soundtracks

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” (1995 single)

BON JOVI – “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” (1995 Mercury single)

It’s impossible to acquire a “complete” Bon Jovi collection; trust me on this. Even Jon Bon Jovi doesn’t have a complete Bon Jovi collection. Up to a certain point in time, it’s fun to collect as many B-sides and bonus tracks you can get your hands on.

The second single from “best of” album Cross Road (1994) was “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night”, and it was a pretty clear indication of where the band would go on their next album These Days.  But — surprise bonus — this single doesn’t have the studio version (that you already own) from Cross Road.  It has an uncredited live version instead!  Added bonus — Alec John Such on bass.  He had yet to be replaced (on stage, anyway) by Hugh McDonald.  This is probably the only live version of the hit with Such on bass.

Make no mistake, “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” is a great song.  There’s a Bon Jovi niche for acoustic rock songs with down-on-your-luck/inspirational lyrics.  “My life’s a bargain basement, all the good shit’s gone.”  This is Jon’s bread and butter.  He wouldn’t know a bargain basement if he was shopping for old Bon Jovi singles in one, but he does this kind of rock really well.  This is one of the last of his must-haves of the genre.

Another rare one, “Good Guys Don’t Always Wear White”, is a studio track with the well-worn cowboy motif.  It’s from the movie The Cowboy Way featuring Jon’s old Young Guns buddy Keifer Sutherland.  Unexpectedly, this one is an  intricate hard-driving rocker, with a Sambora riff that he could take pride in.  Tico Torres is absolutely on fire on the kit.  That guy can lay down a groove while throwing in challenging patterns just for fun.  Why can’t Bon Jovi rock like this anymore?  This track feels more honest than the hard luck songs.

Two more live songs finish the CD.  These two are from Montreal in ’94:  “With A Little Help From My Friends” (Joe Cocker style) and “Always”.  The reason Bon Jovi can get away with “A Little Help From My Friends” is Richie Sambora, who always brings the soul and the integrity.  That’s not to say that Jon sucks.  Check out the note he holds at 3:57.  The man had lungs back in 1994!  The demographics of the audience are obvious: “Always” is almost drowned out by a sea of high-pitched screams!  It’s one of their last ballads that really deserves that kind of cheering though.

A great single is one that you can list to independently of the album, and doesn’t sound like a bunch of miscellaneous bonus tracks.  This single is like that.  There’s no wasted space, no filler, and no tracks you can get on the albums.  The live stuff is high grade and the studio track is extremely valuable for its hard rocking nature.  This is more like an EP than a single, but it’s all semantics.  Let’s just call it:

4.5/5 stars

 

You say you don’t like my kind,
A bitter picture in your mind.
No, it don’t matter what I say,
I hear you bitchin’ when I walk away.
I’ll never be what you want me to be,
You tell me I’m wrong but I disagree,
I ain’t go no apology.
Just because I don’t look like you, talk like you, think like you,
Judge and jury, a hangman’s noose,
I see them in your eyes.
Good guys don’t always wear white.

 

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “Real Life” (1999 CD singles)

Forget Valentine’s Day…except when it’s good for traffic!  Back in my single days I used to call it “Bon Jovi Day” and listen to nothing but Jon & Richie.  Here’s some Bon Jovi for you!

BON JOVI – “Real Life” (1999 Reprise & promo CD singles)

There was an unprecedented five year interregnum between These Days and Crush.  This pause allowed Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora to get some solo albums out of their systems before the band re-convened.  In the buildup to the new album, Bon Jovi contributed a new single called “Real Life” to the movie EdTV.  Remember EdTV?  There were two movies out at the same time about a guy who had his whole life broadcast on television 24/7.  One, The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey, was a huge hit.  The other, Ron Howard’s EdTV starring Matthew McConaughey, was the also-ran.  EdTV might have been more interesting, but bombed.  This rendered the Bon Jovi single relatively obscure.  It’s not the first time a Bon Jovi movie track misfired.  Remember “Good Guys Don’t Always Wear White”?

“Real Life” was a decent tune, but it was a ballad at a time when Bon Jovi already had plenty.  There’s little to draw your attention, aside from Richie Sambora’s always alluring guitar and vocals.  The watery guitar tone is not far removed from These Days, but that album boasted the kind of ballads you’d never forget.  Songs like “Something to Believe In”, “These Days”, and “(It’s Hard) Letting You Go” are the kind of songs you carry your whole life.  “Real Life” is not.  In the wake of These Days, it was just another ballad.

Who is “Desmond Childs“?

This commercial single has two versions of “Real Life”, but there are actually four versions out there!  For the “album version”, if you don’t want the EdTV soundtrack, look for a promo single instead.  The differences between the album version and the radio mix are slight, but the album version has more guitar where the single mix has more piano.  The third version is an instrumental mix, which is nice if you want to listen to Richie’s guitar a little more.  The fourth and final version is an alternate mix that can be found on the box set 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong.

Finally, a live recording of “Keep the Faith” rounds out the single.  It seems to be a standby live B-side for this band.    They used another version on the 2013 single for “Because We Can“.  It’s certainly one of their most accomplished songs.  The bass groove and Tico’s busy drum patterns keep your feet moving.  It’s noncommercial and it strives to be something bigger.  It might be, in a technical sense, Bon Jovi’s most unapologetic and best hit.

Interestingly enough, “Real Life” is the only Bon Jovi video without David Bryan who was away on an injury.  I don’t think he missed out on much.

2.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker soundtrack (2019)

STAR WARS: The Rise of Skywalker original motion picture soundtrack (2019 Lucasfilm/Disney)
Music by JOHN WILLIAMS

There are very few film series with soundtracks that can do what The Rise of Skywalker does.  John Williams has now built up such an expansive list of familiar themes, that it takes just one note to anticipate which one is coming next.  Whether it be Leia’s, Rey’s, or Emperor Palpatine’s himself, The Rise of Skywalker is loaded with music you already hold deep in your heart.

Let us all be grateful that John Williams scored the complete nine-movie saga.  If inconsistent writers and directors make the series as a whole a bumpy ride, then John Williams’ steady hand is the glue that holds it all together.  Something like the movie itself, the soundtrack to The Rise of Skywalker attempts to conclude more than just a trilogy, but the Skywalker Saga.  In the liner notes, Williams says that he hopes the nine movie scores will be seen as a “singular, organic whole”.  Because of his consistent but always evolving vision, this is exactly what has happened.  The Rise of Skywalker is the finale.

Rey’s theme, as heard in “The Force is With You”, stands out as the strongest of the sequel trilogy.  What is interesting about that is how different it is from previous Star Wars motifs.  It is light and delicate, but part of the new universe.  It is difficult not to get emotional when you hear everything coming together in the end.  There are surprises and an ample number of weighty moments.  Of course, there are also new things to enjoy, and old things put together in new ways.

I like that the people who designed the packaging avoided the boneheaded spoilers of the past by putting the track listing inside.  It’s unfortunate this final trilogy had the most boring cover art of the entire saga, but be forewarned:  a deluxe Rise of Skywalker soundtrack has been announced for March.  We can hope for a better sleeve on that edition.

John Williams has been an integral part of Star Wars since the beginning, and this time he was rewarded with [SPOILER] his very first cameo on screen.  The circle is truly now complete.  This thoroughly enjoyable score should be universally beloved even if the film is not.

5/5 stars

 

 

#804: Freestylin’

GETTING MORE TALE #804:  Freestylin’

I thought I’d try something different, and just sit down at the keyboard and write.  I have a warm coffee next to me (I drink large regular now) and some music in my speakers.  I’m listening to a Japanese import of Quiet Riot’s new album Hollywood Cowboys.  Just listening; not reviewing.  You have to spend time just listening.

I do most of my listening at my keyboard these days.  My main room music setup is seldom used anymore.  Only when I’m spinning something in 5.1 surround do I usually roll out the big guns.  Otherwise I’m content to just listen at my desk or on a pair of headphones.  It’s a nice comfortable spot for me, right by a window.  Outside the ground is dusted in a shallow layer of white.  It is December 20th, 2019.

I dared go to the mall today.  Long story short, a bunch of stuff I ordered for Jen for Christmas got cancelled (out of stock).  Not having much choice this late in the game, I went to the mall where I accomplished my mission.  It wasn’t what I’d call “fun” but it was also pretty painless.  I stopped at Sunrise records where I inquired about The Rise of Skywalker soundtrack.  I would have taken CD or vinyl, but their stock had not yet arrived.

I do know this.  A “deluxe edition” of the soundtrack is coming in March.  Then, later in 2020, a 27 Blu-ray (!) Skywalker Saga boxed set.  I don’t know how far that will put me back, and I actually don’t care!  I’ve been enjoying speculating what could be in that box.  The press release specified it was being billed as a complete Skywalker Saga.  That’s 9 films.  Let’s guesstimate that each movie will be a 2-disc set.  That’s 22 discs, plus 5 extra Blu-rays?  That’s one possibility.  With George Lucas out of the picture, we could be getting an “original” original trilogy and a Holiday Special.  Sky’s the limit, so let’s make some wishes.

This Quiet Riot album is decent.  I liked Jamed Durbin with that band.  You simply cannot hear that Frankie Banali was ill.  I hope Frankie fights a hard battle against that bitch named cancer, and many more albums are still to come.  You can do this, Frankie.  The Japanese bonus track this time out is an acoustic version of the bluesy “Roll On”.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Ozzy Osbourne over the last few weeks.  You’ll see some of that in future content I’ve written.  I played a few of his more recent albums, Scream and Black Rain in addition to all the classics.  Those two are not bad.  They hold up better than I thought they would.  It’s refreshing when you get to Scream, with Gus G on guitar.  Too much Zakk Wylde can lead to ear fatigue.  The Randy Rhoads era stands out absolutely as the pinnacle.  The way he wrote and played guitar is unlike anyone else, and there just isn’t enough Randy music in the world.

In case you’re curious, there’s one Ozzy album I never bought, and that’s Down to Earth (2001).  I’ve heard it and I’m just not interested.  Too many outside writers and too much influence from the producer, would be my nutshell review.  I have no plans to add it to my collection, though I did buy the CD singles.  I like having B-sides.

I think I’ve rambled long enough.  Christmas is coming and I still have one special post to go, as a gift to a reader.  Thanks for hanging in — and stay tuned for the annual year-end lists!

And may the Force be with you, always.

 

Blade Runner radio, tonight!

edit: I cannot attend this show due to illness.

 

LIVE at 12:00 AM (ET) Saturday morning!  It’s Robert Daniels and Jason Drury on VISIONS IN SOUND with music from BLADE RUNNER!  Tune in on your dial to 98.5 or internet to CKWR.  You folks in the UK can tune in as you enjoy some morning java!

As to my own involvement, I’ve come down with a mystery cold-like illness.  Whether I can make it to the station or not remains a question mark at this point in time.  I’d certainly like to.  Even if I’m “well enough” to go, I can’t risk passing this on to anyone else.  But you should still listen, if I’m there or not!  Rob and Jason always do an entertaining show with great music.

I’d love to share my own stories of this movie.  Seeing the comic book in a convenience store.  Thinking the title was cool if ambiguous.  But wishing Harrison Ford would get back to playing Han Solo or Indiana Jones already!  (As kids, we really did think it was that simple.)  I didn’t see the movie for many years later, when it was showing on one of the new pay TV channels.  Family friends the Lazbys were over, and it didn’t make sense to anybody!  The thing I remember the most about that viewing was the guy selling eyeballs.  I think that’s the moment all of us pretty much gave up trying to enjoy it.

But times and perspectives change.

Blade Runner’s visual impact came later.  The first and most obvious example was Iron Maiden’s Somewhere In Time album.  The front and back cover art are smorgasbords of Blade Runner visuals.  Numerous films have attempted to rip off Ridley Scott’s remarkable cityscapes, notably George Lucas in Attack of the Clones.

Listen in THIS Saturday 12:00-2:00am (ET).

The Black Hole radio, tonight!

I will be LIVE at 12:30 AM (ET) Saturday morning with Robert Daniels and Jason Drury on VISIONS IN SOUND. Tune in on your dial to 98.5 or internet to CKWR!  You folks in the UK can tune in as you enjoy some morning java!  Join Us THIS Saturday 12:30-2:30am (ET).

What a bizarre Disney film The Black Hole was.  Marketed to kids with funny looking robots from the House of Mouse, instead of a swashbuckling adventure, kids got a strange treatise on life, death, morality, mortality, God, the soul, isolation, artificial intelligence, good, evil, heaven, hell, and eternity.  It attempted to be Star Wars, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Rob, Jason and I will be playing the soundtrack by John Barry, and dissecting this interesting and puzzling film piece by piece.

For my DVD review of the The Black Hole, just click here.

 

 

REVIEW – Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire soundtrack (1996)

STAR WARS: Shadows of the Empire soundtrack (1996 Varese Sarabande)

by Joel McNeely

Things were starting to heat up!  As Lucasfilm toiled away at the Star Wars special editions behind the scenes (and Episode I even further behind the scenes), they also launched a huge new multi-media story.  It was called Shadows of the Empire, and it was meant to represent a movie between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  Just as Star Wars was re-entering the public consciousness again, out came this massive, sprawling thing that was meant to make you feel like you did when a new Star Wars movie was released.  It included:

  • A comic miniseries by Dark Horse
  • A novel by Steve Perry (not the singer)
  • A new Kenner toyline
  • Topps trading cards
  • Nintendo 64 first-person shooter game
  • A soundtrack composed by Joel McNeely

The catch?  You had to get everything in order to get the complete story of Shadows of the Empire.  Scenes in the game were not in the comics or novel, scenes from the comics were not in the game, and so on.

McNeely had done a bit of soundtrack work, but had also crossed paths with Lucasfilm when he scored The Young Indiana Jones chronicles for television.  He was facing a losing battle by being the first composer besides John Williams to score a Star Wars soundtrack.  McNeely provides ample liner notes for each track of his score, explaining the scenes they represent from the fiction and how it translates into music.  These valuable notes are a terrific example of why listening to physical product is always the best way to listen to music.

The audio journey begins with the Star Wars theme, as if it were a full-fledged film score.  Differences can be heard, but not deviating far from course.  “Leia’s Nightmare” begins quiet and prequel-esque, with hints of “The Imperial March” and other classic Williams themes.  And even in retrospect, it is thrilling hearing them in the context of something new.

“The Battle of Gall” is an early attempt to rescue Han Solo from Boba Fett.  Fett has stopped at the Imperial moon of Gall on his way to Jabba the Hutt, with Solo frozen in carbonite.  Why?  No reason, except to milk the Boba Fett character even further.  Military drums can be heard as Luke and friends prepare their daring mission…doomed to fail, of course, since we have all seen Return of the Jedi.  A bouncy new theme in this piece sounds out of character, but memorable.  “Imperial City” is our first glimpse of the Galactic capitol world of Coruscant.  Much like it is described in The Phantom Menace, it is a planetary city.  Ideally, you’d be leafing through the Ralph MacQuarrie paintings of the planet while listening to the imposing horns and drums.  A  choir welcomes you to the city amidst fanfares and trumpets.  None of this sounds like Star Wars, but much of it is good.

An action scene on Tattooine follows, as Luke is chased by goons on speeder bikes.  He is rescued by new character Dash Rendar, a poor man’s Han Solo.  Dash has his own swashbuckling theme.  He was a huge part of the Shadows of the Empire campaign.  His ship, the Outrider, was saucer shaped with a side cockpit like the Millenium Falcon.  Lucas added it to the Star Wars special edition in ’97, making it screen canon forever.

Leia’s mission follows, as she searches the lowest levels of Coruscant looking for a crime organisation known as Black Sun.  She wishes to forge an alliance.  Their leader, the tall green Prince Xizor (shee-zor), is the main villain of Shadows.  Not nearly as terrifying as Vader or the Emperor, but he has his own scary theme.  The music paints a picture of an evil entity with refined, extravagant tastes.  He has one advantage over Leia when they meet:  alien pheromones that make him irresistible to women.  But Leia loves Han.  This battle of wills is composed as a dramatic ballet called “The Seduction of Princess Leia”.

We learn Xizor failed to seduce Leia on “Night Skies”, a piece of music he shares with Darth Vader, as he attempts to contact Luke through the Force.  The dark side of the Force is palpable in the air, then Vader’s theme returns.  Next, Luke rescues Leia from Xizor’s palace on “Into the Sewers”, which are the only way to sneak in undetected.  Xizor is defeated on “The Destruction of Xizor’s Palace”, when a massive space battle ensues.  A choir heightens the tension while exciting action music animates what’s happening.  Grab your action figures and play along.

The only serious flaw is that the soundtrack should really end like a Star Wars movie ends — with the credits theme music.  That aside, Shadows of the Empire is an enjoyable piece of music when you want to hear something just a little different and contemplative in the galaxy far, far away.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Kick Axe as “Spectre General” – The Transformers soundtrack (1986) – Kick Axe series Part Four

KICK AXE as SPECTRE GENERAL – “Hunger” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stand In Our Way”
from Transformers: The Movie original motion picture soundtrack (1986 BMG)

Although the recordings were not released until 1986, it makes sense to talk about “Hunger” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stand In Our Way” now, in terms of storytelling.  After the Vices album was completed in 1984, Kick Axe were tasked to contribute to another project.  And it wasn’t a movie soundtrack.

Producer Spencer Proffer was scheduled to go into the studio with Black Sabbath — a Black Sabbath still fronted by Ian Gillan, though not for long.  Proffer felt that Sabbath needed fresh ideas and recruited Kick Axe to write some.  Though details are murky, we do know that Gillan left Black Sabbath abruptly to record Perfect Strangers with Deep Purple.  Kick Axe frontman George Criston was one of the singers that Tony Iommi was interested in as his replacement.  Whatever happened, no recordings of Sabbath with Criston have surfaced, but we do have the songs Kick Axe wrote for the sessions.

In a strange coincidence, they all first came out on November 9 1985, on two separate albums.  W.A.S.P.’s The Last Command (produced by Proffer) featured the Quiet Riot-like “Running Wild in the Streets”, though without proper writing credit.  Another album produced by Proffer was released the same day:  Ready to Strike by King Kobra.  “Piece of the Rock” and hit single “Hunger” were written by Kick Axe for the Sabbath project.

Ultimately, “Hunger” by Kick Axe did finally come out in the summer of 1986.  Too late, perhaps, considering people assumed it was a generic cover of a King Kobra song.  Especially since no one had ever heard of…Spectre General?

Who the hell is Spectre General?!

For reasons unknown but said to be contractual, Kick Axe couldn’t release their own song under their own name, so Proffer invented Spectre General, and that’s how they’re credited in Transformers: The Movie.  The band didn’t even know about it.  They had two songs on the original 10 track album:  “Hunger”, and a new song called “Nothing’s Gonna Stand In Our Way”, written for their next record Welcome to the Club.

Perhaps it’s the familiarity of the King Kobra recording, but this version of “Hunger” does stand in its shadow.  Both Mark (Marcie) Free and George Criston are stellar vocalists, and the Free version just had more…weight.  Kick Axe’s original is heavier and chunkier, so perhaps in that way it’s actually superior.  “Nothing’s Gonna Stand in Our Way” is an upbeat number, hook-laden, with the trademark Kick Axe “chug” and backing vocals.  It’s pretty essential to have both these tracks to augment a Kick Axe collection.

Besides not getting their real name in the album, other contributions by Weird Al Yankovic and Stan Bush were featured more prominently in the movie than the two “Spectre General” songs.  The band Lion got to do the movie theme song.  Those were some memorable movie moments to any kid in the theater, particularly the Stan Bush selections.

It’s pretty amazing that Kick Axe came up with “Hunger” but were never really recognized for it.  It’s a great song and their original version of it is the proof.  Also strong, “Nothing’s Gonna Stand in Our Way” would have made a fine addition to the next album.  Clearly, the Canadian quintet had big league talent the whole time.

4.5/5 stars

#763: L’Empire contre-attaque

GETTING MORE TALE #763: L’Empire contre-attaque

We didn’t have a VCR in 1980.  You could rent them; this was usually reserved for special occasions.   That meant, unlike today, we couldn’t just watch the latest Star Wars any time we felt like it.  The best way to re-experience the movie was on your own, with action figures and soundtracks.  The Empire Strikes Back was my favourite album at that time.  I played certain tracks on those records so often with my kid fingers that they started to skip.

I used my parents’ big living room hi-fi.  Giant wooden speakers as heavy as oak doors.  A turntable, an 8-track, and a receiver.  Once I discovered Star Wars, I think I used it more than they did.  The Empire Strikes Back came in a luxurious gatefold, with photos from the film, liner notes, and a generous booklet.  It didn’t take long for the rips and tears to set in; that record was well loved.  Usually, I would plug in the set of headphones and listen quietly while turning the pages of that booklet.  On weekends, my sister and I would probably set up a big battlefield and re-enact the movies, with the soundtrack playing in the background.  The most frequently played tracks were “Yoda’s Theme”, “The Asteroid Field” and of course “The Imperial March”.  Sometimes we would ambitiously re-enact the entire movie in sequence using the whole soundtrack.

We had to improvise.  There were lots of characters and vehicles we didn’t have.  When the Wampa ice monster attacks Luke Skywalker and knocks him off his tawn-tawn, we had to use Chewbacca as a stand-in for the monster.  Before we had a Boba Fett, we used a Micronaut with an actual missile-firing backpack.  We didn’t have an AT-AT, so we used my sister’s cardboard Jawa sandcrawler.  The centrepiece of our play time was usually my huge Millennium Falcon toy.

Before anyone gets too nostalgic for the good old days, I’ll remind you those Kenner toys were actually quite shit.  My two biggest toys, the Falcon and the X-Wing, both broke immediately out of the box.  The wings on the X-Wing never worked right and I had to wedge marker lids in the wings to keep them open.  The hinge for the boarding ramp of the Falcon snapped when my dad put it together.  He tried to glue it, but ultimately the door was held on by an ugly piece of masking tape.  Sturdy toys they were not, and parts were always popping off.  The guns refused to stay on the wings of the X-Wing.  The canopy of the Falcon always popped open mid-flight.  It too eventually got locked down by masking tape.

During these huge play battles, my sister and I would take over the entire living room floor.  There was a coffee table that usually acted as Imperial headquarters.  You could park a TIE fighter on the shelf underneath.  All the while, John Williams and the London Symphony spun behind us.  I’d flip sides and cue up another track, or just play “The Imperial March” again.

When we were done playing Empire, we would do our own original stories.  We usually set these “pre-Empire“, since Han Solo was frozen in carbonite at the end of the movie.   He was a favourite character and we had two Han Solo action figures:  original Han and Hoth Han.  I loved Hoth Han.  Not only did he look cool but he was the only figure you could take his gun and plug into a holster on his hip.  It was hard to really make good coherant “pre-Empire” stories though, because we also wanted to play with other cool figures like Lando, and Yoda.  It didn’t particularly matter because we had tremendous fun without a logical story.

I’ll say it again:  improvisation.  We built a custom multi-level Cloud City out of cardboard boxes.  It had sliding doors and sort of an elevator.  We made our own figure-compatible vehicles out of Lego.  Before I had a figure of Han Solo frozen in carbonite, I took my Solo and put him in a glass of water.  If I put him in the freezer for a few hours, I’d have a frozen Han ready to go for the next adventure.  My dad was bemused to go into the freezer and find Han Solo in there so frequently.

No matter the story or setting, the Millennium Falcon was there.  You could fit several figures in it, with two in the cockpit, one in the gunner’s chair, and several tossed into the opening rear compartment.  The cool thing about the gunner’s chair was that it rotated in sync with the top quad-cannons.  The Falcon’s rear compartment was equipped with a space chess table (called Dejarik), a Jedi training area (you know, for that one scene), and a smuggler’s compartment with secret hatch.  This made it more of a playset than a ship, but it did have several features that made it more a ship than a playset as well.  Close up the rear compartment, raise the working landing gear, and you are airborne.  The Falcon also had sound effects and a large battery compartment where the escape pod would have been.  While playing on the living room floor, if the track “The Asteroid Field” was playing, you just had to get the Falcon ready for take off.  Close the ramp, the canopy, and the rear compartment.  Raise the landing gear and you were space-bound!  Then I’d fly the ship around the living room in sync with the swells and crescendos of the theme.  It really felt like Star Wars at that point.

In 1981, the first Indiana Jones soundtrack was released, also composed by John Williams.  It was official then:  Williams was my favourite.  I didn’t have very many records; most of the others were “Story Of” soundtracks with full narration and dialogue.  That was another way to re-live a movie in a pre-VHS household, but I kept coming back to the actual movie scores.  I outgrew the “Story Of” records but not the scores.  Even so, nothing topped the original two-record set of The Empire Strikes Back.  When Return of the Jedi was released in ’83, it was only a single record.  It didn’t have as many memorable cues.  I loved and cherished it, but not as much as Empire.

Besides, in 1983 something else happened besides the end of the Star Wars trilogy.  I was getting older, and there was this new song out.  I heard four words — “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto“, and my world shifted once again!  But that, friends, is another story.

 

REVIEW: James Horner – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan original motion picture soundtrack (1982)

STAR TREK II:  The Wrath of Khan original motion picture soundtrack (1982 GNP Crescendo)
Composed and conducted by James Horner

The Wrath of Khan was James Horner’s breakthrough score.  He sold a bajillion albums since, for movies you probably heard of (Titanic, Avatar, Aliens, etc. etc.).  One listen is all it takes to hear why The Wrath of Khan put him on the map.

When the film came out in 1982, it felt brand new in two ways.  One, it felt like Star Trek was alive again.  Khan‘s tight pacing, dialogue and performances were miles ahead of the monumental bore than was Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Second, the score was top-knotch.  Just as John Williams made Star Wars a brilliant audio ride, so did James Horner with Khan.  Of course this isn’t to knock Jerry Goldsmith, who score The Motion Picture (and lots of other Treks too).  Khan was a different kind of movie, with the kind of action and tension the first film lacked.  The score followed suit.

Perhaps the most exciting cue on this soundtrack is recurring Khan theme heard in “Surprise Attack”.  As stunningly good as it is, the quieter moments in the score are just as important.  Though quiet, they still delivering tension when necessary.  Check out “Kirk’s Explosive Reply”, from the scene in the film when Kirk is stalling for time to take down Khan’s shields.  When a character stalls for time, you need to feel that tension, and it is all there in the track.  “Spock” is also a lovely softer piece, from a thoughtful moment between Spock and the Captain.  There is an air of ambiguous danger.


Surprise attack!

This being Star Trek, you need regal themes for those big widescreen shots of the USS Enterprise gliding past in all her glory.  Check out “Enterprise Clears Moorings” for a the finest example of this.  Of course, Khan was probably best loved for its battle scenes.  “Battle in the Mutara Nebula” and “Genesis Countdown” combined are 16 minutes of adrenaline mixed with tense stretches of quietly humming instruments.   Even when contemplative, this soundtrack is somehow so big and bold.  It is an absolutely huge sounding score.  Brass, military drums, strings…it is a flawless collection of music.  Every bit as exciting as the film, and completely enjoyable as its own work.

People say James Horner plagiarised music from classical composers.  So did John Williams, and you don’t hear fans complaining about it!  The Wrath of Khan could easily one of the best soundtracks you ever buy.

5/5 stars