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Music Review: Conan the Barbarian (The Expanded Score)

imagesIt’s been awhile since I’ve written about Basil Pouledoris’s complete original motion picture soundtrack for Conan the Barbarian. I bought it some time ago and I’ve listened to it numerous times and if you have the truncated versions (or one of them, as there have been several re-releases over the years) this is the definitive one to get. For a product review of the physical album go to this link.

The album consists of three discs. The first two discs comprise the entire complete soundtrack. The third one is the originally released 1983 MCA soundtrack album – which is what most fans of the soundtrack already have. While looking at the booklet that comes with the album it may seem that the album is disjointed for all the extra tracks when listening to the entire complete score on the two discs but each track seamlessly runs into the next. There are echoes of certain themes throughout the listening experience; themes like The Battle of the Mounds are extended and one gets a full idea of the entire expression of these particular tracks. One very interesting track that I love that is not on the original 1983 recording is called Las Cantiga de Santa Maria (The Snake). The theme of it was inspired by a series of poems and songs collected by Alfonso X, a Spanish king of Leon and Castile from 1221-1284. It was interesting because on listening to it I thought that I had entered the medieval musical world of Sequentia. Similar in style to The Hall of King Osric, another great track not on the original recording release, it is a very beautiful piece that stands out and it was the music created to accompany the scene of Conan’s fight with the snake. Another of my favorites is the Theology theme and this theme is echoed in the track named Tree of Woe/Recovery, briefly. There are also echoes of The Orgy in The Mountain of Power Procession, sort of as a foreshadowing of what is to come. It is also this track that we hear echoes of in the first track on disc two. Near the end of Recovery we hear echoes of Riddle of Steel, this time with a chorus, a more solemn version of this theme.

On the first disc we have about thirteen tracks on this new expanded score that are not on the original release and that’s just the first disc. I would like to point out that what Conan-the-Barbarian-80s-films-431461_1024_768is referred to as the Love Theme on the 1983 release is actually the Theology theme and the real love theme as it was intended is on this album. It is called Wifeing. Both are beautiful and some of my favorites. Indulgence/Mettle is a fun track to listen to, reminds one of the orientalist sounds of Saint-Saëns’s Bacchanalia, part of the opera, Samson et Delilah. The track titled Riddle of Doom/ Riders of Steel also has another, slower, more primitive sounding version in The Kitchen on the second disc – and viewers of the film know this is a particularly disturbing scene. The track that comes right before it, Warpaint, is a strong rhythmic , pulsing sound and it blends right into this track which in turn blends seamlessly into one of the most recognized tracks on the album – The Orgy.

On the second disc the track Orphans of Doom/Awakening is a rousing but haunting piece. The end piece, King Conan and end titles mirror the first track on the album, of course. Afterwards are a number of different versions of some of the more well-known tracks. One of my favorites of these is the first version of the Anvil of Crom. It has an even stronger, brassier version of percussion than in the original. I really enjoy this version but my favorite remains the original version of this particular track.

I have only given a general overview of this album and I have focused on a lot of music familiar to fans of the soundtrack already but really, there is so much great music of Poledouris’s work added back in which makes this such an excellent album that I cannot recommend it enough. There is a lot of new music here to enjoy and examine and its not simply tacked on as an afterthought. Every track works together to form a cohesive, tightly created album of great music. On the first two discs alone there are fifty-three tracks, much of it music not in the original release, and then there is the original release added as a third bonus disc. Conan fans and soundtracks/filmscore fans, this is a must have for your music collection!

Victoria (V. A. Jeffrey) attended Portland Community College and studied graphic design and has worked as a freelance graphic designer and content writer. She loves writing and making up fantasy stories and has loved doing this ever since she was a kid. She is an author and an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy and poetry. She also loves music, art, history, cooking, baking, fermenting stuff, comic book movies and nearly anything Tolkien related. Her biggest writing inspirations are Shakespeare, Frank Herbert and, of course, J.R.R. Tolkien.

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