Varese Sarabande is one of the biggest music labels specializing in releasing soundtracks, and occasionally they like to release an expanded version of an existing soundtrack. Most of the time when I see their so-called ‘CD Club’ announcements, I am not really triggered to buy them. However, that was definitely not the case for John Powell’s How to Train Your Dragon (The Deluxe Edition). The music from this animation movie from 2010 is one of the best scores I have in my collection, as is reflected by its number two spot on my Top 20 of the last decade list. With the purchase of this new release I even own the score three times now, since I already have the original version on CD and vinyl, and it also gives me a perfect excuse for me to finally do a review of this masterpiece.
The reason why I like the music so much is that the soundtrack is chock-full of gorgeous themes, which are brilliantly implemented throughout the score, perfectly matching the corresponding concepts on the screen. In addition, they flow brilliantly into each other when it is needed for the story. Since this decade-old score is much beloved by film music fans, all the themes for Hiccup (the protagonist), Astrid (the love interest), Stoick (the father), Toothless (the main dragon), other dragons and many more, have been explored in much detail by others, making it less interesting to repeat their findings here. There are two resources I can recommend if you want to know more. The first one is the How to Train Your Dragon episode from the Art of the Score Podcast in which three film music enthusiasts talk in-depth about the music for almost two hours. The other resource is a YouTube video featuring a person called “Sideways” discussing all the themes. He even references my How to Train Your Dragon:Hidden World review in that video! Not only do these two resources have amazing content about this movie, their other material is also worth watching and listening to. I can highly recommend them both.
Instead of discussing the themes, I want to use this review to focus on the music in general, as well as the differences between the regular album and this deluxe version.It should not come as a surprise that an extended version contains more music, which it does and has been divided across two CDs. In each track title, the original cue number, used during the production, is also included, like “[1m2]” and [3m17].” While there are a lot of new track names on the album to replace some of the original ones, I saw that many of my favorite tracks were still there, like “Test Drive,” “Forbidden Friendship,” “Romantic Flight” and “Coming Back Around.” Only the opening track “This is Berk” is a bit different from the original. The full version from the original is replaced with “This Is Berk (with Original Opening) [1m2],” in which the start of the track does not begin with the well-known melody of Hiccup’s theme, but with a different piece with more of an orchestral sound. The opening used in the movie is, of course, still present on this album and can be found in the shorter version “This Is Berk (Alternate Film Version) [1m2alt].”
Some of the newly titled tracks are basically the original tracks with a new name. “Battling the Green Death ” on the original is basically the same as “Over / Less Okay [4m35-37]” on the deluxe version, while other tracks are completely new. On the original version, for example, “New Tail” and “See You Tomorrow” can be found next to each other, but on the deluxe version new music can be found in between them, with “Teamwork [3m16]” and “Charming The Pziiffelback [3m17].” When you listen to these tracks, I can imagine that sacrifices needed to be made to make the music fit on one CD for the original version, and the less interesting pieces do not make the cut in such a situation. The newly added tracks are still excellent, but they fall a bit short in comparison to the better-known tracks.
After Jónsi‘s end credits song “Sticks & Stones” you can hear the violin and flute duet “The Viking’s Have Their Tea [5m50],” which is also on the original, but on the deluxe version there is also an alternate version “The Viking’s Have Their Tea (Alternate Version) [5m50alt],” where the instrumentation is a bit different with the flute having a more prominent role. The album concludes with demo versions of the highlights. These are pieces with orchestral sounds generated by a computer instead of real musicians. They are quite interesting to listen to for educational purposes, but for me, they are not very interesting to listen to on a regular basis, since they lack the soul of music made on real instruments by human beings.
The big question is, of course, whether this deluxe version is worth buying.
At the moment it is an exclusive Varese Sarabande release with limited copies, and it is not available for digital download nor can it be listened to on streaming platforms. I assume that when it is sold out, the prize for a second-hand CD will go through the roof. I think that if you are in love with the music from How to Train Your Dragon it is definitely worth buying it, while it is in stock. You will get more music from this magnificent score, and I am very happy with the three versions in my collection. I do not care much for the demo tracks though, but they are still a nice addition to fill up space on the second CD. You always have the choice to skip them. Nevertheless, I do think that once the deluxe version is sold out, and this extra music comes at a high price (say 30 Euros/Dollars or more), buying or streaming the original score will still be a wonderful (and cheaper) experience.
The Deluxe Edition is now also available on all digital platforms. Since the soundtrack is one of my all-time favorites, it would be weird for me not to recommend it. It is definitely worth buying the extended version. If you like the music for How to Train Your Dragon, why don’t you want to have more of it?
Listen or buy
- Buy this limited edition soundtrack from Varese Sarabande
- Buy this soundtrack digitally from Amazon.com or Apple Music
- Listen to this soundtrack on Spotify
The highlights are in bold.
- This is Berk (Alternate Film Version) [1m2alt] (1:05)
- This Is Berk (with Original Opening Version) [1m2] (6:10)
- Anybody See That? [1m6] (1:24)
- War Room [1m7a] (0:44)
- Training Out There [1m7b] (4:23)
- Hiccup Comes Homes [2m8] (0:23)
- Dragon Training [2m9] (3:09)
- Wounded [2m10] (1:27)
- The Dragon Book [2m11] (2:24)
- Hiccup Focusc [2m12] (2:05)
- Offering [2m13] (0:53)
- Forbidden Friendship [2m14] (4:13)
- New Tail [2m15] (2:48)
- Teamwork [3m16] (0:44)
- Charming The Pziiffelback [3m17] (0:28)
- See You Tomorrow [3m18] (3:53)
- Test Drive [3m20] (2:35)
- Not So Fireproof [3m21] (1:13)
- This Time For Sure [3m22] (0:46)
- Astrid Finds Toothless [3m23] (0:39)
- Astrid Goes For A Spin [3m24] (0:47)
- Romantic Flight [3m25] (1:56)
- Dragon’s Den [3m26b] (2:31)
- Let’s Find Dad [3m26c] (1:12)
- Kill Ring/Stop The Fight [4m27] (4:31)
- Not A Viking [4m30] (1:34)
- Ready/Confront [4m31] (5:19)
- Relax/Stroke/Hell [4m33-34] (2:09)
- Over/Less Okay [4m35-37] (6:19)
- Wings [4m38] (1:19)
- Counter Attack [5m39] (1:52)
- Where’s Hiccup? [5m40] (2:54)
- Coming Back Around [5m41] (2:50)
- Sticks & Stones – Jónsi (4:17)
- The Vikings Have Their Tea [5m50] (2:06)
- The Vikings Have Their Tea (Alternate Version) [5m50alt] (2:02)
- This Is Berk (Demo) [1m2] (6:11)
- New Tail (Demo) [2m15] (2:54)
- See You Tomorrow (Demo) [3m18] (3:54)
- Test Drive (Demo) [3m20] (2:33)
- Romantic Flight (Demo) [3m25] (1:57)
- Coming Back Around (Demo) [4m41] (2:53)
Total length: 106 minutes
Varese Sarabande (2020)