Ah, the 80's, what a wonderful decade. Or not. In any case, this album showcases two very 80's films with two very 80's scores. Both are modestly budgeted, but clearly the main attraction is Thomas Newman's score to Desperately Seeking Susan. It certainly goes to show that Newman has always relished working within a small budget and creating interesting sounds with a small number of players. Most of the tracks are comprised of looping synth ideas, augmented with a smattering of percussion and other acoustic instruments, notably guitar and the occasional piano. Several of the synth effects are very Goldsmithian in style; the most prominent being a kind of watery sound, very much like that used by Goldsmith for the more recent Medicine Man. However, instead of anything exotic, Newman goes for a lightly urban sound. There is little emotional sway, it merely pootles along in the background, it certainly doesn't sound like a score for a film that is ostensibly a comedy.
Chaz Jankel isn't really a name to conjure with, his film music career seemingly rather brief, but ending on a high with the replacement score for 1992'2 K2 (displacing that written by Hans Zimmer for some prints of the film). I'm not sure if it's surprising or not that Jankel's score is so similar to Newman's in style. However, Jankel is credited with composing and performing the music, so almost everything is synthesised, but the general lack of anything acoustic isn't any more noticeable than with Newman's. Synthetic string pads used frequently, notably in tracks such as Night Visit. They generally waft around in the background, with sprightly synthetic motifs and percussion keeping the ball rolling. Newman's score isn't exactly a model of variety, but there is perhaps more obvious invention and Jankel's music seems pretty samey all the way through. Again, this is underscore that is clearly just a musical bed with no obvious or specific dramatic intention.
Now out of print and somewhat hard to find, this early Varese album is more of a curiosity than a lost treasure. If it weren't for the Newman name, I suspect neither score would have seen the light of day. Given that only around 15 minutes of each score appears on disc, it seems reasonable to assume that neither represents all the music written, but in fairness, given the variety within that time, anything more would start to become pretty tedious, fairly quickly. The 80's sound is also something of an acquired taste; they are very much of the period, but unlike John Barry's smooth 60's scores, the largely synthetic sound worlds are curiously hollow and musically not hugely interesting. The packaging, however, is worth a mention; Desperately Seeking Susan revolves around a bored housewife looking at personal ads and the credits for Newman's score are done as though they were a personal ad. A neat touch. Still, for die hard Newman fans only, I suspect.