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THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Classic Christmas treat from Elfman
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1993 Disney; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall.
Fifteen years after its release, The Nightmare Before Christmas has well and truly joined the ranks of the classic Christmas films, and deservedly so. Tim Burton's tale (directed by Henry Sellick) tells the story of when the residents of the town of Halloween decide to kidnap Santa Claus from nearby Christmas Town and try their hand at his duties for a year. It's witty and great fun, a perfect festive treat for all the family to enjoy. It's a real musical treat too, courtesy of Burton's regular collaborator, Danny Elfman.
Elfman expertly weaves together his original songs with a beautifully-wrought underscore for a delight. From the opening barnstormer "This is Halloween", through the melancholy, gorgeous "Jack's Lament" and the bluesy "Oogie Boogie's Song", they're pretty much all great, but the highlight must be "What's This?", a mad dash of a song as the lead character Jack Skellington discovers Christmas Town for the first time. Elfman even lends his own voice to the character when singing and is brilliant, nuancing his performance perfectly between occasional histrionics and (even more) occasional restraint. There's an unmistakable air of Nino Rota (as there was in most of the composer's earlier scores for Burton) which is great to hear.
It's the songs that stick in the memory (and there are plenty of them), but the instrumental score is no less impressive. Everything flows together so well - the songs and score are orchestrated very similarly, so you barely notice as you pass from one to the other, and Elfman incorporates his song melodies into the score far more frequently than (say) Alan Menken tended to even in his greatest Disney scores. Elfman was really in his element here, able to exploit his taste for the macabre - but in such a nice, friendly way. The Nightmare Before Christmas features many of his most memorable melodies and is a joy for any Elfman fan; the album is a bona fide Christmas classic in its own right.