The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of those old favourites that I find myself going back to time and time again. Released in 1993, it was written by Henry Selick and produced by Tim Burton. Despite its age Nightmare has maintained it’s popularity over the years and does not look or sound dated. It is a beautiful, charming, stop-motion animation feature which can be enjoyed at Hallow’en, Christmas or whenever!
But the thing that keeps drawing me back, is not the script or animation but the music. It is for me by far the best thing about Nightmare and I adore all of the songs and themes on the soundtrack. Written by Danny Elfman (who also performed the singing voice of Jack Skellington) the music really creates the atmosphere of the festival universe and is really quite magical.
At this point in 2012 I have listened to the soundtrack hundreds of times so I always enjoy hearing new interpretations. In 2008 Walt Disney released Nightmare Revisited to commemorate the 15 year anniversary of the original release. The album was a reworking of the soundtrack by popular artists such as The Polyphonic Spree, Marilyn Manson, Plain White T’s and Rodrigo y Gabriella. Number 8 on the album was the Vitamin String Quartet who performed a “Jack and Sally Montage”. Luckily for all of us fans they have now gone on to record and release an entire album of their reworking of the soundtrack and just in time for Hallowe’en!
The Vitamin String Quartet are an L.A. based String Quartet (hence the name) who are well known for their tributes to rock and pop music. They have released over 100 albums which is an astounding amount of music. Some past covers have been of Adele, Coldplay, The Verve, and Queen among many others.
So they have the experience but can they pull off music as rich and layered as The Nightmare Before Christmas with just violins, a viola and cello? Also for me, the lyrics of the music really makes the soundtrack stand out, so I did wonder if an instrumental version be sufficient I am glad to say that was was more than enough. String Quartets have a beautiful sound due to their make-up but I really have to say that the music of Nightmare really sounded made for this grouping.
To be honest this track sold the album to me straight away. Playing snippets from all the songs to come, the listener gets a really solid idea of the methods that the Quartet uses to set the mood of the piece. I was delighted as I could still identify all the themes and was transported into the world of Hallow’en.
2. This is Halloween
One of the most iconic songs of Nightmare, it is so important to get this right. The piece is sung by a choir with many different voices and tones which I thought would be hard to mimic. The Quartet did a great job, using different techniques to get a wide range of sounds from their instruments.
3. Jacks Lament
This song heralds the beginning of Jack’s quest for a change of career. It is played in an elegant way where Jack’s strong character is not eclipsed by his yearning for something new.
4. What’s This?
Probably the most widely known song, it is all about when Jack discovers Christmas. It is played in a wonderfully majestic way. The high winding violins, pizzicato and choppy harmonies all create the feeling of excitement and new discovery that the song tries to portray.
5.Town Meeting Song
This is quite a deep, buzzing tune and it really shows off the lower range notes with a stylish finish.
6. Jack’s Obsession
A quiet, sad song where Jack broods. Very atmospheric.
7. Kidnap the Sandy Claws
My favourite song of the entire feature and the sinister nature of Lock, Shock and Barrell really comes to life in the music.It is creepy, menacing and sneaky just like the trio themselves. With this version you can now sing the lyrics at the top of your voice while people wonder if you were always that violent in nature, especially against your enemy, Mr Sandy Claws.
8. Making Christmas
A song about the scariest assembly line ever imagined. It is played in a stomping, forceful way with Jack’s theme entwined. Great stuff!
9. Oogie Boogie’s Song
When I heard about the concept for this album I thought that this track would be the hardest to emulate. This is because it is jazzy with a brass led section. Would strings cut it? The answer is, yes they did a good job. It doesn’t quite have the same urgent, bold, stomping sound but rather evokes a very enjoyable smoky-bar crooner vibe. Oogie’s musical kudos is left in place and he can always have a career in jazz if the being evil thing doesn’t work out.
10. Sally’s Song
This song would be a piece of cake for a string quartet as it already has plenty of strings in it. Delicate and soft yet packing a powerful punch it is played beautifully.
11. Poor Jack
Jack comes back to claim his title of the Pumpkin King in a fantastically Hallowe’en style way. Brilliant.
12. Jack and Sally Montage (bonus track)
This was the track on the Nightmare Revisited album and it is a great interpretation of Jack and Sally’s themes, which if you watch the movie, pop up all the time when the characters are on screen. Can you spot them?
So if you need a soundtrack for you hallowe’en this should be it. It is perfect to put on in the background at a party or in the office. It would also sound fantastic cranked up on surround sound. Enjoy, everyone and Happy Hallow’en!
You can buy the album here on Amazon MP3: Vitamin String Quartet Performs The Nightmare Before Christmas
Special Edition DVD of Nightmare Before Christmas: The Nightmare Before Christmas (Special Edition)  [DVD]
Special Edition Blueray of Nightmare Before Christmas: The Nightmare Before Christmas (Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray)
CD of Nightmare Revisited: Nightmare Revisited
MP3 of Nightmare Revisited: Nightmare Revisited