Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ghost Rider (Young, 2007)

     The 2007 film "Ghost Rider is kind of a guilty pleasure.  It's probably not regarded as a "great" film, but it does have some enjoyable over-the-top Nicolas Cage mannerisms, as well as some unique flaming motorcycle sequences.  Additionally, it's one of the earliest examples of the current trend of heavy metal-driven scores (see Mad Max Fury Road). 

     The film includes several licensed rock songs in the first half (mostly used as source music for bike-show stunts), but is later dominated by a guitar/drum-driven score composed by Christopher Young, who refers to this score as "industrial/gothic western".  The score release includes about an hour's worth of Young's music, but sadly leaves off all of the licensed songs, including the perfectly-chosen "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky", originally written by Stan Jones in 1948, later made into a popular rock song by the Outlaws, and here performed by Spiderbait.  This song was used in a visually-striking sequence where the two Ghost Riders (Cage and Sam Elliott) travel across the desert on flame-cycle and flame-horse towards the final battle (as well as over the end credits).

     The score is arranged in collections of cues which rarely follow the film's chronological sequence - why labels do this I do not know, it never works as well as a chronological presentation in my opinion.  The official titles often have nothing to do with the cue's intended film sequence either.  Nonetheless, Ghost Rider" is a pretty fun score and has some very enjoyable electric guitar grooves (did I mention "guilty pleasure"?).  Members of the recording ensemble include the drummer from the metal band White Zombie, and two guitarists from Trent Reznor's industrial rock band, Nine Inch Nails.

     There are 3 main themes featured in the score, the Ghost Rider theme (gothic and romantic, often also used as fanfare-ish fragments or as ornamental elements to a simpler figure), the string/acoustic guitar/clarinet "pastoral theme" (love theme), and the "Blackheart Beat", which is an ominous, chromatically descending 3-chord guitar riff.  A few other more minor motifs appear, most notably a pretty cool little trumpet figure.  The score also features generous helpings of gothic choir and orchestra-based ambient textures (as opposed the synthetic type favored by composers such as Hans Zimmer and Tom Holkenborg).
Trk Dur Title Film Sequence/Musical Features
1 3:16 Ghost Rider 0:00: Logos: guitar strums, Ghost Rider theme in mandolin.
0:15: Legend of the Ghost Rider (historical montage with Slade voice-over): Ghost Rider theme in low brass with choir/trumpet accents.
0:57: Story of San Venganza and how an earlier Ghost Rider escaped the Devil (montage cont'd) (extended edit): ominous brass/staccato strings over low pulses, joined by choir/bells, fanfares with low bass pulses/trumpet motif/choir, tremolo string swell/accent.
2:24: Opening credit sequence (animated driving): rhythmic strings/drums with Ghost Rider theme in low brass, trumpet fanfares and choral swells.
(also used at end of End Credits)
2 3:06 Blackheart Beat 0:00: Ghost Rider faces Blackheart but one of the Hidden crashes into him with a truck: guitar/drum rock groove (Blackheart Beat) with Ghost Rider theme fragment in choir, falling strings, groove modulated with denser drums, rising brass, accent, ambient metal/string/choral textures.
1:24: Ghost Rider reappears and uses his chain to incinerate the driver: accent, then ominous brass/string pattern with choral/guitar Ghost Rider counter-figures.
2:15: Ghost Rider calls up his bike and turns it into his flame-cycle: slow drum/guitar rhythm, building with ornaments, Ghost Rider theme joins in low brass with trumpet/choir accents.
3 4:13 Artistry In Death 0:00: The Devil calls on Johnny to capture Blackheart: low drone with ambient electric guitar figures, string clusters, bells/low strings/muted trumpet.
0:51: Despite turning down the Devil, Johnny Blaze is compelled to start speeding through the city out of control and wreaking havoc.  A policeman tracks him on radar: Blackheart Beat with piano chords, joined by brass wails, low bass pulse with accented drum groove, rising glissando.
1:51: Blackheart and the Hidden interrogate a train yard worker: ambient textures with electric twang guitar/cymbals/electronics/muted brass.
2:51: Johnny's wild ride takes him home: Blackheart Beat, brass wails, rising wind gliss.
3:03: Johnny takes slow, flaming steps and begins changing into the Ghost Rider (unused, replaced by track 15 ending): slow ominous rock groove with staccato guitar chords, Ghost Rider theme, wah guitar noises and low brass, joined by high Ghost Rider theme in winds, choir/brass accents.
4 2:00 A Thing For Karen Carpenter 0:00: Young Johnny and Roxanne discuss their future dreams.  They decide to run away together: development of "pastoral theme" featuring acoustic guitars and strings.
5 5:31 Cemetery Dance 0:00: At a biker bar, Blackheart eliminates the patrons and gathers his fallen angels, the Hidden: impact, ambient distorted textures with guitar chords/subtle rhythmic percussion (glockenspiel).
1:36: The Devil arrives to threaten Blackheart (alternate mix): guitar ornaments/tremolo violins/cymbals/sirens.
2:21: Johnny searches for Roxanne.  Blackheart gets to her first and tells Johnny that he must bring the San Venganza contract to him or she dies (alternate): low string rhythm/drums, high drone/low rhythm strings/cymbal/electronic noise riff, swells, various violin slashes ("Psycho"-esque), ambient swells.
3:19: After Johnny shoots Blackheart with the ignited shotgun, Blackheart slowly regenerates: string tremoli/accents with slow distorted drum groove, building with brass accents.
4:08: Ghost Rider uses his Penance Stare on the soul-infested Blackheart: heavenly choral figures, ominous rock guitar rhythm with bass pulse/violin slashes/Ghost Rider brass fragments/choral figures.
6 5:40 More Sinister Than Popcorn 0:00: Johnny turns into Ghost Rider while being beat up by thugs in a prison: big choral figure, Ghost Rider theme on brass over slow rock with choral outbursts/string tremoli, groove with only strings/bass/drums.
1:01: (unused) wind and metallic ambient textures, electric guitar chord followed by swell.
1:18: On the skyscraper roof, Ghost Rider lassos and repels a helicopter: synth bass pulses with string slashes/brass wails, Ghost Rider theme in choir, lurching brass figures.
2:16: The Ghost Rider confronts the wind Hidden: ominous march with low strings/drums/brass/wind ornaments.
2:52: The Ghost Rider ignites his chain-whip and disperses the wind Hidden: heavy guitar and more drums join, build.
3:23: Ghost Rider launches off the skyscraper roof, rides down and lands in front of the police: held strings with percussive accents, choral figures, fast guitar/drum/synth groove loop, falling low string/brass figure over tremolo strings.
4:14: Ghost Rider faces Roxanne in the crowd, the police fire: resigned string/brass figure (sad Ghost Rider variation), joined by choir rising.
4:52: The Ghost Rider escapes and heads back to Slade and the cemetery: choral climax, low brass, fragments of Ghost Rider theme/violin tremoli.
7 2:15 No Way To Wisdom 0:00: Johnny and his father discusses the choices they have in life/Johnny decides to leave his father for Roxanne (alternate): Sustained strings, soft string accents become the pastoral theme on clarinet/strings.
8 6:18 Chain Chariot 0:00: Blackheart interrogates a priest for the whereabouts of the contract to the souls of San Venganza: ambient textures blended into choral figures/tremolo strings/isolated el. guitar, Ghost Rider theme in tremolo strings, violins, male choir, ambient electric guitar/female choir/strings.
3:01: Ghost Rider hits the streets and taunts the police atop an arch: Ghost Rider theme variations w fast drums, string/brass/drum accents.
3:31: Blackheart threatens the priest: flutes/strings/cymbals/choir.
4:01: Ghost Rider drives down the arch into the bay.  Leaving the church, Blackheart and the Hidden hear the flame-cycle in the distance: drum groove with guitar/brass, string accent rhythm over drums and choir swells, brass figures, ambient guitar/cymbals.
4:43: Blackheart sends the wind Hidden after the Ghost Rider and it knocks GR off his cycle: drum groove with brass figures, synth bass pulses join, clusters
5:12: The Ghost Rider remounts and chases it up the side of a skyscraper: Blackheart Beat with brass wails, drums increase density, low brass accents, guitar riffs rise, held textures intercut with drum grooves.
9 3:36 Santa Sardonicus 0:00: (unused) swell into suspense synth/guitar beat with choir/brass figures, ambient textures with subtle Ghost Rider motif in background.
1:01: (unused) Ghost Rider theme in distorted wah guitar over slow rock groove with brass and string accents, accents.
2:08: Ghost Rider's flame-cycle blasts out of the police impound, a policeman hits Ghost Rider in the face with his truncheon, GR reprimands him and then takes off: accents, low rhythms/echoed guitar bends, choir/strings joins, fast guitar lick, string/muted brass ornaments, guitar noises, rising strings (then back to 8c).
10 5:26 Penance Stare 0:00: Roxanne ponders Johnny's fate after she sees he's really Ghost Rider: synth textures joined by strings and isolated bass pulses.
0:44: In a cemetery, Slade tells Johnny the story of Slade, the previous Ghost Rider, and the contract for San Venganza: isolated guitar strum accents, bass pulses/strings continue and modulate.
2:14: Slade patches up Johnny after his first night as the Ghost Rider and tells him what he is.  They discuss Blackheart and San Venganza: Ghost Rider theme in high strings/pizz, pensive string theme, isolated guitar strum accents.
4:10: Slade asks Johnny what he gained from his deal with the Devil (alternate): clarinet joins pulsing strings/harp.
4:41: Johnny returns to the city and views the aftermath of the previous night's rampage: low bass pulse builds to dark climax, tremolo strings.
11 3:22 San Venganza 0:00: At the outskirts of San Venganza, Slade thanks Johnny for giving him a second chance: acoustic guitar strums, low suspense figures with tragic trumpet figures (Morricone-esque), climaxing with noble brass.
1:12: Blackheart threatens Roxanne.  Johnny slowly rides through a swamp in the darkness: suspense textures with falling muted brass/violins/strings/bass synth pulses.
2:25: Johnny is attacked by the water Hidden.  Ghost Rider appears and dispatches it underwater: action rhythms with string clusters, brass wailing and bass pulses, leading to faster action material.
12 2:08 Blood Signature 0:00: (unused) Ghost Rider theme on violins/low strings with subtle metallic rhythm.
0:35: The Ghost Rider travels out of the city as dawn approaches: Ghost Rider theme joined by brass/choir.
1:10: In a cemetery, the Ghost Rider changes back to Johnny Blaze and is greeted by Carter Slade: held harmonies with bass pulses and Ghost Rider fragments in choir.
13 1:53 Serenade To A Daredevil's Devil 0:00: Reunion with Roxanne before the motorcycle jump over the helicopters: held strings, pastoral theme on ac. guitars.
14 5:52 Nebuchadnezzar Phase 0:00: Johnny rides his bike into the ruins of San Venganza: suspenseful stalking figures in brass, muted trumpet, joined by choir/brass/swirling strings, figures develop, rising glissandi, then falling , rhythm joined by violin slashes.
2:09: Johnny confronts Blackheart but is weakened by the rising sun: building brass/choir accents.
2:42: Blackheart summonses the evil lost souls of San Venganza: electric guitar accents and moaning, lurching figures, brass accents, choral/timpani accents with brass scales, eerie choir and brass accents.
4:09: Johnny tells Roxanne that he must face Blackheart, and then fights him with the shotgun: Ghost Rider theme in low brass, string rhythm with falling strings (Psycho) figure.
4:54: Blackheart and Johnny have a final confrontation in a church: mystical choral figures, brass accents, suspense end cadence.
15 3:59 The West Was Built On Legends 0:00: Roxanne comforts Ghost Rider/Johnny: string tremoli, somber violin melody.
0:57: The Devil offers to remove the curse of the Ghost Rider from Johnny: choir/low strings, joined by rising-falling violins/bells.
1:40: Johnny tells the Devil that he will use the Ghost Rider's powers for good: Ghost Rider theme in slow, noble brass with choir/violins/timpani.
2:30: The Devil angrily leaves: swell to chaotic ambient textures.
2:45: Johnny takes slow, flaming steps and begins changing into the Ghost Rider (replaces track 3 ending): uptempo choral chant over drums/brass, joined by Ghost Rider theme, choir/string end cadence.

     The cues in the soundtrack are in non-chronological order, but a film sequence from the released cues above would go something like this:

1, 7, 4, 5.1-2, 13, 3, 15.5, 2, 12, 10.3-5, 
6.1, 8.1, 9.3, 8.2, 6.3, 8.3-6, 6.4-7, 
10.1-2, 11, 14, 5.4-5, 15.1-4, 1.

     The notable rock songs in the film (mostly used as source music) include: "Tush" (ZZ Top), "Crazy Train" (Ozzy Osborne), "Superstar" (The Carpenters), "Ride of the Valkyries" (Richard Wagner, Royal Philharmonic) and "Who Do You Love" (Bo Diddley/George Thorogood and the Destroyers), as well as the aforementioned "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky" arranged by Spiderbait (who actually wrote 3 other very cool cues for the film besides this one).

Interview with Christopher Young on Ghost Rider
Christopher Young Home
Christopher Young Wiki/Filmography
Ghost Rider at Music from Film 
Filmtracks Review

1 comment:

  1. This was actually really helpful in finding the track I wanted.