Fight For Space – music by Ron Jones

Fight For SpaceRon Jones is an inspired choice to score a space documentary, even if you’ve never heard of him. Mention his name in a room full of diehard Star Trek: The Next Generation fans and you’ll probably get a conversation started: during that show’s first four years, he kicked over numerous restrictive rules put in place by the producers, who wanted the music to be “wallpaper”, and did his own thing…until the showrunners responded in kind by simply ceasing to engage his services any further.

But the producers of that particular series seem to be the only ones who don’t remember him fondly. The makers of computer games such as Starfleet Academy and Starfleet Command availed themselves of his services, as did the backers of last year’s 50th anniversary concert tour, commissioning him to write new music in a Trek vein, which was also recorded for the recent 50th anniversary soundtrack album.

It’s those recent compositions that his music from Fight For Space most closely resemble: noble, yearning, vaguely nautical. But there are other flavors that aren’t exactly Trekkish: quiter, piano-led tracks, even a couple of somewhat comical pieces. Then there are the real surprises, a full-on rock ‘n’ roll track titled “Chaos Never Stopped Us”, whole other tracks such as “The Greatest 4 out of 4Possibilities” and “The Letter That Killed Space” combine the sonic palettes of orchestra and rock band.

But it’s all recognizably Ron Jones – the sound that no sane showrunner ever would have jettisoned from the Star Trek franchise. Whether it’s for the 24th century, or the 21st century struggle of a chronically underfunded NASA to live up to its 20th century glories, that sound is a perfect fit. Those who have missed Jones’ odes to the final frontier will enjoy this one a lot.

Order this CD

  1. Space Calls Us (4:23)
  2. Cold War Fears (2:02)
  3. Moving a Nation (2:39)
  4. The Spin Offs (1:51)
  5. Earthrise (1:02)
  6. The Hope Killers (6:34)
  7. First Homes Off Earth (2:54)
  8. Messy Politics of Space (4:22)
  9. Rockets and Budgets to Nowhere (7:42)
  10. Chaos Never Stopped Us (5:34)
  11. The Letter That Killed Space (3:35)
  12. Why arn’t We There Yet? (4:41)
  13. Progress and Fear (2:16)
  14. The Greatest Possibilities (7:42)
  15. The Universe Awaits (6:44)
  16. First Sketches and Themes (3:45)

Released by: SkyMuse Records
Release date: March 29, 2017
Total running time: 1:07:46

Star Trek Beyond (Deluxe) – music by Michael Giacchino

Star Trek BeyondVarese Sarabande’s handling of the soundtracks from the modern Star Trek movies has made me wise up: I didn’t even bother with Michael Giacchino’s score from Star Trek Beyond until the 2-CD Deluxe Edition was released. I’m just not in a position to fall for the double dip every time.

Sadly, the irony is that, while Beyond got the current iteration of Star Trek back “on message”, preaching the virtues of peace and compassion over the values of a violent, twisted being out for revenge, Giacchino’s third visit to the Trek well seems to be his least inspired of the three movies he’s scored to date.

That’s somewhat understandable: the after-the-fact heaping of criticism on the second movie, Star Trek Into Darkness, had to have a palpable effect on those involved in making it. (Ironically, Giacchino’s score from Into Darkness was one of the very, very few things I could find to enjoy about that otherwise lamentably derivative entry in the franchise.) It could be that his creative energies were sapped by the time he went to work on Beyond.

There are highlights, though. The appearances of Starbase Yorktown, a marvel of alternative-23rd-century Starfleet construction that would dwarf a 24th century Borg cube, are graced with a gorgeous fanfare, featuring a long melody line of the kind that seems like it went out of style after John Williams re-educated everyone about uses of the leitmotif. There are some nice cues covering the series of vignettes following the surviving members of the Enterprise crew trying to simply survive on the surface of the planet over which their ship was brought down, though those tend toward brevity.

The action scenes involving Krall’s attack on the Enterprise are frenetic and noisy, probably with the idea that they’d be competing with frenetic and noisy sound effects for dominance in the movie’s audio mix. As a listening experience with no accompanying visuals, they’re a bit much – compare to Giacchino’s more gracefully Williams-esque action scenes from Rogue One for an exercise in contrast.

Though I know some uppity Star Trek fans may recoil against the thought of including a track that could be even remotely considered R&B on their precious soundtrack albums – one can still hear the howls of protest over “Ooby Dooby” and “Magic Carpet Ride” 20 years after Star Trek: First Contact – I’m a bit disappointed to find that, even with a second disc worth of material and more breathing room – Rihanna’s “Sledgehammer” single wasn’t included here. I know there’s licensing, label politics, and yes, that whole blow-up among fans about whether the singer had any business dipping her toe into the world of Star Trek, a pointless
2 out of 4kerfuffle that, let’s face it, exposed some shocking racism among fans of a franchise that rails against racism at every turn. The song still belonged here, and I was disappointed to see it omitted.

At the time of this writing, there’s still no solid word on whether or not there will be a fourth movie with this cast, or indeed a fourth movie with Giacchino at the podium. In that context, it’s a bit of a bummer that he may well be leaving the Star Trek franchise on the weakest note that he had yet provided for it.

Order this CD

    Disc 1

  1. Logo And Prosper (1:47)
  2. Trick Or Treaty (:45)
  3. We Come In Pieces (1:17)
  4. Thank Your Lucky Star Date (2:14)
  5. Night On The Yorktown (5:36)
  6. To Thine Own Death Be True (3:32)
  7. We Make A Good Team (:22)
  8. The Dance Of The Nebula (2:22)
  9. A Swarm Reception (2:30)
  10. Krall Hell Breaks Loose (3:04)
  11. The Evacuation Variations (2:47)
  12. Hitting The Saucer A Little Hard (6:10)
  13. Scotland’s Worst Cliffhanger (:23)
  14. A Hive And Kicking (3:30)
  15. Port Of Krall (:52)
  16. Jaylah Damage (2:50)
  17. No Enterprise For Guessing (:37)
  18. In Artifacts As In Life (1:51)
  19. She’s One Hell Of A Dish (1:26)
  20. Make No Escape About It (2:04)
  21. Eat My Thrusters (3:56)
  22. The Krall Of The Wild (2:10)
  23. Spock’s Vulcan Grip On Death (1:31)
  24. Captain On Ice (:42)

    Disc 2

  25. Franklin, My Dear (2:50)
  26. Transporting Good Time (3:43)
  27. Krall Work And No Play (:37)
  28. A Lesson in Vulcan Mineralogy (5:17)
  29. The Cost Of Abronath (2:35)
  30. MotorCycles Of Relief (3:18)
  31. Mocking Jaylah (3:27)
  32. Jaylah House Rock (3:18)
  33. Bright Lights Big Velocity (Part 1) (:57)
  34. Bright Lights Big Velocity (Part 2) (2:59)
  35. Spock Speaks Hive (3:10)
  36. Crash Decisions (3:16)
  37. Krall-y Krall-y Oxen Free (4:23)
  38. Shutdown Happens (4:35)
  39. The Root Of Krall Evil (1:31)
  40. Cater-Krall In Zero G (2:17)
  41. The Dreaded Rear Admiral (2:02)
  42. Par-tay For The Course (2:46)
  43. Space, The Final Frontier (2:42)
  44. Jaylah’s Theme (2:36)
  45. Yorktown Theme (4:32)
  46. Star Trek Main Theme* (3:44)
  47. Krall Things Being Equal (4:25)

Released by: Varese Sarabande
Release date: December 12, 2016
Disc one total running time: 54:42
Disc two total running time: 1:11:18

Jodorowsky’s Dune – music by Kurt Stenzel

Jodorowsky's DuneA unique documentary about a movie that almost, but didn’t, get made, the musical treatment for Jodorowsky’s Dune is a novel one: score the documentary with the music that the unmade movie should’ve gotten. Chronicling, as it does, an abortive attempt to bring Frank Herbert’s genre-redefining novel to the big screen in the 1970s, Jodorowsky’s Dune is graced with a fittingly ’70s-style score awash with analog synths (or very good approximations of them).

Think of early Tangerine Dream (composer Kurt Stenzel’s auditory reference point), or the all-synth, almost-abstract score of Enter The Dragon, or the music of Jon Pertwee-era Doctor Who: that sound in your head is the sound of the Arrakis that was never meant to be. It’s the sound of a Dune that would’ve starred the likes of Salvador Dali, Orson Welles and Mick Jagger, rather than Kyle MacLachlan and Sting. The music is authentically trippy – as Alejandro Jodorowsky’s vision for Herbert’s epic likely would’ve been – and anyone born in the ’70s or steeped in ’70s genre cinema will likely find the wobbly analog synth sounds are a comforting old friend.

On a few tracks, there is dialogue from the documentary itself, and depending on my mood I can come down on either the “no, just let me hear the music, please” or the “oh, that’s kinda neat and it helps set the tone” side of the fence. It’s only on a few tracks. Stenzel sequences the album as a four-sided double LP, staying true to the medium that would’ve been available to a soundtrack album from the unmade movie. Tracks blend together as ethereal suites and reach an end point whereupon, in some alternate universe where Jodorowsky beat David Lynch to the punch, someone presumably turns the record over.

Alejandro Jodorowsky’s mid-1970s attempt to change how sci-fi reached the big screen never happened, and Dune languished in Hollywood turnaround hell while a little movie about the last of the Jedi Knights became the film that changed the entire playbook in 1977. That movie, of course, redirected movie music back onto a 4 out of 4European-inspired orchestral course, almost exactly 180 degrees away from the music Stenzel imagines here (and 180 degrees away from Jodorowsky’s pie-in-the-sky dream of having post-Syd-Barrett-era Pink Floyd score his vision of Dune). But Kurt Stenzel’s realization of the course on which movie sci-fi soundtracks could have continued is an incredible, atmospheric listen.

Order this CD

  1. Coming of a God (5:27)
  2. Greatest Movie Never Made (1:01)
  3. Parallel World (1:41)
  4. Parallel World (outro) (1:03)
  5. Leap of Faith (0:43)
  6. Time and Space (2:04)
  7. Optical World (2:55)
  8. Nebula (1:25)
  9. Invitation (1:02)
  10. Point of View (2:36)
  11. Moebius (4:48)
  12. Arrakis (1:58)
  13. Millions of Stars (0:21)
  14. Into the Galaxy (1:26)
  15. O’Bannon Meets Jodo (1:18)
  16. Finding the Others (0:57)
  17. Spiritual Warriors (1:36)
  18. Conception of Paul (2:01)
  19. Ships With Souls (1:51)
  20. The Pirate Spaceship (5:23)
  21. Rescue From a Sandworm (2:36)
  22. Mad Emperor (0:23)
  23. Burning Giraffes (1:42)
  24. Baron Harkonnen (0:33)
  25. Giger’s Theme (1:06)
  26. Deepest Darkness of the Soul (1:15)
  27. Feyd Rautha (4:17)
  28. Total Extermination (2:16)
  29. I Am Dune (6:00)
  30. Hollywood (2:22)
  31. Fingerprints (4:16)
  32. Open the Mind (3:38)
  33. Try (2:30)

Released by: Cinewax
Release date: November 13, 2015
Total running time: 75:31

Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage – Music from the 50th Anniversary Concert Tour

Star Trek: The Ultimate VoyageA 2-CD collection commemorating the touring concert experience paying homage to 50 years – give or take a few years off here and there – of Star Trek music, The Ultimate Voyage is basically a cover album for Trek fans. Every facet of the franchise is touched upon, with both the primary themes and individual episode scores from nearly every series and movie revisited. The only main themes not covered here are the ever-controversial choice of theme song for Enterprise, a series represented by only a single score cue from one of its final episodes, and the criminally underrated theme music from the animated series (a corner of Trek that is left completely by the wayside in this collection).

If there’s anything that holds this back from being a crowd-pleaser instead of merely a concert souvenir, it is, quite simply and sadly, the performances. For a professional studio recording, the number of fluffed notes is a little uncomfortably high. The fact that they made it into the finished product would seem to indicate that this was a rush job to get the discs pressed in time to be in the gift shop after every concert – one take and only one take.

Where the performances are on-the-money, they’re a wonderful representative cross-sample of Star Trek’s musical history, performed well and arranged nicely for live concerts. Some of the best bits are hidden in the pieces of individual episode scores: Jay Chattaway’s pennywhistle theme from The Inner Light, Ron Jones’ apocalyptic cliffhanger from The Best Of Both Worlds, the almost-patriotic-sounding swell 2 out of 4of hope under Kirk’s speech from The Omega Glory‘s “courage, the order of the day” scene, the aforementioned music from Archer’s address to the nascent Federation council from Enterprise…we’ve all heard the themes about thousand times by now. Hearing the episodic music in a concert setting is a nice change of pace.

Order this CD

    Disc One

  1. Main Title from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1:30)
  2. Main Title from Star Trek: Generations (1:59)
  3. The Enterprise from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (6:02)
  4. Klingon Battle from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (5:20)
  5. Ancient Combat / 2nd Kroykah from Star Trek (5:12)
  6. Ba’Ku Theme from Star Trek: Insurrection (2:53)
  7. Starship / Kirk’s Philosophy from Star Trek (1:28)
  8. Kirk Does It Again from Star Trek (3:48)
  9. Main Title from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (2:06)
  10. Ilia’s Theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (3:06)
  11. Revealed / Reaching Out from Star Trek: TNG (4:50)
  12. Courage / Saved Again from Star Trek: TNG (1:54)
  13. Main Title from Star Trek: Voyager (1:50)
  14. Main Title from Star Trek IV (2:41)
  15. Red Alert from Star Trek: First Contact / Captain Borg from Star Trek: TNG (3:15)
    Disc Two

  1. Opening from Star Trek: Starfleet Academy (4:07)
  2. Epilogue / End Titles from Star Trek II (7:33)
  3. First Contact from Star Trek: First Contact (2:45)
  4. Defiant Ending from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (3:12)
  5. I Can Live With It from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (2:09)
  6. The Inner Light from Star Trek: TNG (6:41)
  7. Set Course For Home from Star Trek: Voyager (2:03)
  8. Enterprising Young Men from Star Trek (2009) (2:41)
  9. The Captain from Star Trek: Voyager (2:43)
  10. End Credits Suite from Star Trek VI (4:18)
  11. Up Your Alley from Star Trek: Enterprise (3:33)
  12. Archer’s Speech from Star Trek: Enterprise (1:52)
  13. Overture from Star Trek: Generations (4:18)
  14. To Live Forever from Star Trek: Generations (2:47)
  15. Main Theme from Star Trek (3:44)

Released by: CineConcerts
Release date: 2016
Disc one total running time: 48:54
Disc two total running time: 54:26

The Woman Astronaut – music by Penka Kouvena

The Woman AstronautFrom the mind of big-league orchestrator/arranger Penka Kouvena, whose work can be heard in the Gears Of War game series and the soundtracks of such movies as Ender’s Game, Angels And Demons, and Elysium, The Woman Astronaut is a very modern soundtrack without a movie. With no visuals to adhere to and no game whose moods must be matched, it’s pure musical expression, and rather autobiographical at that (her liner notes state that this is really her story: there are fewer female composers actively working in Hollywood than there have been female astronauts in orbit).

By weaving her music around the framework of the ambitions, struggles and triumphs of a fictional female astronaut, there’s a “space” sound that makes this fitting accompaniment to that journey. And it’s awesome, widescreen stuff – there are some big-name soloists and a full orchestra, thanks to a Kickstarter campaign backed by fans, Twitter followers, and even fellow composers, among them Lolita Ritmanis (Batman: The 4 out of 4Animated Series). Any movie would do well to have such a soundtrack, and something tells me we’ll be seeing Kounevic credited as a composer, not just an orchestrator, in the future. So here’s an idea: let’s find a project worthy of Penka Kouvena’s talents and her message. Is that Honor Harrington movie adaptation still a go? Because here’s a completed soundtrack practically waiting for the movie to happen.

Order this CD

  1. Earth (4:51)
  2. Starry Way (3:$8)
  3. The Forest (2:45)
  4. Land Of Burning Fields (2:10)
  5. Looking Up (2:36)
  6. Training (3:53)
  7. Broken (1:57)
  8. Taking Flight (5:12)
  9. Alarm And Rescue (2:18)
  10. In Space (4:06)
  11. Insomnia (3:43)
  12. Siren (3:20)
  13. Goodbyes In Zero Gravity (3:12)
  14. Solar Flare (4:17)

Released by: Varese Sarabande
Release date: July 10, 2015
Total running time: 48:08

Judge Dredd (newly expanded edition) – music by Alan Silvestri

Judge DreddIn my mind, Judge Dredd was one of a glut of ’90s genre films that abandoned optimism for the future in favor of a future as a dystopia filled with antiheroes (though to be sure, both subgenres had always existed). As a not-entirely-faithful Hollywoodization of the star character of Alan Moore’s 2000 A.D. comics from the U.K., Judge Dredd wasn’t exactly a perfect adaptation of its source material, but it was enjoyable in its own right.

The original release of the soundtrack alongside the movie’s 1995 release date was mostly devoted to songs used in the movie, with a scant few selections from Alan Silvestri’s score. Intrada’s remastered 2-CD set presents the full score to the movie, including unused alternate cuts and, after a couple of decades of fans begging for it, Jerry Goldsmith’s trailer music, which may be better remembered than Alan Silvestri’s score. In short, this expansion of the original release should make everyone happy.

While the movie uneasily mixed the comics’ gloomy violence with the bright-and-flashy millieu of still-trying-to-ape-Star-Wars Hollywood sci-fi of the late ’80s, Alan Silvestri’s music 4 out of 4is bright, brassy, and not apologizing one bit for being in your face. It’s heroic music for a character who can, in his original source material, barely be considered a hero. Hewing slightly closer to the tone of the source material is Jerry Goldsmith’s custom-scored trailer music, the original recording of which has never seen the light of day until this release.

Order this CD

    Disc One

  1. Main Title Revised (4:59)
  2. Block War Revised (5:01)
  3. I’ve Heard It All Revised (2:24)
  4. Aspen Revised (3:28)
  5. It Ends (0:42)
  6. The Law (1:46)
  7. Pawn Shop (1:45)
  8. Parking Penalty (0:55)
  9. Dredd’s Arrest (1:33)
  10. Say It Ain’t So (2:24)
  11. Judgement Day (4:26)
  12. Hidden Photo (0:40)
  13. Shuttle Crash (1:38)
  14. Access Denied (1:06)
  15. Angel Family Values (6:02)
  16. We Created You (3:48)
  17. New Order Montage (1:14)
  18. Hershey’s Close Call (0:17)
  19. Janus! (0:57)
  20. Council Chaos Revised (7:31)
  21. Hershey’s Apartment (1:15)
  22. Twice You Owe Me (1:18)
  23. Griffin Gets It (1:00)
  24. Send In the Clones (1:18)
  25. New World Revised (7:50)
  26. Judge Dredd: Trailer – music by Jerry Goldsmith (0:51)
    Disc Two

  1. Main Title (4:56)
  2. Block War (3:06)
  3. I’ve Heard It All (0:37)
  4. Dredd and Fargo (0:35)
  5. You’re a Legend (0:25)
  6. Aspen (2:29)
  7. Aspen – Alternate (2:29)
  8. I Judged Him (0:58)
  9. Hershey Objects (0:24)
  10. Bon Appetite (1:45)
  11. Brief Reunion (1:33)
  12. Council Chaos (5:47)
  13. Choose (5:18)
  14. Choose Alternate (4:44)
  15. Choose Revised (5:17)
  16. New World (2:27)
  17. New World Alternate (2:29)
  18. Judgement Day – Original 1995 Soundtrack Assembly (5:54)
  19. Block War – Original 1995 Soundtrack Assembly (4:42)
  20. Angel Family – Original 1995 Soundtrack Assembly (5:40)
  21. New World – Original 1995 Soundtrack Assembly (9:16)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: May 12, 2015
Disc one total running time: 68:09
Disc two total running time: 70:51

Journey To Space – music by Cody Westheimer

Journey To SpaceEven as NASA continues planning its much-advertised journey to Mars, the space agency faces a problem that it didn’t have to contend with in the 1960s: selling that vision to a public wondering why we should bother. The push to reach the moon can be credited, in no small part, to the call to action of a charismatic, fallen president. The scientific and technological benefits of Apollo were almost an afterthought; the real mission to the moon was one of projecting America’s technological power (and, by extension, putting the Soviet Union on notice that this technological might could be used against them if they lashed out).

These days, presidents mention that it’d be nice to go to Mars, but we also have so many other priorities, so the funding for the stuff that might get us to Mars in the next 20 years could be cut out from under NASA at any time. Ironically, NASA is now the space agency that has to make agitprop films to push its vision. Journey To Space is one of numerous space PR films in the past decade, using the audiovisual playbook of Hollywood sci-fi to pitch real space exploration to the American public. Cody Westheimer’s music from Journey certainly sounds like it belongs to a sci-fi epic; some tracks have that great nautical questing feel that typified some of James Horner’s best work. Westheimer’s collaborator, Max Braverman, turns in a 3 out of 4uniquely 80s-synthpop-styled cue, “Building A Spacesuit”, that’s a lot of fun.

It’s sad that the human adventure, once said by a purely fictional film’s marketing tagline, is just beginning, if only movies like Journey To Space can convince a skeptical and often uninformed public of the benefits. Just the soundtrack alone makes me feel like it’s time to suit up, strap in, and blast off.

Order this CD

  1. The Endless Horizon (1:43)
  2. To Mars and Beyond (0:47)
  3. Endeavor’s Final Journey (1:45)
  4. Inside the Shuttle (0:45)
  5. An Eye on the Cosmos (1:12)
  6. Docking with Mir (0:29)
  7. Space Science – music by Max Braverman (0:53)
  8. A Home Above – music by Max Braverman (0:44)
  9. ISS Construction (0:48)
  10. Grace of the Brave (1:41)
  11. Orion Training (1:05)
  12. Mars (1:08)
  13. Extended Weightlessness (2:23)
  14. A Spacegirl’s Dream (0:44)
  15. How to Build a Spacesuit – music by Max Braverman (1:36)
  16. Mars in My Backyard (1:39)
  17. Underwater Training (2:48)
  18. The Exploring Kind (4:00)
  19. Red Planet Arrival (2:24)
  20. Meet Me on Mars (1:18)
  21. The Unimagined (0:51)
  22. End Credits (1:41)
  23. Blue Danube (0:40)

Released by: Lakeshore Records
Release date: May 5, 2015
Total running time: 35:04