The Final Countdown – music by John Scott

The Final CountdownThe Final Countdown may not have been the thrilling time-travel spectacle its producers hoped it would be when it was released in 1980, but it did boast a winning score that continues to be widely praised not only for its creativity but its ability to transform a flawed movie into something of an unlikely classic.

I admit to being a huge fan of this movie. It’s easy to appreciate it as something of an anomaly in 1980 when movie special effects had survived the growing pains of Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Alien – not to mention The Empire Strikes Back, to name just a few. Next to these Big Boys, The Final Countdown, with its embarrassing laser storm time portal and use of stock footage, comes across exactly as it was to make – cheap. However, that low-budget approach and earnest attention to story, underscored by a wonderfully propulsive score, is what gives the movie a lasting charm.

On the whole John Scott imbues the score with incredible optimism and purpose. At its core, The Final Countdown is a science fiction movie and Scott opens the movie in the main titles with Star Trek-ian fanfare. Like the Starship Enterprise, the U.S.S. Nimitz is treated like a character in the movie with its own theme (which takes a curiously menacing turn when the Nimitz first appears on screen and can be heard at the 2-minute mark in track 1). There’s little in the “Main Titles” to portend the forthcoming mystery and danger of the story. It’s a balls-out piece of heroic bombast that finds its fingerprints all over the rest of the score. Scott gives it a beautifully fatalistic feel in “Nimitz On Route” and a revisited heroic identity for “Splash the Zeros”. It’s hard to ignore the very obvious Tchaikovsky influences and one may take issue with its shameless patriotism, which makes the score feel like a marketing piece for the Navy (the movie was in fact used as a recruiting tool for the Navy). Despite this, the theme serves quite well what is, in essence, a very American movie.

Scott displays his true creativity with his “Mr. Tideman” theme, which may be, I would argue, one of the best themes ever created for a movie character. This track is certainly worth dissecting because it’s a work of undeniable genius. The nervous strings running throughout the track convey the appropriate anticipation and mystery surrounding the Tideman character and the horns echo the more stately and official elements of the Navy and Tideman’s relationship to it, but it’s that quick, playful little melody heard 45 seconds in that’s at the soul of the theme. It took me a few listens but I realized, whether intentional or not, that Scott was tipping his hat to “Tubular Bells”, which played a significant role in the score for The Exorcist.

Scott brings back the Tideman theme in romantic guise for the first real personal meeting between Commander Owen and Laurel. The theme, now stripped down and played with flute, not only underscores their budding romance but also foreshadows their relationship to the first appearance of Tideman earlier in the movie. The theme becomes more aggressive and fulfilled (not to mention creepier) at the end of the movie when it’s revealed Commander Owen is Mr. Tideman – or became Mr. Tideman, however you want to interpret it.

Sometimes the fanfare gets to be a little too much. “The Admirals Arrive” is a painful marching band composition and “Last Known Location,” with its overly dramatic tympanis and strings, feels entirely mired in dated ’70s and early ’80s adventure film scoring. I can’t say too much about Scott’s use of the Jaws theme to underscore the approaching time storm. After all, Jerry Goldsmith used it as well for The Omen in a key scene there. Here, Scott has time to truly play it out. It’s yet another nice nod to another influential film score from that era, even if it does seem like a lazy choice (even “An Hour Ago” sounds slightly derivative of Capt. Dallas’ air shaft crawl scene in Alien, with a few sneaky notes of the main Alien theme thrown in for good effect).

The Final Countdown is a relic of a time long since passed, when scores were treated with incredible care and attention, especially for sci-fi and adventure films. Call it the Star Wars Effect. Today, with emphasis and minimalism and irony in scoring, it’s easy to 4 out of 4
dismiss Scott’s score as dated or even jingoistic. As politically minded as we are today, a movie like this would be (if similarly made) filed on either side of the dividing line between red and blue ideologies. And that’s sad. It diverts attention from what is in essence a beautifully realized score that serves its movie well and makes it a memorable, if flawed, entry in sci-fi cinema.

Order this CD

  1. The Final Countdown Main Titles (3:53)
  2. Mr. Tideman (2:24)
  3. The U.S.S. Nimitz On Route (3:28)
  4. The Approaching Storm (4:22)
  5. Pursued By The Storm (2:45)
  6. Into The Time Warp (3:57)
  7. Rig The Barricades (2:16)
  8. Last Known Position (2:13)
  9. An Hour Ago (1:00)
  10. December 7, 1941 (0:46)
  11. The Japanese Navy (0:35)
  12. Shake Up The Zeros (2:13)
  13. Splash Two (1:05)
  14. Laurel and Owen (2:22)
  15. Climb Mount Nitaka (2:10)
  16. On The Beach (0:39)
  17. General Quarters (1:48)
  18. Operation Pearl Harbor (0:59)
  19. The Storm Reappears (3:28)
  20. Back Through The Time Warp (3:40)
  21. The Planes Return (1:27)
  22. The Admirals Arrive (1:30)
  23. Mr. and Mrs. Tideman (4:19)

Released by: JOS Records
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 53:20

MC Hawking – A Brief History Of Rhyme

MC Hawking - A Brief History Of RhymeLadies and gentlemen, I bring to you: the first-ever rap review here on theLogBook.com. But don’t assign too much street cred to me, for this is incredibly geeky rap. The whole humorous premise behind MC Hawking is as follows: what if Professor Stephen Hawking was moonlighting as a gangsta rapper? If you’re wondering what in the world that would sound like, you may already know more than you think: MC Hawking – the brainchild of parody webmaster Ken Leavitt-Lawrence – sounds like the voice synthesizer used by the real Professor Hawking (who, if truth be told, doesn’t go around popping caps on anyone’s ass). The lyrics are a combination of the prerequisite topics of gangsta rap – getting even against one’s rivals by any means available, drug deals, the ever-popular topic of bitches, etc. – and real live honest-to-God theoretical physics. MC Hawking tries to explain the basic tenets of entropy, and then busts out the refrain “You down with entropy? Yeah, you know me!”

It’s hard to explain the appeal to those who perhaps just don’t “get” this kind of humor – I, for one, file this under the same category as Ben Folds’ ironically pretty cover of a certain Dr. Dre tune – but if I’m in the mood for MC Hawking, this stuff is hysterical. It’s not something to play with the kiddo within earshot, to be sure, but it’s damned funny – and word has it that a certain Professor Hawking himself is fully aware of the joke and thinks it’s funny too. (C’mon, we’re talking about the same Stephen Hawking who wanted to do a guest shot on Star Trek: The Next Generation and once appeared in a Red Dwarf special. Aside from being one of the most brilliant human beings to have emerged from the 20th century, Stephen Hawking, God bless him, is cool. I’d like to think I could hang on to my sense of humor in his circumstances.)

Now, of course, there will be those who just don’t find the humor in “Hawking”‘s profanity-laden tirades about taking out rival physicists from MIT in a drive-by, or things like the skit in which he beats Moby senseless on general principle (presumably, he’s trying to see if fission initiates, in which case we really are all made of stars). But it’s hard for me not to be dragged out of a downer mood by howlingly funny tracks like “Big Bizang”, “E=MC Hawking” or “Entropy”. Others, admittedly, miss the mark – I find myself routinely skipping “Bitchslap” and “The Dozens”. This is rap for the cool geeks, the people who took time out from high school science homework to memorize Monty Python movies (not that I’m talking about myself there, mind you…I was too busy memorizing Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes in high school).

Most of this material has been available for some time on the “official MC Hawking fan site“, but in 2004 several of the raps from that site appeared with a few new skits and songs on this “greatest hits” album (in actuality, the 3 out of 4first and only physical CD that “MC Hawking” has released). This is one of those things where I vote with my money, sort of like buying the Homestar Runner DVDs, to show my support for not-quite-mainstream talent – and after you check it out for yourself, if you’ve got even one wickedly funny bone in your body, I have a feeling you’ll be doing the same.

Order this CD

  1. The Hawkman Cometh (3:01)
  2. The Dozens (2:04)
  3. The Big Bizang (2:53)
  4. Excerpt From A Radio Interview, part 1 (1:14)
  5. Entropy (3:22)
  6. The Mighty Stephen Hawking (2:00)
  7. Crazy As Fuck (2:23)
  8. Bitchslap (4:25)
  9. Excerpt From A Radio Interview, part 2 (1:41)
  10. Fuck The Creationists (2:23)
  11. E=MC Hawking (3:27)
  12. All My Shootings Be Drive-Bys (3:36)
  13. UFT For The MC (3:28)
  14. Excerpt From A Radio Interview, part 3 (1:20)
  15. What We Need More Of Is Science (2:42)
  16. GTA3 (2:56)

Released by: Brash Music
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 42:55

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Suckadelic – Supervillains

Let me see if I can even explain this one. Supervillains is an aural tribute to the pantheon of megalomaniacal geniuses from ’80s pop culture, back before fictional bad guys had to have a more logistically manageable agenda than ruling the world/universe. The equally evil remix geniuses known as Suckadelic basically combine sound clips, quotes, the sound effects from old video games, hip-hop style musical backing and the occasional snippet of soundtrack music to create a meeting of the minds that no superhero in his right mind would want to face – or at least hear from all at once.

The villains we’re talking about here are sound clips from classic Galactica’s Baltar and his Cylon minions, Gargamel, Skeletor, Ming the Merciless, and even Mezmeron, the overlord of the animated Pac-Man’s ghost monsters. And those are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head. Music from all of those shows seep into the proceedings, along with sound clips from Atari 2600 games like Missile Command, Yars’ Revenge, and Space Invaders. In short, the stuff that world and/or universal domination in the ’70s and ’80s was made of. – bad guys you love to hate.

But will you love to hate Supervillains? I’ve found it best to try to absorb this occasionally hilarious sound-montage-over-breakbeats in small doses. I’d probably have to be on something to take the 3 out of 4whole CD in one sitting. Many of the clips are hysterically funny out of context, mashed up against each other and pureéd into a big foamy mess of nostalgia. After just a few tracks, though, it becomes readily apparent that most of these songs are drawing from the same material, and only the emphasis is changing.

But in small doses? Supervillains is diabolically funny stuff.

Order this CD

  1. Intro (2:04)
  2. Supervillain Fanfare (3:35)
  3. Traitors In The Midst (1:21)
  4. March Of The Suckbots (3:45)
  5. Powergrabs (3:33)
  6. Eternia’s Greatest (5:12)
  7. Cobra Stops The World (5:02)
  8. Mean Ol’ Wizard (4:03)
  9. Ball Of Evil (4:41)
  10. Gremlin Dust (5:35)
  11. Behold, Galvatron! (4:15)
  12. Plots And Schemes (2:45)
  13. The Malice Of Mezmeron (3:11)
  14. Master Of The World (2:50)
  15. Villain Invader Break (1:22)
  16. Hail Ming! (Ruler Of The Universe) (6:01)
  17. Trial By Stone (3:33)
  18. Galactic Super Battle (3:59)
  19. The Price (6:05)
  20. Bonus Track: The Nightmare (2:36)

Released by: Suckadelic Records
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 75:28

Farscape Classics Volume 1: Revenging Angel / Eat Me

Farscape Classics Volume 1If there were two more different episodes, music-wise, in Guy Gross’ tenure as the composer-in-residence for Farscape, I can’t think of them. This first release in a tentative series (as of this writing, only 1200 copies each of two volumes have been released) of complete episode scores jumps straight into the third season for the amusing, mostly-animated Revenging Angel and the horror-themed Eat Me. Put ’em together, and sure, maybe you have a slightly schizophrenic CD, but you also have one which demonstrates what a find Guy Gross was, and why he was handed the musical reins of the show early in season 2.

As Revenging Angel‘s animation was an unashamedly overt homage to the glory days of Warner Bros.’ Looney Toons and Merrie Melodies, Gross tips his hat to the late, great Carl Stalling for much of that episode’s score – even when the action wasn’t necessarily animated. Rather than saying that he skillfully keeps one foot planted in a cartoon mindset and one foot in the show’s usual scoring style, it’s more accurate to say that he manages to keep one entire foot, and all but the small toe of the other foot, in Stalling territory, with that one toe still anchored in what one would normally expect to hear from an episode of Farscape. Stalling isn’t the only target here either, as “Also Sprach Zarathustra” – a.k.a. the main theme from 2001 – is quoted frequently…cartoon-style, of course.

Eat Me is quite literally a completely different animal, with guttural brass samples twisted into something almost like whalesong for that episode’s diseased Leviathan. Just about every musical convention of horror filmmaking that you can think of can be found here, from slithery, dissonant string runs to eerie echo effects. The musical palette isn’t as dense as it here for Revenging Angel, but Gross manages to evoke an atmosphere of something going horribly wrong with his sparse arrangements alone. Conceptually, Eat Me wasn’t the most pleasant hour of TV ever made, so its discordant music fits perfectly.

However, the real find on this CD may be the Gross-era theme itself. Gross altered the show’s original opening title music to suit the expanding, increasingly epic storyline, taking it from exotic vocals plus tribal percussion to a sweeping orchestral/choral piece with exotic vocals and percussion. As this version of the theme hasn’t been released before – the previous Farscape album, released by GNP Crescendo, was out before Gross made his changes – it’s a great thing to have on CD at last. I loved how the music in the opening teasers and right before the end credits of Farscape would always find a way to slide into just the right key to segue into the titles.

4 out of 4It may not make for the most cohesive, listen-to-it-in-one-sitting soundtrack album ever heard, but this first volume of Guy Gross’ full episode scores from Farscape is a very worthwhile listen. It might just be that these CDs didn’t arrive while the show was still on the air, but I’ve found it odd that they didn’t catch on in the same way that the Babylon 5 “episodic” CDs did in the ’90s.

Order this CD

    Revenging Angel

  1. Sabotage / Farscape Opening Titles (2:12)
  2. Method #1: Revenge (3:10)
  3. Method #2: Avoidance (5:34)
  4. Ancient Luxan (1:40)
  5. You Started It! / Method #3: Reasoning (4:52)
  6. Method #4: Be Smart (2:31)
  7. Crichton’s Funeral (4:23)
  8. I’m Going To Kill You! (4:52)
  9. Revenge Is Not The Answer / I Did It! (3:08)
  10. No Revenge / Farscape End Credits (3:20)

    Eat Me

  11. Give Me Status / Farscape Opening Titles (3:37)
  12. Bad Mojo (2:17)
  13. All U Need To Know / Good Luck (3:25)
  14. Disarmed / Food Regeneration (3:43)
  15. Distress Call Response / R U Alone? (3:54)
  16. Death Rites (2:20)
  17. Twins (1:15)
  18. Life Juice / Life Plug / The Real Me (3:06)
  19. Good Things / Making Babies (2:12)
  20. 2 Chianas / Breeding (2:36)
  21. Finger Licking Good (1:55)
  22. Twice The Fun / Still Tied / Farscape End Credits (5:49)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 71:51

Godzilla: 50th Anniversary – music by Akira Ifukube

“Subtle” isn’t normally a word used in connection with Godzilla. However, Akira Ifukube’s soundtrack to the original Godzilla movie is deceptively subtle.

Most soundtracks have themes for characters and scenes that echo the main theme. But in Godzilla, nearly every piece of music is the main theme. With shifts in tempo or style, or emphasis on different types or individual instruments, the theme is reformed in many ways, each of them sounding completely unique and original. It’s a testament to Ifukube’s skill that he was able to stretch the theme into so many nearly unrecognizable shapes.

The main theme itself is a brisk and tense thriller, primarily using woodwinds with some brass for emphasis. When he appears in Tokyo Bay and moves on shore, the music becomes slow, dark and ominous using deep, throaty sounding muted trumpets to represent Godzilla and an almost disconsonant piano to highlight the people’s helplessness.

Ifukube often weaves two or more variations into the same piece of music. Among the most interesting are those hiding in a happy military march and tucked away in an island festival. There are even strains of the theme heard in a harmonica played by a sailor on a merchant vessel. The “Prayer For Peace,” which remains one of the most haunting pieces of music I’ve ever heard, brings the theme to a funeral dirge. When we see Godzilla on the ocean floor, the theme shifts to help us realize that the King of the Monsters is a victim as well.

4 out of 4The latest trend on the internet is to create original works in “mashups” of different source material. Akira Ifukube did it the old fashioned way- using only one source and without using “loops.” Godzilla: 50th Anniversary is an excellent achievement that is not only good to listen to, but can also be used as a study guide for budding composers.

Order this CD

  1. Godzilla Approaches (Sound Effects) (0:49)
  2. Godzilla Main Title (1:31)
  3. Ship Music / Sinking Of Eikou-Maru (1:06)
  4. Sinking Of Bingou-Maru (0:23)
  5. Anxieties On Ootojima Island (0:50)
  6. Ootojima Temple Festival (1:21)
  7. Stormy Ootojima Island (1:53)
  8. Theme For Ootojima Island (0:34)
  9. Japanese Army March I (0:42)
  10. Horror Of The Water Tank (0:42)
  11. Godzilla Comes Ashore (1:52)
  12. Godzilla’s Rampage (2:25)
  13. Desperate Broadcast (1:12)
  14. Godzilla Comes To Tokyo Bay (1:25)
  15. Intercept Godzilla (1:27)
  16. Tragic Sight Of The Imperial Capitol (2:18)
  17. Oxygen Destroyer (3:11)
  18. Prayer For Peace (2:48)
  19. Japanese Army March II (0:21)
  20. Godzilla At The Ocean Floor (6:20)
  21. Ending (1:41)
  22. Godzilla Leaving (Sound Effects) (1:04)

    Bonus Tracks

  23. Main Title (film version) (2:03)
  24. First Landing (film version) (3:37)
  25. Tokyo In Flames (film version) (2:17)
  26. Last Assault (film version) (2:21)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 46:28

Space Knight Tekkaman – music by Bob Sakuma

Tekkaman soundtrackFrom the team behind Kagakuninjatai Gatchaman (known to the English speaking world primarily as Battle Of The Planets) came another, slightly more obscure creation later in the 1970s. Though it’s not meant to occupy the same “universe” as G-Force, Tekkaman shares many (perhaps unavoidable) similarities: the artists at Tatsunoko Studios devised a very similar look, complete with a tinted motorcycle-helmet-inspired visor, immediately inviting comparisons with the character designs of Gatchaman, and Tekkaman’s adventures were scored by Bob Sakuma, the inventive composer behind the original Gatchaman music. Still in “Chicago mode” for his new assignment – Sakuma has openly admitted that the jazzy rock-disco stylings of his 70s anime scores were inspired by the American rock group – Sakuma still manages to create a slightly different musical setting for Tekkaman.

What it has in common with Gatchaman is Sakuma’s trademark bold, funky brass – you can definitely tell the same person is behind the music of both shows. The most obvious “new” element to the Tekkaman music is a wordless solo female vocal that floats above the rest of the music. Strangely enough, there are instruments and frequently vocals that have a completely different amount of reverb than the rest of the music. It doesn’t really detract from anything, but this odd production technique does tend to draw attention to itself.

There are guitar passages that cross the line from funky into hard rock territory, making for some interesting 3 out of 4new twists on the style Sakuma had established with the earlier series. But for the most part, if you enjoyed Bob Sakuma’s original Gatchaman music, Tekkaman makes a nice companion piece to it. This is one of those cases where a “sounds like…” or “customers who bought this also bought that” recommendation are probably right on the money.

Order this CD

  1. Tekkaman no Uta (2:48)
  2. Hoshi Kara Kita Otoko (2:55)
  3. Hiromi to Mutan (4:46)
  4. Chikyuu Ryakudatsu Shirei (4:50)
  5. Gekitou no Tekkaman (4:47)
  6. Minamijuujisei (2:37)
  7. Yameru Chikyuu (1:45)
  8. Voltekka (0:09)
  9. Harukanaru Sanno-sei (3:36)
  10. Weekend (4:27)
  11. Waldaster Trap (3:37)
  12. Taiyou no Yuusha (3:27)
  13. Leap, Tek Set! (3:52)
  14. Saigo no Tekkaman (3:09)
  15. Space Knights no Uta (0:44)

Released by: Columbia Japan
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 47:29

OK Connery – music by Ennio Morricone & Bruno Nicolai

OK Connery soundtrackHow far removed can one be from a film and still enjoy something about it? This review – and the fact that I bought this CD – will be an exercise in answering that question. For, you see, I’ve seen this movie – but I’ve only seen it with the benefit of a guy and two robots sitting in the bottom right corner of the screen, cracking wise at the movie’s ample supply of foibles. Mystery Science Theater fans will instantly recognize this movie as Operation Double 007, while most parts of the world know it as Operation Kid Brother. The idea behind the movie was simple. Step one: get Sean Connery’s little brother (whether he has any acting experience or not) and as many supporting players as you can from the James Bond movies, and put them in a Bond-esque superspy spoof. Step two: ??? Step three: profit!

How much profit did OK Connery pull in? The existence of this album seems to be proof that, not long after the film’s release, it was at least popular enough for composer Ennio Morricone to get everything together that one would need to release a record of the soundtrack. And really, it’s fine music – it’s a bit much in places, but that description could just as easily apply to the movie as a whole. Morricone and Nicolai do a fine job of sending up John Barry’s already-nearly-over-the-top style, and it’s a testament to their work that, even despite having only ever seen this movie with the MST crew cracking wise over the movie audio, the music is so memorable. It’s all here, from the theme music (presented in English, Italian and instrumental forms on this CD, just in case you feel the need to sing along), to the brass-with-60s-electric-guitar action cues, to the hilariously extravagant music from the scene where Adolfo Celi’s supervillain waltzes around in a bathrobe, lights a cigar, and admires what seems to be a personal collection of reclining nude women. Everybody needs a hobby, but man, this guy and his hobby get some killer theme music!

The sound is surprisingly crisp (the master tapes are nearly 40 years old now) and everything has been remastered until it sonically shines. It’s a stunning amount of effort for a movie that, even in regions where it’s better-remembered, was an extremely marginal footnote in cinematic history (and even then, probably only due to the leading man…and his brother). Now, to be fair, you can be sure that the work was undertaken to preserve an unreleased score by one of the cinema’s most famous composers, and I really do appreciate that – but you can also bet that around half of the copies of this CD that have been sold to date have probably been bought by folks who, like myself, have only seen it with Joel and the ‘bots taking well-observed potshots at the movie.

3 out of 4OK Connery sports some dandy music – if you’re in a specific superspy spoofin’ kinda mood. I just hope that I can someday accumulate my own collection of reclining nudes so I, too, will be worthy of the music on track 2. (I’ve already got a bathrobe.)

Order this CD

  1. Man For Me (3:19)
  2. Connery (1:58)
  3. Allegri Ragazzi (1:44)
  4. Primo Amore (4:37)
  5. A Passo D’uomo (2:39)
  6. Varco Nel Muro (1:36)
  7. Connery (2:19)
  8. Missione Segreta (1:07)
  9. Verso Il Mare (1:48)
  10. Fiori Gialli (1:17)
  11. Gli Enigmi (1:11)
  12. Diapositive (1:24)
  13. Can Can Delle Amazzoni (1:46)
  14. Connery: Congiura (2:42)
  15. Contrabbando (1:15)
  16. Turbinosamente (1:25)
  17. Gatto Parlante (1:14)
  18. Missione Segreta (1:44)
  19. La Preda (0:50)
  20. Man For Me – Italian version (3:04)
  21. OK Connery – Sequence 1 (1:44)
  22. OK Connery – Sequence 2 (2:03)
  23. OK Connery – Sequence 3 (1:58)
  24. OK Connery – Sequence 4 (1:13)
  25. OK Connery – Sequence 5 (1:26)
  26. OK Connery – Sequence 6 (3:05)
  27. Man For Me – Instrumental (3:11)
  28. Man For Me – Alternate version (3:10)

Released by: DigitMovies / Beat Records
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 57:02