The Music of Titanic Reborn

A Review of Two New Titanic Albums

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            One hundred years ago, on April 10th, 1912, a new ship set sail.  The luxury liner known as the RMS Titanic was reportedly unsinkable and her first voyage was made with spectacular fanfare.  Unfortunately, her first trip would be her last.  On April 12, 2012, the ship ran afoul of an iceberg and a number of secondary events couple with that collision caused the Titanic to take on water and sink.  Over 1500 people died in this disaster.  Several books and movies have been inspired by the sinking of the Titanic, the most famous of those being James Cameronís Titanic

            Coinciding with the re-release of Titanic in 3D format on April 4, 2012, Sony Classical has released Titanic: Collectorís Anniversary Edition.  The album is set to be released in stores on April 10, 2012.  Also being released on this date is a new album from BuySoundtrax Records called Titanic: An Epic Voyage.  I had the privilege to preview both albums.

            The Titanic: Collectorís Anniversary Edition is a 4-disc set featuring the music from the film, plus bonus material.  Disc One features music from the motion picture composed by American composer James Horner.  Having begun his major film scoring career in 1979 with The Lady in Red, James Horner has gone on to create musical compositions for such well-known movies as Krull, Aliens, Willow, Glory, Field of Dreams, An American Tail, Braveheart, Apollo 13, The Perfect Storm, A Beautiful Mind, Beyond Borders, Apocalypto, Avatar, and more.  His score for Titanic earned him a Golden Globe, BAFTA and Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic Score.  He also won a Golden Globe, Grammy and Academy Award for Best Original Song for My Heart Will Go On, an iconic love song performed for the film by Celine Dion

            Disc Oneís score is a perfectly remastered edition of the original featuring heavy Celtic influences.  The track begins solemnly with Never an Absolution and is followed by the elegant Distant Memories.  I love how Distant Memories begins - slightly muted and foggy, representing the vague memories of Rose as she thinks back to her days aboard the Titanic.  Rose, the theme of the film is filled with sorrow and lost innocence, featuring traditional Celtic instruments and a haunting female choral piece.  South Hampton, Leaving Port and Take Her to Sea Mr. Murdoch are all powerfully upbeat tracks with sweeping horns, strings, woodwinds and percussions representing the awesome power and beauty of the boat and the excitement felt by all aboard as the Titanic embarks on her first and only adventure into the seas.  The rest of the album takes on a solemn note as the ship begins to flounder at.  The first disc also contains Celine Dionís much beloved rendition of My Heart Will Go On.

            Disc Two, Back to the Titanic, features songs not available on the first release of the musical score.  There are some terrific compositions contained here featuring dialogue from the original movie such as An Irish Party in Third Class performed by Gaelic Storm, Alexanderís Ragtime Band performed by I Solonisti, the beautiful piano piece accompanying Jackís sketching of Rose known as The Portrait, Nearer My God to Thee performed by I Solonisti, and the radio edit of My Heart Will Go On.  Also found on this disc are the upbeat Celtic track Jack Dawsonís Luck and A Building Panic, a track which perfectly reflects the fears of the passengers and crew from the moment they realize that the ship is sinking.

            Disc Three, I Salonisti: Gentlemen, It Has Been a Privilege Playing with You Tonight, features songs played by the band aboard the Titanic.  These songs were handpicked by James Cameron after careful research into what sort of music the bands of the White Star Line would be required to perform.  The process of arranging and recording these songs for the movie was tasked to arranger and music historian/advisor John Altman.  The disc includes some fun historic pieces like Blue Danube, Alexanderís Ragtime Band, Estudiantina and more.  The pieces performed by I Solonisti are incredibly beautiful and one can actually picture the moments in the grand ballroom and formal dining room in which these pieces were performed.  This disc also includes the solemn tracks Song of Autumn and Nearer My God to TheeSong of Autumn has often been listed as the last song performed by the members of Titanicís band before the ship went down, but most historians agree that Nearer My God to Thee was the last song performed.  Either one would have been considered appropriate as both were solemn tunes designed to add a sense of calmness to the panicked passengers and crew as well as attest to the solemnity of the situation as the performers realized that there would likely be no escape.

            Disc Four, Popular Music from the Titanic Era, is a new compilation of songs from the early 1900s, featuring performances by John McCormack, Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, The Halfway House Dance Orchestra, John Kirby and His Orchestra, Chick Bullock and His Levee Loungers, Maxine Sullivan and Her Orchestra and more.  The tracks have that scratchy quality one might expect while listening to these songs during that era on an old Victrola.  This disc features well-known songs of the era like Itís a Long Way to Tipperary, Let Me Call You Sweetheart, My Gal Sal, Loch Lomond and more.  The music on this disc gives the listener an idea of the songs that the passengers and crew of the Titanic would have been listening to at the time of her maiden voyage.

            The Titanic: Collectorís Anniversary Edition is an incredible compilation of music composed for the film, historic music used in the film to create help create the proper atmosphere and songs from the times to help the listener understand the music of the era.  At just over $20.00US for either the mp3 version or the CD set, this album is definitely a must for lovers of the movie and a terrific bargain for film music aficionados.  The album is highly enjoyable and well-worth taking a listen to.

            Titanic: An Epic Musical Voyage features fifteen tracks of music compiled from James Hornerís compositions for James Cameronís Titanic, the 1979 film S.O.S. Titanic, the 1980 film Raise the Titanic based on the Dirk Pitt novel of the same name, the original unaired pilot of the television series The Time Tunnel and the Tony Award-winning musical.  The music on the album (with the exception of Third Class/Steerage, arranged by Joohyun Park, and Nearer My God to Thee, arranged by Steven Ganci) was arranged, orchestrated and conducted by Dan Redfield, a classically trained concert pianist and composer/conductor.  The album features vocal performances by Kristi Holden and ZoŽ Poledouris Rochť, a piano solo by Dan Redfield, violin solos by Elizabeth Hedman and pipes by Eric Rigler.

            The album begins with My Heart Will Go On as performed by ZoŽ Poledouris Rochť and I was turned off by this albumís very first track.  The music composed by James Cameron is performed at a much higher pitch than the original, which ordinarily wouldnít be a problem for me.  After all, it is often customary of every composer and arranger to add their own touch to music originally composed by someone else.  However, the higher pitch of the music accompanied by the lower pitch of the singer makes for a very confused and poor version of the award-winning song.  This is not to say that the song canít be performed by anyone other than Celine Dion.  I just think that the song was very poorly arranged on this album.  In fact, most of the James Cameron compositions found on this album were performed at a higher pitch and the arrangerís finishing touches on Cameronís original score left something to be desired.

            But I donít want you to think that I didnít like anything about Titanic: An Epic Musical Voyage.   Joohyun Parkís combined arrangement of Cameronís An Irish Party in Third Class combined with Jack Dawsonís Luck in Third Class/Steerage makes for a fun Celtic musical experience.  I also enjoyed Doing the Latest Rag, No Moon and Weíll Meet Tomorrow, songs taken from Maury Yestinís Titanic musical.  Those four tracks of the fifteen found on this album were truly the only worthwhile listens.  The rest fell quite short of the mark, making Titanic: An Epic Musical Voyage not quite worth the $16.00US asking price for the album.

            In closing, of the two albums being released to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the launch of the RMS Titanic, only one really captures the spirit of the event and that is Titanic: Collectorís Anniversary Edition, the four-CD set from Sony Classic.


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