Taxi-Driver-stillBernard Herrmann passed away in the early hours of December 24th, 1975, just hours after completing his score for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. 40 years later, his final score is presented in an absolutely stunning package by Waxwork Records. Spread out over a double LP, Herrmann’s cues are collected with pop arrangements by David Blume, while the discs themselves are available in two color ways; “Taxi Cab Yellow” or a tri-colored black, white and yellow disc, making it hard to ignore such a beautiful package. The icing on the cake is new artwork from artist Rich Kelly and exclusive liner notes from director Martin Scorsese. Finally, the soundtrack gets the collector’s edition it deserves.

The first disc is Herrmann’s full score. The newly remastered recordings sound crisp on vinyl, with low brass and strings coming across as very rich and midrange, contrasting with the clarity of high-sounding instruments. This brings out the score’s true anchor, a lonely alto saxophone (performed by legendary session player Ronnie Lang). It’s here where Herrmann’s music still speaks for itself, showcasing how he used his themes as a way to underscore the film’s troubled protagonist, Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro).

The second disc is made up of pop/jazz arrangements of Herrmann’s cues. Given the context of the film, these bizarre, upbeat arrangements bring to light the contrasting extremes found within the film. To be honest, the cue that benefits most from this is the main theme, but its great to have them here for posterity.

Bringing out the score’s character, the packaging focuses of the listener’s eye on Bickle himself. The front cover is blazoned with a chilling rendering of Bickle, while Rich Kelly’s incredible gatefold artwork gives us an omniscient view of the climax of the film. Where it would have been easy to simply pull stock photographs from past promotional material of the film, Waxwork’s usage of Kelly’s artwork is a stroke of genius. The art is colorful and vibrant, which the film itself also is.

If there’s one nitpick, it’s that Herrmann’s name feels like an afterthought on all of the packaging. Any film fanatic will recognize the composer’s work, but to the average listener, his name is just another line that blends into the credits on back cover – a seeming misstep that downplays the composer’s legendary career and his final work.

All in all, however, Waxwork Records has put together an impressive package that honors the legacy of Scorsese’s film and the dynamic between its violent images and musical dynamism. With his final artistic statement committed to film, Herrmann created something every bit as unsettling and monstrous as Bickle himself, contrasting the film’s seedy version of New York with a sense of composed, emotional cacophony.

Now available from Waxwork Records.

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