12 CDs of Charles Gerhardt conducting Film Scores! What more could anyone want? Well...there is one real important thing. (Please see below.)
These 1970s Quadraphonic recordings were released on CD by RCA Victor in the late 80s. They were remastered in "Dolby Surround" and downmixed to 2-channel for CD. And they sounded glorious (for the time). Full-bodied and boisterous, in full technicolor - just what this music needed. But they weren't the cleanest - or clearest. And the chorus, when utilized, tended to be a bit muddied in the mix.
Then in 2011, SONY reissued all 12 of them, newly remastered without the "Dolby surround" manipulation. And it was a revelation. But not always in a good way. Sure enough, they are now clearer, more detailed and dynamic. And the chorus is more forward and defined. But everything is also brighter, thinner and less warm than before. It simply lacks some of the richness this music needs. And the inherent distortion on some of the climaxes is now even more obvious and troublesome.
So, depending on your home stereo system, many folks preferred the earlier CDs over the latter. Even SONY admitted their remastering was not entirely satisfactory.
Now at long last, SONY has gathered them all together in this budget box set. But here's the rub - and what's missing from this reissue - SONY no longer displays the ubiquitous '24-bit' remastering logo on any of these new releases. Nor is there any mention of ANY remastering whatsoever - simply a "compilation" date. What a great disappointment! And what a missed opportunity to do this right. Therefore I can't see any reason to buy these a THIRD time, except to save room on the shelf by replacing the 12 individual 2011 CDs.
I have always hoped these recordings would one day receive a new lease on life with improved sound. Similarly, I've also wished for a newly remastered collection of classic Arthur Fiedler/Boston Pops material. But, alas, I may never see it. If SONY is no longer going to make any attempt to remaster these recordings, there really is no point, other than the luxury of having them all in a convenient box.
However, for those with surround playback capabilities, we are can turn to the wonderful Dutton/Vocalion label, which has focused its efforts on releasing this series of Classic Film Scores, newly remastered, on SACD. As these were originally recorded in Quadraphonic 4-channel, this would seem the most logical solution in allowing these recordings to be heard in their original, intended format, and will most likely provide the most natural sound. I have acquired only the first one to be released: Lost Horizon (2018). I listen in 2-channel SACD, as I do not have surround sound capabilities. Unfortunately, I found that even on SACD, the stereo layer was not a significant improvement over the 2011 SONY CD remaster. I suspect whatever process is used to downmix 4 channels to 2 may be proving difficult, as I hear similar results from both SONY and Dutton. But for those wanting to explore further, Dutton has released 5 titles in the series to date. They can be imported directly from Dutton (via Amazon), or for better prices, from Presto Classical online.