Although Tina Turner's confectionary pop tunes received more airplay, Maurice Jarre's score for Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome far surpassed them in terms of sheer originality and musical artistry, and is the real showpiece of this soundtrack. The 80s was an enormously fruitful decade for Jarre, who took home an Oscar for 1984's A Passage To India, and followed it up with scores for popular hits like Witness, Fatal Attraction and Ghost. Thunderdome was an unusual assignment for the composer, who tended to shy away from action movies, but the film inspired some of his finest work, which is imaginative, thematically captivating and exquisitely orchestrated.
Alas, as an 80s release, the album content had to fit within the more limited parameters of the LP format -- hence the CD's brief running time. Moreover, Thunderdome was typical of Hollywood studio politics of that decade, when executives insisted pop songs be shoehorned into films where they didn't necessarily belong, in order to help promote the movie to teens (via radio, MTV videos, etc.). Thus Jarre was obliged to share the album with these unremarkable (and dated) Tina Turner songs, and, more regrettably, pare-down his score (which was over an hour in length) to roughly 25 minutes.
However, those 25 minutes do include much of his best music from the film, and are a kaleidoscope of exotic timbre and instrumentation. Jarre studied ethnic music at the Conservatoire de Paris, and his acumen is put to good use here. While in many ways traditional orchestral film music (performed by the Royal Philharmonic) the score also includes unusual additions such as three Ondes Martenot, a digeridoo, a fujara -- and even a whip! The result is a musical tapestry of soaring triumph, violent suspense and otherworldly beauty.