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Music Conducted By
Lionel Newman

Orchestrations By
Arthur Morton

Recorded By
Eric Tomlinson

Performed By
The National Philharmonic Orchestra

Album Produced By
Jerry Goldsmith

Intrada MAF 7102

Previous Release(s)
Silva Screen FILMCD 003
Fox LPs (album contents only)

Year Of CD/Film Release

Running Time

Normal Release

Reviewed By
Darren Charlton

Cues & Timings

Disc 1

The Complete Original Score

01. Main Title 4:12
02. Hyper Sleep 2:46
03. The Landing 4:31
04. The Terrain 2:21
05. The Craft 1:00
06. The Passage 1:49
07. The Skeleton 2:31
08. A New Face 2:34
09. Hanging On 3:39
10. The Lab 1:05
11. Drop Out 0:57
12. Nothing To Say 1:51
13. Cat Nip 1:01
14. Here Kitty 2:08
15. The Shaft 4:30
16. It's A Droid 3:28
17. Parker's Death 1:52
18. The Eggs 2:23
19. Sleepy Alien 1:04
20. To Sleep 1:56
21. The Cupboard 3:05
22. Out The Door 3:13
23. End Title 3:09
Total Time 57:06

The Rescored Alternate Cues

24. Main Title 4:11
25. Hyper Sleep 2:46
26. The Terrain 0:58
27. The Skeleton 2:30
28. Hanging On 3:08
29. The Cupboard 3:13
30. Out The Door 3:02
Total Time 19:48
Disc 2

The Original 1979 Soundtrack Album

01. Main Title 3:37
02. The Face Hugger 2:36
03. Breakaway 3:03
04. Acid Test 4:40
05. The Landing 4:31
06. The Droid 4:44
07. The Recovery 2:50
08. The Alien Planet 2:31
09. The Shaft 4:01
10. End Title 3:08
Total Time 35:44

Bonus Tracks

11. Main Title (film version) 3:44
12. The Skeleton (alternate take) 2:35
13. The Passage (demonstration excerpt) 1:54
14. Hanging On (demonstration excerpt) 1:08
15. Parker's Death (demonstration excerpt) 1:08
16. It's A Droid (unused inserts) 1:27
17. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (source) 1:49
Total Time 13:45

Soundtrack Ratings








The Complete Original Score

So at last, 28 years after its release, we have Intrada’s 2CD set representing the complete score. With the inclusion of brand new material placed in chronological order here for the very first “official” time, the arc of this score reveals Alien to be an absolute masterwork.

One can debate the merits of the differing main titles Goldsmith was asked to compose, but Intrada have sensitively kept Goldsmith’s original version for the albums main soundtrack. Alternate cues can be savoured elsewhere but the journey the original score takes in its descent from misleading romance into percussive dissonance then back to tonal resolution is nothing short of astounding. Goldsmith’s decision avoids easy sign posting and gives the score somewhere to go. If you weren’t sure before you should be on hearing it in its entirety. 

Hyper sleep has become one of the most sought after missing album cues for fans and finally it can be heard here as it seamlessly follows the main title. Showcasing the perfect synthesis of image and music, light strings bob and echo, effortlessly conveying both an awakening and a false sense of utopia. After the The Landing, tonal harmonies leave and we enter a completely different and unique sonic world.

This leads to the part of the score most under represented on the original album, the central planet/craft and egg chamber sequence. The Terrain introduces this section. The following suspense cues bridge the gap between the films opening scenes of tonal serenity and its later aggressive action statements. Now in place, the scope of the score can finally be appreciated. Goldsmith’s characterisation of landscape and its alien life forms is so successful that the music transgresses mere underscore. It becomes part of the fabric of the film itself. Blurring the line between music and digetic sound (noise heard within the film itself) but never once passing into cheap sound effect, these cues represent some of the composers most authentic and unrivalled experimentation. Nowhere is this better displayed than in A New Face. Here Goldsmith “mickey mouses” the face-hugger organisms quivering movement from within the egg. It’s a stunning piece of musical characterisation.

The remainder of the score was well represented on the original album (see below) but includes some new highlights. New suspense cue Cat Nap, for example incorporates a distinctive rippling motif. This continues in Here Kitty. Just as the bobbing time motif leads from the end of Main title into Hyper sleep this is another example of how beautifully structured the score is. In fact, the individual cues are so intricately connected through their musical ideas that Alien becomes a work of “total” music; one complete symphony. 

With exhaustive liner notes from Mike Matessino about the score and its troubled history combined with Douglas Fake’s fond reminiscence, the CD package is a treat. The accompanying tracks of alternate versions, original soundtrack and bonus tracks provide a definitive treasure trove that quite rightly documents this as a masterpiece once and for all.

The album won best new release or re-release of an existing score at the International Film Music Critics Association 2008. It’s a fitting footnote that not only has Intrada’s outstanding achievement been rewarded, but that Goldsmith’s score has at last earned its recognition. Essential listening!

Original Album

Much has been documented about Ridley Scott’s poor use of this classic score, as Goldsmith’s fans well know. Hanson’s Symphony No.2 replacing the End credits, the clunky misuse of Goldsmith’s decidedly 60’s Freud (a temp track that became permanent as favoured by Scott) and the sheer number of cues cut, butchered and reduced in the final mix.

However, the original soundtrack album remains the way in which to listen to the score as intended by the composer, an utterly authentic soundscape of atonal motifs book ended by its Romantic theme. In fact, 1979 heralded what would become a golden era in the composers writing. Eschewing the 70’s sound of say Capricorn One & Magic the year before, the Main Title displays the shift with a richer more timeless symphonic sound that would characterise classics such as Poltergeist and The Final Conflict.

Goldsmith avoids easy signposting with a theme that captures both the beauty of space and a feeling of endurance to reflect the crew’s passage through it. However, it was to be replaced by the more dissonant yet genre direct version heard in the final film. It ends with a haunting four note motif that suggests time passing and a sense of things to come, something that James Horner would go on to employ in the sequel Aliens.

Facehugger and Breakaway demonstrates some of the composers most difficult and aggressive writing. With an array of orchestral effects that blur the line between music score and diegetic sound (sound heard within the film itself), Goldsmith concocts a soundscape that expands our understanding of the world within the film. These cues also introduce the Alien motif. Avoiding monster movie scares, Goldsmith characterises the duality of the creature’s evolution with a hybrid of two musical ideas. Facehugger is conveyed with scuttling percussive effects and the alien is given an otherness through Ram’s Horn. Organic and of the body, it works in keeping with the key theme of bodily invasion and infection. Whilst listeners preferring more tonal fare may smart, the sheer class of each cues acute musical structure elevates it way above the type of background filler other composers must settle for.

Goldsmith is famous for employing flexible secondary motifs in addition to the main theme, but a notable feature of this score is the use of smaller repeated musical statements. In fact, virtually each cue has its own, something which assists the scores musicality and drive.

Acid Test opens with a full statement of the Alien motif with notable use of the anvil and a deeply atmospheric sliding whistle. The Landing, a key set piece, pushes through to a euphoric rendition of the main theme as the ship Nostromo struggles through the alien atmosphere.The Droid is startling and primal, with tremoring and plucked strings. The cue segues into the funeral sequence in which Kane’s body is dispensed into space; tonal respite with the four note “time” motif and a delicate use of wind machine to add colour and mystery.

Recovery, Alien Planet and The Shaft each demonstrate aggressive action, an atmospheric soundscape of orchestral echoes and reverbs, and sustained suspense writing in turn. The album closes with End Title. Here the theme is heralded by chimes to convey an elegiac sense of things that have passed and ends with a triumphantly filmic coda of tonal resolution.