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