Written by 6:33 am Audiophile Music, Audiophile, Audiophile News, Streaming, Vinyl

Listening Report: Yusuf Cat Stevens’ Harold & Maude Original Soundtrack

Mark Smotroff appreciates the difference between a song-track and a soundtrack…

For many decades, a true original motion picture soundtrack to a beloved movie featuring songs by Yusuf / Cat Stevens was basically unavailable for a variety of reasons. Then in 2007, a very limited edition version was made available via writer/producer Cameron Crowe’s Vinyl Films label, creating an instant collector’s item (now commanding several hundreds of dollars if you can find a copy in the marketplace). 

Then last year Universal Music and Island Records issued a lovely special edition release for Record Store Day featuring “The Songs From The Original Movie” Harold & Maude. You can read my listening report by clicking here. In short, I enjoyed the album as a stand-alone release.

But, imagine my surprise when I learned that there would be yet another Harold & Maude release issued this year! My copy of the new Harold & Maude Soundtrack arrived over the weekend and I have to say I’m pleased as punch. I really do get the difference between a true “original soundtrack” and the “song-track” (if you will) design of last year’s release. 

The new Harold & Maude Soundtrack is a more complete snapshot of the film and where the music fits in. It goes a long way to deliver a sense of storyline — it is a movie for your ears (if you’ll pardon the reviewer’s cliche)! For the first time, there are now strategically placed dialogue snippets peppered throughout the album which are often wonderful set-ups for the music to come.  

Not all the music is by Yusuf / Cat Stevens in the new Harold & Maude Soundtrack. There are some classical works and even a moment where Ruth Gordon (aka Maude) and Bud Cort (Harold) sing together — one of the most touching moments from the film. 

According to the official press release issued supporting this album, “Previously unheard audio masters have been discovered in the Island Records/A&M archive for “Don’t Be Shy” and “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out,” and all audio has been remastered at world renowned Abbey Road Studios. This edition will also feature enhanced packaging including liner notes, lyrics, transcription of movie dialogue, and photos from the Paramount Pictures production.”

Indeed, the vinyl pressing on The new Harold & Maude Soundtrack is excellent and the sound quality is great. Thick, dark, well centered and quiet weighing in at 180-grams, the whole package is crafted to a very high caliber in Germany.  The Harold and Maude logo on the cover is embossed and the printing colors are vivid and eye catching. The LP version comes with a full-album sized 36-page booklet that is just terrific (its on the CD version as well but, really, you want to see it all in full size as the graphics and photos are wonderful). 

Harold & Maude on Tidal

Much love and care went into the creation of this collection, clearly.

Streamers however can find the basic music to new Harold & Maude Soundtrack in 16-bit, 44.1 kHz CD quality on Qobuz (click here) and Tidal (click here).

Harold & Maude on Qobuz

This all of course raises the question of whether you need both versions of the Harold and Maude albums — the complete original motion picture soundtrack and the one with just Yusef Cat Stevens’ songs — on vinyl (and/or CD)?  Ultimately, that decision comes down to your personal preference. 

I am leaning towards the new Harold & Maude Soundtrack on vinyl as it is a much more rewarding listen and the physical design of the package is exemplary. I also prefer it over the song-track styled release from last year.

This new edition feels much more complete. You are reminded that this recording is as much about the stars of the film — again, Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort — as it is about Stevens’ music. While his songs are wonderful, they take their proper place in a support role to the film and that is where this new release stands out.

Completists of course may still want the earlier rare Vinyl Films limited edition for the demos and other bonus tracks but for most of us, the new Harold & Maude Soundtrack is just what we’ve been waiting for…  

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