Battlestar Galactica: Season 2 – music by Bear McCreary

Battlestar Galactica Season 2With its brutal percussion, vocal laments and unusual instrumentation, the CD of music from the new Battlestar Galactica’s first season was a completely unique sound, and a hard act to follow. But somehow, this collection of music from the show’s intense second season not only builds on the thematic material and style of its predecessor – it transcends it.

The album opens not with the show’s main theme, but with one of the new series’ few tips of the hat to the music of the original. From Final Cut, the original Galactica theme by Stu Phillips effortlessly blends in with the percussive style of the new show, and it’s a brilliant arrangement, even working in elements of the “Exploration theme” that was heard under ’70s Galactica’s opening narration. It’s an attention-getting way to open this album for fans both old and new.

From there, we move firmly into the musical territory of the new series’ second season. Primal percussion remains part of the mix, but carrying on from the first season soundtrack’s “Shape Of Things To Come” track, there is a heavier emphasis on strings here, specifically string quartets. For some, this may seem like an odd thing to add to the millieu of a science fiction show, but for the second season’s bleak emotional territory it’s utterly appropriate. In fact, getting to hear the music by itself, I was struck by how many time I hadn’t noticed that the string quartet became a centerpiece of the season’s mood.

The centerpiece of this album, on the other hand, is an 8+ minute track called “Prelude To War”, effectively a cohesive suite of action/suspense music from Pegasus and both parts of Resurrection Ship. Everything from Adama’s order to effectively start a civil war, to Apollo’s drift into unconsciousness, to the scouting run into the Resurrection Ship is represented here in a way that may not necessarily be sequential to the events, but is very cohesive musically. (It’s not for nothing that this has become my driving-to-work music of late.) Other music from Pegasus and Resurrection Ship can be found in other tracks such as “Pegasus” (the contemporary-sounding gentle guitar intro), “Lords Of Kobol” (the vocal piece heard as the crews reunite), “Roslin And Adama”, “The Cylon Prisoner” and “Gina Escapes”. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that Pegasus / Resurrection Ship and Lay Down Your Burdens are the stars of this album, comprising a large share of the CD’s tracks.

Episodes from earlier in the season go a little under-represented as a result, though there are some gems there (“Reuniting The Fleet”, “Martial Law”, the zither-heavy “Baltar’s Dream” cue, and selections from The Farm and Home). I’ll admit to being slightly disappointed that the listless piano solo heard when Starbuck temporarily moved back into her home on Caprica wasn’t present; I found that piece almost hypnotically mesmerizing, but it may not have been a fan favorite. The rest of the CD certainly makes up for it. Later episodes such as Scar and Black Market get one or two licks in.

rating: 4 out of 4And speaking of Black Market and licks, stick around for the last track on the CD, because it’s a treat. “Black Market” (the track, not the episode) starts out like a normal Galactica soundtrack cue, and then suddenly slams into high gear heavy metal guitar solos (courtesy of guest player Steve Bartek, formerly of Oingo Boingo and still occasional orchestrator for Danny Elfman). This track has a wonderful crunchy sound, not just from guitars but from what sound like cellos run through tube distortion – a sound I don’t think I’ve heard since the second ELO album. It’s a great and unexpectedly head-banging closer to another great collection.

Now how can Bear McCreary top this for season 3?

Order this CD

  1. Colonial Anthem (“Theme From Battlestar Galactica”) (4:02)
  2. Baltar’s Dream (2:45)
  3. Escape From The Farm (3:09)
  4. A Promise To Return (3:03)
  5. Allegro (4:59)
  6. Martial Law (1:51)
  7. Standing In The Mud (1:45)
  8. Pegasus (2:46)
  9. Lords Of Kobol (2:50)
  10. Something Dark Is Coming (8:51)
  11. Scar (2:26)
  12. Epiphanies (2:43)
  13. Roslin And Adama (2:49)
  14. Gina Escapes (2:00)
  15. Dark Unions (2:53)
  16. The Cylon Prisoner (3:51)
  17. Prelude To War (8:22)
  18. Reuniting The Fleet (2:45)
  19. Roslin Confesses (2:09)
  20. One Year Later (1:43)
  21. Worthy Of Survival (3:35)
  22. Battlestar Galactica Main Title (0:45)
  23. Black Market (5:48)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2006
Total running time: 78:53

Buck Rogers In The 25th Century – music by Stu Phillips

Buck Rogers soundtrackTeamed with Glen A. Larson for the second time in as many years, composer Stu Phillips created an interesting sound for Larson’s second swipe at big-budget television space opera. Buck Rogers shared many things with Battlestar Galactica – sets, props, special effects, and a tendency to decline after the show’s first season – but Larson’s new space adventure show got a different musical treatment. Where Phillips had unabashedly done a very serious pastiche of John Williams’ Star Wars stylings for Galactica, his music for Buck Rogers is, rather like the show, more lighthearted. When action or emotional scenes are called for, Phillips calls on a somewhat different feel than Galactica’s dramatic moments – a little more romantic and melodramatic in places – but even in action scenes, Phillips injects a little more “bounce” into the proceedings than one might expect. Buck Rogers dates back to 1930s radio serials, and in some ways, Phillips seems to be keeping that in mind – the music is frequently bold, brassy, and endearingly over-the-top.

First off, let’s not forget the opening theme song with lyrics (by Larson himself), sung by Kip Lennon; bearing in mind that this LP is really the soundtrack to the Buck Rogers pilot movie, this is how that particular installment started, and the opening title music that you might be more familiar with isn’t found on this album. “Suspension” is the same tune as the opening and end credits of the weekly series, but mellowed out until it’s in Manilow territory.

“The Draconia / Buck Awakens” follows, and is the first exhibit in my case for Phillips keeping an eye and an ear on the roots of Buck Rogers. Loud, busy, boisterous blasts of brass herald the arrival of a menacing warship, and even if you’re not looking at the screen, the music really hits you over the head with the message that something not good is going on. Princess Ardala gets an interestingly sinewy theme that still has an underlying menace, while “Buck’s Heroics” is a James Bond-worthy, brassy action theme with a great rhythm. Apparently this latter track impressed the show’s producers too, because you can hear various bits of it excerpted for the pre-show highlights teaser that appears before the opening titles of every subsequent episode.

My favorite non-action cue here is “Introducing Twiki And Dr. Theo”, which sets up a theme that would recur throughout the series even when composers other than Phillips handled the scoring duties on weekly episodes. Whimsical synthesizers introduce a lighthearted theme for everyone’s favorite 70s TV robot, and that theme is then handed off to pizzicato strings and segues to full orchestra, which then transforms the piece into a gorgeous passage covering a travelogue-style scene of New Chicago. Even with the whimsical elements dating it a bit, the latter half of this track is beautiful stuff.

The next real highlight is “Dead City / Attack Of The Mutants”, a dark, suspenseful piece underscoring Buck’s nearly-fatal trip outside of the protective walls of New Chicago. Phillips sounds like he’s trying to strike a balance between John Williams-style lyricism and Jerry Goldsmith’s brutally atonal music from Planet Of The Apes, leaning more toward the former, but for late 70s TV it’s not bad.

And then…there’s the music that dates the score almost as much as the copyright date on the back of the album cover. Well, this isn’t much of a surprise after the disco-fied “Love, Love, Love” cue from the Galactica soundtrack, but what is a surprise is that Phillips was at least a little bit more forward-looking this time around, concocting a funky synthesizer cue that anticipated just a little bit of the new wave sound that was already emerging in the late 70s with artists such as Gary Numan, Kraftwerk and Lene Lovich. Please don’t mistake this for a comparison between the “Something Kinda Funky” cue and those acts’ best works, but simply a statement that, while the material does date itself, it was at least – in its day – a little more ahead of its time and a little less of its time. (Subsequent viewing of the TV series beyond the pilot, however, reminds me that future scenes with source music – i.e. music that the characters can hear, as opposed to underscore – did slip back into a disco mode.)

More action music follows in “Buck Vs. Tigerman”, which continues to develop the action motif from “Buck’s Heroics”. “Fanfare And Appearance Of Draco” has the amusing distinction of being the music for one of the pilot’s most disposable scenes, featuring Joseph Wiseman (of Dr. No fame) in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo as the never-seen-again but oft-mentioned Emperor of Draconia. The action motif returns in a more desperate arrangement in Tailpipe Torpedo, though the final big action scene – and probably the pilot’s biggest concession to the then-recent musical influence of Star Wars – comes in “Wilma Saves Buck”, with “What An Ending” tacking on the kind of freeze-frame-the-final-shot-under-the-Glen-Larson-credit ending that became the de facto conclusion for every episode that followed.

3 out of 4So, with this title more than 25 years out of circulation, why are we even talking about it, aside from the fact that Buck Rogers was recently released in its entirety on DVD? There are rumblings on the ‘net from none other than Stu Phillips himself that the Buck Rogers soundtrack may at some point soon be released on CD for the first time (fair warning: any Buck CDs you’ve seen are bootlegs), though despite the slight resurgence in interest in the TV series that came with that DVD release, Phillips may release it as a “composer promo,” which is usually only a few steps removed from a bootleg. We’ll keep you updated on the release status for the soundtrack, because it’s one of those things that, if you were there, you remember the music pretty fondly. I know I do.

Order this CD

  1. Cosmic Forces (0:35)
  2. Suspension (Song From Buck Rogers) (2:59)
  3. The Draconia / Buck Awakens (2:05)
  4. Princess Ardala / Seduction (2:40)
  5. Buck’s Heroics (1:42)
  6. Introducing Twiki And Dr. Theo (1:05)
  7. Pirate Attack (2:21)
  8. Buck Returns To Earth (2:35)
  9. Dead City / Attack Of The Mutants (3:47)
  10. Something Kinda Funky (3:05)
  11. Buck Vs. Tigerman (2:43)
  12. Fanfare And Appearance Of Draco (2:09)
  13. Tailpipe Torpedo (2:10)
  14. Wilma Saves Buck / What An Ending (2:41)
  15. Suspension (Reprise) (2:20)

Released by: MCA
Release date: 1979
Total running time: 35:08

Battlestar Galactica: Season 1 – music by Bear McCreary

Battlestar Galactica Season 1 soundtrackRocketed through the usual licensing hurdles in what may be record time for a TV soundtrack album (usually the process takes at least a year after the show’s premiere, but in this case it was a mere few months), the first soundtrack from the weekly hour-long episodes of the new Battlestar Galactica is as near-exhaustingly visceral to listen to as the show is to watch. Nimbly leaping from ethnic polyrhythms to warlike martial drums as the situation demands, and sometimes layering one on top of the other, the action cues from this selection are some of the best I’ve heard, period – “Starbuck Takes On All Eight” is unrelenting enough to make one break a sweat while listening at a dead standstill. “The Olympic Carrier” delivers a cleverly literal treatment of the motif of the episode 33, dropping back to a ticking time-bomb of a strict one-beat-per-second meter as the action approaches its climax. And if Cylon sex scenes are your thing, grab “Two Boomers” and make yourself a sandwich (well, hey, it is an action scene of sorts…). It’s not a stretch to say that virtually all of the key action cues from the first season are represented here – if that’s what you’re looking for here, you’re not going to walk away disappointed.

It’s not all in the action cues, though. Tracks such as “Forgiven” and “Two Funerals” lend the show’s moments of human drama a lot of their weight, while “Helo In The Warehouse” is positiviely eerie. The miniseries isn’t forgotten either, with clockwork-like tuned percussion serving as a signature for the Cylons (and specifically Number Six) in tracks such as “Baltar Speaks With Adama”. Many of the pieces, while they still touch on the miniseries’ Mediterranean sound, also demonstrate a shift toward a somewhat wistful Gaelic sound. And after having grown accustomed to the show’s avoidance of the leitmotif-heavy Wagner-by-way-of-Korngold-by-way-of-Williams scoring that’s commonly associated with filmed science fiction, hearing a full-on orchestra is almost a shock to the system in “Passacaglia” and “The Shape Of Things To Come”, the latter dedicated to composer Bear McCreary’s late mentor, Hollywood great Elmer Bernstein. There’s another unexpected instrumental surprise with “Flesh And Bone”‘s guitar work. A fun handful of source cues appears as well, some with lyrics, and you’ll probably be interested to read the translation of those lyrics in the liner notes.

And while the new Battlestar Galactica has escaped the “Star Wars Lite” style that both distinguished and occasionally hampered the original 1970s incarnation of Galactica, it’s interesting to hear that themes do emerge. Characters and even concepts have their own musical and, occasionally, rhythmic signatures. But it’s more subtle than what you may be accustomed to. After years and years of this genre, and really, a lot of other genres, being represented by droning orchestral and synth chords, it’s a treat to hear barrages of military percussion, talking drums, wailing vocals, and what honestly sounds, in a few rating: 4 out of 4cases, like large pieces of metal slamming together (as cathartic as it is to listen to some of these pieces, it’s got to be at least that much fun to be performing them!). The new Galactica demands a visceral, pulse-pounding sound, and Bear McCreary and his small army of musicians deliver it in spades. If the first episode of season two is anything to judge by, I’ll go ahead and leave an open space for the season two soundtrack. No rush, though – I’ll be listening to season one for quite a while yet.

Order this CD

  1. Prologue (0:28)
  2. Main Title – U.S. Version (1:02)
  3. Helo Chase (1:29)
  4. The Olympic Carrier (5:39)
  5. Helo Rescued (0:59)
  6. A Good Lighter (1:52)
  7. The Thousandth Landing (3:04)
  8. Two Funerals (3:22)
  9. Starbuck Takes On All Eight (3:44)
  10. Forgiven (1:28)
  11. The Card Game (3:01)
  12. Starbuck On The Red Moon (1:58)
  13. Helo In The Warehouse (1:59)
  14. Baltar Speaks With Adama (1:52)
  15. Two Boomers (1:46)
  16. Battlestar Operatica (2:33)
  17. The Dinner Party (3:12)
  18. Battlestar Muzaktica (1:41)
  19. Baltar Panics (1:44)
  20. Boomer Flees (1:14)
  21. Flesh And Bone (4:04)
  22. Battle On The Asteroid (6:50)
  23. Wander My Friends (2:55)
  24. Passacaglia (5:13)
  25. Kobol’s Last Gleaming (2:47)
  26. Destiny (4:42)
  27. The Shape Of Things To Come (2:53)
  28. Bloodshed (1:46)
  29. Re Cap (0:34)
  30. Main Title – U.K. Version* (1:06)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2005
Total running time: 78:33

* The U.K. version also appears to be the main theme for season two on the Sci-Fi Channel in the U.S., though without the rapid-fire clip montage set to a furious battery of drums; a similar (but far more drastic) editing fate also seems to have befallen Sci-Fi’s other major original series, with Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis having had their opening title sequences trimmed down to 10-15 seconds each.

Battlestar Galactica – music by Richard Gibbs

Battlestar Galactica soundtrackIf ever there was a case of musically “playing against type,” the score for 2003’s Battlestar Galactica miniseries is it. The music of the original series had such a foothold in the collective memory of the viewers that it’d be hard to avoid comparisons. And yet, as fitting as Stu Phillips’ exercise in sounding like John Williams was for the original 1978 miniseries and series, Richard Gibbs’ and Bear McCreary’s score for the new version is equally fitting. It’s a visceral, almost mournful, score for a new take on the series that seems to be, more than any SF project of the past few years, informed by the 9/11 experience and its attendant emotions.

There’s not a lot of orchestral writing, but contrary to some reports, there is some. Rather than going for a full-on western orchestral approach, Gibbs and McCreary mix orchestra with ethnic percussion and vocalizations. In the CD liner notes, Gibbs talks about how several scenes of the movie had been temp-tracked by director Michael Rymer with music from Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack for The Last Temptation Of Christ, and that’s a fairly good analogy for what the new Galactica wound up with. Gibbs and McCreary reined things in just a little bit, with a more traditional western feel than the aforementioned film score, but the Gabriel influence is clearly there: battle scenes tend to be tracked with Japanese taiko drums and a thunderous mix of other percussion. The scenes associated with the plight of the Colonials tend to be treated with wistful Middle Eastern vocals, a little bit of orchestra, and occasionally a bit of tuned percussion – Gabriel would be proud.

And it would seem that the composers took as many hints from Christopher Franke as they did from Peter Gabriel; the cue “Seal The Bulkheads” is given an epic-but-elegiac sound, as Commander Adama makes the decision to seal off a critically damaged portion of the ship, sacrificing the lives of several crewmembers still trapped inside. There’s no thundering action here (though the fast-cutting editing of that sequence and the show as a whole would have lent itself to that), but more of a funeral dirge for those lost.

When Gibbs arrived to work on Galactica, a scene had already been temp-tracked with a Sanskrit mantra loaned to the director by Edward James Olmos; Gibbs found that it was so hard to top that he phonetically transcribed the mantra and included it as a vocal for the track “To Kiss Or Not To Kiss”, which is easily the soundtrack’s most sensual cue; “The Lottery Ticket” and “The Storm And The Dead” tie for a close second in that department. I also liked some of the cues that are heard early in the miniseries, which build a sense of anticipation without really being specific about the end result of that anticipation being good or bad. (That “anticipation” motif shows up again in the final scenes, and the effect is altogether different – in that context, it’s almost like a musical demand for a series order.) My one regret is that the expansive main title for the miniseries seems to have been replaced with a more mournful piece to cover the main titles of the weekly series – but again, it fits with the tone of the series, whereas’ the miniseries’ main titles occurred before the real jeopardy of the story kicked in.

I’m a little torn on recommending the Battlestar Galactica miniseries soundtrack as an all-in-one-sitting listening experience – if you have it playing in the background and you’re not listening for the intricacies of the music, it all blurs together a bit. But a close listen makes it clear why this approach was chosen for the new Galactica – and it’s no surprise that the early episodes of the hourly series sound as though they may have 4 out of 4been tracked with this same material (fittingly enough, as the original Galactica was tracked from a limited library of music composed for a small handful of specific episodes).

Good stuff – let’s hope that the series is around long enough to get some more music, and maybe another CD or two, out of the composers.

Order this CD

  1. Are You Alive? / Battlestar Galactica Main Title (5:28)
  2. Goodbye, Baby (2:24)
  3. Starbuck Buck Buck (1:49)
  4. To Kiss Or Not To Kiss (2:42)
  5. Six Sex (1:48)
  6. Deep Sixed (1:59)
  7. The Day Comes (1:08)
  8. Counterattack (2:40)
  9. Cylons Fire (1:34)
  10. A Call To Arms (1:03)
  11. Apollo To The Rescue (1:56)
  12. Launch Vipers (4:26)
  13. Seal The Bulkheads (2:10)
  14. The Lottery Ticket (3:06)
  15. Eighty-Five Dead (1:23)
  16. Inbound (1:23)
  17. Apollo Is Gone / Starbuck Returns (2:19)
  18. The Storm And The Dead (2:40)
  19. Thousands Left Behind (2:09)
  20. Silica Pathways (3:32)
  21. Reunited (1:56)
  22. The Sense Of Six (3:01)
  23. Starbuck’s Recon (1:11)
  24. Battle (7:40)
  25. Good Night (2:38)
  26. By Your Command (1:56)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 67:04

Coming Soon!: The John Beal Trailer Project

Coming Soon!: The John Beal Trailer ProjectSo there’s this guy, and it seems like he writes the music for half the trailers that unspool in the theaters before a movie starts. And all he has to do is sorta emulate someone else’s music, only not enough that you can really tell (or sue over), and make it a couple of minutes long. This guy must have the easiest job in the world, right?

Ha! No, actually, he doesn’t, but he’s damn good at it, and this is where we get this double CD devoted entirely to music from movie trailers and TV spots. As incongruous as it may sound – to mainstream listeners, this would be as unfathomable a listen as picking something out of a production music library at a TV station – it’s well worth a listen, and you’re almost guaranteed to hear something that you found catchy under the coming attractions. John Beal’s been at it for over 25 years, and bless the internet, the man whose job it is to score the movie trailers has his own honest-to-goodness fan following. If you’re ever gone hunting for a specific piece of movie trailer music, and it didn’t wind up being Enigma or some recycled Jerry Goldsmith, it may well have been John Beal.

Each of the two CDs is filled to the rim with very short cues. If anyone has a complaint about Coming Soon, it’s not going to be a lack of variety. Everything from Black Beauty to Quiz Show to Judge Dredd to Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie to The Mask to Basic Instinct is included here, and then some. Beal keeps the job he’s got by having a pretty good sense of what’s needed for the two-minute mini-movie that the marketing department has kindly carved out of two hours of actual movie. With this wide selection of cues, you’d be lost without some decent liner notes pointing out what was used where, and fortunately this is what the booklet accompanying the CD gives you, though in a few cases there seems to be some legalese getting in the way. In the cases of cues like “Broke Arrow” and “Unmarried White Woman”, you can probably make an easy guess of it, especially when the description of the latter, rather than naming the movie, says the cue is for an unspecified movie about “women seeking roommates” (am I the only one thinking this is probably also a Bridget Fonda movie?). In some cases, there’s even some interesting history to the trailers, as in the case of an early cue from the 70s which went over so well that it also became the movie’s end credit music.

Even more of a specialty item for film music buffs than most soundtracks are, Coming Soon can offer you at least one thing: if you don’t like what you’re hearing, it’ll probably be changing in about a minute and thirty. And if you think John Beal’s job is easy, consider that every piece heard on these two CDs all came 3 out of 4from the same guy, and as many tracks as there are is about how many changes in style there are. Beal is among the best in Hollywood at what he does, and enough producers and studios have thought so as well, keeping him busy enough that Coming Soon represents a tiny fraction of his portfolio – but it’s also some of his best, and quite a bit of it is certainly listenable in its own right.

Order this CD

    Disc one

  1. Black Beauty trailer (1:20)
  2. Angel – Almost (2:19)
  3. Beautician & The Beast (2:14)
  4. Alaska trailer (1:57)
  5. Black Rain trailer (1:32)
  6. Broke Arrow (2:21)
  7. Casualties Of War (2:06)
  8. For Sir Charlie (1:59)
  9. Beal’s Con Theory (2:21)
  10. Pseudo Cool World (1:44)
  11. Courage March (1:03)
  12. The Cutthroat (1:17)
  13. Dead Again (2:08)
  14. Blessed Dead (2:16)
  15. Nothing To Lose (1:40)
  16. Erased (1:34)
  17. Eye To Eye (2:00)
  18. Intruder (2:21)
  19. Ghost trail (2:04)
  20. Ham’s Prologue & Epilogue (3:01)
  21. Three Blind Elfmen (1:51)
  22. The Hunt (1:39)
  23. I Know What (0:34)
  24. In The Line (2:25)
  25. Independence 2 (1:06)
  26. Dead Solid Perfect (1:51)
  27. Sarah & Jack (2:15)
  28. Hollywood Latin (2:25)
  29. Jen 8 (1:02)
  30. Judge Dredd teaser (0:55)
  31. Last Man (1:02)
  32. Last Dogman (1:41)
  33. Tate Jazz (2:24)
  34. Deadly Sin (0:34)
    Disc two

  1. Magic Of The Theater / Strawberry & Chocolate (2:20)
  2. Medicine Man trailer (1:49)
  3. Invisible Memoirs (1:54)
  4. Morph Men (1:47)
  5. Miracle trailer (2:50)
  6. Woody’s Manhattan (1:50)
  7. Manhattan Night (2:05)
  8. Noises Offstage (1:35)
  9. Nothing Much (1:27)
  10. I’ll Always Fall In Love With Love (1:57)
  11. Pagemaster trail (2:17)
  12. Passed (1:21)
  13. Academy March (2:20)
  14. Lyle / Ennio / I’m Not Hoffa (2:30)
  15. Stunt Person (0:31)
  16. Schooltie (2:11)
  17. Unmarried White Woman (2:21)
  18. Skatetown USA trailer / end title (3:45)
  19. Basic Instinct Theme (2:21)
  20. Solo’s Solo (1:57)
  21. Two Billion $ Off Switch (1:01)
  22. Species Too (2:10)
  23. Sweet Magnolia (1:25)
  24. Supercop promo (1:00)
  25. Karen’s Love Theme (1:04)
  26. The Grift (1:58)
  27. Somebody Stop Me (1:51)
  28. If They Come At You (3:00)
  29. Three Wishes teaser (2:41)
  30. Ocean Song (1:23)
  31. Starnever / True Lies overlay (1:37)
  32. Under Siege Too (1:41)
  33. It’s Warshawski! (1:39)
  34. Beal’s Volcanic (0:56)
  35. White Out (1:20)

Released by: Sonic Images
Release date: 1998
Disc one total running time: 62:04
Disc two total running time: 67:01

Battle Of The Planets – music by Hoyt Curtin, Bob Sakuma

Battle Of The Planets soundtrack22 years after the series first premiered in American syndication, this collection of music is finally available, featuring music from Bob Sakuma’s original Gatchaman soundtrack (previously reviewed here) as well as the material composed by the late Hanna-Barbera maestro Hoyt Curtin especially for the extensively re-edited American version of the show.

But like so many things from our childhoods, it might just be that the anticipation for the Battle Of The Planets soundtrack outweighs the actual product. Some of Hoyt Curtin’s music is very good, drawing in equal measure from disco and John Williams’ Star Wars style, while other cues draw more heavily from the former. In places, it sounds like Meco. And while that’s no slight to Meco or to the late Mr. Curtin, who died just last year, it definitely dates the proceedings. To be fair, Bob Sakuma’s original score for Gatchaman also sports some disco stylings, so the two actually dovetail quite well.

For those who splurged on the Gatchaman soundtrack already, you may want to declare victory there – a great deal of the original Gatchaman BGM (background music) release is duplicated on this CD, though with slightly better sound quality. However, you won’t find the cheerful children’s choir singing “Destroy Gallactor!” in Japanese on this CD, so maybe it is worth it to track down both titles. Still, I appreciate the effort to include the original Bob Sakuma score – if not for these tracks, the CD would’ve had a dismally brief (not to mention unjustifiably expensive) running time of just under 35 minutes. Truth be told, only a few purists and fanatics like myself will probably have the original Gatchaman CD, so I doubt very many will be complaining about duplication of material.

Battle Of The Planets soundtrack, 2004 re-releaseIncluded as bonus tracks are the audio tracks from six television promos for Battle Of The Planets, as well as a second version of the theme song complete with robust narration – “G-Force! Princess! Tiny! Keyop! Mark! Jason!” – though this version suffers a lot in the sound quality department. It’s very likely that it had to be sourced from a 22-year-old video master tape somewhere.

Some of my favorite cues from Hoyt Curtin are those composed for the scenes of robot advisor 7-Zark-7 (and his equally robotic dog, 1-Rover-1). As is generally well-known, these robots didn’t exist in the original Japanese series, added at the behest of American syndicator Sandy Frank to further solidify the Star Wars cash-in by including cute robots to comment on the action (and to fill out the vast amounts of program time which were lost with the surgical removal of the original show’s near-legendary violent scenes). The robots’ cues are bizarrely calliope-like, using trippy late 70s synths for what once passed for a futuristic sound.

If you’re ready for a trip back in time, complete with sometimes painful reminders of how discofied incidental music could be back then, then I give this CD a hearty four-star recommendation. But if you’re expecting to compare it to Goldsmith, Williams, Horner and/or Silvestri, maybe you should give up and save your money for something more modern. Despite the disco elements, I thought it was an excellent vehicle for some childhood nostalgia – and, of course, a 4 out of 4full-page ad for Rhino’s upcoming Battle Of The Planets video and DVD releases this fall is included in the liner notes booklet. (The booklet may just be the real prize of this release, with extensive biographical notes on both Curtin and Sakuma and previously unknown facts about their involvement in the series. I was a little surprised to read that Sakuma based his music on the early 70s style of Chicago!)

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    Battle Of The Planets – music by Hoyt Curtin (1978)

  1. Battle Of The Planets main title (1:32)
  2. Love In The Afterburner (1:29)
  3. Ready Room (2:02)
  4. Alien Planet (2:52)
  5. Phoenix Raising (2:11)
  6. Space On Fire (2:08)
  7. Robot Hijinks (0:58)
  8. Alien Trouble (1:25)
  9. Return To The Alien Planet (3:00)
  10. Melting Jets (0:53)
  11. Romance In An Afterburner’s Light (1:30)
  12. The Robot’s Dog: 1-Rover-1 (0:54)
  13. Firefight (1:35)
  14. Alien Trap (2:20)
  15. 7-Zark-7’s Song (1:23)
  16. More Alien Trouble (1:29)
  17. The Chief Alien Shows Up (0:34)
  18. Come Out, Come Out (1:30)
  19. Victory (1:09)

    Gatchaman – music by Bob Sakuma (1972)

  20. Emblem G (3:10)
  21. Spectra Versions (3:50)
  22. Fighting Phoenix (3:22)
  23. Coral Reef (0:26)
  24. Crescent Moon (3:17)
  25. Holding Up A Shade (3:37)
  26. Zoltar, Fastening The Armor (0:32)
  27. Fighter G (3:54)
  28. Red Illusion (4:37)
  29. The Earth Is Alone! (1:53)
  30. A Vow To The Sky (3:12)
  31. Countdown (3:39)
  32. Like The Phoenix (3:26)

    Bonus Tracks

  33. Promo #1 – The Luminous One #1 (0:32)
  34. Promo #2 – G-Force vs. Zoltar (0:32)
  35. Promo #3 – 7-Zark-7 and Company (0:32)
  36. Promo #4 – The Luminous One #2 (0:32)
  37. Promo #5 – Commander Mark, Jason (0:32)
  38. Promo #6 – Princess, Tiny, Keyop (0:32)
  39. Battle Of The Planets main title reprise with narration (1:31)

Released by: Super Tracks Music Group
Release date: 2001 (re-released by Silva in 2004 with different track list)
Total running time: 73:32

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman – music by Bob Sakuma

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman soundtrackNever heard of Gatchaman? Oh, yes you have. Gatchaman is the story of five highly-trained young people, given state-of-the-art equipment and Earth’s most advanced spacecraft, the God Phoenix. Their mission is to employ their dual skills – ninja fighting and scientific knowledge – to defeat the evil Sosai X, who endlessly conjures up elaborate schemes in an effort to conquer Earth. It’s just possible that this early 70s anime’ series was the birth of the five-kids-in-spandex genre that later gave rise to such godawful live-action train wrecks as Power Rangers and VR Troopers. It’s also just possible that you remember the English dubbed version from the early 80s, retitled Battle of the Planets.

Bob Sakuma’s oft-recycled music accompanied both the Gatchaman team and their American counterparts (a.k.a. “G-Force”), and anyone who spent any time with the show will recognize the melodies and cues lined up on this survey of the show’s music.

I’ll be up-front and advise you to steer clear of this if you are not a Gatchaman/Battle of the Planets fan. This album is loaded with really, really short cues, all crammed into longer tracks. Some of the pieces on this selection of background music are over in all of three seconds – such is the brevity of music composed for animation. Some of the music is really a bit dated too – one doesn’t hear quite so much Hammond organ in science fiction (or, for that matter, animation) these days.

That said, there is a lot of very interesting music here, and some of it stands up quite well. This, along with the Space Battleship Yamato (a.k.a. Star Blazers) soundtrack, may be enough to help you journey back to those post-grade-school afternoons of your youth.

It’s also worth noting that your favorite pieces of music from Battle Of The Planets might not be present here; the Americanized version of the series had music added by U.S. composer Hoyt Curtin, and Curtin’s music – including the Battle Of The Planets theme song – is not represented on this CD. (The original Gatchaman theme, 3 out of 4however, is almost disturbing – its title translates to “Destroy Gallactor!” and it is cheerfully sung by a children’s choir.)

Almost all of the non-vocal music from the Gatchaman soundtrack was recently included on a semi-official Battle Of The Planets CD, though this album remains the only place to find the vocal tracks.

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  1. Prologue (1:27)
    1. Science Ninja Team (0:10)
    2. Gatchaman main theme – Destroy Gallactor! (1:17)
      performed by Columbia Cradle Club
  2. Emblem G (3:16)
    1. The White Shadow (0:04)
    2. International Science Organization (0:38)
    3. Birdstyle (0:45)
    4. Scramble (0:53)
    5. Gather God Phoenix (0:53)
  3. Gallactor Versions (3:56)
    1. Dangerous (0:47)
    2. Zero Angle (1:38)
    3. Sniper (0:33)
    4. Death Clash (0:30)
    5. Iron Beast (0:21)
  4. Fighting Phoenix (3:28)
    1. Snack Jun (0:16)
    2. Gatchaman Attack (1:28)
    3. Birdmissile (0:29)
    4. And Then…Victory (0:40)
    5. Return To The Sunrise (0:33)
  5. Coral Reef (0:28)
  6. Crescent Moon (3:24)
    1. Good Morning Phoenix (0:52)
    2. Morning Service (0:33)
    3. Croissant (0:21)
    4. At Dusk (0:42)
    5. Goodnight Seahorse (0:49)
  7. Behind Shaded Eyes (3:46)
    1. Shadow Of Gallactor (0:26)
    2. Burning City (0:30)
    3. Into Dark Depths (0:35)
    4. The Hidden Devil (0:24)
    5. A Night Of Unrest (0:53)
    6. Devastation Of The Earth (0:45)
  8. Katse, The Helmet Strap Tightens (0:33)
  9. Gatchaman (0:05)
  10. Fighter G (4:00)
    1. Invasion Assault (0:38)
    2. Army Corps (0:34)
    3. Capture (0:41)
    4. Pursuit (0:33)
    5. A Sudden Change (0:16)
    6. Violent Force (0:10)
  11. Red Illusion (4:40)
    1. Red Wing (0:06)
    2. Red Partner (2:17)
    3. Red Memory (1:00)
    4. Red Impulse (1:11)
  12. Alone On The Earth (0:52)
  13. A Pledge To The Open Sky (3:13)
    1. Surrender To Fate (1:16)
    2. Strong Flapping Wings (0:43)
    3. Stable, Lifting Wings (1:10)
  14. 0002 (3:48)
    1. Unknown Figure (0:29)
    2. Mutant (0:50)
    3. Cross Karakorum (0:47)
    4. A Living Island (0:34)
    5. Target X (0:16)
    6. Rushing In (0:39)
  15. The Phoenix Can (3:30)
    1. Visiting Tomorrow (0:23)
    2. We Are The Flock… (1:06)
    3. Daybreak (0:42)
    4. The Immortal Ninja Team (1:10)
  16. Epilogue (1:28)
    1. Ending Theme Song: Gatchaman’s Song (1:28)
      performed by Masato Shimon & The Columbia Cradle Club

Released by: Columbia Nippon
Release date: 1981 (re-released on CD in 1995)
Total running time: 42:59