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Thief of Hearts (Harold Faltermeyer)

What is it?

Thief of Hearts was a 1984 thriller produced by the “golden boys” Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by first-time director Douglas Day Stewart. It starred Steven Bauer, Barbara Williams and David Caruso and it sported the tagline “he stole her diaries, broke into her dreams, and became her desires”. The film was not a commercial success, but it received some good reviews.

Through the almost 40 years that have passed since the release of the film, I am probably not wrong in saying that the music of Thief of Hearts has been more talked about than the actual movie itself. The film featured the first Hollywood film score from composer Harold Faltermeyer. The only score he had done previously was for the German film Didi – Der Doppelgänger in early ’84, before he got asked by Bruckheimer if he would be interested in doing Thief of Hearts, even though director Stewart originally wanted pop group Eurythmics to do the music. 31-year-old Faltermeyer delivered a dynamite electronic score, and he also worked on several songs for the film.

A soundtrack album featuring a mixture of score and songs was released on Casablanca Records on vinyl, cassette and even on an early CD, and in 2017, Varese Sarabande issued an expanded CD with the original album plus several extended mixes. Film score afficionados were still not entirely happy though, as the complete score still hadn’t seen the light of day. In early 2023, their dreams were finally fulfilled when Spanish film music label Quartet Records issued a double CD featuring the full score presentation plus the original album and lots of bonus tracks, limited to 1500 copies. Quartet has so far focussed very little on electronic scores, so this was a welcome surprise.

How is it?

Let’s look at the original 1984 album first, which is the second disc on this set. It featured five songs and five instrumentals, quite a bit of room for Faltermeyer to shine. It wasn’t until The Running Man three years later that an album with more score material was issued. (The first two Beverly Hills Cop films, Fletch, Top Gun and Fatal Beauty would only receive six tracks of score in total, even though a few cues also appeared on 7″ B-sides.)

The disc starts with the title track, written by Giorgio Moroder and performed by Melissa Manchester. It even sports a charming guitar solo by Richie Zito. It’s a good tune, even though the vocalist isn’t up there among the greats. «Love In The Shadows» sung by E.G. Daily is among Faltermeyer’s best songs ever, while «Tear Me Up» by Darwun Hastings is the only track on this set that neither Faltermeyer nor Moroder was involved in. It’s naturally less synth-based, but it’s a decent song. «Just Imagine» («Way Beyond Fear») is probably my favourite pop song Faltermeyer ever did. It’s performed by Beth Anderson and Joe “Bean” Esposito, the latter having just collaborated with Giorgio Moroder on a whole album, 1983’s Solitary Men.  The final song is «Passion Play», written by Faltermeyer and sung by 17-year-old Annabella Lwin, formerly of pop group Bow Wow Wow. Another fine song with a Zito guitar solo.

The rest of the original album space is given to instrumental tracks. «Stolen Secrets» sees Faltermeyer enter the Hollywood film score scene with a bang. It’s an exciting, almost five minute opening cue, quite similar to Tangerine Dream’s opening from 1981’s Thief, another Bruckheimer production. Both Tangerine Dream and Vangelis were part of Thief of Heart’s temp score. Gary Chang handles the Fairlight programming, but it’s still unclear who utters the vocoderized words of “Stolen secrets in the night”. Is it Faltermeyer himself? The «Love Theme» may very well be the best love theme ever composed, at least to my pair of ears. It has just the right amount of menace, and a gorgeous melody. There is also an instrumental version of the title track, written by Moroder and performed by Faltermeyer, showing how well the two styles merge. «Collage» functions splendidly as dramatic underscore, incorporating elements from «Stolen Secrets», and proving just how good Faltermeyer was at handling some rather unstable musical technology at this time in the mid 80s. The original album ends with «Final Confrontation», showing the composer at his most experimental. This cue actually shows up again in Top Gun a few years later.

There are five bonus tracks on the second disc: A «Love In The Shadows» mix by Brian Reeves and Faltermeyer from 1985, a mix of «Thief Of Hearts» by Jellybean Benitez, also from ’85, before a massive, almost nine-minute-long remix of «Love In The Shadows», featuring long instrumental passages and some vocoderized vocal effects. The disc closes with instrumental versions of «Just Imagine» and «Love In The Shadows», where particularly the former almost works as a phenomenal extra track of score in its instrumental guise.

Nevertheless, the real reason why film score fans will go bananas over this release is the disc with the “score presentation”, over an hour of cues taken from the film, plus bonus tracks. Let’s face it though – there isn’t too much of totally new material here. The «Love Theme» appears in more than half of the tracks, just like «Axel F.» permeated the Beverly Hills Cop score release some years ago. What makes it kind of worthwhile though, is the variations that appear throughout, like in «Marina/Oil» and «Romantic Theme II» Early Demo and Demo. The film version of «Stolen Secrets» is great, running for 25 seconds longer than the original album version and eschewing the vocoder, and «What Am I Doing Here?» includes some new suspense material. «Rooftops/Motorcycle» features some effective chopper-like sequencers, while the extended early version of «What Am I Doing Here?» features elements of the song «Thief Of Hearts». There is also the enjoyable «Romantic Theme I» which is actually a new theme that never appeared in the film. It’s almost like an instrumental song, in major key, making it less menacing and perhaps not too suitable for the finished film.

It’s fun to think about how this score would have sounded if it had been composed by Giorgio Moroder or Sylvester Levay instead. The answer would probably be that it would have been quite similar to the score Faltermeyer actually wrote. Those three composers had a certain sameness in approach and sound that is rather interesting to witness, almost like Hans Zimmer, Mark Mancina and Nick Glennie-Smith a decade later.

For people who don’t own any of the previous versions of Thief of Hearts, and for Faltermeyer completists, this 2CD release is gold. There are 20 pages of liner notes by Daniel Schweiger, where he even states that Simpson and Bruckheimer produced Fletch (they didn’t), and new interviews with Faltermeyer and others. By the way, director Douglas Day Stewart would only direct one more film, 1989’s Listen to Me, where he hooked up with another musical legend for the score, this time David Foster.

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The Quartet release is not available on streaming platforms, but can be purchased here.

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