Over The Hedge – music by Rupert Gregson-Williams

Over The Hedge soundtrackA pleasant selection of Rupert Gregson-Williams’ lively orchestral score combined with about an EP’s worth of material both new and familiar from Ben Folds, the CD from Dreamworks’ Over The Hedge may just be 2006’s most underrated soundtrack.

The score tracks are unapologetically bold and colorful, but it’s not without subtleties. Instead of going for the usual Carl Stalling-esque tendencies (not that there’s anything wrong with Stalling) for scoring a movie aimed at kids, Rupert Gregson-Williams delivers a rather in-your-face dramatic underscore. It’s fun and full of action. It seems like movie and TV music has tried to get away from this sort of full-blooded orchestral treatment in recent years, in favor of electronics or techno or ethnic/exotic music. There’s room for all of those styles on the same music shelf, and I can honestly say that I just don’t hear enough music like this these days – my compliments to the maestro.

Ben Folds’ contributions are a little more varied; I find myself shrugging a bit at the watered-down remake of “Rockin’ The Suburbs” (though I’d say it’s still worth it for the William Shatner rant that takes the place of at least one whole verse), but “Family Of Me” and “Still” won’t disappoint Folds fans. The latter rambles on a bit, so naturally, it’s on the album in two forms. “Trapped In The Supermarket” is another track that one has to be in the right mood for; its lyrics are a bit repetitive, so its strongest appeal lies in Folds’ relentlessly good musicianship and vocals.

Rating: 4 out of 4Rather than being yet another piece of tie-in merchandise for a massively-marketed kids’ movie, Over The Hedge makes for good listening material. I originally picked it up for the Ben Folds songs, but have wound up playing the whole thing quite a few times over the past several months – it’s all worth a listen.

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  1. Family Of Me – Ben Folds (1:28)
  2. RJ Enters The Cave (4:37)
  3. The Family Awakes (2:33)
  4. Heist – Ben Folds (3:02)
  5. Lost In The Supermarket – Ben Folds (3:30)
  6. Let’s Call It Steve (3:40)
  7. Hammy Time (2:28)
  8. Still – Ben Folds (2:38)
  9. Play? (1:49)
  10. Rockin’ The Suburbs (Over The Hedge version) – Ben Folds & William Shatner (4:57)
  11. The Inside Heist (7:38)
  12. RJ Rescues His Family (4:18)
  13. Still (Reprise) – Ben Folds (6:07)

Released by: Epic
Release date: 2006
Total running time: 48:45

William Shatner – Has Been

William Shatner - Has BeenIn 1998, alt-pop rising star Ben Folds took a breather from the then-hugely-successful Ben Folds Five to cook up a side project, more for fun and experimentation than anything, called Fear Of Pop. Two tracks on that album were basically spoken-word poetry/rants set to music, with the poetry honors done by none other than William Shatner of Star Trek fame. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean than Ben’s a dyed-in-the-wool Trekkie, but he has at least copped to an admiration for Shatner’s previous album of music/poetry, The Transformed Man. And lo and behold, enough mutual admiration emerged between Folds and Shatner to spark this little CD called Has Been.

And so help me, it’s kinda fun to listen to.

Fear Of Pop‘s “In Love” basically sets the mold for Has Been. Folds provides the musical accompaniment and does the bulk of the actual singing, while William Shatner lends his voice to a serious of monologues. The lyrics are purely Shatner’s, and the music is Folds’ in most cases. And it’s a better combination than you might at first expect. A lot of people are used to equating the Star Trek star with a galactic-scale ego. That includes me, by the way – I’ve read one of the guy’s autobiographies. But somehow he’s able to convey the inherent loneliness and pressure of his somewhat unique position in “It Hasn’t Happened Yet”, “Has Been” and “Real” (a dandy little collaboration with country artist Brad Paisley), and yet also gives full vent to things that bug him in a free-form rant with Henry Rollns, “I Can’t Get Behind That.”

But encroaching age and mortality are also very much in evidence on Has Been. “You’ll Have Time”, presented almost as a mock church sermon, talks about how there’s only so much time to live life but an eternity afterward to look back and regret the things that were never done. This Is Me Trying is a confessional from a man trying to reconcile with a bitterly estranged adult daughter before time runs out for both of them. And most haunting – some might say disturbing – of them all is “What Have You Done.” Not even weighing in at two-minutes, it’s an almost music-free piece in which Shatner relives the true story of coming home to find that his wife had drowned in the swimming pool. One almost has to hit stop after that track and sit back for a bit, maybe listen to something else a bit cheerier, before going on. It’s really a bit of a shock to the system.

3 out of 4Overall, Has Been is startlingly effective as listening material. I wasn’t ready to, as Shatner and Rollins put it, “get behind that” conceptually until I heard it. It’s by no means perfect, and it’s not for everybody by any stretch, but William Shatner’s Has Been must be heard to be believed; Golden Throats, it’s not.

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  1. Common People featuring Joe Jackson (4:38)
  2. It Hasn’t Happened Yet (3:52)
  3. You’ll Have Time (5:20)
  4. That’s Me Trying featuring Aimee Mann and Ben Folds (3:51)
  5. What Have You Done (1:49)
  6. Together featuring Lemon Jelly (5:41)
  7. Familiar Love (4:02)
  8. Ideal Woman (2:26)
  9. Has Been (2:21)
  10. I Can’t Get Behind That featuring Henry Rollins (3:02)
  11. Real featuring Brad Paisley (3:10)

Released by: Shout! Factory
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 40:12

Star Trek: The Motion Picture – 20th Anniversary Edition

Star Trek: The Motion Picture soundtrack 20th Anniversary EditionThank God! After years of waiting – literally years – the remastered Star Trek: The Motion Picture soundtrack is available. Up until the 11th hour in December 1998, this 2-CD set was intended to be released at the same time as Star Trek: Insurrection‘s soundtrack and Ron Jones’ original music from the CD-ROM game Star Trek: Starfleet Academy. But Paramount’s marketing wing blanched at the thought of three simultaneous Star Trek music releases, and demanded that this collection and the Starfleet Academy album be held back indefinitely. Alas, Sonic Images’ Starfleet Academy CD has yet to see the light of day, but after hearing this digitally remastered soundtrack with its wealth of previously unreleased material, I begin to see why the Paramount brass was so worried. The power, exotic beauty and timelessness of the first Trek film’s soundtrack – even though composed by the same man who scored Star Trek: Insurrection – easily outshines damn near any other Star Trek CD that could’ve been released at the same time.

Disc one not only adds nearly half an hour of previously unreleased music from that first movie, but every cue is crisply remastered and sequenced in order of its original appearance in the movie. This places the lovely theme for the short-lived Lt. Ilia first on the disc, since it appeared in the movie as an overture over a blank screen. The second disc includes the entire contents of the hitherto hard-to-find Inside Star Trek LP released by Columbia in 1976. Inside Star Trek features several late luminaries – Gene Roddenberry, Mark Lenard, Isaac Asimov – discussing and lecturing on science fiction in general, and of course, Star Trek in particular. William Shatner and DeForest Kelley also appear on the album, which now has newly-recorded introductory and closing material by Nichelle Nichols. Inside Star Trek is seriously fannish novelty material. I have the original LP, given to me by a friend several years ago, and having heard it long ago, never expected to see an official CD release.

But back to the music from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. One quickly realizes that most of the material which is being heard on CD for the first time here makes up some of the score’s quieter moments – “Total Logic”, the cue which accompanies Spock’s rejection of Kolinahr; “Games”, a nicely understated cue which played under a scene of Decker trying to reacquaint an alien probe in the form of Lt. Ilia with her original memories, and a few others. Many of them are less otherworldly-sounding than the blaster beam laden V’Ger cues, but all of them are epic in scale and amazing to hear at full blast.

4 out of 4Though the “bonus CD” renders this a slightly more expensive purchase than usual, I cannot recommend the 20th anniversary edition of the Star Trek: The Motion Picture soundtrack highly enough. Though the long wait for this release has been frustrating, to say the least, it’s definitely worth the wait.

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    Disc one

  1. Ilia’s Theme (3:01)
  2. Main Title (1:23)
  3. Klingon Attack (5:27)
  4. Total Logic (3:34)
  5. Floating Office (1:03)
  6. The Enterprise (5:59)
  7. Leaving Drydock (3:29)
  8. Spock’s Arrival (1:58)
  9. The Cloud (4:58)
  10. V’Ger Flyover (4:57)
  11. The Force Field (5:03)
  12. Games (3:41)
  13. Spock Walk (4:19)
  14. Inner Workings (3:09)
  15. V’Ger Speaks (3:50)
  16. The Meld (3:09)
  17. A Good Start (2:26)
  18. End Title (3:16)
    Disc two

  1. Star Trek Theme (1:34)
  2. Introduction – Nichelle Nichols (1:13)
  3. Inside Star Trek (1:04)
  4. William Shatner Meets Captain Kirk (9:12)
  5. Introduction to live show (0:25)
  6. About Science Fiction (0:40)
  7. The Origin of Spock (1:45)
  8. Sarek’s Son Spock – Mark Lenard (7:21)
  9. The Questor Affair (3:49)
  10. The Genesis II Pilot (2:34)
  11. Cyborg Tools and E.T. Life Forms (4:06)
  12. McCoy’s Rx for Life – DeForest Kelley (6:14)
  13. The Star Trek Philosophy – Gene Roddenberry (4:40)
  14. Asimov’s World of Science Fiction – Isaac Asimov (6:27)
  15. The Enterprise Runs Aground (1:50)
  16. A Letter from a Network Censor – Gene Roddenberry (5:03)
  17. The Star Trek Dream (Ballad I/Ballad II) (5:43)
  18. Sign-Off – Nichelle Nichols (0:50)

Released by: Columbia / Sony Legacy
Release date: 1999
Disc one total running time: 67:12
Disc two total running time:

Fear Of Pop – Volume One

Fear Of Pop - Volume OneThis side project from the Ben Folds Five frontman is billed as an “album of instrumental and spoken word music by Ben Folds” and Caleb Southern (the latter being the producer of the Ben Folds Five albums so far). And of course, its other main claim to fame is that it features the vocal stylings of one Mr. William Shatner on the song/rant “In Love”. The song in question consists of a standard modern-day synth-R&B backing vocal, while Shatner – as a frighteningly embittered rejected lover – proclaims his newfound disdain for the (former) object of his affections in a classic Shatner-esque performance. He doesn’t actually sing, so this is easily Shatner’s best musical appearance on record. Another attention-getter is the quasi-rap “I Paid My Money”, a song whose lyrics – “I see people leaving early, they don’t know what they’re missing, they don’t know what they’re missing, they’re missing half the movie!” – almost sound like an ode to everyone who paid full admission price just to see the trailer of a certain upcoming George Lucas opus. It’s also hilarious when Ben calmly announces “Funky bass!” in his unmistakable-for-anything-but-white voice. As an amusing diversion, Fear Of Pop fits the bill nicely, but it will probably come as a shock to those who are used to even the wildest Ben Folds Five tunes. Unlike those songs, Folds makes use of guitars, 2 out of 4synths, samples, and just about everything you could think of as the antithesis of the Ben Folds Five sound. There’s something distinctly late-1980s about the feel of Fear Of Pop. If you’re expecting to get a laugh out of this, go ahead and pick it up. If, on the other hand, you’re expecting more Ben Folds Five smoothness, you might want to wait until this hits the cutout bin.

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  1. Fear Of Pop (3:26)
  2. Kops (6:08)
  3. Slow Jam ’98 (4:50)
  4. Blink (1:24)
  5. In Love / guest vocals: William Shatner (4:46)
  6. Interlude (0:22)
  7. Avery M. Powers Memorial Beltway (5:59)
  8. I Paid My Money (3:16)
  9. Rubber Sled (4:56)
  10. Root To This (5:09)
  11. Still In Love (1:26)

Released by: Sony / 550
Release date: 1998
Total running time: 41:44