Also a review, and a brief warning: lots of videos in this post.
Sonically, James Fitzpatrick has done it again, recreating the particular ambiance of a recording without falling prey to any of the problems of the original. The sound quality of Jan Holzner and Michael Hradisky's recording is fantastic, but it is consistent with the overall tone of Pedegro Savina's work on the original. The clarity of sound is aided by the more traditional orchestral set-up favored by Nic Raine.
The corrected orchestrations means that there are some passages, such as "Theology/Civilization" that sound quite different from their original soundtrack counterparts. The female choir during "The Tree of Woe" makes gives that cue a more religioso feel. Some pieces are vastly different; "Conan Leaves Valeria" goes off in a different direction from "The Leaving." Those are the main differences, but there are some cases where the performance on the new recording is just plain better, "Pit Fights" being the primary example (the most improvements in that arena to come from the cues that weren't included on the original album or the Varèse Sarabande expanded re-issue which was based on Poledouris' plans for a 2 LP set in 1982 that never materialized).
I'm sure that the differences between this set and the original recording will leave some fans of the original soundtrack recording cold, but I'm about as big a fan of this score as you can get and it's gotten me pretty fired up (and I'm I'm all sick and miserable too). I just think it's the bee's knees to have such an interesting variation on one of my favorite film scores of all time that reflects more what Poledouris intended than what he ended up with.
My excitement for the new score couldn't be higher. The only thing I'm not loving is the cover, which is apparently from the Heroes in the Wind and The Robert E. Howard Reader school of cover illustrations. But that's nothing: it's the sound that's important. This looks like it could be truly special, and the idea that this is the way Basil Poledouris wanted his score to be... well, it gives me chills, to be frank.
It reminds me of Poledouris' own conducting for his Conan Symphony, a once-in-a-lifetime live performance which took place mere months before his death. It's simply incredible.
This leads me to ponder: Howard Shore's score for The Lord of the Rings has a live show combining the music and imagery from the films. A live orchestra plays, while a big projector shows scenes from the films without the heinous dialogue and infuriating changes (well, most of them), mostly using the sweeping vistas and glorious settings.
I see absolutely no reason why this can't be done for Conan the Barbarian too. Arguably it would be less trouble: there's very little dialogue in the film, as many have noted, and there are some gorgeous visuals. Some of the gore and nudity might have to be worked around for the sake of the tiddlypeeps, but some judicious editing and a bit of fading would sort that.
Another interesting idea would be to rerelease Conan the Barbarian with the new recording. Such an idea might be controversial, but when the originals are damaged or even destroyed, sometimes it's a perfectly valid option. If nothing else, have the option to use either through a menu: that's the power of Blu-Ray. Back in 1994, RCA Victor/BMG released a laserdisc of Alexander Nevsky with a rerecorded soundtrack. It was glorious. Where's that DVD, movie people?
(All due respect to Basil Poledouris and Brian Murphy, but Prokofiev's score for Alexander Nevsky is my absolute favourite film score, and second place is miles away. Second place... probably being Conan the Barbarian, actually.)