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Friday, August 28, 2009


Battlestar Galactica Season 4
Music by Bear McCreary
La-La Land Records LLLCD 1100 (US)
Disc 1 - 20 Tracks 77:28 mins
Disc 2 - 14 Tracks 59:34 mins

* Spoilers

So the re imagined Battlestar Galactica has finally come to an end, after one mini-series, four seasons, a spin-off TV movie, webisodes, and associated specials. I must admit, having watched the original Battlestar in my youth, it took me a while to adjust to this new version, and there were times when I very nearly gave up on it. Not that I was a huge fan of the original, but I still watched it faithfully, and at first the changes, not least to the principal characters, and more especially the Starbuck character, were hard to take. It didn't help when, here in the U.K., the series was only available on Freeview and then was discontinued even on that. For a time, I forgot all about it, but then I found a way to catch up, and ended up enjoying the show more and more as I followed it weekly, so that it was like losing a friend when I finally had to say goodbye.
From the start, composer Bear McCreary was involved with the show, initially assisting Richard Gibbs on the mini-series, before taking the reins when Season 1 went into production. Like the show, I didn't initially warm to his innovative scoring. It was just not what "space music" is supposed to sound like, and light years from what Stu Phillips had written for the original '70s incarnation. However, like the show, it grew on me, so that in the end it is difficult to imagine any other kind of scoring suited to the show.
Like McCreary, La-La Land Records has been with the show all the way and like the latter, which went out with a bang with a double-length episode, the label has issued a double-length soundtrack album for Season 4, the first disc featuring more than 77 minutes of highlights from the Season. Going back to that double-length final episode, I remember saying to my brother at the time that the score was so good that it deserved a soundtrack release of its own. Well, fortunately I wasn't alone in that summation, and I'm pleased to say that the second disc in this set is just that, the score for "Daybreak," for which it seems McCreary was afforded larger orchestral forces, which he certainly made the most of.
But let's start with Disc 1, the Season 4 compilation. Of course, McCreary has established an arsenal of themes and colours for recurring characters and scenarios over the course of time and, as one would expect, like old friends, these show up within his new scoring. The disc commences with Alessando Juliani (Felix Gaeta, in the show) showing he has plenty of vocal talent, as he splendidly voices "Gaeta's Lament," at first a Capella, then with beautiful orchestral accompaniment. The theme is instrumentally reprised in full ethnic fashion later in the album. The familiar Taikos make their first appearance in "The Signal," with its powerful choral chanting, and hell-for-leather ending. "Resurrection Hub" has an overall ethnic feel, which also includes some powerful drumming. This is followed by "The Cult of Baltar," which again features choir in more religious mode, as one might expect; though again powerful drumming brings the track to its conclusion. The Celtic-styled, pipes-lead theme for Adama and Apollo receives an outstanding treatment in the following "Farewell Apollo," and then it's more Taikos-lead action in "Roslin Escapes." "Among the Ruins" is a suitably desolate and disturbing piece, complete with erhu lament; the following steely determination of "Laura Runs" making for a complete contrast. Another lament mixes with rhythmic ethnicity for "Cally Descends," followed by more sadness in "Funeral Pyre," where the ethnic elements combine with a more conventional string sound. After all this tragedy, some welcome warmth can be briefly found in "Roslin and Adama Reunited."
"Elegy" introduces a new theme for solo piano, performed by the composer himself; with the weighty "The Alliance" following. There's very much a far eastern feel to "Blood on the Scales;" Adama's theme returning briefly in "Grand Old Lady," before "Kara Remembers" bursts forth somewhat triumphantly, complete with wailing electric guitars, after a tentative pianistic opening. The same theme continues in "Boomer Takes Hera," increasing in power as the drama unfolds. "Dreilide Thrace Sonata No.1" returns us to more of Kara's piano musings from the episode "Someone to Watch Over Me (McCreary incidentally had to provide on set tuition for Katee Sackhoff in this pivotal episode). The disc concludes with the increasingly inspirational "Diaspora Oratorio," yet another choral piece for which the composer furnished both words and music.
As previously stated, the music for the show's final episode, "Daybreak," features solely on Disc 2 and commences with "Caprica City, Before the Fall," and immediately the fuller orchestral sound is evident in this somewhat ethereal piece, though the familiar ethnic elements also make their presence felt. "Laura's Baptism" follows, with strings very much in evidence as the cue proceeds to its somewhat weighty close. "Adama in the Memorial Hallway" commences with another variation on the former's familiar theme, before again reaching a weighty climax for strings and Taikos.
The undoubted highlight of this concluding episode is the tremendous assault by the Galactica on the Cylon Colony and these scenes get under way with the drums-filled expectancy of "The Line," which is immediately followed by the 15-minute "Assault on the Colony" which, after a tense start, let's rip with the familiar Taikos-driven action scoring we have come to expect from the show, but there's also a mythic element, characterised especially by Raya Yarborough's vocal contributions around about the 10-minute mark. More action opens "Baltar's Sermon," which then turns fateful as Baltar makes his choice.
The mystical ethnicity associated with Kara and her destiny returns to "Kara's Coordinates," the drums racing wildly" as the fateful jump is taken, leading to more of the electric guitars from "Kara Remembers," and a final refrain based on her piano theme. "Earth" follows, with a feeling of wonder, as the exploration begins, which reminds somewhat of a similar moment from Jerry Goldsmith's Alien score. The familiar string elegy, heard so often through the show's run accompanies "Goodbye Sam."
"The Heart of the Sun" is an emotional piece, which draws upon Adama's theme, as well as the Phillips/Larson main theme from the original Battlestar series. Her mission completed, "Starbuck Disappears" to suitably mystical accompaniment. "So Much Life" offers more emotion and nostalgia as the surviving crew set off in their respective directions, each to make their own starts on their new home. More emotional writing features in "An Easterly View," which concludes Adama's journey, as he finds the place he and Laura choose to build their home, only to lose her, as she finally succumbs to her illness. The final cue offers a brief glimpse into the future with the tinkling "The Passage of Time."
Thus ends Bear McCreary's musical journey and we can all be thankful that La-La Land Records has all the time been sharing that journey, preserving one of the most innovative works for TV in many a year.
A colourful booklet accompanies the release, its centre pages sporting a fascinating collage of behind-the-scenes photos, with notes from both composer and La-La Land's Michael Gerhard, full performance credits, and tributes to McCreary from many of the show's cast and crew. It's a proper celebration of the composer's work on the show.
Go to for samples and to order your copy.


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