Symphonic Star Trek
REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/16/2006
Back in the day, I was a huge Star Trek fan. In fact, I remember hating The Wonder Years because it would come on before The Next Generation. Today, thanks to Spike TV, my love of the series has been rekindled, as you can watch five hours of Trek every day. Going further, this CD has a special place in my heart because it was one of two I was given with my first stereo. Over and over it played in my room, until I "outgrew" Trek. Now, here I am, about a decade later, reviewing it. Funny how these things work out.
While I was a fan of the series, I was not a hardcore Trekkie. They could probably listen to this disc and pick out minute details of what is different than the original works. However, there don't appear to be that many differences to my ears than what the music actually was for the movies and shows. The themes for The Motion Picture or The Next Generation are pulled off extremely well. In fact, in a live setting with a full orchestra, some come off as more energetic.
There is one gaping flaw on this disc, and it is the inclusion of the sound effects. Apparently, the orchestra wanted to show off how they could reproduce Star Trek effects naturally. Big mistake. You can go from listening to the final throes of the theme to the original series, to buzzing and beeping meant to imitate a Trek alien. These effects ruin any momentum the tracks build up. Honestly, if I wanted to hear "whale songs," I would go down to my local Target and buy one of the cheap, fake, crappy CDs. In fact, on my iPod, I've gone ahead and just removed the sound effect files, leaving just the music.
Luckily, it is the music that carries the disc. The music of Trek has always been overblown and pretentious, but for the most part it works. With the exception of the theme to Star Wars or Jaws, I can think of no more recognizable piece of movie music then the theme to The Motion Picture. "The Klingon Theme" accurately captures the essence of the people from the movies and show. It's jagged, abrupt, and rough. Perfect for Worf, right? The TV shows are all here, with the exception of Enterprise, which came out much later. Sure, "The Original Series" theme comes off as less eclectic, but it sounds more polished. While I understand the desire to include Voyager's theme, it is probably the least inspired of all the TV scores, quite derivative of the works that came before it.
Erich Kunzel and co. also highlight some of the lesser known pieces of Trek history. I've always thought the jazzy, upbeat theme to The Voyage Home was one of the better Trek bits of music. Also, while listening to "A Busy Man" from The Final Frontier, I realized that the composers to the last few Trek films took major elements of that theme and have been using them to great effect. The end title to Generations also has become one of my favorites of the year; it's a shame that it wasn't used more in the following movies.
This CD really would be close to perfect if it didn't suffer from a few lackluster tracks and those terribly annoying sound effects. However, that is what the skip button is for, so if you give Symphonic Star Trek a listen, I suggest you use it.