Escape From The Planet Of The Apes – music by Jerry Goldsmith

Escape From The Planet Of The ApesJerry Goldsmith was among those who didn’t return for the second installment of the Planet Of The Apes film series, but he was back on board for the third, which was an attempt to reboot the series without ditching the established continuity. If anything, the third film was the most clever of the sequels, drop-kicking the story back into the present day (or something like it) for an Apes-style meditation on the spectrum of prejudice (from sublte to savage) and the fleeting and entirely disposable nature of celebrity, two topics which have helped Escape From The Planet Of The Apes retain its ironic bite over the years rather than allowing it to become increasingly dated (as with the other sequels).

Goldsmith, keenly aware of what the movie needed (as always), came out swingin’. No, not swinging, but swingin’ – as in groovy, baby! His opening theme for Escape is one of my favorite pieces that Goldsmith has ever written, period. It sounds nothing like the opening to a science fiction movie. It sounds like the opening to a ’70s comedy, which is what the movie’s admittedly funny opening scene is trying to trick you into expecting. With its jazzy beat and straight-outta-the-late-sixties electric organs, guitar and sitar, Goldsmith’s opening number completely belies the story that’s about to unfold. And I love it. The whole movie is about appearances deceiving, and Goldsmith was clearly in on the joke.

The swingin’ mood carries into the next track, “The Zoo”, which is a bit more mellow – almost into Barry White backing-track territory, again completely unexpected for Goldsmith. It’s at the beginning of this track, however, that the composer begins to slip in some of the unorthodox, almost animalistic instrumentation from the Planet Of The Apes score, but subtly – you can be forgiven for not noticing (especially while watching with the movie’s dialogue and sound effects).

“Gorilla Attack” is a burst of brutality that seems out of the place with the movie’s decided gentle first reel, but it’s a preview of things to come. Goldsmith resumes the grooviness with the “Shopping Spree” montage, but things quickly become more unsettled as the movie’s plot becomes darker and more serious to a shocking degree. As suspicion mounts that the two talking apea – now revealed to be expecting parents – may well signal the end of the line for homo sapiens, the music becomes darker by several orders of magnitude. Tracks such as “Labor Pains” and “Mother And Child” distract a bit by sounding like the score from a more domestic drama, but the sheer brutality of immediately adjacent tracks like “The Breakout” and “The Hunt” leave little doubt that the story is still about the impending extinction of the apes as we know them at this point in the saga. “Final Chapter and End Credits” brings it all home, no longer the gimmicky laugh at the beginning of the movie, but closing off a tragically brutal story. The latter half of that track revisits the basic melody of Goldsmith’s jaunty opening, but in a much more somber treatment.

I can caution you that there’s barely a half-hour of music here (and on one of those pricey, limited-edition releases, no less), but this is a Goldsmith masterpiece – possibly even moreso than Planet Of The Apes itself. Escape From The Planet Of The Apes was all about getting the audience in their seats with some popcorn for some kooky, zany fish-out-of-water comedy, only to 4 out of 4serve up a slice of blistering social commentary that, frankly, audiences probably needed in 1971. (I’d put this movie, completely unchanged in front of an audience now, too: the 1971 timestamp would probably put them even more at ease and make it even more shocking.) Goldsmith’s music was part of the process of tricking the audience into letting its guard down, and it’s downright hummable too – a great combination.

Order this CD

  1. Main Title (2:32)
  2. The Zoo (1:06)
  3. The Gorilla Attack (0:56)
  4. I Like You (1:05)
  5. Shopping Spree (2:19)
  6. A Little History (1:23)
  7. Interrogation (3:18)
  8. Labor Pains (1:05)
  9. Breakout (0:38)
  10. The Labor Continues (3:55)
  11. The Hitchhiker (1:06)
  12. Mother And Child (3:52)
  13. The Hunt (4:06)
  14. Final Chapter and End Credits (1:42)

Released by: Varese Sarabande
Release date: 2009
Total running time: 29:03

Star Trek: Enterprise – music by Dennis McCarthy

Star Trek: Enterprise soundtrackMy sincere apologies to Dennis McCarthy. I initially shrugged off the music from Enterprise when I watched the pilot movie – I liked the theme song and opening credits (and, by the sound of things, I’m one of approximately five people who openly admit to liking the song, and one of the others is Rick Berman, if that tells you anything). Now I realize that my beef is with Berman, not McCarthy. The newly released soundtrack from the pilot movie is actually a fine addition to the musical canon of Star Trek.

Topped and tailed with two different versions of Russell Watson’s rendition of “Where My Heart Will Take Me” (originally written by Diane Warren), the Enterprise soundtrack CD features most of the hour-long score, excluding a few source music cues, recorded for the two-hour episode. One of the nicer things about the score from Broken Bow, the two-hour pilot movie, is the all-American-flavored theme used for both Captain Archer and the Enterprise herself (which you do actually get to hear in the show each week – as the end credit music, on the rare occasion that UPN doesn’t do the annoying but almost ubiquitous credit squeeze). Like the theme McCarthy coined for Captain Picard some 15 years ago, Archer’s theme fits perfectly and has its own grand sweep (though sadly, like Picard’s theme, it seems to have disappeared from regular use over the course of the show’s first season, probably due to Berman’s aversion to any of the composers creating specific themes associated with any character). Many of the tracks are infused with an edgy energy that may come from the musicians’ and conductor’s reactions to other events that occurred on the second day of the scoring sessions for the pilot: September 11th, 2001. (In his liner notes, McCarthy dedicates the music on this CD to victims of that tragedy.)

Some of the music will sound familiar – “Klingon Chase / Shotgunned” in particular, though it’s among my favorite tracks, sounds like it could easily be slotted into the soundtrack from Star Trek: Generations. (I do like that menacing downbeat chord combination, though.) McCarthy even steps right up to the edge of quoting his own theme music from Deep Space Nine in the next-to-last track, “New Horizons”. The music also gets slimy, low-key and discordant for scenes involving the shape-shifting Suliban, and downright weird (but in a good way) for the climactic, time-warped fight in the track “Temporal Battle”.

Some fans – those other four people out there who like the song (and I’m sure Berman’s already gotten his copy of the CD) – will also be pleased to hear both the long album version and the shortened TV version of “Where My Heart Will Take Me”. I still find it to be an inspiring little number, especially when combined with the show’s opening title montage. Quite why fandom has bared its teeth at this song and the opening credits, I just haven’t managed to comprehend yet. I actually thought it was a nice switch from the usual Goldsmithian-sounding opening credits that have become de rigeur for Star Trek spinoffs.

I was surprised to see this album appear on Decca, rather than GNP/Crescendo, which has done an excellent job of giving us one to two Star Trek (or related) CDs a year since 1991 or so. From what I understand, this is more to do with the behind-the-scenes negotiating needed to include Russell Watson’s theme song on the CD, not a reflection of any kind of dissatisfaction on Paramount’s part with Crescendo Records. GNP/Crescendo certainly could have done better with the packaging, which is kind of bland here – though there’s only so much you can do with those pre-launch publicity photos where the crew looks like they’re standing inside the round-patterned walls of Doctor Who’s TARDIS.

Hopefully more Enterprise music will be forthcoming, whether Decca or Crescendo issues it. Some of the first season’s episodes have had very interesting music, with the most notable being the surprisingly melodic Vox Sola, with its sly, sinewy theme for the parasitic life form. Crescendo has already turned out a “Best Of Season One” CD for Stargate SG-1, and hopefully they may follow suit with Enterprise – even if it means ditching “Where My Heart Will Take Me” from future releases; after all, we have it on this CD. (Sadly missing, however, is the 4 out of 4acoustic guitar rendition of that song which was heard only on the un-squished end credits of the pilot episode; the track “Archer’s Theme” is now used as the end credit music.)

Love it or hate it, Enterprise is worth a listen. Kudos to Dennis McCarthy for introducing some new energy and material into his Trek repertoire – don’t stop now, Dennis! The show desperately needs it.

Order this CD

  1. Where My Heart Will Take Me – Album Version (4:09)
  2. New Enterprise (1:40)
  3. Klingon Chase / Shotgunned (2:05)
  4. Enterprise First Flight (2:50)
  5. Klang-Napped (2:10)
  6. Morph-o-Mama / Suli-Nabbed (2:45)
  7. Phaser Fight (5:53)
  8. Breakthrough (2:01)
  9. Grappled (4:09)
  10. The Rescue (6:40)
  11. Temporal Battle (8:05)
  12. Blood Work (2:11)
  13. New Horizons (1:26)
  14. Archer’s Theme (1:24)
  15. Where My Heart Will Take Me – TV Version (1:28)

Released by: Decca / Universal
Release date: 2002
Total running time: 49:22

Emperor: The Battle For Dune

Emperor: The Battle For DuneWhen you see a quarter of a dozen screenwriters on a project, run screaming. Sometimes the same applies to composers, but not always – some of my all-time favorite soundtracks are the products of triumvirates of musicians. Take, for example, the soundtrack from 1996’s Doctor Who movie, or the soundtrack from Alien Nation. But I’ve never before encountered a computer game whose music was cooked up by committee – however, in the case of Emperor, it works.

Before any screams about the lack of availability information on this, I’ll go ahead and point out right now that the Emperor soundtrack is a limited edition item which was only available with some pre-orders of the game. And I have to complain bitterly about the lack of neat packaging, or, for that matter, almost any packaging whatsoever. I was reminded somewhat of the days when I had to generate my own Babylon 5 CD covers. But when was the last time anyone bought a CD because of cool packaging? Okay, aside from last Tuesday, probably not anytime recently. The music is what counts. I just had to vent about the whole “generic CD-ROM paper envelope” treatment.

The musical duties for Emperor were split three ways between composers David Arkenstone (who has worked on prior Westwood/Electronic Arts titles such as the Lands Of Lore series), Jarrid Mendelson (who composed music for the Command & Conquer sequel Tiberian Sun, and Westwood’s primary in-house composer Frank Klepacki (who we recently interviewed here at That’s a bit of a problem in places, because there are places where I’d swear that they thought they were still composing for a Command & Conquer game.

Klepacki’s music remains the truest to what went before with the music from Dune 2000, Westwood’s previous interactive foray into Frank Herbert’s fictional universe. (And this is a no-brainer, since Klepacki did all of the music for that game.) David Arkenstone’s themes for the Harkonnen are all cut from the same heavy-metal cloth, while Mendelson’s Ordos orchestrations demonstrate that he’s been listening to a lot of Nine Inch Nails.

The highlights include the pounding anthem “Ride The Worm” and “Not An Option”, quite possibly the best 3 out of 4Nine Inch Nails song that Trent Reznor & co. never actually played.

Despite my misgivings about some of the music fitting better into the Command & Conquer millieu than the world of Dune, it’s all quite enjoyable, and stands well on its own apart from the game. Klepacki especially is proving without a doubt that he’s ready to score a movie or perhaps some TV.

Order this CD

  1. The War Begins (4:33)
  2. The Machine (4:50)
  3. Not An Option (3:52)
  4. Unstoppable (5:50)
  5. Ride The Worm (5:35)
  6. Sabotage (4:19)
  7. Harkonnen Force (5:29)
  8. Assembling The Troops (7:42)
  9. Ghola (3:48)
  10. Legacy (6:14)
  11. The Specimen (5:06)
  12. The Spice Must Flow (4:47)
  13. Tribute To Evil (6:21)

Released by: Westwood Studios / Electronic Arts
Release date: 2001
Total running time: 68:26

Earth: Final Conflict – Micky Erbe and Maribeth Solomon

Earth: Final Conflict soundtrackHaving waited three seasons to release a soundtrack album from Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict, one would imagine that the end results would be something a little more varied and impressive than it is. Don’t get me wrong: I really do like the music from this show. The music is, in fact, the only thing I do like about the show anymore (the Boone-to-Kincaid transition instilled a total loss of any interest in the series on my part). The theme music is a gorgeous combination of unearthly-sounding exotic instrumentation, an ethereal wordless vocal, modern percussion, and a hint of an orchestral presence. The theme is worth the price of admission in and of itself. But the 23 tracks between the opening and closing titles on the Earth: Final Conflict soundtrack are a slight disappointment.

Again, I’m not criticizing the music itself here. It’s all very sensitively and wonderfully performed, but it has a knack of sounding the same throughout the entire album. There is a strong and obvious Titanic influence on the whole product, with wistful Ulliean pipes – or a close synthesized approximation – stating the show’s theme again and again in various near-mournful interpretations. Despite the fact that Earth: Final Conflict has action scenes, and sometimes very good action scenes at that, there is little action music on the soundtrack. The whole CD leans heavily in the direction of ethereal, but the result is a collection that is more likely to put 2 out of 4listeners to sleep than invigorate them.

This might be a loss to soundtrack fans, but there is an upside – the E:FC soundtrack will be a great find for new age music fans and those who are looking for something relaxing to listen to. A better balance could have been struck in the music, but it’s almost worth it simply to have the theme music.

Order this CD

  1. Main Title (0:53)
  2. The Secret of Strandhill / Redemption (5:50)
  3. Old Flame (1:27)
  4. Defector (3:59)
  5. Decision (1:27)
  6. Float Like A Butterfly (0:55)
  7. Sandoval’s Run (2:02)
  8. Bliss (2:24)
  9. If You Could Read My Mind (1:42)
  10. Lilli (1:53)
  11. Law And Order (2:11)
  12. Atavus (2:00)
  13. Between Heaven and Hell (0:57)
  14. Sleepers (2:57)
  15. Dimensions (2:23)
  16. Moonscape (4:34)
  17. Isabel (0:55)
  18. The Gauntlet (1:24)
  19. Second Chances (4:45)
  20. One Man’s Castle (1:22)
  21. Payback (1:35)
  22. Truth (4:16)
  23. Dèjà Vu (0:54)
  24. Crossfire (3:08)
  25. Volunteers / End Credits (1:54)

Released by: Sonic Images
Release date: 1999
Total running time: 58:00

The Empire Strikes Back – music by John Williams

The Empire Strikes Back soundtrackStill John Williams’ most towering musical accomplishment bar none, the score from The Empire Strikes Back has long existed in various stages of incompleteness – until now. One of the few truly good things to come out of the special edition releases it this comprehensive two-disc remastered version of the soundtrack. Correcting all of the gaps and curious omissions of previous releases, it’s also the soundtrack (and the film) that was screwed with the least of the classic trilogy. (If I recall correctly, Empire‘s big revisions were a major cleanup of the Hoth battle special effects, the Wampa got a facelift, lots of new windows were installed in Cloud City, and a single non-sequitur scene with4 out of 4 stars Darth Vader was added.)

I’ve already waxed rhapsodic about this one in the past. Do get it. I know some purists have avoided anything to do with the special editions, but this version of the Empire soundtrack proves that some good can come out of the least likely things.

    Order this CD in the StoreDisc one:

  1. 20th Century Fox Fanfare (0:22)
  2. Main Title / The Ice Planet Hoth (8:09)
  3. Wampa’s Lair / Vision Obi-Wan / Snowspeeders Take Flight (8:44)
  4. The Imperial Probe / Aboard The Executor (4:24)
  5. The Battle Of Hoth (14:48)
  6. The Asteroid Field (4:15)
  7. Arrival On Dagobah (4:54)
  8. Luke’s Nocturnal Visitor (2:35)
  9. Han Solo and the Princess (3:26)
  10. Jedi Master Revealed / Mynock Cave (5:44)
  11. The Training Of A Jedi Knight / The Magic Tree (5:16)
    The Empire Strikes Back soundtrack - 2004 re-releaseDisc two:

  1. The Imperial March: Darth Vader’s Theme (3:02)
  2. Yoda’s Theme (3:30)
  3. Attacking A Star Destroyer (3:04)
  4. Yoda And The Force (4:02)
  5. Imperial Starfleet Deployed / City In The Clouds (6:04)
  6. Lando’s Palace (3:53)
  7. Betrayal At Bespin (3:46)
  8. Deal With The Dark Lord (2:37)
  9. Carbon Freeze / Darth Vader’s Trap / Departure of Boba Fett (11:50)
  10. The Clash Of Lightsabers (4:18)
  11. Rescue of Cloud City / Hyperspace (9:10)
  12. The Rebel Fleet / End Title (6:28)

Released by: RCA/Victor
Release date: 1997
Disc one total running time: 62:43
Disc two total running time: 61:44