[EXCLUSIVE REVIEW] TITANIC EXPANDED: AN OCEAN OF DISCOVERIES
La-La Land Records has given us a total surprise! After the disappointing 2012 Anniversary Edition that offered identical content to previously released albums, who expected a full version to be released? At that time, many imagined that the most suitable moment to publish all the as-yet unreleased music had come and gone, and the unique opportunity would be lost. Sure, the music had been remastered, but fans had come to expect so much more.
This November 28, 2017 – just one week shy of exactly 20 years after the first album released on December 7, 1997 – our dream becomes reality with this new edition assembling the long-desired tracks. Dive with us in this exclusive review in the heart of a monument of cinema and film music.
After countless listens to the music, both on album and in the film, you might think you know everything there is to know about Titanic’s music. Think again. In this new presentation, you will completely rediscover this score! La-La Land purposes to reveal the totality of the music as it was originally conceived, composed and recorded by James Horner for the James Cameron film. Like the 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray of Aliens (1986) which offered two presentations of the isolated score (one of the director’s edits for the theatrical release and one for the composer’s original score), this new Titanic box offers us the opportunity to listen for the first time to many minutes of music that were completely absent from not just the original albums, but even from the final film. Spread over the first three (of four) discs, here awaits for any Horner fan an exciting journey of musical discovery – of passages familiar, and of never-before-heard jewels.
The album begins the same way it did 20 years ago, with Eric Rigler on uilleann pipes that play over the Logo. Sissel soon takes over in a mournful performance of the main title, playing over images of the past – a sepia-toned day of joy as the great ship left its port in the past, now resting on the ocean floor about to be visited by an expedition team.
2 1/2 Miles Down is an otherworldly ambient sound of dread and suspense, as we plunge into an alien world within our very own in the North Atlantic Ocean, exploring the wreckage of the Titanic. This is all textural, groaning and droning synth voices and ghostly strings. Faint hints of melody shine through this rather disturbing, unsettling world of sound. Nowadays Hans Zimmer is known for his effective use of sound design, but this piece pioneered that sound 20 years before and still maintains its melodic heart throughout. Orchestra joins the fray with rhythmic strings and snare drum.
The film takes the most sparse aspects of the cue and loops them throughout, mixing them with various elements of different cues and dialing down every effect, leaving the orchestra behind as the expedition team uses submersible and remote-operated vehicles to explore the Titanic wreckage in search of a safe believed to contain the 'Heart of the Ocean' diamond.
To the Keldysh is a grand statement of what is really the film's main theme, a very warm and inviting respite from the alien world of the ocean below. The expedition team, led by Brock Lovett (the late Bill Paxton), discover their search was futile because the diamond is missing from the safe, but there exists a folder of drawings preserved inside…
Rose Revealed is a brief moment of magical piano and woodwinds underscoring the moment Brock recognizes the very diamond he seeks has been sketched, worn in the drawing by a nude model the very day Titanic sank in 1912.
Distant Memories is verbatim from the original album, a quiet wash of chimes and rolling piano chords supported by synth voices before being overtaken by orchestra. Heavily cut down in the film, this music underscored an elderly woman's discovery of the drawing on the news, and contacts Brock telling him she is the nude model in the drawing. A grand statement of the main theme ushers in a sweeping shot of a helicopter taking the elderly woman onto the Keldysh, still afloat in the North Atlantic.
My Drawing continues the magical atmosphere of soft synth voices, piano and woodwinds, as the elderly woman, a 100-year-old named Rose Dawson (Gloria Stuart, who lived to the age of 100 herself), gazes upon the drawing of her from so long ago.
Relics and Treasures is completely missing from the film. A soft harp supports a french horn performing the main theme with rumbling piano chords (similar in style to Horner's performances of the themes in Deep Impact) before the atmospheric synths and strings take over. This cue was meant for the rediscovery of Rose's old mirror and hair comb, noting that while the items, now relics, are the same the reflection of the woman has 'changed a bit'.
The next three cues are taken directly from the original soundtrack album, whereas their alternate / film counterparts are found on disc three of this new release:
Southampton, essentially a song-form arrangement of the Titanic main theme and accompanying chorus, designed as a merging of Book of Days by Enya and Ode to Joy by Ludwig von Beethoven (hence the film's screenplay describing the ship at sea sequences as the "Ode to Titanic") the synth voices and underlying bass line driving the music forward. The cue ends on a somewhat darker note, giving it a sense of foreshadowing the inevitable.
Leaving Port continues the main theme and chorus, another arrangement of a cue originally meant to underscore the sequence from when American artist Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his Italian friend Fabrizio (Danny Nucci) win tickets to Titanic during a poker game, to their eventual boarding of the ship as it leaves Southampton dock. The actual piece of music for this scene can be found as an alternate on disc three.
"Take Her to Sea, Mr. Murdoch" concludes the sequence of music in the film utilizing the main theme and chorus, using the driving bass and voices to propel the Titanic forward as its engines are put to full power as it leaves Ireland and heads into the North Atlantic.
First Sighting is a new addition, a soft synth flute supported by light piano as the younger Rose (Kate Winslet) quickly glances at Jack from atop her First Class deck, while Jack on the lower third class cannot take his eyes off of her.
Rose's Suicide Attempt opens with panpipes and dark rumbling piano, joined by synth voices and the woodwinds of Horner veteran Tony Hinnigan. Rose attempts to climb the railings of the Titanic's stern and jump, but given the length of this cue, it was likely meant to underscore a scene originally cut from the film where Rose trashes her stateroom by throwing things around it in anger and frustration for being binded by her very prim and proper dress and corset before running to the stern's railings in despair.
Jack Saves Rose opens with a friendly hand – Jack offering his hand to Rose to help her back onto the boat deck, supported by a warm string arrangement of Aaron Copland's Fanfare For The Common Man, a highly appropriate reference given the class differences between the First Class elegant Rose and the steerage class common man in Jack. This tender moment is destroyed when Rose's dress is caught on her shoe and she slips, nearly falling into the water. Dark, rumbling piano strikes and trembling strings highlight both Rose's fear and Jack's determination to pull her back.
The Promenade sees Horner at his most tender. Solo piano used earlier in the film when Rose began to tell her story of her time on Titanic – the 'Ship of dreams', is here underscoring a happier bonding moment between Jack and Rose as they converse on the First Class deck, where he shows her his many drawings and Jack asserts that Rose never would have actually jumped overboard.
Butterfly Comb continues the tender piano solos, used in the film for the elderly Rose discovering her old items which have become relics. It was used again in its proper place when young Rose removes the comb from her hair, in preparation for the soon to be famous drawing, as Rose is about to become a nude model for Jack.
Rose is taken from the original album, the signature moment of Jack and Rose on the Titanic's bow, where Jack shows Rose how to "fly". It was the film's most memorable and romantic moment, with vocals by Sissel soaring over synth voices, a bass line and strings as they perform the famous love theme. In the film the synth voices are dialed down and in its place are piano and a lovely harp.
The Portrait is completely new, radically different, almost like a demo. It features the synth voices, synth strings and a harp. The entire cue is electronic, and replaced in the film with a much more intimate piano solo for the moment Jack sketches Rose while wearing the Heart of the Ocean diamond.
Lovejoy Chases Jack and Rose is a traditional cue showcasing Eric Rigler on uilleann pipes, Tony Hinnigan on woodwinds and a variety of Irish percussion, a bit of rambunctious fun for Jack and Rose running around the lower decks of Titanic in a cat-and-mouse chase as they run from Lovejoy (David Warner).
Lovemaking is entirely electronic, synth woodwinds and piano supporting the moment Jack and Rose make love in the back seat of a 1910 Renault Town Car. Their intimacy happens just as Titanic is truly alone in the dark, steaming forward toward its ultimate destiny.
Hard to Starboard is presented here in slightly extended form, where the cue as heard on the original album is bookended by new material. The first opens the cue with a thumping bass line and soft chimes for the scene in which two stewards search for Jack and Rose, who escaped the Renault and headed back to the main deck. The cue as we know it continues on as they embrace, with synth voices and oboe giving way to ominous brass as the ship's lookouts in the crow's nest spot an object in the dark directly ahead. A martial drum pattern signifying tension gives way to action as the film – and film score – take a sharp turn all with one electric guitar chord. The tension is ramped up as the Titanic's crew race into action to prevent the ship from striking the object, a massive iceberg. The music is similar in tone and approach to the opening battle sequence Al Bathra from the 1996 drama Courage Under Fire, a rather unique cue with blazing electric guitars throughout. The primary difference is the sense of urgency throughout this version of the same basic idea: in Courage Under Fire the music was at a slower pace, with colder, more militaristic approaches to confrontation. Here, the music is more frenetic, as the confrontation is inevitable but there is a desperate need to avoid it at all costs. The ending of the cue adds a tense three note horn passage and continues the high strings that originally brought the cue to a close.
Disc One concludes with Rose Frees Jack, a very sparse cue of synth strings and Horner's trademark airy atmospheric effect. Jack is arrested after being accused of stealing the Heart of the Ocean diamond and an overcoat. Rose takes it upon herself to try to find him believing his innocence.
A Building Panic opens the disc with chaos. Racing string figures, snare drums and brass accents lead into familiar material, some of it previously released on the Back to Titanic follow-up album. An extended version of tension building with panpipes, synth voices and various string instruments racing along to a climax with pounding drums as the passengers on Titanic struggle to make their way onto lifeboats as quick as they can, where panic has started to ensue while Rose is below decks, searching for a way to free Jack from his handcuffs as the room sinks around him. The pounding percussion and added harpsichord fade away, but rebuild once more to accent the chaos on the decks as the Titanic's crew struggles to keep everything under control. The cue comes to a tense close with brass and an unsettling string figure. Parts of this cue are looped and tracked throughout the film's entire sinking sequence.
Unable to Stay, Unwilling to Leave, from the original album scores the sad moment where Jack is essentially put in his place by Rose's fiancé Cal (Billy Zane), making him realize that he has the upper hand due to his First Class status as Rose is lowered into a lifeboat. Sissel returns to sing the newfound lovers' sorrow, supported by synth voices and Tony Hinnigan's woodwinds. As Rose escapes the lifeboat to reunite with Jack, Eric Rigler returns on uilleann pipes to take over Sissel's melody, though it should be noted that in the film, the pipes are removed entirely from the audio mix. Their reunion is short-lived and becomes a tense chase with a distraught Cal grabbing Lovejoy's gun and firing it freely at the couple who escape below. Percussion, racing strings and piano underscore the action.
Trapped on 'D' Deck is an immense cue, opening very quietly with a bass line and a two-note string figure with rumbling piano. Pounding percussion signify a major change where a stark, disturbing, almost growling piano and synth string line take over and build to a trumpet line which leads into an extended section of familiar material – heard largely in the Back to Titanic cue A Building Panic. Strings, pounding snare drum ratchet up the tension which breaks into a chaotic passage of soaring synth voices and rumbling piano and anvil strikes. Rhythmic piano takes over and builds to a refrain on airy synths while strings play a desperate harmonizing of the love theme (the synth woodwinds that play the love theme melody is not included here, but can be heard on the A Building Panic album cue). The strings in their desperation build to a calm close, but it's not over yet…. A strike of anvil and woodwinds are supported by more racing string lines and snares which build to a chaotic dissonant passage with brass highlights. A moment where Jack and Rose are trapped behind a locked gate builds in extreme tension with col legno hits and rising brass and percussion which gives way to a somber melody for strings.
Unused in the film, Murdoch's Suicide is entirely made up of crying synth voices in a very short passage.
The Sinking, heard on the original album is an entire cue of action. Racing strings, pounding snare drums, bells and brass held together by precious few statements of the love theme in varying guises. The love theme essentially becomes an action theme throughout this piece, scoring major moments of terror such as Jack's friend Fabrizio being crushed to death by one of Titanic's four funnels, and the grand staircase and dome ceiling torn apart by rushing water in a massive moment on anvil, snare and dissonant brass.
Death of Titanic, again heard on the original album, underscores Titanic's final moments. Chaos is everywhere, supported by synth voices under the full orchestra. James Horner often said the "action will take care of itself" on many films, including Titanic, but he always managed to very skillfully craft extended action cues, and in this film they maintain their heart and never let the tragedy slip away. The cue, like the great ship, comes to a thunderous close, with material from the ending of Trapped on 'D' Deck presented here in a larger, extended form before giving way to one last statement of the love theme at its most fearful and desperate with racing snare drum. It stops suddenly with an anvil strike, ghostly voices and cries echoing forth from strings. A short melody (previously heard in Apollo 13 and Balto and the future main theme to Enemy at the Gates) scores this sense of sadness before militaristic snares, complex strings, groaning synths and brass bring Titanic from the grandest ship in the world, to its death in the North Atlantic Ocean, leaving most of its passengers in terror on the surface of the freezing water.
A Promise Kept continues material heard on the original album, a quiet cue representing the mass casualties of the Titanic's sinking. Frozen families everywhere, given their quiet respect with subtle brass and synth effects. Soft chimes and woodwinds highlight Rose's state of shock, herself laying afloat on top of a piece of debris while her lover Jack sits in the freezing water, passing away from exposure. Sissel returns to mourn him, while Rose struggles to swim to a nearby crew member with a whistle, also gone from exposure to the water, and whistles for a passing lifeboat to turn back and retrieve her. Sissel's performance is replaced in the film with a version similar to the main title, in a more tragic performance than heard here.
A Life So Changed from the original album is a short statement of Sissel performing the same tragic theme as heard during the film's opening, supported by synth voices. This cue was meant for a montage of the Titanic's survivors as they float in their lifeboats, and can be heard throughout a deleted scene which extended this montage further to the deck of the Carpathia, the ship which recovered many of Titanic's passengers.
New material returns in A Woman's Heart is a Deep Ocean of Secrets, which is surely a classic Horner cue title. The love theme returns in similar fashion to the cue Rose, with stronger synth support and a delicate piano playing in unison. The cue concludes with a sense of sadness as the elderly Rose finishes the story of her experiences on Titanic 86 years prior.
An Ocean of Memories is a suite from the original album. It offers a reflection of everything that has come to pass, with statements of the tragic theme and the love theme brought together with Sissel, trumpet solo, synth voices and airy effects under the full orchestra.
Disc two concludes with Post, as in post-song, was designed as the original end credits, meant to be a continuation of the Celine Dion hit My Heart Will Go On, as this cue opens with the exact same strings the song ends with. It is a shorter statement of material to be heard in full in the cue Hymn to the Sea.
Disc three is a compilation of both material from the original soundtrack album and its follow-up Back to Titanic and new material in the form of alternates and versions of cues meant for the film before they underwent extensive editing for the final mix.
Never an Absolution is first, just as it opened the original album with Eric Rigler's uilleann pipes. This was merged with the cue A Life So Changed to form this piece of introductory music.
Trailer was written for the film's original theatrical trailer, itself based on the 1996 ShoWest presentation reel which featured music from Enya. This is a small suite, almost like an overture summarizing all of the principal themes of the score, but concluding with material that is unique to this trailer and not at all like the music in the film. While the themes are essentially complete, the synth voices are of an almost demo-like construct supported by woodwinds and uilleann pipes.
The Portrait is taken from Back to Titanic, and is a refined piano solo performed by James Horner as an alternative to the more intimate, yet somewhat improvised 'demo' of the love theme heard in full as track 11 of this disc.
Logo (alternate extended version) opens with Eric Rigler on uilleann pipes, this time playing the tragic theme similar to how he performed in the original album cue Hymn to the Sea. Synth voices and percussion take over leading to a dark statement of brass in this main title alternative very reminiscent of Braveheart in style and sound.
This variation recalls the words of James Horner at the Symposium in Vienna in 2013:
"The movie originally opened was in a real 'Jim Cameron' way. It was a black screen with a deep rumbling engine sound, or some sound and you realized after about a minute in black, the ship was going slowly… He had Mars from Holst. That was the beginning of Titanic. (…) I said to Jim, why don’t you start the movie, instead of what you’ve got, but with ship and sepia and everybody waving, slow motion, and put the voice over that particular one… and that was a very radical thing, obviously, to undertake. But he thought about it and two months after we talked about it he asked me down to his place – we would meet in 3 days and I’d play the music for him – and he had re-cut and re-shot the whole beginning of the film with this footage, of the film leaving Southampton in slow motion in sepia and everybody waving, and he had put the women’s voices over it and that’s how film became Titanic."
2 1/2 Miles Down (alternate) is a much shorter version of the cue with a bold bass line and shimmering chimes. This was folded into the larger film edit of this music near the expedition sequence's ending.
Southampton (alternate), also known as "Southampton – revised", is the film version of the introduction to 1912. Unlike the album version heard on disc one, this is more of a structured piece of orchestral music, with a grand opening fanfare leading to the main theme and chorus. It is more elegantly performed than the album version, with light cymbal strikes and a magical harp. Similar to the album version, it ends on the same darker note of foreshadowing the inevitable.
Leaving Port (with alternate ending) is the exact same cue as presented on disc one, but the ending statement of brass is removed and the strings simply fade out as a close.
Leaving Port (alternate), also known as "Leaving Port – revised", is a massive, triumphant statement of the main theme and chorus, originally meant to underscore the sequence from when American artist Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his Italian friend Fabrizio (Danny Nucci) win tickets to Titanic during a poker game, to their eventual boarding of the ship as it leaves Southampton dock. Only a small fragment of this cue is in the film, most of it replaced with Lovejoy chases Jack and Rose. The synth voices and shimmering chimes take the Titanic's departure and make it into a celebration of joy, in somewhat similar approach to the launch sequence in Apollo 13. In hindsight the music might have been too overpowering for the sequence but is nonetheless one of, if not the most exciting cues on this release.
"Take Her to Sea, Mr. Murdoch (alternate)" is the exact same cue as presented on disc one, but the climax of the cue is altered with higher octave strings, cymbals and a brass fanfare conclusion.
Rose (alternate) is similar to the album version on disc one, but the synth voices are removed and Sissel's vocal is more reserved, with a magical harp and deep bass tones supporting her voice.
Lovejoy Chases Jack and Rose (alternate) is an unused traditional Irish folk tune different from that of the version used in the film as heard on disc one.
Hard to Starboard (alternate) is essentially the same piece of music, only with all synthesized effects removed.
A Building Panic (album suite) is from the album Back to Titanic, a suite combining elements of A Building Panic and Trapped on 'D' Deck, but with edited passages of music throughout.
Death of Titanic is the same cue as heard on disc two, but with all synthesizer effects removed leaving the pure orchestra. The closing statement of dissonance and chaos really shows the frenetic string work more clearly.
A Promise Kept (alternate) is a shorter film version of the cue's second half, with soft synth flutes, airy effects, synth voices and the more mournful performance of Sissel scoring Jack's demise and as previously heard in the film's main title. Parts of this cue were edited into the film version of 2 1/2 Miles Down for its conclusion. Tony Hinnigan takes up Sissel's melody, and strings bring the cue to a quiet close.
James Horner's score comes to a conclusion just as it did on the original soundtrack album, with the reflective Hymn to the Sea. Sissel opens with her statement of the tragic theme, while Tony Hinnigan and Eric Rigler play in unison. Synth voices join in with their final statement of the main theme, and Rigler returns to take over from the synth voices for one last statement of the main theme on pipes before the cue comes to a quiet, but ominous close.
FAN-TAS-TIC! This new edition of Titanic offers us a flood of discoveries! Like explorers of the seabed, the La-La Land team have brought to the surface a revelation of the hidden and unsuspected treasures of this score.
A score already at the summit of success is revealed to us as even more glorious. Between 2 1/2 Miles Down, The Promenade, and The Portrait on Disc 1, the amazing action pieces of Disc 2, maintaining virtuosic musical form that would be unthinkable in films of 2017, and the “alternates” of Disc 3, some of which (tracks 2, 8, and 9) are downright breathtaking and worthy instantly of adoration… this new edition has established itself as an indispensable journey not to be missed.
And we cannot let pass a few words of praise on the new liner notes: 35 pages, 38 images, and offering a rich and erudite reading on the creation of the film, the music, and their collective success. It reads like a book and is the perfect companion for your musical journey. Take note, also, that the scoring dates spread over 6 months: from March to September 1997 in 5 different studios; this is yet another testament to the long, arduous creation of this extraordinary music.
James Horner Film Music extends warm, profound thanks to Neil Bulk, Mike Matessino, MV Gerhard, Dan Goldwasser and Matt Verboys for allowing us to have exclusive, early access to these magnificent, unpublished notes from the maestro’s pen.
Article by Nick & Jean-Baptiste Martin.
Special thanks to Tom Hudson and John Andrews.
Photo credit : © Paramount Pictures / 20th Century Fox