Music composed and conducted by Christopher Young 
Label: Varèse Sarabande
302 066 789 2

Year: 2007

1. Ghost Rider
2. Blackheart Beat
3. Artistry in Death
4. A Thing for Karen Carpenter
5. Cemetary Dance
6. More Sinister than Popcorn
7. No Way to Wisdom
8. Chain Chariot
9. Santa Sardonicus
10. Penance Stare
11. San Venganza
12. Blood Signature
13. Serenade to a Daredevil's Devil
14. Nebuchadnezzar Phase
15. The West Was Built on Legends

Total Time: 58:35

Reviewed by
Jorge Saldanha

After a proficuous career that began in the 1980's, strangely enough Christopher Young - for me one of the most gifted film composers of his generation - remains an underrated name amongst film music aficcionados. Thats odd because he wrote high quality music for a wide variety of projects: an ingenious score incorporating breathing effects for The Vagrant, a darkly dramatic score to the prison drama Murder in the First, haunting horror/action music for Species and a big band, jazz score for the comedy The Man Who Knew Too Little. His long list of works also include the wonderfully gothic scores for Hellraiser and its sequel Hellbound: Hellraiser II, plus music for such high profile and hit films as Runaway Jury, The Shipping News, The Core and The Grudge. This last one fortified his partnership with producer and director Sam Raimi and at last things are starting to change - for better.

Young had wrote additional music for
Spider-Man 2, and later in 2007 he will return to the franchise replacing Danny Elfman in Raimi's much anticipated Spider-Man 3. But before that there's another Young's effort in the world of the Marvel Super Heroes: Ghost Rider. Starring Nicholas Cage, Eva Mendes and Peter Fonda, this dark actioner follows stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze who gives up his soul to become a hellblazing vigilante, to fight against power hungry Blackheart, the son of the devil himsel. Despite the fact that Ghost Rider is also a Super Hero like Spidey, you may expect a very different kind o f music here. As
Young explains, "What is unique is that unlike Superman, Spider-Man or Batman, who are Super Heroes that do their work in the city, here we're talking about a character that rides around on a motorcycle. So the location had to be worked in to the score, and it had to have gothic in it because it's just a very dark storyline."

The title character is a halloween-type figure with his skull in flames, and he is a biker - a not so subtle Hell Angels' reference. So, Young's musical translation of this bizarre hero had to be unique - he choose dark, but yet colorful orchestral and vocal tones mixed with rock sensibilities brought by electric guitars played by two members of Nine Inch Nails. Consequently Ghost Rider carries three very distinctive, basic main layers in its structure: choral textures that evoke the hero's descent to Hell ("The West Was Built on Legends"); the exquisite, often chaotic use of the metal section of the orchestra ("Artistry in Death", "More Sinister Than Popcorn"); and the hard rock sound that represents the character's bold and rebel spirit.

The first track introduces the main character's motif. It's initial dark and slow cadence is ponctuated by guitars that gives to the piece a "dark western" mood. The track will develop an agitated and heroic tone achieved by the orquestra. This main theme will receive more introspective renditions in tracks like "Penance Stare" or "Blood Signature", one of the score's highlights. The following tracks bring us the hard rock sound based mainly on electric guitar riffs and drum rhythms, supported by distinct orchestra sections that summons the devilish aspect of the plot, like in "More Sinister Than Popcorn" or "Chain Chariot".

There are a few moments where Young delivers some melodic passages, like "No Way To Wisdom". A nice three chords, acoustic guitar motif appears in "A Thing for Karen Carpenter" and "Serenade to a Daredevil's Devil". Young employs these lyric moments to counterbalance the use of some ideas already well known in this genre of music. Yes, there are some clichés here and there, but the composer manages them intelligently. The score's piece of resistance is wisely kept to the end: "The West Was Built on Legends" is a well crafted mix of rock rhythms with choir latin chants that leads to a new - and final - rendition of the main theme, that closes the album in a highly satisfactory and magnificent way.

Doesn't matter what I may think about the film itsef, the Ghost Rider score shows us a talent that justifies a well derserved, yet delayed professional and artistic recognition. In fact after Beltramis' Hellboy, this is the best genre score that I've heard since then. Kudos for Young, a composer that always is capable to create very distinctive and imaginative works.