Monday, 9 May 2011

Les Baxter's score for House of Usher gets a welcome release

Being a huge collector of the soundtracks to any Vincent Price film, I was excited to hear that Les Baxter's score to House of Usher is finally available on CD through Intrada.

Here's the blurb...
Les Baxter was well known for writing in a diverse set of styles. And while probably most famous for his classic lounge music albums, his work on the AIP Edgar Allen Poe films is probably equally famous. Few of Baxter's original session tapes survive from this period. “We went in a hurry, monaurally recording directly to the soundtrack,” Baxter recalled in 1981, “and nobody really thought of or took much interest in running off a quarter-inch protection. Neither did anyone think of preserving the original tapes for any sort of purpose. As soon as the film was recorded and the music tracks dubbed in, then they were erased or dumped into the garbage can." A true tragedy, which until now seemed to have also applied to his most famous AIP/Poe effort -- the 1960 adaptation of the Poe tale House of Usher (alternatively known as The Fall of the House of Usher).

Nonetheless, a music editor's cut of the music surfaced, in pristine, mono sound quality. While the sources presented the music as assembled in the film, with some volume adjustments to allow for dialogue (many of which were removed during the restoration for this album), it is none the worse for wear and presents a glorious listen to this classic score. The score features an elegantly multifaceted theme that binds the film together, and the score squeezes every possible bit of the Gothic scale, haunted hallway suspense, macabre terror, and melodramatic romance out of the horror genre. The most overtly ghostly presence on the score belongs to the vibrato wailings of an adult chorus—the cursed spirits of the Usher dead. “[James Nicholson] gave me absolute carte blanche,” Baxter fondly reflected. “I had an old castle, and Vincent Price with a strange disease where he hears things from the dungeon and is sensitive beyond belief to touch and sound...What more could I ask for? It was a composer’s dream...Usher was very sensitive for a horror film...The music was very much on the sensual side—in some scenes, almost to the point of passionate.”

This release is limited to 1200 units. For track listing and sound samples, please visit the Intrada website.

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