The soundtrack to the 1981 summer camp slasher, The Burning, has always been a bit of an odd duck. For instance, it's rather more epic than one would expect for a film which joined so many other movies in the post Friday the 13th flood of bloody films. Chalk up that particular aspect to the composition and performance by Rick Wakeman, best known for his work with the progressive rock outfit Yes.
However, what really makes the soundtrack release itself a bit different is because there's only one side of the record which has ever featured the actual music from The Burning. On the original release – as well as this repress – the second side is music from the film, whereas the first consists of “The Wakeman Variations.” That first side is probably more of what a listener might expect from the prog-rock keyboardist: big, almost epic pieces which sweep and swell, coming through the speakers with an almost-epic sound.
The music from the film itself, however, is rather more minimalist. A few pieces are presented in both formats, which really allows the listener to hear how much Wakeman was able to change certain tracks from film cues to proper songs. Honestly, the Variations are far more entertaining than the versions from the score, but one can readily see how “Shear Terror and More” would have overwhelmed the gruesome action onscreen, while “Shear Terror” itself more effectively conveys the same emotion in a cinematic context.
Those differences are brought up time and again as one listens to the two sides, be it the Variations take on the main title, or the soundtrack's end titles. A rather more interesting way of compiling this reissue might have been to create a more linear series of tracks, remixing and creating a completely new take on the music – hearing “The Chase” start out minimally, then growing into “The Chase Continues (Po's Plane)” or “The Fire” interpolated into “Variations on the Fire” would leave the listener rather more satisfied. However, this is a reissue, rather than a re-imagining, and given Wakeman's dismissal of this as part of his oeuvre, the fact that it's now available in such a lovely edition is something about which to be happy.
This might be the best-looking vinyl thus far from One Way Static. While the label has always done a good job of tying the vinyl variants to the films, the clear with orange haze looks like fire and water, two of the major themes of The Burning. It's almost as if there's a blaze within the middle of the LP, and it's something of a delight to behold. The packaging is also striking, although not to quite the same extent as the record itself. It's all of a sort of fiery tint, and manages to work in many of the film's more iconic elements, but especially those of villain Cropsey and his shears. All the artwork adorns a heavy-duty tip-on, gatefold sleeve, which features a nicely minimal amount of text.
One Way Static's vinyl repress of the Rick Wakeman score to The Burning is likely out-of-print from most places, but can also be had on cassette from the label. If this is absent from a horror score collection, that's an issue which needs be remedied, post-haste.
THE BURNING OST (1981) / COMPOSER AND PERFORMER: RICK WAKEMAN / RELEASE DATE: ONE WAY STATIC / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW