By Charlie Brigden
Max Steiner’s immortal King Kong has had its fair share of recordings over the years, including a famous album conducted by Fred Steiner (no relation), and a recording of the complete score by John Morgan and William Stromberg, making it good mining for record producers. So it’s no surprise that Music On Vinyl decided to release Kong on 7″ vinyl for 2014’s Record Store Day, following up their excellent Bride of Frankenstein release from RSD 2013.
The packaging for King Kong is immaculate. The record – which is on deep blue vinyl – is housed inside a fold-out replica of a vintage Kong poster, funnily enough identical to a Kong poster I have on my dining room wall. It’s a great looking package, and to some that would probably be enough, as it would certainly look handsome hanging on someone’s wall. But it’s the music that really matters, and on that front, well Music On Vinyl haven’t really smashed it out of the park.
Side A contains a recording of a suite by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Nic Raine (if you follow film scores, you’ll know these guys well). The majority of the suite is appropriately made up from the main title music, so begins with those big and ominous three notes, followed by the Jungle music, and finally the romantic version of Kong’s theme that plays over the “Arabian proverb” section. This is followed by some action music from the score, which it climaxes with. The performance is fantastic and it sounds great, so I can’t fault it on that front, but I guess it doesn’t really finish with much impact.
But it’s Side B that’s the issue for me, which presents a recording of Steiner’s ‘King Kong March’ by Nigel Ogden at the Compton Cinema Organ, Stockport. I have nothing against the organ, but this does absolutely nothing for me, and worse, does even less for Steiner’s music. What was originally presented as an energetic and jazzy piece illustrating the hustle and bustle of 1930s Manhattan is translated here into a score that would not be out of place on a BBC2 documentary about British seaside resorts in the 1950s. Maybe I’m being too harsh, but it’s not my thing at all and it feels out of sorts presented next to Raine’s more faithful adaptation.
It’s funny, this was one of the records I was desperate to grab on Record Store Day, and having procured it through a friend (thanks Ryan), I’m not sure it was worth it. It almost feels like an afterthought, like after the success of Bride that they wondered what might have a similar splash this year. Maybe if they actually want to show off the magnificence of Max Steiner’s supreme work, they could put out the full work on LP – just please, don’t call Nigel.
King Kong is out now from Music On Vinyl