The venerable Varese Sarabande company — long seen as Hollywood’s leading soundtrack label — celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, so Variety asked me to look back at its history, interview composers about its impact, and research its biggest hits. It was a surprisingly fun assignment, as its full backstory had not previously been told: how a small classical outfit accidentally became a movie soundtrack label, spawned a million-selling hit, and may have even won an Oscar for one composer (that’s in dispute, but it’s a good story). Here is the main story, about the label’s history; here is a top-10 rundown (assembled from SoundScan numbers and Varese executives’ memories); and here are some thoughts from grateful composers.
Each year at this time I rummage through 12 months of CDs to chronicle the best of the year in “classic film music” — that is, the expanded reissues, the newly recorded scores, and in some special cases the first releases of great old scores that always deserved an album but never got one. There are 20 entries, all listed here, but this year there were so many excellent releases that I added an “honorable mention” section at the bottom with more of my favorites that didn’t quite make the main list. Intrada and La-La Land were this year’s top labels (that is, with the most entries) but there are worthy contributions here from Kritzerland, Quartet, Varese Sarabande, Play-Time, Universal France and Dragon’s Domain. Check them out.
The third of three films that composer John Barry did for producer/director Francis Ford Coppola, this 1986 release starred Kathleen Turner and Nicolas Cage in a fantasy about a stressed-out mom who seemingly travels back in time to her high-school days and faces the possibility of altering her own destiny. I love Barry’s romantic scores from the ’80s (including Somewhere in Time, Body Heat and Out of Africa) and it was a pleasure to contribute notes to this first-ever complete release of his memorable music for Peggy Sue.
I was so fascinated by the 42-years-late release of the composer’s final film score that I just had to write something about it for the L.A. Times.