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Angel Soundtrack CD Available in USA - Cityofangel.com Review

By Tara Dilullo

Thursday 19 May 2005, by Webmaster


Live Fast, Die Never...

A Review of the New Angel Soundtrack CD

ngel...tall, dark, handsome, the infamous vampire cursed with a soul. He helps the helpless of Los Angeles, fights against the minions of evil and even plays one mean cello. Ok, maybe not that last bit, but just because Angel doesn’t have a lick of musical ability (remember "Mandy"...need we say more?), that doesn’t mean his series didn’t feature some amazing music that not only underscored, but heightened every pivotal and emotional moment created during the show’s five spectacular seasons. Finally, that music gets a chance to shine on its own with the release of the first Angel television series soundtrack, Angel: Live Fast, Die Never - Music from the TV Series released by Rounder Records on May 17th, 2005.

The Moments that Matter

The cover of Angel: Live Fast, Die Never - Music from the TV Series

With 110 episodes of Angel produced, at an average episode length of 42 minutes each, that comes out to somewhere around 77 hours of score cues created for the series by series composer Robert J. Kral. That vast collection of music added depth and emotion to memorable scenes like Angel’s first appearance, the birth of his son, the death of many of his beloved allies and his last battle before the fade to black. With a staggering amount of music to choose from for inclusion in this first album, it’s guaranteed that a lot of fan favorite music moments are going to be missing from this compilation, but there’s no need to take a "glass half empty" attitude when there is so much to appreciate about Angel: Live Fast, Die Never. Rob Kral went directly to the fans through websites, like CityofAngel.com, to get their input and solicit their wish lists about what they’d like to hear on the album. Between those results, Kral’s own list, music supervisor John C. King’s inclusions and the input of that guy named, Joss Whedon, the soundtrack has a final track list of 25 songs, leaning heavily on score pieces with a smattering of vocal selections that represent key songs featured in the series.

Listening to the entire album, the listener really gets a much better sense of how epic, somber and haunting the Angel music was compared to its sister series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Always far less reliant on pop tracks than Buffy, this soundtrack dramatically reinforces that fact and gives talented composer Kral an opportunity to share what he accomplished over five years. This CD gives well-deserved focus to his oft taken for granted contributions to the show. His complex, stirring and heartfelt compositions really brought the show to another level and, as Whedon says in the liner notes of the CD, "...makes [the show] feel much more expensive. Rob’s work gave Angel such epic sweep, without ever sacrificing intimacy."

The Nitty Gritty

Breaking the CD down, it’s great to see that all five seasons are represented, with the bulk of the score cues coming from Season Two, specifically the dramatic Darla arc and the much lighter Pylea episode music. The CD opens with the familiar Darling Violetta Angel Main Theme, which gets the remix treatment. This extended version takes the familiar opening credits theme and pads it to a three-minute plus composition with more vocals, lyrics and a throbbing beat. Purists may wish the theme was left in its 30-second version, but this remix doesn’t shake up the song enough to make fans upset. It’s actually a nice opportunity to let Darling Violetta show off their long form musical chops on their fantastic theme song composition. The first score tracks are "Start the Apocalypse" and "The End of the World" from the Season Four episode, "Apocalypse Nowish." The first underscored the epic first standoff of Angel Inc. against The Beast and the latter, is a gentle, sorrowful piece that was the backdrop to Cordy and Connor’s union (ew!) and the literal rain of fire on Los Angeles. Both are fantastic pieces and they really quite impressively illustrate the astounding shifts in mood and tone that Kral had to create just within one single episode.

Of the nineteen other cues, some particular standouts are "Home" from the episode "Home." The melancholy and poignant piano and strings piece plays under Angel’s silent observation of Connor’s "new� life and it’s a heartbreaker with every listen. "Hero" from the same titled episode is the suite played during Doyle’s amazing sacrifice. The five-minute piece runs the gamut from stirring to tearjerker. "The Birth of Angelus" is a haunting violin piece that evokes the gypsy curse to come when Liam succumbs to Darla’s bite. "Darla’s Sacrifice" from "Lullaby" is a wonderfully complex piece just like the character it underscores. The entire Pylea suite is a lot of fun with more of a jaunty and action-oriented sound. There’s a lot of drama, yet whimsy with pan flutes and other interesting instrument choices by Kral. Lastly, "Farewell Cordelia" is a short, dramatic swell from the end of the episode, "You’re Welcome" that is romantic, bittersweet and oh, so sad.

As for the vocal pieces, Vast’s "Touched" from the Season 1 episode "Lonely Hearts" is a moody, edgy, rocking tune that perfectly captures the somber tone of Angel. It’s a put on repeat song for sure. Christian Kane then cranks out the David Greenwalt penned, "LA Song" in his engaging country-rock style and it’s a great number. Andy Hallet fans also get two of his fun signature Lorne songs from the episode, "The House Always Wins." Lastly, just to break your heart, Whedon made sure to include the mournful Kim Richey song, "A Place Called Home," that played under the flashback of Fred in "Shells." Go ahead and try to keep a dry eye while listening to it and remembering Fred’s hopeful face for the last time in the series. It’s a wonderfully appropriate coda to the soundtrack and a great song.

Shiny Wrapping!

The man behind the music, Robert J. Kral

The overall packing of the soundtrack is nicely put together. The cover image is a stark black on gray graphic with a white feather and the familiar Angel font. There is a fourteen-page booklet with images of the cast used liberally. Sadly, it looks like they were only given access to the Season Five promotional pictures, as they are the only images featured throughout despite only one Season Five score cue being featured. It would have been nice to see images from all five seasons to better reflect the diversity of the track selections. Otherwise, Rob Kral, John C. King and Joss Whedon all make liner note comments in the CD and every track has a comment by one of the three giving tidbits about the orchestration, the tone of the piece or some trivia. It’s a great read and insightful for music aficionados too.

Overall Review

There’s pretty much something for everyone on Angel: Live Fast, Die Never - Music from the TV Series , from the rousing battle themes to lushly erotic selections. It’s disappointing not to get music from any of the Faith episodes, "Smile Time" or any of the fantastic flamenco guitar pieces from the "Numero Cinco" episode, but there is such a thing as space limitations, even with today’s technology. Let’s just hope brisk sales of this worthy soundtrack means a sequel will appear someday soon! Until then, listen, enjoy and savor the sounds of Angel.