Soundtrack Review: ‘Grand Canyon’ Extended Edition

Grand Canyon soundtrack cover

Anybody who knows me best knows I am a huge fan of film scores and soundtracks, and James Newton Howard’s score to “Grand Canyon” is one of my all-time favorites. I knew at some point this score would get an expanded and remastered soundtrack, and La La Land Records finally came through with this limited-edition release. While he is better known for his music to “The Prince of Tides,” “The Fugitive,” “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” which he worked with Hans Zimmer on, “Grand Canyon” remains my favorite work of his as the music provides a soothing heartbeat to this movie.

The movie “Grand Canyon” came out in 1991 and was directed by Lawrence Kasdan and written by him and his wife Meg. Its story revolves around six different Los Angeles residents whose lives intertwine with one another over the course of a few days. It all starts when Mac (Kevin Kline), while driving home from a Lakers game, drives into a bad neighborhood where his car breaks down. Just when it looks like he’s about to be killed by a gang, tow truck driver Simon (Danny Glover) rescues him and the two end up becoming unlikely friends. Many called it “The Big Chill” of the 1990’s, but “Grand Canyon” more than stands on its own as it observes the lives of Los Angeles residents who are dealing with personal issues which are tearing them apart.

What I love about Howard’s score is how it combines so many different kinds of music, be it orchestra, electronics, rock, jazz or percussion, to create a film score so unique to where I have a hard time comparing it to any other. It captures the coldness of big city life while giving the characters stuck in it a sympathetic voice which understands how they feel. The “Main Titles” hooked me right away and made me feel so at ease even though I knew this movie was not going to be a fairy tale.

La La Land Records limited edition release of “Grand Canyon” includes twenty-five minutes of music not included on its original release. Soundtracks, back in the 1990’s, were limited to having only forty to fifty minutes of music on a compact disc, so a lot of great stuff got left out as a result. It’s been over twenty years since this movie came out, but the music remains as powerful as ever. In addition, there are some bonus tracks which are alternate takes on certain themes as well as some source music for a violent film which Davis (Steve Martin) has produced with an unrestrained glee.

As usual, La La Land Records has provided an informative booklet on the making of “Grand Canyon” and its music which is entitled “Scoring the City of Angels” written by Daniel Schweiger, soundtrack editor of AssignmentX.com and Filmmusicmag.com. Schweiger writes extensively about the making of the movie and of how Howard came up with the music for it, and I’m not sure we have had as much detailed information on the creation of this score previously. Each track on this disc gets an individual write up, and it’s nice to see someone, let alone anyone, give this soundtrack the attention it deserves.

If there’s any downside to this edition of the “Grand Canyon” soundtrack, it’s that it doesn’t include the song “Searching for a Heart” by the late Warren Zevon. Usually La La Land Records is able to get all the songs from a movie’s original soundtrack, but I guess there was an issue with the rights this time around. It would have also been great to have the other Zevon song featured in this movie, “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” included as well. Mac plays it while he’s driving home from the Lakers game, and the lyrics turn out to be quite prophetic for him.

“Grand Canyon” is truly one of the unsung cinematic masterpieces of the 1990’s, and what’s sad is most people don’t know about this movie today. This proved to be my introduction to the work of James Newton Howard, and it is one of the main reasons why this movie is so great. I am thrilled to see La La Land Records has taken the time to make Howard’s score sound better than ever before. While he didn’t get an Oscar nomination for his work here (he was instead nominated that same year for “The Prince of Tides”), there’s no doubt in my mind this remains his most memorable film score to date.

This limited edition has only 2000 units available, so be sure to order yours before it goes out of print.

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If I Had Hosted ‘Your Turn’ on 100.3 The Sound

1003 The Sound Banner

With 100.3 The Sound shutting down operations soon, it looks like I won’t get a chance to host an edition of “Your Turn.” This is a program where “Sound Listeners” like you and me can act as DJ for an hour and play ten of our favorite songs. This is one of the many things I love about this station as it shows just how much they truly respect those who listen in on a daily basis. Since first learning about this particular program, I was very eager to be a part of it as I have some experience in being a radio DJ in the past while I was a student at UC Irvine. But with the station going off the air, its likely they have little time to accommodate those who have sent in their song lists to the station.

Whatever the case, I’m going to do the next best thing and provide you, my fellow readers, with the episode I would have done. So here it goes.

Hello people! My name is Ben Kenber, a Sound Listener from Los Angeles, California and also the writer and CEO of the website The Ultimate Rabbit which focuses on my love for movies as well as the challenges I face in training for the Los Angeles Marathon, a marathon I have participated in for seven years. The songs I am going to play have affected me deeply throughout my childhood and as an adult, and I look at them as a journey through the crazy terrain life gives all of us.

  1. “I Can’t Drive 55” by Sammy Hagar

The first song on my list needs no introduction in my opinion. You have all heard this classic before, and the best way for me to describe it is that it’s the song I just LOVE listening to whenever I am in a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam on the 405 freeway. Here it is!

  1. “Shock the Monkey” by Peter Gabriel

This song cast a spell on me when I first heard it on the radio back in the 1980’s. Then I saw the music video for it, and it was the scariest video I ever saw. Keep in mind, I was 7 years old at the time, and this was the worst time to watch a music video like this one. All these years later, I have since become a huge Peter Gabriel fan and have no problem watching this song’s music video as it is one of the few from this decade which really holds up. While my favorite song of Gabriel’s is “In Your Eyes,” one which The Sound has played on a regular basis, this one still holds a lot of meaning for me and still sends a chill up my spine whenever I listen to it. Here is Peter Gabriel with “Shock the Monkey.”

  1. “Find Your Way Back” by Jefferson Starship

I remember when my dad bought the album “Modern Times” by Jefferson Starship back when we were living in Marietta, Georgia, and the first song off of it remains one of my all-time favorites. I even got my dad to let me take this album to my kindergarten class at Wesleyan Day School, and my classmates were eager to rock out to this track every time I put the needle to this vinyl record. It’s a good thing we never got around to playing “Modern Times” in its entirety as the last song, “Stairway to Cleveland,” had a four-letter word parents were eager for their children not to learn about until they turned ten years old. I also have to say that the woman on the album’s cover became a significant part of many nightmares I experience at such a young age. Anyway, here is Jefferson Starship with “Find Your Way Back.”

  1. “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

I have been a fan of Joan Jett & the Blackhearts ever since I first heard their cover of “Crimson and Clover” on the radio back when I lived in Marietta, Georgia. But I am choosing to play this song because I love its defiant attitude, and it’s the kind of attitude I wish I had during my high school years because I was way too concerned about what others thought of me. Plus, it was also the theme song to one of my favorite television shows, “Freaks & Geeks,” and like many brilliant TV shows, it only lasted one season. Anyway, here’s “Bad Reputation.”

  1. “Can I Sit Next to You Girl” by AC/DC

I have been a die-hard fan of AC/DC ever since I bought their album “Who Made Who,” and 100.3 The Sound has played their music non-stop. This makes selecting a song by them especially challenging as “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” “Back in Black,” “Big Balls,” and “Thunderstruck” are always being played on this station. This song from their album “High Voltage” has always been one of my favorites, and I would like to give it a spin here. With the late Bon Scott on vocals, here is “Can I Sit Next to You Girl.”

  1. “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin

I have to include a song by Led Zeppelin here. I became a devoted fan of their music after my dad bought their untitled album, commonly known as “Led Zeppelin IV,” on compact disc. This particular song by them kept playing in my head while I was on vacation with my family in Hawaii. While looking at the tall cliffs, I couldn’t help but think of this song, and I still can’t get sick of listening to it. Here’s Led Zeppelin with “Black Dog,” because this station has played “Kashmir” way too often.

  1. “State Trooper” by Bruce Springsteen

If you had asked me what my favorite Bruce Springsteen album was years ago, I would have said “Born in the U.S.A.” These days, I would pick “Nebraska” which seems simplistic in its production to his other albums, but is still a very powerful listen as its lyrics are intensely personal. As much as I wanted to select “Atlantic City,” I had to pick this song as it has haunted me ever since I first listened to it while on vacation with my parents in Maine. Here is “State Trooper.”

  1. “Shadows of the Night” by Pat Benatar

Up next is something by Pat Benatar, one of the great rock and roll singers from the 1980’s. She had great hits like “Invincible,” “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” “Love is a Battlefield” and “Promises in the Dark,” all of which showed she was not someone to mess with. I am selecting this song by her because I love the melody of the chorus and how it soars over the lyrics with grace. Here is “Shadows of the Night.”

  1. “Undercover of the Night” by The Rolling Stones

My parents introduced me to the music of The Rolling Stones when they kept playing their album “Tattoo You” on a regular basis. This one included their classic hit “Start Me Up,” but this song from their 1983 album “Undercover” remains a favorite of mine from childhood. Here is “Undercover of the Night.”

  1. “King Tut” by Steve Martin

Choosing my last song was a tough one as I would love to include one from The Beatles or the late Tom Petty, but again, I wanted to go back to my time in kindergarten as this was a song me and my fellow classmates boogied out to without ever understanding the lyrics. Years later, I came to see it as comedy classic from one of the most brilliant of comedic minds. Here is Steve Martin with “King Tut.”

I again want to thank 100.3 The Sound for all the great music they have played for the last ten years. They have given me a deeper appreciation for bands like Deep Purple, and they made me realize there is more to Lynyrd Skynyrd than just “Sweet Home Alabama” (I foolishly thought this band was a one-hit wonder for years). Happy trails.