Vinyl Review: Fright Night Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Night Fever Music Edition)
Someone out there decided that there weren’t enough labels going after the (apparently surprisingly lucrative) vinyl horror soundtrack collector market, because adding to the already crowded field that features labels like Death Waltz, Mondo (who bought Death Waltz), Waxworks, Silva Screen, One Way Static, Invada and probably a few more labels that I’m forgetting at the moment comes Night Fever Music with their debut release, the soundtrack to the cult-classic 80s horror comedy Fright Night.
But hey, I’m not going to complain all that much. Time will tell if the market can handle so many labels vying for the same market, but personally I’m always up for more vinyl. And with Fright Night, at least Night Fever Music is going for a slightly different release. Almost all of the releases by the previously mentioned labels have been scores. The Fright Night soundtrack is a soundtrack, a collection of songs by hot (and not so hot) bands of the era, with a smattering of original music thrown in to encourage buyers at the time to pick it up.
And while I love me a nice, atmospheric horror movie score, I honestly don’t find myself reaching for those albums all that often. Give me a nice collection of decent pop music over a minimal and creepy orchestral piece any day of the week. I live alone, I don’t want to be cleaning my bathroom to the soundtrack of Re-Animator. I end up looking over my shoulder way too damn often. So the Fright Night soundtrack, with its eclectic selection of 80s metal (Autograph), classic rock (April Wine, J. Geils Band), new wave (Devo) and quiet storm rhythm and blues (Evelyn “Champagne” King) is a welcome change of pace from the usual releases of either abstract synthesized scores or full-on, bombastic orchestral pieces.
While most of the Fright Night soundtrack sounds dated today, it’s dated in all the right ways. J. Geils Band’s title track is one of their best, sounding like a horror-themed reworking of “Freeze Frame” or “Centerfold” (because it kind of is), and the vampire-themed “You Can’t Hide From The Beast Inside” by Autograph is a well above average example of mid-80s metal, which at this point was far more pop than metal but not yet at full glam. Ian Hunter’s ghoulish contribution, “Good Man In A Band Time” is also a great example of the best the 80s had to offer, with its wonderfully glossy production and non-stop synthesizer rhythm put on what essentially sounds like a 70s rock track that wouldn’t have been out of place on a decent Mott The Hoople record. Tracks by Devo, Sparks and April Wine, while not keeping with the horror theme, are also good, and do well to paint a picture of the world the movie is set.
Night Fever also set themselves apart with how they’ve chosen to present their debut release. Nearly all the horror movie soundtrack re-releases of late have forgone their selections’ original artwork in lieu of new creations. And with rare exception these are unequivocally horrible. If I’m buying the soundtrack to Re-Animator, I want the poster image from the film with the zombie holding his own head, not an overly abstract artistic representation of it. And the original Friday The 13th and Creepshow posters are nearly iconic, Waxworks didn’t have to replace them with their own original artwork. Night Fever seems to have known that the original album artwork to Fright Night was great, so they pretty much left it untouched. In fact, the only change they did make, moving the track and artist names to the back cover, serve to improve the sleeve’s artwork, as it lets it stand on its own without and pesky text in the way. It would have been nice if they would’ve mixed things up a bit for the inner sleeve’s artwork though, it’s nearly identical to the outer sleeve with some repositioned text.
The record itself comes in three varieties; a “blue white evil fog” edition, a picture disc, and a glow in the dark variant that was limited to a very scant 200 copies. That was the one that I was lucky enough to snag, and I’m happy to say that it certainly looks good, with a nice, solid blue that emits a nice, bright glow when the lights are turned off.
Unfortunately, it sounds freaking horrible. While it may be relatively quiet when it comes to pops or cracks, the entire record is cursed with a seemingly omnipresent rough static-like sound that never entirely vanishes. You can barely hear it all on the metal songs, as they’re loud and drown it out, but on the quieter tracks, especially “Come To Me” by Brad Fiedel and Sparks’ excellent “Armies Of The Night,” it’s crystal clear, and distracting to the point of nerve-grating. White Sister’s “Save Me Tonight” is literally unlistenable for me, the noise is so overpowering. I don’t know if the other editions have this problem, maybe it’s related to the glow-in-the-dark process, but whatever’s causing it, it’s a real buzzkill. My original copy of the soundtrack sounds better than this re-issue. What’s the point of a remaster if you don’t bother putting it on quality wax?
But it wouldn’t be as big a downer if a digital download was included. At least we’d have some sort of high-quality version to make up for the muddled audio quality of the LP proper. Hell, at this point, with so many of these re-issue labels slavish devotion to physical product, I’d be happy to get the option to pay more for a CD, even it had to be a separate purchase. Trust me, I more than anyone understand the allure of vinyl, I have over 3,000 records spread across two continents at the moment, but having a copy of your favorite music that’s easy-to-access and convenient to listen to is also nice. This goes double for the soundtrack to Fright Night, as it was actually never released on CD the first time around. If you want the J. Geils Band’s excellent track or any of the other songs that are exclusive to this release on your iPod then I hope you’re like me and record your vinyl to your hard drive (and don’t mind shitty audio quality) because that’s what you’re stuck with here.
And what makes this all the most frustrating for me is that they had to do it with Fright Night, a movie whose fans just seem to be getting perpetually shit on. If you live in the states and want it on blu-ray you’re pretty much out of luck. Professional eBay flipper enables Twilight Time snagged the blu-ray rights to that one, and pressed a disc so limited in numbers that it routinely goes for close to a hundred bucks online now. And while you can at least buy some version of the soundtrack now, you can’t buy one that you’ll actually want to listen to. Basically, if you’re a fan of Fright Night with money to burn and the desire to own the film you love and its soundtrack in a format that’s convenient to listen to, the companies who own the rights to both have made it loud and clear; they don’t want your money.
It’s fucking maddening.