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After listening to this album a few times, I've come to two conclusions: 1. GNP Crescendo has a lot of money to burn.  2. Neil Norman has a LOT of time on his hands.  Thank you.
Oh, you want more?
How does this grab you: this album takes the themes to everyone's favorite Sci-Fi TV shows and movies and tortures them into contemporary rock versions with obnoxious electric guitars and synths.  Now, if this kind of thing sounds exciting to you, I'm sure you'll love this and probably already own all four volumes in the series.  For everyone, and I mean EVERYONE else, run away as fast as you can.  Granted, a couple of the fully orchestral arrangements such as Williams' exciting Amazing Stories are really good, but just about everything else should cause you to evacuate the proverbial premises immediately.  I can't really think of a good reason to buy this for normal film score fans, since just about everything is available on other albums, in MUCH superior arrangements.  Besides the aforementioned Amazing Stories and a few other noteworthy tracks, the release also has great liner notes and sound quality going for it, but that's about it.

Track by Track Massacre
1. Amazing Stories (1:10)
by John Williams
The album gets off to an excellent start with this fully orchestral arrangement of Williams' lost theme to that short-lived Spielberg TV show Amazing Stories.  It's kind of a cross between parts of E.T., Silvestri's Back to the Future theme, and Indiana Jones.  Still, it's definitely not worth the price of this bloated carcass.

2. Men Into Space (1:11)
by David Rose
I've never heard of this TV show, but the theme is actually pretty good.  Nothing very memorable, and perhaps a tad too cliched in its personification of a stalwart space hero.  The album still sounds good so far, but that's because the synths haven't reared their ugly heads yet.

3. The Outer Limits II (1:01)
John Van Tongeran/Mark Mancina
Another sci-fi show gets its theme played now, and the music is beginning to switch to the mindless rock mode that pervades most of the album, but this theme actually does a good job of conjuring up alien abductions and other abnormalities.

4. Conquest of the Thaxton Nebula (3:07)
by Neil Norman
Okay, as soon as this track came up, I knew I was in trouble.  It's a horribly bouncy guitar/synth piece that sounds more like the music to one of those "Just Say No" drug videos that everyone was subjected to in grade school.  By this time, this overstuffed turkey of an album is sinking like the Titanic (don't you just love gratuitously cliched metaphors?)

5. Escape From the Planet of the Apes (2:31)
by Jerry Goldsmith
Now, this is the type of piece you would expect on an album like this.  For one of Goldsmith's most unusual scores, he inserted a few contemporary rock gestures, combined with the complex cacophony of the original.  Of course, these rock effects are blown hideously out of proportion here, turning what was an awesome title theme into a slaughter of good taste.  It should be noted that you shouldn't let any of the hideous arrangements here keep you from buying any of the scores, because most of them are excellent, and I'll have a fuller analysis on this one in a future Planet of the Apes review.

6. The Wild Wild West (3:42)
Richard Markowitz
The Copland-esque Western theme present here is actually pretty good, and was used a few times by Elmer Bernstein in the remake score.  As far as gratuitous rock effects go, the ones in here aren't that bad, just an electric bass.

7. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (2:26)
by John Williams
This happens to be one of my favorite John Williams scores (even though most people hated it) that works so much better than the original.  The concert arrangement present here gives the theme in a somewhat extended orchestral arrangement, with the only electronic effects being dinosaur noises towards the end, which really takes away from the ambience.  Unfortunately Neil Norman gets ahold of it in the last minute, and adds screaming guitar riffs.  Truly frightening, and not because it's a horror score.

8. Reanimator (3:26)
Richard Band
Depressing is the only word I can think of to describe this track.  It's a quirky, waltz-like melody, which sounds like it's ripped off from Psycho's Prelude at some points, with a mindlessly dumb synth drum accompaniment.

9. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai (3:29)
Michael Boddlicker
Another horrible slaughter of a halfway decent theme.  That's all you need to know.

10. Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1:38)
Joseph LoDuca
Finally!  We're given a nice break from the dismal rock stylings for this fully orchestral playing of one of the best TV themes ever composed.  It's pretty much faithful to the original arrangement, although I'm not sure if the pipe organ is usually present.

11. Stargate SG-1 Main Title (1:02)
Joel Goldsmith/David Arnold
Unfortunately, Neil Norman wouldn't let this one get away, and turned another spectacular theme into drivel.  Instead of the usual full orchestra found in the original score and TV show, he adds guitar and synths that make it sound like a bad MIDI file played on an 8-bit sound card.

12. Stargate SG-1 End Title (1:05)
Joel Goldsmith
Joel Goldsmith (Jerry's son) composed an original melody for the end title, and this one is also killed by electric guitar and MIDI.

13. Alien Autopsy (2:11)
Jack Smalley
This original composition is probably one of the best tracks on the whole thing, using atonal ORCHESTRAL textures to conjure up the terror present in the made-up situation.

14. Xena: Warrior Princess (1:26)
Joseph LoDuca
LoDuca strikes again!  After his adventurous theme for Hercules, he composed a more urgent, but still exciting orchestral interlude for Xena, Hercules' sister show.  Unlike the previous series, however, Norman mauls it with his unwelcome guitar riffs.

15. Saturn 3 (4:04)
Elmer Bernstein
The first part of this is a great Bernstein composition, full of militaristic orchestral effects.  Unfortunately, the Cosmically Insane synth group takes it hostage and adds synth percussion and more MIDI keyboards.

16. The Saint (1:40)
Edwin Astley
This nice little arrangement is free from extraneous electronic effects, instead letting the naturally jazzy nature of the piece shine through.

17. Predator (3:45)
Alan Silvestri
This exciting unreleased (except for bootleg) score from Silvestri definitely needs a good album release.   Greatest Science Fiction Hits IV is definitely not that album.  Let's just leave it at that.

18. Predator II (3:45)
Alan Silvestri
Fortunately, Varese Sarabande released the sequel's album, and the arrangement here presents Silvestri's awesomely forceful main theme, now with exciting jungle percussion (present on the original).  The only unwelcome noises are a couple synth drums and one Predator growl.

19. Universes (1:50)
Bill Burchell
This is a blessedly short new age intro to the next track.

20. Star Trek Encounters (6:41)
NO! NO!
This is an insult to every Star Trek fan, film music fan, and living (and dead) human.  Just imagine a pop/disco version of most of the Trek themes.  Now, once that nightmare is over, you should realize that even your worst fears couldn't measure up to the horrendous reality of it all.  I can't even make myself finish listening to it, it's so bad.  If there was ever a reason to not buy this album, it's this.  Jerry Goldsmith must still have bad dreams from the traumatic experience of listening to this.  If you really want an idea of how it this is, just imagine the last track on the Star Trek III album, but squared.

21. Airwolf (2:52)
Sylvester Levay
Another horrible rock version of a TV show theme.

22. Godzilla's Interlude (:52)
Bill Burchel
A cliched Chinese introduction to the next track.

23. Monster Zero March (3:05)
Akira Ifukube
Don't get me started...
Let's just say it's one of the worst ones on here, if that gives you any idea.

24. The X Files (4:03)
Mark Snow
As much as I love the show, I still don't really care for the theme.  Here it's put in yet another tedious synth arrangement.

25. Babylon 5 (3:24)
Christopher Franke
More space sounds begin the track, which soon dips into madness yet again.

26. Escape from New York (5:23)
John Carpenter/Alan Howarth
I'm not even going to give this the dignity of an insult.

27. The James Bond Theme (4:09)
Monty Norman
Ditto.

28. Men In Black (4:18)
Danny Elfman
See above.

If you can't tell from the above rants, this is one of the worst CDs I own.  If it weren't for the two semi-good tracks, it would easily get a coaster.  Let's just say it makes Star Trek IV sound like a masterpiece.



 
Greatest Sci-Fi Hits IV: The Final Score
Music Rating 2/10
Packaging/Liner Notes 8/10
Length 2/10 (too long @ 77 mins!)
Orchestral Performance 5/10 (when the orchestra is present, it's still pretty weak)
Sound Quality 8/10


Greatest Science Fiction Hits IV is Copyright 1999 by GNP Crescendo.  Review Copyright 1999 by Andrew Drannon. All rights reserved.