By Charlie Brigden
It’s hard to review a score like Jurassic Park. John Williams’ score has been deservedly embedded in our unconscious since 1993, and like Jaws has become a theme for sharks as a species, it’s hard to think about dinosaurs without recalling the enthralling themes from Steven Spielberg’s monster hit. Unbelievaby, it was twenty years old last year, so while they’re a bit late (to be fair, this release was supposed to be out last year), Mondo have finally unleashed the score on vinyl. Of course, it wouldn’t be Mondo without variants, but we’ll talk about that later.
So Jurassic Park. I always find it funny when people posit the film as a spiritual successor to Jaws in Spielberg’s filmography, because aside from large animals eating people, there’s really no resemblence. Jaws is about overcoming fear with the shark an emblem for Brody’s fear, whereas Jurassic Park is a whole different kettle of fish, or dinosaurs. The dinosaurs here are a representation of the failings of man and his attempt to recreate a species long since wiped out by nature. The dinos are essentially victims, as the real villains here are the creators of the animals and the park, and the main threat of the dinosaurs comes as a result of the corrupt actions of another human who has only greed at heart.
But Jurassic Park is also about wonder, and that is certainly reflected in the music. At the end of the day, these are freaking dinosaurs, and while Jeff Goldblum can go on about chaos theory until he’s blue in the face, dinosaurs are awesome. And while our first fleeting moment of dinosaur music really nails on the horror aspect (unsurprising as it’s a raptor) during the opening sequence, our first proper look is as exciting as film music gets.
Of course, this is ‘Journey To The Island’. Starting with a flourish and some playful brass as the experts joke amongst themselves (“I bring a scientist, you bring a rock star” etc), it suddenly opens up with an incredible sense of grandeur as they approach the island, with the amazing Island theme counterpointing with the brassy line and the wonderful strings following, with a return to the brass in a massive way. Antiicipation follows with jaunty tones and brief quotations of the Island theme as they make their way in the jeeps. From there it builds and builds with a sense of mystery, with little flourishes, until that stately main theme comes in, lifting as the characters attempt to come to terms with the fact they’re seeing dinosaurs. It’s a magical moment, especially with the choir going great guns in the background and that magical rendition of the theme as Sam Neill looks across the landscape and sees the animals.
There’s a gentle aspect to the dinosaurs that Williams brings out (well obviously the ones that aren’t trying to eat people), with the beauty of ‘My Friend, The Brachiosaurus’ echoing that these are animals to be marvelled at, not feared. But while the wondrous nature of the dinos and their creation is there, there is also an underlying sense of foreboding, reflecting the theme of nature and life finding a way. ‘Hatching Baby Raptor’ is a great example, with an almost heavenly choir that underlines the miracle of the creation and friendly tones that recall E.T. as we see the baby hatch, but also a darker motif to illustrate the fact that these are raptors.
And then there’s just the plain thrilling action music, such as the final set of tracks that make up the end of the film as our heroes try to escape from the velociraptors, culminating in the awesome ‘T-Rex Rescue and Finale’, a powerhouse track that runs nearly eight minutes and is easily one of the best action setpieces of Williams’ career. And after all that, we can relax with the tender piano rendition of the main theme that follows, and which segues into a full reprise for the end titles together with a return to the Island theme. The credits end with my favourite moment of the score, the gentle piano reading of the theme that unexpectedly moves into a low brass motif and shimmering strings, reflecting on the theme of the film. Chills.
As an album, Jurassic Park always been pretty generous, with a sixty-seven minute running time. However, like many soundtrack albums it’s not in film sequence, and it actually repeats one of its tracks, with ‘End Credits’ being a duplicate of the last three and a half minutes of ‘Welcome To Jurassic Park’. The digital version released last year added four tracks that made up the bulk of the missing material, but here for whatever reason Mondo have duplicated the original album assembly, taken from the re-assembled masters that were made for the 20th set after the original album master was lost. And it truly sounds special. The 1993 recording always sounded fine, but here it’s been spruced up and you can really tell. There’s no terrible digital noise reduction, no increase in loudness, it just has excellent clarity and depth.
As usual, Mondo have pulled out all of the stops in regards to the presentation. Here are three different versions of the album, one with a beautiful cover of the brachiosaurs in the forest which has either black or ‘dilophosaur’ vinyl (green and red), while the more limited version (not that really matters as it’s all sold out) has a T-rex cover and a beautiful amber vinyl colour. I have the latter and it really is wondrous, really great work. The liner notes are by score writer Brian Satterwhite, and they are fine apart from one thing: they say that this is the first time that the expanded edition has been made available on a physical format, which is obviously porkies. I don’t know whether it was originally supposed to and the licensors nixed it, but it seems weird that this was left in and no one from Mondo has made any overtures towards explaining it. Bad form if you ask me.
Should you buy it? Yes, if you can avoid paying the horrendous secondary market prices. It looks great, it sounds great, and it’s one of the greatest scores of all time, so to have it on vinyl is a godsend. But it’s an album and not a fossil, so yo shouldn’t have to take out a mortgage to grab one. Maybe someone else will grab the licence and press more, for me the unit limit Mondo put on it was too low.
Jurassic Park is out now from Mondo, but is sadly sold out