CD REVIEW: KICKBOXER (1989) / COMPOSED BY PAUL HERTZOG, VARIOUS / LABEL: PERSEVERANCE RECORDS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The score for the 1989 action flick, Kickboxer, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, sees composer Hertzog works in pretty much every pan-Asian theme and cliché possible: rhythmic tribal drums, a lot of synthesised flutes, chiming finger cymbals, and violin. Hertzog also finds a way to work in the standard action tropes, like the pulsing bass and rising guitars. He combines the two in "Advanced Training," which is like an instrumental version of "The Best Around" as done by a tea house lounge act.
Strangely, though, it all works. On its own, this is some cheesy stuff, and similar to what you might hear while waiting for your order of dumplings at the local takeaway. However, the strange drum breaks which slice through ‘Ancient Voices’ and ‘Warriors’ demonstrate Hertzog has a sense of what works, and a way to really convey the mysticism of some of the film's training sequences.
The inclusion of the Stan Bush tracks are what really make this worth picking up, however. Bush's music is all powerful verses and ripping guitars, with keyboards all through the huge choruses. He took ‘The Touch’ and used that as a template for every song which would follow, and ‘Streets of Siam’ and ‘Never Surrender’ certainly demonstrate that to good effect. They're strangely motivational, though.
And, for everyone who's ever wanted to re-enact that scene where Van Damme gets hammered on shots of strange Thai liquor, the soundtrack does include the very excellent ‘Feeling So Good Today’ by Beau Williams, meaning you can put on your own white slacks and perform obscenely unnecessary splits while dancing with two ladies.
Owning the score and soundtrack to Kickboxer is, essentially, and exercise in nostalgia, but Perseverance have the complete package here. The liner notes by Gergely Hubai are detailed and interesting, and give an overview not just of how composer Hertzog came to work on the film and his process of scoring it, but also words from Stan Bush and Mike Piccirillo.
So, even though you may already be one of the lucky individuals who own Perseverance’s original 2006 release of the Kickboxer score, the inclusion of the songs on top of the score really make this a necessity for fans of '80s action film scores, as well as those into the more esoteric corners of '80s pop music.