Earl’s Best Of Soundtracks, 2006

It’s kinda telling that when I go looking at music that I bought this year, the soundtrack stack is about one third again as tall as the pile of non-soundtrack/mainstream material. So, as a Christmas treat, here are the CDs that wound up under my tree this year.

Doctor Who (comp.: Murray Gold). I know this seems so obvious, and I’ll admit that maybe the anticipation factor creeps into a bit, but I found that this CD was every bit as good as I knew it would be from the moment it was announced. While most other genre TV has gone to a percussive style sometimes bordering on minimalist (Galactica, Lost), Doctor Who – with its rich legacy of sometimes challengingly abstract electronic music – confounded expectations by not just going for the Romantic/orchestral vein, but doing it with a real orchestra – an expense that just isn’t afforded to many productions on either side of the pond. While I love the stuff that’s being done on the other shows, the part of me that loves big, full-blown orchestral music a la Star Wars just can’t get enough of this CD. It’s seriously big-screen stuff. Now get cracking on a Torchwood CD, Murray!

Battlestar Galactica Season 2 (comp.: Bear McCreary). The first volume of music from this series was a stunner, but this one is even more so. With a more varied palette of instruments, Bear McCreary fearlessly leaps from string quartets to full orchestral battle music to what I could best describe as ethnic heavy metal. There’s not another sound on TV like it, probably because few composers could pack all of that into one package so skillfully. I have to admit that the music is, next only to the plot and character development, one of the things I pay attention to most with this show.

Superman Returns (comp.: John Ottman). If you failed to get a little bit misty at the strains of John Williams’ original Superman theme leading into this new adventure for the Man of Steel, your heart must be made of pure Kryptonite. I remember sitting in the theater, having avoided spoilers as much as possible, and thinking “Well, even if the rest of it’s a total loss, by God, they got that right.” As it turns out, I thought they got more right than just the music, but the soundtrack on its own is awesome. Once we get into Ottman’s original material, it’s a bit more busy and chaotic than your average Williams cue, but he does a great job integrating elements such as the original Supes theme and “Can You Read My Mind?” I can’t listen to the music for the plane scenes in my car, because then I’ll wind up going faster than a speeding bullet…

Lost Volumes 1 & 2 (comp.: Michael Giacchino). It’s hard for me to separate these two, if I’m to be completely honest; they’re part of the same continuum, and there’s a nice balance between the show’s various signature sounds – reflective piano solos, thundering drums, and those trademark suspense cues with quivering strings and horns slurring downward like they’re about to crash into the island. The season 2 collection just edges ahead as my favorite. Bravo to the labels like Varese and La-La Land who are seeing – and fulfilling – demand for season soundtracks.

Amazing Stories Vol. 1 & 2 (comp.: oh God, you want a list!? Williams. Goldsmith. Elfman. Silvestri. Delerue. Horner. Broughton. Newman. Can I stop there?). With a third volume still on the way, it’s hard to really deliver a final judgement on Intrada‘s limited editions of these scores (~3,000 copies of each volume), but what a freakin’ roster of A-list composers! And furthermore, they’re let loose on the material, and barring the occasional quote of the series’ main theme (composed by John Williams), they don’t have to fall back on someone else’s material. Yes, the music is 20+ years old at this point, but it’s just now seeing its first release. Absolutely thrilling stuff, 2 CDs per volume and worth every penny.

Over The Hedge (comp.: Rupert Gregson-Williams, songs: Ben Folds). This may well be the oddball out of this year’s lineup (though you may want to get to the next one before saying that), being not just a family movie but essentially a comedy, but it’s got a decent orchestral score that doesn’t pull its punches and yet doesn’t quite go into Carl Stalling territory. It reminds me a lot of the score from Galaxy Quest, and that’s not a bad thing to remind me of if you happen to be a soundtrack CD. There are also new songs by Ben Folds on here, as well as a more family-friendly reworking of “Rockin’ The Suburbs,” and for me the Folds material was originally the selling point, though I’m very happy to report that the complete package is very listenable.

Planet Of The Apes (TV series) (comp.: ). Okay, pretty obscure stuff for most people, I’ll admit, but I enjoyed this one. Definitely 70s style, but a nice (and uncommon) glimpse of Lalo “Mission: Impossible” Schifrin at work. It’s interesting to compare and contrast this to any/all of the Apes film scores (before this Intrada limited release, only the main theme had been available), and it completes the collection (well, unless you’re waiting for the library music from the animated series – I wouldn’t hold my breath). Also, mad props for the liner notes, which analyze both music and show, demonstrating where the TV series didn’t quite live up to the films’ legacy of social commentary.

Here’s a taster in no particular order (LJ folks will have to visit my site for this to show up).
[audio:http://www.thelogbook.com/earl/podcast/soundtracks06.mp3]

3 thoughts on “Earl’s Best Of Soundtracks, 2006”

  1. I’m not sure if I could identify all of the music in your embedded file. However,I’m pretty sure you started out with a clip from Galatica, and ended with one from Amazing Stories. The last I know which bit it is: “The Train Arrives” by John Williams from the “Ghost Train” episode(and for which many symbolized what went right and what went wrong with the series as a whole).
    Nice touch and Merry Christmas.

  2. I’m a huge fan of film scores myself and surprisingly don’t have any of these…I should at least pick up the Superman Returns soundtrack (John Williams’ score for the first Superman movie is one of my all-time favorites). I wasn’t aware of the existance of the Amazing Stories soundtracks…I’ll have to see if they’re still available. I guess I haven’t bought that many scores this year.

  3. The Amazing Stories – heck, all of the Intrada releases, including Planet Of The Apes – are just outstanding, right up there with the Film Score Monthly releases for in-depth booklets about the conception and recording of the music and the movie behind it. Definitely a case where you’re getting your money’s worth when you buy the CD. The Amazing Stories score collections are meticulously documented – almost to a ridiculous degree, down to knowing what day and time each session was recorded 20 years ago. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

    And Timeflyer nailed which episode and scene I included right on the money.

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