MUSIC REVIEW: The Original Music from ABC-TV’s Dark Shadows

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Dark Shadows, the kooky horror-soap that introduced housewives and schoolchildren to vampire Barnabas Collins, may very well have been one of the first instances of cult worship ever to be lavished onto a television program. Even today, the fervent adoration of Dark Shadows seems rivaled only by Star Trek (a program that lived and died during the span of Dark Shadows’ broadcast lifetime). This cult fervor resulted in Dark Shadows fan clubs, lunchboxes, a boardgame (!), trading cards, and, perhaps most strangely of all, a soundtrack album.

Dark Shadows - Music Ad

Vintage advertisement featuring Quentin Collins (David Selby)

While a soundtrack album in itself doesn’t seem THAT odd, take a step back and really look at the situation. This was the end of the 60’s, and, although monster-love had risen in the pop-culture dialogue of the time, the idea of a soundtrack being issued for a daytime soap opera must have seemed curious. Indeed, after listening to the album, the genesis of the album only seems MORE of a mystery – Robert Cobert’s original music tracks were combined with spoken-word performances by Jonathan Frid (Barnabas) and David Selby (Quentin). Yes. The soundtrack to the television soap opera is also a spoken-word album, containing both original readings and classical works, including Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Dark Shadows Original SoundtrackThe Original Music from ABC-TV’s Dark Shadows

Ok – so the whole prospect seems odd – so, how does it play? Interestingly enough, exceedingly well. The mix of instrumentals and seemingly offbeat monologues easily captures the strange atmospherics of Dark Shadows – so much so, in fact, that the album itself nearly seems like an episode of Dark Shadows, albeit one that features a vampire and a Dorian Grey-like werewolf musing on life and death. Ok, so actually, there’s no difference between the show and the album (see, I have a sense of humor about these things).

Opening with the familiar Dark Shadows Theme, then segueing into the Collinwood theme, one would almost expect to hear, “My name is Victoria Winters…,” but the music fades all too quickly and begins the first spoken word piece of the album,  I’ll Be With You, Always, a sort-of-psychedelic ode to everlasting love, narrated by lothario-for-the-ages Barnabas Collins. You can almost smell the incense and Thai sticks of the producer who thought to bring together the avant-garde mix of spoken word, classical music, and Dark Shadows. Oh, the late 60’s/early 70’s were a groovy, groovy time.

The atmosphere of Dark Shadows fully rears its head with the tracks Josette’s Theme (the music box tune that accompanied Josette’s tragic turn on Dark Shadows) and the wholly atmospheric Meditations, perhaps my favorite track on the album. It’s very interesting to hear the familiar musical cues of Dark Shadows, reworked for a spooky spoken-word piece by Frid — powerful, awesome stuff. Also of note is When I Am Dead, a macabre (and now ironically sad) piece that finds the late Jonathan Frid’s Barnabas musing on this mortal coil.

Of course, the “highlight” of this album is Shadows of the Night (Quentin’s Theme). The identifying piece of music of the show’s part-time werewolf, full time heartthrob Quentin Collins, Shadows of the Night transcended the small screen and became a hit single, proving that, in the 1960’s, even a fictional ghoul could have a Top 40’s hit. While the narration accompanying Quentin’s Theme was only heard in one episode (episode 786), the music was used as Quentin’s identifying piece of music (re: Quentin’s THEME) and remains one of the most recognizable pieces of Dark Shadows music. “Shadows of the night/calling me to you,” is something that I believe many a housewife would have loved to hear from the man, the myth, the sideburns that was Quentin Collins. Shadows of the Night (Quentin’s Theme) became a Top 40’s hit, and received a Grammy nomination.

As it stands, The Original Music from ABC-TV’s Dark Shadows is a satisfying collection of Dark Shadows music and vocal performances. Though the collection is not without its faults (much of the music is truncated, and the album was recorded in mono, then produced to create a fake “stereo” effect), it is still a great piece of memorabilia for Dark Shadows fans. Fans seeking more Dark Shadows music can find more within the 30th Anniversary Collection, which also contains interviews with composer Robert Cobert and series creator Dan Curtis; for the truly obsessed, an 8-Disc complete collection of music cues from the series is also available. While both of these collections aim for a more completist aesthetic, The Original Music from ABC-TV’s Dark Shadows remains the most vital collection of Dark Shadows music to be had.

Rating: 4.5/5 ★★★★½ 

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About Nathan_E

Nathan Erdel is a screenwriter. He wrote Headless and some other stuff. He likes beer, metal, pizza, and horror. He has three cats and one wife.

Other posts in this series:

  1. MUSIC REVIEW: The Original Music from ABC-TV's Dark Shadows (May 9, 2012)
  2. REVIEW: Dark Shadows - The Revival (May 8, 2012)
  3. Review: Dark Shadows: The Complete Original Series (May 7, 2012)
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