Akira Ifukube

Millennium Godzilla Best

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Millennium Godzilla Best is a dazzling soundtrack compilation that shows off some of Akira Ifukube's best and most interesting music -- surprisingly, the music is not limited to the Godzilla movies, or even to Toho Studios' monster movies, but extends to the company's space-oriented science fiction releases, including The Mysterians and Atragon. The 30-track, 73-minute CD opens with the three most familiar motifs from Ifukube's monumental 1954 score for Gojira (aka Godzilla), highlighted by the pounding, piano-driven theme depicting the monster's rampage in Tokyo and the dirge-like score for the shots of the city in ruins. It then jumps to the compelling if less familiar music from Rodan (much of which was replaced for the U.S. release of the movie), with its widely spaced horn parts above shimmering strings, and the rather manic-paced, wild-tempo, horn-driven martial music forThe Mysterians, which also includes music that Ifukube would appropriate for Dagora, the Space Monster and some of his 1990s Godzilla movies. The first treat for scholars and connoisseurs is hearing the original theme from Varan the Unbelievable (complete with chorus) which, in 1965, became Rodan's theme in Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster -- realizing that his Varan music had been virtually unheard outside of Japan, and not wishing to see good material go to waste, the composer found a more prominent place for it. Similarly, in Battle in Outer Space, the composer took his "Japanese Army March" from Godzilla and expanded it in new and startling directions for this story of pilots defending the Earth. The Polynesian-influenced choral music that opens King Kong vs. Godzilla is better than the movie for which it was written, and "Godzilla's Resurrection" sounds like part of a symphony (other parts of his scores seem to show the influence of Stravinsky). His music depicting the volunteer corps entering battle from Atragon is, similarly, an almost symphonic-scale development of the martial elements that appeared in the Godzilla score. Godzilla vs. Mothra (aka Godzilla vs. the Thing) is amazingly lyrical and poignant in its scoring, at least as represented here -- one doesn't remember the movie having as much lyricism as the score reveals. "The Birth of King Ghidorah" from Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster echoes elements of Dimitri Tiomkin in its use of muted horns, with an almost Straussian over-scoring, while the two sections from Frankenstein Conquers the World's score are much darker, more ominous pieces of music, relying heavily on the lower strings and brasses -- until the surprisingly upbeat march kicks in. Monster Zero's score makes use of the same core military march used in the first Godzilla movie and The Mysterians, re-composed yet again. Although it is a march, the first of two such pieces from War of the Gargantuas comes off as almost too complex for what it purports to be, and sounds more like it is part of some lost symphonic work. Destroy All Monsters seems to pick up the same material in its title theme, with more of an emphasis on strings in its orchestration. And Terror of Mechagodzilla's "Resurrection of Godzilla" gives the composer an opportunity to resurrect the main "Godzilla" theme and re-explore the various motifs that he'd established across two decades. The sound quality ranges from good to excellent, despite the somewhat awkward attempts to create an artificial "stereo" effect with some of the mono tracks -- the good, modern digital transfers are adequate compensation. The annotation and credits are almost entirely in Japanese, but the material is sufficiently recognizable to fans so that they'll have little trouble maneuvering around this CD.