Batman: The Expanded Score Overview
by Paul (ral)

First of all, let me state that this is not a review. I am not qualified enough to grade this release on its technical merits so I am not going to even try. Nor do I have the dedication to give this CD set the analysis it deserves. Flynn Cook, on the other hand, has written a great article on this expanded set - you can read it here .

No my friend, what this article is all about is telling you what I thought of the CD in my own terms and, with the help of Matt Verboys from La-La Land Records, give you a little bit of insight into the background of it.

For those who haven't bought it but are planning to...I wouldn't wait too long. For although I don't have any sales figures, the set has been selling very well. Don't forget it is limited to 5000 copies!

I received the CD as I was leaving for work. My car is my audio system. It's the one place where I can turn up the volume as high as I want enjoy every aspect of a piece of music. It is also set-up to give me the best listening experience possible - from John Williams to U2...they all sound great in it. So it was with some excitement that I put on this Expanded Score from La-La Land Records.

That journey was full of goosebumps, air-punching and the odd "HOOLLYY F##K YEAHHHH BATMAN!"...well maybe not the latter, but it was pretty close. Hearing music in my car that just wasn't possible before was like a dream come true (I have never bothered with the bootleg movie rip..I hate the flat sound and SFX on it). I took the long way to work and stopped for 10mins to read the liner notes.

My only issue
My only issue with the CD is this...hiss. It's my only gripe. It's just a little hiss and it's not on most of the tracks but on the first listen I found it to be a slight distraction...but you know what - it does nothing to diminish the power and scope of the music. I could hear harp, vocals and strings that I just didn't notice before even on Shawn Murphy's initial mix (as awesome as it is). It is that element that gives this music a new life. I also can't fault La-La Land for the hiss either...they have done some beautiful work on previous scores and I know their love for this score ensured a first class re-master job. They made no secret of the fact that they had secured various sources to ensure the best possible sound was presented here - Eric Tomlinson?s 35mm 4-track mixes, 1/4 inch stereo mixes and a stereo 35mm music only track.

I put the question of the overall sound quality to Matt at La-La Land:
"The presentation of the Film Version of the score is the result of 18 months of painstaking work from the best elements (3 different sources) we were able to secure after an exhaustive search that consulted practically everyone close to the score, including Shirley Walker's estate, and secured various materials from Utah to London. The original film score recording and mix was not great to begin with and the result you hear on our Disc One is a vast, significant improvement over what we initially had -- each of the three best sources we used, (there were others in worse condition that were unusable), had pros and cons and, in the end, James Nelson did a great job in remastering what we had. That said, we're very pleased with the final outcome and are proud to be finally presenting the film version of the score. The album master we secured for the re-master of the original '89 soundtrack album was in great shape, as you can hear on Disc 2.

We can't say why some elements from this era are in better or worse shape than others. Every project we tackle, we don't know what we're dealing with element-wise until we're in the thick of it. A score from 1990 can often have elements in worse shape than one from 1970. We're not in control of how elements are stored or cared for by their keepers, so it's always a case-by-case kind of thing."

If you have the original soundtrack release why the hell would you bother buying this?
I really can't understand that question. Honestly. With the scope of this set...the fact that there are:

  • 4 very different versions of the Batman March
  • A film version and a remixed album version that are very different
  • Unreleased music
  • Unused music for both Batman and the Joker
  • Liner notes that actually told me something I didn't know

On top of all that this release actually makes me want to listen to pieces that bored me before...mostly the love theme stuff. Also the big set-pieces pay off more because there is more set-up. I love this CD for that. Really..I love it!

More than a soundtrack
This release isn't just a presentation of a film is a piece of history. Through the unsed tracks it gives us a glimpse of how the themes and score evolved. Through the "easter egg" at the end of CD 2 it transports us back to 1989 and puts us in the recording studio at CTS...we can enjoy the craic (if you will allow me to use one of my Irish terms) with the orchestra. That easter egg put one hell of a smile on my face.

With that in mind I asked Matt from La-La land how they felt unveiling this stuff just over 18 months ago:
"All involved with the project here at La-La Land are in the 30-40 year-old range, so Elfman's BATMAN is a score that is close to all of our hearts - tied to our youthful love of cinema and film music, and in the case of MV Gerhard, it was the score that really ignited his deep passion for film music. It was quite an exhilariting rush to hear the film version of the score as we first reviewed the elements as they came in."

A pipe-dream come true!
As you all know, we had a petition on this site for a couple of years to ask for such an expanded release. I spent some time going around different sites to drum up support (usually unsuccessfully). The response from many was that we didn't need this release. Honestly...people said that! The petition itself also only gathered less that 300 signatures. We are a small site, relativity unknown in the grand scheme of things, and I felt the message wasn't getting out there. I did not think this soundtrack would get a re-release - nevermind the treatment it has been given here! The FSM Superman boxsets were limited to 4000 copies, are probably better know and held in higher regard. In the bigger picture I didn't see Batman getting similiar recognition.

I am in no way saying that we made this release happen (infact I know we didn't) - I am just glad that La-La Land Records had the same idea. And you know, now that I think of it...whatever the issues fans have with one aspect of the movies - be it Burton's vision, Keaton's casting, Penguin bile - Danny Elfman's themes are one thing we can all agree on.

This along with the good sale pre-orders of the forthcoming Keaton statues are showing WB and DC that Burton's Batman films are still viable assets and worth re-visting.

More to come..?
So what of the next Batman score that really needs a face-lift...Batman Returns:

"We're very excited about our expanded and remastered 2-Disc set of BATMAN RETURNS, which will be released later this fall - and the elements we've got on that are of fantastic quality."


So what is the score?
This score is a goosebump-inducing powerhouse worthy of frequent air-punching whilst shouting "HOOLLYY F##K YEAHHHH BATMAN!". I love it. I know from the forum that others do too...and if you are about to get it and put it on for the first time - I know you will love it as well.

You can purchase it by clicking here - Batman Expanded CD.

My thanks go out to Matt Verboys of La-La Land Records for replying to my emails during what has been a very busy time for them with the release of this soundtrack. My thanks also go to all who worked on this album release - Jeff Bond, Dan Goldwasser, Neil S. Bulk, MV Gerhard and James Nelson. It has been an awesome 2 years to be a fan of Batman 89 and this CD is the cherry on top!

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