Tron Legacy (North American edition)

Tron LegacyOne of the things announced fairly early on about Tron Legacy was that its music would be composed by Daft Punk. Now, I like “Robot Rock” as much as the next guy, but was this French techno/DJ duo up to composing the score for an entire film from a franchise whose fan base was very much attached to the synth-orchestral sound of the original movie?

As it turns out, Daft Punk was more than up to the challenge, and more than a few moviegoers are likely to snap up the soundtrack while quietly asking themselves “Who did the music to the original Tron? Carlos somebody?” Just as Wendy Carlos‘ expansive, at times almost abstract electronic music was a perfect fit for the original Tron, Daft Punk nails the sound that accompanies the new movie. It’s a giddy mix of synth and orchestral textures, with only a couple of tracks that hint at Daft Punk’s more typical sound. It’s a much more foreboding sound than Carlos’ music, which did a great job of establishing Tron‘s computer world as a wondrous, almost magical setting. The new movie’s setting is darker and more dangerous, and Daft Punk’s music is a perfect fit for that.

But you don’t just hear Daft Punk on the soundtrack – there’s also an orchestra of over 100 players here, and the CD credits make a note of an orchestration assist by veteran Hollywood composer Bruce Broughton – normally a name you see headlining his own soundtracks. There are also “special thanks” for advice on the art of film scoring listing names like Harry Gregson-Williams and Hans Zimmer (again, not exactly B-list names). Daft Punk chased after this assignment, admitting along the way to being fans of classic Tron, and they obviously also sought some help from some of the most prolific film composers in the business.

The result is a soundtrack with plenty of motifs for specific characters and situations, and an album that, while it isn’t necessarily in the chronological order of scenes in the movie, makes for a very satisfying listen. Helping things considerably is that the movie’s rookie director (at least as far as directing for the big screen goes) trusted his rookie composers enough to dial the film’s atmospheric sound mix back and let the music carry key moments. One of the best musical moments in the score – a piece that’s been getting rapt attention as far back as the movie’s trailers – is “The Game Has Changed”, but its quiet, moody intro lands on an unusually quiet moment at the beginning of the showy (and otherwise noisy) light cycle competition. It’s a surprising combination of scene and music, and it’s incredibly effective.

The closest Daft Punk gets to sounding like Wendy Carlos may be the mostly-electronic “Son Of Flynn”, which somewhat surprisingly accompanies scenes that take place in the “real” world rather than the electronic realm. Other highlights include “Nocturne” (a much more sedate take on the same basic melody as “Son Of Flynn”), the techno anthem “Derezzed”, “Rinzler” and another moment where the music dominates the movie’s sound mix, “Adagio For Tron”. Those pieces that are mostly orchestral are surprisingly good – not a bad film scoring debut for a couple of guys whose primary output is electronic dance music.

There is one big bone to pick, but it isn’t with Daft Punk. Listeners in the UK and Europe got a two-disc version of the Tron Legacy soundtrack with several extra tracks, and even more extra tracks were spread out among online music stores ranging from iTunes and Amazon.com to Wal-Mart and Nokia (!). The scavenger hunt approach might have been neat for the “Flynn Lives” alternate reality game that helped to build buzz leading up to the movie’s release, but don’t make it such a chore for us to get a complete soundtrack for the movie. The additional tracks will be covered in another review.

As a single-CD experience, however, the Tron Legacy soundtrack delivers most of the movie’s key scenes in musical form. I really don’t know if this score hails the beginning of a whole new career for Daft Punk, or just a brilliant way to get a new audience interested in their back catalogue and future works, but I would bet money on one thing: 4 out of 4Tron Legacy‘s soundtrack will become a frequent flyer in movie trailers for the next decade. Its dark ambience and rhythmic sense make for some pretty catchy music, either with or away from the movie for which the music was originally constructed. And that, naturally, makes it a pretty good soundtrack listen too.

Order this CD

  1. Overture (2:28)
  2. The Grid (1:36)
  3. The Son of Flynn (1:35)
  4. Recognizer (2:37)
  5. Armory (2:03)
  6. Arena (1:33)
  7. Rinzler (2:17)
  8. The Game Has Changed (3:25)
  9. Outlands (2:42)
  10. Adagio for TRON (4:11)
  11. Nocturne (1:41)
  12. End of Line (2:36)
  13. Derezzed (1:44)
  14. Fall (1:22)
  15. Solar Sailer (2:42)
  16. Rectifier (2:14)
  17. Disc Wars (4:11)
  18. C.L.U. (4:39)
  19. Arrival (2:00)
  20. Flynn Lives (3:22)
  21. TRON Legacy (End Titles) (3:17)
  22. Finale (4:22)

Released by: Disney Music
Release date: 2010
Total running time:

CHiPS: Season Two – music by Alan Silvestri

CHiPS: Season Two - music by Alan SilvestriYes. You read that right. We’re talking CHiPS. Ponch and Jon. Erik Estrada and…that other guy. On motorcycles. Set to the sounds of unashamedly disco-fied music. And this is that music.

For those needing a justification, remember that Michael “Worf” Dorn guest starred in numerous episodes as a recurring fellow cop back at the precinct, and that this is a CD of music from the second season, mostly composed by Alan Silvestri, later of The Abyss, Contact and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? fame. Needless to say, CHiPS represents a very early entry in Silvestri’s career, but as far as disco goes, this CD – an unlikely entry from the guys at Film Score Monthly – certainly makes it sound like he swaggered into that career with confidence.

Things open up with the main theme, which Silvestri didn’t compose, but did rearrange for his first year in residence on the series. I’d actually forgotten how brassy and fun the CHiPS theme is, and Silvestri poured on extra layers of synthesizers, drenched with a flanging effect, for his arrangement. If that’s the packaging on the outside of the box, then Silvestri’s library of score cues is exactly what’s advertised on the box: definitely ’70s, with in-your-face brass and strings backed up by a cheerful rhythm section of flanged guitar, drums, bass and synths.

Silvestri has always been on the bleeding edge of bringing synthesizers into film scoring, earning a lot of attention for being one of the first relatively big-name mainstream composers to make heavy use of the Synclavier in the late 1980s. He’s not shy about putting synthesizers front-and-center here, either. There’s also a track of music composed by Bruce Broughton, another big name these days, created for a Halloween-specific episode, which uses synths to good effect, as well as some familiar string section horror effects – all with that ’70s beat underneath it. You almost expect it to break into “Other Galactic Funk” at any second.

3 out of 4Is it cheesy? Yes, it is – but when you’ve got a big CHiPS publicity photo on the front cover of the CD’s booklet, you really shouldn’t be prepared for anything but. If you grew up with CHiPS on television, this’ll probably bring back memories of sitting in front of your grandmother’s tiny color TV, wolfing down Cheetos and Dr. Pepper. (Actually, no, that’s my childhood – get your own.)

Order this CD

  1. CHiPS Main Title composed by John Parker / arranged by Alan Silvestri (1:19)
  2. Peaks And Valleys (3:55)
  3. Family Crisis (5:44)
  4. Disaster Squad (6:22)
  5. Neighborhood Watch (3:36)
  6. High Flyer (6:18)
  7. Trick Or Treat composed by Bruce Broughton (5:59)
  8. The Grudge (5:15)
  9. The Sheik (5:48)
  10. Return Of The Turks (5:40)
  11. Supercycle (2:48)
  12. High Explosive (4:49)
  13. Down Time (2:51)
  14. Repo Man (2:15)
  15. Mait Team (4:07)
  16. Pressure Point (2:46)
  17. Rally ‘Round The Bank (2:28)
  18. Matchmakers (2:42)
  19. Ponch’s Disco (4:00)
  20. CHiPS End Credits composed by John Parker / arranged by Alan Silvestri (0:29)

Released by: Film Score Monthly
Release date: 2006
Total running time: 79:11

Amazing Stories: Anthology Two

Amazing Stories: Anthology TwoThe second volume of music from Steven Spielberg’s short-lived TV anthology series Amazing Stories presents the complete scores from another dozen episodes, boasting the most diverse musical talent gathered on any of Intrada’s three volumes of music from the show.

After one of John Williams’ alternate takes on the show’s main theme, the late Jerry Goldsmith’s single contribution to the show – at the behest of director (and Gremlins collaborator) Joe Dante – kicks things off. Boo! starred Robert Picardo in one of his most obnoxious roles (and that’s saying something), and it seems like whenever I happen to catch a rerun of Amazing Stories, this is the episode I’m most likely to see for some reason. Goldsmith’s music here isn’t quite up to Gremlins standards, though – it’s very much a novelty piece, and – at least in this listener (and Goldsmith fan)’s opinion – not one of his better ones.

Billy Goldenberg’s score for What If…? is a bit more serious, but lovely, pleasant stuff – though it’s associated with an episode that I always felt was more heartbreaking than anything else. Dorothy And Ben, an episode I don’t recall ever having seen, certainly sounds heartbreaking; Georges Delerue was one of Amazing Stories’ most prolific composers and certainly seemed to be the go-to guy for those installments that wore their hearts on their sleeves. The Main Attraction embraces its setting by combining marching band music with occasional moments of tension and synthesizer musical effects-as-sound effects. David Newman (Galaxy Quest, Serenity) contributes the music for Such Interesting Neighbors (which stands next only to Boo! as the episode of which I’m most likely to see a rerun), and as one his earlier works it succumbs to a film scoring cliche or two, but he uses his orchestra well and comes up with what I’d describe as a fond homage to the John Williams style.

Thanksgiving, scored by Bruce Broughton (another musical frequent flyer on this series), goes down as my favorite episode of Amazing Stories, simply because it’s the one installment that reminded me, more than any other episode, of the great anthologies that started it all – The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits – complete with a macabre but poetically just sting in its tail. It’s probably my favorite suite on this anthology as well, with Broughton pouring on bravado (for David Carradine’s belligerently macho character) and wonder in just the right places.

David Shire is back for Hell Toupee on the second CD, a big, brassy homage to the way movies used to be scored, while Johnny Mandel (M*A*S*H, Being There) gives us almost cartoon-esque music for One For The Road. Arthur B. Rubenstein (Blue Thunder, WarGames) tackles the all-star Remote Control Man, an episode – predating the John Ritter movie Stay Tuned – about a guy whose new remote has some magical properties, and in this case it seems to bring characters to life who hail almost exclusively from the Universal Studios/NBC stable circa 1985/86. Rubenstein thus gets to hint at a number of theme tunes from that era, after an opening act of decent mysterioso music.

John Addison is up next with The Greibble, which darts madly between mystery and comedy every time the titular critter makes an appearance. Leonard Rosenman (Star Trek IV) cranks up the tension with the WWII-themed No Day At The Beach, which combines typical war movie action sequences with more somber passages. Another member of the Newman family gets in on the Amazing Stories action, with Thomas Newman lending a humorous, Christmas-carol-inspired score to Santa ’85.

4 out of 4Again, the packaging and liner notes detailing each episode and its music are almost worth the price of admission alone. Though there are plenty of familiar faces here, this second 2-CD set is also packed with composers who only did a single score for Amazing Stories, making it a completely different experience from the first volume, but still very worthwhile.

Order this CD

    Disc one

  1. Amazing Stories Main Title, Alternate #1 (1:03)

    Boo! – music by Jerry Goldsmith

  2. The House / Sheena (0:36)
  3. Those People / Practice / Strange Feelings (2:57)
  4. Sharp Teeth / Let’s Scare ‘Em (1:50)
  5. What Fun / It’s OK / Jungle Zombie (1:57)
  6. Zombie Attack / Each Other (1:21)
  7. The Bike (0:26)
  8. The Jewelry (1:12)
  9. Catch Us / No Fall (1:35)

    What If…? – music by Billy Goldenberg

  10. Bubbles / Nails / Kitchen Odyssey (4:34)
  11. Obnoxious (1:47)
  12. Pregnant Lady (0:57)
  13. Crossing Guard / Steve / Born (5:04)

    Dorothy And Ben – music by Georges Delerue

  14. Twenty Three Thousand Dollars (0:47)
  15. Wrinkles (0:38)
  16. Be Quiet / Ben Leaves (2:45)
  17. Face Changes (0:59)
  18. Dorothy (4:49)

    The Main Attraction – music by Craig Safan

  19. Brad’s March / Brad’s Parking Space (1:58)
  20. Shirley (1:42)
  21. Meteor / Brad’s Fear / Attracting / Attractions (4:10)
  22. Brad Runs / Locker Room / Brad’s Honor (2:07)
  23. Magnetic Love (2:01)

    Such Interesting Neighbors – music by David Newman

  24. Al Driving Home (1:30)
  25. Water Vibrates (0:51)
  26. Through The Window / Off To Meet The Neighbors / Glad To Know You / Rose Eater (5:20)
  27. May Have Something (0:41)
  28. Microwave And Meatloaf / Off Kilter (2:54)
  29. Heat Seeker On Al (0:43)
  30. Emotional (2:31)
  31. Wide-Eyed Reaction (2:23)

    Thanksgiving – music by Bruce Broughton

  32. Momma’s Breath / The Package (2:39)
  33. Dora’s Message (2:12)
  34. Dora’s Gifts / Calvin Returns (2:33)
  35. Chicken Preferred / Turkey (4:42)
    Disc Two

  1. Amazing Stories Bumper #2 (0:04)

    Hell Toupee – music by David Shire

  2. I’m Harry Valentine (0:30)
  3. Can’t Remember / …As A Woman (2:47)
  4. Hell Toupee (0:17)
  5. Scratched Head / The Escape (2:00)
  6. Toupee Shop / Change Your Life (1:49)
  7. What Is It? / The Chase (5:10)
  8. Finale (0:53)

    One For The Road – music by Johnny Mandel

  9. Brainstorm (0:42)
  10. Free Drinks All Around (0:30)
  11. The Cupboard Was Bare / Pass The Oil (1:58)
  12. To Your Health (2:06)
  13. The Banquet (1:36)
  14. The Bridge (1:02)
  15. Reincarnation (0:30)

    Remote Control Man – music by Arthur B. Rubenstein

  16. Walter (1:47)
  17. From The Forties (0:34)
  18. Right Away (0:51)
  19. Super Over Source (0:50)
  20. Neon Signs And Fog (1:15)
  21. Something Just For You / Queen And Mrs. Cleaver (4:00)
  22. Simmons (0:45)
  23. Enjoying Yourself? (0:24)
  24. No Mice (0:35)
  25. To Bed (0:58)
  26. Pop Off (0:28)

    The Greibble – music by John Addison

  27. Off To Work / Tidying Up (1:40)
  28. Daily Soap (1:00)
  29. First Encounter / Is It Dangerous? (3:44)
  30. Lamp Eater (1:08)
  31. Nummy, Nummy (1:36)
  32. Hardware Dump (2:10)
  33. Gun Threat (0:58)
  34. Friends (1:10)
  35. Revelation (1:54)

    No Day At The Beach – music by Leonard Rosenman

  36. No Day At The Beach / Picking Up Cards / Turkey In The Face (2:06)
  37. Hey Casey / Get Some Sleep (1:32)
  38. Battle Stations (0:25)
  39. Gun Fire (0:22)
  40. Charging Pill Box (1:54)
  41. Dead Arnold (0:16)
  42. He Never Got Off The Boat (4:11)

    Santa ’85 – music by Thomas Newman

  43. From The Sky Above The House / From The House To The Within / From The Chimney And In Through The Window (5:42)
  44. Caught By The Law (1:42)
  45. The Reindeer / No Fingerprints / From The Jail To The Chase To Left Off (5:18)
  46. The Ray Gun (0:50)
  47. By Candlelight (0:28)
  48. Amazing Stories End Credits (0:29)
  49. Amblin Logo – Christmas Version (0:15)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2006
Disc one total running time: 78:03
Disc two total running time: 76:28