Music Composed And Conducted By James Horner
Performed By The Hollywood Symphony Orchestra
Except “Someday, Somehow, Someone’s Gotta Pay”
Performed By The Power Station
Score Produced By James Horner and Jay Gruska
Album Produced By Nick Redman
Score Restoration By Mike Mattesino
Executive Producers for LaLaLand Records:
MV Gerhard and Matt Verboys
LaLaLand Records LLLCD1185
Limited Edition of 3000 Copies
24 Tracks – Running Time:61:48
Released On September 7, 2011
The film Commando absolutely needs no introduction to hard core action movie fans as well as fans of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Commando was a surprise hit which was dismissed by most critics, but 26 years later, it is definitely still going strong. It’s the type of film that like Rambo at the time was virtually a video game about a one man wrecking crew wasting every single bad guy that got in the way of beating the bad guy(s). Arnold Schwarzenegger fresh off another pair of memorable hit films, Conan The Barbarian and The Terminator as retired Colonel John Matrix, a muscular former military operative who happily enjoys his retirement living in the mountains with his daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano). When his former team members are being eliminated one by one, Matrix’s life is now in danger as group of mercinaries led by a rogue former General Ayres (Dan Hedaya) and Matrix’s former team member Bennett (Vernon Wells) kidnap his daughter and force him to return to Val Verde to kill the current president of the country. Soon Matrix gets off an airplane (literally!) and enlists the help of a kindly stewdress named Cindy (Rae Dawn Chong) and takes her on a harrowing adventure in a race against time to rescue his daughter, filled with bullets, explosions and of course, memorable one liners such as “You’re a funny guy, Sully. That’s why I’m going to kill you last!” or “Remember Sully when I promised to kill you last….I lied!” The film was directed with joyful violent glee by Mark L.Lester (Class of 1984, Class of 1999, Firestarter) and had the quickest post production schedule in film history as the film had finished filming in early June of 1985 and then the film was finally unleashed in October.
James Horner was on a real roll during the early to mid 80’s after making a major splash with Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, 48 Hrs., Kull, Brainstorm, Testament, Uncommon Valor, Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock, Volunteers, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Cocoon and The Journey of Natty Gann. With a range of styles and a filmography that was really starting to not was starting to get really respectable, but also scratching the surface of a great career that would culminate with Titanic and Avatar over 25 years later. At the time that Horner scored Commando, his style ranged from the percussive blusy vibes of 48 Hrs. to the grand sweeping themes of Star Trek’s 2 & 3 and Natty Gann. You can say that Commando was just the start of a period for the composer that he was trying to challenge himself sonically, but not try to lose that memorable style that rose him to the A-list amongst composers in Hollywood.
The sound of Commando is a hard driving score that relies heavily on Andy Narell’s awesome Steel Drum vibes, wailing saxphones and rhythmic Simmonds drum machines programmed by Jay Gruska. Of course, there’s also Horner’s usual ensemble orchestra that provides the aggressive string dramatics as well as Shakuhachi flute (an instrument that Horner would utilize for over a dozen scores and more soon after this film) The score is very much like the film: a very aggressive no holds barred approach and stylistically it’s quite similar to 48 Hrs. The film itself is a lean 90 minutes of adrenaline action and Horner’s music absolutely doesn’t shy away from this not one bit.
The “Main Title” opens up with some plusing 80’s synthesizers, steel drums and shakuhachi flute as we’re introduced to Matrix and then quickly segues to a rather lush and gentle theme for Jenny as happily tries to sneak up on him while chopping some wood. The lush strings take over to establish the relationship between Matrix and his daughter, but the pounding percussion and synthesizers make a sinister return for a brief moment during the montage in the film. Their gentle theme returns to a nice florish at the end. Now the action really heats up all around as the album itself turns into a cavalcade of hard edge action and suspense with my standout tracks for this album which include “Run To The Shed And Chase”, with its pulsing synth and wailing saxophones giving way to more aggressive drum machine beats. “Matrix Captured/Jenny Tied Up” establishes the villian theme which a pulsing repeating synthesizer line accentuated by percussion, “Don’t Move” is a lengthy cue which mixes Matrix’s theme heard in the Main Title as well as the villian theme as the mood really starts to build up more and more just before the impending fight inside the mall. “Sully Starts To Run” is the track where the orchestra is really allowed to shine and Horner literally throws everything at you from drum machines, more steel drums, synthesziers, aggressive strings, saxophones and percussion as Matrix finds the one man who may have idea where his daughter is starting with a major fight/shootout in the mall and finally escalading in a car chase. Horner really shines here. The rest of the album is just as fun especially the “Cut To Val Verde” track which is a cool percussive track as Matrix reaches the Val Verde beach and puts on his “war” uniform complete with guns, ammo, grenades and a knife. As with almost every 80’s movie there had to be a song or a power ballad that not only fit the film but was almost memorable for both good and bad reasons. “Someday, Somehow, Someone’s Gotta Pay” by The Power Station is Commando’s signature ballad. Hard driving rock and wonderful lyrics, the song was virtually unavailable for a long time until it surfaced on a Best of compilation by the group as a bonus track and fans didn’t even know it was on there! Yet, it definitely makes a triumphant debut on this expanded album as it was meant to be had there been a soundtrack album released back then.
Originally Commando was released by Varese Sarabande as part of their Club releases in 2003 and eventually sold out soon after that. Since then, it had been fetching extremely high prices on the open market and that had a considerable amount of music, but yet people grumbled because there was a litte more missing. So here is the subsquent reissue/expanded/remastered edition by LaLaLand Records that is an even bigger hit saleswide than that of the Varese one and with good reason. It does have everything and you absolutely cannot complain about that without a doubt. Nick Redman and Mike Mattesino along with LaLaLand really deserve credit for going back and re-releasing this fun score because like the film, Horner’s score has had a following that’s just as big as Arnold’s biceps.
Commando may not be James Horner’s most memorable score as compared to something like Titanic. It is definitely a worthy score in his filmography and one that really does deserve high phrase for making a cult hit action film even more memorable 26 years later. Comes to show how good things were back then, weren’t they!
- The Trashmen / The Agency :46
- Main Title 3.45
- The Helicopter Arrives :55
- Run to the Shed and Chase 2.38
- Matrix Captured/Jenny Tied Up 1.50
- Into the Plane :53
- Don’t Disturb My Friend 3.36
- Matrix Hits the Swamp 1.14
- Matrix Walks in the Terminal :27
- Matrix on the Move :48
- Don’t Move 6:30
- Sully Starts to Run 4.33
- Drive Away From Pier 3.41
- Matrix Breaks Lock 2.13
- Matrix Jumps to Floor 1.40
- Cut to Val Verde 1.23
- Matrix Climbs Up Bank 3.15
- Soldier Gets Pitchfork/Matrix Runs Up Steps 3.47
- Arius Crashes Through Window 3.20
- Matrix Approaches General :56
- Someday, Somehow, Someone’s Gotta Pay 4.36
Performed by The Power Station
- Soldier Gets Pitchfork (alternate) 1.29
- Don’t Disturb My Friend (alternate) 3.21
- Don’t Disturb My Friend (alternate mix) 3.56
Total Time: 61:48
– Danny Gonzalez
Film Music Examiner New York – NYC