on August 25, 2009
This newly expanded edition of the soundtrack for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is something I had been hoping for for years, ever since I first saw the picture, heard the music and owned the CD, but this really is a 5-star product! I was already very happy with the expanded edition of the music for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and ever since that one came out, I had been hoping for an expanded version of Star Trek II. (Now let's hope for an expanded album for Star Trek III too. About this music James Horner can be quoted as saying: "It's just a much more interesting score and, for me, a much more beautiful and emotional score than Star Trek II." I find that a bit hard to believe. If only a full extended version of the soundtrack for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock would come out, we could better judge if Mr Horner is right ;)
James Horner's music for Star Trek II has (like the movie itself) always been a personal favorite of mine, in that it defines, for me, what Star Trek is mainly about. The first real, deep impressions I had of Star Trek, when I was an (impressionable) child, were not from the original series, but from seeing this movie and hearing this music, on television. It took a while to sink in, but I was hooked. Emotionally grabbed. Where I adore the the mystery, wonder, eeriness and graceful beauty of the music of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, I equally love the grandeur, drama and deep emotionality of the music for Star Trek II: it is more about the 'human element' in Star Trek (especially the relationship between Kirk and Spock. For better or for worse, the above-mentioned impressionable child within me is still alive ...
I already loved the GNP CD, in itself a nice album (especially because we did not have any other option, of course), but missing out on many important (little and some not so little) dramatic and action moments. What strikes me most when listening to the newly expanded edition is how more darkly brooding, eerie and dramatic the music soundtrack is, overall. Also, you get a sense of the story unfolding in the music from beginning to end (no jumping over or rearranging of cues for musical dramatic effect, as in the original issue), giving a nice feeling of dramatic continuity.
As we again learn from the booklet, in the vision of the director Nicholas Meyer this movie was to accentuate the nautical and adventure-story feel ('Horatio Hornblower in space'), and the music was to underline this. The music on the original 45-minute release were most of those cues that related exactly that kind of atmosphere, namely (most of) the music cues that accompany the battle and/or action scenes, although 'Enterprise Attacks Reliant' was one of those cues that was sorely missing in that respect. Within that music, there is the music for the 'aggressor' Khan, with their short, staccato themes, aggressive percussion, pizzicato and col legno playing and restless, short, swirling string figures; the music for Kirk and the Enterprise: those bold and noble and sweeping melodies; the music for Spock, with its restrained nobility and slightly melancholy character, with the warm tones of a wooden flute and pluckings on a harp in the cues 'Spock' and 'Kirk takes command'.
On this expanded edition, many defining moments that were originally missing now are finally to be heared too, like the decisive moment when Spock urges Kirk to take command of Enterprise because that is his first, best destiny (and thereby also in a sense hinting, for those who already know, at his own tragic destiny at the end of the movie), and also, of course, the death of Spock and his funeral/'Amazing Grace'. As a extra bonus there are included on the CD the complete music cue Craig Huxley wrote for the 'Genesis Project' and the original version of the Epilogue (without the music for Spock's coffin on the Genesis planet and without his narration "Space ... the final frontier"). This version of the epilogue is more concise, and there is a slight difference in the way the orchestra sounds: caressing the melodies with more care for detail, to my ears, and with a freshness that sets it apart from the one used in the film. Or is it more a result of different mic'ing and mixing for this particular cue? Certainly a beautiful addition to the album, making it as complete as can get.
The soundpicture of this reissue is more open than the original issue, which sounds really 'pinched' and compared to this one (I use the GNP CD as reference, I have never heard the sound on the vinyl record), allowing for the instruments in the orchestra to register more fully and to really bloom, making for an exhillarating listening experience from beginning to end.
From page 3 to page 12 in the accompanying booklet, we get a nice essay that gives us a consise overview of the music, its composer James Horner, the creative proces of its composition and a bit of its place in Star Trek music history in general, with lots of quotes from known sources, like Jeff Bond's "The Music of Star Trek", Allan Asherman's "The Making of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan", and the Cinefantastique and Starlog Magazines. Also, the booklet is graced with many (28 from cover to cover) behind-the-scenes photographs and images from the motion picture itself, which, together with the well referenced and accurately written essay, make it a joy to read. Also, every track has its own little musical-theoretic 'exegesis' and some information about what is happening at that moment in the movie. Very nice and very interesting stuff.
All in all, this is a good year for Star Trek fans, and I for one am very happy. I was excited about Michael Giacchino's soundtrack for Star Trek. The film (as well as the music) itself leaves me a bit puzzled, though, about what to make of it, in the end: is this really Star Trek? We'll be able to judge it better with the following movies ... But when this even more beautiful expanded edition of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (a genuine classic of the genre, IMHO) came out (my wish for ages), I was genuinely delighted. This Film Score Monthly/Retrograde issue is made with the highest respect for the music as well as the fans. It is made by fans for fans, as it were, and it shows in the quality of the product! Highly recommended!