June 2002 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Various composers
The Science Fiction Album - 4CD set  
  The City of Prague Philharmonic conducted by Nic Raine and Paul Bateman - Crouch End Festival Chorus - produced by James Fitzpatrick - Dolby Surround - HDCD
  Silva Screen FILMXCD 359   Disc 1: 70:17 - Disc 2: 74:28 - Disc 3 73:36 - Disc 4: 75:46 [total time: 294:07]

Science Fiction Album

Disc: 1
01. 2001: A Space Odyssey - (Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss), 02. Aliens - James Horner, 03. Sound Effect - The Nostromo, 04. Alien - Jerry Goldsmith, 05. A.I. - John Williams, 06. Armageddon - Trevor Rabin, 07. Sound Effect - Apollo 13 Lift-off, 08. Apollo 13 - James Horner, 09. Back To The Future - Aan Silvestri, 10. Battle Beyond The Stars - James Horner, 11. Battlestar Galactica - Glen A Larson & Stu Philips, 12. The Black Hole - John Barry, 13. Contact - Alan Silvestri, 14. Capricorn One - Jerry Goldsmith, 15. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind - John Williams, 16. The Day The Earth Stood Still - Bernard Herrmann, 17. Dune - Toto

Disc: 2
01. Galaxy Quest - David Newman, 02. Sound Effect - Dogfight In Space, 03. Enemy Mine - Maurice Jarre, 04. Ghostbusters - Elmer Bernstein, 05. Gremlins - Jerry Goldsmith, 06. Heavy Metal - Elmer Bernstein, 07. Independence Day - David Arnold, 08. E.T. - John Williams, 09. Judge Dredd - Alan Silvestri, 10. The Last Starfighter - Craig Safan, 11. Lifeforce - Henry Mancini, 12. Sound Effect - Crash Landing, 13. Lost In Space - Bruce Broughton, 14. Mars Attacks - Danny Elfman, 15. The Matrix - Don Davis, 16. Predator - Alan Silvestri, 17. The Right Stuff - Bill Conti

Disc: 3
01. Moonraker - John Barry 02. Robocop - Basil Poledouris, 03. Silent Running - Peter Schickele, 04. Sound Effect - Alien Organism, 05. Species - Christopher Young, 06. Stargate - David Arnold, 07. Starship Troopers - Basil Poledouris, 08. Starman - Jack Nitzsche, 09. Star Trek (TV Theme) - Alexander Courage, 10. Star Trek (The Motion Picture - End Title) - Jerry Goldsmith, 11. Klingon Attack - Jerry Goldsmith, 12. Sound Effect - Warp Drive, 13. Star Trek 2 - The Wrath Of Khan - James Horner, 14. Star Trek - Deep Space Nine - Denis McCarthy, 15. Star Trek: Generations - Denis MmcCarthy, 16. The Voyage Home: Star Trek IV - Leonard Rosenman

Disc: 4
01. Star Trek VI - The Undiscovered Country, Cliff Eidelman, 02. Sound Effect - Transporter Crew, 03. Star Trek - Deep Space Nine (Main Theme) - Denis McCarthy, 04. Star Trek: First Contact - Jerry Goldsmith, 05. Star Wars (Main Title), 06. The Empire Strikes Back (Han Solo and The Princess), 07. The Empire Strikes Back (The Imperial March), 08. Return Of The Jedi - John Williams, 09. Sound Effect - Battle Stations, 10-13. Suite from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace: The Flag Parade, Anakin's Theme, The Adventures Of Jar Jar, Duel Of The Fates - John Williams, 14. The Time Machine - Russell Garcia, 15. Things To Come - Arthur Bliss, 16. The Thing From Another World - Dimtri Tiomkin, 17. War Of The Worlds - Leith Stevens, 18. When Worlds Collide - Leith Stevens, 19. Total Recall - Jerry Goldsmith, 20. You Only Live Twice - John Barry, 21. Superman (The Movie) - John Williams

The Science Fiction Album contains 71 tracks, of which eight are sound effects, one is an extract from a classical work - no prizes for guessing which work or why it is here - and the remainder are either themes, suites or cues from over fifty feature films, or the themes from two TV versions of Star Trek. The earliest score represented is Sir Arthur Bliss' Things to Come (1936), the most recent John Williams' A.I. (2001) - a new track on a four CD anthology otherwise recycling material which has appeared on previous Silva Screen compilations, notably the three 2CD volumes of Space and Beyond.

What then to put on the cover? The ingenious solution of cover designer Sean Mowle is an iconic science fiction image, but one which has nothing to do with any of the music on the 4CDs. The robot from Metropolis (1927) certainly makes a striking design, particularly on the bronzed card slipcase which contains the jewel-case, and it removes the problem of favouring one score over another even if it does still seem a little odd. Odder still is the very nicely designed booklet. Very nicely designed with irrelevant, and uncredited, retro-pulp SF artwork from Dan Dare strips, promotional art from The Man From Planet X, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, This Island Earth, and, surely an accident because music from the film is featured on the album, The War of the Worlds (though the art is from the modern TV series, not the movie). The result is an album with a highly effective retro 1920's cover and a charming retro 1950's booklet, representing music the vast majority of which has been written since the late 1970's. A real space oddity.

Leaving aside whether Ghostbusters (1984), Gremlins (1983), Heavy Metal (1980) and Superman (1978), The Right Stuff (1983) and Apollo 13 (1995), should be classified as science fiction, and a booklet which reveals a couple of small errors of fact and some debatable opinion, on to the music. There's close to five hours of it, concentrating on the big orchestral themes from science fiction blockbuster movies of the past quarter century. Taken in a lump it could all seem a bit much, demonstrating how much imitation is the sincerest hope of success. All spun off from John Williams' Star Wars scores. Here they come, not just Williams own music from the first four Star Wars movies, his Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1978), Superman, ET (1982) and A.I. scores - what, no Jurassic Park?(1993) - but Willams' wannabes from Judge Dredd (1995), Lifeforce (1985) and The Last Starfighter (1984), to Stargate (1994), Battlestar Galactica (1978), Starship Troopers (1997) and a whole flotilla of Star Treks. With so many themes and little of the variation which made up the meat of the respective scores it can get rather repetitive. That said, anyone looking for an enormous collection of SF film themes could not do better.

The version of the "lullaby" theme from A.I. finds soprano Charlotte Kinder giving a very faithful reproduction of the soundtrack, sung by Barbara Bonney. The suite from Trevor Rabin's Armageddon (1998) concentrates on the acoustic aspects of the score, but it's still crass, clichéd and laughably lacking in subtlety or taste, and therefore entirely suited to the film from which it came. An almost nine minute suite from Alan Silvestri's plaintive Contact (1997) offers a break from the big themes and military clamour, and it sounds quite appealing away from the movie in which it helped director Robert Zemeckis transform Carl Sagan's intelligent novel into New Age nonsense. There is a terrific version of Jerry Goldsmith's blistering Capricorn One (1977), a way too short suite from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a very short snippet from Bernard Herrmann's brilliant score for The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951), before disc one concludes with an effective six minute suite from the rock band Toto's score for the David Lynch précis of Frank Herbert's Dune (1984). A score 100 times better than Graeme Revell's work on the recent mini-series version.

Disc two features an awful lot of Star Trek music though the highlight is a nine minute suite from Robocop (1987) using a larger orchestra and more electronics than the orchestra, all prepared from the original score provided by composer Basil Poledouris himself.

Disc three opens with an arrangement of David Newman's nicely tongue-in-cheek Galaxy Quest theme (1999), with a version of Danny Elfman's campy-retro Mars Attacks! Following his original scoring, rather than the revised version used in the film. Either way itís a fun piece for devotees of 1950's SF B movies, and a clear winner alongside an eight minute suite from Don Davis' The Matrix (1999) and the finale from Independence Day by David Arnold.

Disc four opens with more Star Trek music, which pales against what follows; music from the original Star Wars trilogy, then a four part suite from The Phantom Menace (1999). It's good introductory stuff, though there can't be many people interested in this who haven't got the complete albums for these scores. A retro section features a gorgeous pastoral from the Time Machine (the not at all bad 1960 version) by Russell Garcia, Sir Arthur Bliss' incomparable march from Things to Come (1936), Dimitri Tiomkin's The Thing From Another World (1951), Leith Stevens' The War of the Worlds (1953), When Worlds Collide (1951). The album goes out with a bang with music from Total Recall (1990), You Only Live Twice (1967) and Superman (1978).

This is an excellent value set, though one which offers more to the newcomer than the seasoned collector. Nevertheless itís a great way of getting a lot of memorable film music on the cheap, and would serve as a wonderful introduction for any SF movie mad teenager. And of course they'd do the right thing and play it really, really loud. So perhaps think twice before buying it for a present. You might end up hearing it more than you'd like.

Gary S. Dalkin


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