Star Trek: The 50th Anniversary Collection

Star Trek: The 50th Anniversary CollectionIn the early ’90s, I was positively obsessed with Star Trek music – every new movie score released, any new television soundtracks that came along, anything was a cause for celebration, because I was in “maximum Trekkie” mode, and there never seemed to be enough of it.

Fast-forward a bit to the 21st century, in an era where we’re starving for the seemingly perpetually-delayed first new Star Trek TV series in a decade…and yet we’re positively drowning in music from the franchise’s glory days. I’ve gone from “not being to get enough Star Trek music” to “how in the hell do I organize this huge glut of music when I rip the latest box set worth of CDs to my hard drive straight out of the mail?”

Not that I’m complaining. The 50th Anniversary Collection from La-La Land Records is a fine buffet line adding to the embarrassment of riches we’ve gotten since 2009, a year during which the first J.J. Abrams movie (and yes, its soundtrack) came along, revitalized Trek as a media juggernaut, and convinced new Paramount music executive Randy Spendlove that maybe, just maybe, he should license some of the gems from the Trek music vaults to these specialty soundtrack labels that are clamoring to release it.

Rather than a laser-like focus on any one series, this four-disc set tries to patch some holes, right some wrongs, and answer some fannish prayers. The first disc consists, mostly, of remastered selections from the original series, piece of music of which better copies have been found since La-La Land’s monumental 2012 box set release of every note of music recorded for classic Trek. There are a few new 1960s gems as well: Wilbur Hatch’s “bumper” music, played over still slides of the Enterprise and the Star Trek logo as the show went to commercial during its broadcast premieres, is something I don’t think I’ve ever heard before. An alternate take of a cue from Star Trek: The Motion Picture also appears, but the big takeaway from disc one is the dialogue-free version of the end credits from Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, a track which had previously only appeared on CD with the late Leonard Nimoy’s ethereal narration. Fans have been demanding this since Film Score Monthly released an otherwise complete Star Trek II score on CD in 2009, and at last, here it is.

The second disc, however, contains the box set’s biggest knock-me-over-with-a-feather surprises: virtually the entire music library from the 1973-74 Filmation animated Star Trek series, a segment of the franchise that’s often overlooked for no readily justifiable reason. These selections come courtesy not of a miraculous session tape find (stories have circulated for years about how the original tapes no longer exist), but from the box set’s restoration experts and producers painstakingly editing together all of the cues from the audio of the episodes themselves, meticulously splicing together dialogue-and-FX-free sections of music until they had the entire piece of music reconstructed. Fans have been trying to do this since the days of cassette tapes with moderate success, so to hear an expert reconstruction of this music is nothing short of amazing. (Sharp-eared Filmation fans will also recognize a lot of this music from its later reuse in the live-action series Jason Of Star Command.)

As the animated series’ music consists primarily of fairly short cues, the second disc is rounded out with Dennis McCarthy’s all-synth score from the PC game Star Trek: Borg (previously heard on a private-release CD sold by McCarthy himself) and something that I never would’ve anticipated hearing: new Ron Jones Star Trek music. Let me repeat, for emphasis: new Ron Jones Star Trek music. In 1991, Jones was effectively “let go” by the TNG producers for consistently pushing the bounds of both the show’s creative parameters and its music budget, and aside from scoring a couple of late ’90s computer games, Star Trek has been a thing that’s in Jones’ past…until he composed an original three-part concert suite that, free of having to match the timing or editing of film, simply conveys the spirit of Trek as Jones interpreted it. That music makes its debut as a recorded piece here, tacking a new coda onto Jones’ musical legacy with the franchise.

Discs three and four stay with TNG, offering highlights or nearly-complete scores from such episodes as Coming Of Age, Symbiosis, Contagion, The Bonding, The Hunted, Qpid, Tapestry, Parallels, and even the McCarthy-arranged cutdowns of Jerry Goldsmith’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture theme. There’s a nice slice of unreleased tracks from Jay Chattaway’s sophomore TNG effort, Tin Man (a score which, in many ways, he never topped); combined with the tracks released on CD by GNP Crescendo in the 1990s, you now have the entire score from Tin Man. The original synth demos for the Deep Space Nine and Voyager themes are heard for the first time, as well as the premiere of Jay Chattaway’s music from the “Klingon Encounter” ride at the much-missed Star Trek: The Experience attraction at the Las Vegas Hilton. A variety of source music is also made available – Q’s mariachi band from Deja Q, the Brahms string quartet piece from Sarek, and oddball source music from Voyager and Enterprise.

4 out of 4If nothing else on this box set has convinced you what a delightful dive into Trek’s musical deep cuts it is, the last track of the last disc should do it: it’s “Comminique (C)”, the piece of 1988 library techno music that graced TNG’s “next week” trailers in the early 1990s. Were thousands of Trek fans clamoring for this? Probably not, but La-La Land identified and licensed it for this set anyway.

The Star Trek 50th Anniversary Collection probably isn’t for the casual fan of Star Trek soundtracks. It’s for the obsessives, the diehards – the people who are still in “maximum Trekkie” mode and still can’t get enough of it.

Order this CDDisc 1 – Star Trek: The Original Series

  1. Third Season Theme Music – Main Title/End Title (soprano version, stereo) (1:14)
  2. Love Scene (1:15)
  3. Ship in Orbit (Big) (0:40)
  4. Sad and Thoughtful on Captain’s Theme (2:30)
  5. Captain Playoff No. 1 (Heavy) (0:08)
  6. Smooth Neutral Ship Theme (0:41)
  7. Playoff on M.T. Theme (0:23)
  8. Fight on Captain’s Theme (1:50)
  9. Captain Playoff No. 2 (Neutral—Slightly Ominous) (0:12)
  10. Stingers (0:51)
  11. New Sexy Exotic (2:17)
  12. Captain Playoff No. 3 (Sad and Alone) (0:20)
  13. Prime Specimen (“The Cage”) (3:13)
  14. Monster Illusion (“The Cage”) (2:34)
  15. Mr. Spock (“Captain’s Wig” From “The Naked Time”) (3:27)
  16. The Big Go (“The Naked Time”) (2:30)
  17. Mudd’s Perfidy (0:33)
  18. Zap the Cap (1:34)
  19. Zap the Cap take 1 (0:08)
  20. Zap the Cap take 2 (0:06)
  21. Zap the Spaceship (1:28)
  22. Zap the Spaceship (0:34)
  23. Zap the Spaceship (0:08)
  24. Ruk Attacks (1:41)
  25. 2nd Ruth (2:35)
  26. No Mind / Tense Meeting / Tracking the Alien / The Question (2:31)
  27. Survivors (1:42)
  28. Bottled (1:52)
  29. Monster Illusion (2:46)
  30. Monster Illusion (tag) (0:10)
  31. The Kibitzers (0:41)
  32. Vina’s Punishment (1:54)
  33. Vina’s Dance (1:53)
  34. Wrong Think (0:43)
  35. Act 1 Card (0:38)
  36. Crippled Ship (0:55)
  37. Speedy Reader (1:06)
  38. End Title (0:24)
  39. First Goner take 3 (0:48)
  40. First Goner take 4 (0:49)
  41. Dressing Down (0:08)
  42. Monitor Gizzard (0:14)
  43. Monitor Gizzard (0:09)
  44. Lazer Dazer (2:44)
  45. Dodo Girl (0:09)
  46. Drugged (1:23)
  47. Mace Fight (0:59)
  48. Mace Fight (0:18)
  49. Down the Throat (1:13)
  50. Arrows (1:25)
  51. Bumper (broadcast edit) (0:06)
  52. Bumpers (alternates) (0:25)
  53. Paramount Television I.D. (0:05)
  54. Paramount Television I.D. (alternate) (0:04)
  55. Inner Workings (alternate mix) (4:03)
  56. Star Trek II Epilogue / End Title (sans narration) (8:41)

Disc 2 – Star Trek: The Animated Series

  1. Title Theme (1:01)
  2. Captain’s Log (1:19)
  3. Something Ahead (0:54)
  4. Evasive Maneuvers (1:07)
  5. Sensor Data (1:07)
  6. Intercept Course (0:14)
  7. Fire Phasers (0:50)
  8. Enterprise Attacked (1:32)
  9. Illogical (0:13)
  10. Briefing (0:43)
  11. On the Viewscreen (1:02)
  12. New Heading (0:19)
  13. Scanning (0:54)
  14. Deflector Shields (0:19)
  15. Red Alert (0:33)
  16. Battle Stations (0:41)
  17. Surprise (0:07)
  18. Supplemental Log (0:49)
  19. Kirk’s Command (1:11)
  20. Sickbay (0:28)
  21. Library Computer (0:44)
  22. Full Power (0:28)
  23. Approaching Coordinates (0:08)
  24. The Bigger Meaning (1:15)
  25. Trouble in Engineering (0:29)
  26. Spock’s Analysis (0:42)
  27. Enterprise Wins the Space Race (0:43)
  28. McCoy’s Summary (0:16)
  29. Just Another Stardate (0:39)
  30. Ongoing Mission (0:18)
  31. Title Theme (alternate mix) (1:01)
  32. Sensor Data (alternate mix) (1:02)
  33. Enterprise Attacked (alternate opening) (1:42)
  34. Scanning (alternate mix) (0:54)
  35. Turbolift Music (0:29)
  36. Mr. Arex Lends an Extra Hand (0:38)
  37. Fascinating (0:17)
  38. Don’t Mess With M’Ress (0:22)
  39. Oh My (0:17)
  40. Spock’s Quick Analysis (0:22)
  41. Yellow Alert (0:26)
  42. Off Duty (0:15)
  43. Suite: Stingers and Act-Out Music (2:03)
    Music inspired by Star Trek – Ron Jones
  44. The Ascent (7:43)
  45. Meaning (2:27)
  46. Pathway to the Stars (3:17)
    Star Trek: Borg – Dennis McCarthy
  47. Main Theme (1:02)
  48. The Legend of the Borg (1:24)
  49. Battle at Wolf 359 (2:58)
  50. The Battle Rages (0:58)
  51. Club Q (0:55)
  52. I Am Berman of Borg (1:36)
  53. Goldsmith Has Been Assimilated! (1:37)
  54. Welcome to the Collective Cadet (2:22)
  55. Searching the Borg Ship (2:20)
  56. Time Is Running Out (1:17)
  57. Escape From the Borg Collective (1:42)
  58. Borg Hell (2:03)
  59. You Will Be Assimilated, Have a Nice Day (2:21)
  60. “Resistance Is Futile, My Ass!” / Finale (7:25)
  61. End Titles (1:03)

Disc 3 – Star Trek: The Next Generation

  1. Star Trek: The Next Generation Main Title (1st season, alternate take) (1:48)
    Coming Of Age
  2. Physics / Shuttle Fuss (3:35)
  3. Air Bounce (2:04)
  4. Competition (2:14)
  5. Decisions (2:04)
    Symbisos
  6. Flares (3:04)
  7. Precious Cargo (2:10)
  8. Four Out of Six (1:03)
    Unnatural Selection
  9. Searchin’ (1:10)
    The Measure Of A Man
  10. Memories (1:19)
    Contagion
  11. U.S.S. Yamato / Vaporized (1:22)
  12. Floral Tea / Otis’ Revenge (2:07)
  13. Romulan Misfire / Phasers / Escape / Goodbye Iconia (2:27)
    The Survivors
  14. Diversion (2:16)
    The Bonding
  15. Dad / Mom’s Double (2:04)
  16. Release / Ceremonial Worf / Off Into Space (4:01)
    The Enemy
  17. Into the Pit (3:01)
    The Hunted
  18. Escape Artist / Melee (3:28)
  19. Breakout (0:32)
  20. Phased / Geordi (4:14)
  21. Confronted / To the Stars (3:30)
    Sins Of The Father
  22. Condemned (1:22)
    Transfigurations
  23. Lookin’ Fine (1:44)
  24. Lazarus (3:48)
  25. Choke Hold / Explanatory / El Ascencio (5:11)
    Future Imperfect
  26. Delusionary (4:08)
    Tapestry
  27. Saint Q (2:05)
  28. It’s a Wonderful Life / Deja Vuosity / War Stories (3:18)
    Parallels
  29. Instant Family (2:42)
  30. Wolfman Riker (3:09)
    Trailer music
  31. Theme From Star Trek: The Motion Picture (30-second version) (0:33)

Disc 4

    Theme From Star Trek (“Gene Roddenberry 1921–1991” unused alternate) (0:10)
    Tin Man

  1. Soft / Student (1:04)
  2. Unique / Welcome / Data (0:48)
  3. Problems / Land of Living (1:41)
  4. Scared (broadcast version) (0:47)
  5. One Way Trip (1:08)
  6. All of It (0:57)
    Deja Q
  7. Tractor Moon / Hoisted (2:58)
  8. La Paloma (traditional) (1:13)
  9. Coffin Spike (0:45)
    Captain’s Holiday
  10. Planet Vegas (1:12)
    Qpid
  11. Hat Trick / Sir Guy / Nottingham Castle / Maid Marian (unused) / Betrayed (3:21)
  12. To the Block / Swordplay / Game’s Over (4:16)
  13. Adieu (1:04)
  14. Plucking Three (0:13)
    Elementary, Dear Data
  15. Sherlock Tones (0:55)
  16. Dead End / Turtleback (2:36)
  17. Short Goodbye (1:21)
    Ship In A Bottle
  18. Holo Tolodo! (4:02)
    Clues
  19. Peace Dividends / Gloria / Blown Away (1:39)
    Manhunt
  20. Juke Boxer (3:29)
  21. How High the Moon (3:36)
    Star Trek: First Contact
  22. Moonlight Becomes You (2:55)
    Unification II
  23. Andorian Blues (0:37)
  24. Aktuh and Maylota (0:49)
  25. Melor Famigal (0:58)
    Lessons
  26. Picard and Nella, Date #1 (Picard’s Cabin) (2:43)
  27. Picard and Nella, Date #2 (Jefferies Tube) (2:22)
    Sarek
  28. Sextet #1 in B-flat Major, Op. 18 (II, Andante) (1:53)
    Star Trek: The Experience
  29. Klingon Encounter (4:24)
  30. Borg Invasion 4D (7:22)
    Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
  31. Main Title Demo (1:59)
  32. Single Bridge Demo (2:24)
    Star Trek: Voyager
  33. Main Title Demo (1:51)
  34. Lookover / Maiden Voyager (1:34)
  35. Opera Alla Alienosity (1:11)
    Star Trek: Enterprise
  36. Dance-O-Matic (2:28)
    Trailer music
  37. Communique (C) (2:33)

Released by: La-La Land Record
Release date: November 25, 2016
Disc one total running time: 1:16:13
Disc two total running time: 1:17:23
Disc three total running time: 1:18:57
Disc four total running time: 1:18:57
Box set total running time: 5:16:50

Star Trek: Music From The Video Games

Star Trek: Music From The Video GamesBSX Records has made something of a niche for itself with its series of re-arrangements (or more sweeping reinterpretations) of soundtrack music, whether its albums fixate on specific franchises such as Battlestar Galactica or Twilight, or the works of specific composers. One of BSX’s primary collaborators on these “cover” albums, synth wizard Dominik Hauser, turns his attention to the playable side of the Star Trek franchise with Star Trek: Music From The Video Games.

A long overdue side-step into the non-televised Trek universe, this collection focuses primarily on the games’ theme music, with only one game (Star Trek: Borg, composed by Trek TV composer Dennis McCarthy) deemed worthy of wider exposure. This is a bit of a pity: the original recordings of Star Trek: Borg‘s entire score have already been released by McCarthy, while games with very nice scores (Elite Force springs instantly to mind, since its theme music is represented here) still have no official score release. Hauser’s modern takes on McCarthy’s Borg soundtrack are quite nice, since he’s working with better synths and samples than McCarthy had at his disposal in the 1990s, but some of the other games’ scores could’ve used some of the same TLC.

Another oddity I have to question is the Star Trek: Bridge Commander theme – it’s basically the end credit suite from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, with no original material specific to the game. Surely something that isn’t already in wide release could have filled that space.

3 out of 4BSX could mine this corner of the Star Trek universe again easily. Most of the Star Trek video and computer games have fine scores that have not been released in any way that the average Trek music fan can access, leaving a rich vein of material to choose from. Despite my reservations about this release, though it’s expertly arranged and performed, I hope it is but the first of a series whose future volumes may prove to be much more interesting.

Order this CD

  1. Star Trek: Online Main Title (2:41)
  2. Star Trek: Starfleet Academy Main Title (4:08)
  3. Star Trek: Starfleet Command Main Title (3:53)
  4. Star Trek: Starfleet Command III Main Title (1:11)
  5. Star Trek: Legacy Main Title (2:24)
  6. Star Trek: Legacy – Kirk’s Theme (2:34)
  7. Star Trek: Aramada II Main Title (2:03)
  8. Star Trek The Next Generation: Birth of the Federation (1:19)
  9. Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force Main Title (1:50)
  10. Star Trek: Away Team – Introduction (1:47)
  11. Star Trek: Klingon Honor Guard – Kelshar (2:44)
  12. Star Trek: Klingon – Warrior’s Poem (2:19)
  13. Star Trek: Bridge Commander Main Title (4:07)

    Complete score from Star Trek: Borg

  14. Main Title (1:05)
  15. Legend of the Borg (1:25)
  16. Battle at Wolf 359 (2:57)
  17. The Battle Rages (0:58)
  18. Club Q (1:00)
  19. I Am Berman of Borg (1:39)
  20. Goldsmith Has Been Assimilated (1:38)
  21. Welcome to the Collective, Cadet (2:25)
  22. Searching the Borg Ship (2:23)
  23. Time is Running Out (1:19)
  24. Escape from the Borg Collective (1:45)
  25. Borg Hell (2:02)
  26. You Will be Assimilated. Have a Nice Day (2:24)
  27. Resistance is Futile, My Ass! (2:57)
  28. Finale (4:33)
  29. End Title (1:04)

Released by: BSX Records / Buysoundtrax.com
Release date: 2013
Total running time: 64:34

Dark Void – music by Bear McCreary

Dark Void - music by Bear McCrearyBest known for his densely percussive music for the revival of Battlestar Galactica, composer Bear McCreary makes no secret of his lifelong love of video games. If anything, that fixation is on display: a picture published on his blog several years ago reveals that the external hard drives containing the raw recording sound files of his sessions aren’t labeled with numbers or obvious names like “Galactica sessions”… instead, they’re named after characters from Capcom‘s Mega Man games, complete with colorful labels. So it’s fitting that Capcom should give McCreary his first shot at scoring a video game – but Dark Void definitely doesn’t sound like Mega Man.

For one thing, McCreary refused to back down on his requirements for a real orchestra, real percussionists, and so on; Dark Void‘s music budget almost certainly took off like it had a jetpack of its own… but hey, it’s Bear McCreary. Sales of the soundtrack album almost certainly recouped what was an unusually large music budget for a video game – even in this day and age of games whose costs run into the millions of dollars and years of development.

And the music itself? Put simply, if you loved McCreary’s music for the Galactica finale, Daybreak (which is also out on CD), you’ll dig Dark Void. The music is fairly different – there aren’t any melodic similarities between Galactica’s heroic musical warfare and Dark Void‘s wistful main theme. But the execution is similar: the same blend of orchestra, a wall of exotic percussion and unusual instruments gives it the same feel as Galactica, without playing identical music.

And as for the 8-bit Mega Man tunes McCreary fell in love with before his mega-career in film music kicked off? He does chiptunes too (though we knew that from the Eureka soundtrack): the album closes out with an authentic, NES-style rendition of the Dark Void theme. McCreary did this track on his own time as an in-joke for the folks at Capcom, and they wound up inventing an entire extra game around it (the equally 8-bit-flavored DSware title Dark Void Zero, 4 out of 4which will have its own full soundtrack release as well). Talk about a composer influencing the project he’s working on!

Whether or not you’ve played the game, Dark Void is an outstanding treat for McCreary fans who may be mourning the end of “the Galactica sound.” The Dark Void score is like an unexpected encore at the end of a great concert.

Order this CD

  1. Theme From Dark Void (2:56)
  2. Prologue and Main Title (2:10)
  3. Village Attack (1:47)
  4. A Mysterious Jungle (4:20)
  5. Altar Sacrifice (1:09)
  6. Archon (3:19)
  7. Ava and the Rocket (2:01)
  8. Tesla’s Laboratory (1:21)
  9. The Prophesized One (2:58)
  10. Taking Flight (2:21)
  11. Crash Site (3:09)
  12. Void Requiem (7:49)
  13. Ava and Tesla Return (0:47)
  14. Above The Canopy (5:01)
  15. Hieroglyphs and Betrayal (3:03)
  16. Defending The Ark (5:45)
  17. The Collector (3:18)
  18. Survivor Camp Combat (6:17)
  19. The Watcher Airship (2:52)
  20. Watcher Prison (3:19)
  21. The Imperator (1:22)
  22. Will and Ava (1:52)
  23. The Dweller (3:46)
  24. Ava’s Sacrifice (3:17)
  25. Will At The River (0:38)
  26. Dark Void End Credits (2:02)
  27. Discuss it in our forum

  28. Theme from Dark Void (Mega Version Bonus Track) (1:53)

Released by: Sumthing
Release date: 2010
Total running time: 79:33

Reset Generation – music by 8-Bit Weapon

Reset Generation - music by 8-Bit WeaponA collection of short, punchy instrumental pieces composed for Nokia’s Reset Generation game – which itself pays tribute to numerous games of yesteryear – 8-Bit Weapon’s soundtrack has a lot in common with the old video games that I like: the tunes are addictive, make me want to come back for more, and don’t hang around long enough to get old. Not a bad combination, really.

One thing that may throw listeners off, however, is the brevity I’m talking about above: many of the tracks barely clock in at over one minute, and many of them begin and end very abruptly. The latter is no accident: the tracks are meant to “loop” repeatedly during specific scenes and levels of Reset Generation itself. Fortunately, the tracks are timed out in such a way that one tune’s end leads directly into the next track almost seamlessly. Any one track by itself might seem to be an abrupt listening experience, but the entire soundtrack is a fun listen.

Highlights include “Power Up Pumpin'”, “Micro Anthem 2a03” (named after the NES’ sound chip), “64 Rocker”, “Rock Music Entry 6581” and the Leviathan mix of the Reset Generation theme – to name just a few. Those are just my favorites, but to an extent, all of the Reset Generation tracks are earworms that will prove difficult to dislodge from your head after you’ve heard them.

Included as a bonus track is “2D Died”, a riff on Don McLean’s “American Pie” (as in “the day 2D [gaming] died”) which does a great job of updating the original song into a chiptune extravaganza with vocoder-ized vocals. My one issue with “2D Died” is the same issue I have with “American Pie” itself (or, for that matter, “Sweet Home Alabama”: the first three minutes or so are okay, and after that I start looking at track time remaining because the same melody/chord structure is just repeating. I don’t know if that’s even 4 out of 4something to dock points for: 8-Bit Weapon is only paying homage to the 7+ minute original. And in any case, I like it better than Madonna’s update of the same song, but it’s just not something I feel compelled to listen to repeatedly, though its lyrics are pretty clever. But the rest of the album – which, by the way, can be downloaded free via the link below – is 8-Bit Weapon gold: repeat listening is compulsory (and with the loop-ready nature of the tracks, it’s even repeat-button-friendly!).

Order this CD

  1. Reset Generation Anthem (3:42)
  2. Aphex Tweek (1:26)
  3. Dungeon Derivative (0:54)
  4. Blip Bwop (1:16)
  5. Little Lost Lazer Boy (1:01)
  6. Lethargic Menace (1:16)
  7. Bubble Twin Bonanza (1:04)
  8. Where Fools Tread (1:01)
  9. Chiptune Chump (1:19)
  10. Commodore Base (1:20)
  11. Micro Anthem 2a03 (1:35)
  12. 64 Rocker (1:12)
  13. Krafty Noob (1:16)
  14. Tricky Game (1:04)
  15. Reset Generation Anthem – Leviathan Mix (1:22)
  16. Nin10do Raver (0:59)
  17. Breakin’ Bits (1:20)
  18. Macro Boogie (0:57)
  19. Power Up Pumpin’ (1:20)
  20. BootySoft Inc. (0:57)
  21. Corrupt Conscript Festival (1:25)
  22. SID Vicious (1:55)
  23. Rock Music Entry 6581 (1:04)
  24. Reset Generation Anthem – Sinister Mix (1:13)
  25. 2D Died (7:43)

Released by: 8-Bit Weapon / Nokia
Release date: 2008
Total running time: 39:41

Universe At War: Earth Assault – music by Frank Klepacki

Universe At War: Earth AssaultThe latest real-time strategy PC gaming experience from Petroglyph Games is also the latest epic soundtrack from veteran game composer Frank Klepacki, and while I’ll admit I haven’t had a chance to check out Universe At War itself (something strange happens to my urges to blow stuff up when I have to bottle-feed a baby every few hours), the music alone makes me want to.

Which may be a big part of the reason why the game’s entire soundtrack – three CDs’ worth clocking in at over two hours – is available free online. As with many of the previous games scored by Klepacki, there are several factions with whom players can ally themselves, and each faction has its own robust selection of music, ranging from raging action to more menacingly low-key music while building up resources for the next attack (or the next last-ditch defense). And as with many of his past projects, the music for each playable side kicks butt in its own way.

The Hierarchy music is the sort of thing that Command & Conquer Players will remember well – crunchy guitars, percussion that doesn’t take prisoners, and driving beats aplenty. If that’s what you’re coming for, you won’t go home disappointed. The selection of music for the Novus faction is more electronica-driven, with a mysterious sound. There’s still plenty of distorted guitar in here, but the emphasis is on more obviously synthetic instruments and motifs. The dreamy “Technical Data” and the aggressive “Zap” are highlights here.

But by far the real meat and potatoes of the Universe At War score is the Masari music, which includes the game’s opening theme and end credits. The Masari tracks are blow-the-walls-down, theatrical orchestral-operatic epics – while listening to “Divine Intervention”, I was thinking “someone hurry up and make a great kick-ass action movie to go with this great kick-ass music.” This stuff knocks it out of the park repeatedly, and reinforces my total bewilderment as to how the man has managed to dodge a major movie assignment. Sooner or later, that’s gotta catch up with him. The end credits suite, combining elements from all three factions’ themes with a thundering techno beat layered in for good measure, makes me want to jump up out of my seat and empty a clip of ammo into something – it’s some of the best action music I’ve heard in years. (And I’m not prone to wanting to get up and fire away, so that should tell you something!)

4 out of 4It’s hard to go wrong with some free music, and for the sheer quantity of tracks that you get for a little bit of download time here, you’re almost certain to find something you like. Since this is a free download in support of a commercially available product, it’s only fair to recommend that you support the composer and developer by buying Universe At War: Earth Assault in theLogBook.com Store if you’re so inclined.

FREE DOWNLOAD

    Hierarchy

  1. Damage King (3:43)
  2. Doom of the Aliens (3:26)
  3. On Edge (2:20)
  4. Anticipating (2:41)
  5. Slithering (3:09)
  6. Schematic (1:45)
  7. Mechanical Brain (3:53)
  8. Strangers Attack (3:22)
  9. Impending Doom (2:58)
  10. Prepare For Oblivion (3:09)
  11. Surrounding (5:00)
  12. Haunt (3:55)
    Novus

  1. Modern Design (3:53)
  2. Act On Invasion (3:19)
  3. Electrode (4:04)
  4. Calculations (2:23)
  5. Bass Case (3:43)
  6. Moving Forces (3:05)
  7. Technical Data (3:30)
  8. Roots (3:38)
  9. Hit And Run (3:05)
  10. Fog Of War (3:44)
  11. Composite (3:23)
  12. Resources (3:08)
  13. Zap (2:41)
    Masari

  1. Divine Intervention (theme for Universe At War) (3:26)
  2. Reanimation (3:35)
  3. Surveying The Land (2:34)
  4. Resurfaced (3:00)
  5. Mind In Motion (2:28)
  6. Display Of Power (2:41)
  7. Disturbance (3:48)
  8. Dark Intrusion (2:52)
  9. The Gathering (3:53)
  10. Ancient Presence (3:06)
  11. Masari Suite (Suspended, Architecture, Masari Victory) (3:45)
  12. Credits: Universe At War Remix Suite (3:40)

Released by: Petroglyph Games / Frank Klepacki
Release date: 2008
Total running time: 121:45

Star Trek: Borg – music by Dennis McCarthy

Star Trek: BorgComposed to accompany the 1996 CD-ROM game Star Trek: Borg, the music on this CD was recently released by Dennis McCarthy, who also composed more episodes of the various Star Trek spinoffs than anyone else. However, if you’re expecting more of that relatively sedate sound here, you may be in for a shock. Star Trek: Borg may have looked like a television episode, what with John de Lancie starring and Jonathan Frakes directing, but freed from the restrictions usually placed on the scoring of Star Trek TV episodes, the music is quite a bit more involved than you may be expecting.

While Borg lacked the restrictions of the TV series’ music, it also lacked the budget that the TV series – at least in 1996 – lavished on music. McCarthy relies on frequent-flyer collaborator Kevin Kiner to bring his orchestrated score to life, and if there’s really a weak point with the Borg soundtrack, that’s where it is, but more due to the state of synthesizer/sequencer technology than the talent involved. (McCarthy and Kiner collaborated on many future projects where their music had to be synthesized instead of played by a real orchestra, including McCarthy’s Stargate SG-1 scores and, ultimately, the reduced-budget final season of Star Trek: Enterprise.) The orchestral textures just aren’t quite “real,” though it’s no exaggeration to say that the technology to achieve this has improved by leaps and bounds since 1996.

The style is also very different from McCarthy’s usual Trek “house style,” with some of the short cues almost resembling some of Jerry Goldsmith’s “spacedock” music from the first Star Trek movie (including one cue explicitly labeled “Goldsmith Has Been Assimilated”). The synth-chorus as a signature sound for the Borg is also revived here as well. There’s a recurring “orchestral stab” sound also used in conjunction with the Borg, but without the accompanying visuals, this makes the music sound like a late ’80s/early ’90s horror movie score. There are a few hints of McCarthy’s trademark panoramic chords from his TV Treks, but overall it’s very different.

The final three tracks are comprised of music McCarthy created for the “Borg Invasion 4-D” ride at the Las Vegas Hilton’s Star Trek Experience, and there’s a huge world of difference here (then again, we’re talking about an 8-year gap). The Borg Invasion suites are some of the most invigorating music I’ve heard from Dennis McCarthy, sounding both more like his usual Trek TV music and less like it (with pulsating guitar samples and almost Matrix-y passages) at the same time. The series would’ve benefitted tremendously from allowing him to cut loose on the music like this.

One can only hope that maybe the composer can sneak out some of the better examples of his Star Trek TV music on CD in private pressings like this, though from a rights perspective, there’s probably a vast difference 3 out of 4in doing that with this material and music composed for TV shows that are still, on DVD at least, a going concern. There are quite a few I could nominate (namely “The Homecoming” / “The Circle” / “The Siege” trilogy that opened Deep Space Nine’s second season) but only time will tell if Dennis McCarthy will keep sneaking gems from the Star Trek music archives out of the vaults for us. At the time of this writing, Star Trek: Borg is still available from the composer’s web site.

Order this CD

  1. Main Theme (1:02)
  2. The Legend Of The Borg (1:24)
  3. Battle At Wolf 359 (2:58)
  4. The Battle Rages (0:58)
  5. Club Q (0:55)
  6. “I Am Berman Of Borg” (1:37)
  7. “Goldsmith Has Been Assimilated!” (1:37)
  8. “Welcome To The Collective, Cadet” (2:21)
  9. Searching The Borg Ship (2:21)
  10. Time Is Running Out (1:17)
  11. Escape From The Borg Collective (1:44)
  12. Borg Hell (2:03)
  13. “You Will Be Assimilated, Have A Nice Day” (2:21)
  14. “Resistance Is Futile, My Ass!” / Finale (7:28)
  15. End Titles (1:02)
  16. Borg Invasion Suite Part 1 (6:32)
  17. Borg Invasion Suite Part 2 (2:51)
  18. Borg Invasion Suite Part 3 (7:24)

Released by: DennisMcCarthy.com
Release date: 2007
Total running time: 48:21

The Mario & Zelda Big Band Live CD

Recorded in concert in September 2003, this CD is literally what the package says – a series of themes and in-game music from Shigeru Miyamoto’s Super Mario and Zelda games, going all the way back to the originals, but arranged for a smokin’ big band. On the surface of it, this may sound a bit silly, but the combination of a great band and some inventive arrangements reveal that there was enough depth in the original music to bring out some swing.

Though the big band pieces are played by the Big Band of Rogues or the Yoshihiro Arita Band, Ashura Benimaru Itoh presses the “start” button with a brief acoustic guitar medley of Super Mario themes to thunderous applause. The early tracks focus primarily on the early games in the Mario series, including a surprisingly effective a capella scat medley of the various original Super Mario themes. For everything that I saw on the tracklist where I laughed at the very thought of it, I was very pleasantly surprised. Bearing in mind that the concert was recorded in Japan, keep in mind that this wasn’t a tongue-in-cheek presentation – the characters from these games are cultural icons there, even moreso than they are across the Pacific.

The beauty and brilliance of this whole thing is that the arrangers were unafraid to reinterpret the material and completely shift some cultural paradigms. There’s a Yoshi theme which is reinterpreted as a pleasant, toe-tapping bluegrass instrumental. The memorable Legend Of Zelda main theme is recast as a dashing flamenco piece. “The Song Of Epona” (from Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time) becomes a lovely Hawaiian-style number – you can almost see palm trees. And it all works. Most of this material I’d never envisioned this way, and now it’s hard for me to imagine it any other way.

4 out of 4There’s one drawback to the whole thing – for some reason, the whole CD is mastered at a surprisingly low level. You have to crank your speakers to hear it in detail, and worse yet, the volume level is not consistent from track to track. As bold and brassy as much of this music is, some more dynamic mastering wouldn’t have come amiss, though a mere three-month gap between the concert itself and the CD’s release may explain that quirk. It’s still worth a listen.

Order this CD

  1. Opening Theme Of Mario (2:23)
  2. Super Mario 64 Opening Theme / Overworld Theme (4:40)
  3. Medley Of Super Mario Bros. (4:24)
  4. Mario Scat Version (Super Mario Sunshine) (2:06)
  5. Go Go Mario (3:36)
  6. Super Mario Bros. 3 Ending Theme (2:42)
  7. Theme Of Athletic (Yoshi’s Island) (4:17)
  8. Yoshi On The Beach (Yoshi’s Story) (3:13)
  9. The Legend Of Zelda: Takt Of Wind – Title Theme (7:27)
  10. Theme Of Dragon Roost Island (4:21)
  11. The Song Of Epona (4:06)
  12. Theme Of The Dolphic Town (4:27)
  13. The Zora Band (4:42)
  14. Theme Of Goron City (3:52)
  15. Theme Of The Shop (3:18)
  16. Medley Of The Legend Of Zelda (4:32)
  17. Ending Theme Of Super Mario Sunshine (4:29)
  18. Encore (Slider) (6:38)

Released by: Scitron Digital
Release date: 2003
Total running time: 75:13