CD: Black Rain (1989)

November 23, 2012 | By

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Rating: Excellent

Label: La-La Land Records/ Released: September 25, 2012

Tracks & Album Length:  CD1: 14 tracks / (74:09) + CD2: 18 tracs / (67:48)


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


Composer: Hans Zimmer




When the original soundtrack album was released in 1989, Hans Zimmer’s score had to share half of the LP’s space with source music, and while the suite of edited themes and cues worked well, it represented a very, very small portion of the full score, making this early Zimmer work a top candidate for an expanded CD release.

This is a prime example of a score that’s vastly improved by offering virtually every component because Black Rain is also a mercurial score – always drifting between theme recaps, quick quotations, and unsettling chords. Buffering these cues are sparse yet hard percussion, or bombastic cascades of thunderous synth and organic percussion.

The variety of moods – particularly the more ambient and abstract sections dropped from the LP edits – ensure the score has a strong dramatic drive, and La-La Land’s CD also showcases what was once cutting edge electronic sounds, especially the orchestral emulations which Zimmer perfectly integrated with acoustic instruments.

Black Rain, which was orchestrated by Shirley Walker, always possessed one of Zimmer’s best boom factors – it’s got some of the loudest and flagrantly bombastic action cues in his canon, with bass frequencies giving a basic stereo system a good synaptic workout – but the wide dynamics of the score are perfectly tailored to the film’s ridiculous story of an arrogant American cop who shows his Japanese equivalent how to behave, loosen up, and enjoy life while on the job. (The cover art, sporting a classic no-nonsense Michael Douglas pose with gelled hair / shades / cigarette celebrates arrogance, if not the shit-kicking attitude endemic to eighties action films, and their heroes perpetuating non-regimental policing.)

Contrasting the bombast is the Asian-styled (and rather syrupy) love theme which slowly takes over the score, ultimately evolving (devolving?) into a vocal version in the finale & End Credits. (The song, with awful lyrics and Gregg Allman’s wavering voice, has not aged well.)

The big surprise is that Black Rain still holds its own as a punchy, sonically epic score, and none of the new material makes cues redundant. LLL’s production brings out many sonic nuances, especially the small gestures during the abstract cues, and the intricate percussion and bass pulses in action and kinetic ‘on the move’ cues (like “Sequins”). Disc 1 contains the expanded score, whereas Disc 2 features the still-good suite edits and source tunes.

Within Zimmer’s C.V., Black Rain was a major project that brought him to the attention of producers and directors wanting what would become his patented bombastic sound, as well as one of the richest orchestral-synth marriages in film scoring. Prior to this film, Zimmer had a few significant solo projects, plus early scores co-composed with mentor Stanley Myers; after Black Rain, he became the chief musical voice of producers Bruckheimer & Simpson, and director Ridley Scott’s main composer. This is the definitive Zimmer score that for better or worse, changed the way action music was written for films.



© 2012 Mark R. Hasan


External References:

IMDB Soundtrack AlbumComposer Filmography


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