Soundtracks Series Vol. 4: Jim Hannon's Top 10

Soundtracks Reissued on Vinyl

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Rock,
Jazz,
Classical
Soundtracks Series Vol. 4: Jim Hannon's Top 10

The LP reissue phenomenon has introduced audio enthusiasts and music lovers to many of the world’s great recordings on high-quality vinyl, with some featuring mixes that are even better than the originals. Movie soundtracks have benefited significantly from these re-releases. My soundtrack recommendations cut across several genres, from classical to classic rock, funk, disco, folk, bluegrass, big band, and ensemble jazz. While I love my original copies of Miklós Rózsa’s soundtracks to Ben Hur and Quo Vadis and James Horner’s Glory, these have not yet been reissued on LP, so they are not included below. I have purchased all of these LP selections from Music Direct, Acoustic Sounds, and Elusive Disc, so you should be able to find them from those sellers.

1. Henry Mancini: Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Speakers Corner.
After hearing Henry Mancini’s The Pink Panther soundtrack, I had to buy Breakfast, which has been reissued by Speakers Corner. It is a gem! Perhaps I’m partial to it because the soundtrack includes two versions of a song I used to perform frequently as a youth, the popular “Moon River,” but there’s much more than that tune to enjoy. The big band tracks, ensemble work, solo performances, and background vocals are all excellent, reproduced with extended and well-defined bass, airy highs, an expansive soundstage, and natural timbres.


2. Henry Mancini: The Pink Panther. Analogue Productions.
This 200-gram 2-LP reissue by Analogue Productions of a classic, multi-Grammy winning, RCA Living Stereo recording is first-rate, with lush massed strings, seductive saxes, and crisp and clean percussion. It was mastered from the original analog tapes. I prefer the big band numbers, including the title track, but there is fine ensemble playing, too. This reissue is also noteworthy for its extended and well-defined bass, natural timbre, and wide dynamic range.

3. The Beatles: HELP! Apple/Capitol.
This 180-gram mono reissue of the soundtrack to the Beatles’ second feature film from Apple/‌Capitol Records was pressed in Germany by Optimal Media and cut from the original master tapes using a completely analog signal path. It is the best version of this classic I’ve heard, and it sounds even better using a mono cartridge. It includes memorable tracks such as “Yesterday,” “Ticket to Ride,” and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” among others. Magical Mystery Tour is another great mono reissue soundtrack of the Fab Four.

4. Simon & Garfunkel/Dave Grusin: The Graduate. Speakers Corner.
This reissue by Speakers Corner Records on 180-gram vinyl has excellent surfaces and outshines my original Columbia recording. Soundstaging, bass extension, clarity, and harmonic richness are all significantly improved. The soundtrack was skillfully assembled from mostly remixed and edited successful pop tracks, with the best coming from Simon & Garfunkel, but I don’t think you’ll find better reproductions of my favorites, “Scarborough Fair” and “The Sound of Silence”, anywhere. The producer, Teo Macero, was also on board for some of Miles’ best albums and Dave Brubeck’s Time Out.

5. Nino Rota/‌Carmine Coppola: The Godfather Part 2. Universal/‌Music On Vinyl.
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, my favorite film in The Godfather series also has the best soundtrack—it won an Oscar for best original score in 1974. The haunting theme from the first film is expanded and woven throughout the score, as new themes are introduced. Fortunately, this reissue on 180-gram vinyl has been given the deluxe treatment by Universal/Music on Vinyl, and my numbered copy on transparent vinyl had startling transparency. You’ll be tempted to look over your shoulder to see if anyone is about to give you an offer you can’t refuse!

6. Bee Gees, others: Saturday Night Fever. Reprise.
I can’t believe this classically trained pianist and singer is about to recommend a disco album, but it deserves inclusion on this list. This hugely successful soundtrack (reissued in 2005 on 180-gram vinyl by Reprise) had a profound influence on the culture of the late 70s. It stayed atop the charts for 24 straight weeks and became the best-selling soundtrack of all time, until it was surpassed by The Bodyguard. While I vastly prefer the six tracks written and performed by the Bee Gees, this double LP reissue sonically outshines my previous single LP copy and had my wife dancing around my listening room. However, I will caution that this album may bring back unwelcome memories of late disco nights and polyester.

7. W.A. Mozart: Amadeus. Fantasy.
If you have the single LP version of this collection on Philips of some of Mozart’s best works, you’ll want to discard it in favor of the special 3-LP deluxe set on 180-gram vinyl. String tone is vastly improved without the stridency of the earlier release, imaging is more stable and dimensional, dynamic range is superior, and voices truly soar. Indeed, the individual selections also sound superior to most other recordings of these pieces. Packaging on this new reissue from Fantasy Records is first-rate, with each LP in the box set in its own stiff sleeve, a theatrical poster, and a 16-page booklet with new liner notes from the film’s conductor, Neville Marriner, who led the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Admittedly, it’s somewhat like a “greatest hits” album, but there are good reasons the score won a Grammy and the soundtrack became one of the best-selling classical albums of all time.

8. John Barry: Dances with Wolves. ORG.
An Academy Award winner for Best Original Score, this 2-LP, 45rpm reissue from ORG (mastered by Bernie Grundman) is a soundtrack that swept over me. The soundstage is expansive, which mates perfectly with the sprawling vistas of the West on the screen. Massed strings sound lush and gorgeous (my preference) and are supported by extended and powerful bass; triumphant and at times haunting brass; and explosive percussion that crackles with the illusion of gunfire. This is a great-sounding reissue!

9. Various Artists: O Brother, Where Art Thou? Mercury/Lost Highway.
Although I don’t typically listen to bluegrass, gospel, or mountain music, here’s another case where a soundtrack expanded my musical horizons. This double LP from Lost Highway is so well recorded that it not only transfixed me, it made me smile. It featured some familiar artists (to me) like Alison Krauss and Emmylou Harris while introducing me to others. There’s a lot of wonderful pickin’ and singin’ on this one!

10. James Brown: Get on Up: The James Brown Story. Polydor.
The soundtrack of this movie by Tate Taylor really struck me and gave me a long-sought-after collection of the Godfather of Soul’s greatest hits. James Brown helped spawn several genres of music, and their genesis is evident on this double LP from Polydor. Along with some studio sessions, it includes nine tracks of exciting live performances of JB at his height, including two that were never previously released (“Please Please Please” and “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”). With outstanding rhythmic drive and surprisingly good transparency, this LP set will certainly make you “Get on Up.”

UP NEXT: Read Soundtracks Series, Vol. 5: Wayne Garcia's Top 10.