Planet Of The Apes (newly expanded edition)

Planet Of The Apes (newly expanded edition)The modern world of big-screen reboots and remakes presents a minefield to the music department: how do you create music for a story that’s been done before, without doing the same music that’s been done before? (At least one movie remake, the modern remount of Hitchcock’s Psycho, opted to reuse the original music, albeit a new recording of it.) Matters are made worse when the soundtrack of the original version was a groundbreaking, genre-shaking opus that was practically its own character in the film – such as Jerry Goldsmith’s brutally percussive score from 1968’s Planet Of The Apes. In that respect, the 2001 reboot of Apes had a double burden – the original movie and its music were indelibly ingrained into the minds of genre fans. Top that.

Tim Burton tried to, and as he so often does, he brought frequent musical collaborator Danny Elfman along for the ride. Both had an unenviable task ahead of them. Arguably, the music succeeded better than the movie for which it was designed, and La-La Land has re-released the soundtrack to the 2001 Apes remake in an extravagant form, stretching the movie’s almost wall-to-wall music across three discs covering both the original soundtrack album as released in ’01 (which had a pretty healthy selection of music on it to begin with) as well as the complete score as heard in the film (the material on the single-CD soundtrack release differed significantly from the actual film score in many places).

As I was listening to the movie score, the thought struck me that Elfman – despite his seemingly permanent place on Hollywood’s music A-list – hasn’t scored too many sprawling space sagas. Planet Of The Apes isn’t really a sprawling space saga – its “space” scenes are confined to the movie’s opening minutes – but the music for those scenes is an interesting taste of how Elfman would handle the territory that is so often associated with Williams, Goldsmith, Horner and others more frequently regarded as “sci-fi composers.”

When the action comes jarringly down to Earth, the race is on for the film’s hero to outrun the apes, and for Elfman to do things differently from Jerry Goldsmith. As attached as I am to the original 1968 movie and its soundtrack, I found Elfman’s treatment of similar scenes to be more than satisfactory – in fact, they’re hugely enjoyable purely as a listening experience (they didn’t hurt the movie either, though arguably there were things other than the music that did hurt it). In some regards, it’s not entirely dissimilar from Goldsmith’s score because it doesn’t need to be – it’s not a case of anyone’s ideas being ripped off, it’s a case of both composers bowing to the tribally-rhythmic obvious.

The original single-disc soundtrack has been given fresh coat of remastered paint, and sounds great if you’re still attached to the original tracks and running order. (I still admit to enjoying Paul Oakenfold’s movie-dialogue-heavy “Rule The World Remix” as a guilty pleasure; Oakenfold probably does too, since it helped to raise his Hollywood profile, which now includes his own film scores.) Rounding things out are a selection of “source” cues Elfman concocted for scenes which needed “in universe” background music.

Planet Of The Apes was meant to launch a new generation of 20th Century Fox’s venerable Apes franchise for the 21st century, and its hugely-hyped launch seemed to all but guarantee that. Somewhere between the movie just not being as shocking or interesting as the 1968 original, and the inevitable anti-reboot backlash, it managed to fall between the cracks despite the hype. Elfman’s soundtrack remains possibly the most valid element of the movie – much like the re-release of the music from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (also reissued by La-La Land), it was ripe for reassessment despite being 4 out of 4only a decade old. I felt a little let down by the music from Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, so maybe this re-release could serve to remind the director and producers of the next Apes reboot-sequel-prequel-thingie that Elfman’s still out there – and he definitely knows how to go ape.

Order this CD

    Disc 1: Film Score Part 1

  1. Main Titles (film version) (3:53)
  2. Deep Space Launch / Space Station / Power Outage (2:36)
  3. Thumbs Up / Trouble (5:57)
  4. Pod Escape / New World / The Hunt (4:13)
  5. Ape City (2:13)
  6. A Look / Unloading /Thade’s Inspection / Ari Watches / The Branding (3:44)
  7. Ari Buys a Pet (1:24)
  8. Leo Wants Out / Dental Exam (2:12)
  9. Thade’s Desire (1:35)
  10. The Dirty Deed (1:54)
  11. The Escape (3:39)
  12. Trust / Escape (3:32)
  13. In the Forest /Into the Pond / The Messenger (2:29)
  14. Unused / Thade Gets His Way / Ari Connects (3:49)
  15. The Story (3:00)
  16. Scarecrow Stinger / The Camp / Raid (5:20)
  17. Thade Goes Ape (2:42)
  18. Calima (7:22)
  19. The Army Approaches (3:03)
  20. Thade’s Tent (2:10)
  21. Discovery (5:07)
  22. Preparing for Battle (3:51)
    Disc 2: Film Score Part 2

  1. The Charge (4:44)
  2. The Final Confrontation Landing / Showdown (8:34)
  3. The Aftermath / Thade’s Suite (7:31)
  4. Ape Suite #
  5. 4:59)
  6. Ape Suite #
  7. 2:36)
  8. Rule The Planet Remix (4:09)
  9. Thumbs Up / Trouble (alternate mix) (5:57)
  10. New World / The Hunt (alternate mix) (3:20)
  11. Dental Exam (alternate mix) (1:21)
  12. The Dirty Deed (alternate mix) (1:54)
  13. The Story (alternate mix) (2:59)
  14. Preparing for Battle (alternate) (3:35)
  15. The Final Confrontation (alternate mix) (7:14)
  16. The Aftermath / Thade’s Suite (unedited) (7:32)
  17. Camp Raid (percussion only) (4:08)
  18. Rule The Planet (overlay) (3:01)
  19. Source Music Montage (Band Source, Trendy Source, Jazzy Source, Calliope Source, Rave Source) (2:54)
  20. Dinner Source (1:40)
    Disc 3: Original Soundtrack Album

  1. Main Titles (3:49)
  2. Ape Suite #1 (3:52)
  3. Deep Space Launch (4:35)
  4. The Hunt (4:58)
  5. Branding The Herd (0:48)
  6. The Dirty Deed (2:27)
  7. Escape From Ape City / The Legend (5:57)
  8. Ape Suite #2 (2:42)
  9. Old Flames (2:10)
  10. Thade Goes Ape (2:37)
  11. Preparing For Battle (3:26)
  12. The Battle Begins (5:17)
  13. The Return (7:18)
  14. Main Title Deconstruction (4:22)
  15. Rule The Planet Remix (remixed by Paul Oakenfold) (4:03)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2012
Disc one total running time: 75:57
Disc two total running time: 78:24
Disc three total running time: 58:21

Galaxy Quest (Newly Expanded Edition)

Galaxy Quest (Newly Expanded Edition)Originally released shortly after the movie’s premiere, but only in a semi-official capacity on an obscure (and now extinct) label specializing in private-label releases for film and TVcomposers, Galaxy Quest has always been one of my favorite things on my soundtrack shelf. With David Newman tackling the movie as a serious SF film (and the cast and crew doing the same thing, keeping up kayfabe for nearly the entire show), the soundtrack was positively epic – the best science fiction film score of the ’90s. Yes, better than The Matrix.

La La Land Records has rescued Galaxy Quest from obscurity, finally giving the soundtrack a fresh remastering and a wide (if limited-edition) release. There are also a few extra minutes of music, but there was plenty of meat on the bones of the earlier release: this is full-bodied, full-orchestra film music at its finest.

The highlights are still the same as they were before: “Red Thingie, Green Thingie… RUN!” is still one of the best pieces of action movie music since the heyday of Star Wars. What this new La La Land edition has over the old Supertracks release is its copious liner notes booklet, telling me more in just a few pages than I ever knew about Galaxy Quest before, including how hard the studio came down on the writers and director to avoid “offending” the Star Trek franchise’s power players and fans. (As it turns out, Star Trek’s power players were among Galaxy Quest‘s biggest fans – Patrick Stewart, in particular, found the movie uproariously funny.) Also revealed is that David Newman was a mere session orchestra player on the first two Star Trek films, which explains how he nails the all of the little Goldsmith and Horner stylistic tricks so perfectly with Galaxy Quest. This score was Newman’s final exam in how closely he was paying attention in 1979 and 1982. 4 out of 4I think he passed.

Galaxy Quest has faded into relative obscurity as a theatrical event, so this soundtrack is getting only a limited release. That’s the only less-than-perfect thing about the whole package. It’s still the best sci-fi movie score of the 1990s.

Order this CD

  1. Galaxy Quest: The Classic TV Theme (0:57)
  2. TV Clip (1:32)
  3. Pathetic Nesmith (0:57)
  4. Galaxy Quest TV Clip #3 / Introducing Sarris / Revealing the Universe (1:50)
  5. Transporting the Crew / Meet the Thermians (1:33)
  6. The N.S.E.A. Protector (0:43)
  7. Crew Quarters & The Bridge / The Launch (3:24)
  8. Jason Takes Action / Sarris Tortures Captain (1:41)
  9. Red Thingie, Green Thingie… Run! (3:30)
  10. Shuttle to Planet / Trek Across Planet (4:26)
  11. Rolling the Sphere / Pig Lizard / Rock Monster (6:05)
  12. “Digitize Me Fred” (1:13)
  13. “I’m So Sorry” (1:42)
  14. Fight, Episode 17 (1:15)
  15. The Hallway Sneak / Alex Finds Quellek (2:16)
  16. Angry Sarris / Into the Ducts / Omega 13 / Heroic Guy / Reveal Chompers / Opening the Airlock (3:31)
  17. Big Kiss / Happy Rock Monster / Dying Thermians / Quellek’s Death / Into Reactor Room / Push the Button / A Hug Before Dying (4:08)
  18. Sarris Orders Attack / The Battle (3:34)
  19. Mathesar Takes Command / Sarris Kills Everybody (2:18)
  20. Mathesar, Hero / Goodbye My Friends / Crash Landing (1:45)
  21. Goodbye Sarris / Happy Ending (2:04)
  22. The New Galaxy Quest (0:59)

Released by: La La Land Records
Release date: 2012
Total running time: 53:07

Star Trek: First Contact (Newly Expanded Edition)

Star Trek: First Contact (Newly Expanded Edition)Though it really shouldn’t have been surprising after the recent glut of remastered soundtracks from the Kirk-era Star Trek movie franchise, the sudden announcement of a complete and remastered Star Trek: First Contact soundtrack took many by surprise. It came from a label that had been dormant for years – GNP Crescendo had a seemingly absolute lock on all Star Trek soundtrack releases throughout the 1990s – and it was the first remastered soundtrack from the shorter big-screen run of the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew.

Of course, First Contact was the first (and arguably only) undisputed success among the TNG-era films, and marked the return of Jerry Goldsmith to the Star Trek film franchise, so it’s an obvious starting point for the TNG movie soundtrack remasters. (Three TNG-era movies’ soundtracks remain to be remastered and expanded, and two of them – Generations and Insurrection – were previously released by Crescendo, making it almost certain that Crescendo will be releasing the expanded editions.)

The original 1996 soundtrack release of First Contact was hampered by two factors: the punishing cost of licensing more than 40 minutes of music recorded by a union orchestra for a soundtrack release, and a somewhat arbitrary decision to slant the original soundtrack heavily in favor of music by Jerry Goldsmith. Almost a quarter of the movie was actually scored by Joel Goldsmith, who would later make his mark on the genre by scoring the vast majority of the Stargate TV franchise, due to Jerry Goldsmith’s busy schedule. The liner notes even point out that executive producer Rick Berman and director/co-star Jonathan “Riker” Frakes greeted this development by pointing out that they’d paid for Jerry Goldsmith to score their movie. As it so happens, the elder Goldsmith played a thundering action cue that impressed everyone in the room – and then revealed that his son had written it. But that didn’t mean that Joel’s music would find its way onto the original soundtrack release: the same silly argument cropped up. The CD cover said “music by Jerry Goldsmith,” and album producer Neil Norman was determined to deliver on that. The payoff there is that Joel Goldsmith was responsible for the music to the one scene in the movie that everyone bought a ticket to see, the first warp flight by Zefram Cochrane. That was, without a doubt, First Contact‘s money shot. I remember seeing the movie in the theater the first time with my friend Mark, who said “Holy shit!” out loud when the Phoenix deployed its warp engines from its Titan missile casing. It was built up as the movie’s “holy shit!” moment from the word go, and it got “holy shit!” music from the junior Goldsmith – which Crescendo then proceeded to omit from the album on the ground that the cue wasn’t composed by Jerry Goldsmith.

That cue, “Flight Of The Phoenix”, has been… obtainable, for the lack of a better way to put it, as part of a bootleg First Contact score that’s been circulating since the Napster days. However, this single-disc release has been remastered by the same team responsible for the previous Trek movie score remasters, and it’s never sounded this good. With all due respect to the now-departed “dean of movie music,” as Trek TV composer Dennis McCarthy once called him, “Flight Of The Phoenix” is the highlight of the restored full-length soundtrack, just as it was in the movie itself. It’s ironic that arguably the most iconic piece of music in a score attributed to Jerry Goldsmith was composed by his son. Stargate fans will also want to check out Joel’s cues here as a precursor to the up-and-coming composer’s body of work for that franchise (SG-1 was about a year away from premiering at the time of First Contact‘s release).

For those who, like the label circa 1996, are more interested in Goldsmith Sr.’s work, there are unreleased cues by him as well. One of the more intriguing ones is “Borg Montage”, a brief, menacing cue covering several shot Borg-related interludes aboard the Enterprise-E, culminating in a hapless security team wandering into a dimly-lit space which is then illuminated by the laser sights of several approaching Borg. There are two versions of this cue – one used in the movie, and a significantly different one with a more martial approach – and both are vintage Goldsmith with a big brassy flourish at the end.

If you want Steppenwolf or Roy Orbison this time around, there are other sources for those tracks, and in the intervening years they’ve almost certainly been remastered too.

The return of Crescendo Records to the soundtrack arena, especially with the full release of First Contact in hand, is a welcome one, especially when some of the soundtrack specialty labels are calling it a day in the current economy (Film Score Monthly) or beginning to split their release schedules between classic remasters and brand new releases (Intrada). The liner notes booklet – both the printed one with the disc and the downloadable PDF “booklet” (more like one giant, unending vertical strip, possibly representing the first-ever soundtrack liner notes wall 4 out of 4scroll) – looks like it just woke up from ’96, however. The cover layout also shows no attempt to mesh with the general cover design that’s been established for the other Star Trek movie score remasters to date, so maybe a visual rethink might be in order before Crescendo turns out another remastered Trek soundtrack. In the end, though, it’s the music that matters, and this release delivers an increase in both sound quality and quantity. Hopefully it delivers enough sales to Crescendo’s doorstep to merit upgraded releases of Generations and Insurrection.

Order this CD

  1. Main Title / Locutus (4:18)
  2. How Many Ships (0:31)
  3. Battle Watch (1:13)
  4. Red Alert (2:16)
  5. Temporal Wake (2:11)
  6. Shields Down (1:48)
  7. The Phoenix (1:04)
  8. They’re Here (0:28)
  9. 39.1 Degrees Celsius (4:48)
  10. Search For The Borg (1:53)
  11. Retreat (4:01)
  12. No Success (1:33)
  13. Borg Montage (1:03)
  14. Welcome Aboard (2:43)
  15. Stimulation (1:08)
  16. Smorgasborg (1:30)
  17. Getting Ready (1:36)
  18. Fully Functional (3:22)
  19. The Dish (7:09)
  20. Objection Noted (1:57)
  21. Not Again (2:44)
  22. Evacuate (2:24)
  23. New Orders / All The Time (3:52)
  24. Flight Of The Phoenix (6:23)
  25. First Contact (6:03)
  26. End Credits (5:32)
  27. The Phoenix [alternate] (1:10)
  28. Borg Montage [alternate] (1:20)
  29. Main Title [alternate] (2:54)

Released by: GNP Crescendo Records
Release date: 2012
Total running time: 78:54

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Newly Expanded Edition)

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered CountryThe only big-screen classic Star Trek sequel still waiting for its soundtrack to be remastered has finally gotten the deluxe treatment from Intrada. The release was inadvertently revealed by composer Cliff Eidelman early in 2012, a practice that the soundtrack boutique labels tend to avoid simply because they barely have enough time in the day to do what they do, let alone answer endless questions about upcoming releases and whether or not they can be pre-ordered. But that would seem to reveal a certain degree of pride on Eidelman’s part for his first major film scoring assignment – and listening to this expanded release, which finally puts every note of the movie’s music in fans’ hands, it must be said that any such pride is certainly justified.

Star Trek VI was a movie that almost didn’t happen. The William Shatner-directed Trek V bombed at the box office once word got out about its utterly goofy treatment of philosophical subject matter that had big implications, and it proved to be Shatner’s only directorial turn in the franchise, and the last stop for producer Harve Bennett, who, had turned the Trek films into a Big Deal with Star Trek II. But 1991 was the 25th anniversary of the premiere of the original Star Trek, and Paramount wanted to make a Big Deal out of that too, and so it took stock of the other driving creative forces behind Trek II and Trek IV, the series’ most successful films. A sixth movie would happen after all, shepherded to the screen by director Nicholas Meyer and Leonard Nimoy, surrending his director’s seat to produce the final film to feature the full original cast.

Meyer’s original musical idea was to adapt either Holst’s The Planets or Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite – basically pulling a Kubrick and scoring the movie with existing classical music. Composer Cliff Eidelman, chosen for his strong classical background, got a break when Holst’s estate refused to allow The Planets to be licensed or altered without a gigantic price tag: he would get to compose an original score with hints of both Stravinsky and Holst’s stylistic trappings. The result was something far darker than anything the Star Trek films had been graced with before, including the first use of choir in the Trek movies. Only fleeting references to prior scores in the film series would be made; Trek VI happened further in the future than any of the previous films and would have a stand-alone sound. A scary and glorious stand-alone sound, too, with Eidelman not holding back on playing up the implications of impending war between the Federation and its enemies, and the willingness of almost all parties to sacrifice Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy as pawns in the rapidly escalating hostilities.

The second disc of this two-disc set features a remastered edition of the original 1991 soundtrack album, which we covered back when The Undiscovered Country was a relatively recent arrival in theaters. The first disc presents the music as heard in the film itself, which sometimes means entire pieces of music that haven’t been heard before, and sometimes means subtly different versions of the pieces you’re already familiar with. It may not hurt to listen to this version first, so it’s easier to spot the missing material added to the complete score on disc one. Some of the missing material flies past pretty quickly, but as always, it encompasses key moments that weren’t incorporated into the original soundtrack release. Scenes that were on the original soundtrack but weren’t heard in full include the Excelsior crew receiving a message about a Chernobyl-like “incident” at a Klingon power plant, Kirk receiving his orders to attempt peace with the Klingons, and Kirk’s trial on a brutal Klingon prison planet after he’s accused of assassinating the Klingons’ leader at that peace summit.

Fans of the original soundtrack and the movie know by now that the original CD’s “Battle For Peace” track – an eight-minute orchestral assault – left some stuff out, including, ironically, silence. The expanded version of this lengthy battle scene is now complete, including those conveniently-timed pauses for Kirk and Sulu to issue their respective orders to destroy the pesky Klingon Bird of Prey whose commander is fighting to keep both worlds at war.

The most interesting and showy material among the previously unissued tracks center around the Enterprise crew’s search for evidence to lead them to the real assassins. In the movie, this search took the form of several vignettes as planted evidence was repeatedly found, leading to the wrong suspects, but it’s surprisingly good music that shows no ambitions toward low-key subtlety. The other new and interesting material is music that isn’t from the movie at all. Star Trek VI was the first and only Star Trek film to this day to have custom-scored trailers. Earlier films tended to rely on mashups of music from earlier Star Trek movies for their trailers, and even the very first Trek movie had trailers choppily scored with pieces of Jerry Goldsmith’s immortal music, often clumsily hacked to pieces in the editing room. For Trek VI, Cliff Eidelman scored his own trailers, offering the audience a preview of the music as well as the movie. Not edited together from the score, the trailers are custom-made creations that use the same themes in a kind of rapid-fire greatest-hits style. This is the first time that music has been released, and it’s pretty neat to hear.

Star Trek music expert Jeff Bond, who still needs to update his excellent 1999 book “The Music Of Star Trek: Profiles In Style”, and Film Score Monthly Trek music savior Lukas Kendall provide some of the best liner notes in the business, detailing the creation of both the movie and its music, rounding out the package. As with its Star Trek IV soundtrack, Intrada has wisely forgone its usual route of limiting this soundtrack to an arbitrary print run of 3,000 copies – there are enough copies for everyone who wants one.

Star Trek music fans have been graced with a wealth of re-releases and never-before-released material from both the movie and TV franchises in the past three years (like his movie or not, you can probably thank J.J. Abrams for raising Star Trek’s public profile enough to make that possible). Now, of course, everyone’s licking their lips and hoping for another re-release of Goldsmith’s music from the first film, hopefully this time in complete form. (I wouldn’t object if the next project was Dennis McCarthy’s criminally-underrated Star Trek: Generations score, 4 out of 4but I suspect I’m in the minority there; McCarthy has a small but loyal base of fans, of which I count myself one, while Goldsmith now has a cult of worshippers who’ll buy anything with the man’s name on it.) The ongoing expand-and-reissue project, however, has been nothing short of a delight for the ears, and Star Trek VI will keep me more than happy until the next re-release.

Order this CD

    Disc One: complete score

  1. Overture (3:02)
  2. The Incident (1:09)
  3. Spacedock / Clear All Moorings (1:59)
  4. Spock’s Wisdom (3:13)
  5. Guess Who’s Coming (0:49)
  6. Assassination (2:16)
  7. Surrender For Peace (2:48)
  8. The Death Of Gorkon (2:07)
  9. The Trial / Morally Unjust Evidence (1:13)
  10. Sentencing (1:02)
  11. Rura Penthe / First Sight Of Rura Penthe (4:09)
  12. Alien Fight (1:05)
  13. First Evidence / The Search (1:33)
  14. Escape From Rura Penthe (5:35)
  15. The Mirror (1:17)
  16. Revealed (2:48)
  17. Mind Meld (2:06)
  18. Dining On Ashes (1:01)
  19. The Battle For Peace / The Final Chance For Peace / The Final Count (8:15)
  20. The Undiscovered Country (1:07)
  21. Sign Off (3:16)
  22. Star Trek VI End Credits Suite (6:17)
  23. Trailer (take 10) (2:23)
  24. Guess Who’s Coming (alternate) (0:51)
  25. Sign Off (alternate) (3:31)
  26. Trailer (take 2) (2:20)
    Disc Two – original 1991 album

  1. Overture (2:57)
  2. An Incident (0:53)
  3. Clear All Moorings (1:39)
  4. Assassination (4:45)
  5. Surrender Dor Peace (2:46)
  6. Death Of Gorkon (1:10)
  7. Rura Penthe (4:22)
  8. Revealed (2:38)
  9. Escape From Rura Penthe (5:34)
  10. Dining On Ashes (1:00)
  11. The Battle For Peace (8:03)
  12. Sign Off (3:13)
  13. Star Trek VI Suite (6:18)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2012
Disc one total running time: 67:14
Disc two total running time: 45:!7

fun. – Some Nights

fun. - Some Nightsfun.’s debut album was one of those musical first-stretches-out-of-the-starting-gate that made one wonder how the group would top that in the second leg of the race. It turns out they’re doing it quite nicely, even though there are a few stylistic quirks to Some Nights that left me feeling a little bit old. The rock-solid songwriting is more evocative of Queen than ever, and that alone makes fun. worth following.

When I reviewed the group’s first album, I found myself wondering if their chosen band name might be a liability. Perhaps I was worrying too much – in the months leading up to the release of Some Nights, fun. managed to step up its promotional game considerably. The song “We Are Young” was highlighted on Glee months in advance of the album, and it’s also been picked up for a major national advertising campaign as well. This sort of thing shouldn’t be considered “selling out” – if anything, in the download age, strategic licensing of one’s music is bread and butter, and I don’t hold it against anybody trying to get a song placed in an ad campaign. These alliances have served as a showcase of fun.’s music, giving the band the kind of exposure that, in these dying days of radio, no amount of payola can buy.

And it’s really good music. That’s already been mentioned, hasn’t it? It’s really good music. The title track is split across an extended intro and the main song itself; if for no other reason than the prominent F-bomb, the intro will likely be skipped in nearly every broadcast venue. (It’s rather stunning that there’s a video for it, and an uncensored one at that.) “Some Nights” is the first indication that the album of the same name is an entire album of anthems – nearly every song is a celebration of its subject matter, whether it’s youth and the excesses that go with it (“Some Nights” and the perfectly-pitched ’50s rock pastiche “We Are Young”), and resilience in the face of opposition (“Carry On”, “It Gets Better”). With the exception of the world-weary but beautiful “Carry On” (my early favorite out of the entire album) and “Why Am I The One”, Some Nights is upbeat and fun.

If I have a bone to pick with Some Nights, it’s the utterly bizarre use of auto-tune on several songs. I know it’s standard-issue in any studio at this point, but I can’t think of a band that needs it less. After Aim & Ignite, lead singer Nate Ruess was almost inevitably compared to Freddie Mercury of Queen, and given the very operatic, Queen-like “Some Nights Intro”, it would seem that he’s cool with that comparison (and really, what a voice to be compared to!). If there’s a voice in rock music today that needs auto-tune less than Nate Ruess, please point me that way because that person’s probably singing some good stuff too. It’s used here as a style choice, just another tool in the studio arsenal, but I can’t help but feel that it mars the proceedings when it rears its head. Nate Ruess does not need auto-tune. He may just be the best voice in rock today, and I’ll bet he could’ve hit every note without the studio trickery – it cheapens that voice 4 out of 4to turn him into a singing robot.

Give or take a couple of production choices that make it unwisely easy to downplay what an amazing voice fun.’s frontman has, Some Nights is definitely worthy of the hype and build-up that it got. You should definitely keep your eyes and ears on fun.

Order this CD

  1. Some Nights Intro (2:17)
  2. Some Nights (4:37)
  3. We Are Young featuring Janelle Monáe (4:10)
  4. Carry On (4:38)
  5. It Gets Better (3:36)
  6. Why Am I The One (4:46)
  7. All Alone (3:03)
  8. All Alright (3:57)
  9. One Foot (3:31)
  10. Stars (6:53)
  11. Out On The Town (4:21)

Released by: Fueled By Ramen
Release date: 2012
Total running time: 45:49

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Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (Newly Expanded Edition)

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (Newly Expanded Edition)Marking the first foray of soundtrack label Intrada into the neutral zone of Star Trek movie music, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is a risky thing to release, then or now. It’s also the only Star Trek adventure for Leonard Rosenman (Beneath The Planet Of The Apes, Ralph Bakshi’s animated Lord Of The Rings), and it’s been misunderstood since the original 35-minute soundtrack album was released by MCA in 1986. Rosenman’s approach to film scoring was always steeped in his classical background, and while that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t suited to making movie music, his old-school sensibilities on such things as formal structure haven’t won him as wide a fan base as, say, Jerry Goldsmith or John Williams.

Intrada’s single-disc release almost fills the running time of its CD, doubling the amount of music that was available before by finally revealing the alternate versions of many key pieces of music. There are so many alternates here that it almost constitutes a second soundtrack that we never got to hear. Rosenman has taken a lot of heat from critics for the almost Christmas-like main titles, and his original main titles are quite a departure from that – a stately, fully orchestral version of the theme from the original Star Trek series, for the first and only time in the movie series (that we never got to hear). Not just a quotation, not just the four-note fanfare, but the entire theme as heard on TV in the ’60s, upgraded to the splendor of a full orchestra rather than the bongos and the warbling female vocal. It’s pretty magnificent stuff, though of course using that would’ve gotten Rosenman bashed for lack of originality (a charge already leveled at the screen-used titles, which bore a slight resemblance to Rosenman’s Lord Of The Rings). The poor guy couldn’t win.

The other alternates reveal a slightly darker take on the themes for the inscrutible, cylindrical alien probe and the whaling ship at the end of the movie, both of which are looking for the same thing; the alternate whaling ship cue is a more violent, guttural sounding piece, almost like Goldsmith action music.

Heard in the movie, but previously unheard on a soundtrack album, are the series of vignettes at the beginning of the movie, reintroducing us to the Enterprise crew and their purloined Klingon ship, setting up the conflict with the Klingons in a diplomatic vanue on Earth, and setting up the probe crisis from the vantage point of Starfleet Command. This music is presented as a single suite, mainly because the scenes were presented that way too. Another series of vignettes, “In San Francisco”, follows Kirk’s fish-out-of-water crew through their haphazard attempts to function on 20th century Earth, and is perhaps a bit less successful as it falls back on stereotypical samplings of various “ethnic” music types to represent the nationalities of the crew. There’s somewhat predictable Eastern-scale music for the Sulu scenes that we barely got to see (much of the 20th century Sulu scenes, including a run-in with a potential ancestor, were cut from the movie), as well as Scottish and Russan refrains for Scotty and Chekov.

Several of the cues may leave Trek music fans cringing precisely because they don’t fit neatly into the template established by Goldsmith and James Horner in the first three movies. Rosenman was assigned to score a movie that was basically a comedy with a dramatic framing device, and that’s how the movie is scored. It worked well with the movie, but purely as a listening experience, even with the added material, it probably won’t satisfy listeners expecting a “hey, the music wasn’t that bad” revelation like the expanded Star Trek V soundtrack gave us.

It’s good to finally be able to hear more than 35 minutes of music, though, and even the movie’s comedy trappings have a musical payoff: the song written especially for the punk-on-the-bus scene, “I Hate You”, is heard in full, performed by an ad hoc band formed by some of the movie’s production team. In the film, the song gets shut down in the first chorus thanks to Spock’s timely nerve-pinching intervention, but here we get to hear it in all of its recorded-in-one-take lo-fi glory. It sounds like a local punk band’s recorded-on-cassette-in-the-living-room opus, which succeeds in ways that a licensed, “bought-in” and professionally produced song wouldn’t have. It also provides the Trek soundtrack library with its first explicit lyrics warning label (!) with an F-bomb right before the song ends.

4 out of 4It’s still too early to say whether or not this new release of the Star Trek IV soundtrack will lead to the movie’s music be any better understood, but it at least gives students of film music a more complete picture of what Rosenman was trying to accomplish (and in some cases, what he was told to accomplish differently). It’s a stronger listening experience for the added material, and may well be the Star Trek film score that most needed this expanded treatment.

Order this CD

  1. Logo / Main Title (2:52)
  2. Starfleet Command / On Vulcan / Spock / Ten Seconds of Tension (1:40)
  3. The Probe (1:16)
  4. The Probe—Transition / The Take-Off / Menace of the Probe / Clouds and Water / Crew Stunned (3:08)
  5. Time Travel (1:28)
  6. Market Street (4:38)
  7. In San Francisco (2:01)
  8. Chekov’s Run (1:21)
  9. Gillian Seeks Kirk (2:42)
  10. Hospital Chase (1:14)
  11. The Whaler (2:00)
  12. Crash / Whale Fugue (8:38)
  13. Kirk Freed (0:44)
  14. Home Again / End Credits (5:39)
  15. Ballad of the Whale (4:59)
  16. Main Title (alternate) (2:56)
  17. Time Travel (alternate) (1:29)
  18. Chekov’s Run (album ending) (1:19)
  19. The Whaler (alternate) (2:05)
  20. Crash / Whale Fugue (album track) (8:15)
  21. Home Again and End Credits (alternate) (5:16)
  22. Main Title (album track) (2:40)
  23. Whale Fugue (alternate) (1:05)
  24. I Hate You (1:59)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2012
Total running time: 72:44

8 Bit Weapon – Bits With Byte

Bits With ByteLogging in with the first full-album-length effort since the remixed Confidential 2.0, chiptune duo 8 Bit Weapon proves why it’s still practically the dictionary definition of this genre of music (i.e. “Chiptune music – you know, like 8 Bit Weapon”). It’s not enough to just slam the sounds (or samples) of old game machines together; there’s got to be a memorable tune under it. The earliest era of video game music turned out several hummable earworms despite the limitations of the day, and 8 Bit Weapon “gets” that. There’s always a tune behind the tech, and one often suspects the songs are strong enough to survive being transferred to more “traditional” instrumentation. (Now there’s an idea for a tribute album.)

The sound is so old-school that, halfway through Bits With Bytes’ 18 tracks, one can imagine a “side one/side two” break (for those of you old enough to remember turning over the record or tape). The first nine songs are brand-new numbers, all instrumentals, with “The Art Of Video Games Anthem” (accompanying an upcoming exhibit at the Smithsonian), “We Fight For The Users”, “Escape From Xenon” and “Galactic Invasion” emerging as highlights. The title track is no slouch either (check out the official video below the jump at the bottom of the review). I got a kick out of the actual recording of a typically noisy, disk-drive-rattling Apple II boot-up (oh, the memories…) at the beginning of “Apple Core II”. There are enough melodic hooks here – or, at the very least, interestingly unconventional musical ideas – to keep you going for a while.

Starting with the tenth track, some of 8 Bit Weapon’s older material is revisited, with a positively hyperkinetic remix of “Closer” from the Electric High EP. Appropriately titled “Closer 2.0”, it’s definitely an upgrade. A revised “Micro Boogie” (one of my all-time favorites by this group) follows, though the differences may take a couple of listens to spot. The 8 Bit Bandit remix of “Closer” and the Sanxion7 remix of “Chip On Your Shoulder” (another revised Electric High number) substantially rearrange the DNA of the originals to make completely unique versions of each – again, this version of “Chip” may be superior to the original.

Demo versions of “Bits With Byte”, “The Art Of Video Games Anthem” and “Galactic Invasion” round things off; some artists demos show a striking difference in sound and production quality, but these instead offer a snapshot of the arrangements of each song in flux, not quite having landed on their final versions. Another new tune, “Vic XX”, closes things out nicely.

4 out of 4I’m normally the first person to call shenanigans when almost half of a purportedly new album consists of older material, but here at least the material has been polished to an even higher shine than the originals – sort of like they’re in HD now. All of it’s worth a listen, especially if you don’t partake of 8 Bit Weapon’s shorter EPs (note: if you’re actually doing that, you’re depriving yourself of even more good stuff).

Order

  1. Bits with Byte (3:01)
  2. Galactic Invasion (3:03)
  3. Apple Core II (1:57)
  4. The Art of Video Games Anthem (3:12)
  5. Miami Dub Bounce (2:39)
  6. We Fight for the Users (3:05)
  7. Drive Grinder (3:11)
  8. Escape from Xenon (3:08)
  9. Goodbye Cochise (1:36)
  10. Closer 2.0 (2:45)
  11. Micro Boogie 2.0 (3:45)
  12. Chip On Your Shoulder (Electric High Mix) (3:20)
  13. Closer (8 Bit Bandit Remix) (6:02)
  14. Chip On Your Shoulder (Sanxion7 Remix) (3:30)
  15. Bits with Byte Demo (2:54)
  16. The Art Of Video Games Anthem Demo (3:16)
  17. Galactic Invasion Demo (2:54)
  18. Vic XX (3:18)

Released by: 8 Bit Weapon
Release date: 2012
Total running time: 56:36

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