In a world where everyone is hunkering down like a space shuttle is about to take off just down the road, there are still some tunes to look forward to.
Like so many industries, soundtrack labels are having to scale back just a little. While some of them are also dealing with digital releases, other small labels are already servicing a niche market… which may mean that it’s business as usual. There are still tunes to look forward to, so here is a glance at some recent and upcoming releases.
Silva Screen Records in the UK will be unleashing a May 1st double helping of classic Doctor Who music on both CD and vinyl. The Visitation is the complete score from the 1982 four-part story of the same name, in which Peter Davison’s Doctor (and his motley TARDIS crew) go back in time and discover that a small crew of aliens, stranded on Earth, are taking history into their own hands – starting with the plague, and ending with accidentally sparking the Great Fire of London (!!). This story not only sported some fantastic animatronic creatures called Terileptils (who, somewhat amazingly given how much effort was put into them, never made another appearance in TV Doctor Who), but a hypnotically melodic score from Paddy Kingsland and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Kingsland, probably still best known to this day for scoring the radio and TV iterations of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, had an astounding knack for gracing his Doctor Who scores with instantly-hummable themes aplenty, so The Visitation will be a treat to revisit, even if the timing of the story’s plague theme seems a bit off (the release was in the works months before current events).
But The Visitation is sharing its release date with a true rarity: a complete score from a 1970s Tom Baker Doctor Who story, from no less than the show’s resident composer during that era, the late Dudley Simpson (also known for The Tomorrow People, Blake’s 7, Moonbase 3, and many more). While Simpson scored dozens of Doctor Who adventures between 1964 and 1979, almost none of his complete records survive to this day. Tantalizing highlights from some of his Pertwee and Baker era scores could be heard on Silva’s massive 2013 50th anniversary box set (you know, the one whose deluxe edition came packaged in a big TARDIS box), but an entire Simpson Doctor Who score, from start to finish? That was unlikely, to say the least – until two of his scores turned up in the archives of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, where Simpson occasionally went in to overdub otherworldly 1970s synthesizers onto his largely small-ensemble acoustic music. The Sun Makers, a 1977 four-part episode that featured Tom Baker, Louise Jameson as the knife-hurling Leela, and of course K-9, is the first of those impossibly rare complete scores to see the light of day. Fans who grew up with endless reruns of Baker’s Doctor saving the day on PBS will instantly recognize Simpson’s music as the signature sound of the series in its heyday.
Both releases are on vinyl and CD, due May 1st, and can be ordered at Silva’s Doctor Who music site.
Now let’s talk about recent releases from two different labels that just happen to have shuttle launches on the cover! They’re both soundtracks – one fictional, the other not – and ready to give you a sonic solid rocket boost into orbit.
Just released by BSX Records is a download-only selection of newly recorded highlights from Louis Febre’s scores from the syndicated 1996-97 TV series The Cape, which starred Corbin Bernsen as the most experience member of NASA’s astronaut corps, all of whom were enduring personal and professional turmoil as they prepared for their own missions. In the 1990s, Febre frequently collaborated with fellow composer John Debney (seaQuest DSV, Cutthroat Island, The Relic, Spy Kids, The Orville), and would write his own music around themes Debney had created (which was the case earlier in 1996 when the two of them worked on the score for the one-off Paul McGann revival of Doctor Who on Fox). Though it includes Debney’s main theme for The Cape, this release is built around Febre’s contributions for individual episodes. It’s also worth pointing out that these are not the original recordings; like many a syndicated ’90s drama, The Cape leaned heavily on synthesizers and samples; this set of new recordings uses better synthesizers and samples, so while it may not be the original recordings, in some ways it’s an improvement. The Cape can be ordered, as high resolution audio complete with a PDF CD booklet, from BSX Records.
Released by Swedish label MovieScoreMedia, When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions is the big, widescreen orchestral score to a Discovery Channel series first broadcast in 2008. With its late 2019 release timed to land in the same year as the moon landing annviersary, this soundtrack accompanies a series that spanned everything from Mercury to the International Space Station and the late shuttle era. Composer Richard Blair-Oliphant is a veteran of giving documentary subject matter a cinematic musical treatment (Nova, How The Universe Works, The Dinosaur Project, 1066: The Battle for Middle Earth), and this may be among his best work. Again, it’s a digital-only release that can be ordered from MovieScoreMedia.
La-La Land Records’ two most recent releases are definitely on the retro side, starting with the expanded archival edition of Jerry Goldsmith‘s score for Irwin Allen’s 1978 disaster flick The Swarm, a killer B-movie that was also a killer bee movie. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a score by the late, great Jerry Goldsmith that hasn’t already seen the light of day, so anything that arrives in expanded form is a gift. The other vintage title in the latest pair of releases is a long-awaited expanded edition of John Williams’ score from 1992’s Far And Away. As with many of La-La Land’s re-releases of more (relatively) recent scores, Far And Away is a 2-CD set that compiles the complete original score (as recorded for the film) on one disc, and the previously released album of highlights (some of which were different recordings more suited to an album release) on the second disc. All of La-La Land’s releases can be found on their web site – and through the end of April, they’re offering 30% off…well…everything.
More Goldsmith is coming soon from Intrada Records, whose upcoming releases – to be revealed on their site this week – include the classic Goldsmith score from the 1963 James Stewart comedy Take Her, She’s Mine, along with another expanded of a more recent score, James Horner’s Legends Of The Fall.
2020 is proving to be as rough for soundtrack labels as for the rest of us, so consider picking up a title or two from whatever label is tickling your retro film/TV score fancy this year.