For better or worse, Andrew Lloyd Webber's adaptation of Gaston Leroux's gothic horror/romance novel has done for stage musicals what Spielberg's Jaws did for fish stories, with worldwide sales of its original cast album approaching 25 million. While director Joel Schumacher's film turns on his typically ambitious visual verve, its new film soundtrack recording has been paradoxically focused in scope, yet beefed up dynamically via the brawny presence of a hundred piece orchestra and The London Boys Choir. This double-disc version showcases all of Phantom's songs, with Gerard Butler imparting a welcome, youthful sensuality to his Phantom, making a fine foil for Emily Rossum's ever-conflicted Christine. Original show orchestrator David Cullen has fashioned compelling new contemporary arrangements to frame Webber's songs–which now conclude with the lilting, upbeat new ballad he wrote for the film, "Learn to Be Lonely," sung by Minnie Driver's Carlotta.
For fans of Jerry Goldsmith's score for Ridley Scott 1978 movie Alien, this two-disc Intrada set is the ultimate fantasy. Everything is here and then some. Disc 1 contains Goldsmith's entire score as he originally intended it with every cue in place, including those that were later cut from the film plus his recomposed versions of cues the director made him change (Goldsmith's original main theme, for example, appears without its signature heroic trumpet melody because the director thought it wasn't creepy enough). Disc 2 includes the original soundtrack as issued on LP plus six other bonus tracks of demonstration takes and even the brief except from Eine kleine Nachtmusik used in the film. The stereo sound here is fabulous, the performances definitive, and the liner notes exhaustive. And the score, like the film, is a classic of its genre. With its mixture of the ecstatic chromaticism of Scriabin, the skittering strings of Penderecki, the harmonic waves of Ligeti, and the atmospheric percussion of Herrmann, Goldsmith's score became a template for all subsequent science fiction/horror movies. But as this splendid release so amply shows, the original still can't be beat.