Every once in a blue moon a film score will resonate in pop culture, it will connect with an audience and grow almost a life of it’s own. Often times it goes hand in hand with a film itself that becomes a cultural milestone for a generation. The music to the phenomenon that was Titanic was one such occasion.
Next month’s 3D re-release of James Cameron’s historical epic brings with it a renewed interest in the music that captured so many imaginations. So Sony Classical is capitalizing on that and releasing an anniversary edition to coincide with the new theatrical run of the film.
There will be two versions of the Anniversary edition released, one will be a standard editions with two discs, and a second with two more discs, designated the collectors edition. This review will be covering the collectors edition, so keep that in mind if you want to pick this set up yourself.
The four disc set in the collectors edition includes remastered versions of the original Titanic soundtrack, as well as the followup album Back to the Titanic. One of the other discs is period music performed by I Salonisti, the 5- piece band that plays while the ship sinks around them. The last disc is a set of songs that were popular during the era of the original Titanic in the early 1900’s.
So the set isn’t necessarily anything new, but it is the most complete musical collection for the famed film. James Horner’s score alone is a worth while score experience, but adding in period specific music really sells the context of Titanic, and the I Salonisti tracks make for a really great bridge between the new and the old.
Obviously everyone and their mother knows the Celine Dion song associated with this movie, and it is obviously here as apart of the original soundtrack. I wont spend much time on that, only just enough to say that the song is polarizing, you either like it or you don’t.
I think it is a really neat choice to focus so heavily on the period music in the set. While the music isn’t my cup of tea, it provides a great supplement to film’s music. These sorts of collections work best when they offer something unique, and a disc of era specific classics is a step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, that good step forward is hindered by the double step back of the two soundtrack discs. In this day and age of complete recordings, it feels like a cop-out to just give us basically the same album on disc one that was a hit in ’98. The Back to Titanic disc does flesh it out a bit, but again, we already have this.
It would have been far more interesting to present a full, complete recording of the score on two discs and use the original soundtrack as one of the bonus discs. Allowing fans of the score a chance to really hear some great music in a more full way.
Also for those of you who might be thinking that the fifteen year mark might be an odd choice for an ‘Anniversary’ collectors edition. The re-release is timed for the 100 year anniversary of the original Titanic’s tragic loss at sea.
Three Favorite Tracks:
Hymn To The Sea by James Horner – The best track on the original album, and it still rocks. A beautiful, bite sized track that exudes so much of the emotion of the score. This track also has a wonderful bagpipe rendition of the recognizable Titanic theme. It is beautiful, and really sells the tone of the movie well. It is gentle and sweet, but with the under tones of tragedy and loss. To this day whenever I jones for some Titanic music, it is this track that I go for.
Nearer My God to Thee by I Salonisti – This was the piece that the band played as the ship sank. One of the most iconic images of the film, and of the real life event, it was a beautiful moment where acceptance took over and these brave men played their passion to their very ends. It is rumored that the actual band played the song ‘Song of Autumn’ which did not appear in the film but does show up in this set as well. After listening to both pieces I understand the choice Cameron made to have them play this track instead. Both are good, this one is simply better and more appropriate for the moment. The dialogue and sound effects bit at the end take this track over the top. Nice touch.
Epilogue – The Deep and Timeless Sea by James Horner – This might be my favorite music from the entire film. A wonderful track that sounds like quintessential James Horner. One thing I like so much about it is that it doesn’t have a main Titanic theme running throughout, it just has that feel that puts you back to when the movie finished during your very first viewing. I have a theory that more often than not, truly great movies end in such a way that you almost feel the need to watch it again immediately. This track represents that moment in this film, the moment when you actually entertained the thought of sitting through that three hours again.
Least Favorite Track:
My Heart Will Go On (Dialouge Mix) by Celine Dion – I tried not to jump on this track, I really really did. Then this awful dialogue mix version popped up. I am all about using film dialogue to enhance a track, heck one of my favorite tracks in this set used that technique to great effect. My problem here is that the dialogue here just adds so much schmaltz to an already overly schmaltzy tune. I generally like this song, and I think it is perfect for the movie, but it struck a tight balance in the context of the film and the soundtrack. That balanced is ruined when I hear Kate Winslet ask to be painted like a french girl during a pause in the singing.
At the end of the day this set is nice for die hard fans, the bonus discs offer a really interesting context for the music in the movie itself. For serious score collectors who might have hoped for a more complete score experience this set is very disappointing. On the whole the music is still very good, one of Horner’s best, so the knocks on the set can only hold it back so far.
Final Score for Titanic: Collector’s Anniversary Edition
3 out of 5