As if 1984 wasn't a strange enough time period, something curious happened in the music world that was kind of unprecedented: a classically-oriented recording featuring music by a composer from the 1700s entered the Billboard album charts! The movie Amadeus won eight Oscars that year including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Costume Design, Adapted Screenplay and more. According to the wiki: "The original soundtrack to Amadeus reached #56 on Billboard's album charts, making it one of the most popular recordings of classical music ever. "
My semi-outsider viewpoint -- in that I wasn't one of the initial fans of the film, having heard (and liked) Mozart's music before -- is that a somewhat culture-starved baby-booming generation or two had just reached the breaking point with Punk/New Wave drawing a big generational line in the sand. Many were getting more serious about their adult jobs, raising kids, responsibility and such. Ronald Reagan was president. The post-Woodstock generation perhaps breathed a sigh of cultural relief in a movie which -- main storyline aside -- depicted a legendary classical and opera composer living a life not all that far removed from their recent wild pasts.
And surprise surprise, like Tommy and Jesus Christ Superstar before him, Amadeus rose to attain pop star status all over again. Heck, German pop sensation Falco had a number one single on the U.S. pop charts with his craftily timed release "Rock Me Amadeus."
Mozart-mania, baby... He will rock you!
So here we are roughly 30 years later and Concord Music Group has issued, as part of its new Original Soundtrack Classics series, a new super duper, uber-deluxe edition of the Amadeus original soundtrack recordings. Previously only available in two separate volumes, fans of the movie will be thrilled to know that this set marks the first time the entire Grammy Award-winning score is available in one package, pressed on spiffy long playing black vinyl records. The three 180-gram LPs are each housed in individual sleeves specially designed for the package.
But wait, kids... there's more!
All K-Tel TV music marketing jokes aside, the set is genuinely deluxe in the old school tradition of classical box sets, including a 16-page booklet with rare and previously unpublished photos from the film as well as new liner notes by Conductor Sir Neville Marriner as well as commentary by music historian Grover Sales.
You also get a suitable-for-framing 24-inch by 36-inch theatrical poster!
While you don't get any Ginsu Knives with this set, you do get is a very respectable reissue that pays homage to a fan favorite in a grand manner.
And it sounds respectable... I was pleased to find that the fellow who did the mastering on the original hit album, George Horn, was also at the helm of this reissue's remastering. This is a very good thing.
To do this review some justice, I went out and picked up a used copy of the original two-LP soundtrack (which itself sounded quite nice) and this version sounds almost as nice. There are some trade offs and your own ear will have to decide which it prefers.
Setting the way back machine to the mid 1980s, Fantasy Records was not really renowned for its album pressing quality by the time of Amadeus (at least among record collectors like me). So the vinyl is pretty thin on the original; the pressing, featuring a generally very natural sounding recording, seems to have some little non-fill type "pfffft" type sounds happening periodically. This could have been for any number of reasons, not the least being that the label was caught off guard with a run away smash hit and had to push the pressing plants to churn out product to meet the demand back in the day.
Or perhaps this is a situation unique to my admittedly used LP pressing. It is also entirely possible that my old pressing could have been played during one too many a randy wine tasting party! Nonetheless, the vinyl on my old copy looks and plays quite well, offering a warm, clean tonality.
The new vinyl is thick and dark, 180-grams and all that. The three LPs that came in my set are generally well centered and mostly dead quiet.
Going back to my earlier comment about the reissue being "almost" as nice, I have to acknowledge that it does have a slightly different feel. I'm not going to say if its better or worse. But I will say it is different. For example, I prefer how the reissue handles the vocal / choral pieces over the original pressing. On some of the quieter string pieces, the original seems to have a bit more air around the music than the new edition.
So, at the end of the day its all a bit of split hairs when you get down to what we are talking about here...
For the average listener (and probably customer for the Amadeus soundtrack), I'm sure this reissue will sound just fine, especially fans who were introduced to Mozart's music from this movie and these performances. These are people who only really want and need these performances by Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St.Martin-In-The-Fields to round out their collections. Harder core audiophile types will probably already have SACDs or PureAudio Blu-rays or perhaps even high resolution downloads of some sort of their favorite Mozart performances by now.
So, if you've long played out or parted with your original Amadeus soundtrack LP or simply want to reconnect with a moment from your past in a manner deserving of a Oscar winning film, the deluxe edition in this Original Soundtrack Classics series will be a great addition to your collection.
It will also make a great stocking stuffer for the upcoming holiday season, especially for you thoughtful Aunts, Uncles and Parents somewhat aghast that their hipster children are embracing a new wave of Yacht rock resurgence; perhaps it is time to give back some culture to a generation or three who grew up sans public music education and the opportunity to discover the riches in the worlds of classical and opera music.
I'm sure you'll find this Amadeus set at your favorite music store as well as over at Amazon.
Now, repeat after me: "Amadeus, Amadeus, oh, oh, oh Amadeus. Come and rock me Amadeus..."