The Karate Kid

Bill Conti

" Conti's begin of a legendary Karate Kid "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the limited release

The past couple of years we have been seen one Bill Conti score surfacing after another. But never the score that made him a legend amongst film score fans, if you take away of course his Rocky empire and Right Stuff treasure. Yes I'm talking about The Karate Kid scores, the 10 year lasting unison between teacher Mr. Miyagi and pupil Daniel LaRusso. And in the final somewhat failed installment The Next Karate Kid young starlet Hilary Swank took over the role of karate kid. But all carried the mesmerizing main theme Bill Conti wrote for it, all carried his charm that made Rocky so legendary. Due to the lesser popularity, The Karate Kid wasn't so famous as Rocky. This resulted that the scores were never released.

Of course that changed when the Varèse Club saw it fitting to release them, 20 years and more after their initial release on the big screen. And of course in the digital age of sound and visual, these scores never sounded better than now.

In The Karate Kid we hear for the first time all the themes that would return somewhat in the next films. It starts with a weird if very amusing version of the main theme. In "Main Title" we get an amusing version for strings and flute of the main theme, more beefed up and less serious than the ultimate version that would grace the fighting sequences. But nevertheless it works easily well with the whole universe of The Karate Kid.

"Fite Nite" and "Bumpy Ride" have one thing in common, they carry that amusing electronic 80's sound that will never die. These work to signal the other karate kid group and ultimately the enemies that Daniel faces time and time again. What's more interesting is that they are partly based on the winning song (The Moment of Truth performed by Survivor). This song isn't featured on this CD but it's nice that some part of its acclaim is found through the music of Bill Conti. In "Dan Ducks Out" they come together in a brief minute of score.

In "Bonsai Tree" we reach the turning point. It is here where ethnic material and the flute surface for the first time. This of course because Mr. Miyagi appears for the first time on screen as well. With a paint of nostalgia the love theme is born in "Decorate the Gym" but it is Mr. Miyagi's theme that is heard for the first time in "Miyagi Rattles Bones", after a brief suspenseful opening.

It is not a grand theme but that doesn't need it to be considering Mr. Miyagi doesn't play an outrageous and big role, he is the introverted smart talking alter ego of Daniel, who acts more impulsive and extrovert. However Bill Conti has another theme standing ready and in the end it is the one appearing the most through the entire score. I like to call it a theme that works between all other themes, more or less an underscore theme for all the interactions between Mr. Miyagi and Daniel. In "On to Miyagi's", "The Pact" (linked with Mr. Miyagi's theme), "Japanese Sander" and in "Paint the Fence" they represent the teachings without stating any of the 2 leading character's themes. This is clever because it makes both themes appear less on screen while making them stronger when they appear in the end.

A demo of the love theme as song isn't that well sung by Baxter Robertson and is shippable while the love theme sounds much more charming in "Troubled Lovers". A nice scherzo of styles is heard in "Daniel sees the Bird" when a wild string classical scherzo and flutes interact with one another over a glazing sun. Mr. Miyagi's theme is spotted in "Fish and Train" and here the flute shows the true spiritual strength of the theme. It shows how much Mr. Miyagi has had an impact on young Daniel. With "Training Hard" we suddenly reach the pinnacle of their relationship, and here the music flourishes to the main theme's most beautiful performance of the disc.

The suspenseful "Japanese Hand Clap" and "No Mercy" all line up to "Daniel's Moment of Truth" where the suspense grows and then kaboom, the main theme and ultimate song theme explode in heroic fashion. The electronics might sound cheap but not the orchestra rollicking over it. Stunning how only Bill Conti could let it explode like that.

It is amazing how much respect I'm showing for Pat Morita (who died in 2005) because I can't use anything else than the words Mr. Miyagi. However this shows how well and respectfully he played his role in these movies. However respect must be kept for Bill Conti as well because it may not be as glamorous as his Rocky empire, but it's as effective, successful and spiritual as the next one. And The Karate Kid shows that ample now in 4 dynamic scores, all growing to their ultimate explosive end. Part 1 of four is where it all began.


1. Main Title (3.29)
2. Fite Nite (2.00)
3. Bumpy Ride (1.35)
4. Dan Ducks Out (0.55)
5. Bonsai Tree (0.44)
6. Decorate the Gym (0.37)
7. Miyagi Rattles Bones (2.27)
8. Miyagi Intercedes (1.28)
9. On to Miyagi's (1.31)
10. The Pact (2.13)
11. Feel the Night (Demo): Baxter Robertson (1.55)
12. Troubled Lovers (0.33)
13. Japanese Sander (1.24)
14. Paint the Fence (3.11)
15. Daniel Sees the Bird (2.37)
16. Fish and Train (2.28)
17. Training Hard (2.28) Excellent track
18. The Kiss (1.02)
19. Japanese Hand Clap (0.38)
20. No Mercy (0.22)
21. Daniel's Moment of Truth (1.51) Excellent track

Total Length: 35.32
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 11 votes - average 3.86/5)

Released by

Varèse Sarabande CD Club MO 0307 1059-4.2 (limited release 2007)

Orchestrations by

Jack Eskew