The Voyager Golden Record (remastered)

This isn’t a typical music review, because it can’t be. There’s no single artist whose style can be latched onto and studied; it’s a various artists greatest hits from the breadth and depth of humanity. Perhaps it’s best treated as a historical document than a collection of music.

In 1977, with mere weeks to go before the launch of Voyager 2 (the first Voyager spacecraft to leave Earth), Carl Sagan, Jon Lomberg, Ann Druyan, Frank Drake, Linda Salzman, and Timothy Ferris won last-minute approval to assemble a kind of “time capsule” to attach to each Voyager. Copyright clearances had to be obtained, greetings had to be recorded, the whole thing had to be edited, mastered and pressed onto gold-plated copper records, to be encased in aluminum covers attached to the spacecraft…all in a matter of weeks. Photographs are also encoded onto the records, and those too had to be selected, annotated, and cleared for copyright. It was really something of a shotgun wedding as far as putting a record together goes – and at numerous stages of its development, there were high-ranking NASA officials who made it clear that, as far as they were concerned, Sagan’s greatest hits record could stay on Earth with him. The Golden Record was a bear to put together, and it was a constant struggle to keep it on the flight manifest.

The rapid ramp-up from idea to execution, as well as the state of the art in 1977, means that there’s some unavoidable tape hiss from the original recording media. Ozma Records has done a marvelous job of cleaning everything up as far as sound quality, but sometimes you can’t overcome the limitations of the original medium. The track list is exactly as it was on the LP attached to the Voyager spacecraft (which, as a result of being mastered at a lower speed than 33 1/3, could hold more information).

If you spring for the physical package of either vinyl records or CDs, a book is included with the complete selection of photos included on the original records, as well as essays and memoirs from those involved with the Golden Record who are still with us. I backed the initial Kickstarter for the project, but only up to the digital download level due to budgetary concerns on my end; I’m seriously considering circling back around and buying the Golden Record compilation a second time just for the book.

If there’s a feeling one gets from listening to this message-in-a-bottle thrown through the outer solar system and right through the heliosphere, it’s one of feeling humbled. The wide variety of life and experiences on Earth is mind boggling, and some of the sequencing is canny – the launch of a Saturn V rocket followed by the cries of a human baby. We’re still in our infancy, pushing our way into the universe by brute force, and still trying to figure out how we can survive a journey to another planet within our solar system. The Voyagers are going further – one of the Golden Records has already left the solar system, never to return – bearing a snapshot of our hopes and dreams circa the summer of 1977.

And in the troubled summer of 2017, maybe we need to revisit those hopes and dreams too.

This title is not being given a rating due to its unique nature.

Order this CD

  1. Greetings from the Secretary General of the United Nations – Kurt Waldheim (0:43)
  2. Greetings in 55 languages (3:46)
  3. United Nations greetings / Whalesong (4:04)
  4. The Sounds of Earth (12:18)
    • Music of the Spheres by Laurie Spiegel
    • Volcanoes
    • Earthquake
    • Thunder
    • Mud Pots
    • Wind
    • Rain
    • Surf
    • Crickets
    • Frogs
    • Birds
    • Hyena
    • Elephant
    • Chimpanzee
    • Wild Dog
    • Footsteps
    • Heartbeat
    • Laughter
    • Fire
    • Speech
    • The First Tools
    • Tame Dog
    • Herding Sheep
    • Blacksmith
    • Sawing
    • Tractor
    • Riveter
    • Morse Code
    • Ships
    • Horse and Cart
    • Train
    • Tractor
    • Bus
    • Auto
    • F-111 Flyby
    • Saturn 5 Lift-off
    • Kiss
    • Mother and Child
    • Life Signs
    • Pulsar

  5. Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047: I. Allegro – Munich Bach Orchestra/Karl Richter (4:44)
  6. Ketawang: Puspåwårnå (Kinds of Flowers) – Pura Paku Alaman Palace Orchestra/K.R.T. Wasitodipuro (4:47)
  7. Cengunmé – Mahi musicians of Benin (2:11)
  8. Alima Song – Mbuti of the Ituri Rainforest (1:01)
  9. Barnumbirr (Morning Star) and Moikoi Song – Tom Djawa, Mudpo, and Waliparu (1:29)
  10. El Cascabel (Lorenzo Barcelata) – Antonio Maciel and Los Aguilillas with Mariachi México de Pepe Villa/Rafael Carrión (3:20)
  11. Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry (2:41)
  12. Mariuamang? – Pranis Pandang and Kumbui of the Nyaura Clan (1:25)
  13. Sokaku-Reibo (Depicting the Cranes in Their Nest) – Goro Yamaguchi (5:04)
  14. Bach: Partita for Violin Solo No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006: III. Gavotte en Rondeau – Arthur Grumiaux (2:58)
  15. Mozart: The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte), K. 620, Act II: Hell’s Vengeance Boils in My Heart – Bavarian State Opera Orchestra and Chorus/Wolfgang Sawallisch (3:00)
  16. Chakrulo – Georgian State Merited Ensemble of Folk Song and Dance/Anzor Kavsadze (2:21)
  17. Roncadoras and Drums – Musicians from Ancash (0:55)
  18. Melancholy Blues – Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven (3:06)
  19. Mu?am – Kamil Jalilov (2:35)
  20. Igor Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du Printemps), Part II—The Sacrifice: VI. Sacrificial Dance (The Chosen One) – Columbia Symphony Orchestra/Igor Stravinsky (4:38)
  21. Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II: Prelude & Fugue No. 1 in C Major, BWV 870 – Glenn Gould (4:51)
  22. Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Opus 67: I. Allegro Con Brio – Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer (4:38)
  23. Izlel e Delyu Haydutin – Valya Balkanska (5:04)
  24. Navajo Night Chant, Yeibichai Dance (Ambrose Roan Horse, Chester Roan, and Tom Roan (1:01)
  25. Anthony Holborne: The Fairie Round – Early Music Consort of London/David Munrow (1:19)
  26. Naranaratana Kookokoo (The Cry of the Megapode Bird) – Maniasinimae and Taumaetarau Chieftain Tribe of Oloha and Palasu’u Village Community (1:15)
  27. Wedding Song – Young girl of Huancavelica (0:42)
  28. Liu Shui (Flowing Streams) – Guan Pinghu (7:36)
  29. Bhairavi: Jaat Kahan Ho – Kesarbai Kerkar (3:34)
  30. Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground – Blind Willie Johnson (3:32)
  31. Beethoven:String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Major, Opus 130: V. Cavatina – Budapest String Quartet (6:41)

Released by: Ozma Records
Release date: 2017
Total running time: 1:51:04

V – music by Joe Harnell

VWhen most people (and apparently most compilation/re-recording-happy labels like Silva Screen) think of the music from V, they think of Dennis McCarthy’s theme from the weekly series rather than the music Joe Harnell recorded for the original NBC miniseries that started it all. Fortunately, in the 90s, a “composer promo” (a CD of an otherwise unreleased score shopped around by Hollywood composers to find additional work, and often sold on the sly by the duplication house to cover expenses) of Harnell’s score from V was available, so it’s possible to compare and contrast.

Harnell had previously worked with writer/director Kenneth Johnson on the TV version of The Incredible Hulk, giving that show’s opening titles a surprisingly somber piano treatment where big-screen orchestral bombast would’ve almost seemed like a prerequisite. In the case of V, Johnson had already temp-tracked the rough cut of the miniseries with everything from Beethoven to Holst’s The Planets, and in some cases had specific reasons for doing so (such as allusions to the BBC’s use of the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to announce an embedded message from the Resistance during World War II). So in some cases, rather unusually, it’s pretty easy to determine the music on which Harnell’s material is based, even for those with very little classical music exposure. Mars, Bringer Of War and Neptune, The Mystic from Holst’s The Planets suite, for example, can be heard pretty clearly in places.

Some of Harnell’s more original cues, though in some cases they suffer a little bit from that 80s style of obviously musically telegraphing the scene’s intent to the viewer, are worthy of attention as well. He leans heavily on a small handful of “tension” motifs throughout the score for V, and they’re composed in such as a way as to be endlessly versatile. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the love theme Harnell wrote here, because the first half of it is just beautiful stuff, and the second half descends into clichè a bit; then again, this is a score for a TV miniseries which no one knew would take off like it did, not a concerto for the ages.

The low-key-but-rollicking theme for the Resistance recurs often in the course of the CD, and may well be the most memorable motif Harnell came up with. It’s also a pretty versatile piece of music, as it varies from menace to a heraldic victory march. There’s another call to arms in the form of one of my favorite cues, “Go Tell Your Friends” (also known as the final scene of the first night of the miniseries, in which an elderly Jewish Holocaust survivor tries to stir the spirit of rebellion among some young people who know they need to do something, but just don’t know what). And on the subject of victory marches, Harnell goes all out with the end credits, Gloria Victoria, a triumphant piece that, with a lyrical assist from Kenneth Johnson, turns into a mass. (And I mean “mass” as in “sung in Latin by a choir,” by the way.) Powerful stuff. Maybe unsubtle, but certainly powerful.

Also included is the opening title cue, along with a couple of “street” source cues (i.e. music playing from an on-screen source which the characters can hear, unlike the majority of a dramatic underscore) which haven’t aged well at all, and a version of Gloria Victoria without the choir.

3 out of 4Overall, Joe Harnell’s take on V has aged very well in the past two decades, though a few bits of it haven’t aged quite as gracefully. But it’s an epic effort, and certainly as deserving of a listen as the more frequently-circulated McCarthy music that came later in the franchise.

Order this CD

  1. Opening Titles / Donovan Looks Up (3:25)
  2. “It’s Opening” / Good Luck (3:22)
  3. Just Buddies / Lizard Love (2:56)
  4. Ruthless / The Car / 1st Victim / Flashback (4:20)
  5. Shuttle Buddies / Meal Time / Lizard Wrestling (4:22)
  6. The Resistance (1:52)
  7. Into The Trap / Tony & Donovan Captured (4:32)
  8. Ben’s Flight (2:13)
  9. “Go Tell Your Friends” (1:14)
  10. Abraham’s Music / The Letter (3:04)
  11. Storage Area / Watertanks / Food / Attack (2:46)
  12. Escape From The Mothership / Air Chase / Donovan’s Luck (8:40)
  13. The Wounded Fall / Julie’s Stand / Donovan To The Rescue (2:56)
  14. Kathleen’s Death (2:52)
  15. Finale / Gloria Victoria (1:38)
  16. “V” Theme (1:17)
  17. Elias’ Radio (3:02)
  18. Street Music (2:00)
  19. Gloria Victoria (without choir) (1:34)

Released by: Super Tracks Music
Release date: 1998
Total running time: 58:07

V: The Series – music by Dennis McCarthy

V: The SeriesDennis McCarthy saved the day by rescoring V: The Final Battle for Warner Bros. and NBC, so when the time came to bleed the well of ideas dry for a short-lived weekly series, Dennis was called to compose music for invading lizards once more.

In retrospect, I think his music may be one of the classiest things that V: The Series had in its favor.

Opening up with a much more quickly-paced version of the V: The Final Battle theme as the series main title, the album proceeds quickly into the first episode, where McCarthy pumps things up in an energetic chase sequence which refers to the main title frequently. After the second track, the music slows down and McCarthy begins to display some of the scoring style that has become a mainstay on the various Star Trek spinoffs.

Some of the standouts include the minute-long “Star Child” track, which introduces a choral motif for the now-grown-up Elizabeth, and the following track, “Lift Off Into Space”, jumps back and forth between this choral theme and some nice action segments.

If there’s any one thing which turns me off about McCarthy’s scores for the weekly series, it’s something over 3 out of 4which he may not have had any control. The studio handed the man a decent-sized, well-trained orchestra to use…and then he winds up with a lot of suspiciously synthesized-sounding drums? Give me a break!

Like the V: The Final Battle CD, this composer promo may be worth the search for any big V fans, or fans of Dennis McCarthy’s musical style.

Order this CD

  1. V: The Series main title (4:18)

    Liberation Day

  2. Space Chase (1:06)
  3. Martin’s Death (4:55)


  4. Elizabeth’s Rebirth (1:50)
  5. Enter Diana / Elizabeth Grows Up (1:55)
  6. The Star Child (4:00)
  7. Lift Off Into Space (0:59)
  8. Farewell / Dreadnaught (2:23)

    The Sanction

  9. Elizabeth’s Theme (5:30)
  10. A Sunny Day (2:39)
  11. Kyle and Elizabeth (2:13)

    Visitor’s Choice

  12. Lounge Lizards (1:20)

    The Deception

  13. Seductive Dream (3:08)

    Reflection In Terror

  14. Doppelganger’s Demise (1:57)

    The Conversion

  15. Rats R Us (2:52)

    The Betrayal

  16. Nathan’s End (1:04)
  17. Lizard Courtship (4:35)

    The Rescue

  18. Wedding Fanfare / Banquet Music (4:13)
  19. Reception Music (3:26)
  20. Adios, Charles (4:09)

    The Betrayal

  21. Finale (2:57)
  22. V: The Series end credits (1:57)

Released by: SuperTracks
Release date: 1998
Total running time: 59:13

V: The Final Battle – music by Dennis McCarthy

V: The Final BattleA few years before Star Trek: The Next Generation hit the air, composer Dennis McCarthy was recruited literally at the eleventh hour to rescore V: The Final Battle for Warner Bros. and NBC. The highly anticipated SF mini-series had already been tracked with a synthesizer score which met with the producers’ disapproval – not a welcome problem since they were still scrambling to complete the project after V (and later Alien Nation TV series) creator Kenneth Johnson divorced himself from the project over creative and commercial decisions. McCarthy had to re-score the entire show – and fast, with the broadcast scheduled for less than a month away. The result earned him the assignment to score the entire V weekly series which followed – which, as it turned out, didn’t even last one full season – but also earned him a reputation for turning out good work quickly. The rest is history when Gene Roddenberry and his army of producers started working on Next Generation in 1986.

McCarthy’s music from V: The Final Battle is very much what one would expect from having heard his Star Trek work, though the mini-series producers gave him much freer reign. Percussion is actually heard here. But in the same vein, it’s almost hard to believe how much this music sounds like McCarthy’s Trek work – one motif which begins to appear in “Aqueduct Attack” was actually recycled nearly ten years later – or, to give him the benefit of the doubt, very closely approximated – as McCarthy’s fanfare for Star Trek: Generations! On the one hand, I really do like McCarthy’s style a lot of the time, and I understand the constraints of time weigh heavily on the composer of episodic TV. But this degree of re-use of material almost puts him in a category with Christopher Franke, who slavishly recycled samples, sequences and entire cues in Babylon 5’s later seasons.

On the other hand, there are quite a few good cues, including one scene which everyone is bound to remember with either a fond smile or a groan, the balloon liftoff scene as the Resistance members take to the air with a Visitor-repelling toxin to drive the reptilian invaders back to the safety of their motherships.

4 out of 4All three of the V soundtracks are hard to come across, since they’re composer promos. Composer promos are barely-semi-official releases, more likely to appear on eBay than your local store shelves (I bought these directly from the now-defunct, who pressed them originally). But for fans of McCarthy’s work, as well as V fans (and we know you’re still out there), this might make a worthwhile investment.

Order this CD

  1. V: The Final Battle main theme (2:04)
  2. Lizard Raid (3:48)
  3. New Headquarters / Ruby’s Final Curtain Call (2:09)
  4. Memorial For A Heroine (1:22)
  5. Aqueduct Attack / Planting The Charges / Brad’s Sacrifice (7:18)
  6. The Balloon Theme (1:50)
  7. Maggie Mourns / Maggie And Brad (2:58)
  8. Pop Goes The Lizard / The End Of Father Callahan (3:50)
  9. His Father’s Looks / Lizard Twin Dies / Elizabeth Spits Venom (3:47)
  10. Robin’s Revenge (4:28)
  11. Donovan Really Pissed / Donovan And Tyler Debate The Issue (2:07)
  12. Love Theme (1:16)
  13. Into The Lizard’s Lair / “They Haven’t Got A Chance” (3:34)
  14. V-Day (2:54)
  15. The Doomsday Weapon / Diana Rants And Raves (2:08)
  16. Elizabeth Saves The Day / Diana Escapes / Finale (6:08)

Released by: Super Tracks Music Group
Release date: 1996
Total running time: 52:26