Thursday, September 9, 2021

Review: 'The Wicker Man: The Original Soundtrack Album' on Transparent Yellow Vinyl

What The Rocky Horror Picture Show is to glam, The Wicker Man is to Wyrd folk, that quaint and creepy strain of Olde English acoustic music that conjures images of Maypole reveries and pagans in animal masks. Robin Hardy's enchantingly eerie 1973 film is the paragon of folk horror pictures, and Paul Giovanni's outrageously bawdy and outrageously beautiful songs such as "Gently Johnny" and "Willow's Song" are as integral to the spell it casts as "Time Warp" is to Rocky Horror's. Any fan of Hardy's film would not be caught in a flaming wicker man without a copy of its soundtrack album. 

A Wicker Man soundtrack album first arrived via Trunk Records 25 years after the film's theatrical debut. The tracks on that version were pulled directly from the film's soundtrack, and though the disc was very complete (right down to the inclusion of lots of sound effects and dialogue bits), the sound quality was hardly optimal. It was not until 2002, when Silva Screen Records paraded out the original master tapes for eleven tracks, that The Wicker Man really sounded up to snuff on CD and vinyl. A clutch of the most essential pieces of music not found on the original master tapes were included as pulled-from-the-film bonus tracks on both editions.

Unfortunately, those bonuses are absent from Silva Screen's latest reissue of The Wicker Man: The Original Soundtrack. Like each reissue since 2013, only the pristine-sounding eleven from the original masters are present. That means you don't get the mesmerizing version of Robert Burns's "The Highland Widow's Lament" that opens the long edit of the film, but you do get such outrageously bawdy and outrageously beautiful things as Giovanni's "Gently Johnny", "Fire Leap", "Corn Rigs", "Maypole", and the utterly spellbinding "Willow's Song", which contains some of the rudest lyrics that do not resort to expletives. You get the voices of Giovanni, stars Christopher Lee and Diane Cilento, and Lesley Mackie subbing for Britt Ekland on "Willow's Song".

Britt, however, does appear in all her own bawdy glory on a newly designed inner sleeve complete with libretto. The gatefold still features conductor Gary Carpenter's notes from Silva Screen's 2002 edition of the soundtrack, but the design of it and the front cover are new. So is the use of transparent, yellow vinyl, which has a well-centered spindle hole and is pretty quiet. The music sounds as warm and unsettlingly inviting as ever. 

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