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Category:    Home > Essays > Soundtracks > Film Score Monthly U.S. Soundtracks On CD Price Guide (2nd Ed./Book Review)

Film Score Monthly Price Guide: U.S. Soundtracks On CD

Second Edition: 1985 – 1999

By Robert L. Smith (Book Review)


Book: B+



The most underrated kind of book on the market on Pop Culture are those on collectibles.  More than just a webpage on eBay or just a list of relative prices and values on the given subject of the book itself, the better price guides tell us about history and what people love, value and demand.  Robert L. Smith’s Film Score Monthly Price Guide: U.S. Soundtracks On CD, Second Edition: 1985 – 1999 is such a book.  Produced just before eBay really kicked in and affected the entire collectibles market, it is a part of the magazine’s extraordinary effort to bring on a new golden age of film music appreciation and five years later, they are succeeding big time.


Compact Discs still have a relatively brief history and at the time of publication, soundtracks were not considered an important or highly profitable segment of the music market.  This changed dramatically since as the majors and independent labels saw a sudden boom in that catalog that was caused in part by the decline of the Rock Music, the rise of Hip Hop, the rise of the song-driven non Musical/MTV-driven films and a long-overdue admiration for film music in general that home video.  CDs themselves made soundtracks more accessible than vinyl, 8-tracks and cassettes had not, and album-only re-recordings for “commercial” release outside of the films actually confusing buyers with their often inferior re-renderings.


It also shows what music has endured, who the composers are, and what is remembered over other music.  Obviously, thousands and thousands of great soundtracks that were issued on vinyl LPs have still not been issued on CD and only a very small handful so far have come out in new higher-than-CD audio formats like the experimental 96/24 Digital Audio Disc (DAD) with higher PCM CD sound and the new contenders to replace CD, DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD.  Though the luxury of high fidelity playback that challenges vinyl and surpasses CDs is nice, there are many strong CDs still out there from the past and being produced even now, so it is availability of the right recording at all that makes this market so exciting.


The book offers over 2,400 CDs at the time, and that number has multiplied a good bit since its publication, but one thing that was missed has to do with the audio enhancement known as HDCD.  Several titles here, including Ronin, Independence Day, Alien Resurrection and Starship Troopers offered this encoding that not only made CDs clearer on all machines that had CD playback, but were even clearer when the player could enable the HDCD chip.  The newer formats have surpassed HDCD, but it should have been noted on all CDs with it.


Some imports are included, especially when they are key titles or have affected the price of U.S. pressings, are included, but it is sad how many great scores did not make the book because they were not in print and (once again) still have yet to see the day of light.  After the usual notes and explanations, the majority of the book has film titles listed alphabetically, followed by compilations mostly listed under the composer’s name and a section of what then was the top 50 soundtracks in value.  This is an effective layout that is easy to use with information that holds up well.  Even if the prices have shifted, this is a solid reference volume.


Limited edition numbers and limited edition packaging also enhances the value of certain editions of a title, something in soundtracks that is not being abused by overproduction as badly as in other areas of current would-be collectible production.  The magazine itself has the FSM CD soundtrack label which limits its production of each title to 3,000 copies and offers great booklets, most of which are reviewed all over this website.  Many are expansions of previous releases, while others are the premieres of film music that are long overdue.  You can order this book and hundreds of those great CDs by going to www.filmscoremonthly.com and finding out more about all that and the print magazine itself.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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