La-La Land Records is a small label in Burbank, CA, that devotes itself to the re-release, and in some cases first release, of "golden age" and contemporary film soundtrack music. King Kong vs. Godzilla is the label's first joint venture with Toho Studios in Japan, and makes available music from the original Japanese version of this monster movie "clash of the titans" that has mostly gone unheard in the West, as American distributors replaced most of this track with standard library music in the familiar English-language edition. While with first glance, many potential buyers may regard King Kong vs. Godzilla with little more than interest as a campy artifact, the music is in all but two cases composed by Japanese master Akira Ifukube. Ifukube established the Japanese musician as a force in Western concert music well before he broke into writing for movies, ultimately contributing his talents to the service of the great green one, providing her voice as well. Sadly, this disc rather unwittingly serves as a memorial also, as Ifukube died at age 91 just as the La-La Land disc was being released in America.
This is powerful and exciting stuff: Ifukube calls into play a combination of traditional Japanese drumming, chanting, and the kind of driving, dissonant music one associates with Russian futurism; indeed, Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps was a major formative influence on the composer. The music is most effective when it is at its simplest; with crashing cluster chords on the piano, combined with an orchestra playing mostly in unison or just two parts, pounding drums and eerie period electronic organ one gets a strong sense at how different the Godzilla scores were from anything that went before in terms of film music. Japanese recording technology was state of the art in 1962; no one else in the world could touch it in terms of low-end response at the time, though the introduction of Edward Dolby's system would soon tip the balance elsewhere. King Kong vs. Godzilla was the only project from within the early Godzilla series that had a budget allowing for a stereo soundtrack. Nonetheless, one can hear how difficult it was to mix Ifukube's visionary music even with this advantage, and some tracks essentially duplicate the music of others but demonstrate that the balance of parts have changed back at the mix console.
Naturally, as in most film scores, there is considerable recycling of musical themes between tracks, and these are frequent enough that some listeners may find it repetitive. Nevertheless, for the rest of us, what is not to love about the soundtrack disc for King Kong vs. Godzilla? It benefits likewise from an attractive and user-friendly package, good notes, and some charming bonus material, including some a cappella chanting not used in the final film and a Japanese pop song heard over a transistor radio in the original King Kong vs. Godzilla that was left on the cutting room floor in America.