Dragonheart (Randy Edelman, 1996): Randy Edelman’s main theme to Dragonheart has been used in so many trailers for other movies that it is likely to be instantly familiar to most people even if they have no idea what it is from.
The theme is introduced during the opening cue, entitled “World of the Heart (Main Title)”. It is a primarily string-driven theme with a warmly noble quality to it. The theme has a definite grandeur and sense of importance, which is obviously the reason why it has become so popular to re-purpose it. In some parts of the score, starting with the album’s 2nd cue “To the Stars”, Edelman adds a wordless choir to the theme as well, giving it an even broader scope. Much of the score continues in the same vein as the theme, usually strongly melodic with strings generally in the forefront.
The score does have occasional darker patches, such as the very prominent percussion and chant-like vocals found in the cues “Einon” and “Bowen’s Decoy”. The former cue also introduces some distinctive ethnic elements to the score, with some old-European styling to some of the melodies. This includes some prominent use of acoustic guitar in this and a number of other cues.
Despite the highly melodic, fairly large-sound to the score, Edelman actually makes pretty extensive use of synthesizers during much of the score. During some of the bigger orchestral segments, synthesizers are used to enhance the percussion and give the score a bit more active bass. Some of the lighter, more comedic sections of the score place the synthesizers more up-front, as in the cue “The Last Dragon Slayer”.
The soundtrack to Dragonheart was released on CD at the time of the film’s release and is still readily available. The album contains a relatively generous 45 minutes of score and is generally a solid representation of the score, although I suspect there would be plenty of material for an expanded release.
Dragonslayer (Alex North, 1981): This big-budget Disney/Paramount co-production (unusual at that time) wasn’t a big hit at the time of its release, but it has increased somewhat in stature over the years. It isn’t considered a classic by any means, but it is now generally fairly well-regarded as one of the better entries in the sword & sorcery genre.
The score to Dragonslayer came fairly late in Alex North’s distinguished career and it was really his last score for this type of epic, action-oriented period piece, the type of film in which the composer often exceled. He delivered a dark, minimally-thematic score that is often a bit difficult to listen to separate from the film, despite the score’s obvious artistry. North’s score is an avant-garde, often biting effort that lacks the generally upbeat sense of fun that is usually associated with this genre. It isn’t for everybody and has long been a controversial score among fans, but it is a complex and always interesting score.
While North never really establishes much in the way of strong, distinctive themes that carry through the score, he does introduce melodic material, although it is often surrounded by very active, often dissonant music. For example, the cue “Maiden Sacrifice” introduces a distinctive, tender melody, but generally overwhelms it with intense strings, brass, and percussion. This type of approach is repeated fairly often throughout the score.
It is fairly well known that North repurposed portions of his rejected score to 2001: A Space Odyssey for Dragonslayer and those familiar with the either or both of the recordings of that score will certainly recognize its echoes here. In particular, the waltz that North wrote for the space station docking sequence is clearly reproduced in the cues “Burning Village” and “Dragon Sore-ing” as well as during the finale and over the end credits. It becomes the most thematic part of this score, although I’m not sure I would think that had I not heard the 2001 score. In each cue, North builds on his already existing music to build something distinct to this score. The two scores really make for interesting companion pieces.
While the score did receive a fairly limited LP release as well as an earlier CD release (of dubious legitimacy), the first truly official CD release came from La La Land Records in 2010. It is a limited edition of 3,000 copies, although still readily available at the time I’m writing this.
Dreamer (Bill Conti, 1979): This fairly obscure Bill Conti score opens with a “Main Title” cue featuring a pleasantly old-fashioned Americana swing-music style, which figures prominently in other parts of the score as well. Towards the end of the cue, it transitions into more of the late-70s pop style that is more typical of Conti’s scores during that time period.
The score is kind of all over the place stylistically, with some cues featuring the old-fashioned style, others in the more pop style, such as the romantic pop cues “Double Image”, “Blurry” and “Alley Cat”. The cue “Pool Room” even has a country instrumental style while “Waitress Walking” is pretty much pure disco and “Racking Pins” has a bit of a Mexican mariachi style.
The soundtrack also includes a catchy, 70s pop song entitled “Reach for the Top”. The song was written by Conti and performed by Pablo Cruise. It certainly isn’t as memorable as Conti’s famous “Gonna Fly Now” which was written for Rocky just a year earlier, but it still has the same triumphant, anthem style.
The score for Dreamer was released by Varese Sarabande paired with Conti’s The Scout on a 1,000 copy limited edition “CD Club” release, which is now sold out. The music from Dreamer runs around 40 minutes. Note that the above image is poster art from the film as there was no Dreamer cover art with the CD.