This CD picks up where its predecessor (“The Best of Godzilla: 1954-1975") left off. Here we have highlights from all seven Heisei Series Godzilla films, which began with The Return of Godzilla [American title: Godzilla 1985--CN] in late 1984 and ended with Godzilla vs. Destroyah in late 1995. I think this compilation is superior to the first one, primarily because the producers had better material from which to choose. Since all seven movies have top notch scores, it wasn’t difficult to come up with plenty of terrific tracks to represent them. Significantly, 15 of the album’s 30 tracks were composed by Maestro Akira Ifukube, who scored four of the seven films.
The CD begins with Ifukube’s rousing “Godzilla’s Theme” from Godzilla vs. King Ghidora, an appropriate intro for the tracks that follow. Aside from the first, all but one of the remaining tracks are from the films in order in which they were released. Tracks 2-6 are from The Return of Godzilla, scored by Reijiroh Koroku. Joe Sena, the CD’s Associate Producer, states in the liner notes that he feels Koroku’s score, as well as the music for Godzilla vs. Biollante ( composer Kohichi Sugiyama) “sagged a bit”, and called them “serviceable but unremarkable.” I disagree, with the exception of one track. I enjoyed the pieces from The Return of Godzilla and Godzilla vs. Biollante, except for track 8 in which Sugiyama gets carried away with a quavering guitar and a faint shadow of the G-theme that is way too jazzed up for my taste. That’s too bad, since at 4:36 it’s one of the longest tracks on the CD. Sugiyama makes up for it in track 9, the 5-minute “Ending” from Godzilla vs. Biollante. Godzilla’s foe in this movie is a very different kind of critter, created from the cells of a rose, some stray Godzilla cells, and cells from a beautiful young woman who died tragically. Much of the film’s music conveys the femininity of this interesting monster. The “Ending” has a nice lilting melody followed by triumphant brass, reminding me a little of the music from Superman Returns. The closing strains are truly lovely.
As track 10 opens it’s obvious Godzilla is back and so is Ifukube! The “Main Title/UFO Invasion” from Godzilla vs. King Ghidora crashes along, evokes the Big Guy’s ponderous footsteps, and quickly returns to pounding dissonance that raised the hair on the back on my neck. Tracks 11 and 12 are also from the latter film, and end all too quickly. However, Ifukube continues to delight in track 13, the “Main Title” from Godzilla vs. Mothra [American title: Godzilla and Mothra: Battle For The Earth--CN]. One of the nicest things about this album is the lush orchestration of the Heisei film scores, and Godzilla vs. Mothra is no exception. Tracks 14 through 17 contain often familiar themes from Godzilla vs. Mothra, enhanced by a more fulsome sound and improved digital recording techniques. “Mesa March” (track 15) is a particular joy! I love Ifukube’s boisterous brassy marches that never fail to make me bob my head and tap my feet in time to the music. Track 16, the “Rolling Title Ending” from Godzilla vs. Mothra is a haunting chorale, reminiscent of the “Prayer for Peace” (Gojira, 1954). Track 17 is a surprisingly bouncy (for Ifukube) version of the much-loved “Mothra’s Song”, sung by the Cosmos, who can’t help it that they’re not The Peanuts.
On to track 18 and more Ifukube, this time the “Main Title” from Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla [American title: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 2--CN]. Thumping drums and surging, ominous orchestra let you know right away something big and bad is coming! Segue into another signature march, this time “G-Force March #1” (track 19), and as Jerry Lewis’s Nutty Professor would say, “It’s a toe tapper.”
With track 20 we come to Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla, scored by Takayuki Hattori. This time Mr. Sena and I are in agreement; this is “perhaps the best non-Ifukube score” ( at least until the Millennium Series came along.) Hattori’s powerful music contains elements of Ifukube’s energetic and dissonant brass and beautiful melodies without imitating the master. Track 21, “Bass Island”, is a brief, pretty piece that somehow makes me think of James Bond movies. Tracks 22 and 23, both accompaniments to Space Godzilla’s fights with the movie’s third giant (MOGUERA), make good listening. However, I was annoyed to see that the table of contents calls the metal monster “Mogera.” (Don’t these people ever check this stuff?) The final track (24) from Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla was composed by Isao Shigetoh and arranged by Hattori. At 5:33 “Crystal”is the longest track on the CD. Fortunately, it’s melodic and beautiful, and it made me want to glide around the room in a swirling, diaphanous gown.
With track 25 we move to Godzilla vs. Destroyah and back to the maestro. I have to admit that I’m not impartial when it comes to this movie. It’s my second favorite Godzilla film, after Gojira [American title: Godzilla, King of the Monsters--CN], of course, and I love the score. I have the soundtrack and have played it dozens of times. With watching the movie multiple times, playing the soundtrack, and listening several times to tracks 25-29 on this CD, I can run the video in my head as I listen to the music. This was Ifukube’s final Godzilla score, and he went out with a flourish! The five tracks chosen to represent the film do an excellent job, from the “Main Title,” which eloquently portends disaster to the melancholy “Requiem,” in which a single female voice expresses poignant sadness that fittingly echoes the haunting “Ending” from Gojira. Track 29, “Ending Title,” is an exciting, updated treatment of the familiar and wonderful Godzilla theme, an exuberant promise that Godzilla lives on!
No sooner do the exultant chimes of the “Ending Title” fade than we are subjected to track 30, “Monster Zero March.” Since “Monster Zero” was an alternate title for one of the Showa Series films and the term didn’t show up again until Godzilla: Final Wars, this piece has no business on this CD. Even if they changed the name of the song, it still would have no business here. It’s a jarring, clattering, two minutes plus of twanging noise complete with ersatz sound effects. The same goofy-sounding garage band that nearly ruined the first CD has tried to screw up this one as well. I guess when you produce an album you get to play a song on it with your buddies. Guys, make your own album and leave Godzilla alone.
Bottom line: it’s a good CD. When you put it on your ipod, just leave off the final track.
Vennie went into a good amount of detail in describing the merits of this second volume in “The Best of Godzilla” soundtrack series, so there is no need for me to go into it to any great extent. There are a few things I would like to say here, however.
As I noted in my anecdotes for Vennie’s review of Volume 1 of “The Best of Godzilla” CD soundtrack, I couldn’t help comparing the tracks on this CD to the Japanese imports I purchased some years ago which also featured a collection of G-themes, the second volume of which covered the Heisei Series. Though this CD is really good, and deserves the recommendation that Vennie gave it, there were nevertheless a few glaring omissions that brought the quality of this CD down a few notches, IMO. For one thing, the terrific battle sequence theme for Godzilla and Biollante from their eponymous film was missing, but was included on Volume 2 of the Japanese imports I mentioned. This was a truly great theme, and the CD was the poorer for leaving it out. Also missing was the best version of “The Mothra Song” from Godzilla and Mothra: Battle for the Earth, which I thought was more beautifully sung by the Cosmos than the original versions by the Peanuts. Though two versions of this classic song were included, it seems that this latter film was overrepresented in regards to tracks on this CD, and the best rendition of that song should have been included.
Thankfully, some of my favorite G-themes, including the theme for King Ghidorah from Godzilla vs. King Ghidora, the dramatic and inspiring military march theme for the Super X war machine from Godzilla 1985, and the “Requiem” theme played over Godzilla’s death in Godzilla vs. Destroyah were included, as was the great theme played when the Atomic Titan was temporarily put into deep freeze during his battle with the Super X-3 in the final film of the Heisei Series.
As Vennie noted up above, Neil Norman’s orchestra included another version of a classic G-theme as the grand finale of this CD, just as they did on the previous volume of “The Best of Godzilla.” The less said about this inappropriate number, the better. I understand that Norman was the producer of this CD, but it would have been better had he left his vanity version of the “Monster Zero” theme off the record and reserved the room for the aforementioned battle sequence from Godzilla vs. Biollante instead.
In my assessment, I agree with Vennie that this CD is worth purchasing, despite the few omissions of note, and despite that needless final track. Hopefully, a third volume in “The Best of Godzilla” series will be produced in the future, where the Millennium Series will be covered (i.e., 1999-2004).
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