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Battlestar Galactica Season Two Soundtrack Music Review

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Posted 19 October 2006 - 08:52 AM

August 03, 2006

Battlestar Galactica Season Two Soundtrack

The cream of the crop of Battlestar's second season strikes all the right notes—and then some.


Original music by Bear McCreary

La-La Land Records


MSRP: $16.98

By A.L. Sirois
For the second year in a row, composer Bear McCreary has helped take the revitalized Battlestar Galactica to places undreamt-of by the creators of the original series. McCreary is the former assistant of Richard Gibbs, who did such a bang-up good job on the BSG miniseries a couple of years back. McCreary has arguably surpassed Gibbs.

Releasing only selections from an entire season's scores means that some tough decisions were made about what to leave out.

Evoking the multicultural makeup of the Galactica's crew, McCreary's first-season musical palette consisted primarily of taiko drums, Middle Eastern woodwinds, Celtic pipes, Javanese gamelans and the like, plus occasional orchestral flourishes. He's broadened this for the second season, using more keyboards and guitars now, which make nice additions to the compositional marsala.

Leading off the disc is "Colonial Anthem," a short but rousing rendition of the main theme, very nicely done. This music, from the original series, was written by Stu Phillips and Glen A. Larson but is arranged here by McCreary.

Going further into multicultural explorations, "Baltar's Dream," the second cue, has an appealingly odd Middle Eastern flavor. The opening strings lead to a percussive section that builds subtly with little on-the-beat emphases added in after the progression's first go-round. The cue trails out with a yearning string coda.

"Escape From the Farm," the next track, is an action cue with heavy percussion pushing it along. Cue 4, "A Promise to Return," brings a rolling, Philip Glass feel to its opening measures. It's one of the best offerings on the disc. This cue is dedicated to the recovery of Ludvig Girdland, featured violinist with the Supernova String Quartet. Girdland's car was struck by a drunk driver shortly after recording the cue, and he remains in a coma as of this writing. All of which makes the title, ostensibly referring to the parting in the show of Anders and Kara, particularly bittersweet.

Humanity hums aboard Battlestar

Really, McCreary's music here stands on its own. For example, "Allegro," the fifth cue, with its various layers of strings syncopated against each other, pulls the listener in. There's something of a rock swing to this cue, with the one, one-two kick drum pattern used by Ringo Starr in many early Beatles recordings.

Cue 8, "Pegasus," is dominated by jangly guitars a la Pink Floyd. But again, the drumming is interesting. A single, very dry kick drum beat moves the cue along in its opening measures. The orchestra comes in toward the end to support the guitar theme.

Additional high points include: the honeyed voice of Raya Yarbrough in cue 9, "Lords of Kobol"; cue 13, "Roslin and Adama," which sounds rather like Paul Simon's "Scarborough Fair"; and the guitar work of ex-Oingo Boingo member Steve Bartek (who's orchestrated many of Danny Elfman's scores) on the final track, "Black Market." This is the only really rock-oriented cue on the album, with a driving electric bass played by Johnny Avila and heavy drums.

Releasing only selections from an entire season's scores means that some tough decisions were made about what to leave out. Inevitably every listener will have his or her favorites ... but what's included here is more than an adequate sampling of McCreary's sonic spectrum.

Bear McCreary has composed score for more than 30 independent films. He was one of the few protégés taken on by the late Elmer Bernstein (The Magnificent Seven, Ghostbusters), a legend among film score composers. Battlestar is turning out to be an excellent entry in his resume.

The disc comes with an eight-page color booklet featuring scenes from the second season, plus liner notes from executive producer Ronald D. Moore and McCreary himself. As a side note, while doing research for this review I learned that Elmer Bernstein composed the score for Robot Monster! (You know: gorillas in space helmets? Caves full of bubbles?) I love this job. —Al
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