Space Battleship Yamato Part 2 – Hiroshi Miyagawa

Space Battleship Yamato 2 soundtrackWhen Leiji Matsumoto’s epic space opera Space Battleship Yamato (later imported to the U.S. as Star Blazers) proved to be a success in Japan, the show’s landmark first season was rewritten and compressed into a movie with new (and, in many cases, improved) animation. The movie also went over well, so a second film was created, though it made the ill-advised move of killing off the entire crew of the Yamato in a fateful battle with the Comet Empire.

One little problem: that movie also went over well, creating even more of a demand. So the movie was rewritten and expanded into enough scripts to cover another season of the TV series, a season which left the crew alive at the end to continue their adventures on both the big and small screens.

This is the soundtrack to that movie, which was also used for the TV reworking of the story.

Now that the history lesson is out of the way, let’s talk music. There is a vast difference between this soundtrack and the soundtrack of the first season’s music in terms of both sound quality and, on a less technical level, the sophistication of the music itself.

Many of the same cues heard in season one were reused in season two, but the technical and musical improvements are perhaps most detectable in the recycled cues. “The Mystery Of Space” is a solemn variation on “The Universe Spreading To Infinity”, one of my favorite pieces from the original season one soundtrack. In this case, it underscores the Yamato’s crew gathering at a memorial for their fallen captain at Hero’s Hill. And the effect, even without the visuals is spectacular.

In other tracks that revamp season one’s signature themes, the overall effect is bigger and bolder – brassy cues blast even louder than they did originally, and the funky cues with rock instrumentation crank it up that much more in this recording. The larger orchestra used for these sessions almost has the same impact of the 4 out of 4excellent Symphonic Suite Yamato.

Knowing in advance that Space Battleship Yamato Part 2 featured much music that had already been used in the first soundtrack, I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. It’s both an excellent collection of music and a pleasant surprise.

Order this CD

  1. The Silence Of Space (1:04)
  2. The Mystery Of Space (1:45)
  3. Iscandar (1:43)
  4. The Universe Spreading To Infinity (1:05)
  5. Yamato’s Theme (1:28)
  6. Yamato Takes Flight! (1:30)
  7. Courageous Yamato (1:12)
  8. Yamato’s Battle (1:07)
  9. Wounded Yamato (0:59)
  10. Rise Up, Yamato! (0:45)
  11. Desler’s Bolero (1:04)
  12. Meditation (1:41)
  13. Desler’s Tactics (2:32)
  14. Complications (1:47)
  15. Imprisonment (0:44)
  16. The Rival I (3:00)
  17. Kodai And Dessler’s Friendship (1:27)
  18. The Rival II (1:22)
  19. Reminiscence (2:10)
  20. Menace In Space (1:49)
  21. Appearance And Attack (0:47)
  22. Comet Empire Fleet Sorties! (1:09)
  23. Battle Theme (1:18)
  24. Comet Empire Emperor Zordar (0:37)
  25. Great Love (1:58)
  26. Reunion (1:30)
  27. Thoughts Toward The Stars (1:00)
  28. Tears Of Love (0:47)
  29. Melody Of Love (1:58)
  30. Andromeda (1:30)
  31. Yamato Opening Theme (1:29)
  32. Yamato Reunion (2:03)
  33. Teresa’s Theme (1:15)
  34. Mystery Of Planet Telezart (0:43)
  35. Teresa’s Love Theme (2:20)
  36. Various Endings (3:40)
  37. The Scarlet Scarf (1:54)

Released by: Nippon Columbia
Release date: 1995
Total running time: 56:38

Command & Conquer – music by Frank Klepacki

Command & ConquerIt may have been a little ahead of its time, but the soundtrack from Westwood’s acclaimed real-time strategy computer game Command & Conquer could almost earn the subtitle “music that could have been, but wasn’t, in The Matrix.” Frank Klepacki’s richly textured pieces rely heavily on techno, primarily because it’s easy to loop seamlessly (which is a requirement when scoring a video game). But while he could’ve just set the war machine on autopilot for these tracks, Klepacki made a real effort to vary the sound of each individual piece. Standouts include “Radio”, “Drone”, “Rain In The Night” and “Target”, all notable for a nice, uneasy but not overbearingly bombastic atmosphere, just the sort of doom-laden tension you need for a war game.

Klepacki leans very heavily on speech samples throughout the soundtrack, which is something I probably could have lived without; in a few tracks, such as “Just Do It Up” and “Act On Instinct”, the constant bits of movie dialogue, news clips and whatnot become a distraction against the music.

3 out of 4Westwood sold copies of the Command & Conquer soundtrack through their web site for several years, and copies have also been known to be included with bundled versions of the game with its expansion packs (and, most recently, included in a music bundle at Best Buy stores with Red Alert 2). However, the C&C score is now out of print. It’s worth the effort to find, however, if you have a taste for this particular genre of music.

Order this CD

  1. Act On Instinct (2:52)
  2. No Mercy (3:21)
  3. Industrial (2:53)
  4. Iron Fist (3:30)
  5. We Will Stop Them (3:09)
  6. Radio (3:01)
  7. On The Prowl (3:02)
  8. Re-Con (4:22)
  9. Drone (4:32)
  10. In The Line Of Fire (2:04)
  11. Prepare For Battle (3:29)
  12. Depth Charge (4:15)
  13. Rain In The Night (2:34)
  14. Creeping Upon (3:37)
  15. Target (2:52)
  16. Just Do It Up (2:22)
  17. C&C Thang (3:12)
  18. To Be Feared (2:45)
  19. Drill (4:27)
  20. Full Stop (3:01)
  21. In Trouble (3:32)
  22. Airstrike (3:17)

Released by: Westwood Studios / Electronic Arts
Release date: 1995
Total running time: 72:09

Animaniacs Variety Pack – music by Richard Stone

Animaniacs Variety PackOne of my few good memories about programming during the time I worked at a Fox affiliate in the early 1990s is Animaniacs, a Warner Bros.-produced cartoon with plenty of jokes that would fly in under the kids’ radar and give a big belly laugh (or maybe just a knowing smirk) to any adults who happened to be watching with their kids.

God, but I miss that show. With almost as many pop culture references as Mystery Science Theater 3000, and rollicking good fun to boot, Animaniacs is still probably underrated today.

It’s easy to dismiss cartoon music these days as being nothing but an ongoing pastiche of the works of Golden Age toon tunemeister Carl Stalling, but every once in a great while the right show is paired with the right composer, and you get magic. Richard Stone’s work on Animaniacs is an excellent example of this.

Animaniacs Variety Pack is the second Animaniacs album to come down the pike, and it’s also the better of the two, with more of the songs that fans both young and old probably wanted from the first one: the theme songs from Pinky & The Brain and Slappy Squirrel stand out foremost in my mind there. A personal favorite of mine is “Variety Speak”, an affectionately goofy homage to the kind of entertainment-industry lingo which brought us such headlines as the infamous “Hix Nix Stix Pix.” The constant recurrance of “All The Words In The English Language” can be a bit annoying if you’re not in the right frame of mind…but then again, if you 3 out of 4weren’t in that frame of mind, I doubt you’d be listening to Animaniacs Variety Pack, now would you?

My one complaint: like the earlier Animaniacs song CD, Variety Pack weighs in at a little under a paltry half-hour. Even with a grand total of barely an hour of music from the series available, I know that more good tunes came out of this show than that.

Order this CD

  1. Variety Speak (1:57)
  2. The Monkey Song (2:52)
  3. All The Words In The English Language, Part 1 (1:01)
  4. Pinky And The Brain (1:30)
  5. Cheese Roll Call (2:32)
  6. Multiplication (1:29)
  7. Dot’s Song (0:44)
  8. Dot’s Quiet Time (1:39)
  9. All The Words In The English Language, Part 2 (1:13)
  10. Slappy Squirrel Theme (0:33)
  11. Wakkos’s Two-Note Song (2:05)
  12. The Presidents (3:20)
  13. The Anvil Song (0:50)
  14. At The Big Wrap Party Tonight (2:57)
  15. All The Words In The English Language, Part 3 (1:00)
  16. The Goodbye Song (0:32)

Released by: Kid Rhino
Release date: 1995
Total running time: 26:14

Yamato 2520 – music by David Mathes and Kentarou Hata

Yamato 2520In 1995, without the help of Leiji Matsumoto, who was instrumental in the creation of the original Space Battleship Yamato, Yoshinobu Nishizaki tried to launch a “Yamato: The Next Generation” of sorts, Yamato 2520, set 100 years after the original Yamato’s adventures came to a fiery end. With no concrete connection to the original Yamato characters or settings – i.e., no mention of the Gamilons, Iscandar, or the Comet Empire – the series chronicled the voyages of a small group of young people from a divided future Earth who discover the plans for the original Yamato, and use them to build a ship that manages to look almost completely unlike it.

The show lasted only six episodes before production and financial difficulties closed up the animation shop, and creator Nishizaki later wound up in prison, leaving former partner Matsumoto to take the reigns of the Yamato license and the franchise. Many fans now regard Yamato 2520 as a curiosity, and not part of the main Yamato saga (not unlike the second Yamato movie, which killed off the entire crew!).

Not helping matters much is the music. Though some of it is quite nice in its own way, there is once again no connection to the Yamato sound of old. Hiroshi Miyagawa’s sweeping, epic music helped to define the original series with pounding martial action music, dreamily romantic pieces with a lyrical quality, and even a little 2 out of 4edge of 70s funk. The original Yamato music isn’t even so much as quoted here, with the Yamato 2520 score favoring modern-day synth precision, and frankly it’s dull in places. It’s not a total loss, but like the short-lived series from which it originated, the Yamato 2520 soundtrack fails to live up to the legacy to which it would inevitably (and yes, perhaps unfairly) be compared.

Order this CD

  1. Track 1 (2:57)
  2. Track 2 (4:49)
  3. Track 3 (3:36)
  4. Track 4 (4:17)
  5. Track 5 (5:29)
  6. Track 6 (2:48)
  7. Track 7 (5:09)
  8. Track 8 (3:55)
  9. Track 9 (2:43)
  10. Track 10 (5:54)
  11. Track 11 (2:49)
  12. Track 12 (4:35)
  13. Track 13 (3:30)

    (Track titles on this disc were entirely in Japanese.)

Released by: Sony Music Japan
Release date: 1995
Total running time: 52:39

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

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.

Order this CD

  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

Christopher Franke – Klemania

Christopher Franke - KlemaniaThis 1995 solo project from Chris Franke, the composer of every episode of Babylon 5, will sound very familiar indeed to those who have heard his TV work. The music heard on this album was originally created for the 1994 KLEM electronic music festival, and one can hear several phrases and motifs also used in Franke’s Babylon 5 scores. About two minutes into the first track, in fact, listeners are treated to an extended rendition of the “party music” heard in the New Years’ Eve scene in Chrysalis.

Now, you’re probably expecting me to go off on my tirade about Franke being the James Horner of electronic music, but I actually like Klemania – I like it a lot. It gives us an idea of what Franke’s ideas would sound like when unfettered by spotting sessions, scene changes and commercial breaks. Though often repetitive and rambling – the first two tracks are each over a whopping twenty minutes in length! – there are some bright spots. My best description of Klemania rating: 3 out of 4would be that it’s an excellent disc of background music which occasionally claws its way into the foreground and then subsides again. It’s a nicely effective overview of Franke’s “house style” which would serve as a nice introduction to the uninitiated, or to those interested in his non-film/TV works.

Order this CD

  1. Scattered Thoughts Of A Canyon Flight (22:27)
  2. Inside The Morphing Space (21:01)
  3. Silent Waves (4:10)

Released by: Sonic Images
Release date: 1995
Total running time: 47:41