UNEXPECTED NEW EDITION OF STAR TREK II FROM LA-LA LAND: OUR EXCLUSIVE REVIEW
Since the release of Intrada’s extended edition of The Land Before Time in October 2020, which presented 15 minutes of unreleased music, we had been feverishly waiting for a new album for 10 months. The surprise comes this time from the good people of La-La Land Records, who invite us as of this August 17th, 2021 to dive into another score of the 80s: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
In this article we will not make any musical commentaries; we will not analyze each theme or each track composed by James Horner. For that we invite you to read again the numerous reviews already available on the web and which highlight the great qualities of this music:
We are not going to recall here the many stories behind this soundtrack: the listening of the demo tapes that led Nicholas Meyer and Robert Sallin to choose James Horner, the lack of budget, the search for a new musical color, the friendship between James Horner and Nicholas Meyer, the cameo of the composer in the film, the musical requests of the director, the delay of some special effects that made the composition of some scenes difficult, the extra sessions to answer new scenes….
If you want to know more about the genesis of this score, we suggest you follow this link to read two articles published in Starlog and Cinefantastique magazines at the time of the release of the film.
Here is an overview of the important differences between this new La-La Land album and its predecessors. Starting with CD1:
- The track "Spock (Dies)" on the 2009 edition becomes "Spock and Kirk" on the 2021 edition. This avoids confusion with the track "Spock" while expressing the composer's desire to set the relationship between the two characters to music.
- "Project Genesis" by Craig Huxley is placed as a bonus on the second CD, instead of placing it in the middle of the Horner material as the 2009 album did. Thus, the emphasis is on the music of James Horner and its narrative continuity.
- The first CD features the film versions of "Battle in the Mutara Nebula" and "Genesis Countdown" already present on the 2009 Retrograde FSM edition and differing slightly from the original 1982 album. On the other hand, "Epilogue/End Title" is the version without Leonard Nimoy's voiceover, previously available on the first of the four discs of Star Trek: 50th Anniversary Collection of 2016 from La-La Land Records.
- The passages "The Eels of Ceti Alpha V" and "Kirk in Space Shuttle" presented together on the 2009 edition and the 2021 CD1 are separated on the second part of CD2.
- "Kirk Takes Command" on disc 2 is a completely different take than the version on disc 1. The film and disc 1 use take 46 while the 1982 album was going to use 47. And in fact, take 47 was the only version archived on the tapes used in 2009 for the Retrograde release, meaning the film version debuts on this release.
- The alternative version of "Buried Alive" presents another take of the piece: micro-variations in the tempo and the entry of the brass, probably due to the absence of click track, a piano a little more sustained during the tutti, and especially a repetition in the last seconds of the harmonic progression of the tutti but this time with the low brass and the energy of the strings that dissipates.
- A first alternative version of the song "Amazing Grace". Its orchestral part is one semitone higher than the original version. And the return of the orchestra is three seconds later than in the original version where, for reasons of synchronization with the image, the bagpipes melody was truncated. This is not the case in this alternative version.
- The second alternative version of the song "Amazing Grace" concerns this time only the bagpipes part. The bagpipe has been pitch shifted digitally to be in tune with the orchestra.
- We also find the first version recorded in April 1982 of "Epilogue/End Title", made before the addition of the scene with Spock's coffin on Genesis. This version therefore does not have the final orchestral flourishes featuring Spock’s theme included in the final version recorded during the additional sessions in May 1982.
- “Wild Orchestra" is a 90-second improvised piece consisting of a first half of whistling plastic tubes (also called "Whirly Tubes") and a second half of eerie colors created by brass, percussion and bass.
- The "Theme of Star Trek II (Edited End Title)” was the second track on the 45 R.P.M. released in 1982. It's a combination of the Main Title and the End Title, with some internal changes. It has never appeared on CD before.
“I did not know about the new tapes when the project started. Paramount has a preservation project going on so all of the tapes had already been transferred and it was a matter of looking at a spreadsheet and asking for specific barcodes. It wasn't a detailed list, but I knew I wanted the 1/2" tapes. When I put them in Pro Tools that's when I realized we had more tapes then last time. In 2008 we only had a set of analog reels that were dubs of final edited takes from digital. Now I had tapes of the entire recording session and it wouldn't make sense for these tapes to be digital dubs and when I looked at a spectral analysis of them I saw they didn't have the cut off in frequency response that you would get with an early digital recording. That's when I realized we had something special, fully analog tapes with mixes of the complete scoring sessions newly transferred in hi-res digital. These tapes were recorded at the scoring sessions as protection in case there was a problem with the digital recording.”Producer Neil S. Bulk.
- Those who only own the original 1982 album, because this release presents 57 additional minutes.
- Those who only own the 2009 edition, because they do not have the album presentation personally arranged by James Horner, included on the second CD of this new edition. And we know how much attention the composer paid to the design of his albums.
- For those who own both 1982 and 2009 releases, the decision may be more difficult. By buying this new edition, you will complete your collection but above all you will benefit from an unprecedented sound quality. If the latter is a criterion of choice for you, then go for this new edition, which will transport you back to space, the final frontier.
- The writing and publication of the definitve biography on the composer and his career
- The production of a documentary with brand new and exclusive footage
- The creation of a CD album with unpublished works
- The planning and organisation of a series of concerts
T-Minus less than two hours as of this post before it goes on sale. I’ve owned the original album, the FSM expanded release and grabbed the 50th Anniversary Collection just to hear that ‘Epilogue / End Titles’ track without Leonard Nimoy’s voice over (Although everything else on that set is spectacular too. Animated series!). You bet your asteroids that I’m going to dive head first into this version.
Thank you for your incredible and detailed review of the soundtrack. Whatever worries I may have had in purchasing the soundtrack are all but gone now.
My copy arrived today, and I’ll have to say… this release sounds absolutely fantastic.
It doesn’t alter the “sound” of the original recording, but it is more dynamic in range, clearer, and less harsh than the original soundtrack album.
IMHO, this is the way the score should sound and be presented.
Top marks all around for this.
Thank you Jean-Baptiste,
As always your article is very helpful to understand the new edition.
The Spanish language has disappeared of the web.
I hope your book is at least translated into Spanish …
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