Saturn 3 – music by Elmer Bernstein

Saturn 3Ah, the ’80s. Hollywood – and indeed all points beyond – tried relentlessly to cash in on the post-Star Wars hunger for all things science fiction, and often failed. Case in point: Saturn 3, whose star power was invested primarily in the wildly unlikely combination of co-stars Kirk Douglas and Farrah Fawcett, both of whom stripped down for love scenes that were about as plausible as any of the movie’s sci-fi conceits. Left with the unenviable task of scoring Saturn 3 – which had already suffered a change of director mere weeks into production – was Elmer Bernstein, whose later forays in the genre (Heavy Metal, Ghostbusters, etc.) were usually accompanied by more palatable movies. With British financiers – recently stung by the sinking ticket sales of Raise The Titanic! – bankrolling the movie, by the time Saturn 3 came out, Bernstein’s score was just about guaranteed to be the best thing about it.

And yet, if you actually watched Saturn 3, you didn’t hear much of that music, since it was sliced, diced and edited to match the whims of the director. This 2006 CD release of the full, unedited score from Intrada contains much that didn’t make it into the movie itself. One of the first casualties was a surprising detour into disco (it was 1980…) in the whopping nine-minute opening theme; this concession to the popular musical flavors of tha time was left on the cutting room floor, echoed in only one other track (“Blue Dreamers”). Much of the score has a slow-boiling foreboding feel to it, punctuated by some boisterous action scenes; as the liner notes by Jeff Bond point out, a lot of the music wound up being used in parts of the movie other than the scenes for which it was composed.

Bond’s notes also seem to paint Saturn 3 as little more than a warm-up for Heavy Metal and Ghostbusters, but the only time I found myself instantly reminded of Bernstein’s later work was “The Run”, which does sound like a lost scene from Ghostbusters. This soundtrack employs some fairly unusual music by Bernstein standards – nothing really revolutionary, but not a sound we’re accustomed to from him.

3 out of 4In the end, Saturn 3 is up there with a contemporary, the Roger Corman wanna-be epic Battle Beyond The Stars: the score was far better than the movie, and you’re probably doing yourself a mercy (and getting a lot more enjoyment out of the deal) listening to the music alone. That Bernstein’s carefully constructed (if occasionally too prone to 1980 novelty) soundtrack was chopped up and treated like glorified library music was the final indignity that Saturn 3 had to suffer before bombing in theaters.

Order this CD

  1. Space Murder (9:18)
  2. The Lab (2:05)
  3. Meet Hector (4:44)
  4. The Brain (2:08)
  5. Blue Dreamers (2:42)
  6. Hector Mimics Benson (1:25)
  7. Peeping Toms (7:15)
  8. Adam’s Target (2:00)
  9. Benson Is Off (2:16)
  10. Training Hector (3:13)
  11. Adam Rescues Alex (2:39)
  12. Hector Loses It (6:52)
  13. The Run (1:48)
  14. A Head For Hector (3:31)
  15. Alex Alone (2:06)
  16. The Big Dive (4:37)
  17. End Credits (3:22)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2006
Total running time: 62:48

Art Of Noise – And What Have You Done With My Body, God?

Art Of Noise - And What Have You Done With My Body, God?A fascinating peek into the early archives of Art Of Noise, this four-disc box set chronicles not only the process by which the group’s seminal debut album was shaped, but it also shows the group struggling to define precisely what their sound would be, with numerous dead-end turns, cul-de-sacs and non-sequiturs along the way before they arrived at an answer which would almost single-handedly define an entire genre of music.

The only problem with this fascinating study of that first album is this: And What Have You Done With My Body, God? presents slight variations, retakes, outtakes and rejects of the same handful of songs…over and over again. If there was ever a collection for which the phrase “for the die-hard fans only” was coined, this would be it. In particular, you’d better like “Close (To The Edge)” and “Beatbox (Diversion One)”. A lot. Because you’ll be hearing them…a lot. And I’m not exaggerating there, really – the entirety of this four-disc set is devoted to the making of the first album. I could see, perhaps, four discs devoted to outtakes, rejects and rarities from the band’s entire career, but no – this is all about the first album.

That’s not to say that it isn’t fascinating stuff, provided that you’re well acquainted with that album. I was quite intrigued with all of the alleyways that “Close (To The Edit)” nearly got lost in on its way to becoming a defining musical moment of the 1980s. Bland synth pads, different samples and even bits and pieces that became attached to other Art Of Noise songs later on were tried on and discarded. A few neat ideas were too, but for the most part, one quickly gains an understanding of why these versions didn’t make the final cut. “Beatbox (Diversion One)” goes through a similar evolution, though for most of its development it bears a slightly stronger resemblance to its final version.

There are other songs here that simply didn’t make it to the first album; some of them – like “Bright Noise”, “Flesh In Armour” and the brilliant but short piece “Comes And Goes” – would surface early in the band’s career on EPs and as B-sides, but others were left by the side of the road, sometimes with good reason. There are several attempts at a song built around a sample of a man singing “ain’t no goodbye” over and over again; not only is the song itself maddening, but one increasingly gets a whiff of the frustration that must have been felt by the group: this just isn’t working.

2 out of 4For the uninitiated listener who doesn’t have Who’s Afraid Of? (The Art Of Noise) memorized front to back, however, this box set may seem unfocused, repetitive and confusing at best. Those looking to get into Art Of Noise would do better to pick up the actual album whose making this set covers, and then come back to this box set at a later date. The sticker on the front promises that this set is “The ZTT Years” – the label on which AON started out – and my only advice is that, should a second set follow, it should spread its wings a bit and perhaps cover the remainder of the group’s output for the 1980s in one go, because even for a fan, this set’s narrow focus on one album can get a bit wearing.

Order this CD

    Disc One: The Very Start Of Noise

  1. Beat Box (One Made Earlier) (2:19)
  2. Once Upon A Lime (3:21)
  3. War (Demo 2) (1:27)
  4. Close To The Edge (2:19)
  5. Confession (1:02)
  6. Moments In Love (7:52)
  7. Sign On Relief (1:28)
  8. Who’s Afraid Of Scale? (4:36)
  9. So What Happens Now (Take 2) (4:23)
  10. The Subject Has Moved Left (1:44)
  11. It’s Not Fair (4:28)
  12. Close To The Edge (Ruff Mix) (5:54)
  13. A Time For Fear (Who’s Afraid) (4:33)
  14. Moments In Bed (6:12)
  15. Hidden Track (0:55)
    Disc Two: Found Sounds and Field Trips

  1. Moments In Love (12″ B-Side Idea) (3:10)
  2. Tears Out Of A Stone (2:56)
  3. Samba #2 (0:39)
  4. The Chain Of Chance (4:36)
  5. Fairlight-In-The-Being (4:37)
  6. Diversions 3 (3:53)
  7. Close (To Being Compiled) (3:47)
  8. Diversions 5 (3:46)
  9. Damn It All (1:42)
  10. Structure (1:13)
  11. The Angel Reel: Hymn 1 (Take 2) (0:36)
  12. The Angel Reel: Hymn 3 (1:20)
  13. The Angel Reel: Fairground (0:43)
  14. And What Have You Done With My Body, God? (4:40)
  15. Klimax (1:48)
  16. Who Knew? (2:36)
    Disc Three: Who’s Afraid Of Goodbye?

  1. War (Demo) (4:39)
  2. The Focus Of Satisfaction (11:02)
  3. Moments In Love (rejected 7″) (3:44)
  4. It Stopped (4:27)
  5. The Uncertainty Of Syrup (1:21)
  6. The Long Hello (4:34)
  7. The Vacuum Divine (0:47)
  8. The Ambassadors Reel: Beat Box (3:54)
  9. The Ambassadors Reel: Medley (10:56)
  10. The Ambassadors Reel: Oobly (1:21)
  11. Goodbye Art Of Noise (0:37)
  12. Hidden Track (1:06)
    Disc Four: Extended Play

  1. Battle (0:27)
  2. Beat Box (4:49)
  3. The Army Now (2:03)
  4. Donna (1:45)
  5. Moments In Love (5:11)
  6. Bright Noise (0:05)
  7. Flesh In Armour (1:24)
  8. Comes And Goes (1:19)
  9. Moment In Love (1:27)
  10. That Was Close (20:44)
  11. Moments In Love (from Battle to Beaten) (14:28)
  12. In Case We Sneezed (0:31)
  13. A Time To Hear (Who’s Listening) (3:32)
  14. Do Donna Do (3:12)
  15. Hidden Track (0:25)

Released by: ZTT
Release date: 2006
Disc one total running time: 52:33
Disc two total running time: 42:02
Disc three total running time: 48:27
Disc four total running time: 61:22

TV Eyes

TV EyesAnother project from the trio that brought us the bizarre soundtrack-to-a-nonexistent-movie Logan’s Sanctuary, TV Eyes is nothing less than an ’80s revival band that’s playing brand new songs instead of new wave covers. If anything, it’s more of a stylistic tribute to the early ’80s than anything – in some of the songs, you catch a hint of Duran Duran here, a snippet of Kajagoogoo there, and so on. TV Eyes doesn’t use those bands’ songs, but it does appropriate some of their stylistic maneuvers.

The result is a delirious trip right back to the ’80s – I’d almost swear that this is just some 25-year-old album that I’ve never heard before. Standouts include the unabashed ’80s flashback that is the Falkner-penned “She’s A Study”, whose synth arpeggios bring vintage synth-heavy acts such as Level 42 and Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark immediately to mind. Falkner’s also responsible for “Mission: Submission”, a throwback to some of the style of Gary Numan, with lyrics that are pure ’80s material, predicting a world run by computers, and the least synth-oriented song on the entire album, “The Party’s Over”, a Clash-esque rocker with political overtones that are vague enough to be from any era and yet directly address the 2000s.

“Over The City” and “Need To Love” shamelessly sound more like the Duran Duran that everyone remembers than Duran Duran itself does these days. My first impression was that it was a little too “drum ‘n’ bass” modern to fit the stylistic parameters of the album, but the rapid-fire keyboard work and funky bassline seals the deal even before the startlingly LeBon-esque vocals kick in. “She Gets Around” is a dance number with a hypnotic synth loop, while “What She Said” is an ode to that oddity of the ’80s, a non-rap song with spoken lyrics.

All of it adds up to one of the most repeat-listen-worthy CDs I’ve come across in years. This stuff is just impossible to get out of your head – it’s that catchy. It’s got a knack for sounding so familiar that you’d think that you’ve been hearing these songs on countless ’80s compilations down through the years, and yet the album – and the songs – are only a couple of years old as of this writing.

4 out of 4TV Eyes’ debut album is a dandy, and it’s a testament to the sad state of musical tastemaking on this side of the world that this group could only find a label in Japan. (Two of its members, Jellyfish alumni Roger Manning and Jason Falkner, have also released music in Japan that’s unavailable here except as wallet-stranglingly expensive imports.) Someone in America, anyone: pick these guys up, pronto. They really “get” what was so good about some of the music of the 1980s.

Order this CD

  1. Fade Away (4:33)
  2. She’s A Study (4:55)
  3. Fascinating (5:20)
  4. Love To Need (4:05)
  5. The Party’s Over (4:42)
  6. What She Said (4:14)
  7. Over The City (5:00)
  8. Mission: Submission (4:30)
  9. She Gets Around (5:22)
  10. Time’s Up (4:45)

Released by: Phantom
Release date: 2006
Total running time: 48:26