The very first thing soundtrack recordings need to do is work in service of the show. This is the first consideration. In this, the music crafted for the Star Trek franchise of TV shows has done an admirable job over the years. In so doing, the musical style of each series is readily identifiable and resonates with the style of the individual shows.
Clocking in at close to four hours, Star Trek: The Next Generation Collection Volume 1 features the music of Dennis McCarthy, Jay Chattaway, Fred Steiner, John Debney and Don Davis, not to mention the instantly recognizable themes by Alexander Courage and Jerry Goldsmith. It’s a musical feast for the ears as you come to realize that not only does the music showcased in the wonderfully annotated 3-CD set work well in service to the shows, but is great listening on its own merits.
La-La Land Records presents a disc of music each by McCarthy and Chattaway. Since they were two of the most proliferate composers during the series (along with Ron Jones, who goes unrepresented here) it is somewhat appropriate to see them so well documented here. With the McCarthy disc, the cues are pulled from the first regular episode (not the two-hour pilot episode) through to the series finale. However, the concentration is heavier on earlier episodes, which does give a chance to hear the series “sound” develop as McCarthy and producer Rick Berman begin to define the soundscapes in tone and texture for the series and its more restrained approach to drama and action that the original Star Trek series had.
Chattaway’s selections show how he seamlessly joined the team late in the fourth season. A couple of highlights include music from episodes “I, Borg” and “Relics.” We are even treated to some alternate takes from the episode “The Inner Light” as bonus tracks.
John Debney and Don Davis fit right in as well with their guest composer entries. This leaves Fred Steiner’s score to stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. While lovely, melodic and flowing, it was right out of the Original Series esthetic and that was not what Berman and co. were going for. Steiner, having been involved in scoring Original Series episodes, went his own way here.
There is an overall sensibility to the music presented here (Steiner’s contributions notwithstanding), and being able to listen to the close to four hours of recorded music gives voice to that, making it keenly apparent in the process. It also makes for quite a grand listening experience, with enough music to while away an afternoon, should you choose to do so. It was good of the producers (Ford Thaxton, Mark Banning, James Nelson and Lukas Kendall) to include such fun bonus tracks at the end of disc three as short “bumper” music (which I can see being used as text message alert or other tones on smartphones), and a couple of amusing takes on the venerable Star Trek theme, namely a “Polka Version” and the “Torch Song Version.” Since these are at the end of the disc, they can easily be skipped.
Overall, this is a magnificent CD set. The liner notes, by film/TV music writer Jeff Bond, are thorough and very informative. The photos will provide no surprises, but are well chosen. The only thing missing is some music by Ron Jones, and since this is labeled Volume 1 we can always hope that he will be represented on subsequent releases. This is quite a set and well worth tracking down and listening to often.