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Conan the Barbarian
Album Cover Art
1984-2003 Milan/Warner
1992 Varèse
Album 2 Cover Art
2010 Prometheus
Album 3 Cover Art
2012 Intrada
Album 4 Cover Art
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:

Orchestrated by:
Greig McRitchie

Performed by:
Members of The Orchestra and Chorus of St. Cecilia and The Radio Symphony of Rome

2010 Album Produced by:
James Fitzpatrick

2010 Album Conducted by:
Nic Raine

2010 Album Performed by:
The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus
Labels Icon
Milan Records

Varèse Sarabande
(November 10th, 1992)

Warner International
(May, 2003)

Prometheus Records
(November 10th, 2010)

Intrada Records
(November 27th, 2012)
Availability Icon
The 1984, 1992, and 1999 Milan Records pressings originated in France but are the more readily available albums on the market. An identical product was re-issued by Warner International in 2003 for $12. The expanded 1992 Varèse Sarabande album is completely out of print and has been seen in the used marketplace at prices over $90. The 2010 2-CD set is not a limited product and was made available through soundtrack specialty outlets for $25. The 2012 3-CD set from Intrada is a regular commercial release priced initially at $30.
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   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you seek one of the most powerful, robust fantasy adventure scores in the history of film music, especially on the incredibly faithful and resounding 2010 re-recording that will exceed your highest expectations.

Avoid it... on all the pressings of its original recording if archival sound quality and questionable performances outweigh your already marginal interest in the fantasy adventure genre, though the comprehensive 2012 Intrada set is as polished as any presentation of the score could be.
Review Icon
WRITTEN 6/16/03, REVISED 12/2/12
Conan the Barbarian: (Basil Poledouris) "And on to this Conan..." When director John Milius and his college buddy Basil Poledouris collaborated to produce their first fantasy adventure film, little did they know that they would be catapulting their own careers, as well as that of emerging muscleman Arnold Schwarzenegger, into the bright lights of both cult and mainstream attention. Hollywood was hitting the peak of its "sword and sorcery" phase (which some instead termed the "swords and steroids" phase) when Conan the Barbarian hit the theatres in 1982, and producers and directors struggled to create authentic representations of a fantasy mould of Earth from the Middle Ages on limited budgets and do so during a time when audiences were being awed by the special effects of stories of galactic proportions. The story of a boy's ascension from slave to king during the Hyborean age was the creation of pulp writer Robert E. Howard, and the concept was greeted on screen with enough enthusiasm to warrant a sequel (albeit frightfully inferior) a few years later. Film scores were also undergoing a renaissance in the early 1980's, pointed by John Williams' orchestral adventure works back towards large, symphonic representations of the fantasy genre. The producer of Conan the Barbarian, Dino De Laurentiis, was an advocate of experimenting with pop scores in the epic fantasy genre, and he recommended such an approach for this film. Milius and Poledouris were on a different page, though; the friends were so loyal to each other that the composer would turn down the assignment of Kevin Costner's Dances With Wolves to score the director's Flight of the Intruder. The two men recognized that a rock/pop score would not function for Conan the Barbarian because of the production would rely on the music and cinematography to take the place of dialogue in painting the correct canvas for the film's depiction of the Hyborean age. De Laurentiis, of course, would take his pop score ideas to Dune instead, with a surprisingly effective result. Nothing but Poledouris' heavy symphonic and choral approach would function for Conan the Barbarian, however, and the composer would have to dig deep into Middle Age musical construction (abandoning modern, lyrical strategies) in order to achieve a convincing pre-historic score.

The result of Poledouris' efforts is a complex score that sounds surprisingly primitive and brutal, and the composer reinforced this approach by utilizing the sheer, awesome power of a huge orchestral and choral ensemble. He employed players from two separate orchestras and combined them with a chorus for a recording of monumental proportions in Rome. Unlike other modern composers, Poledouris successfully took Milius' suggestion of adapting the sounds of Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" (already popularly utilized in Excalibur) and the Gregorian chanting of "Dies Irae" and provided similar emotional constructs without allowing the score to sound like a cheap and unaccomplished imitation. Thrown into the mix, of course, is Poledouris' own knowledge of ancient folk music, a style that would inform his subsequent score for Flesh + Blood to an even greater degree. He accomplishes a consistent Middle Age atmosphere by utilizing powerful arrays of brass and percussion throughout several different memorable motifs that carry the film along as though it were a concert piece with several distinct parts. First, the film begins with the theme that many associate with Conan incorrectly; rather, "Anvil of Crom" is meant as a representation of the period in time and its primitive human behavior. It follows the prologue in the film with a powerful performance by timpani drums and 24 French horns. In the string interlude of that title theme, Conan's true theme is introduced. This more heroic idea is also developed during the "Riddle of Steel" cue and would accompany Conan on his journey of revenge throughout the film. The third theme utilized by Poledouris is the Orff-inspired "Riders of Doom" composition to represent the evil Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) during his attacks through the land to collect slaves and followers. This stunning piece, while bothering some listeners with its Orff-like qualities and often performed poorly in concerts by undersized performing groups, is a continuation of unabashed percussion and brass, with a Latin chorus providing an intriguingly melodic sense of horror. A monumental solo sequence for the timpani in this cue (at 4:25) is extremely engaging. This theme, tracked artificially for the "Orgy Fight," returns in different arrangements but with equal force during the climactic battle between Conan and Doom's warriors near the end of the film, and a disappointingly shallow and fragmented version of the idea would carry over to Conan the Destroyer.

Ratings Icon
Average: 4.2 Stars
***** 1,121 5 Stars
**** 404 4 Stars
*** 191 3 Stars
** 102 2 Stars
* 113 1 Stars
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Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
1984-2003 Milan/Warner Albums Tracks   ▼Total Time: 49:05
• 1. Prologue/Anvil of Crom (3:39)
• 2. Riddle of Steel/Riders of Doom (5:38)
• 3. The Gift of Fury (3:50)
• 4. Column of Sadness/Wheel of Pain (4:09)
• 5. Atlantean Sword (3:51)
• 6. Theology/Civilization (3:14)
• 7. Love Theme (2:10)
• 8. The Search (3:09)
• 9. The Orgy (4:14)
• 10. The Funeral Pyre (4:39)
• 11. Battle of the Mounds Pt. 1 (4:53)
• 12. Orphans of Doom/The Awakening (5:32)
1992 Varèse Sarabande Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 67:52
2010 Prometheus Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 121:54
2012 Intrada Set Tracks   ▼Total Time: 187:17

Notes Icon
The Milan Records/Warner International insert includes no extra information about the score or film, but the early Milan albums were pressed on solid gold-colored CDs. The out of print Varèse Sarabande album, like Conan the Destroyer, had detailed notes about both the score and film. The insert of the 2010 set contains detailed analysis of the film, composer, and score. A video of the 2010 recording sessions was available at Tadlow's website at the time of their album's release. In the notes of the 2012 Intrada set, documentation about the technical aspects of the release is abundant, but cue-by-cue analysis is slim and residents of Vashon Island near Seattle may not be pleased. The dialogue as heard in the track "Prologue" on the Milan/Warner albums is as follows:

"Between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis, and the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of. And on to this Conan... destined to wear the jeweled crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow. It is I, his chronicler, who alone can tell thee of his saga. Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!"
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The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Conan the Barbarian are Copyright © 1984, 1992, 1999, 2003, 2010, 2012, Milan Records, Varèse Sarabande, Warner International, Prometheus Records, Intrada Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 6/16/03 and last updated 12/2/12.
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