Despite being an epic film, the soundtrack from Dances With Wolves just happens to be my favourite soundtrack of all time. I’ve lost track of how many times I have played it, but over the past couple of decades it would have to be well into the thousands.
Seriously, this is one album that I am proud to say works perfectly as foreground and background music. As such I listen to it when I’m writing, reading, and relaxing.
I am so enamoured by this soundtrack that I even own multiple copies. The standard cd, first released in 1990, is my go to version. It is the edition that I listened to when studying at high school, and one that I would even time my study breaks with, as 54 minute segments seemed to match my level of peak concentration.
As I have spoken about before, I sold all my CDs as I moved into the MP3 era. This original edition was one of them and for years I had to be satisfied with a lossy version in my iTunes Music Library. For years I missed having that original CD and when I started to collect CDs again, I decided that Dances With Wolves should be one of the first to add to the new collection. I recall being worried that it would no longer be in-print, as many soundtracks receive an initial print run and are then no longer available. That was certainly the way it happened in the physical media realm, of course the iTunes Store et al. has drastically changed that practice.
When I went searching at my local music store, I was elated to find that they had a single copy left; it was as if it was just waiting for me. I remember looking lovingly at the cover on the journey home, with a grin from ear-to-ear, as I recalled the intricate elements presented in the artwork and typography.
Despite having a CD player in the car, I wanted to wait until I was home for the full stereo experience. I can assure you, I wasn’t disappointed. It sounded as magnificent and as expansive as the film that accompanied it. It was just how I remembered it, although significantly better as my stereo equipment has improved over the years.
Yes, I had a lossy copy in iTunes, but there is really no comparison when listening to symphonic-styled music. You truly need a non-lossy source for scores such as this. Anything less is a compromise that I’m not willing to make.
Towards the end of 2014 I heard that Original Recordings Group (ORG) were to release a limited edition, numbered, pressing of the soundtrack. I have number 156 of 2500. I love my numbered pressings as it adds a unique element that makes that album special and unique to my own collection.
The repressing would also be the first time the soundtrack would be re-issued on vinyl, since the original 1990 debut. For the audiophiles out there, an edition was released on Super Audio Compact Disc (SACD) in 2002, but to be honest the mastering is so perfect that I don’t know how much of a benefit the SACD would have been over the standard CD release. I should also note that a Super Bit Mastering (SBM), 24-Karat Gold Disc, edition was also released in 1995.
That said, the ORG 2014 vinyl re-issue is pressed at the superior 45rpm speed and as record collectors would note, ORG is renowned for their sonic quality. The pressings are always very clean and quiet with a great deal of care taken in the production process. However, despite this I must say that the CD still blows me away and the sonic advantage I thought may be possible with the ORG release was not as prominent as I was hoping for. That isn’t to say that I am disappointed, but merely to point out that if the mastering and recording process is done well from the beginning, then ‘remastering’ is not needed.
While I, and many other record collectors, will praise the ORG releases, they are ludicrously expensive. Although these pressings do retain their value and increase in value over time. The other thing that needs to be acknowledged is that while you are going to get a beautiful analogue sound from this ORG release, it is still susceptible to pops and clicks that are simply a by-product of the vinyl playback process. Even though I have a very stringent cleaning and maintenance strategy, when it comes to vinyl, classical music or low volume passages are where these elements are heard most. Hence, if you can tolerate a few minor sonic blemishes, for the advantage that is offered with the analogue sound, then I would suggest sourcing a copy of the ORG release.
However, there is one major disappoint with the ORG release. It is presented in a double-vinyl gatefold as the 54-minute runtime at 45rpm extends well beyond the capabilities of a single 12-inch record. I certainly don’t mind having the change the record more often, in-fact I prefer the 45rpm sonic quality, but there is nothing printed on the inner gatefold. It is black and empty. You will be able to see this in the photographs, but I was really hoping they would have included the beautiful purple-hazed buffalo graphic that is present in the CD version. Other than that, I am happy with the art presentation and I'm glad to see a mimicking of the original vinyl artwork. Most likely as the original vinyl release wasn’t a gatefold, that is the reason why the ORG release is void of additional artwork.
Both the standard CD release and ORG vinyl re-issue have the original 18 tracks that was present on the initial release. Upon signing up for TIDAL Hi-Fi earlier this year, I noticed a new re-issue with bonus tracks was available. I’ve yet to purchase this new version on CD, but I’m sure by now you know that it is in my wish-list. However, the question remains, do I like the bonus tracks?
Yes, and no. One of the problems with bonus tracks, especially when an album is re-tracked, is you are so used to the way it sounds, that the new edition feels foreign. For the most part, the new tracks work well with the existing soundtrack, although the track Fire Dance is quite different in tone and therefore separates your mind from the relaxing state it was in. The track clearly worked well for the film, but not so much when presented in chronological order on the soundtrack.
By now, you must be wondering how many different editions of the film I have in my collection. The answer is none. Not one. I truly enjoy the film, but I have no idea why I don’t actually own a copy yet. After all, it has only been 25 years since it was released!
It is amazing to think that this one soundtrack has been a favourite of mine for two and a half decades. If this obsession proceeds until the time of my demise, then I better make sure my family plays the track Farewell and End Title on the day they put me to rest. Although, I did always want to go out with AC/DC’s Highway To Hell.
So, we have established my love for the soundtrack and my inability to own the film itself, but now as I have been doing some additional research for this post, I have found that a new edition was released in December 2015 to mark the 25th Anniversary. It is a double CD and limited to 5,000 copies. It is important to note that this is a different expanded edition from the 2004 release I have on TIDAL Hi-Fi. The runtime of this new release is now well over 2 hours and includes radio promos and a 35 second segment of Kevin Costner in the studio.
If the limited, numbered edition, didn’t have my undivided attention, then the 35 second segment did. I honestly love collecting music, but I’m the first to acknowledge that it is an addiction. Nevertheless, I will try and track down a copy and I should note that this 2015 edition is not available via any digital download or streaming service. That said, I also want to do some additional research into this release as I’ve never heard of the record label, La-La Land Records, that is releasing this edition. All other editions have been released by Epic/Sony records and even the ORG release is officially sanctioned by Epic/Sony.
There really isn’t much more that I can say about the Dances With Wolves soundtrack, except it is exceptional and worthy of inclusion in everyone’s music collection. As mentioned earlier the soundtrack is still available on the standard 1990 edition CD, expanded 2004 edition CD, ORG vinyl re-issue, TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and the iTunes Music Store. You will notice that I haven’t provided links for the two streaming options and the iTunes Store. That is because the streaming services and iTunes Store have three different versions of the album. Hence, I will let you explore the catalogue and you can let me know which edition you prefer in the comments.