Amazing Stories: Anthology One

Amazing Stories: Anthology OneProduced and overseen by Steven Spielberg from 1985 through ’87, Amazing Stories was a lighthearted take on the anthology/playhouse series format that hadn’t been seen on television in two decades. There was no recurring cast of characters, and no connected stories – but unlike The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents or The Outer Limits, Amazing Stories was built on one prerequisite set by Spielberg – a sense of wonder and the fantastic, not the fatalistic. To this end, Spielberg – largely on the power of his own name – drew A-list Hollywood writing, acting and directing talent into his orbit for the show’s first season, and an absolutely stellar, unprecedented A-list of composers, a gathering of genius the likes of which – in all honesty, and not intended as hyperbole – we may never see again on one project.

We’re talking about composers who weren’t even “doing” TV anymore at this stage in their careers. We’re talking Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams and James Horner. We’re also talking composers who were on the brink of making it big – Danny Elfman, Bruce Broughton, and others. How the show looked and felt was up to the individual directors and cast members of each story, but Spielberg put the money up front from the word go to make sure that Amazing Stores would sound amazing.

Although a single-disc compilation of two Amazing Stories scores was released by Varese Sarabande a while back, it was obvious that there was room for more music from this series. Intrada stepped up to the plate with a trio of 2-CD collections, covering several episodes per set and presenting the widest variety of composers’ works possible. Though several episodes were still left out by the time the third and final volume was rolled out, the result is a much more comprehensive collection, sure to please fans of many of the major film composers of the 1980s and ’90s.

John Williams’ music from the first episode, Ghost Train, sits nicely alongside his movie scores from the same era (E.T., etc.), and for a relatively short suite of music (though it’s also every note he recorded for the episode), it all develops beautifully. Two scores with period flavorings follow, James Horner’s Alamo Jobe – which, whenever it breaks out of its western feel into something more traditionally contemporary, sounds like a lot of Horner’s other output from the ’80s – and Bruce Broughton’s more whimsical, century-spanning (and Mark Hamill-starring) Gather Ye Acorns. Georges Delerue’s wistful, low-key The Doll follows, but the next suite – a jarring selection from early Spielberg collaborator Billy Goldenberg’s score from The Amazing Falsworth – is an unsettling wake-up call after Delerue’s calm music.

The second disc opens with a 4-second “station ID bumper” version of John Williams’ main theme, and dives into the music from Moving Day, scored by David Shire, who, fresh from scoring 2010: The Year We Make Contact, brings synth collaborator Craig Huxley with him for some music that sounds remarkably similar to that movie at times. Delerue returns for Without Diana, a heartfelt score that oozes tragedy even without the accompanying visuals. Contrast is once more the name of the game as this is followed up by an early Danny Elfman score, Mummy, Daddy, dripping with the kind of wackiness and whimsy that would become his hallmarks. Hollywood pastiche is the name of the game for another Bruce Broughton score, Welcome To My Nightmare, which brings things to a close (well, technically the Amazing Stories end credit music does that).

4 out of 4Where sound quality is concerned, there are a few quirks that stem mainly from the material being recorded at the twilight of mono sound mixes for television: some of the recordings are in stereo, while others aren’t. But the quality of the recordings is rich and crisp, like the sessions were recorded just last week. The shortest episode suite on this volume is just under nine minutes in length, so the double CD set is more than justified, and the packaging and liner notes are top-notch and informative. Overall, the Amazing Stories collections may be the best thing indie soundtrack label Intrada has ever done, and they’re a treat for fans of the composers whose work appears here.

Order this CD

    Disc one

  1. Amazing Stories Main Title (1:02)

    Ghost Train – music by John Williams

  2. Ohpa’s Arrival (0:30)
  3. Grieving Ohpa (1:17)
  4. Ohpa’s Tales (3:44)
  5. Ohpa Remembers (2:25)
  6. The Ticket (3:05)
  7. The Train Arrives (4:17)

    Alamo Jobe – music by James Horner

  8. The Battle / Jobe Runs (3:01)
  9. Travis Dies (0:51)
  10. First Chase (3:43)
  11. Antique Shop (2:16)

    Gather Ye Acorns – music by Bruce Broughton

  12. The Boy / The Gnome (4:34)
  13. 1938 Radio Source (1:42)
  14. Jonathan’s Room / The Car (0:48)
  15. Nothin’ But A Bum / 1955 / Tumbleweed Connection (2:50)
  16. Regrets (1:27)
  17. 1985 (0:51)
  18. Gas Station Source (2:58)
  19. Holy Moly! / Sow Ye Wild Oats (3:06)

    The Doll – music by Georges Delerue

  20. Doll Shop Sign (1:08)
  21. The Carousel / Doll On Floor / Well, Miss… (3:12)
  22. A School Teacher (0:46)
  23. An Occasional Model (0:36)
  24. She’s Not Married / An O.S. Clunk / Door Opens (1:54)
  25. John Walks To Mantle (2:17)

    The Amazing Falsworth – music by Billy Goldenberg

  26. Falsworth / Strangling / Retrospect (3:30)
  27. Leering / Frigity-Feet (0:30)
  28. Top Floor / Lights (0:53)
  29. All In The Fingers / Lunge (3:07)
  30. Falsworth (E.T.) (0:36)
    Disc two

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

    Moving Day – music by David Shire

  2. Alan’s Dream (1:20)
  3. It’s Not The Same / Discovering The Room (1:37)
  4. My God! (2:40)
  5. Tonight / That’s Alturis (2:30)
  6. Your Ring (2:14)
  7. Departure (2:01)
  8. Finale (0:57)

    Without Diana – music by Georges Delerue

  9. Park (1946) (1:44)
  10. Only Eight / Forest Walk (2:30)
  11. Sorry Policeman / Not By George Alone (2:33)
  12. George In Doorway / Diana’s Story (2:20)
  13. George Will Be (3:22)

    Mummy, Day – music by Danny Elfman & Steve Bartek

  14. Mummy Movie / Baby Chase / Gas Station (3:21)
  15. Country Source (0:26)
  16. Gun Shot / Stinger / Swamp / Old Man / Real Mummy (3:35)
  17. Kung-Fu Mummy (1:00)
  18. Motorcycle / Caught (1:23)
  19. Lynching / Horse Ride (1:25)
  20. Corridors / Caught Again (0:27)
  21. Baby / Finale (1:30)

    Vanessa In The Garden – music by Leonard Niehaus

  22. It’s Lovely / Whoa, Rock, Whoa / I Hurt Vanessa (1:47)
  23. Beautiful Portrait / Humming From The Garden (4:09)
  24. Vanessa’s Laughter / A Summer’s Day / Do It Together / Create A Life (4:07)
  25. Vanessa (piano with orchestra coda) (3:19)

    Welcome To My Nightmare – music by Bruce Broughton

  26. Harry Wakes Up (2:00)
  27. Harry Takes A Shower / Horro Movie / Kate (1:57)
  28. Fraternity Of The Undead / Bad Milk (1:41)
  29. Harry & Kate (0:39)
  30. Harry’s Prayer / The Comet Theatre / Harry At The Movies (7:24)
  31. Back Home (2:13)
  32. Amazing Stories End Credits (0:29)
  33. Amblin Logo (0:15)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2006
Disc one total running time: 64:31
Disc two total running time: 70:33

Battle Beyond The Stars / Humanoids From The Deep

Battle Beyond The Stars / Humanoids From The DeepThough the movies themselves have faded into that special pocket of semi-obscure hell reserved for stuff produced by Roger Corman, Battle Beyond The Stars and Humanoids From The Deep hold a special place in the hearts of soundtrack fans as the big-screen debut of a promising new young talent, James Horner. Hired with a mandate to try to duplicate the sound of – ironically – Jerry Goldsmith’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture score, Battle is basically the calling card that brought Horner into the Trek fold proper. I know I’ve jumped all over Horner in the past where originality is concerned, but let’s give credit where it’s due and give the guy a break: for this first movie scoring project, he was told to mimic Goldsmith. Say it with me again: Goldsmith. No pressure, eh? And then, on the strength of Battle, Horner was hired by Nicholas Meyer and asked to emulate himself. It’s no wonder Horner used and reused this basic material throughout the 1980s.

The nautical woodwind motifs that Horner refined in Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan can be heard here in a slightly more primitive form, and his rapid-fire bursts of heroic brass can be heard here too, though with a rhythm that’s almost jazzy. What you will hear a lot of is the Blaster Beam, that unearthly electric stringed instrument that Goldsmith put on the musical map with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Its appearance here doesn’t sound quite as graceful as it did in that first movie, but with marching orders to copy Goldsmith’s style, Horner makes abundant use of it. In that respect, if you’re a fan of that rarely-used instrument, this soundtrack is a treat.

To be completely fair, while there is indeed blatant copying of such Goldsmith cues as “Spock Walk”, there’s enough originality within this score’s context that one can hear where Horner would have been labeled an up-and-coming young composer to keep an ear out for. Unfortunately, in later years, Horner would seem to have taken the instruction “Make it sound kind of like the music from…” a little too literally, and a few times too many.

Humanoids, though commissioned, composed and recorded at around the same time (and it actually hit the theaters before Battle), sounds altogether more assured and mature, with Horner developing some if his more “scary” motifs in their earliest form – much of Trek II‘s Mutara Nebula music can be traced back to this score. For his first major horror scoring assignment, Horner isn’t shy about borrowing from the masters, with plenty of Hermann-esque “stabbing” strings on display.

Put together, Battle Beyond The Stars and Humanoids From The Deep are a debut that, even despite the rough edges, would’ve done any Hollywood 3 out of 4newcomer proud. And even if I’m not Horner’s biggest fan in the world, I’m even less of a Corman fan – his greatest contributions have really been in the area of bringing top-notch talent into Hollywood that eventually turns out better material than he himself could ever manage – and these may be among the very finest scores ever to grace a Roger Corman movie (or two).

Order this CD

    Battle Beyond The Stars

  1. Main Title (2:00)
  2. Malmori Read Guard (3:52)
  3. The Battle Begins (4:33)
  4. Nanella And Shad (1:27)
  5. Cowboy And The Jackers (3:36)
  6. Nanella’s Capture (1:29)
  7. The Maze Battle (3:11)
  8. Shad’s Pursuit (3:23)
  9. Cowboy’s Attack (1:46)
  10. Love Theme (3:52)
  11. The Hunter (1:40)
  12. Gelt’s Death (1:30)
  13. Nanella (1:32)
  14. Heading For Sador (1:00)
  15. Destruction Of Hammerhead (2:36)
  16. Epilogue And End Title (5:02)

    Humanoids From The Deep

  17. Main Title (2:27)
  18. The Buck (3:45)
  19. Unwelcome Visitor (2:03)
  20. Night Swim (1:48)
  21. Jerry & Peggy (0:57)
  22. Trip Upriver (1:59)
  23. The Humanoids Attack (2:54)
  24. Jerry’s Death (2:04)
  25. Search For Clues (1:55)
  26. Strange Catch (1:07)
  27. The Grotto (3:22)
  28. Night Prowlers (2:08)
  29. Final Confrontation (3:05)
  30. Aftermath & New Birth (2:22)
  31. End Titles (2:10)

Released by: GNP Crescendo
Release date: 2001
Total running time: 76:35

Krull – music by James Horner

Krull soundtrackKrull! If that word conjures up images of Kevin Sorbo and swords and sorcery…well, you’re in the wrong place. That was Kull The Conqueror. Krull was a big-budget 1983 popcorn flick featuring Kenneth Marshall and swords and sorcery, and it was practically designed to be the next Star Wars. Needless to say…it wasn’t. While it brought the concept of throwing stars to the attention of a great many youngsters (myself included), Krull wasn’t a box office smash. And much as I hate to say it, perhaps its soundtrack has something to do with that.

I’ll admit, however, that what is stated above is my opinion alone, and it’s not one shared by soundtrack collectors or film music fans for the most part. James Horner’s Krull soundtrack is revered, and this 2-CD version released in the 1990s by the now-defunct internet soundtrack specialty shop Supercollector.com is considered particularly desirable on the collectors’ circuit. But when I listen to it, what hits my ears sounds like the music from Star Trek II, cut-and-pasted around a bit so it doesn’t sound exactly the same. Even the arrangements and the balance of instruments used is nearly identical. I do like the heraldic blasts of brass the punctuate the more heroic moments of the music, but so much of the bulk of Krull‘s music is borrowed from The Wrath Of Khan that it’s not funny – I already paid for this same music once. (See also: Horner’s music from Aliens.)

3 out of 4To be fair, though, I will give Horner some praise for his attempts to differentiate Krull from his previous work. There’s a cuttingly siren-like descending synth note in the attack scenes involving the Black Fortress minions that, while it’s a bit dated now, does indeed jump right out, grab you by the neck and telegraphs “bad news!” straight into your ears. “Ride Of The Firemares”, even with its own borrowed passages, is simply one of the best things Horner’s ever put in front of an orchestra.These new developments to what seems like very familiar material are interesting…but I’d be more inclined to adjust my thinking of Horner from unoriginality to an artist who keeps revisiting a theme until he’s perfected it if I hadn’t had to pay good money to hear every “work in progress” stage of that theme.

Order this CDDisc One:

  1. Main Title & Colwyn’s Arrival (7:34)
  2. The Slayers Attack (9:20)
  3. Quest For The Glaive (7:23)
  4. Ride To The Waterfall (0:54)
  5. Lyssa In The Fortress (1:29)
  6. The Walk To The Seer’s Cave (4:10)
  7. The Seer’s Vision (2:19)
  8. Battle In The Swamp (2:40)
  9. Quicksand (3:39)
  10. The Changeling (4:04)
  11. Colwyn and Lyssa (Love Theme) (2:38)

Disc Two:

  1. Leaving The Swamp (2:00)
  2. The Widow’s Web (6:19)
  3. The Widow’s Lullaby (5:02)
  4. Vella (3:47)
  5. Ynyr’s Death (1:42)
  6. Ride Of The Firemares (5:23)
  7. Battle Of The Parapets (2:53)
  8. Inside The Black Fortress (6:15)
  9. The Death Of The Beast and The Destruction of the Dark Fortress (8:32)
  10. Epilogue & End Title (4:50)

Released by: Super Collector / Supertracks
Release date: 1998
Disc one total running time: 46:10
Disc two total running time: 46:43