This week it’s the turn of a space oddity with a 1989 CD release from classical label, Naxos, entitled Star Trek – A Journey Through the Galaxies.
Naxos itself had only been around since 1987 by the time this album was released but had quickly forged ahead in the classical music industry as a label that produced high quality recordings on low-budget CDs. This widened the availability of classics for those who couldn’t necessarily afford the more expensive releases from other contemporary companies. Certainly, it helped me in building my own fledgling classical music collection and even today, because it’s still going strong, I occasionally buy the odd title here and there. They also tapped into re-orchestrations of classic and historic film scores (a host of Universal Monster movies to name but a few).
Richard Hayman arranged the selections included here, having worked in the film industry since the 40s, holding the position as arranger to a number of MGM scores including Meet Me In St Louis. He became the Principal Pops Conductor for the St Louis Symphony Orchestra for near-on three decades and amongst his work he found output with both Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra and Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. He also arranged for artists such as Bob Hope and Barbra Streisand.
The track listings tell us that we open with ‘Star Trek I (Original Theme)’.
Jerry Goldsmith’s fan-favorite theme is always a welcome addition to these types of compilations except that in this case, it’s not actually present.
Instead, it’s Alexander Courage’s theme, bizarrely labelled with the number ‘1’, meaning this set represents the movies up and including 1989 but not including The Motion Picture, which is a great shame. What we have got instead is an arrangement seemingly inspired by the one from Inside Star Trek, and one that I consider to be superior to the original. Hayman’s take on it though, while admirable, relies on vocals to carry it to conclusion. Now having a female voice performing the main melody is an approach that Courage himself used on the series, here it feels a little forced and markedly inferior indeed to the Calello version. It leaves a sense of dread for the rest of the album.
We flip-flop between non-Star Trek and Star Trek across this collection, and so next out of the gate we have John Barry’s ‘The Black Hole (Main Title Theme)’. It’s surprising that Barry didn’t composed for more sci-fi movies (he only had a small handful in his career, including Starcrash  and Howard the Duck ) because his trademark sound of sweeping vistas and mournful yet hummable melodies are perfect for the astral backdrop. You only have to listen to his Bond scores where there are appropriate space-based scenes to know sci-fi filmmakers missed a trick. Can you imagine a Star Trek movie having been scored by him!
‘Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan (End Credits)’ comes in at track 3. James Horner‘s take on the franchise is very much loved and Hayman makes good use of strings to bring us this version. Sadly, the trumpet sections feel too muted, as if playing second fiddle to the string section (pun intended) and it’s cut off abruptly to make way for John Barry’s second of two appearances with ‘Moonraker (Main Title Theme)’. I always a little hesitant when it comes to listening to covers of Barry’s work because he is so unique in his sound that rarely do arrangers do him justice. But here, we have something quite…surprising. It starts out sounding absolutely nothing like anything heard in the 1979 Bond movie but does eventually get going to cover relatively well Barry’s lovely music.
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- Relive a little Star Trek fun with FoxTrot’s Christmas Cookie comic
- Watch: All I Want for Christmas by the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation
Then it’s a return to Horner with ‘Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan (Epilogue)’, which is where track 3 should have naturally continued into. It’s again a satisfactory take but with that brass section muted until, thankfully, the uplifting coda, allowing forgiveness for the sliced-off ending to ‘Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan (End Credits)’
‘Late Planet Love’, sounding for all the world like something Captain Kirk has been getting up to in his spare time is in fact a piece by Italian composer Ettore Stratta that was included on his 1981 album Music from the Galaxies. Hayman’s version is very authentic when compared to Stratta’s rather lovely romantic piece – but certainly doesn’t surpass it. It’s a tone poem in the best tradition and finds much to say in its brief stay.
‘Star Trek III – The Search for Spock (Theme ‘Stealing the Enterprise’)’ brings us back to James Horner for track 7 and it’s once again string-heavy. I acknowledge that the Philharmonic Rock Orchestra is a small group but it’s still a shame that it doesn’t have the passion Horner put into his own original arrangement (for a larger orchestra). It is however the full interpretation of the original album version.
‘The Lost Galaxy’, another Stratta-composed piece and again from Music from the Galaxies, is nicely placed here and takes on the form of a partial waltz. I’d not heard of Stratta before this selection here and it is to my shame that I’ve still not yet tried to track down any of his work. He is melodic and very gentle in his compositions and reminds me of Holst in some ways.
Followers of these articles will know I’m not a fan of Leonard Rosenman’s score for the franchise at all, but here we have ‘Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home (Main Title Theme)’. And goodness, it’s even worse than the original. There’s a peculiar guitar riff that makes it sound like nothing else and I can’t get to the end of the track before I jump to ‘Visions of the Future’, from Hayman himself – and I don’t blame him: if I had the ability and chance to wrote my own material, I’d get it on here, too. It’s a nice work )(better than Rosenman’s travesty) and a good example of American classical music, easily tapping into Copland, Bernstein or Gould.
Goldsmith’s work is finally included with ‘Star Trek V – The Final Frontier (End Title Theme)’, an acceptable version of ‘Life Is A Dream’, proving that you can’t go wrong with him. It’s the most superior of all of Hayman’s arrangements here for the Star Trek pieces and admirably attempts to capture the nuances of Goldsmith’s original.
Interestingly and with some amazing foresight, the final track is from Igor Stravinsky’s ‘The Firebird Suite’, one of my favorite classical works. Cliff Eidelman tapped into the thematic construction of Stravinsky’s epic when scoring Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country (after director Nicholas Meyer’s desire to use Holst’s ‘The Planets’ as-is proved too expensive). Hayman’s decision to include ‘The Firebird Suite’ here as ‘Into Space’ beautifully and unconsciously pre-empts Eidelman’s approach, giving an appropriate finale to this set.
If only Star Trek: A Journey Through the Galaxies featured Goldsmith’s 1979 TMP work it’d be a decent enough compilation. As it stands, it does the job and is a pleasant introduction to both the music of Star Trek and a handful of other interesting pieces but, because Hayman’s arrangements feel like they need a bit of life injected into them, not one I’d return to that often.
Next time: Music from the Star Trek Saga – Volume 2