Battlestar Galactica: Volume 3 – music by Stu Phillips

Battlestar Galactica: Volume 3The third volume of music from the 1970s iteration of Battlestar Galactica proves that, even well into its run, despite budget overruns, the series’ music was still a big priority, even if it occasionally took on forms that were stripped-down compared to the full-blooded orchestral score of the pilot miniseries.

This volume deals exclusively with one-off, self-contained episodes (with one great big surprise as the final selection). The Long Patrol, one of the earliest single-part stories in the series, starts out with what modern ears would probably hear as novelty synthesizer effects, but the bulk of this episode’s score is still orchestral, though leaning on a smaller ensemble than the pilot (heard in full in the first volume of the series) and the early two-part extravaganzas (covered in the second volume). The most distinctive feature of The Long Patrol is a recurring, insistent cello riff, heightening the jeopardy of the storyline.

The Lost Warrior was an episode that riffed on just about every western/cowboy movie trope in the space of a single hour; the soundtrack takes that to heart too, giving us a Battlestar Galactica episode scored with prominent guitar work. Even though it reuses some of the action music established as far back as the pilot, those themes are now played on guitar, and aside from the occasional orchestral flourishes (and some interesting experiments in blending woodwinds with similarly-timbred synths), it would almost fit an episode of Gunsmoke.

The Magnificent Warriors, loaded with low brass and busy, clockwork-like percussion, almost anticipates Michael Giacchino’s Lost soundtracks, and features the longest track of the entire two-disc set, “The Boray Camp / Into The Cave,” weighing in at over four minutes. The Young Lords is the most reminiscent of the music on the previous Galactica releases, again reusing themes from the pilot, but in a similar (if scaled back) orchestral vein. The first disc is rounded out with source music selections from The Lost Warrior (an amusingly corny synth version of Scott Joplin’s “The Easy Winners” that jars completely against the episode’s more authentic western guitars) and The Magnificent Warriors.

The second disc opens with Murder On The Rising Star, essentially a single-episode homage to The Fugitive with Starbuck as the wrongly-accused subject of a Kafka-esque manhunt. This might just be the most interesting score of the entire set, with a more subdued musical style than most Galactica episodes. It also has, in terms of sheer running time, more music than most episodes, so its themes get a chance to develop nicely. A single track from the hostage-drama episode Take The Celestra!, a march-like take on the Galactica theme, offers an interesting contrast to a similar treatment of Phillips’ theme music that appeared in the pilot miniseries of the revived Galactica in 2003.

The Hand Of God, the classic series’ first series finale, had a real sense of “building up to something” (clearly, the makers of Galactica weren’t expecting to be told to scale the series back to something that could be shot inexpensively at unaltered modern-day locations), and the music comes very close to upping its game almost to the level of the pilot. Like Murder On The Rising Star, The Hand Of God has a lot of music, giving themes time to develop. Many themes are reused from the pilot, but turn up in interesting variations. Phillips clearly doesn’t have the same size orchestra that he had for the pilot, but his arrangements make the best use of the players on hand; the most memorable cue is the mysterious ending scene in which a stray television signal from Earth plays out to an empty observation room, completely unknown to our heroes: a replay of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Naturally, despite the build-up to that fascinating conclusion, the show’s second season was lumbered with major creative interference from ABC, threatening not to renew unless its wishes to curb Galactica’s enormous budget were met. The result, retitled Galactica 1980, tends to be ignored by most of fandom, with the possible exception of its final episode, the Glen A. Larson-written farewell The Return Of Starbuck, which throws the ABC-mandated recasting of the show out the door by bringing Dirk Benedict back as Starbuck (and yet explaining it within the context of the show’s largely new cast). The score from that episode is heard here for the first time, a real surprise that almost sounds more like Phillips’ work for Glen Larson’s other TV sci-fi epic of the time, Buck Rogers In The 25th Century. In retrospect, with its unusual use of female vocals, The Return Of Starbuck – by putting Starbuck in an Adam-and-Eve scenario with much hardship ahead of him – can also be seen as a precursor to the finale of the 21st century Galactica. Who knew?

Stu Phillips, whether he was conducting a full orchestra or having to make do with a smaller ensemble or just a synthesizer, provided much of Galactica’s epic heart and soul, even at points in the show’s brief life where it was struggling to not overspend anymore. Hopefully more of his music is forthcoming (two-parters The 4 out of 4Living Legend and War Of The Gods, both already published with lower audio fidelity on the impossibly rare late ’90s Battlestar Galactica Anthology 4-CD set by the defunct Supertracks label, are conspicuous by their absence thus far). Each of the soundtrack releases from the classic series have proven to be surprisingly good music.

Order this CD

    Disc One

  1. Exploration / Main Title (1:45)
  2. Episode Titles (0:45)

    The Long Patrol

  3. Double Parked (2:03)
  4. Stolen Viper (1:22)
  5. Viper Stolen (1:51)
  6. Starbuck In Prison (0:44)
  7. Cassiopeia And Athena (1:05)
  8. Deserted Town (0:52)
  9. The Limping Man (1:21)
  10. Grandpa Adama (1:39)
  11. The Map (1:00)

    The Lost Warrior

  12. Apollo “A” OK (0:55)
  13. The Boxey Con (1:05)
  14. Same Old Story (1:28)
  15. The Hunt (1:23)
  16. Time Running Out (2:16)
  17. Bootes To Boot Hill (1:42)
  18. Doubt (0:45)
  19. Shoot Out (2:31)
  20. No More Killing (1:16)

    The Magnificent Warriors

  21. The Courting (1:35)
  22. Here Come The Borays (2:13)
  23. Trapped Again (0:59)
  24. Time To Eat / Belloby Kidnapped (2:32)
  25. The Boray Camp / Into The Cave (4:38)
  26. Starbuck’s Plan (1:11)

    The Young Lords

  27. Into The Swamp (2:43)
  28. Attack By The Children (0:56)
  29. Fanfare And Theme (0:49)
  30. Launch The Raft (1:59)
  31. The Attack Rhyme (2:01)
  32. Starbuck And Miri / Well Done (2:13)
  33. Warriors (0:45)
  34. End Titles (0:30)

    Source Music

  35. Source: Saloon (3:15)
  36. Source: A Smoking Band (0:42)
  37. Source: Three Sided Pyramid (1:25)
  38. Source: Starbuck’s Luck (2:01)
  39. Source: Hospitality Muzak (2:10)
    Disc Two

  1. Exploration / Main Title (1:49)
  2. Episode Titles (0:46)

    Murder On The Rising Star

  3. No Fighting (1:17)
  4. Sudden Draw / The Victim / Cassiopeia Waits / Grim Starbuck (1:19)
  5. Laser Test / A Match (1:55)
  6. Starbuck Gets Help / Not Guilty (2:58)
  7. Escape (0:45)
  8. Starbuck’s Mistake / Change of Heart (0:49)
  9. Questioning Baltar (0:59)
  10. Night Of The Cylons / Cella Reacts (1:46)
  11. Apollo’s Plan / Stowaway (1:56)
  12. Baltar – The Skeptic (0:51)
  13. Cassiopeia – The Witness / The Villain (1:18)
  14. Karibdis Overcome (1:36)
  15. Friends (0:34)

    Take the Celestra!

  16. Ceremonial Fanfares (1:42)

    The Hand of God

  17. The Dome (1:05)
  18. Strange Signal (1:37)
  19. Boomer Embarassed (0:28)
  20. From The Past (0:44)
  21. Cylon Base Ship Rising (1:29)
  22. Tired of Running (1:43)
  23. A Great Plan / An Agreement (1:29)
  24. Some Deal / A Share of Loneliness / More Casi And Starbuck (2:40)
  25. Good Luck (1:04)
  26. They’re Gone (1:02)
  27. Strays (0:39)
  28. Man Your Vipers (1:11)
  29. In The Lair Of The Cylons (2:45)
  30. Here They Come (1:28)
  31. There She Is (1:13)
  32. We Did It! (0:53)
  33. Waggle (1:21)
  34. The Dome II / The Eagle Has Landed (1:29)

    The Return of Starbuck

  35. Main Title – Galactica: 1980 (1:19)
  36. I Had a Dream (1:13)
  37. Starbuck And Boomer (1:19)
  38. Starbuck Lives (0:46)
  39. Trek / Perhaps To Sleep (2:53)
  40. Shelter / I’m Sorry (1:12)
  41. In Search Of Woman (1:37)
  42. Taking Care Of Angela / Starbuck’s Planet (1:40)
  43. Spiritual Son (1:02)
  44. Ship Building (2:06)
  45. Three Humans (1:46)
  46. Cy Leaves (1:11)
  47. Goodbye Angela (0:52)
  48. Friend Cy (0:50)
  49. Sermon on the Mount / Zee, Son of Angela (1:26)
  50. End Titles (0:36)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2012
Disc one total running time: 62:47
Disc two total running time: 68:02

Battlestar Galactica Volume 2 – music by Stu Phillips

Battlestar Galactica Volume 2When a studio and/or a network launch a new, heavily-hyped show, you almost expect the music for the pilot episode to kick butt – as with every other aspect of the new show, money is lavished on everything in the hopes that the audience will stick around for later episodes, which will inevitably go through some lean times with tighter budgets. One show that was notorious for never quite getting around to the “tighter budget” part was the notoriously expensive – and popular – original incarnation of Battlestar Galactica. With elaborate space FX sequences constructed in much the same way that similar scenes had been done for Star Wars only a year before Galactica premiered, this was a show that didn’t know the meaning of “coming in under budget.”

Money was also lavished on Galactica’s lush orchestral music, and Stu Phillips clearly had fun with the wide-open canvas at his disposal. This 2-CD set, following on from Intrada’s release of the complete score from the Galactica pilot earlier this year, includes the complete score for the series’ earliest two-part extravaganzas. Portions of the music here have been included on the very-limited-run Battlestar Galactica: Stu Phillips Anthology 4-CD collection released by the now-defunct Supertracks label, but Intrada wasted no time in pointing out that this is the first time the complete scores from both of these two-parters has been released. (Truthfully, even if the scores weren’t complete, the rarity and insane secondary market prices on the Anthology set would still make this set a more attractive deal.)

Another plus is the premiere of the Galactica main titles as heard in the early weekly series episodes: following the bold main title with which everyone’s familiar through countless releases and re-recordings (and, in certain places in the new Galactica series, re-interpretations), the early episodes immediately launched into a secondary fanfare accompanying brief glimpses of that week’s guest stars. The fanfare, which wasn’t shy about proclaiming (sometimes quite rightly) that these big-name guests were a Big Deal, then slid down a few keys for a refrain of the Galactica theme, over which we’d see the credits for the writers, producers and director – and then things would come to a full stop for the beginning of the story. This piece of unapologetically bold music hasn’t been released before, and I’d forgotten how much I liked it. It’s kind of like old-school studio-system Hollywood breathing its last, and doing so loud.

Both discs feature quite a bit of musical material in common with the pilot, but each episode has its own unique themes. Lost Planet Of The Gods gets some fine mysterioso music (“The List / Critical / Phony Battle”) as well as a grand choral theme for Kobol (befitting the impressive second-unit scenes filmed in long-shot with extras costumed as Adama, Apollo and Serina, shot on location in Egypt). The choral music may seem a bit cheesy when held up to today’s sensibilities, but again there’s an old-school Hollywood aesthetic to it: this used to be the sound of epic. And it’s really not bad.

The music for The Gun On Ice Planet Zero finds its niche by exploring variations of the show’s recurring themes. Though established in the pilot, some of the themes go through some interesting permutations, including a low string version of the Cylon Basestar motif (normally blared by low brass), accompanying the Cylons’ plotting to destroy Galactica. If you’re a fan of the show’s major themes, this one’s a treat.

3 out of 4Where many series scale down their expectations after the pilot, in one respect classic Galactica does follow suit: Intrada lowered this limited edition to a run of 1,500 copies (down from 3,000 copies of volume one), but this may have been a miscalculation on the label’s part. The score for the pilot, whether complete or not, has been issued in many permutations over the years (the original LP, the German CD of that LP, a from-the-ground-up re-recording on Varese for the show’s 25th anniversary, the Stu Phillips Anthology). The music from subsequent episodes is much harder to come by (the Anthology was the only game in town prior to these Intrada releases), so there’s an argument that they probably could’ve sold 3,000 copies of this. The speed with which this volume has already sold out may change the quantities of future volumes. It’s nice to finally see this show’s lush music getting as much attention as the music for its latter-day remake.

Out of print

    Disc 1: The Lost Planet Of The Gods

  1. Main Title – Parts 1 & 2 (1:48)
  2. Imperious Leader & Baltar (1:28)
  3. Athena Vamps/Patrol Two Launch (1:36)
  4. Baltar – The Leader (2:04)
  5. The Abyss Part 1 (1:31)
  6. The Abyss Part 2 / Escape From The Void (2:56)
  7. Cylon Outpost (2:12)
  8. Virus 1A / Virus 1B / Virus 2 / Virus 3 (2:14)
  9. Virus 4 / Adama’s Medal / Top Of The Class / Ancient Writings (2:54)
  10. The List / Critical / Phony Battle (2:30)
  11. Captain’s Opinion / Launch When Ready (0:56)
  12. More Cylon Lair (1:53)
  13. Good Guys 1, Bad Guys Zero (4:25)
  14. We’re Going In (1:53)
  15. The Medallion / Starbuck In Trouble (1:43)
  16. Marry Me (1:05)
  17. The Wedding / Starbuck Captured (3:36)
  18. Ancient Ruins (1:28)
  19. Discovery Of The Tomb (2:44)
  20. Baltar Appears (1:24)
  21. Love & The Sphinx (0:43)
  22. To Light The Way / Blue Squad Reporting (4:28)
  23. Not The Last Of Baltar / Serina Dies / Boxey & Apollo (5:25)
  24. End Credits (0:30)
    Disc 2: The Gun On Ice Planet Zero

  1. Main Title (1:48)
  2. Environment: Hostile (1:41)
  3. March Of The Centurions (2:32)
  4. Four Specialists (1:11)
  5. Cree Captured (1:05)
  6. Launch Bay Alpha (1:19)
  7. Blizzard (2:07)
  8. Death Point (3:15)
  9. Cold Journey (3:32)
  10. Bad Situation (1:37)
  11. Ravashol (3:35)
  12. Rough Ride (1:21)
  13. Icy Planet Lab (1:38)
  14. Cree To The Cold Cell (0:44)
  15. Cold Planet (1:58)
  16. Fire The Pulsar (2:58)
  17. Getting Closer (8:03)
  18. Pulsar Destroyed (1:53)
  19. Starbuck Loses (1:41)
  20. End Credits (0:30)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2011
Disc one total running time: 53:49
Disc two total running time: 43:41

Battlestar Galactica: Razor / The Plan – music by Bear McCreary

Battlestar Galactica: Razor / The PlanThe new Battlestar Galactica gets one final hurrah in this soundtrack release covering the two made-for-DVD (and later broadcast on TV as a bit of an afterthought) movies, Razor and The Plan. Unlike earlier “season” soundtracks from the series, which followed a more or less chronological progression, this album becomes a bit more of a concept piece just by the novelty of its sequencing.

I hadn’t thought about it before seeing the CD’s track listing, but Razor and The Plan share a common story element: both show us the flip-side of past events that we’d either witnessed only from the perspective of Galactica’s crew, or heard about second-hand. Both movies’ flashbacks chronicle the Cylon destruction of the Twelve Colonies: The Plan shows it from the ground, Razor shows the destruction of the main Colonial shipyard (and the escape of one solitary battlestar). Composer Bear McCreary therefore took the unconventional approach of sequencing tracks in strict chronological order from inside the story: the tracks from both movies’ scenes of the Colonies’ destruction are grouped together, for example. With Razor and The Plan having been made and released a year apart, you might not expect much cohesion, but thanks to McCreary’s thoughtful approach to scoring the Galactica saga, everything fits together better than you might think.

The chief exception to this chronological ordering scheme is the first track, which is actually the end credit music from The Plan. Starting with a solo vocal version of the show’s main theme, “Apocalypse” quickly gets around to showing off its main feature, a crunchy heavy metal guitar riff by Anthrax axeman (and Galactica fan) Scott Ian. Much has been made of Ian’s contribution, and it’s a fairly unique sound for Galactica; the guitar work in the rest of the series has largely been done by Oingo Boingo’s Steve Bartek, and has been fairly intricate even when in screaming/searing mode. Ian’s guitar work is, by comparison, less ornamented – but with the unstoppable approach of the Cylons, maybe that’s the point: it’s the musical equivalent of the brutal bootsteps of an invading army. If you like the studio version of “Apocalypse” – which also appears in the extended, two-part version used within The Plan itself – there’s a great live version, performed by McCreary and the BSG Orchestra, that closes the album out.

But “Apocalypse” is an oddball here; much of the music from Razor and The Plan is what we’ve come to expect from McCreary’s nearly-unerring dramatic and musical sensibilities. Highlights include the attack on the Colonial shipyards (from which Pegasus narrowly escapes) in Razor, the whole “[insert planet name here] is burning!” sequence from The Plan, and the reappearance of Stu Phillips’ original Galactica theme in Razor‘s young-Adama-vs.-Cylon-parachutist flashback. Though it probably flies under most people’s radar here, I was also delighted to hear McCreary’s beautiful theme for Caprica from Daybreak resurface toward the end of The Plan‘s “Main Title” track.

For Galactica fans, this release neatly caps off the show’s musical canon; both movies sound like the series of which they are a part, and yet they also sound unique in their own right. But the inventive 4 out of 4sequencing which mixes-and-matches moments from both movies (though it never puts cues from both movies in the same track) reminds us that the similarities are greater than the differences – if there was a message to the whole show by the time The Plan‘s end credits rolled, I think that was it. As always, highly recommended.

By the way, if the live track at the end is a taster for a potential BSG Orchestra live album, I think that’d be a dandy thing to hear. Just sayin’.

Order this CD

  1. Apocalypse featuring Raya Yarbrough (4:07)
  2. Razor Main Title (2:13)
  3. Arriving At Pegasus (2:26)
  4. The Plan Main Title (4:34)
  5. Attack On The Scorpion Shipyards (3:37)
  6. Apocalypse, Part I (6:37)
  7. Apocalypse, Part II (2:36)
  8. Pegasus Aftermath (4:10)
  9. Kendra’s Memories (2:43)
  10. Mayhem On The Colonies (3:28)
  11. Civilian Standoff On The Scylla (2:57)
  12. Husker In Combat (1:54)
  13. Major Kendra Shaw (5:02)
  14. Cavil Kills and Cavil Spares featuring Raya Yarbrough (2:13)
  15. The Hybrid Awaits (2:43)
  16. Kendra And The Hybrid (6:06)
  17. Princes Of The Universe (3:57)
  18. Starbuck’s Destiny (0:41)
  19. Apocalypse (Live) (6:23)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2010
Total running time: 68:27

Caprica – music by Bear McCreary

CapricaI’m reviewing this slightly out of order, as it was released a few months before the Battlestar Galactica Season 4 soundtrack (which runs a damn good chance of being the best film music release, by anyone, in any medium, anywhere this year), and indeed I listened to Caprica before the Galactica soundtrack arrived. I held back on a review to see if a closer listen to both at the same time would reveal more connecting tissue, musically speaking, than there appears to be at first.

On reflection, though, I’m not sure why I’d expect there to be; Capirca isn’t Galactica. It’s a landlubber show as opposed to its spacefaring forebear, serving as a prequel to Galactica, with its events taking place over half a century before the destruction of the twelve colonies. Musically, it’s more traditional than Galactica; as the show takes place in a society that’s modeled somewhat on post-WWII America (except that there are maglev trains and interplanetary travel, and racial and political tensions to go with them), the music is in a minimalist orchestral vein. The exotic instrumentation of Galactica is replaced with a more traditional string ensemble here.

That’s not to say that there aren’t hints of Galactica here and there; a few tracks in particular jump out as being the very connecting tissue I was looking for. Galactica’s wall-of-percussion sound returns for three key scenes: “Terrorism On The Lev”, “Zoe Awakens” and “Cybernetic Life Form Node”. All three of these cues accompany pivotal moments that are just the beginning of putting Caprica on the road to hell, and two of them involve the very first Cylon.

There’s a subtler reference back to Galactica with the instrumentation of “Monotheism At The Athena Academy”, hinting at the “ancient” Mediterranean sound of Caprica’s predecessor, and an overt reference in “The Adama Name”, which is a warm, string-based rendition of “Wander My Friends”, a song from Galactica’s first season which became the theme for Bill Adama (not coincidentally, this music accompanies virtually the only major scene in Caprica’s pilot movie for Adama, who’s still a child at this point).

Much – if not most – of the rest of the score revolves around variations on “The Graystone Family”, the first thing you hear on the CD. And indeed that family’s story is absolutely vital to Caprica, but the funereal tone of the soundtrack here makes it all seem to blur together at times. I’m reluctant to pass judgement on the Caprica soundtrack because it is just the pilot – think about how much bearing the soundtrack from the 2003 Battlestar Galactica miniseries has on, say, the music from the series finale. (And at the same time, if that same downer “feel” pervades the show and not just the music, I might pass on Caprica altogether.)

3 out of 4The booklet accompanying the CD gives the impression that Galactica house composer Bear McCreary wasn’t necessarily considered a shoo-in for the job on Caprica. But at the same time, there’s no reason for him to not have automatically gotten the job; in the end, Battlestar Galactica’s music was one of the best things about the show, and as the story got murkier and more depressing, the music was honestly one of the few things that kept me around at times. If the tone of the pilot movie is any indication, Caprica’s going to need him too.

Order this CD

  1. The Graystone Family (3:02)
  2. Terrorism On The Lev (3:15)
  3. Grieving (3:46)
  4. Lacey and Zoe-A (4:08)
  5. Cybernetic Life Form Node (3:16)
  6. Zoe’s Avatar (3:04)
  7. Daniel Captures The Code (2:29)
  8. A Tauron Sacrifice (2:46)
  9. Amanda Graystone (3:05)
  10. Joseph and Daniel (4:18)
  11. Tamara’s Heartbeat (1:42)
  12. Delivering The Message (2:56)
  13. Monotheism At The Athena Academy (3:34)
  14. Children Of Caprica (2:30)
  15. Irrecoverable Error (2:47)
  16. The Adama Name (1:39)
  17. Zoe Awakens (2:22)
  18. Caprica End Credits (3:38)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2009
Total running time: 54:17

Battlestar Galactica: Season 4 – music by Bear McCreary

Battlestar Galactica: Season 4The fourth season of Battlestar Galactica is likely to be debated among fans for many years. It starts out with the unenviable task of reintroducing a character that the audience was led to believe was dead, barrels toward a mid-season climax that descends into dismal depths of despair, and then rockets down the homestretch toward the show’s still hotly-debated three-hour finale. It didn’t help that the season ended up taking the better part of a year to resolve the mid-season cliffhanger (thanks to the 2008 Writers’ Guild strike which shut down production for nearly every scripted series in North America for months); the season felt disjointed, and its (literally) darkest hours were hard to swallow.

The music, on the other hand, was never better. Having spent the show’s early years studiously avoiding the orchestral and synthetic cliches of most filmed science fiction, composer Bear McCreary had won over both the audience and his bosses, and was free to experiment, mix and match sonic elements, and do his part to create the show’s universe. McCreary shows every sign of being a major future composer – film music fans have spent so much of the past 35 years heaping praise on John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith as if they were the only composers working in Hollywood during that time, but I strongly feel that Bear McCreary’s name will be mentioned in the same reverent tones one or two decades from now. His music on Galactica remains one of the show’s most remembered and praised elements – even to the point of being parodied in an episode of South Park (to McCreary’s delight).

This time around, we’re treated to two CDs of music to show us why he’s earned that praise. The first CD covers the fourth season’s musical highlights, omitting the three-hour series finale. Key scenes and themes, and slightly less obvious (but very interesting) pieces, are arranged almost chronologically. The album kicks off with “Gaeta’s Lament”, which certainly didn’t happen early in the season, but it’s a great showcase of how much the music of Battlestar Galactica had evolved over the years. It features a great vocal performance from regular cast member Alessandro Juliani (who had, handily enough, studied opera in college), heard in a series of scenes leading up to the amputation of one of his critically-injured character’s legs. Starting out a cappella, the song gradually gains a backing ensemble of both orchestral and ethnic instruments, filling out nicely as the vocal grows more anguished. (The theme reappears in a different, completely instrumental form later, which helps one to appreciate just how serpentine the melody line is – if this makes any sense, I gained much appreciation of the vocal performance from listening to the instrumental.)

Tracks like “The Signal”, “Blood On The Scales” and “Boomer Takes Hera” get back to Battlestar business with the show’s signature wall of percussion, but even here the show’s musical palette expands, taking on choral elements and other unexpected surprises. Familiar character themes get a few new twists in tracks such as “Roslin And Adama Reunited”, “Grand Old Lady” and “Farewell Apollo”. Running throughout many of the first disc’s tracks, however, is a theme only introduced at the end of season three, the extended, Indian-flavored instrumental intro that led into that season’s surprising rendition of “All Along The Watchtower”. As that music was previously heard by several characters who were suddenly revealed to be “sleeper” Cylons, it recurs as a theme for the “final five”.

The biggest shock to the system of longtime Galactica soundtrack fans may be the pieces for solo piano heard on the first disc; “Elegy” and “Dreilide Thrace Sonata No. 1” are strictly piano. “Kara Remembers” starts out this way as well, though it eventually morphs into the full-blooded “final five” theme (revealed in the show’s mythology to be a piece of music composed by Starbuck’s father) complete with percussion and exotic instrumentation, stopping just short of leading into “Watchtower” as it did at the end of season three. Rounding off the first disc is “Diaspora Oratorio”, the jubilant choral piece that lulled everyone into a false sense of security for the aforementioned mid-season cliffhanger; while not chronologically sequenced, it’s a great finale and a good stopping point before the second CD.

The second disc may well be the crowning glory of the entire Battlestar music collection, containing the complete score for the three-hour finale Daybreak. From the unusual, off-format opening montage onward, there’s a wistful longing to the music. The very beginning of the first cue, “Caprica, Before The Fall”, offers one of the very few new themes introduced for Daybreak, a beautiful theme for humanity’s homeworld which recurs in the second half of both the story and the score as the fleet finds its way to a new home. Initially played with exotic ethnic instruments, as per Galactica house style, this theme becomes even more lovely and haunting when it’s echoed by a full orchestra, a nice little sonic hint of the civilization that will result from these events. As the story’s conclusion unfolds in an atypically relaxed pace and characters exit the main story, their themes reappear, often in new forms or grander interpretations than we’ve heard before. Perhaps the most heart-wrenching of these pieces is the track “So Much Life”, with “Starbuck Disappears” running a close second. Ironically, the Daybreak score has a slightly anticlimactic ending, simply because Bear McCreary’s music didn’t close out the series; to achieve the full effect, you’ll have to provide your own copy of Hendrix’s version of “All Along The Watchtower”. For action music from Daybreak, I’ll just point out a little track titled “Assault On The Colony” which lasts a solid 15 minutes. Now, not every second of it is wall-to-wall action music, but the hefty chunks of it that meet that description do not disappoint at all.

With the Caprica pilot soundtrack already released, the only Battlestar music left on the docket is a CD with the highlights of music from the two TV movies, Razori and The Plan, and while that’s something to look forward to, it’s hard to argue that the emotional arc of the music of Battlestar Galactica really comes to an end here – curiously enough, with wonderfully expansive orchestral music of the kind that had been eschewed early in the series’ run. Thanks to Bear McCreary’s unerring instincts in scoring for both traditional and unconventional instruments, the end result is a surprisingly diverse musical palette that refuses to be stuff into the background, relishes in its recognizable recurring themes and their 4 out of 4instant associations with the story and its characters, and is incredibly satisfying listening material even away from the images that inspired it. In a field crowded with exceptionally good soundtrack entries this year, Battlestar Galactica Season 4 may well be the best new film or TV music that’s going to hit anyone’s ears this year.

Order this CD

    Disc one:

  1. Gaeta’s Lament (4:48)
  2. The Signal (5:08)
  3. Resurrection Hub (3:40)
  4. The Cult Of Baltar (5:41)
  5. Farewell Apollo (2:55)
  6. Roslin Escapes (2:55)
  7. Among The Ruins (7:44)
  8. Laura Runs (2:21)
  9. Cally Descends (3:08)
  10. Funeral Pyre (3:57)
  11. Roslin And Adama Reunited (1:59)
  12. Gaeta’s Lament (Instrumental) (4:50)
  13. Elegy (2:54)
  14. The Alliance (2:30)
  15. Blood On The Scales (5:20)
  16. Grand Old Lady (0:52)
  17. Kara Remembers (3:27)
  18. Boomer Takes Hera (2:40)
  19. Dreilide Thrace Sonata No. 1 (5:34)
  20. Diaspora Oratorio (4:51)
    Disc two (Daybreak):

  1. Caprica City, Before The Fall (4:33)
  2. Laura’s Baptism (2:40)
  3. Adama In The Memorial Hallway (2:11)
  4. The Line (3:56)
  5. Assault On The Colony (15:07)
  6. Baltar’s Sermon (4:24)
  7. Kara’s Coordinates (4:21)
  8. Earth (3:07)
  9. Goodbye Sam (2:10)
  10. The Heart Of The Sun (3:20)
  11. Starbuck Disappears (2:08)
  12. So Much Life (5:00)
  13. An Easterly View (4:52)
  14. The Passage Of Time (1:15)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2009
Disc one total running time: 77:14
Disc two total running time: 59:04

Battlestar Galactica: Season 3 – music by Bear McCreary

Battlestar Galactica Season 3Like the television episodes that it accompanied, the soundtrack from the third season of Battlestar Galactica is an even more haunted, somber affair than its predecessors. The third season saw the characters’ bad decisions, bad personal judgement, and all-around character flaws come back to bite them on the butt in a big way. Opening with most of the surviving human race enslaved by the Cylons on a bleak world, the show got off of that planet in four episodes, but then proceeded to spend the bulk of its remaining shows reflecting on what had happened during that time. A side strand about Baltar trying to get his bearings among the Cylons offered some rather nebulous developments, until he fell once more into the hands of his fellow humans (who blamed him for their captivity). The pace suddenly picked up at the end of the season with the apparent death of Starbuck, the revelation that several key characters may actually be Cylons, and what at least appeared to be the return of Starbuck…with a tantalizing peek at Earth, just around the cosmic corner from Galactica.

Quite a bit of the soundtrack’s running time is spent with the Exodus two-parter, which saw Adama and the fleet return to liberate humanity from New Caprica, and with Unfinished Business, a segment that centered around a series of boxing matches to help the crew blow off steam. I’ll admit that Unfinished Business resides in the same “blind spot” I mentioned in an earlier review of the Doctor Who Series 3 soundtrack – there was an awful lot of music generated for the episode, but since I didn’t really count that episode among my favorites, I hadn’t paid close attention to its music. It turns out that, like the Who episode Human Nature, Unfinished Business had some fine music that I had overlooked.

The gem of the Exodus tracks is a mammoth (nearly 8 minute) cue that accompanied Galactica’s all-or-nothing struggle to rescue the trapped colonists. The show’s relentless percussion of the star of “Storming New Caprica”, but when low strings start to add a guttural urgency to the walls of percussion, things really get cooking. This may well be the best reason to get the soundtrack to begin with. Well, that and “All Along The Watchtower”. As odd as it may seem, a Bob Dylan song became central to the season finale, lyrics and all, though it’s a wildly different interpretation than just about anything you’ve heard before. It leans a little bit on the Jimi Hendrix version of “Watchtower”, but with the ethnic instrumentation and percussion that screams “Galactica” layered onto it. This is a cover of “Watchtower” that rocks, and rocks hard. It’s best listened to in conjunction with “Heeding The Call”, a piece of music heard on radios, in the launch bay, and “in the frakking ship!” as certain key characters began to suspect something was even more wrong than they had suspected. It leads into “Watchtower” nicely.

Maelstrom is another episode represented by a healthy sampling of music, including the final moments of the episode in which we’re led to believe that Starbuck has flown her final mission. The music from the episode Dirty Hands is fun too, with a swampy, slithery, bluesy guitar part that gives it a pretty unique sound. While the soundtrack from Galactica’s second season was markedly different from the first, bringing new elements and instruments into the mix, this CD almost sounds like a continuation of the previous season’s sound, dovetailing seamlessly in spots with the second season’s soundtrack.

4 out of 4A strong listen, but it took a little more time to grow on me than previous music collections from the new Battlestar Galactica. As with the episodes themselves, the season 3 soundtrack spends some time in introspective space, rather than blowing everything to bits. Those looking for action music won’t be disappointed, but there’s much more to the season 3 music than that.

Order this CD

  1. A Distant Sadness (2:50 – Occupation)
  2. Precipice (4:52 – Precipice)
  3. Admiral and Commander (3:16 – Exodus Part 1 & 2)
  4. Storming New Caprica (7:48 – Exodus Part 2)
  5. Refugees Return (3:43 – Exodus Part 2)
  6. Wayward Soldier (4:17 – Hero)
  7. Violence and Variations (7:42 – Unfinished Business)
  8. The Dance (2:33 – Unfinished Business)
  9. Adama Falls (1:43 – Unfinished Business)
  10. Under the Wing (1:16 – Maelstrom)
  11. Battlestar Sonatica (4:44 – Torn)
  12. Fight Night (2:27 – Unfinished Business)
  13. Kat’s Sacrifice (2:46 – The Passage)
  14. Someone To Trust (3:09 – Taking A Break From All Your Worries)
  15. The Temple of Five (2:44 – The Eye Of Jupiter)
  16. Dirty Hands (3:32 – Dirty Hands)
  17. Gentle Execution (3:28 – Exodus Part 2)
  18. Mandala in the Clouds (4:07 – Maelstrom)
  19. Deathbed and Maelstrom (5:53 – Maelstrom)
  20. Heeding the Call (2:11 – Crossroads Part 2)
  21. All Along The Watchtower
  22. (3:33 – Crossroads Part 2)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2007
Total running time: 79:02

Battlestar Galactica: Season 2 – music by Bear McCreary

Battlestar Galactica Season 2With its brutal percussion, vocal laments and unusual instrumentation, the CD of music from the new Battlestar Galactica’s first season was a completely unique sound, and a hard act to follow. But somehow, this collection of music from the show’s intense second season not only builds on the thematic material and style of its predecessor – it transcends it.

The album opens not with the show’s main theme, but with one of the new series’ few tips of the hat to the music of the original. From Final Cut, the original Galactica theme by Stu Phillips effortlessly blends in with the percussive style of the new show, and it’s a brilliant arrangement, even working in elements of the “Exploration theme” that was heard under ’70s Galactica’s opening narration. It’s an attention-getting way to open this album for fans both old and new.

From there, we move firmly into the musical territory of the new series’ second season. Primal percussion remains part of the mix, but carrying on from the first season soundtrack’s “Shape Of Things To Come” track, there is a heavier emphasis on strings here, specifically string quartets. For some, this may seem like an odd thing to add to the millieu of a science fiction show, but for the second season’s bleak emotional territory it’s utterly appropriate. In fact, getting to hear the music by itself, I was struck by how many time I hadn’t noticed that the string quartet became a centerpiece of the season’s mood.

The centerpiece of this album, on the other hand, is an 8+ minute track called “Prelude To War”, effectively a cohesive suite of action/suspense music from Pegasus and both parts of Resurrection Ship. Everything from Adama’s order to effectively start a civil war, to Apollo’s drift into unconsciousness, to the scouting run into the Resurrection Ship is represented here in a way that may not necessarily be sequential to the events, but is very cohesive musically. (It’s not for nothing that this has become my driving-to-work music of late.) Other music from Pegasus and Resurrection Ship can be found in other tracks such as “Pegasus” (the contemporary-sounding gentle guitar intro), “Lords Of Kobol” (the vocal piece heard as the crews reunite), “Roslin And Adama”, “The Cylon Prisoner” and “Gina Escapes”. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that Pegasus / Resurrection Ship and Lay Down Your Burdens are the stars of this album, comprising a large share of the CD’s tracks.

Episodes from earlier in the season go a little under-represented as a result, though there are some gems there (“Reuniting The Fleet”, “Martial Law”, the zither-heavy “Baltar’s Dream” cue, and selections from The Farm and Home). I’ll admit to being slightly disappointed that the listless piano solo heard when Starbuck temporarily moved back into her home on Caprica wasn’t present; I found that piece almost hypnotically mesmerizing, but it may not have been a fan favorite. The rest of the CD certainly makes up for it. Later episodes such as Scar and Black Market get one or two licks in.

rating: 4 out of 4And speaking of Black Market and licks, stick around for the last track on the CD, because it’s a treat. “Black Market” (the track, not the episode) starts out like a normal Galactica soundtrack cue, and then suddenly slams into high gear heavy metal guitar solos (courtesy of guest player Steve Bartek, formerly of Oingo Boingo and still occasional orchestrator for Danny Elfman). This track has a wonderful crunchy sound, not just from guitars but from what sound like cellos run through tube distortion – a sound I don’t think I’ve heard since the second ELO album. It’s a great and unexpectedly head-banging closer to another great collection.

Now how can Bear McCreary top this for season 3?

Order this CD

  1. Colonial Anthem (“Theme From Battlestar Galactica”) (4:02)
  2. Baltar’s Dream (2:45)
  3. Escape From The Farm (3:09)
  4. A Promise To Return (3:03)
  5. Allegro (4:59)
  6. Martial Law (1:51)
  7. Standing In The Mud (1:45)
  8. Pegasus (2:46)
  9. Lords Of Kobol (2:50)
  10. Something Dark Is Coming (8:51)
  11. Scar (2:26)
  12. Epiphanies (2:43)
  13. Roslin And Adama (2:49)
  14. Gina Escapes (2:00)
  15. Dark Unions (2:53)
  16. The Cylon Prisoner (3:51)
  17. Prelude To War (8:22)
  18. Reuniting The Fleet (2:45)
  19. Roslin Confesses (2:09)
  20. One Year Later (1:43)
  21. Worthy Of Survival (3:35)
  22. Battlestar Galactica Main Title (0:45)
  23. Black Market (5:48)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2006
Total running time: 78:53