Sci-Fi's Finest Vol. 1 review
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Science Fiction's finest...more or less...
Compilation albums are usually aimed at collectors or fans of particular genres, be it musical styles, or in some cases, film genres. You can find all sorts of CDs containing various selections from soundtracks of films of any genre: romance, horror, or Sci-Fi / fantasy. BuySoundtrax Records gives us Sci-Fi’s Finest Volume 1, a collection of songs from some of the best – and some of the more obscure – Sci-Fi titles ever to grace the big or small screen. At times, the selections are winners, and others fall short of their intended mark.
The album has a somewhat promising beginning with the song “Science Fiction Double Feature” – the opening number from The Rocky Horror Picture Show – sung by Victoria DeMare, “Hollywood’s Hottest Scream Queen”. It is above all else a salute to all of the great old sci-fi pictures we grew up with. We then get the main theme from Battle: Los Angeles, a theme for a modern war movie, albeit against aliens. Science fiction old and new is represented here, but some might be too off the beaten path for some listeners. Some high points are Murray Gold's Doctor Who theme, the main theme from Torchwood, the end title theme from The Twilight Zone, and two versions of the theme from Fringe, the first of which is the Fringe '85 theme from the flashback episode. We also have John Williams’ redone theme from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the theme from Caprica, performed by solo piano, and the theme from Futurama.
Some of the selections are wide misses, like the main title theme from Star Trek: The Animated Series, Star Trek Generations: Nexus Theme, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (After 3:00 AM at Quark’s), also performed by solo piano, and “Where My Heart Will Take Me”, the theme from Star Trek: Enterprise. This choice of theme songs wasn’t overly popular with Trekkers to begin with, and it really feels like a poor choice here, performed by Katie Campbell. The themes from the various Stargate series are fine, but there’s nothing overly special about them, and will most likely only appeal to fans of the series. More obscure selections like the end title of Communion, The Illustrated Man, Man from Atlantis, UFO, and The Starlost end up losing their appeal after one listen. Also, the rearranged theme from The Terminator is pretty awful, sounding little like the original.
There are some really fun choices for this compilation, like the theme from Knight Rider, cult favorite puppet show Thunderbirds (for those too young to remember this program, it was the inspiration for Team America), the theme from Robotech, “Eureka on my Mind” from Eureka, the end title theme from Tron, and the end title theme from Red Dwarf, although being sung by Katie Campbell, it doesn’t quite satisfy like the original. There are also the themes from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai and Primeval, as well as “I See You” from Avatar, and the themes from The Thing and Devil Girl from Mars, which is a particularly fun listen.
The bulk of the work here is arranged and performed by composer Dominik Hauser, who has composed scores for several short films and projects, and has worked on quite a few movies as a member of the music department. Unfortunately, while Hauser seems to be a talented musician, this also detracts from the music within. It would be nice to have the original compositions on CD, but for licensing purposes, this makes the compilation much more cost effective. And the choices for some of the selections are baffling. I would have preferred the theme from the original Star Trek, or even Star Trek: The Next Generation, rather than the ones chosen here, especially from the animated series, which has something of a disco swing feel to it.
The packaging for the CD is flashy, with pictures of lovely ladies in slinky sci-fi garb – particularly one young lady in a classic Star Trek dress – but as far as liner notes, there are the track listings, the composers, who performed them for the album, and a small rundown of the film or program that the track is taken from. I’m a little more curious as to what went into the choosing of the tracks for the album, or the recording process of the selections. Perhaps this will be something to consider when packaging Volume 2. I do worry, though, that with the direction the producers went with some selections here, we might be looking forward to theme songs from films like Howard the Duck or Manos: Hands of Fate.
While there are some interesting choices in the selections here, as a whole I felt underwhelmed. Some of my dislike came from the fact that the tracks are re-recorded versions, and some are rearranged to the point of barely resembling the original versions. While there are some very nice selections here, as a whole there wasn’t enough to make me overly excited about it. Too many off the wall choices, and other great choices fell flat by being changed. This is the sort of CD that will only truly appeal to collectors or diehard fans who must have these songs, but even then, I feel most will feel the same as I did about the changes made, or that they didn’t live up to their predecessors. This CD can easily be missed.
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