This week, we take a look at the most recent of the Star Trek-themed compilation albums, ‘The Music from the Star Trek Saga Volume 2’, released on CD and digitally by BSX Records in November 2018.
And what a delight it is.
I have to admit though that it was a leap of faith buying this title: I had assumed that it was going to be a synthesized rendition of a selection of incidental music from the various TV shows, mainly because one of the names attached to the project was Dominik Hauser, a performer/arranger who had been behind the only commercially available complete soundtrack to Vangelis’ The Bounty. I bought that in good faith, too, and was pleased that, while it clearly wasn’t Vangelis, it was damn well near enough (I only hope that Vangelis himself one day allows the original recordings to be released).
Anyway, we start off with four suites from Star Trek: The Next Generation and predominantly music by Ron Jones, here arranged by Hauser (apart from the opening theme [‘Suite Part 1’] which Jones arranged himself, that in itself being a peculiar version: it takes the obligatory synthesized interpretation of Alexander Courage’s fanfare from the original series and blends it with part of the end titles from Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Jerry Goldsmith, resulting in an interesting and softer approach to that which we expect).
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‘Suite Part 2’ is “11001001” (and I correctly typed that 31-year old episode title from memory, he says proudly) and “Where No One Has Gone Before,” two of the more interesting entries into TNG‘s first season. Hauser’s arrangements actually give the impression that the wall-paper approach to TNG‘s scores was just a false memory because they are lively, melodic and exciting. Yes, they are snippets of longer compositions but well chosen as a result. The same follows for ‘Suite Part 3’ (Q-Who) and ‘Suite Part 4’ (Skin of Evil), again superior episodes from TNG‘s early days. There are touches of synthesizer, of course, as I expected, but they are not intrusive, instead emulating the style of the original scores.
However, the next ten tracks elevate this compilation far above any other: Utterly sublime and note-perfect versions of the complete music to The Animated Series.
Composed by Yvette Blais and Jeff Michael (actually Ray Ellis [Yvette was his wife’s name] and TAS producer Norm Prescott [Jeff and Michael being Prescott’s sons]), arranger Larry Hopkins has done a phenomenal job in recreating the pieces here – and if I had been presented with them without knowing they were re-recordings, I would have sworn blind they had been lifted from the actual soundtracks. In all my years of collecting film and televisions scores as well as the covers thereof, I have never been privy to hearing such an incredibly faithful rendition of any such soundtrack before. Hopkins even goes so far as recreating elements in mono, fully and successfully creating the illusion. The 21 minutes are worth the price of the album alone and reveal that the music is far superior than it has been given credit for in the intervening decades.
The selection starts with the opening theme, a sound-a-like to Courage’s original. Filmation weren’t able afford TOS‘s one but this one works admirably and gives TAS its own identity, just as the incidental music does: the nine subsequent tracks (‘Captain’s Log/Scanning/On the Viewscreen’, ‘Enterprise Attacked/Act Out’, ‘The Bigger Meaning’, ‘Evasive Maneuvers/Battle Stations’, ‘New Heading/Library Computer/SickBay’, ‘Approaching Coordinates/Captain’s Log 2/Sensor Data/Full Power’. ‘Illogical/Trouble In Engineering/Something Ahead/Fire Phasers’, ‘Stingers/Supplemental Log/Kirk’s Command/Ongoing Mission’ and ‘Just Another Stardate’) were all composed for Beyond the Farthest Star and were tracked for the subsequent 21 episodes.
As a result, on viewing TAS itself, there is a feeling of repetition which may explain the consideration that this wasn’t great music. And that’s unfair, because it is great: exciting, melodramatic, memorable and fun – and heard here on its own merits and so beautifully rendered, is a worthy addition to any Star Trek music collection.
Switching back to live-action Star Trek, we leap to the distant Deep Space Nine outpost and three suites of Dennis McCarthy compositions for tracks 15-17, arranged here by Hauser. Deep Space Nine fell under the same spell as its sister shows with its bland incidental music but Hauser has chosen two pieces for ‘Suite Part 2’ and ‘Suite Part 3’ that represent sensitive and touching elements. Kira is the focus here as well as the spiritual and they really are quite something. For ‘Suite Part 1’, Hauser has extended McCarthy’s DS9 theme. It’s always been a sweeping piece of music and perfectly captures the wonder of deep space and Hauser has really gone to town.
Star Trek: The Experience was at the Las Vegas Hilton for ten years following its grand opening in 1998, taking the form of an interactive attraction. Jay Chattaway was commissioned to compose ‘The Las Vegas Experience’ and it’s here, again arranged by Hauser, as a nice addition to this collection. Chattaway, apart from “The Inner Light,” has never stood out for me as an easily identifiable composer within the franchise, but his theme for the attraction is serviceable.
Then we finish with an extended version of Jay Russo’s main titles to Star Trek: Discovery, that most fan-polarizing of all the Star Trek TV series to date. Love it or loath it, the theme is representative of the interplanetary vistas of the franchise that we come to expect. Pentatonic Productions arranged it and it teeters precariously on the edge of sounding wholly synthesized, which is a shame when the Meridian Studio Orchestra has done such a sterling job for the rest of the album.
In summary, then, don’t be put off by the amateur graphics wrapped around the release’s cover. Within there are aural delights that simply cannot be missed. Highly recommended.
Next time: Star Trek – The Next Generation, Volume 3