WarGames - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Reviewed by Nathan Strum
When I reviewed the WarGames DVD, I wished that the soundtrack had been released on CD. At the time, I hadn't heard the original soundtrack, and while I still stand by my earlier statement, it's with a few reservations.
Now that I've finally tracked down the soundtrack (on vinyl LP), I'm not so sure it would be best to re-release it without making a few changes.
The soundtrack is punctuated (or perhaps punctured) by dialogue and sound effects clips from the movie. Ronna Wallace is credited with the album concept, and perhaps it seemed like a good idea at the time, but it really makes listening to the music a chore. I suspect the concept was to let the listener revisit the story, but it doesn't make much sense, given that they also released a "Story of WarGames" LP, separate from the soundtrack that served that purpose.
While some dialogue tracks are listed on the album cover, there's even more dialogue inserted in the middle of some of the music tracks. This gives a real jerky feel to the album, as you're pulled in and out of the music, and can never settle in and just enjoy it on its own.
Poorly executed concept aside, the music that's here is really enjoyable, and is an interesting mix of styles. There are dramatic military themes, synthesizer-based songs, a couple of melancholy pieces, and two tracks with vocals added to them just for the album.
The most instantly recognizable pieces from the film are probably the opening military theme, the intense music during the film's climax (where World War III is played out as a game, over and over), and the melancholy end title music.
There's a lot of other good music here, too - some of which is easy to overlook since it's mixed so subtly into the film. There's the synthesizer music while David is researching the life of Dr. Falken, the pop music (Video Fever) playing in the arcade scene, and even hints of Russian music as Norad is contemplating war with the Soviet Union. The fact that some of this music almost comes as a surprise on the record, is testament to how well it blended in with the movie - supporting the story, rather than overpowering it.
The biggest surprise on the album was the vocal version of Edge of the World. I'm not sure if this was intended to be a single (maybe the "B" side of Video Fever), but it's a very nice song indeed, with a beautiful performance by Yvonne Elliman. The lyrics are very much in keeping with the theme of the movie, and almost seems aimed at nabbing that "best song" Oscar.
Despite the wide variety, the album manages to hold together pretty well. There's enough crossover between some of the musical themes to allow the different styles to complement each other, without anything seeming out-of-place. Rubinstein did a nice, cohesive job pulling this music together.
Unfortunately, the presentation of the music suffers from poor organization. Besides the dialogue issue, the names of the musical tracks are practically meaningless, as themes from different sections of the movie are lumped together into single listings, often completely out of sequence.
Perhaps it's just nit-picky, but where soundtracks are concerned, I think the music should be presented in the order it appears in the film, or at least titled so that individual themes can be identified. I suspect the reason they didn't do this is that most of the musical themes are only about two minutes long, and with the dialogue included, it would have made for a pretty long track listing. Keeping the dialogue out would have solved that problem, and would also have allowed them to put more of the music in that wasn't included (notably a good chunk of David's escape from Norad).
Still, the music is first-rate, varied, and quite listenable. History Lesson seems a bit forced, as if they needed some filler and decided to throw some lyrics onto one of the other tracks (part of The Game Begins). Although thematically it does fit in with a scene in the movie about dinosaurs, it seems out of place on the album.
The condition of the record I purchased was, unfortunately, fair at best. While there were no major skips or scratches (remember those?) there was quite a bit of crackling, despite repeated cleanings with Last Power Cleaner. Noise-reduction plug-ins for ProTools more often than not removed music along with the noise. Still, I tried not to hold that against the album for this review, but it's hard to say what difference a remastered CD or even a better LP would make.
Just based on its music alone, this album would rate a three. If it included the rest of the music from the film, it would probably rate a four.
Unfortunately, the dialogue severely detracts from the music, and having the tracks poorly sequenced also hurts the album. The music deserves better than this, and if it ever sees the light of day on CD, I hope they do a better job with it.
WarGames (excerpt, 468k MP3)
David and Joshua Dialogue
Vocals (Video Fever, History Lesson)
The Beepers (Arthur B. Rubinstein, Cynthia Morrow, Brian Banks, Anthony Marinelli)
Vocals (Edge of the World)
Synthesizers Programmed and Performed by
Brian Banks, Anthony Marinelli