Star Trek: The Next Generation is a classic show. Rated by many to be one of the greatest TV shows of all time, The Next Generation represents one of the high points for a decades old franchise that has captured the imagination of millions. The fine folks of at La La Land Records have taken it upon themselves to do this series justice by releasing a three disc collection of some of the best and under represented music from the show.
The set focuses on the work of Dennis McCarthy and Jay Chattaway, each getting their own disc showcasing some of the best music they wrote for the show. The third disc, then, takes us through some of the better guest composers during the show’s run, with episodes scored by Fred Steiner, Don Davis and John Debney.
Most of what appears on this disc has never before been released, and honestly it is about time McCarthy and Chattaway got their due. Chattaway has been a Trek TV staple, writing music for some of the best episodes of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. In fact, Chattaway is responsible for writing what may be the most poignant music ever to appear in a Trek TV series. Often referred to as the episode with Picard an a flute, The Inner Light was a high water mark for intelligent, though-provoking and emotionally moving sci-fi story telling, and the emotional core of the episode was Chattaway’s score. The music for this episode is one of the pleasures of this set, almost brining me to tears during the lullaby track, very moving stuff.
Also a delight to have in this set is a more complete collection of Dennis McCarthy’s music. For my money, McCarthy’s sound and style has long been what my mind hears when I think Star Trek music. I know that might sound like blasphemy to some of you Goldsmith, Horner and Courage disciples out there, but there is a quality to his music that just fits the world of Star Trek in the 24th century. To have a chance to really dig into some of his earliest Star Trek work and listen to his evolution in style from season one all the way to the very last episode is amazing. Some of his earlier work has a lighter, sound and by about half way through the disc his work shifts slightly to his more common Star Trek style. It all culminates in the music for the series finale, All Good Things…, which is a perfect companion piece to his feature film score fo Star Trek Generations which was released shortly after.
Rounding out the set is a trio of guest composer who each brought their high level talents to a show already noted for it’s quality music. On the disc these guys have the most recognizable names, responsible for the music of some of the more iconic films and TV shows in their times. Fred Steiner’s music for the episode Code of Honor has a very classic feel to it, it could almost fit right into an episode of the original series, which makes sense because Steiner himself wrote music for the original series back in the day. Don Davis’ contribution from the episode Face of the Enemy probably feels the most cinematic of any of the episodes on this set, even going so far as to showing of hints of the James Horner danger motif which has itself appeared in more movies than one can count. Then we get to John Debney’s portion of the last disc which is music from the episode Pegasus. This is some of the most interesting music in the collection because we also get five alternative takes which are always the most intriguing parts of any expanded release. I am thrilled we had a chance to explore different variations on Debney’s very solid work.
Three Favorite Tracks
All Good Things… by Dennis McCarthy – Easily the best of the McCarthy disc, All Good Things… was an episode with deep emotional resonance. This was the end of an era, the beginning of something new and to have the same composer take on both this episode and the following feature film allowed the crew to transition gracefully from TV set to movie theater. The music has a quintessential ’90s Star Trek sound and can be recognized almost instantly. The subtle hints of the classic Trek themes from Courage and Goldsmith lend a since of weight to the proceedings, almost as if through the music The Next Generation was being lifted into the pantheon with The Original Series and the successful Original Crew film series. The only draw back here is the small amount of actual music we get in this set, but what it lacks in run time, it more than makes up in impact.
The Inner Light by Jay Chattaway – Remember how I was talking about all that emotional resonance before? I will admit that most of it comes from the music being so tied with the episode in my mind. If you have not seen this particular episode I don’t think the music would have the same impact on you. That said on it’s own merits the music is still really good. It has a different type of sound then you would expect on this set. Kind of a renaissance faire flavor which is refreshing after listening to over eighty minutes of very spacey sounding music. The third track from this episode combines the music from the end of the episode with another take of the lullaby Picard plays, which really encapsulates everything about the episode in one nice four and a half minute package. We also get a couple bonus tracks from the episode as well to round out the more rustic flavor the music this episode inspired.
Face of the Enemy by Don Davis – This episode’s music was one of the real surprises of the set. I didn’t particularly recall the music in this episode being so good. It has a wonderful James Horner influence that evokes The Wrath of Kahn, one of the greatest moments in the whole franchise’s history. The music plays to my ears the most like an actual film score, giving the sense of darkness in the music more room to truly be unnerving at times. It also helps that we get so much more of the episode specific music from the three guest composers so there is a lot to dig into with Davis’ stuff. I am particularly fond of the fourth track in this bunch, it just has such a great build and while it maintains the same tone as the rest of the music, it has the most eclectic sound.
Another resounding success for the La La Land Records folks who have consistently put out amazing quality releases. Particularly for the Trek fans out there is set is a must have, from start to finish this collection is a breeze to get into and enjoy. If there are any complaints to be had, it is simply that there isn’t enough room on the discs from more stuff. There are left overs from this set, however, and depending on the successe of this release we might be lucky enough to hear what other treasures are locked away for us.
Total Score for Star Trek: The Next Generation Collection – Volume One:
4.5 out of 5