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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