracks & Album Length: 34 tracks / (49:20)


Special Notes: 24-page colour booklet with liner notes by Jeff Bond / Limited to 3000 copies.


Composer: Danny Elfman




Not quite a box office success when it emerged in 1988, Richard Donner’s spin on the classic Christmas Carol tale has aged into a fascinating time capsule of period humour and pop culture of which a major ingredient is Danny Elfman’s score. In 1988 Elfman scored 6 films, of which Beetlejuice is a major influence in terms of his iconoclastic “La-La La-La” childrens’ vocals, and a doom and gloom bass line that presages its heavier use in Batman, scored a year later.

Scrooged is melodically tied to Tim Burton’s films (Elfman scored all of Burton’s prior features), but the cartoonish twists & turns are more reflective of Elfman’s own comedic sensibilities, delving into mickey-mous; terrain in quirky cues such as “Montage: Frank’s Award and Eliot on the Street” with its almost tormenting brass and skittering rhythms; or the rich dynamics in “Lew’s Arrival,” with pensive strings, sudden brass and tympani stabs, and rumbling bass clarine decorated with little side embellishments from pizzicato strings, cymbals, and piano.

Before filmmakers engaged Elfman for his brash, comic book sound after Batman, the composer’s prior work (mostly mordant and satirical) showed his knack for emotional nuances, and incredibly fluid transitions in montage; the mercurial nature of his writing is sometimes a direct result of matching dramatic shocks and stabs, but on CD his scores tend to work as crazily energetic comedy sketches.

The biggest surprise for Elfman fans is how much score was written for the film, so La-La Land’s CD offers a strong listening experience. Punctuating the score are alternate cues with varying levels of electronic elements and processing, and a series of source cues. Also surprising is how Scrooged doesn’t sound so derivative, considering how many signature sounds are present in the score. The sharp, spiraling brass shocks are refreshing, and the childrens’ voices – particularly in “A Horror in Chez Jay / Highball / Water Ablaze” – are effectively used to tease, enliven, and create unease in specific scenes. “A Horror” is based around a rotating triadic motif, and the vocal parts are echoplexed to add a strong eeriness before the cue quickly fades out, and gliding vocal chords drift in and out with slight electronic processing that’s quite reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith’s vocal effects in Poltergeist (1982).

Cue lengths vary from under a minute to around three minutes, but the score proper has a satisfying denouement before the final cue – blending keyboards and orchestra – closes the 32 mins. score.

La-La Land’s mastering is very nice, bringing out many subtleties in the richly orchestrated score, and the bass levels are punchy, ensuring Elfman’s brass & percussion combos sustain their dynamism. The variety of material will please fans who’ve had to settle for a short suite Elfman recorded way back in 1990 for his compilation CD Music for a Darkened Theatre: Vol. 1.



© 2012 Mark R. Hasan


External References:

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