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Section Header
Aliens
(1986)
1987 Album

2001 Album

Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
James Horner

Orchestrated by:
Greig McRitchie

Performed by:
The London Symphony Orchestra

2001 Album Produced by:
Nick Redman

Labels and Dates:
Varèse Sarabande (Original)
(October 25th, 1987)

Varèse Sarabande (Deluxe)
(May 1st, 2001)

Also See:
Alien
Alien 3
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Willow
The Rocketeer

Audio Clips:
2001 Album:

5. Combat Drop (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

13. Futile Escape (0:29):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

15. Going After Newt (0:29):
WMA (184K)  MP3 (227K)
Real Audio (141K)

19. Resolution and Hyperspace (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (243K)
Real Audio (151K)

Availability:
Both albums are regular U.S. releases.

Awards:
  Nominated for an Academy Award.









Aliens

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Buy it... if you have proven to be a hardened fan of James Horner's very distinct early action styles, because Aliens is the last entry in that era of harsh brass and dominant percussive rhythms.

Avoid it... if you expect to hear either originality within Horner's own career or a score that impresses outside of its fifteen or so minutes of ambitious action material.



Horner
Aliens: (James Horner) Seven years after the highly successful Alien by Ridley Scott, an equally terrifying sequel was shot by relative newcomer James Cameron. Overcoming a somewhat limiting budget, Cameron managed to extend the concept without simply rehashing the first film's plot, gaining critical praise even if the box office didn't completely reflect the success. For the director, it was only the second popular film of his career, but for his composer of choice (with whom he had shared credit for Roger Corman's Battle Beyond the Stars), it was one of the last in a long string of similar action and science-fiction projects. While the production was not immediately embraced by audiences, Aliens received seven Academy Award nominations, including one of two concurrent firsts for composer James Horner that year. With decades now past since their debut, both the first two Alien films continue to be regarded highly as examples of the finest horror ever to be set in the science fiction genre, putting to shame the further, degenerative sequels that attempted to steal from that success in the 1990's. Likewise, the scores for both the first two films are considered strong. The Jerry Goldsmith original was not nominated for an Academy Award, although a select few cues from that score were ultimately used by Cameron in Aliens. The Horner effort for the 1986 sequel marks the end of the many motifs of his early days of scoring, opening the way for his next stylistic choices of composition that would be typified by Willow and The Rocketeer. Perhaps related to this retirement of Horner's earliest phase, the process of working with James Cameron for Aliens turned out to be one of the most exhaustive nightmares of the composer's career.

Horner assembled the London Symphony Orchestra in an effort that would tax even the best of their abilities, as the composer and director could not see eye to eye on practically every cue's insertion in the film. While Cameron did not dismiss Horner altogether, the hacksaw methods by which Cameron seeks his directorial perfection sometimes causes the scoring of his films to be nearly impossible for any composer (except, perhaps, for Brad Fiedel, whose scores are so simplistic that some massive editing doesn't particularly harm them to any great extent). As a result of Cameron's hair-raising editing techniques, all but the opening and closing cues of Horner's score were altered, cut, replaced with Goldsmith's original, replaced by percussive rhythms written by little known composers, moved to other scenes, or chopped beyond recognition. Horner did not have the time or frame of mind to keep up with all of these changes, and although he was excited to be part of such a large budget and a potentially classic film, he walked off of the scoring stage a frustrated man. It was a bittersweet experience that would cause Horner and Cameron to dislike each other for nearly a decade, before some persuasiveness from Horner and some reluctant acceptance by Cameron would, of course, lead to a reunion on Titanic. With the monumental success of the 1997 epic ,the subject of Aliens between the two of them has smartly been dropped. Opinions about the merits of the Horner score for Aliens vary widely. Some consider it a classic of all time in the horror genre. Others consider it too repetitive of his previous scores to warrant much attention. When looking at the work from a technical standpoint, it's hard not to belong to the latter crowd, although the repetitiveness of the score is only one of its flaws.

As with the film itself, the score is a frightfully disjointed and spike-prone experience. It is a difficult listening experience unless you are aware of the surprising, sudden strikes of the orchestra and the lengthy sequences of nearly inaudible underscore. So much hype has been generated through the years about Horner's three or four really ambitious and percussion-ripping action cues, but the truth about this work is that the vast majority of it resembles ambient sound design or, at its best in the minimalist ranks, serves as a precursor for the docking sequence music in Apollo 13. A frequently referenced descending string line of suspense would also reappear in several later Horner efforts. Such low-level tension, yielding only to occasional dissonant outbursts, is the common way of any horror score, but especially with Aliens; the hide and seek nature of the film leads to a score that is a very bumpy ride. The music also suffers from a complete lack of originality. Nearly every redeeming motif and instrumentation in Aliens can be heard, often in better forms, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and (especially) Brainstorm. The latter score contains some of the best usage of Horner's harsh brass and easily identifiable snare-dominated rhythms, and Aliens does little to move beyond them. Emphasizing brass and percussion to almost a fault, Horner produces a functional score that, for the mass of viewers, works well enough in the film (despite being chopped to pieces). The brass motif of slurring between adjacent notes before accelerating upwards was becoming especially tiring by 1986. For skeptics of Horner's tendency to borrow material from himself, it is a score too highly derivative of his early 1980's efforts to be considered a stand-alone classic.

Ironically, the highlights of the score are those militaristic action sequences that Cameron mutilated the most in his editing of the score; at the same time, however, those are the same sequences that are the most derivative. Perhaps the most interesting self-reference is the re-interpretation of the Klingon music from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock into key action sequences such as "Futile Escape." Unlike Goldsmith's score for the original, the highlights of Horner's effort do not reside at the start and end, but rather during the non-horror action sequences of militaristic movement in the middle. If you take the relentless, second two-thirds of "Futile Escape," the opening of "Going after Newt" (which explodes with a staggered brass rendition of the main chasing motif with incredible force), the first half of "Bishop's Countdown" (which offers a rhythmic crescendo of sorts in the middle that has been much emulated since), and pieces of "Combat Drop" and "Ripley's Rescue," then you can assemble fifteen minutes of very strong action material, regardless of its lack of originality. Unfortunately, the remainder of the score is largely devoid of anything to sustain the listening experience on album. Horner's only major motifs for Aliens are those very short progressions that typically accent each measure in action sequences. Other that the two suspense-related motifs on strings already discussed, there is no dominant, overarching theme to hold Aliens together. One of Horner's more victorious, rising rhythms of alternating harmony is used for the first minute of "Resolution and Hyperspace," though still failing to give the work a unique thematic voice. The remainder of the score consists of mainly inaudible droning, often manipulated synthetically, and at times it's difficult to hear this material even at elevated stereo volumes.

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The score for Aliens was one of the last to be released in LP record format for mainstream consumption. In fact, the Varèse Sarabande LP of Aliens was followed only one year later by the CD from the label, which simply pressed the identical 40 minutes of content that had existed on the LP. As one of the earlier entries in its series of "Deluxe" editions of popular film scores, Varèse Sarabande offered an expanded album for Aliens in 2001 that presents over 75 minutes of Horner's music in its pre-cut form. Instead of simply remastering the music that had been previously available (or trying to present the choppy edits heard the film), Varèse completely remixed the original tapes of the recording and provided the score that Horner originally intended for the film to have. Also included are a handful of alternate takes and a few samples of the percussion section before they were mixed with the other elements of the ensemble (which really makes no sense; it would have been more interesting to hear the brass on its own). Even with these flaws, the "Deluxe" edition offers the best possible presentation of Horner's original intent. For casual fans of the composer, the music on the original CD is still the best he wrote for the film, although the extra thirty minutes of score and remastered sound will be an appealing attraction nevertheless. Aliens represented the last venture of Horner's early career style, and as though signaled by the Academy Award nomination for An American Tail, he would adopt a more lush and romantic style that exploded in Willow and The Land Before Time just eighteen months later. Maturing digital recording technologies would also vastly improve the sound quality of Horner's music during that time, making Aliens the last large scale Horner score to lack the crisp sound of his soon to come, best known scores.   Amazon.com Price Hunt: CD or Download

    Music as Written for Film: ***
    Music as Heard on 1987 Album: ***
    Music as Heard on 2001 Deluxe Album: ****
    Overall: ***

Bias Check:For James Horner reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.13 (in 98 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.18 (in 187,380 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.





 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  


Regular Average: 3.44 Stars
Smart Average: 3.33 Stars*
***** 393 
**** 383 
*** 359 
** 187 
* 161 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Re:But this rip-off is very good .At least ...
  Misiek -- 6/24/10 (6:01 a.m.)
   Re: from the Liner notes
  Kevin Smith -- 4/13/08 (7:10 p.m.)
   Re: Percussion only edits
  Marcato -- 4/7/08 (2:38 p.m.)
   Re: In Futile Escape.
  Marcato -- 4/7/08 (2:32 p.m.)
   Re: It's missing one thing..
  Kevin Smith -- 4/24/07 (7:25 a.m.)
Read All | Add New Post | Search | Help  




 Track Listings (1987 Album): Total Time: 39:57


• 1. Main Title (5:10)
• 2. Going After Newt (3:08)
• 3. Sub-Level 3 (6:11)
• 4. Ripley's Rescue (3:13)
• 5. Atmosphere Station (3:05)
• 6. Futile Escape (8:13)
• 7. Dark Discovery (2:00)
• 8. Bishop's Countdown (2:47)
• 9. Resolution and Hyperspace (6:10)




 Track Listings (2001 Deluxe Album): Total Time: 75:44


• 1. Main Title (5:13)
• 2. Bad Dreams* (1:22)
• 3. Dark Discovery/Newt's Horror* (2:07)
• 4. LV-426* (2:03)
• 5. Combat Drop* (3:29)
• 6. The Complex* (1:34)
• 7. Atmosphere Station (3:11)
• 8. Med.Lab.* (2:04)
• 9. Newt* (1:14)
• 10. Sub-Level 3 (6:36)
• 11. Ripley's Rescue (3:19)
• 12. FaceHuggers* (4:24)
• 13. Futile Escape (8:29)
• 14. Newt is Taken* (2:04)
• 15. Going After Newt (3:18)
• 16. The Queen* (1:45)
• 17. Bishop's Countdown (2:50)
• 18. Queen To Bishop* (2:31)
• 19. Resolution and Hyperspace (6:27)

Bonus Tracks:
• 20. Bad Dreams (Alternate)* (1:23)
• 21. Ripley's Rescue (Percussion Only)* (3:20)
• 22. LV-426 (Alternate Edit - Film Version)* (1:13)
• 23. Combat Drop (Percussion Only)* (3:24)
• 24. Hyperspace (Alternate Ending)* (2:08)

* previously unreleased




 Notes and Quotes:  


The 1987 album includes no extra information about the film or score. The 2001 "Deluxe" edition includes lengthy notes about both.





   
  All artwork and sound clips from Aliens are Copyright © 1987, 2001, Varèse Sarabande (Original), Varèse Sarabande (Deluxe). The reviews and other textual content contained on the filmtracks.com site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 5/12/01 and last updated 10/19/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2001-2013, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.