John Boorman had a hard act to follow when he made Exorcist II: The Heretic. It’s fair to say that he didn’t do very well, with the resulting movie being savaged by critics and widely hated by audiences. Ennio Morricone had a hard act to follow, too – the first film’s eclectic mix of Mike Oldfield and Krzyzstof Penderecki quickly becoming nothing short of iconic – but he fared somewhat better, in one of his first mainstream Hollywood scores. He produced a core of excellent, highly varied themes and seemed to understand what needed doing better than pretty much anyone else involved with the film. The popular album has been released on CD before but has been out-of-print for a while, so this new issue from Perseverance Records (at a good price, too – lower than is usually charged by most of the speciality film music labels for straight reissues) is a welcome one.
The album opens with the spectacularly gorgeous “Regan’s Theme”, a seductively beautiful poppish piece for female vocalist and small orchestra. But this is an eclectic score (and album), and things transform completely in “Pazuzu”, a sort of crazed version of African tribal music. The terrific “Interrupted Melody” has that slightly off-kilter beauty that Morricone has done so well, so often. “Little Afro-Flemish Mass”, perhaps the greatest track title there’s ever been on a soundtrack album, is an unsettling, occultish piece for all sorts of weird and wonderful instruments and vocalists. There’s also the great “Magic and Ecstasy”, pure instrumental rock, a classic from a composer who’s provided no shortage of those. Indeed, the whole album is just fantastic, worthy of a place in any soundtrack collection – it showcases Morricone’s gifts at creating gorgeous melody alongside his ability to compose genuinely unsettling music, but despite the dominance of the latter, everything remains completely listenable throughout.