Review Date: November 22, 2013
Released by: Blue Underground
Release date: November 19, 2013
Although he has a distinguished career in TV and motion pictures that spans 36 films and three decades, Jay Chattaway has sort of flown under the radar as a cult film composer. He’s worked with Larry Cohen, Joseph Zito, Fred Williamson and Bill Lustig and he’s scored Star Trek
and won an Emmy. Still, he’s probably much lower on the list of notable horror composers compared to contemporaries like John Carpenter, Claudio Simonetti, Harry Manfredini, Brad Fiedel, etc. Bill Lustig, who has used Chattaway on 5 of his productions, is certainly trying to change that. Over the years we’ve seen a soundtrack release for Maniac sanctioned by Blue Underground for the Anchor Bay tin release and now there’s a separate soundtrack release for the fan favorite Maniac Cop 2
to coincide with Blue Underground’s stacked new Blu-ray combo package. We all know the film’s a force…but does Chattaway’s score hit all the right notes on its own?
Jay Chattaway’s score for the first film was a riling bit of pulp, but for Maniac Cop 2
he didn’t necessarily go bigger, but rather bolder. This score is less about action and more about atmosphere, using everything from Gregorian chants and Morriconne-inspired whistling to give the score a haunting lingering impact, much like the titular killer. Like Matt Cordell, this score feels ghostly and omnipresent, with notes carrying on much longer than expected and echoing deep into the soundspace. Right from the first track, “Death Whispers” that iconic whistle sets the tone for a score that’s as ominous and ever-changing as a mist of smoke dispersing from a fired weapon. In the first track alone there is whistling, chanting, synth stingers, wailing horns, strings and some piano notes. In the film this kind of variety does a good deal to keep the viewer guessing, and heard on its own it shows Chattaway to be a skilled musician able to pepper his compositions with a number of stylings.
The end of the second track works in a bit of the film’s memorable playground hymns and the third track, “Gloria”, shows even more range with an intentionally off-key bit of Christmas chiming that really evokes that cold New York atmosphere of the film. The chantings get their own track in “Deathly Chants”, and it is put in-between various short little sequences used to accentuate portions of the movie. Several of the other tracks included on this 15 track compilation are of the same variety and don’t quite hold up as well as they do in the film. By nature they were designed to support what was on-screen rather than to carry the storytelling like say the memorable opening music in Carpenter’s Halloween
or the pulsing black glove music in Goblin’s Deep Red
score. When Chattaway’s music does carry the film, like in Track 9’s “Whisle in the Dark”, it’s wonderfully evocative and a beautiful listen on its own.
“Beat Cop” at Track 11 is the riling bit of the soundtrack, and it’s elliptical, string-driven backing sounds like what you’d expect a Bernard Herrmann-scored action movie in the 80’s to sound like. Track 12 is more of that stringy imperative, sounding a bit more like Manfredini than it does Herrmann. “Showdown” at 13 offers a short little build-up to our final two full tracks. The second to last works in a marching drum melody and explodes with a number of big bang moments. The kind of peaks and valleys structure to the sound again plays better when supporting visuals than it does when intended solely for private listening. Whatever the track on the soundtrack, though, Chattaway demonstrates great skill in layering his compositions with different cues. At some points the tracks evoke a drum and horn kind of American patriotism, while others suggest through echoes and fluttering strings an apparition lurking in the shadows. It all amounts to a fascinating listen that may not play well on repeat viewings or as background music due to many of the erratic, punctuating tracks. And then there’s the rap song.
As advertised on the front cover, this soundtrack includes as its final track the infamous “Maniac Cop Rap”. As Lustig explains on the Maniac Cop 2 Blu-ray, he had asked Jay Chattaway for a cool, hip-hop kind of sound for the end credits to his film, and this is what Chattaway delivered, much to Lustig’s surprise. Featuring versus by rappers Yeshwua Barnes and Brian “B.Dub” Woods, this might not be high art, but it is catchy as hell. It’s made all the better by starting with the full playground hymn sung by children and then a little string work before the rappers burst on a minute in shouting “What’s that?...Something sneaking around the corner…I think it’s that maniac…Hold up!” A track like this should logically not work for the movie or standalone, but Chattaway shows here that no genre of sound is outside his reach. He works the familiar whistles and strings into this track, but keeps it fresh and moving with a cool urban synth backing. If you liked other horror-rap tunes like The Fat Boys’ “Are You Ready for Freddy” or Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s “Nightmare on My Street”, you’re going to love this campy but cool little ditty. Horror fans will appreciate this entire soundtrack, but chances are it’s the rap that’s played the most.
If I can nitpick about anything here, it would be that Gary McLaughlin’s three pop tracks from the film do not make it onto this original motion picture soundtrack. I realize this soundtrack is labelled “Music Composed and Conducted by Jay Chattaway” and thus a showcase of Chattaway’s work specifically, but if his rap can fit in with the rest of his instrumental score, then McLaughlin’s pieces have every right to be there too. I’m a particular fan of “Children of the Night”, the Buddy Miles arena anthem used during the memorable strip sequence where we first see Leo Rossi and his scruffy insanity (to add insult to injury, the memorable scene even gets a still on the packaging despite not being in this soundtrack). The scene and the song are one of the film’s big highlights, it’s too bad “Children”, as well as “Woman of the World” and “Message from Above” couldn’t be included here as well. To steal a quote from the rap “Justice is blind, but this Cop
’s justice is one of a kind.”
This digital audio compact disc runs raw and uncompressed at the standard 1411 Kbps and sounds wonderfully restored. Those high violin strings never break up and those deep synth drum stingers resonate with strong force in what proves to be a full-sounding mastering with considerable audible range. Tracks are very clean with no hiss or audible noise. This is often to be expected with restorations where the audio stems are primarily synth-generated, but even in the final vocal rap the original voice stems still sound as crisp and clear as if they were just newly recorded. More than just a packaging together of an isolated score, it really sounds as if this entire compilation was cleaned up especially for this release, and the resulting product should satisfy all audio connoisseurs in terms of sound quality.
Maniac Cop 2
is a memorable movie, and while the soundtrack here isn’t quite as consistently entertaining, it more than measures up with a wonderful restoration and a 15 Track assortment of diverse layers and sounds from the underrated Jay Chattaway. In terms of technical merit, “Whistle in the Dark”, “Gloria” and “Pyromania Death March” are certainly the standouts, but the track everyone will be looking for and playing on repeat is that campy but catchy “Maniac Cop Rap”. I still bemoan the fact that Buddy Miles’ “Children of the Night” was not included on the soundtrack (or isn’t on iTunes, either) but for fans of Chattaway’s score this is as complete and as polished as any fan could expect. With Chattaway’s off-key rendition of a familiar Christmas song in “Gloria” and the generally chilly stringwork throughout, the soundtrack’s release on November 19th seems perfectly timed for the holiday season. This should be the soundtrack horror fans should reach for this Christmas, and with a limited pressing of 1,000 copies, this Christmas might be the only time you’ll be able to buy this. For those who pass up this quality compilation before it’s OOP: You have the right to remain silent…forever!
Soundtrack - B+
Audio Quality - A
- Audio CD
- Running time - 35 minutes
- 1 Disc
- 15 Tracks
- LPCM 2.0