Over the years, the popularity of Akira Ifukube's music has inspired the release of a wide variety of commercial recordings in Japan. The earliest of these appeared on vinyl LPs, EPs, 45s and cassettes, and included concert works as well as soundtrack compilations. Unfortunately, individual soundtrack releases of Ifukube's film scores were almost non-existent during this period, while the film music that did appear was often marred by less-than-optimal sound quality.

The compact disc era changed all that, making a vast number of previously unreleased gems available to young and old fans alike, along with the benefit of noticeably enhanced audio. The revolution came slowly at first, with just a handful of mid-80s LPs making the transition to the new format on the King / Star Child label. These included two volumes of remixed highlights from the 3-LP Godzilla Legend series (retitled Godzilla Legend Chronology 1 & 2), featuring synthesizer versions of Toho Studio's monster movie themes (most composed by Ifukube), as well as a CD edition of Toho's 1978 Godzilla! compilation LP with added bonus tracks.

One of the more interesting of these early discs (released in 1986 on LP as well as CD) was Ostinato, a collection of re-recorded cues from Ifukube's classic sci-fi film scores, originally commissioned for a video of Toho outtakes. Another vinyl milestone to make the leap to CD was the 1983 premiere of Symphonic Fantasia, Ifukube's concert hall arrangement of his most famous sci-fi themes. This in turn attracted listeners to the maestro's other concert recordings, which were issued in increasing numbers on Japanese labels such as Fontec, Victor and Toshiba-Futureland, and later King and Camerata. Ifukube's sci-fi film soundtracks also saw their first comprehensive release with the landmark double CD series Akira Ifukube: Complete Recordings on the Futureland label.

The Ifukube CD explosion reached its peak during the early-to-mid-90s, inspired by Godzilla's 40th anniversary as well as the revival of the iconic monster's movie franchise. The seven new films, known as the Heisei series, boasted state-of-the-art special effects and a return to the more serious tone of the monster's 1954 debut. Ifukube was even enticed out of retirement to score four of the new films, which undoubtedly provided a further boost to his popularity. In addition, all of Ifukube's classic sci-fi soundtracks appeared for the first time as individual CD releases, once again on the Futureland label, while compilations of lesser-known and previously unavailable film music appeared on SLC and VAP (the latter with a series saluting Ifukube's 50th year as a film composer).

Even American labels got into the act. An enjoyable 2-volume Best of Godzilla series was released on GNP Crescendo in early 1998, the same year that Hollywood's own controversial "Godzilla" film hit the big screen nationwide. ADV Films issued a budget-priced edition of the Destroy All Monsters soundtrack in 2003 (later included as a bonus disc with the movie's DVD release), and La-La Land Records released deluxe presentations of the original Godzilla (in 2004, the monster's 50th anniversary) and King Kong vs. Godzilla (2006).

The most ambitious reissue projects to date were undertaken by the Toho Music label, starting with their 50th Anniversary Godzilla Soundtrack Perfect Collection - a series of six multi-disc boxed sets that presented the remastered soundtracks to every Godzilla film from 1954 to 2004. In a nostalgic nod to the past, most of the boxes included one or two bonus discs that replicated the packaging and track order of early vinyl LPs such as Godzilla! (all three volumes), Ostinato and Symphonic Fantasia. Toho Music followed that gargantuan campaign with a series of remastered double-disc sets covering their non-Godzilla sci-fi scores, the bulk of which were composed by Ifukube.

It's fascinating to follow the history of these releases, and this discography attempts to make sense of the maestro's vast and often convoluted body of recorded work in a concise, organized format. The CDs are arranged in sections covering Concert Works, Film Soundtracks, Soundtrack Collections, Re-recordings / Interpretations and other relevant categories. Reissues are grouped with original editions wherever possible, in an effort to present a clearer understanding of these releases, and help collectors of Ifukube's music avoid unnecessary duplication.

Concert Works Film Soundtracks

Thanks to Sam Scali for providing the research, information and scans in the Discography.

© Erik Homenick. All rights reserved.