Battlestar Galactica: Razor / The Plan – music by Bear McCreary

Battlestar Galactica: Razor / The PlanThe new Battlestar Galactica gets one final hurrah in this soundtrack release covering the two made-for-DVD (and later broadcast on TV as a bit of an afterthought) movies, Razor and The Plan. Unlike earlier “season” soundtracks from the series, which followed a more or less chronological progression, this album becomes a bit more of a concept piece just by the novelty of its sequencing.

I hadn’t thought about it before seeing the CD’s track listing, but Razor and The Plan share a common story element: both show us the flip-side of past events that we’d either witnessed only from the perspective of Galactica’s crew, or heard about second-hand. Both movies’ flashbacks chronicle the Cylon destruction of the Twelve Colonies: The Plan shows it from the ground, Razor shows the destruction of the main Colonial shipyard (and the escape of one solitary battlestar). Composer Bear McCreary therefore took the unconventional approach of sequencing tracks in strict chronological order from inside the story: the tracks from both movies’ scenes of the Colonies’ destruction are grouped together, for example. With Razor and The Plan having been made and released a year apart, you might not expect much cohesion, but thanks to McCreary’s thoughtful approach to scoring the Galactica saga, everything fits together better than you might think.

The chief exception to this chronological ordering scheme is the first track, which is actually the end credit music from The Plan. Starting with a solo vocal version of the show’s main theme, “Apocalypse” quickly gets around to showing off its main feature, a crunchy heavy metal guitar riff by Anthrax axeman (and Galactica fan) Scott Ian. Much has been made of Ian’s contribution, and it’s a fairly unique sound for Galactica; the guitar work in the rest of the series has largely been done by Oingo Boingo’s Steve Bartek, and has been fairly intricate even when in screaming/searing mode. Ian’s guitar work is, by comparison, less ornamented – but with the unstoppable approach of the Cylons, maybe that’s the point: it’s the musical equivalent of the brutal bootsteps of an invading army. If you like the studio version of “Apocalypse” – which also appears in the extended, two-part version used within The Plan itself – there’s a great live version, performed by McCreary and the BSG Orchestra, that closes the album out.

But “Apocalypse” is an oddball here; much of the music from Razor and The Plan is what we’ve come to expect from McCreary’s nearly-unerring dramatic and musical sensibilities. Highlights include the attack on the Colonial shipyards (from which Pegasus narrowly escapes) in Razor, the whole “[insert planet name here] is burning!” sequence from The Plan, and the reappearance of Stu Phillips’ original Galactica theme in Razor‘s young-Adama-vs.-Cylon-parachutist flashback. Though it probably flies under most people’s radar here, I was also delighted to hear McCreary’s beautiful theme for Caprica from Daybreak resurface toward the end of The Plan‘s “Main Title” track.

For Galactica fans, this release neatly caps off the show’s musical canon; both movies sound like the series of which they are a part, and yet they also sound unique in their own right. But the inventive 4 out of 4sequencing which mixes-and-matches moments from both movies (though it never puts cues from both movies in the same track) reminds us that the similarities are greater than the differences – if there was a message to the whole show by the time The Plan‘s end credits rolled, I think that was it. As always, highly recommended.

By the way, if the live track at the end is a taster for a potential BSG Orchestra live album, I think that’d be a dandy thing to hear. Just sayin’.

Order this CD

  1. Apocalypse featuring Raya Yarbrough (4:07)
  2. Razor Main Title (2:13)
  3. Arriving At Pegasus (2:26)
  4. The Plan Main Title (4:34)
  5. Attack On The Scorpion Shipyards (3:37)
  6. Apocalypse, Part I (6:37)
  7. Apocalypse, Part II (2:36)
  8. Pegasus Aftermath (4:10)
  9. Kendra’s Memories (2:43)
  10. Mayhem On The Colonies (3:28)
  11. Civilian Standoff On The Scylla (2:57)
  12. Husker In Combat (1:54)
  13. Major Kendra Shaw (5:02)
  14. Cavil Kills and Cavil Spares featuring Raya Yarbrough (2:13)
  15. The Hybrid Awaits (2:43)
  16. Kendra And The Hybrid (6:06)
  17. Princes Of The Universe (3:57)
  18. Starbuck’s Destiny (0:41)
  19. Apocalypse (Live) (6:23)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2010
Total running time: 68:27

Black Sunday – music by John Williams

Black SundayLet’s say it’s the 1970s, and you’re doing a movie about a plot to kill a lot of people at the Super Bowl – a movie that won’t wind up on MST3K. A disaster movie, a well-worn and dying breed at the time, one that requires a big, dramatic orchestral score. Who do you call? You’ve probably got one John Williams – the man best known at the time as the maestro behind Jaws – on speed dial. (This is really more of a figure of speech than anything – you probably call the switchboard operator downstairs from your posh office on the studio lot and have her call Williams for you, because speed dial hasn’t been invented yet. Damned inconvenient.) That seems to have been the case for Black Sunday, which has just been released by Film Score Monthly.

Black Sunday is an oddity in Williams’ repertoire – aside from diehard Williams fans, not a lot of people know it’s even there. The movie was released early in 1977 by Paramount, and as is well known by now, another movie hit theaters in May 1977 which all but erased Black Sunday from the public film-going consciousness, a movie that also had a John Williams score. As such, Black Sunday has the odd distinction of being the only post-Jaws Williams soundtrack that has never been released – not even on vinyl or any other medium – until now.

And it was definitely worth the wait: there’s little in the Black Sunday soundtrack that sounds dated; only one distinctively ’70s-style source cue and the end credit suite, played over a gentle, mid-tempo ’70s-style soft rock beat, give the game away (and in any case, the typically extensive Film Score Monthly liner notes reveal that this version wasn’t used in the final edit of the film; another mix, minus the pop elements, is presented here but also went unused). The vast majority of the music sits nicely between Jaws and Star Wars, with menacing, brooding themes for the building suspense, and Williams’ signature style of action music, though it takes on a more worried tone than his often 4 out of 4celebratory style.

The Black Sunday soundtrack is a lost gem from the Williams repertoire, and fans of his music from this era won’t be let down – even if the music comes from a movie that isn’t usually mentioned in the same breath as Williams’ more, ahem, super efforts.

Order this CD

  1. Beirut (0:37)
  2. Commandos Arrive (1:14)
  3. Commandos Raid (5:30)
  4. It Was Good / Dahlia Arrives / The Unloading (3:12)
  5. Speed Boat Chase (1:51)
  6. The Telephone Man / The Captain Returns (2:13)
  7. Nurse Dahlia / Kabakov’s Card / The Hypodermic (3:30)
  8. Moshevsky’s Dead (1:56)
  9. The Test (1:56)
  10. Building The Bomb (1:53)
  11. Miami / Dahlia’s Call (2:26)
  12. The Last Night (1:28)
  13. Preparations (2:43)
  14. Passed (0:31)
  15. The Flight Check (1:50)
  16. Airborne / Bomb Passes Stadium (1:45)
  17. Farley’s Dead (1:33)
  18. The Blimp and the Bomb (3:12)
  19. The Take Off (1:43)
  20. Underway (0:39)
  21. Air Chase, Part 1 (1:12)
  22. Air Chase, Parts 2 & 3 – The Blimp Hits (7:19)
  23. The Explosion (2:36)
  24. The End (2:19)
  25. Hotel Lobby (source) (1:47)
  26. Fight Song #1 (0:50)
  27. Fight Song #2 (1:48)
  28. The End (Alternate) (2:17)
  29. The Explosion (Revised Ending) (2:11)

Released by: Film Score Monthly
Release date: 2010
Total running time: 64:01

Back To The Future – music by Alan Silvestri

Back To The Future (2009 re-release)Back To The Future is back! It’s not that there’s never been a Back To The Future soundtrack before; on the contrary, it was quite a hit, leaning heavily on the popular songs by Huey Lewis and the News. It featured a couple of snippets of the orchestral score by Alan Silvestri, and the rest has remained unreleased until now. That’s why this is a big deal. Fans of ’80s movie music speak in glowing terms of such things as the Star Wars and Indiana Jones trilogies, Excalibur, the Conan movies, songtracks such as The Breakfast Club (and just about anything else John Hughes produced or directed), and the increasingly synth-dominated scoring of movies like Blade Runner. I’m not sure that Alan Silvestri’s music for this movie and its sequels have ever really gotten their due. This 2-CD set should rewrite that particular bit of history nicely – Doc Brown would be proud.

Soundtrack specialty label Intrada felt it was a big deal too – big enough to merit a 2-CD deluxe release, and big enough to take the very unusual step of not limiting Back To The Future‘s print run to 3,000 copies, the typical allocation for a soundtrack release, especially a “vintage” release like this. Very much like this year’s expanded re-release of the soundtrack from Star Trek II, Intrada was aware of – and is banking on – wider interest in this soundtrack than an older score would normally see.

Already having more than a passing familiarity with Back To The Future and its sequels, I was amazed with how many surprises awaited me in this package. I learned quite a few things from the booklet that I didn’t know before, and the music itself was a real revelation in places. How the theme from Back To The Future has managed to escape being enshrined among the movie themes that the general public considers “hummable” is beyond me – it’s very memorable, and Silvestri proves – as he does in much of his other work – that it’s infinitely adaptable: fast, slow, major keys, minor keys, it’s carefully crafted to fit any of those needs.

But there’s much more here that’s memorable: Silvestri’s playful three-note mysterioso “stingers” practically put you right back in the movie, and with action setpieces like “Skateboard Chase” and especially the amazing feat of wall-to-wall action music that is “Clocktower”, this isn’t music that’ll put you to sleep. I was reminded of how dramatic some of the scoring is for a movie that most viewers remember as a comedy. Silvestri does a lot of the legwork in selling some of the movie’s most serious, high-jeopardy moments.

The entire score from Back To The Future fits on the first disc, so what’s on the second disc? It’s an early version of key moments of the movie score. The early version is still recorded with a full orchestra; it’s not an early enough draft to be rough synth sketches or anything less evolved. But there are changes in timing (sometimes sections of the music were replaced to accomodate editing changes) and changes in emphasis: the “’55 Town Square” cue is presented in two early versions, one with trumpets and French horns at full blast, and one with muted brass, and the difference in feel is remarkable. Some of the rescored sections are actually significantly different; Silvestri “lightened” the music in some places for the final version, with the original cues sometimes being a little too dramatic and dark. For the most part, it’s the same music, with changes in the emotional tone – a treat for listeners who are students in how films are scored.

4 out of 4The pop music used in Back To The Future has been more than adequately released, so this presentation of the orchestral score is long overdue – and with the early drafts and extensive liner notes, Intrada has made the wait worthwhile. We can’t really go back in time to give this soundtrack its just recognition down through the years, but this is more than good enough.

Order this CDDisc One

  1. Logo (0:23)
  2. DeLorean Reveal (0:49)
  3. Einstein Disintegrated (1:25)
  4. ’85 Twin Pines Mall (4:45)
  5. Peabody Barn / Marty Ditches DeLorean (3:13)
  6. ’55 Town Square (1:20)
  7. Lorraine’s Bedroom (0:49)
  8. Retrieve DeLorean (1:17)
  9. 1.21 Jigowatts (1.39)
  10. The Picture (1:08)
  11. Picture Fades (0:20)
  12. Skateboard Chase (1:41)
  13. Marty’s Letter (1:21)
  14. George To The Rescue, Part 1 (0:53)
  15. Marvin Be-Bop (source cue) (2:27)
  16. George To The Rescue, Part 2 (2:37)
  17. Tension / The Kiss (1:35)
  18. Goodnight Marty (source cue) (1:33)
  19. It’s Been Educational / Clocktower (10:33)
  20. Helicopter (0:21)
  21. ’85 Lone Pine Mall (3:49)
  22. 4 x 4 (0:43)
  23. Doc Returns (1:16)
  24. Back to the Future (End Credits) (3:18)

Disc Two

  1. DeLorean Reveal (0:43)
  2. Einstein Disintegrated (1:26)
  3. Peabody Barn (2:08)
  4. Marty Ditches DeLorean (1:58)
  5. ’55 Town Square #1 (Trumpet Open) (1:37)
  6. ’55 Town Square #2 (Trumpet Mute) (1:38)
  7. Retrieve DeLorean (1:17)
  8. 1.21 Jigowatts (1:38)
  9. The Picture (1:09)
  10. Skateboard Chase (1:42)
  11. George To The Rescue (4:16)
  12. Tension / The Kiss (1:43)
  13. Clocktower (10:57)
  14. ’85 Lone Pine Mall (3:49)
  15. Doc Returns (1:22)
  16. Ling Ting Ring (unused source cue) (2:01)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2009
Disc one total running time: 49:15
Disc two total running time: 39:24

Caprica – music by Bear McCreary

CapricaI’m reviewing this slightly out of order, as it was released a few months before the Battlestar Galactica Season 4 soundtrack (which runs a damn good chance of being the best film music release, by anyone, in any medium, anywhere this year), and indeed I listened to Caprica before the Galactica soundtrack arrived. I held back on a review to see if a closer listen to both at the same time would reveal more connecting tissue, musically speaking, than there appears to be at first.

On reflection, though, I’m not sure why I’d expect there to be; Capirca isn’t Galactica. It’s a landlubber show as opposed to its spacefaring forebear, serving as a prequel to Galactica, with its events taking place over half a century before the destruction of the twelve colonies. Musically, it’s more traditional than Galactica; as the show takes place in a society that’s modeled somewhat on post-WWII America (except that there are maglev trains and interplanetary travel, and racial and political tensions to go with them), the music is in a minimalist orchestral vein. The exotic instrumentation of Galactica is replaced with a more traditional string ensemble here.

That’s not to say that there aren’t hints of Galactica here and there; a few tracks in particular jump out as being the very connecting tissue I was looking for. Galactica’s wall-of-percussion sound returns for three key scenes: “Terrorism On The Lev”, “Zoe Awakens” and “Cybernetic Life Form Node”. All three of these cues accompany pivotal moments that are just the beginning of putting Caprica on the road to hell, and two of them involve the very first Cylon.

There’s a subtler reference back to Galactica with the instrumentation of “Monotheism At The Athena Academy”, hinting at the “ancient” Mediterranean sound of Caprica’s predecessor, and an overt reference in “The Adama Name”, which is a warm, string-based rendition of “Wander My Friends”, a song from Galactica’s first season which became the theme for Bill Adama (not coincidentally, this music accompanies virtually the only major scene in Caprica’s pilot movie for Adama, who’s still a child at this point).

Much – if not most – of the rest of the score revolves around variations on “The Graystone Family”, the first thing you hear on the CD. And indeed that family’s story is absolutely vital to Caprica, but the funereal tone of the soundtrack here makes it all seem to blur together at times. I’m reluctant to pass judgement on the Caprica soundtrack because it is just the pilot – think about how much bearing the soundtrack from the 2003 Battlestar Galactica miniseries has on, say, the music from the series finale. (And at the same time, if that same downer “feel” pervades the show and not just the music, I might pass on Caprica altogether.)

3 out of 4The booklet accompanying the CD gives the impression that Galactica house composer Bear McCreary wasn’t necessarily considered a shoo-in for the job on Caprica. But at the same time, there’s no reason for him to not have automatically gotten the job; in the end, Battlestar Galactica’s music was one of the best things about the show, and as the story got murkier and more depressing, the music was honestly one of the few things that kept me around at times. If the tone of the pilot movie is any indication, Caprica’s going to need him too.

Order this CD

  1. The Graystone Family (3:02)
  2. Terrorism On The Lev (3:15)
  3. Grieving (3:46)
  4. Lacey and Zoe-A (4:08)
  5. Cybernetic Life Form Node (3:16)
  6. Zoe’s Avatar (3:04)
  7. Daniel Captures The Code (2:29)
  8. A Tauron Sacrifice (2:46)
  9. Amanda Graystone (3:05)
  10. Joseph and Daniel (4:18)
  11. Tamara’s Heartbeat (1:42)
  12. Delivering The Message (2:56)
  13. Monotheism At The Athena Academy (3:34)
  14. Children Of Caprica (2:30)
  15. Irrecoverable Error (2:47)
  16. The Adama Name (1:39)
  17. Zoe Awakens (2:22)
  18. Caprica End Credits (3:38)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2009
Total running time: 54:17

Battlestar Galactica: Season 4 – music by Bear McCreary

Battlestar Galactica: Season 4The fourth season of Battlestar Galactica is likely to be debated among fans for many years. It starts out with the unenviable task of reintroducing a character that the audience was led to believe was dead, barrels toward a mid-season climax that descends into dismal depths of despair, and then rockets down the homestretch toward the show’s still hotly-debated three-hour finale. It didn’t help that the season ended up taking the better part of a year to resolve the mid-season cliffhanger (thanks to the 2008 Writers’ Guild strike which shut down production for nearly every scripted series in North America for months); the season felt disjointed, and its (literally) darkest hours were hard to swallow.

The music, on the other hand, was never better. Having spent the show’s early years studiously avoiding the orchestral and synthetic cliches of most filmed science fiction, composer Bear McCreary had won over both the audience and his bosses, and was free to experiment, mix and match sonic elements, and do his part to create the show’s universe. McCreary shows every sign of being a major future composer – film music fans have spent so much of the past 35 years heaping praise on John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith as if they were the only composers working in Hollywood during that time, but I strongly feel that Bear McCreary’s name will be mentioned in the same reverent tones one or two decades from now. His music on Galactica remains one of the show’s most remembered and praised elements – even to the point of being parodied in an episode of South Park (to McCreary’s delight).

This time around, we’re treated to two CDs of music to show us why he’s earned that praise. The first CD covers the fourth season’s musical highlights, omitting the three-hour series finale. Key scenes and themes, and slightly less obvious (but very interesting) pieces, are arranged almost chronologically. The album kicks off with “Gaeta’s Lament”, which certainly didn’t happen early in the season, but it’s a great showcase of how much the music of Battlestar Galactica had evolved over the years. It features a great vocal performance from regular cast member Alessandro Juliani (who had, handily enough, studied opera in college), heard in a series of scenes leading up to the amputation of one of his critically-injured character’s legs. Starting out a cappella, the song gradually gains a backing ensemble of both orchestral and ethnic instruments, filling out nicely as the vocal grows more anguished. (The theme reappears in a different, completely instrumental form later, which helps one to appreciate just how serpentine the melody line is – if this makes any sense, I gained much appreciation of the vocal performance from listening to the instrumental.)

Tracks like “The Signal”, “Blood On The Scales” and “Boomer Takes Hera” get back to Battlestar business with the show’s signature wall of percussion, but even here the show’s musical palette expands, taking on choral elements and other unexpected surprises. Familiar character themes get a few new twists in tracks such as “Roslin And Adama Reunited”, “Grand Old Lady” and “Farewell Apollo”. Running throughout many of the first disc’s tracks, however, is a theme only introduced at the end of season three, the extended, Indian-flavored instrumental intro that led into that season’s surprising rendition of “All Along The Watchtower”. As that music was previously heard by several characters who were suddenly revealed to be “sleeper” Cylons, it recurs as a theme for the “final five”.

The biggest shock to the system of longtime Galactica soundtrack fans may be the pieces for solo piano heard on the first disc; “Elegy” and “Dreilide Thrace Sonata No. 1” are strictly piano. “Kara Remembers” starts out this way as well, though it eventually morphs into the full-blooded “final five” theme (revealed in the show’s mythology to be a piece of music composed by Starbuck’s father) complete with percussion and exotic instrumentation, stopping just short of leading into “Watchtower” as it did at the end of season three. Rounding off the first disc is “Diaspora Oratorio”, the jubilant choral piece that lulled everyone into a false sense of security for the aforementioned mid-season cliffhanger; while not chronologically sequenced, it’s a great finale and a good stopping point before the second CD.

The second disc may well be the crowning glory of the entire Battlestar music collection, containing the complete score for the three-hour finale Daybreak. From the unusual, off-format opening montage onward, there’s a wistful longing to the music. The very beginning of the first cue, “Caprica, Before The Fall”, offers one of the very few new themes introduced for Daybreak, a beautiful theme for humanity’s homeworld which recurs in the second half of both the story and the score as the fleet finds its way to a new home. Initially played with exotic ethnic instruments, as per Galactica house style, this theme becomes even more lovely and haunting when it’s echoed by a full orchestra, a nice little sonic hint of the civilization that will result from these events. As the story’s conclusion unfolds in an atypically relaxed pace and characters exit the main story, their themes reappear, often in new forms or grander interpretations than we’ve heard before. Perhaps the most heart-wrenching of these pieces is the track “So Much Life”, with “Starbuck Disappears” running a close second. Ironically, the Daybreak score has a slightly anticlimactic ending, simply because Bear McCreary’s music didn’t close out the series; to achieve the full effect, you’ll have to provide your own copy of Hendrix’s version of “All Along The Watchtower”. For action music from Daybreak, I’ll just point out a little track titled “Assault On The Colony” which lasts a solid 15 minutes. Now, not every second of it is wall-to-wall action music, but the hefty chunks of it that meet that description do not disappoint at all.

With the Caprica pilot soundtrack already released, the only Battlestar music left on the docket is a CD with the highlights of music from the two TV movies, Razori and The Plan, and while that’s something to look forward to, it’s hard to argue that the emotional arc of the music of Battlestar Galactica really comes to an end here – curiously enough, with wonderfully expansive orchestral music of the kind that had been eschewed early in the series’ run. Thanks to Bear McCreary’s unerring instincts in scoring for both traditional and unconventional instruments, the end result is a surprisingly diverse musical palette that refuses to be stuff into the background, relishes in its recognizable recurring themes and their 4 out of 4instant associations with the story and its characters, and is incredibly satisfying listening material even away from the images that inspired it. In a field crowded with exceptionally good soundtrack entries this year, Battlestar Galactica Season 4 may well be the best new film or TV music that’s going to hit anyone’s ears this year.

Order this CD

    Disc one:

  1. Gaeta’s Lament (4:48)
  2. The Signal (5:08)
  3. Resurrection Hub (3:40)
  4. The Cult Of Baltar (5:41)
  5. Farewell Apollo (2:55)
  6. Roslin Escapes (2:55)
  7. Among The Ruins (7:44)
  8. Laura Runs (2:21)
  9. Cally Descends (3:08)
  10. Funeral Pyre (3:57)
  11. Roslin And Adama Reunited (1:59)
  12. Gaeta’s Lament (Instrumental) (4:50)
  13. Elegy (2:54)
  14. The Alliance (2:30)
  15. Blood On The Scales (5:20)
  16. Grand Old Lady (0:52)
  17. Kara Remembers (3:27)
  18. Boomer Takes Hera (2:40)
  19. Dreilide Thrace Sonata No. 1 (5:34)
  20. Diaspora Oratorio (4:51)
    Disc two (Daybreak):

  1. Caprica City, Before The Fall (4:33)
  2. Laura’s Baptism (2:40)
  3. Adama In The Memorial Hallway (2:11)
  4. The Line (3:56)
  5. Assault On The Colony (15:07)
  6. Baltar’s Sermon (4:24)
  7. Kara’s Coordinates (4:21)
  8. Earth (3:07)
  9. Goodbye Sam (2:10)
  10. The Heart Of The Sun (3:20)
  11. Starbuck Disappears (2:08)
  12. So Much Life (5:00)
  13. An Easterly View (4:52)
  14. The Passage Of Time (1:15)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2009
Disc one total running time: 77:14
Disc two total running time: 59:04

Battlestar Galactica: Season 3 – music by Bear McCreary

Battlestar Galactica Season 3Like the television episodes that it accompanied, the soundtrack from the third season of Battlestar Galactica is an even more haunted, somber affair than its predecessors. The third season saw the characters’ bad decisions, bad personal judgement, and all-around character flaws come back to bite them on the butt in a big way. Opening with most of the surviving human race enslaved by the Cylons on a bleak world, the show got off of that planet in four episodes, but then proceeded to spend the bulk of its remaining shows reflecting on what had happened during that time. A side strand about Baltar trying to get his bearings among the Cylons offered some rather nebulous developments, until he fell once more into the hands of his fellow humans (who blamed him for their captivity). The pace suddenly picked up at the end of the season with the apparent death of Starbuck, the revelation that several key characters may actually be Cylons, and what at least appeared to be the return of Starbuck…with a tantalizing peek at Earth, just around the cosmic corner from Galactica.

Quite a bit of the soundtrack’s running time is spent with the Exodus two-parter, which saw Adama and the fleet return to liberate humanity from New Caprica, and with Unfinished Business, a segment that centered around a series of boxing matches to help the crew blow off steam. I’ll admit that Unfinished Business resides in the same “blind spot” I mentioned in an earlier review of the Doctor Who Series 3 soundtrack – there was an awful lot of music generated for the episode, but since I didn’t really count that episode among my favorites, I hadn’t paid close attention to its music. It turns out that, like the Who episode Human Nature, Unfinished Business had some fine music that I had overlooked.

The gem of the Exodus tracks is a mammoth (nearly 8 minute) cue that accompanied Galactica’s all-or-nothing struggle to rescue the trapped colonists. The show’s relentless percussion of the star of “Storming New Caprica”, but when low strings start to add a guttural urgency to the walls of percussion, things really get cooking. This may well be the best reason to get the soundtrack to begin with. Well, that and “All Along The Watchtower”. As odd as it may seem, a Bob Dylan song became central to the season finale, lyrics and all, though it’s a wildly different interpretation than just about anything you’ve heard before. It leans a little bit on the Jimi Hendrix version of “Watchtower”, but with the ethnic instrumentation and percussion that screams “Galactica” layered onto it. This is a cover of “Watchtower” that rocks, and rocks hard. It’s best listened to in conjunction with “Heeding The Call”, a piece of music heard on radios, in the launch bay, and “in the frakking ship!” as certain key characters began to suspect something was even more wrong than they had suspected. It leads into “Watchtower” nicely.

Maelstrom is another episode represented by a healthy sampling of music, including the final moments of the episode in which we’re led to believe that Starbuck has flown her final mission. The music from the episode Dirty Hands is fun too, with a swampy, slithery, bluesy guitar part that gives it a pretty unique sound. While the soundtrack from Galactica’s second season was markedly different from the first, bringing new elements and instruments into the mix, this CD almost sounds like a continuation of the previous season’s sound, dovetailing seamlessly in spots with the second season’s soundtrack.

4 out of 4A strong listen, but it took a little more time to grow on me than previous music collections from the new Battlestar Galactica. As with the episodes themselves, the season 3 soundtrack spends some time in introspective space, rather than blowing everything to bits. Those looking for action music won’t be disappointed, but there’s much more to the season 3 music than that.

Order this CD

  1. A Distant Sadness (2:50 – Occupation)
  2. Precipice (4:52 – Precipice)
  3. Admiral and Commander (3:16 – Exodus Part 1 & 2)
  4. Storming New Caprica (7:48 – Exodus Part 2)
  5. Refugees Return (3:43 – Exodus Part 2)
  6. Wayward Soldier (4:17 – Hero)
  7. Violence and Variations (7:42 – Unfinished Business)
  8. The Dance (2:33 – Unfinished Business)
  9. Adama Falls (1:43 – Unfinished Business)
  10. Under the Wing (1:16 – Maelstrom)
  11. Battlestar Sonatica (4:44 – Torn)
  12. Fight Night (2:27 – Unfinished Business)
  13. Kat’s Sacrifice (2:46 – The Passage)
  14. Someone To Trust (3:09 – Taking A Break From All Your Worries)
  15. The Temple of Five (2:44 – The Eye Of Jupiter)
  16. Dirty Hands (3:32 – Dirty Hands)
  17. Gentle Execution (3:28 – Exodus Part 2)
  18. Mandala in the Clouds (4:07 – Maelstrom)
  19. Deathbed and Maelstrom (5:53 – Maelstrom)
  20. Heeding the Call (2:11 – Crossroads Part 2)
  21. All Along The Watchtower
  22. (3:33 – Crossroads Part 2)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2007
Total running time: 79:02

Battle Beyond The Stars / Humanoids From The Deep

Battle Beyond The Stars / Humanoids From The DeepThough the movies themselves have faded into that special pocket of semi-obscure hell reserved for stuff produced by Roger Corman, Battle Beyond The Stars and Humanoids From The Deep hold a special place in the hearts of soundtrack fans as the big-screen debut of a promising new young talent, James Horner. Hired with a mandate to try to duplicate the sound of – ironically – Jerry Goldsmith’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture score, Battle is basically the calling card that brought Horner into the Trek fold proper. I know I’ve jumped all over Horner in the past where originality is concerned, but let’s give credit where it’s due and give the guy a break: for this first movie scoring project, he was told to mimic Goldsmith. Say it with me again: Goldsmith. No pressure, eh? And then, on the strength of Battle, Horner was hired by Nicholas Meyer and asked to emulate himself. It’s no wonder Horner used and reused this basic material throughout the 1980s.

The nautical woodwind motifs that Horner refined in Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan can be heard here in a slightly more primitive form, and his rapid-fire bursts of heroic brass can be heard here too, though with a rhythm that’s almost jazzy. What you will hear a lot of is the Blaster Beam, that unearthly electric stringed instrument that Goldsmith put on the musical map with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Its appearance here doesn’t sound quite as graceful as it did in that first movie, but with marching orders to copy Goldsmith’s style, Horner makes abundant use of it. In that respect, if you’re a fan of that rarely-used instrument, this soundtrack is a treat.

To be completely fair, while there is indeed blatant copying of such Goldsmith cues as “Spock Walk”, there’s enough originality within this score’s context that one can hear where Horner would have been labeled an up-and-coming young composer to keep an ear out for. Unfortunately, in later years, Horner would seem to have taken the instruction “Make it sound kind of like the music from…” a little too literally, and a few times too many.

Humanoids, though commissioned, composed and recorded at around the same time (and it actually hit the theaters before Battle), sounds altogether more assured and mature, with Horner developing some if his more “scary” motifs in their earliest form – much of Trek II‘s Mutara Nebula music can be traced back to this score. For his first major horror scoring assignment, Horner isn’t shy about borrowing from the masters, with plenty of Hermann-esque “stabbing” strings on display.

Put together, Battle Beyond The Stars and Humanoids From The Deep are a debut that, even despite the rough edges, would’ve done any Hollywood 3 out of 4newcomer proud. And even if I’m not Horner’s biggest fan in the world, I’m even less of a Corman fan – his greatest contributions have really been in the area of bringing top-notch talent into Hollywood that eventually turns out better material than he himself could ever manage – and these may be among the very finest scores ever to grace a Roger Corman movie (or two).

Order this CD

    Battle Beyond The Stars

  1. Main Title (2:00)
  2. Malmori Read Guard (3:52)
  3. The Battle Begins (4:33)
  4. Nanella And Shad (1:27)
  5. Cowboy And The Jackers (3:36)
  6. Nanella’s Capture (1:29)
  7. The Maze Battle (3:11)
  8. Shad’s Pursuit (3:23)
  9. Cowboy’s Attack (1:46)
  10. Love Theme (3:52)
  11. The Hunter (1:40)
  12. Gelt’s Death (1:30)
  13. Nanella (1:32)
  14. Heading For Sador (1:00)
  15. Destruction Of Hammerhead (2:36)
  16. Epilogue And End Title (5:02)

    Humanoids From The Deep

  17. Main Title (2:27)
  18. The Buck (3:45)
  19. Unwelcome Visitor (2:03)
  20. Night Swim (1:48)
  21. Jerry & Peggy (0:57)
  22. Trip Upriver (1:59)
  23. The Humanoids Attack (2:54)
  24. Jerry’s Death (2:04)
  25. Search For Clues (1:55)
  26. Strange Catch (1:07)
  27. The Grotto (3:22)
  28. Night Prowlers (2:08)
  29. Final Confrontation (3:05)
  30. Aftermath & New Birth (2:22)
  31. End Titles (2:10)

Released by: GNP Crescendo
Release date: 2001
Total running time: 76:35