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JAMES HORNER FILM MUSIC | November 29, 2021 |

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UNEXPECTED NEW EDITION OF STAR TREK II FROM LA-LA LAND: OUR EXCLUSIVE REVIEW

UNEXPECTED NEW EDITION OF STAR TREK II FROM LA-LA LAND: OUR EXCLUSIVE REVIEW
Jean-Baptiste Martin

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.

 
You can also read or re-read our Fond Memories episode dedicated to Star Trek II published in 2016 and based on 14 sources. Finally, you can patiently await the publication of our reference book on James Horner, which will be published in 2022. The chapter on the two Star Trek films draws from 23 sources, including interviews with horn player James Thatcher, violinist Arthur Zadinsky, director Nicholas Meyer and music editor Bob Badami.
 
Instead, today's article will focus on describing the content of this new edition in a practical and simple way.
Besides the incredible editions like Braveheart in 2015, Titanic in 2017, or Casper in 2020, La-La Land also likes to republish music released by other labels, restoring any missing moments to create a definitive edition. We for example think of Unlawful Entry in 2017, Jack The Bear in 2018 or Project X in 2019. At first sight, without listening to any track and studying carefully the tracklist, the ambition of La-La Land seems here the same for this new edition of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: to provide a comprehensive version by adding a few minutes that were missing from the previous editions, that is to say the vinyl edition of 1982 but especially compared to the CD published by Film Score Monthly in 2009. But can this first judgement based on an only quantitative aspect prevent us from appreciating this new edition at its true value?  
 
 

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.

About the additional music on CD2:
  • 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.
All of these changes and additions are certainly valuable and could have justified this new edition on their own, especially since the 2009 FSM edition sometimes sells for $100 to $200. But this edition goes further. Indeed the first disc, as well as the additional tracks on the second disc, have been re-edited and remixed in high resolution from recently discovered first generation 3-track analog stereo tapes.
“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.
When listening, we immediately notice a wider stereo sound than the previous editions. The sound also seems clearer, more balanced and more dynamic. This spatialization of sound and improved frequency equalization makes the difference and makes the experience more immersive. It's a real treat for the ears. The co-producer, mixer and mastering engineer Mike Matessino really did a great job, as usual.
The duration of the tracks is a few seconds longer than in the 2009 edition because the new tape edition seems to leave a few extra seconds of silence at the end. Another reason is that, for the first time, the tapes have been resolved using the 60Hz pilot tone on the tapes, so they run much closer to film speed then ever before.
The original album on disc 2 has been remixed from 3-track digital-analog stereo tapes made in 1982.
 
 
The other highlight of this new edition is the excellent text by music director and conductor Deniz Cordell. It contains exclusive remarks by producer Robert Sallin and director Nicholas Meyer about the genesis of the Star Trek II score.
Personal insights into James Horner's artistic process are provided by music editor Jim Henrikson, orchestrator J.A.C. Redford and Sara Horner, the composer's wife. Finally, Deniz Cordell avoids the pitfall of a new and redundant "cue by cue" by showing the evolution of the themes as the album progresses.
The booklet also presents a note from the producer Neil S. Bulk and the list of the musicians.
 
 
For these quantitative and qualitative additions, this new definitive edition is therefore highly recommended for:
  • 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.
Many thanks to MV Gerhard and Neil S. Bulk for giving us the opportunity to write this article. 
 
Since you are here, know that our association James Horner Film Music is currenly deeply involved in four important projects created in collaboration with the composer's estate:
  • 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
But we won't be able to accomplish these projects without you. Help us preserve and promote the legacy and life of James Horner. Join our adventurous journey today on our Patreon page.
Thank you!
 

 

 

Comments

  1. 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.

    • Jean-Baptiste Martin

      Thank you for your comment Jeyl!

  2. Martin Paternoster

    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.

    • Jean-Baptiste Martin

      Thank you for your comment Martin! Yes the sound is fantastic.

  3. Mel

    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 …

    • Jean-Baptiste Martin

      Thanks for your comment Mel!

      Yes, I stopped the Spanish site many years ago because I had no one to translate the articles.
      So I have no one to translate the book into Spanish.

  4. Ken Wiggins

    Congratulations to all concerned at La-La Land records for bringing into the world this momentous remastered edition of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It is impossible to overstate the importance of this score in the canon of works by James Horner. The commission was pivotal to the composer’s career, an opportunity for a budding talent who only two years earlier had put his foot tentatively on the bottom rung of the film music ladder at Roger Corman’s New World Pictures.
    Star Trek II was an unexpected ticket to the big time, a chance for Horner to catapult himself to the top of the professional ladder. Only a man of consummate ability and musical genius would have been equal to this challenge, but Horner seized the opportunity with both hands, announcing himself by delivery of a photon torpedo into the unsuspecting Hollywood of 1982 as a force to be reckoned with, and remaining at the forefront of the film scoring business for the rest of his life. The unabridged treatment of the Star Trek II score presented by La-La Records shows exactly how he achieved this incredible feat, making this double cd set a landmark release not only for James Horner fans but for all serious students of film music.
    Star Trek II is perhaps the score most closely aligned to James Horner’s personality: the music exudes a sense of fearlessness and debonair confidence, and is definitely game for a big adventure, qualities reflective of what was happening on screen for sure, but also mirroring James Horner the man, a creative dynamo with ideas pouring out of him, nowhere better encapsulated than on the famous ‘Enterprise Clears Moorings’.
    The music of Star Trek II is a sort of common ancestor to all James Horner scores: the DNA of this masterpiece is to be found in some measure in everything he subsequently recorded, another reason why this special edition of the soundtrack is essential listening for all who love great film music and wish to broaden their knowledge of the subject.
    The freshness and immediacy of the score is a revelation. In terms of sound quality, those a La-La Records who have produced this tour de force have fashioned a sonic gem that has the aural impact of an exciting new release rather than the faded veneer of archival material dating back nearly forty years.
    The authoritative booklet by Deniz Cordell that guides us through the score is given added weight by none other than Sara Horner. On page 5 Sara tells us that James and his dad sat and listened to things and ‘they played four-handed piano all the time’. It is simply amazing for Sara to share such a poignant memory, demonstrating how a few words about James Horner can say so much.
    The highly successful rebooted Star Trek movies, comprising Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into The Darkness (2013) and Star Trek Beyond (2016) have each taken on a new role as live concert events. However, the magic of La-La Land’s latest tribute to the lasting legacy of James Horner places front and centre the fact that Star Trek II is the gold standard of Star Trek films, for which James Horner composed the definitive Star Trek score. With that in mind, I suggest that the people behind the live concert franchise have missed a trick, but perhaps now with the release of the remastered edition of the Star Trek II score they may be inspired with the realisation that Star Trek II is the live concert event that fans around the world are waiting for.
    To finish, I recommend one and all to boldly go to the cd player right now and connect with the remastered edition of Star Trek II. Even Khan himself would be compelled to set his wrath aside for a couple of hours, swept away by the timeless majesty of James Horner’s great music.

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