Cincinnati Pops Orchestra & Erich Kunzel
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The first time Erich Kunzel & the Cincinnati Pops made a symphonic Halloween album, they called it Chiller. Now that a sequel has come from the haunted house — er, the Cincinnati Music Hall — they merely state what they hope will be the obvious, Scary Music. But this time, Kunzel doesn't raid the classical music field for material, preferring to stick with film music, television ditties, and the Top 40. Does the curse of the dreaded sequel strike again in the form of slimmer pickings? Well, the selection doesn't start out well, with more banal film boredom from Danny Elfman (Sleepy Hollow, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Beetlejuice). But things soon perk up with campy renditions of the themes from The Addams Family and The Munsters. A properly shimmering "Tubular Bells," a vertically inflated but still somewhat funky Ghostbusters theme, and toward the end, some pure fun pop/kitsch culture in the themes from The Blob (by the young Burt Bacharach, no less!) and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Some horror fans might have wondered why the national anthem of Halloween songs, "Monster Mash," was left off Chiller. But it's here — and it goes pretty much as expected, with a Bobby "Boris" Pickett-like vocal by Joe McBride and symphonic goop ladled onto the early-'60s rock beat. Even Michael Jackson's "Thriller" puts in an appearance, sung by a female singer who only underlines the androgynous nature of the original record. One notable curiosity here is the somber "Dies Irae" — based on opening music to The Shining by synthesizer pioneer Wendy Carlos (almost all of her score was thrown out by the filmmakers, and it remains one of the more obscure items in her catalog). Again, a panoply of sound effects opens the album, now recorded more stunningly than before in DSD. Indeed, recording and mix engineer Michael Bishop is turned loose — and given "composer" credits — to conjure some of the creepiest surround-sound noises ever committed to polycarbonate discs. Though lacking Chiller's historical perspective, Scary Music is at least as entertaining as its predecessor — which has to be rated an achievement. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi
Formed: 1977 in Cincinnati, OH
Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s