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Original Television Soundtrack Vol 1
Music Composed by Joseph LoDuca

reviewed by Steve Damarell

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Television soundtracks tend to be something of a mixed bag. Composers are often required to provide music which 'blends' with the overall ambience of the show, meaning that many soundtrack albums can be incredibly dull. Those who try to rise above the norm can also find themselves out on their ear (as with Ron Jones on Star Trek The Next Generation. Without his music the series was never the same). Fortunately for Xena : Warrior Princess, Joseph LoDuca is definitely among the latter group and this CD goes a long way toward proving it.

If there is a complaint to be made, it is the lack of information provided by the accompanying booklet, which wholeheartedly fails to provide a list of episodes from which the thirty tracks are lifted. XWP is unusual among today's abundance of fantasy and SF television in that LoDuca is not called upon to compose a unique soundtrack for every episode. Instead, as with the original (classic) Star Trek, cues are composed for certain sequences or episodes and are then re-used in other segments. In an odd way this adds to the series' charm, as familiarity with the music can often give you a hint as to what is about to happen on screen. However, this only makes trying to determine in which episodes the tracks first appeared even harder. Bear with me whilst I try to make some sense of the chaos!

Firstly, the Main Title has been slightly altered for this release. There are two versions provided ('normal' and extended) neither of which is identical to that used in the show. The changes to the former involve the addition of lyrics to its first section plus a slight pause in the middle, which is lengthened and elaborated upon in the latter. Changes such as these always annoy me (after all, if it ain't broke don't fix it) and the absence of the closing titles version, sans vocals, is disappointing.

The recovery is swift, however. The Warrior Princess follows immediately and is one that we must surely all know by heart since its first airing in the Hercules episode of the same name. It's a rousing cue, although singing along proves to be awkward given the origin of the lyrics, despite the translations provided. The idea came, apparently, from Robert Tapert, who particularly liked a chant that LoDuca had composed, in an Eastern European style, for one of the Hercules movies. LoDuca's decision to use both ethnic instrumentation and a Bulgarian women's chorus adds a unique flavour to the soundtrack and, consequently, the show.

Other tracks to make excellent use of these techniques are The Gauntlet (The Gauntlet), Glede Ma Glede (Sins of the Past) and Burying The Past (the first section of which debuted in Sins with more following in Chariots of War).

That is not to say that he doesn't make use of more traditional methods. Cues such as Xena And The Big Bird (Prometheus), Barn Blazers (Chariots) and Fight On The Heads (Sins) are straightforward action-oriented orchestral pieces which add welcome variety to proceedings.

The quieter, more emotive tracks provide many of the highlights. Burial (The Path Not Taken), composed and performed by Lucy Lawless, Roll In The Leaves (Unchained Heart) and The Oracle (Cradle of Hope) are among the best on offer, whilst Going To Kill Me (The Royal Couple Of Thieves) amusingly echoes Autolycus's own words when he catches sight of the half-drowned Xena. Watch out for those grapes, Bruce!

The final section of the album is reserved for a trilogy of cues from Callisto. The teaser is represented here by The Wrath of Callisto and is quickly followed by Bloodlust, a deceptive title for one of the quietest, most emotional moments in the series to date - the campfire scene.

Both set the stage perfectly for LoDuca's tour de force, Ladder Fight, which really needs no further introduction as it pounds breathlessly from the speakers. Ironically, this cue made it's debut in the series before the stunning set-piece finale for which it is named, first heard as Xena chases Callisto from The Oracle at Delphi. Since then it has been used numerous times but it's true worth can only be witnessed from the moment Xena grabs hold of that first ladder.

It's hard to argue with the quality of a soundtrack such as this. Boasting well over an hour of music from the series' first season this is, to date the best piece of Xena-related merchandise currently available in the UK. Miss it at your peril!

Steve Damarell August 1997

Now if I were Lucy Lawless, I would sue for this truly horrid photo of her gracing the back sleeve of the cd. Couldn't they have got a better one, she looks like a melting waxwork here!

A slightly out of date interview with composer Joe LoDuca includes interesting comments about the tracks

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