Symphonic Suite Yamato – music by Hiroshi Miyagawa

Symphonic Suite YamatoI have a problem with a lot of re-recordings of soundtracks. The tempo tends to be wrong, the emphasis is different (or, worse yet, there is none), or the whole thing sounds hollow. Conductors like Cliff Eidelman and Joel McNeely – themselves composers (see, respectively, Star Trek VI and Shadows Of The Empire) – make a living these days off of re-recordings, and labels like Silva Screen – the folks behind Cult Files and Space and Beyond – do re-recording compilations as their bread and butter. But the results aren’t always pretty.

Why do I bring up the whole re-recording issue? Because Symphonic Suite Yamato is, essentially, a rearranged orchestral suite of music from animè series Space Battleship Yamato (known in the English-speaking world as Star Blazers). But what sets this CD apart from other re-recordings is the complete participation of original Yamato composer Hiroshi Miyagawa. He knows the music – he wrote it. He conducts it, too, meaning that we haven’t wound up with a weak, watered-down interpretation of the original. A new interpretation, to be sure, but that’s not a bad thing.

So good, in fact, was the resulting recording that music from Symphonic Suite Yamato – originally intended to be a stand-alone recording – was actually used in later Yamato movies such as The New Voyage.

The suite kicks off with an overture built around the solo female vocal piece “The Universe Spreading Into Infinity”, one of the most haunting, lovely and unforgettable cues featured in the original series. Though it starts out as a female solo vocal again, Miyagawa reinterprets the theme for full orchestra with an absolutely stunning result. As blasphemous as it main seem, the martial main theme associated with the series and movies doesn’t kick in until later, setting the tone for the entirety of Symphonic Suite Yamato: a musical experiment bringing some lesser-known themes to the fore and developing them, as well as some new twists on the better-known pieces.

“Scarlet Scarf”, which was used as the closing title music for the Yamato TV series in Japan (and has seldom been heard in the English-dubbed edition of the series), is taken through some similarly surprising progressions, starting out with the customary mournful rendition and then exploding into a more military sound.

The track titles have little to do with music from specific scenes, and deal more with the moods Miyagawa was attempting to bring across with his new arrangements.

4 out of 4Overall, Symphonic Suite Yamato is a lovely thing to listen to; the closest comparison I can think of in recent American soundtrack music is the first two Babylon 5 soundtracks, which composer Christopher Franke re-sequenced and amended to create new longform compositions which stood on their own. And Symphonic Suite Yamato does it so much better.

Order this CD

  1. Overture (5:22)
  2. The Birth (4:27)
  3. Sashia (1:39)
  4. Trial (2:40)
  5. Take Off (2:56)
  6. Reminiscence (2:10)
  7. Scarlet Scarf (4:27)
  8. Decisive Battle (4:36)
  9. Iskandall (3:32)
  10. Recollection (3:16)
  11. Hope For Tomorrow (5:09)
  12. Stasha (3:16)

Released by: Nippon Columbia Co., Ltd.
Release date: 1977 (released on CD in 1995)
Total running time: 44:27

Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel I

Peter Gabriel IPeter Gabriel’s first solo effort is an eye-opener for this kid who’d heard little of the former Genesis frontman until 1986’s So. I’ve always been impressed and inspired by the vast expanses of Gabriel’s musical style, and his 1977 album is no exception. So much has been made of Gabriel as world music spokesman and human rights activist, I sometimes think we’ve forgotten the splendor of Peter Gabriel, rock musician. The straight-ahead pop of “Solsbury Hill”, the harmonies of “Excuse Me”, and the orchestral-rock anthem “Down The Dolce Vita” speak to that oft-overlooked ability that Gabriel has to synthesize different styles, and come up with tunes that cross genre lines without sounding like cheesy attempts at crossovers. The music is also boosted by Bob Ezrin’s crisp production – I really wish Ezrin had produced the second album as well (which was instead handled by Robert Fripp). While Fripp clearly had a seminal influence on Gabriel, 3 out of 4there’s something clean and uncluttered about Ezrin’s presentation on the first album that I really liked. Rather than cloaking the vocals with layers of instrumentation – and, for the record, contrary to some reports, Peter Gabriel can sing – the vocals were crystal clear here. Come to think of it, so was everything else, and that’s something that I miss occasionally in Peter Gabriel’s thickly layered latter-day output.

Order this CD

  1. Moribund the Burgermeister (4:19)
  2. Solsbury Hill (4:20)
  3. Modern Love (3:37)
  4. Excuse Me (3:20)
  5. Humdrum (3:23)
  6. Slowburn (4:34)
  7. Waiting For The Big One (7:26)
  8. Down The Dolce Vita (4:43)
  9. Here Comes The Flood (5:54)

Released by: Atco
Release date: 1977
Total running time: 42:25

Star Wars – music by John Williams

Star Wars soundtrackLet’s have a show of hands. How many people became soundtrack-collecting addicts after listening to the original Star Wars soundtrack on vinyl approximately seventeen gazillion times in the 1970s? Thought so. Not only is George Lucas credited with salvaging the science fiction film genre from the clutches of pretentious high-concept 2001 wanna-bes and B-movies, but John Williams is credit for reinvinting the art of scoring movies. With Star Wars, it shows – the London Symphony Orchestra is in fine form, and seldom has a composer so thoroughly (or correctly) assessed the dramatic and emotional needs of the movie’s score.

This is the 1997 re-re-re-release, which was unleashed not only to cash in on the premiere of the Special Editions of the original trilogy, but to put the complete score, every note of music recorded for the entire movie, on the record for soundtrack fans. There’s even music that wasn’t heard in the movie:4 out of 4 stars some bonus archival material is included at the end of disc one’s final cut, with several alternate takes of the main theme – but after hearing the umpteenth take on this track, one’s ready to skip to disc two and leave the endless alternate takes to the music students.

    Order this CD in the StoreDisc one:

  1. 20th Century Fox Fanfare (0:23)
  2. Main Title / Rebel Blockade Runner (2:14)
  3. Imperial Attack (6:43)
  4. The Dune Sea of Tatooine / Jawa Sandcrawler (5:01)
  5. The Moisture Farm (2:25)
  6. The Hologram / Binary Sunset (4:10)
  7. Landspeeder Search / Attack Of The Sand People (3:20)
  8. Tales Of A Jedi Knight / Learn The Ways Of The Force (4:29)
  9. Burning Homestead (2:50)
  10. Mos Eisley Spaceport (2:16)
  11. Cantina Band (2:47)
  12. Cantina Band #2 (3:56)
  13. Binary Sunset – alternate version (2:19)
    Star Wars soundtrack - 2004 editionDisc two:

  1. Princess Leia’s Theme (4:27)
  2. The Millennium Falcon / Imperial Cruiser Pursuit (3:51)
  3. Destruction Of Alderaan (1:32)
  4. The Death Star / The Stormtroopers (3:35)
  5. Wookiee Prisoner / Detention Block Ambush (4:10)
  6. Shootout In The Cell / Dianoga (3:48)
  7. The Trash Compactor (3:07)
  8. The Tractor Beam / Chasm Crossfire (5:18)
  9. Ben Kenobi’s Death / TIE Fighter Attack (3:51)
  10. The Battle Of Yavin (9:07)
  11. The Throne Room / End Title (5:38)

Released by: RCA/Victor
Release date: 1997
Disc one total running time: 57:33
Disc two total running time: 48:15