How does one review kitsch? Producer/performer/arranger Neil Norman's Sci-Fi in Hi-Fi features several dated arrangements and some awkward performances of Star Trek, Star Wars, Space 1999, The Thing (from Another World), Superman, Alien, Battlestar Galactica, The Outer Limits, Godzilla, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Prisoner, Buckaroo Banzai, Airwolf, Mysterious Island, Blade Runner, Jurassic Park, and others. Each track points to a critic's dilemma of whether to attack its tackiness or celebrate its greatness at being gaudy.
Guitars, synthesisers, disco beats, New Age atmospherics, occasional sound effects, an orchestra, and a theremin band together for a cheerfully hippie musical experience. What Norman says of his arrangement of John Williams' Star Wars ("Here Darth Vader meets Bo Derek!") may reveal all anyone needs to know regarding the artistic standards of this album.
However, with the composers represented including Jerry Goldsmith, Dimitri Tiomkin, Akira Ifukube, Stu Philips, Gerald Fried, Les Baxter, Domenic Frontiere, Ron Grainer, and Vangelis, the range of musical selections is superb. Bernard Herrmann's Mysterious Island and Williams' Jurassic Park are marked as new arrangements, a credit to the late-but-legendary film composer Baxter on keyboards obviously suggests others are fairly old, and some, like Blade Runner, more or less survive from the original scoring. The biggest surprises are The Thing, UFO, Godzilla, and The Prisoner, which (perhaps disturbingly) transfer well into Norman's format.
This is a duel-layered SACD (Super Audio CD)... reportedly with much higher audio resolution than traditional CDs, though I cannot speak for that selling point as I am reviewing this on a traditional CD player. (It sounds fine to me.) Also notable is cover artwork by famed science fiction artist Jim Burns. But you probably know what impresses me most in album production: there are liner notes, production notes, musician credits, photographs, and track times.
Yes, "Neil Norman Presents Sci-Fi in Hi-Fi" is kitsch. My critical integrity and passion for high art will not permit me to recommend it under good conscience. However, as far as kitsch goes, this is entertaining and generally well produced.
Please don't tell my editor, but I think I may listen to it again.