Beep – music by Leonard J. Paul

BeepThe soundtrack for a documentary about the evolution of sound in video games, Beep is very much an exercise in electronica, with a healthy dose of chiptune. That seems like an almost obvious way to go, right? Except there’s a bit more to it than that.

Many of the tracks on the Beep soundtrack album are ethereal and just a little bit hypnotic – repeating musical figures that sort of draw you into their sonic spiral. That’s no accident: these sequences were built on a foundation of procedurally-generated tunes. The repeating sequences were created at random by a program (given certain parameters), and then everything on top of that was the work of the film’s human composer. It’s an interesting way to have man and machine working together, and for the subject matter of Beep, it works. Even as a listening experience with none of the context of the movie, it’s very relaxing.

There are a few places where it gets a bit more active, though. There are two versions of “Half Steppin’/Freaky DNA”, a tune that sets up a funky groove, and there’s an ode to game music’s 4 out of 4less melodious early years in the form of “Dave’s Atari”, which gives you a really good idea of an Atari 2600’s actual range of notes and octaves. (And it’s still musical in its own way.) “Wood Bug” has a feel similar to “Dave’s Atari”, but with a more modern sound palette.

Beep may not be everyone’s cup of pleasantly arranged sine waves, but it’s mesmerizing and yet unmistakably pays tribute to the 8-bit sound of the early video gaming era. Those are two really strong selling points for a listener in the right frame of mind for something different.

Order this CD

  1. Beep Movie – Main Theme (1:17 )
  2. Banana Seat (5:28)
  3. Karin Originals (5:21)
  4. Orange Shag (3:31)
  5. Buckwheat Pancakes (4:03)
  6. Riverbank (4:10)
  7. Ankylosaurus Almonds (2:12)
  8. Rotary Dial (3:07)
  9. Dave’s Atari (1:58)
  10. Skipping Rocks (7:45)
  11. Half Steppin’ (Genesis Remix) – Freaky DNA (1:21)
  12. Help Steppin’ – Freaky DNA (3:07)
  13. Beep Logo (0:06)
  14. Magic Hour (4:20)
  15. Pluto (4:43)
  16. Galaxies (2:30)
  17. Googol (3:31)
  18. Crusin’ The Cosmos (4:50)
  19. Quadra Sunrise (3:54)
  20. Wood Bug (2:06)
  21. Backyard Flight (4:10)
  22. Beep Movie – Closing Theme (2:40)

Released by: Bandcamp
Release date: September 16, 2016
Total running time: 1:16:10

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders – music by Lolita Ritmanis, Michael McCuistion & Kristopher Carter

Batman: Return of the Caped CrusadersConsider, for a moment, how long it’s taken for the 1966 Batman to reach the torrent of merchandise that we’ve seen recently. We have the entire series on Blu-Ray, there are comics, there are action figures on the way, and Adam West and Burt Ward have reunited as the Dynamic Duo for some direct-to-video animated adventures. It’s glorious. Batman ’66, as we now call it, was my Batman – the Batman I watched over grilled cheese sandwiches at my grandmother’s house every day after school. I’m pleased to see it come out from under the post-Alan-Miller “received fandom wisdom” shadow of “But it isn’t, and never was, what Batman was supposed to be!” (If you’ve been reading either this site or my books long enough, you know that I live to debunk “received fan wisdom” – just about every corner of every franchise has its charms if you go in with an open mind.)

But a Batman ’66 soundtrack album? The thrice-reissued score from the movie that was released between the show’s first and second seasons is as close as we’re likely to get. Take the tangle of sometimes conflicting rightsholders that held up the show’s release on Blu-Ray, add the estates and publishers of two composers, stir, and you have a scenario where even the label that finally brought us a massive CD box set of every classic Star Trek TV score has admitted defeat.

But they can bring us this: the complete score from the first of those animated Batman ’66 adventures, Return Of The Caped Crusaders. I had very, very mixed feelings about the movie itself, but the soundtrack is just about magical. Frequent collaborators Ritmans, Carter and McCuistion have been composing music for Batman since the 1990s animated series, so they know what’s up in the Batcave – and they’re not afraid to luxuriate in the classic TV show’s jazzy-with-surf-guitar style, or quote Neal Hefti’s 4 out of 4immortal Batman theme, to make it fit in almost seamlessly alongside the three season of live action. It helps matters considerably that they were given enough of a music budget to hire real players to bring it to life: it’s a really lush score for a cartoon.

But it’s perfectly in keeping with the Batman ’66 ethos, and that alone makes the Return Of The Caped Crusaders soundtrack an absolute joy.

Order this CD

  1. Classic Batman Main Title (1:24)
  2. Batman’s New Look (0:25)
  3. Meet Our Baddies / It’s the Bat-Signal (2:22)
  4. To the Batcave (1:53)
  5. Not So Fast, Old Chum / Crosswalk Conundrum (0:30)
  6. Riddle Me This? / Atomic Lab Fight (3:13)
  7. Jokermobile Chase (1:49)
  8. Catwoman Has Batnip (1:49)
  9. TV Dinner Factory Arrival (1:24)
  10. TV Dinner Factory Kerfuffle / TV Tray Death Trap / Dessert Denouement (4:31)
  11. Establish Police HQ / The BatShadow Rises / A Moment With Aunt Harriet / You’re Dismissed (2:15)
  12. In Search of Criminal Activity (1:10)
  13. Batcave Batmobile Arrival / To the Bat-Rocket (1:20)
  14. The Right Bat Stuff / Space Joker Playon (1:29)
  15. Bat-Rocket Approaches the Station (1:21)
  16. Outer Space Rendezvous / Under the Influence (3:34)
  17. Zero-G Brawl (2:29)
  18. Like a Bat in the Night / Holy Hitchhiker, Robin (0:37)
  19. Bruce Snaps at Aunt / Back Alley Dirge (1:03)
  20. Why Won’t He Answer? (0:33)
  21. Gotham Crime Spree (0:39)
  22. Bat Dupe See / Batmen Take Over / Robin Figures It Out (3:39)
  23. Catwoman Is in Her Element / To the Catmobile (2:10)
  24. Batcave Showdown (2:24)
  25. Radioactive Silo Trap / Bat Anti-Isotope Spray / Surprise Prison Inspection (2:46)
  26. Mass Prison Break (1:32)
  27. The Show Must Go On / Bat TV Two See (2:38)
  28. Bad Batmen (2:00)
  29. One Step Ahead (2:22)
  30. Villains Plan (3:44)
  31. Airship Battle (2:18)
  32. Farewell Catwoman (1:39)
  33. Classic Batman End Title (3:22)
    Bonus Tracks
  34. Gotham Palace TV Theme (0:21)
  35. Hector and the Hoedaddies (0:21)
  36. Bedbugs TV Source (0:53)
  37. Kitkat Kave Dancing (0:35)
  38. Gotham Palace TV Source #2 (0:45)
  39. Joker Circus (0:43)
  40. Elegant Party Source (1:01)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: November 11, 2016
Total running time: 1:12:30

Buck Rogers In The 25th Century: Season One

Buck Rogers In The 25th Century: Season OneA while back, Intrada gave a remastered version of the original 1979 Buck Rogers soundtrack LP its first official compact disc release (following at least a decade of the same material – probably transferred from vinyl – being bootlegged relentlessly). Intrada also released several CDs’ worth of Buck Rogers composer Stu Phillips’ wealth of work on another Glen A. Larson-produced science fiction series from roughly the same period, Battlestar Galactica. The thought never occurred to me that anyone would go through the trouble of arranging a similar release from post-pilot Buck Rogers. And yet here it sits, three magical CDs of disco-era sci-fi soundtrack goodness, featuring music not just from Phillips, but from such composers as Les Baxter, Richard La Salle, and Johnny Harris.

The first thing that comes to mind in listening is that the “disco era” description is apt on multiple levels. Just as the series itself was an attempt to cash in on Star Wars mania, the music features both straightfoward symphonic power as well as disco-fied passages that seem to split the difference between John Williams and Meco. This is a common feature among all of the composers featured; in fact, for a show which featured the work of this many composers, the first season of Buck Rogers had a surprisingly cohesive musical sound, judging by the music presented here.

Not all of the first season is covered across the three CDs, with the emphasis on episodes early in the season and one late-season standout whose plot centered around a space rock group. Music is presented from the episodes Unchained Woman, Return Of The Fighting 69th, and the two-part The Plot To Kill A City, while a later first season episode, Space Rockers, features both score and source music. Various opening and closing title music, as well as the very brief rendition of the theme used as a commercial break bumper, is included, along with a few Stu Phillips source music cues used in Plot To Kill A City and the series premiere. Even the renditions of the closing titles with a vocal are included; needless to say, if you’re a fan of the theme music, this set has you covered.

The early runaway favorite – I’ll even fess up to jumping straight to disc three for this – is Space Rockers, an episode which revolved around Law & Order’s Jerry Orbach and Night Court’s Richard Moll hatching a scheme to play a subliminal mind control signal into live concerts by space rock group Andromeda. Andromeda’s concerts were represented by existing Johnny Harris disco tracks (namely the ridiculously catchy disco-with-synth-gasm that is “Odyssey”, here titled “Andromeda”), with slightly punched-up synth overdubs (because that sounds more spacey… am I right, ’70s?). Harris’ other scores have the same wobbly synth overlays in places, and it’s his tracks that I find myself gravitating toward when I go back to listen to the collection again.

Phillips’ score from the Plot To Kill A City two-parter and Les Baxter’s Vegas In Space are the middle ground between symphonic and rock/disco influences, while Richard La Salle’s Unchained Woman score comes down solidly on the “orchestral” side of the fence without even so much as a wink and a nudge toward the disco influences on the rest of the collection.

Ultimately, this is Johnny Harris’ gig. Not only did his sound pick up the ball from Phillips’ grandiose pilot score and run in a more fun direction with it, but Harris was also responsible for the various arrangements and bumper-length “cutdowns” of the Phillips/Larson main theme for the series. Much like Fred Steiner didn’t coin the Star Trek theme but ended up musically defining the series itself, Harris takes over here, and the show wound up being ridiculously fun for his efforts – even the music wasn’t taking the whole thing deadly seriously, and it was okay to have fun watching.

3 out of 4For those who demand more straightfoward orchestral grandeur, however, Intrada promises a similar collection of music from the truncated second season in 2014, which will be a true treat – much like Harris defined the first season, rising star Bruce Broughton owned the sound of the show’s troubled second year, with spectacular results. In the meantime, this set of season one scores is something I never thought would be available to us, and it puts a great big seven-year-old grin on my face to listen to it all again. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for us teevee space travelers of a certain age, old enough to remember that Gary Coleman was the president of a whole planet, it’s a nostalgia trip into the “guilty pleasure” archives.

Order this CD

    Disc One

  1. Main Title [Version 2] (1:14)
  2. Planet Of The Slave Girls – music by Johnny Harris

  3. Mysterious Illness (5:42)
  4. Love And Energy (2:57)
  5. Uncivilized Nomads (6:35)
  6. Food Conspiracy (2:47)
  7. Power Leech (2:40)
  8. Desert Trek (6:01)
  9. Surprises (2:33)
  10. Hot Escape (3:55)
  11. Space Battle (4:34)
  12. The Plot To Kill A City – music by Stu Phillips

  13. Argus (1:21)
  14. A Big One (2:05)
  15. All Systems Engaged (1:24)
  16. Direct Hit (2:57)
  17. Mind Games (2:23)
  18. Joella (1:35)
  19. Wilma Chase (2:13)
  20. Uncontrolled Reactions (1:19)
  21. Reversal Of Fortune (1:02)
  22. Last Time (3:06)
  23. Interrogation (2:16)
  24. A Touch Of Death (2:46)
  25. Do Your Job (2:27)
  26. Chain Reaction (1:57)
  27. Attempted Escape (1:06)
  28. End Credits [Long] (0:51)
    Disc Two

  1. Main Title [Version 1] (1:14)
  2. Return Of The Fighting 69th – music by Johnny Harris

  3. Escape From The Asteroids (2:02)
  4. Alicia (2:32)
  5. Ungrounded (6:03)
  6. Memory Globe (1:58)
  7. Watch For Falling Rocks (3:01)
  8. Handy Work (1:27)
  9. Play Acting (1:21)
  10. I’m Sorry (2:30)
  11. Bombing Run (1:57)
  12. Ancient Signaling Device (0:50)
  13. Bombs Away (0:50)
  14. Silver Eagles (1:12)
  15. Vegas In Space – music by Les Baxter

  16. Falina’s Abduction (2:40)
  17. Tangie’s World (2:16)
  18. Welcome To Sinaloa (4:42)
  19. Not Your Type (0:48)
  20. Tangie And Buck (6:57)
  21. One Or Two Ways (0:47)
  22. Velosi’s Pad (2:10)
  23. Kill Her (2:31)
  24. Buck To The Rescue (1:43)
  25. Goodbye Sinaloa (1:52)
  26. Aradala Returns – music by Johnny Harris

  27. Draconian Plot (4:06)
  28. Reaction Times (4:38)
  29. The Switch (3:25)
  30. Ardala And The Boys (2:08)
  31. Objective: New Phoenix (2:51)
  32. Ping Pong (2:25)
  33. End Credits [Long Vocal Version] (0:51)
    Disc Three

  1. Bumper (0:08)
  2. Space Rockers – music by Johnny Harris

  3. Andromeda (5:45)
  4. It’s In The Music (4:08)
  5. Let’s Do It (1:53)
  6. Unchained Woman – music by Richard La Salle

  7. Prison Approach (2:07)
  8. Hit The Deck (4:31)
  9. Escape Into The Desert (2:42)
  10. Desert Pursuit (2:52)
  11. Hungry Sand Squid (0:39)
  12. Well-Fed Sand Squid (2:07)
  13. Sand Swirl (2:20)
  14. Snooping Around (3:31)
  15. Buck To The Rescue… Again (5:18)
  16. End Credits (0:31)
  17. Source music by Stu Phillips

  18. Jelly Belly (From “Awakening”) (1:28)
  19. Source One (From “Plot To Kill A City”) (1:31)
  20. Source Two (From “Plot To Kill A City”) (1:40)
  21. End Credits [Vocal Version] (0:31)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2013
Disc one total running time: 69:45
Disc two total running time: 74:00
Disc three total running time: 43:55