To tie in with the rerelease of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" in 3D, Disney has brought out a new version of the soundtrack, complete with a second disc of covers and demos of the film's songs. The soundtrack alone is worth the price of admission by itself; the value of the second disc will depend on how much you like the original soundtrack or the artists performing the covers.
The first disc, the film's original soundtrack, has been reviewed ad infinitum and I doubt I could say something new about it. Danny Elfman's soundtrack is a thing of beauty, with lyrics and music that carry the film's storyline perfectly. The one song that features Ken Page - "Oogie Boogie's Song" - is the definition of scene-stealer, and Elfman shines as Jack, particularly in "Jack's Lament" and "What's This?" I'm disappointed that Disney chose to remove the instrumental "Bonus Theme Medley" that was at the end of the original soundtrack, but the track bordered on redundancy and the rest of the soundtrack is fully intact.
The real draw here, at least for the fans of the film, is the second disc. The first five tracks are covers of some of Danny Elfman's songs. Of the covers, I was most impressed by Panic! At The Disco's fun take on "This Is Halloween;" maybe more than any of the others, the band's sound shows through while remaining faithful to the original. Fiona Apple's "Sally's Song" is another highlight. I was never struck by the original track and I'm not a huge fan of Apple, but the track drew me in to the point where I lost my place in the book I was reading.
The other three covers are a bit of a mixed bag. Marilyn Manson's version of "This Is Halloween," while enjoyable on its own, doesn't hold up as well when placed next to the P!ATD track that follows it on the album. Fall Out Boy's "What's This?" is a respectable cover, but the song is lacking the emotion that Elfman's Jack had, causing the track to lose a large part of its appeal. She Wants Revenge is the biggest departure of the lot; their "Kidnap the Sandy Claws" is almost unrecognizable after it's rewritten as a techno/dance track. It's growing on me slowly, but again, if you're not a fan of the band, your reaction may differ.
The demos are all performed by Danny Elfman, who layered his voice and used a synthesizer to get what you'll hear here. The most interesting of the lot is "This Is Halloween." While a third version of the track wasn't really required, this version of the track is actually sung in large part by Elfman as Jack, giving it an entirely different sound than the film version. The "Oogie Boogie's Song" demo is also worthwhile because Ken Page did the final version; while Elfman gives the old college try, his Oogie just can't match the deep, rich tones of Page's bag of bugs. The remaining demos are enjoyable but not dramatically different from the versions on the first disc.
It's worth noting that, if you buy the album from Best Buy, the pressing that's currently out has an extra two demos on it: "Town Meeting Song" and "What's This?" are included on the disc, boosting the total number of tracks to eleven. Unfortunately, even with the two extra tracks, the bonus disc just barely reaches a length of 40 minutes (meaning that this version is even shorter, approximately 35 minutes). Including some of Elfman's other demos or more covers would have been appreciated, especially since they are the selling point for those of us who already owned the soundtrack.
In the end, I very strongly recommend the purchase of the album. The soundtrack by itself is one of the best that either Danny Elfman or Disney has been involved in, and the addition of covers and demos on the second disc makes this album a great value. If you've already got the original version of the soundtrack, I'd sample the tracks before you buy; the covers and demos were a worthwhile investment for me, but the length of the second disc is reason enough to think again before purchasing the album just for the bonus disc. Overall, though, the sheer quality of the material overcomes any shortcomings, and the quality is justification enough for purchasing the album.