CD: Phantom, The (1996)

November 23, 2012 | By

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Rating: Excellent

Label: La-La Land Records/ Released: July 19, 2012

Tracks & Album Length: 19 tracks / (76:17)


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


Composer: David Newman




Made during the last gasp of comic book heroes in the wake of Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), The Phantom was perhaps the last big studio production before iconic, classic heroes from the pulp world were pulled away from the big screen, and while the film was a box office dud, it did give David Newman one of his best scores, if not his best opportunity to write a massive orchestral action score.

There are slight synth elements within Phantom – mostly bass drones and little sweetening tones to enhance an already unnerving atmosphere; and later keyboards in concluding cues like “Flying to the Island – Part 1” – but it’s a large-sale orchestral work with big percussion, brass, and strings. Newman’s background includes various genres in TV and film, but he was never really known for such large-scale projects, which is perhaps why fans were blown away by the scope and quality of this majestic score.

Part of the score’s design may have come from director Simon Wincer, better known for Ozploitation films (Dark Forces / Harlequin) and the old-fashioned war / drama, The Lighthorsemen (1987) – all sporting fairly robust orchestral scores. With no sparks nor memorable characters and saddled with really wretched dialogue, The Phantom affected Wincer’s career as well as star Billy Zane, but there’s a sense Newman managed to emerge with a new reputation as a more diversely skilled composer (something Danny DeVito picked up on in his own directorial efforts – Hoffa, and War of the Roses).

The rare romantic cues (“Diana Must Leave”) are filled with lovely strings and lyricism, while material evoking mysticism either bursts with exotic percussion, or threadbare theme variants featuring grinding bass tones and vibrato. The real star of this meaty CD – augmented to 77 minutes with many unreleased cues – are the action cuts, and the film’s first three cues are slam-bang amazing: it’s a perfect suite of exoticism, deathly danger, and near-misses evocative of an Indiana Jones chronicle, but never derivative of Williams’ tropes.

Newman also managed to exceed where Goldsmith, scoring a prior comic book film, The Shadow (1994), somewhat failed: crafting a classic comic book hero with a dynamic, thematically rich score. Goldsmith’s approach was similarly large-scale orchestral, but the blending of synths and orchestra was less discrete, and the bombast was often repetitive and derivative of Goldsmith’s other late 80s / early 90s action scores (notably King Solomon’s Mines).

La-La Land’s CD has gorgeous sonics, and their ongoing series of releasing remastered and expanded versions of older albums benefits from the modern gear which brings the listener even closer to the original master recording session. This is a beautifully produced CD, and fans of Newman’s original album will be delighted with the additions and superb sonics.



© 2012 Mark R. Hasan


External References:

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