Vangelis • Blade Runner

Audio Fidelity AFZLP 154
180-gram LP
1994/2013

Music

Sound

by Guy Lemcoe | May 20, 2013

idley Scott’s movie Blade Runner, released in 1982, is one of the most influential sci-fi motion pictures of all time. Its noirish depiction of a bleak, dank and depressingly chaotic Los Angeles circa 2019 has never been surpassed. Its popularity has generated numerous re-releases of the film in various editions, starting in 1992 with the 10th Anniversary Edition. Following this release in 1997 came the Director’s Cut and finally, in 2007, the Final Cut. But where was the soundtrack promised with the release of the first domestic cut of the movie? It was well received by fans and critics, including Best Original Score nominations for a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) and a Golden Globe. In 1982 there was a version of the soundtrack released by WEA featuring the New American Orchestra. This adaptation bore little resemblance to the original -- the less said about it the better. There have been several bootlegs of this music made available to fans over the years, as well as a vinyl version that for some reason originated in Brazil. In 1994, Atlantic finally released the soundtrack album on CD.

Audio Fidelity has hit the ball out of the park with this vinyl release of the original Vangelis soundtrack. It's on 180-gram red translucent vinyl, the dozen tracks mastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio. The vinyl is pressed at Chad Kassem’s 21,000-square-foot Quality Record Pressings plant in Salina, Kansas. As a physical object, the album is a lovely thing. The jacket’s front is a heavy, glossy, beautifully rendered full-color reproduction of the artwork seen first on the CD. The back of the gatefold carries the same art as the back of the CD. Inside, all but two of the photos found in the CD’s booklet are duplicated, and the missing photos are used for the record labels. Neat!

When the stylus finally hit the groove for the first time, I heard dead quiet and then the slow, deep, ethereal synthesized drone (courtesy of a Yamaha CS-80) setting the stage for Harrison Ford’s voice. From that point on I knew I was in for a ride into the magical world of Vangelis’s soundscapes, the music ebbing and flowing in and around the various melodies etched into my memories of the movie itself.

The soundstage was deep and suspended behind the speakers, not as wide as I expected, but satisfying nonetheless. Where this recording excels is in the bass, which was awesome in its impact and truly subterranean in spots, with much more extension and information than my Acoustat speakers could handle. Those of you with subwoofers are really going to enjoy this record.

The mids were spot on, with beautiful rendering of the voices and saxophone. On "Love Theme," I could easily tell that Dick Morrisey’s saxophone was a reed instrument. It had the texture and "brassiness" of the real thing. Mary Hopkin’s voice was stylistically disembodied, but it still sounded like that of a real human. The nostalgic ambience of Don Percival’s "One More Kiss, Dear" transported me to a much earlier place in time. The fine mastering allowed the personalities of the various synthesizers to emerge.

The treble was airy and fast, just what‘s needed for music with a lot of percussion effects. Check out the cymbal crash on side one. It had impact and sounded like hammered brass as it shimmered in its own cushion of air.

This music has been beautifully characterized by Paul Sammon in his book Future Noir as "futuristic nostalgia. . .a dizzying melange of unabashed romanticism, ominous electronic rumblings, gutter-level blues, delicate celestial shadings, and heartbreaking melancholy." I wholeheartedly agree. Add to that state-of-the-art sound and you have a treasure, and one long overdue.

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