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Home Alone
1990 CBS

2010 La-La Land

Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
John Williams

Orchestrated by:
Herbert W. Spencer
John Neufeld

Labels and Dates:
CBS Records
(December 8th, 1990)

La-La Land Records
(November 30th, 2010)

Also See:
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

Audio Clips:
1990 Album:

1. Main Titles (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

14. Setting the Trap (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

17. Mom Returns/Finale (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (250K)
Real Audio (155K)

19. We Wish You a Merry Christmas/End Titles (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

The 1990 CBS album was a regular U.S. release, but it was out of print as of the mid-1990's. It was re-issued in identical form in the late 2000's. The expanded 2010 La-La Land product is limited to 3,500 copies and was initially made available at a price of $20 through soundtrack specialty outlets.

  The song "Somewhere in my Memory" and the score were nominated for Academy Awards. That song was also nominated for a Grammy Award.

Home Alone

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Buy it... on any of its albums if you seek one of the most memorable, purely innocent Christmas scores in the history of film music.

Avoid it... if the hopelessly optimistic, spiritually seasonal nature of John Williams' first cheery children's score reduces it to a once-a-year kind of listening experience.

Home Alone: (John Williams) This highly popular and likely overrated children's story written by John Hughes and shot by Chris Columbus in 1990 tests every limit of plausibility. By the end of Home Alone, any adult who has raised a child will wonder if an 8-year-old with the wit and composure of Macaulay Culkin's character actually exists. In the film, he plays a boy mistakenly left at his upscale home in the Chicago suburbs while his frantic family packs and departs for Paris, and in the time it takes for the neglectful parents to realize their error and return home, the boy comically foils a pair of burglars who attempt to invade the home. The depictions of violence are as ridiculously dumb and unbelievable as they could possibly be, and the film attempts to redeem itself with a solid message of Holiday forgiveness involving an initially frightening but ultimately friendly neighbor who saves the boy. Despite negative reviews, Home Alone became the third most successful film in box office grosses in the history of cinema, though its only Oscar nominations both came for John Williams' memorable original score and embedded primary song. The composer had a relatively slow period in his schedule late in 1990 and had not intended to write another score that year, but he by chance attended a screening of Home Alone that Columbus had provided to other Steven Spielberg associates. His enthusiasm for the film caused him to actively seek the assignment after the production's original composer, Bruce Broughton, had to bow out due to a scheduling conflict. It had been a while since John Williams had composed a score specifically aimed at children (if ever, really) and after raving about the initial cut of the film to his own circle of associates, he tackled the new genre with so much zeal that the resulting fruitful friendship with Columbus would lead to several subsequent endeavors in that genre (including the Harry Potter films). Not only were the ramifications exciting for Williams' fans, but the composer approached the project with a refreshing new enthusiasm that carried over into the tone of his composition. After a year which included the dramatic, often tense scores for Presumed Innocent, Stanley & Iris, and Always, Williams shed all of that weight and provided what essentially amounts to a perfect comedic Christmas score.

Ever since Home Alone first won the hearts of audiences, Williams' score has existed among the highest standards for Christmas-related music from Hollywood. Not only are the score and Williams' two original songs worthy of a place among established holiday favorites, but the film cleverly combines this music with traditional but rerecorded Christmas carol recordings arranged for this production. Home Alone is an example of a film and score fitting like a perfect glove for a hand, with Williams' music successfully balancing the two sides of the film: the wacky, stupid comedy and the heartfelt sense of family and religion at the holidays. The fact that Williams' own carols for the film will sound indistinguishable from existing pieces for many casual viewers proves, at the very least, that the composer is among the best classically-inclined artists of this period in time. His recordings of traditional carols also maintain a hearty holiday spirit in arrangement and performance, and it's difficult to imagine how the composer could have accomplished all of this during the warm summer and autumn of the film's post-production. The score's greatest weakness is its comical, Carl Stalling-like cartoon music for the battle sequences near the climax of the film. But despite these necessities and the rather simplistic storyline, the underscore for Home Alone is met with the abundance of nuance and unique motifs that you'd expect from Williams for a film of much greater scope and magnitude. More than in many other scores from the maestro, there exist connections between the themes in Home Alone and traditional songs, an intentional method of merging the two given the copious song placements tracked into the film (a usual trait of John Hughes productions). While critics may claim that the Oscar-nominated primary song, "Somewhere in My Memory" is a piece of fluff, it's important to recognize that the pretty and redemptive spirit of the carol is precisely what makes it effective (the complete opposite to, for instance, the lack of character depth which would sink Williams' Sabrina score a few years later). After the theme was written to represent the boy's love of his parents, poignantly accompanying the scenes of longing and reunion, Williams recognized its strength and enlisted his longtime associate, lyricist Leslie Bricusse, to translate the tune into the Oscar-nominated song.

Lyrics were also afforded to Williams' other carol and major theme for Home Alone, "Star of Bethlehem," the far weightier representation of the mysterious neighbor and a tool with which to represent Christmas with the gravity of its religious meaning to many. This idea is intriguingly applied as a tool of suspense throughout the score, perhaps imposing that gravity upon the psyche of an 8-year-old who is somewhat overwhelmed by the season's implications. Outside of these two main themes, Williams writes several more and references them almost constantly throughout the score. While also seemingly less sophisticated than Williams' larger dramatic efforts, the choice of instrumentation is what makes Home Alone a great success. The composer spared no expense in assembling every tingling instrument he could find, from chimes, glockenspiel, celesta, and sleigh bells to deep organ accents. At every moment in the score, a tingling element is to be heard, and if you thought that inspiration from "Jingle Bells" was below Williams' standards, think again. The only curious choice in Home Alone is the application of synthetic elements in several places, the iconic opening performance of "Somewhere in My Memory" in the score performed by synthetic celesta. Likewise, the popular "Setting the Trap" cue required the orchestra to perform over pre-recorded rhythms from pop-inspired drum pads. That said, slower performances of the major carols are provided with grand orchestral sweeps and lyrical passages from the various songs, and these sequences do reach back to access the resounding ensemble depth that dates from Williams' 1970's disaster genre scores. The most explosive theme is a classical joust to represent the manic chaos of the boy's parents; for the travel scenes, Williams pulls some obvious inspiration from Tchaikovski's "The Nutcracker" and infuses it with Aaron Copland "Rodeo" adventure style to embody the hectic task of going overseas with a large family. Though effective, the rambunctious personality of this theme can overwhelm quickly, and at least one of its recordings for the film was ultimately dialed out. The boy himself receives a bubbly little theme to represent his own well-meaning independence early on in "Target Practice/Sledding on the Stairs" and "Scammed by a Kindergartner," usually playfully stated by solo brass instruments over plucked string rhythms.

1990 Album:
Only $9.99
For the two bumbling criminals in Home Alone, Williams offers perhaps his most subtle, but effective motif. Instead of providing an ominous theme with one of the more powerful elements of the orchestra, the villains are accompanied only by woodwinds, an unexpected, but strangely appropriate choice for the idiots that these characters are. The dual performances of a bass bassoon with a clarinet or oboe keep the theme low and mysterious while allowing the flexibility to toy with their quirky personalities. That way, they are never quite that scary to kids in the audience, and Williams can sustain a light atmosphere for even the film's darkest moments. Such usage by Williams goes back to E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, and much of the character of this theme carried over to Hook the following year. Originally established as a scary villain by Williams is the neighbor, whose appearances to four distinctive notes (in stinger mode) from "Dies Irae" in "Introducing Marley" and "Drug Store" are proven a clever deception when the character befriends the boy against the same four notes that also form the basis of "Carol of the Bells." Finally, two lesser motifs grace the family's house, the first a prancing rhythmic figure for the home itself in the opening cue and "Banished to the Attic." The latter is a frightening ensemble idea that extends out of that home motif in "The Basement" and "Cleaning Clothes" for the household furnace. Overall, the Home Alone score is a Christmas bonanza and "Somewhere in My Memory" is among Williams' most amicable career songs. Unfortunately, attempting to enjoy this music anytime during the rest of the year is a challenge, and on album, the score is so well articulated and presented that it's a seasonal event. The mix of the recording is fantastic, with those bass woodwinds very prominently highlighted. The original 1990 album contained the bulk of the score and many of the source placements, an identical 2010 re-issue solving availability issues that had made the first pressing a collectible. Also in 2010, La-La Land Records issued an expanded edition of 3,500 units that drops the pop songs but does fantastic justice to Williams' score. Against all odds, this franchise opener is far more impressive on any album than the disappointingly rehashed sequel music from Williams for Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Just make sure there's snow on the ground outside before trying to absorb the undeniable magic of the composer's enthusiastic holiday spirit. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For John Williams reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.74 (in 69 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.59 (in 337,529 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 4.02 Stars
Smart Average: 3.77 Stars*
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   Re: Holiday Flight and Making the Plane are...
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   Re: Holiday Flight and Making the Plane are...
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   5 STARS !!!
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 Track Listings (1990 CBS Album): Total Time: 57:01

• 1. Main Titles/Somewhere in my Memory (4:53)
• 2. Holiday Flight (0:59)
• 3. The House (2:27)
• 4. Star of Bethlehem - orchestral version (2:51)
• 5. Man of the House (4:33)
• 6. White Christmas - performed by The Drifters (2:40)
• 7. Scammed by a Kindergartener (3:55)
• 8. Please Come Home for Christmas - performed by Southside Johnny Lyon (2:41)
• 9. Follow that Kid! (2:03)
• 10. Making the Plane (0:52)
• 11. O Holy Night - written by Adolphe Adam (2:48)
• 12. Carol of the Bells - written by Peter Wilhousky (1:25)
• 13. Star of Bethlehem - choral version (2:59)
• 14. Setting the Trap (2:16)
• 15. Somewhere in my Memory (1:04)
• 16. The Attack on the House (6:53)
• 17. Mom Returns/Finale (4:19)
• 18. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - performed by Mel Torme (3:05)
• 19. We Wish You a Merry Christmas/End Titles (4:15)

 Track Listings (2010 La-La Land Album): Total Time: 78:48

• 1. Somewhere in My Memory*** (3:24)
• 2. Star of Bethlehem (Orchestral Version) (2:54)
• 3. Home Alone (Main Theme) (1:27)
• 4. Go Pack Your Suitcase/Introducing Marley/In Good Hands* (1:51)
• 5. Banished to the Attic (1:07)
• 6. We Slept In/Hard Count* (1:20)
• 7. Making the Plane (0:54)
• 8. The Basement (2:18)
• 9. Target Practice/Sledding on the Stairs** (1:31)
• 10. Lights On/Guess Who's Home/Paris Arrival* (3:18)
• 11. The Man of the House/Police Check** (1:22)
• 12. The Bookshelf (1:10)
• 13. Phone Machine/Drug Store/Escape Across the Ice** (3:06)
• 14. Follow That Kid! (2:12)
• 15. Listening to Carson* (0:44)
• 16. Cleaning Clothes/Kitchen* (1:39)
• 17. Scammed by a Kindergartner (2:10)
• 18. Walking Home (Somewhere in My Memory)*** (1:06)
• 19. O Holy Night* - composed by Adolphe Adam (2:51)
• 20. Star of Bethlehem*** (3:00)
• 21. Carol of the Bells (1:27)
• 22. Setting the Trap (2:31)
• 23. The Attack Begins (1:30)
• 24. Marv Enters the Basement/A Hot Hand/Sore Head* (2:50)
• 25. Paint Cans (2:06)
• 26. Clothesline Trapeze/Marley to the Rescue** (4:13)
• 27. The Next Morning/Mom Returns/Finale (4:26)
• 28. We Wish You a Merry Christmas/End Title (Somewhere in My Memory)*** (4:19)

Additional Music:
• 29. Walking Home (Without Chorus) (1:05)
• 30. Clothesline Trapeze (Film Version Insert)* (0:23)
• 31. Jingle Bells* (1:02)
• 32. Christmas Carol Medley* (7:43)
• 33. Finale (Alternate Version)/O Holy Night* (1:34)
• 34. We Wish You a Merry Christmas/End Title (Original Soundtrack Version)*** (4:15)

* previously unreleased
** contains previously unreleased material
*** contains lyrics by Leslie Bricusse

 Notes and Quotes:  

The sparse insert of the 1990 album includes no extra information about the score or film. The 2010 album's insert contains detailed notes about both.

  All artwork and sound clips from Home Alone are Copyright © 1990, 2010, CBS Records, La-La Land Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the 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 9/24/96 and last updated 1/15/11. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1996-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.