The Ulllllltimate Sci-Fi Music Collection If one person gives great gifts, it’s the illustrious Codemaster Talon. I’ve received a fair number of gifts in my lifetime, but so far, my older sister’s take the cake. Take this one for instance. I’m real big on orchestral music, to the point where I listen to them more than any other kind of music. I’ve got orchestral versions of video game themes, orchestral soundtracks to truck-loads of anime shows (Big O, Escaflowne, and Giant Robo are incredible), and could probably spend the rest of my life just trying to study the nuances of all the classical music I’ve got. Being such a huge fan of orchestral music, I also have come to believe that orchestra music produced for movies and television is the new classical music (or as someone once said, Mozart would be making music for movies if he were alive today). Being a huge sci-fi fan, that kind of music has always been particularly near and dear to my heart. But were I to buy each and every soundtrack for every sci-fi I liked it would cost quite a bundle, and would include a lot of sub-par music along with the grandiose and fantastic main and memorable themes. That’s where this beauty comes in.The moment I ripped off the shrink-wrap and popped it into my cd player was a moment of great trepidation. Believe me when I tell that I’ve seen my fair share of sub-par orchestral recording in my lifetime. Very often they are in those big super-packs of music, and suffer from poor direction, improper mastering, and sometime even pathetic orchestration (or worse yet have something sounding like a cheap synthesizer and a kazoo in place of a full orchestra). I needn’t have worried though. This sucker is fantastic.Many people who are not audiophiles will probably miss the point of this cd collection. It is not the original versions of the pieces. It is re-orchestrations, mostly by the phenomenal Prague Symphony Orchestra. Many of these themes didn’t sound all that hot in there original versions because they were low budget films or were not recorded in high-fidelity. Here they are given the full treatment, mastered with the most loving care imaginable. Often the version found in these cds is SUPERIOR to the original.Remember the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey? Of course you do. But how many times have you heard a cheap imitation of the original version from the movie, starting too low in volume and ending too high (and missing the essential pipe-organ that gives it that extra oomph)? Well, this first track in the entire collection is not only everything it should be instrumental and timing-wise, but it also has been oh-so-carefully adjusted during the mastering process so that at no time is the music either too low or too high in volume (surely a benchmark for every other recording ever to be made of the piece).Or what about the theme from the (at-the-time) uber-creepy The Black Hole? The orchestration of this piece of music goes from tiumphant to terrifying and back again, with a splendor and cleanness that I CERTAINLY don’t remember being in the original recording.Then there’s the new version of the theme from Independence Day, complete with a violin solo, a far more electrifying ending climax, and a chorus so thunderous that you feel like applauding at the end. Simply indescribable. Kind of like the MIND-BLOWING rendition of the theme from The Last Star Fighter. This has been one of my favorite themes for a long time now, but I’ve never heard it played like this. I think the original version of the theme is something like 1 minute long, but this new version doesn’t just fade out (HAHAHAHA!!!!) THIS version is THREE minutes long, goes through the main theme THREE times, with the final strains being so triumphant and joyous I could not help but feel an electrifying charge the first dozen or so times (come to think of it, I still feel that way). This is superior to the original in EVERY way. AWESOME.And let’s not forget the incredible new rendition of Stargate with it’s heavy use of clarinets (for Egyptian effect!) and a triumphant new ending (completely lacking the chanting from the original version. This version is so different that for the first minute it is very hard to tell that it is in fact Stargate. But then the main theme kicks in, and then you get this incredible flute solo for my favorite part of theme (the whole thing is played slower, but arguably more powerfully than the original). My goodness. At first I found the thing so different I didn’t like it. But then I listened to it again. And again. And again.I could go on and on, talking about the fantastic new rendition of Moon Raker, the ear-popping Battlestar Galactica, the classic Star Trek (First Contact has a minute or two of the theme from Star Trek:The Motion Picture before going into the main theme), or the sweet renditions of music from the Star Wars movies (or the music from E.T.).I have to mention though…
Fine Collection Generally I agree with Strategos in his ecstatic Spotlight Review above. It is a joy to here some of the most memorable themes and cues from some of the most memorable science fiction and fantasy movies (re)recorded in great sound and in lavish (re)orchestrations, played by renowned classical orchestras, namely the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and the Philharmonia Orchestra, no less.I have always had a weak spot for (good, or maybe even intelligent) science fiction/fantasy and film music, especially its way of evoking mystery, grandure and wide open spaces. Call it a weakness if you want. But it was maybe really kick started off, for as far as I can remember, with Star Trek. But especially Star Trek II, III and IV – essentially a trilogy – because of their very romantic but very warm, human core, set on the broadest canvasses of unlimited and mysterious outer space. But then there was the music for adding that essential extra dimension of emotion and atmosphere. I am happy that much of the music on this album is from the Star Trek series and films, often equaling or sometimes even outclassing the original recordings.This kind of music (for the movies) should be seen as an art on its own rights with its own merits and qualities. As such, the musical sequences on these CD’s are a beautifully played cross section of some of the most evoking orchestral music for science fiction/fantasy film ever created. And I very much like the nicely blended, wide and deep orchestral soundpicture with enough reverberation to evoke a sense of wide open spaces.I am quite thrilled by tracks like the evocative music from Dune, truly transporting one to the vastly sands of Arrakis (the music is wonderful, but to my great regret I think the movie itself is a flawed masterpiece at best, alas.). And then there is the very different, goofy music for Ghostbusters (memories of childhood), the spoofy but electrifying music from Mars Attacks (lovingly parodist music, this, with not a little touch of irony) and the happily adventurous, forward driving Theme from Galaxy Quest (‘Never give up, never surrender!’), now also used for the internet-based fan-series Star Trek: The Hidden Frontier. On the other side of the spectrum we have the atmospheric music for Enemy Mine (an underestimated ‘little’ movie), the Theme from The Right Stuff (actually science FACT, not fiction, this film, just like Apollo 13, of course), the eerily attractive music for Species, the original End Title for Alien (not used in the theatrical version of the movie, where it was replaced by music from howard Hanson’s Second Symphony), the exquisitely exotic music for Stargate, the sweet and warmly sympathetic, beautifully re-orchestrated, theme for Starman, the title cue for Star Trek: TOS (much more melodiously played than the original! If only a series nowadays could continue to be as thought provoking and as original as Star Trek was during its launch, fourty years ago …) and a truly overpowering End Titles Suite from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. I especially like the thrillingly grandiloquent rendition here of the music for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. And how nice it is to hear the (thematic) similarities between James Horner’s music for The Wrath of Khan, his great break-through as a film music composer, and his (two years) earlier music for Battle Beyond the Stars (which did indeed help him earn the job for writing the music for Star Trek II) …But on the ‘down side’, if one is looking for – for example – the gorgeously expansively played End Titles from Cocoon, it is not included here: one has to acquire the album that ‘kicked it all off’, so to say, namely ‘Space and Beyond’, also on Silva Screen. I was very pleased also with the inclusion on that album of some of the music from the series Star Trek: The Next Generation, namely where one of the characters, Tasha Yar, in one of the episodes (Skin of Evil) is saying goodbye to her crewmmates: sweetly sentimental and simple music which I have always wanted to own on CD. I guess that a few cues from the other two sequals (‘Alien Invasion: Space and Beyond II’ and ‘Space3: Beyond the Final Frontier’) didn’t make it onto this 4 CD collection-album as well, but I guess that it would be the ‘better part of the bargain’ to opt to buy this ‘The Science Fiction Album’ instead of buying all three albums separately. Well, of course it is for yourself to ultimately decide what you really want ;-)If I were to nitpick (which is not easy with such a marvellous project as this one), then I would say that while all music is performed with magnificent grandure and with style, some of it is not performed as crisply and as technically ‘on the spot’ as some of the original recordings: ensemble is a little slack and the playing somewhat stilted sometimes, losing some of the edge and the originality of the writing…
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