By Charlie Brigden
Psycho. Is there a more famous film score that has gone unreleased? Don’t misunderstand me, there have been plenty of Psycho albums – from the 1975 Unicorn recording conducted by Bernard Herrmann himself to the 1997 Joel McNeely recording for Varese Sarabande, both of which are highly recommended. But what about the actual tracks from the film?
Hmm. And this is where we have a dilemma. You see, an Italian label called Doxy Records has just issued an album which holds the original film tracks. Fine, right? Well, not really. Depending who you speak to, Doxy are either an enterprising label or bootleggers. The fact is that there is no copyright information contained anywhere on the record and its packaging, and no explanation to the source of the recording. Several labels such as the UK’s Harkit and Germany’s Tsunami have previously issued recordings that have been “legal” pertaining to the previous fifty-year copyright directive in the EU.
The underlying question for me is a simple one – where did the recording come from? In 1998 MCA released a Signature Series edition of Psycho on laserdisc. One of the features on this disc was the isolated score on one of the analog channels. Film score fans will know that “rips” of isolated scores such as this, from laserdiscs, DVDs, and blu-rays, are often distributed on the internet. Is Doxy’s edition simply an isolated score rip?
The quality of Herrmann’s score has never been in dispute, it is quite simply a masterpiece. Thoroughly effective in the film, it’s also a wonder to hear on its own. The best way to describe the sound quality of the recording here is probably “archival”. While it is not unlistenable, it is not brilliant and no attempt seems to have been made to remaster the tracks. The problem with this album is that it’s not an altogether terrible affair. The cover is nice, it sounds pretty much like an unremastered old recording, and it’s sold in legitimate stores – I bought mine from a very reputable record store.
But whichever way you look at it, Psycho is a bootleg. As such, I cannot recommend purchase of this record. Releases like this can have potential effects on future releases, especially considering the film score niche is so small anyway. I would hate to find out that a release was made impossible because of an unofficial release that I had purchased. A bigger discussion from this would be why reputable record stores are stocking these releases.
Psycho is out now on vinyl from Doxy Records