Ever since the release of Star Wars in 1977, collectibles have become an almost integral component of movie marketing, if not moviemaking itself. But while toys, t-shirts, posters and party supplies all offer a secondary sort of connection to the films that their fans worship, soundtracks are truly a part of the original creative process, and preserve not just the essence of whatever property they’re attached to, but underscore (literally) their emotional impact. And in an oddly brilliant attempt to combat (or maybe capitalize on) the music industry’s move to purely digital distribution, studios are starting to release soundtracks to their films in increasingly unusual editions and formats, most notably on the music collector’s ultimate media of preference: vinyl.
The most recent example of this is Walt Disney Records’ April 28 release of the TRON: Legacy soundtrack, which was produced on 180-gram vinyl, comes in a gatefold sleeve printed with glow-in-the-dark ink, and features seven tracks from the score unavailable on any domestic release. But for several years, a number of studios have been releasing LP versions of the soundtracks for some of their most successful titles, while other distributors – both domestic and foreign – have delved into studio discographies, or even directly appealed to composers to create new and sometimes first-edition albums for film scores. They often include deluxe packaging, extra tracks previously unavailable, and little extras that you can’t get anywhere else. Best of all, many of these releases feature digital downloads for the unlucky suckers who don’t own turntables, both preserving the value of their untouched vinyl and allowing collectors to still enjoy the music enclosed within.
As such, we’ve put together a short list of some of the best and most noteworthy vinyl releases in recent years, chosen for a variety of reasons, including their unique design, limited availability, and most importantly, special content. Also, it should be noted that our list includes only recent releases or reissues; suffice it to say there are thousands of O.G. soundtracks out there waiting for you, but in an era of digital downloads, these particular titles are something special. (And for even more choices, there’s always are countless accredited websites that ship internationally, including Dusty Groove America, Turntable Lab, Movie Grooves, Amazon, and of course good old-fashioned eBay.)
1. TRON “Translucence” (Walt Disney Records)
This 10” record features only four tracks from Daft Punk’s score for TRON: Legacy, but one of those tracks, “Castor,” was previously unreleased (it was the other uptempo cut played at End of Line Club), and they come on a beautiful piece of clear vinyl embedded with the image of an identity disc, printed in not one but three different colors. If the music itself is all you care about, then the soundtrack LP is a surer bet (it does include “Castor” as well), but this Record Store Day exclusive is certainly one of the most beautiful soundtrack albums released of late, and it looks just as good sitting on a shelf as it sounds on your stereo.
2. The Big Boss (Original Soundtrack Recording) (Ascension Records)
After first seeing Fists of Fury at 18 or 19, I became mildly (OK, maniacally) obsessed with finding the soundtrack to Bruce Lee’s first film, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that Ascension Records secured the rights and offered the completed soundtrack. Amazingly, they tricked out the title on vinyl, featuring not only remastered 18 tracks used in the film, but a beautiful album cover and two full color 12” prints, individually numbered in an edition of 500. Although I probably would have paid for just the awesome title track alone, on vinyl the entire soundtrack becomes a special collectible.
3. Watchmen “Desolation Row / Prison Fight” 12” (Reprise Records)
When Zack Snyder’s Watchmen was released in 2009, Warner Brothers pulled out all of the stops expecting that it would become as much of a cultural phenomenon as the graphic novel series upon which it was based. Part of their campaign included a series of vinyl releases, the most flashy of which was this 12” picture-disc, which featured the trademark Watchmen smiley face on one side and a shot of Rorschach on the other. But while this particular record only featured two tracks – My Chemical Romance’s cover of the Bob Dylan song “Desolation Row” and a cut from Tyler Bates’ score – Warner released another LP featuring the entire score, as well as a limited-edition collection of seven 7” picture discs featuring additional tracks pressed over images of the characters from the film.
4. Assault on Precinct 13 (Record Makers)
John Carpenter has produced some of the best scores of the last 30 years, changing the way that audiences and composers alike think about music for movies. The score to one of his earliest films, Assault on Precinct 13, remains, even among his considerable library, one of his best, but it wasn’t until 2003 that Record Makers – the label started by French electronic group Air – put out the full score for the first time ever. Other than a more recent release by Record Makers of the CD version of this same package, Assault has never been available commercially, and the vinyl comes in a beautiful jacket with an essay by a film music expert on the back cover, an interview with Carpenter on the sleeve, and a note written in 2003 by the film’s producer, Joe Kaufman. The sheer exclusivity of this release makes it well worth hunting down, but the bonus is hearing the music, which sounds glorious on vinyl.
5. Hanna (Focus Features)
Although the film was released just a couple of months ago, this may be the most difficult soundtrack of all of these to find, because as of right now, The Chemical Brothers have not released any of this music on vinyl commercially. Focus Features, the film’s distributor, only produced copies of the soundtrack on vinyl as a promotional tool. But thankfully, they didn’t skimp on the quality, producing a record that sounds absolutely fantastic, although one expects that if the Brothers do late release an official copy on LP, they might split its 20 tracks across four sides rather than just two. But as the sort of thing that collectors will enjoy bragging about to their friends, the soundtrack to Hanna is a must-have for multiple reasons.
6. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Atlantic Records)
No matter what you might think about the Twilight films themselves, their soundtracks are all pretty terrific, and in this humble writer’s opinion, Eclipse is the best. The vinyl version of the soundtrack comes on double vinyl packaged in a deluxe gatefold jacket, and includes an exclusive lasercut bookmark, which no doubt only augments the awesomeness of Thom Yorke’s contribution to the album, “Hearing Damage” (which is truly an amazing song). Meanwhile, the New Moon LP comes on red vinyl, giving it its own unique luster. But as the sort of collectible that a fan might not think of first, this is a terrific keepsake, and with any luck, the same sort of gateway to becoming a vinyl hound that the source material is to science fiction and fantasy storytelling.
7. Killing Melody: Instrumental Music From Japanese Pinky Violence Movies (Ethbo)
Although a compilation may kind of be cheating, there’s almost nowhere else you can find the music on this compilation, which collects tracks from the sexploitation movies of Japan in the 1970s, making it a treasure trove of great tracks you can enjoy almost one place only. Other than a terrific cover image and an insert with an essay by an expert on Japanese movies of the 1970s, the main attraction of this LP is the music itself, which has been taken from a wide variety of films and includes an equally wide variety of sounds. Best of all, this album is one of the few that features music so unusual and obscure that it may serve the opposite purpose of its counterparts, meaning it will prompt appreciators to hunt down some of the films from which these tracks came, in order to see which scenes they accompany. A fantastic record on its own merits that holds the promise of making its purchaser a Pinky Violence fan from Day One.