Executive Producer: Brad Pressman
Compilation Produced by Ford A. Thaxton
Digitally Edited and Mastered by James Nelson at Digital Outland
Digital Transfers by Bob Fisher at Digital Domain
Design: Andreas Adamec
SONIC IMAGES RECORDS would like to thank Yusuf Gandhi, Reynold D'Silva, James Fitzpatrick, Holly Paxman,
John Beal, Cheryl Hawkins, John J. Alcantar III, Mark Banning, David Hirsch, Richard Band, Alan Howarth,
Dana Smart, Spencer Proffer, Jeannie Driver, Elliot Goldenthal, Richard Martinez and Anthony Sclafani for their
help in making this project possible.
What a diverse collection of titles and themes from sci-fi movies, television and even amusement
park ride music! Of the 16 tracks, there are 4 never before released recordings (ALIENS - THE
RIDE, ROSWELL, THE TOMMYKNOCKERS, DARK SKIES). There is also an "only commercial
recording" of SPECIES by Christopher Young. The other tracks are from previously released
recordings and most of them are quite good. The opening track of Herrmann's classic "Prelude" to
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL is a good realization by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra,
conducted by Erich Kunzel. Other tracks I thought were standouts were: the beautiful and
melancholy "End Title" from Alan Silvestri's sadly underrated score to CONTACT, played by the
City of Prague Orchestra, conducted by Paul Bateman; and the Main Titles to MEN IN BLACK and
PREDATOR, both well performed by John Beal. Also, two tracks performed by the composers
themselves: an appropriately mysterious Main Title to ROSWELL, performed by Elliot Goldenthal;
and a sizable electronic soundscape suite from THE TOMMYKNOCKERS, performed by
Christopher Franke. Some of the tracks seemed less than memorable, including a superficial piano
medley from E.T. by Michael Chertock; a mundane Main Title from THEY LIVE by John Carpenter
& Alan Howarth; and the meandering Epilogue from DARK SKIES by Michael Hoenig. Then there is
that amusement park music for ALIENS - THE RIDE by Richard Band, which does contains the
Horner theme from the film, but goes on too long at over 6 minutes. The 12 page booklet has very
brief descriptions of the scores by an unidentified writer, and the track listings (thankfully in large
enough print to read easily). A very good compilation if you're a big sci-fi fan. ***1/2
FILM MUSIC REVIEW
January 26, 1999
The re-recordings are done by some familiar orchestra's and composers. John Beal, Cincinnati
Pops and the City of Prague Orchestra from Silva Screen compilation fame. The score opens up with
a Bernard Herrmann classic, The Day The Earth Stood Still. Although being very short it is effective
as an opener. Danny Elfman's, Mars Attacks, is next and is re-created by the Prague Orchestra
very well, they even got those weird hums and the choir in there.
Prague also releases the only commercial recording of Species, very somber and mysterious it
shows that the Prague has a great talent for recreation. A big shame that the entire score to
Species was not released commercially, as this score is a pure sci-fi horror classic. Up next is a
very impressive and fun medley of the classic score to E.T. by master composer John Williams. I
enjoy this track very much as I'm a big fan of just piano music ( It's My Party ).
Further on we find two tracks by composer John Beal, his re-creation of Men In Black doesn't
exactly match Elfman's score but it is a very good try and enjoyable to listen too. My personal
favorite track on the entire CD is John Beal's attempt at the Predator Main Title. I would have to
say that this is the most exact re-creation of the title I've ever heard, great job John. Next we are
treated to the never before released music to Aliens - The Ride by Richard Band. It contains mainly
all the themes from James Horner's Aliens score ( Futile Escape, Bishop’s Countdown ) but is rather
enjoyable. I would like to see how that ride is sometime.
Now, I have to admit, I'm not exactly a fan of compilation albums, since most provide inconsistency
between tracks, more often than not with sub-par performances and recording quality. However,
Sonic Images releases a surprise under the title of "Watch The Skies". This album is a rather varied
and hefty (clocking in at almost 74 minutes) selection of popular Sci-Fi music. Ranging from the
classics of Benny Hermann's The Day The Earth Stood Still and Denny Zeitlin's Invasion Of The Body
Snatchers to the more modern Roswell from Elliot Goldenthal and Independence Day by David Arnold.
As a self professed Alien(s) junkie, my favorite piece overall would be the previously unreleased
"Aliens - The Ride" done by the all time "B" movie king, Richard Band. I have a bunch of his albums
in my collection, only to try to seem somewhat acquainted to his music, however, this original
piece has me giddy with excitement. It, of course, integrates the good parts of James Horner's
score for Aliens (which by default inherits Goldsmith's work on the original film) while maintaining
a keen sensibility and originality for a piece destined to become a soundtrack to a theme park ride.
Overall, more than what you'd come to expect, and a real joy to come across. It's nicely followed
by Jerry Goldsmith's "End Titles" from Alien, which, if you don't pay attention, extends the
previous track into a nine-minute suite without skipping a beat.
The next few tracks of note come from veteran composer, John Beal, who's mostly known for his
work writing exciting pieces for movie trailers. My first reaction to the two pieces he performs
on this album, the main titles to Men In Black and Predator, was along Jack Nicholson's line in
Batman: "Where does he get such wonderful toys?" I'd have to say that not only is John's
performance of the pieces close to dead on accurate to the originals, but being totally synthesized,
has me in serious envy of what is probably the best sample library in Hollywood, and most likely,
the world. My only fault with the piece would be the strings in Men In Black, but nit pickers like me
would probably attribute that to sheer interpretation.
My next pick on this bountiful album for noticeable and generally cool pieces would be Contact,
performed by Silva's own standby players, the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Being able
to catch my ear even after listening to the original soundtrack, and my sort of unfounded animosity
towards eastern European orchestras, I'd have to say I'd probably be up for more of their
recordings in the future regardless of what label they come out on.
The final piece to highlight on the album is, remarkably enough, They Live, a collaboration between
director-composer John Carpenter and Alan Howarth. I caught this film recently on television, and
had the story fresh in my mind, as well as realizing that this type of film and it's music has roots
in Carpenter's work on Escape from New York, and most recently, Vampires. If there is one
individual who can write music that can be played along to stress a character being a total "bad-
ass,” Carpenter and Howarth are definitely the masters. I would only hope to see a re-release of
the entire score by somebody in the near future.
This is a good compilation album by Sonic Images, and hopefully won't be over looked by the casual
listener or even die hard fan... They'd be missing a real gem.
David A. Koran
February 9, 1999
The thematic connection between all the disparate cues here is alien invaders, so WATCH THE SKIES
launches (not with Dimitri Tiomkin’s THE THING, as you might expect from the title) with the
Cincinnati Pops doing a nice take on Herrmann’s THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, followed by the
ANTI-DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, Danny Elfman’s MARS ATTACKS!, in a performance by the City
of Prague orchestra that lacks the frenetic, psychotic quality of Elfman’s original. The Prague does
a somewhat more successful reading of Chris Young’s atmospheric end title to SPECIES, followed by
Michael Chertock’s piano performance of selections from Williams’s E.T., from a Telarc CD of piano-
performed film music, and the City of Prague doing Alan Silvestri’s end title to CONTACT. Then
there’s the bluesy synth and harmonica opening to THEY LIVE by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth,
and John Beal doing some convincing and cost-effective synth versions of Elfman’s MEN IN BLACK
and PREDATOR main titles.
One welcome addition to the disc is Denny Zeitlin’s effective main title to the excellent 1978
remake of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, which is just great, old-fashioned horror music,
capturing a sense of hideous awe and anguish at what is about to unfold as the film opens with an
outer space montage of alien pod creatures emigrating to Earth. This segues smoothly into Elliott
Goldenthal’s rustling opening music to the telefilm ROSWELL and Christopher Franke’s New Age-ish
sonic ambiance for the Stephen King adaptation THE TOMMYKNOCKERS (very clearly the work of
the composer of BABYLON 5). Michael Hoenig’s epilogue music to DARK SKIES is in the same
electronic vein with a slow, regretful pulse and would-be brass chorus to illustrate the goings-on
on the defunct NBC sci fi show that begat VOYAGER’s Jeri Ryan. There’s an amusing rendition of
Mark Snow’s X-FILES theme in the style of Alan Hovhaness. Then the City of Prague Orchestra
returns in the final track as they take on David Arnold’s INDEPENDENCE DAY, but this time they
have the conductor of the original performance, Nicholas Dodd, on tap, and this interpretation is
actually a bit more vibrant and enthused than the original.
The fact that Sonic Images apparently has no corporate connection to Silva Screen at least means
that there’s refreshing candor about the origins of a number of these pieces, half of which have been
culled from earlier compilations done by Silva and other companies (while Silva itself has a tendency
to reshuffle and reissue their library of City of Prague recordings so often that it’s impossible to
tell what’s new and what isn’t). Grade: B-
February 12, 1999
[Reprinted in part in FILM SCORE MONTHLY, July 1999]
A CD compilation of theme music related to various "alien" themed film and television projects.
Here's a quick breakdown...and a few notes & thoughts...about the tracks on the album:
The Day the Earth Stood Still: A solid and booming rendition of Bernard Hermann's soaring, eerie,
and haunting theme music for Robert Wise's film about an alien (and his ass-kicking protector robot)
who come to Earth to deliver a startling ultimatum. Performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra (who
has pretty much evolved the rendering / adaptation of movie & television themes into a well honed
art form), this is a very solid performance of TDTESS's original theme music. Even though the
theme's a bit repetitive, there's something unforgettable and disquieting about this music - and this
performance does Hermann's work justice quite nicely.
Mars Attacks: a nice try by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Crouch End Festival
Chorus, but this performance of Mars Attacks's theme is oddly...almost indescribly...lacking
something. I believe part of the problem is in the arrangement (which, *if* I understand correctly,
was taken from the original orchestrations of this music - the music which appeared in the film
differs slightly). The vocals which accompany Danny Elfman's Danse Macabre-style march of the
Martians come close to drowning out the melody line of his theme on several occasions - which
breaks the continuity and flow of the "gathering storm" or "steadily growing towards the big
finish" motif which runs under the vocals. This track is not bad, it's just not as good as exciting or
potent as it should have been.
Species: The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Crouch End Festival Chorus finds glorious
redemption in this haunting adaptation of composer Christopher Young's unreleased music from
Species. A classic example of great music in a lousy film, this rendition of Young's closing theme
for the film nicely captures the bitter-sweet malevolence which runs beneath the surface of so
many of the composer's works (which include Hellraiser I & II and Set it Off). Young is one of
Hollywood's most under-appreciated and underutilized cool composers. It's nice to see this theme
finally hit the mainstream market (there was a limited-edition release of the Species score about
a year ago or so, which eluded me despite my best efforts).
ET: A piano medley of music from the film about an alien insurance salesman...errr....an abandoned
alien who befriends a lonely little boy (also known has "How Glen Met His Now-Ex Wife"). This piece
starts out well played and charming. None the less, images of Liberace came to mind as the track
swelled to a close. I hope this has something to do with Michael Chertock's performance, and does
not indicate a subliminal pre-occupation with Liberace on my part.
Contact: solid rendition by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Captures "the inner journey
is as challenging as the journey into the great unknown" quality of composer Alan Silvestri's music
They Live: a smooth rendition of composers John Carpenter and Alan Howarth's theme to
Carpenter's film about skid row transients who put on a pair of special sunglasses, only to discover
the world in which we live is actually an alien dominated culture which governs our every move
through subliminal imagery, suggestion, and communication. This performance perfectly captures
the plodding, bluesy, skid row quality which characterized the film's theme. Of course, with Alan
Howarth personally performing the piece in question, how could it be anything less than a slam
Men In Black: John Beal duplicates and performs composer Danny Elfman's main title music with
surprising and impressive success. Well layered and fully realized, Beal's efforts nicely capture
the "Flight of the Bumble Bee" meets "Peter Gunn" quality of the film's opening music.
Predator: another Beal adaptation, this time of propulsive and pounding opening theme music by
Alan Silvestri. Effective and well rendered, but maybe a little less satisfying than Beal's take on
Aliens: The Ride (never before released): composer Richard Band's (From Beyond, Re-Animator)
score for the ride of the same name. More -or- less a cannibalization of James Horner's score for
Aliens, with some pleasantly adventurous variations and flourishes thrown in by Band himself.
While not spectacular, this track should be quite enjoyable (in a geeky sort of way) to hardcore
score collectors and fans of the Alien franchise.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Composer Denny Zeitlin's opening theme music to the 1979 remake
of the classic '50s paranoia fest about Jalepeno shaped pods from space which duplicate people for
nefarious (?) purpose. This music (which chronicles the alien pod / spores departure from their
home world, their journey through space, and eventual descent to Earth) is pretty interesting
stuff for a Jazz musician from San Fransisco. Old-style "buh buh buuuummmmmbbbb!" horror
music conveyed with stylish and modern sensibilities, this is a good track, apparently appropriated
from an original soundtrack recording.
Roswell (never before released): finds the frequently bombastic Elliot Goldenthal (Alien 3, Batman
Forever) in one of his more subdued modes (a la Heat). Ethereal and understated, Goldenthal's Roswell
conveys a dark, conspiratorial, almost bittersweet sense to this docudrama chronicling the
mysterious (and extraterrestrial???) goings-ons in a little New Mexico town in 1947.
The Tommyknockers (never before released): a suite from the Stephen King television project,
composed and performed by Christopher Franke. Franke did the music for all seasons of Babylon 5.
Despite the fact that his company is...in effect...my employer, I have never been a huge fan of
Franke's score for B5. I didn't dislike it, but I do think his best work on the show was towards the
very end. Franke's work is...well...Franke. If you know "the Franke sound,” you pretty much know
what to expect. If you've never encountered Franke's music, this might be a good way to get an
introduction. He has a huge fan following...
Dark Skies (never before released): Michael Hoenig's score for NBC's alien invasion saga Dark Skies
is heavy and conspiratorial. Hoenig's work (which can also be heard in ABC's upcoming Strange
World) tends to be a little too "thick" for my taste, but it is appropriately atmospheric - and
worked quite well in the series itself. Which is, after all, the primary function of a score. Hoenig
also performs this piece, by the way.
The X-Files: "The Hollywood Chamber Orchestra" (this is a real orchestra?) offers its take on
Mark Snow's theme for The X-Files. I realize I'm about to commit a heartbreaking, controversial,
and unpopular sacrilege here, but I must admit I have never really cared for the theme from The
X-Files. Every time I hear the television version of the theme it seems like a ridiculous parody of
"spooky music" to me - almost comical. That may just be my weird tastes, but that's the way I
feel and I'm sorry. Reversely, I rather like some of the different "takes" which have been offered
on the theme - including Snow's own variation which was employed in the recent feature film. This
CD offers yet another variant of Snow's X-Files theme music - featuring a mournful trumpet
backed by Horner / Hermann-like strings. It is very elegant and effective, though a bit repetitive
when all is said and done. Still, it's an interesting approach - and unique enough to appeal to
someone like me, who wasn't necessarily pre-disposed towards appreciating it to begin with.
Independence Day: the last track on the album is (again) from The City of Prague Philharmonic
Orchestra and Crouch End Festival Chorus, and features a fair to good rendition of David Arnold's
closing music for Emmerich and Devlin's Independence Day. The film's closing music is so huge, so
loud, so exuberant, so full of bravado and oomph it's nearly impossible not to smile when you hear
it. Arnold is...for my money...one of the coolest of the cool film composers working today. His
score for Tomorrow Never Dies was one of the sexiest, most energized scores to come along in a
long, long time. By the way, Arnold will be scoring The World Is Not Enough (aka "the next James
Bond film"). While The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Crouch End Festival Chorus (yes,
I'm cutting and pasting that name) doesn't quite match the spunk of the Arnold-conducted version,
it's fair enough - and a nice way to wrap up the eclectic collection of themes which were
represented on this CD.
"Watch the Skies" is an uneven disc. It is always fair, often good, with some occasionally great
moments spread throughout. This would be probably be a great CD for people interested in
assembling a collection of Science Fiction related themes - especially if they're interested in a few
themes which are hard to find, or simply unavailable anywhere else.
February 16, 1999
This compilation of film, television, and ride music is constructed in much the same way as Sonic
Images' "Heart of the Ocean" release last year. It utilizes the same eclectic approach of finding
previously existing recordings of well-known film scores and combining them with single-artist
performances and a few original recordings. What results is an album which contains some old
favorites and some new surprises. Interestingly, however, even though the entire album is based
on the sci-fi/alien theme, the tracks vary greatly in mood and scope. It is ultimately this
inconsistency in flow that keeps "Watch the Skies" from achieving the highest rating.
Each track, in and of itself, has its virtue. Herrmann's prelude to The Day the Earth Stood Still is a
classic, and the Cincinnati Pops, although underestimated by many as a group talented only in jazz,
performs it excellently. This track can also be heard on one of the old, original "Star Tracks"
Kunzel albums on the Telarc label. The following track shifts to the immensely huge City of Prague
Philharmonic and Crouch End Festival Chorus as heard many times on the Silva Screen label. I enjoy
this version of Mars Attacks! more than the original because the chorus is much fuller. The
following track made its commercial debut on CD last year and it's a delight to hear here again;
Chris Young's Species is only available in promo form (for the original recording) and the same duo
of talented performing groups makes this a delightful and haunting highlight of the CD. These two
selections, as well as those from Contact and Independence Day also can be found on the "Space &
Beyond" and "Alien Invasion" CDs released by Silva. Thankfully, Sonic Images decided to use the
Cincinnati Pops version of The Day the Earth Stood Still instead of that which appears on the Silva
"Alien Invasion" release. Kunzel's recording has more personality.
Here's where the album takes a curious turn. Instead of more robust, traditionally orchestral
selections, E.T. and Contact slow the album's pace and mellow the mood considerably. The piano
performance of E.T. takes two minutes to get kicking, finally reaching the end credit piano theme
and reaching for some extra gusto. Contact is also very light, and while pretty, doesn't sit well
with some of the larger and more horrifying tracks on the CD. From here, we begin to get original
performances by artists associated with Sonic Images, and for those of us who have heard the
more well-known tracks before, these new tracks are the treasures of the CD. They Live has a
swinging country attitude that is just creepy enough to be fun in this context. Following this are
two performances by John Beal, whose recent double CD set of original trailer music has been
highly acclaimed. Beal's performance of Men in Black, along with the City of Prague's Mars
Attacks! track, makes this album a good bet for Elfman fans. Beal's performance of Men in Black is
remarkably enjoyable, and his talent for accurately recreating even the snazziest and strangest
Elfman theme is amazing. His performance of Silvestri's commercially unreleased Predator theme
is equally as good, reaffirming -- yet again -- his abilities in my opinion.
The suite from the Aliens amusement park ride, composed by Richard Band, combines a snippet of
Horner's Aliens theme with a few Goldsmith-like orchestrations. Goldsmith's reflective finale cue
from Alien follows, and is performed well by the Orchestra of the Americas. The original recording
of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, although similar in theme to the other selections, is strikingly
different from many of the other tracks; its sound quality is considerably lower than the others,
and Zeitlin's poorly electronic remake music is the only regrettable track on the CD. Elliot
Goldenthal fans are treated to the original recording of his electronic score for the TV/cable film
Roswell, and it is a spooky cue that probably would have worked wonders in Sphere, had he chosen
to switch scores. The Tommyknockers was composed recently by Sonic Images founder Christopher
Franke; his lengthy suite here isn't too much off from his Babylon 5 style, with a reminiscent theme
at its heart that is a cross between The X-Files and JFK. The superb stereo sound on this track is
particular unnerving, which, I suppose is a good thing!
Michael Hoenig's performance of the Dark Skies TV series epilogue sounds remarkably similar in
style to that of Christopher Franke. In fact, I didn't notice a difference between it and The
Tommyknockers until the third listen; Dark Skies has a good, rumbling electronic timpani cue that
carries its middle section. The Hollywood Chamber Orchestra's performance of the X-Files theme
doesn't do it justice at all. For some reason, its withdrawn, lightly orchestral feel doesn't produce
much frightening or creepy emotion --if any at all. It is not a performance of Mark Snow's enhanced
film adaptation of the theme, as I had hoped. I would have loved to hear what John Beal could have
done with the film adaptation. The CD ends appropriately with David Arnold's rousing end titles from
Independence Day. Both the City of Prague Philharmonic and Cincinnati Pops have performed ID4, the
former with a real chorus and the latter with a synthesized one; they're equal in quality, but I'm
glad the City of Prague Philharmonic version appears here. The chorus at the end makes for an
excellent finale to the album.
Overall, the worth of this album comes down to your preference for or against the individual
selections that are included on it. If you see three or four titles that you're likely interested in,
then it's a good bet that you'll find the other tracks of value. I wouldn't call E.T. or Contact
indicative of the whole album, nor would I recommend purchasing it solely for the X-Files track.
However, it you're an Elfman fan, Alien enthusiast, or generally enjoy the electronic atmosphere
traditionally created by Christopher Young, John Carpenter, or John Beal, then I do recommend it.
It may lack the consistency of "Heart of the Ocean," simply because the tracks are mostly
composed by different artists, but I still approve of Sonic Images' format of combining previously
established performances of big name titles with those of their smaller, featured artists and
original recordings. ***
February 16, 1999
Compilations with music written for Science Fiction music isn't something new. The market is
literally flooded with those albums, so do we really need another one? Well, as far as they offer
something unique and special, I have to answer yes to that question. Luckily Sonic Images latest
compilation Watch the Skies does. Here you will find newly released recordings of music from
Christopher Franke's score for The Tommyknockers, Richard Band's music for Aliens - the Ride,
as well as the only available recording of the "End Title" from Christopher Young's Species,
among other things.
The easiest, and perhaps best, way of reviewing a compilation like this, probably is to say a little
about each of the different cues, so here it goes:
The compilations opens with Bernard Herrmann's prelude for The Day The Earth Stood Still. This
is Science Fiction music at its best. With mystical orchestral chords and the special sound of the
theremin, Herrmann's music evokes a very otherworldly feeling.
Also Danny Elfman decided to incorporate the Theremin - probably as a homage to Herrmann -
in his score for Mars Attacks!. On this compilation we are given a version of the "Introduction/
Main Title" performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and the Crouch End Festival
Chorus, which are doing a fine interpretation of Elfman's score, which is as crazy as the Tim
Burton film it was written for.
After this albums' share of theremin music we are presented with the only available recording of
the "End Title" from Species, composed by Christopher Young. This was a great surprise to me,
and if the rest of the score is half as good as the cue featured here, it definitely deserves to get a
commercial release. The music is very atmospheric, with soft, tensed strings and choir in unison.
The E.T. cue is a real gem. Performed by Michael Chertock, this is a medley arranged for piano.
Chertock gives a wonderful, and very vibrant and emotional, rendition of William's wonderful
score. If you like the piano solo part in the "End Credits" from the original score, I'll bet you are
going to like this version, although William's orchestral arrangement is superior - and far more
powerful - of course.
Then we have the "End Title" cue from Alan Silvestri's score for Contact, with its melodic main
theme. Performed by light piano, strings and woodwinds this is sweet music and almost sounds
like it could be written for a drama/comedy.
The "Main Title" from They Live, composed by John Carpenter & Alan Howarth, and performed by
the latter, is perhaps one of the weakest cues on this album, in my opinion. It has a repeated groovy
bass phrase, under jazzy saxophone and piano. Nothing special, and it definitely doesn't sound like
music written for a Science Fiction film.
Two cues on the album, the main titles from Men in Black and The Predator, are performed by
John Beal - the King of trailer scoring. Beal's interpretation of Men in Black is so true to Elfman's
original, orchestral score - both in sound and performance - that it's spooky! It is almost impossible
to hear that the music is played by synthesized instruments, instead of real ones. The cue from
Predator is also splendidly performed by Beal, although now it is easier to hear that the
instruments are artificial, because of Silvestri's generous usage of strings. But it's superb
Aliens - the Ride, composed by Richard Band, uses James Horner's main theme, as well as other
music from the Aliens score, along with original music by Band. If you like Horner's original score
the chances are you will like this cue. It's great Sci-Fi/horror music, nevertheless. The Alien theme
continues in the next track, which is a recording of the "End Title" from Jerry Goldsmith's score for
Alien, performed by the Orchestra of Americas, which are doing a great job, under the baton of
Bill Broughton. Goldsmith's music is one of the classical science fiction scores, and its place on
this compilation goes without saying.
The following four tracks are a little less interesting, with nothing special to offer. The cue from
Invasion of the Body Snatchers, composed by Denny Zeitlin, uses staccato brass, supported by
snare drums, and dramatic strings. What it lacks is a good theme, to really make it interesting. The
"Main Title" from Elliot Goldenthal's Roswell consists mostly out of harp arpeggios under slow
chords. It creates a very mystical sound, but is nothing that will haunt your mind. The same goes
for the suite from The Tommyknockers, composed and performed Christopher Franke. The music
is all electronic, with slow strings, synth choir and piano, as well as other, electronic, sounds.
Again it is the lack of theme which causes this cue to fall into oblivion. The "Epilogue" from Dark
Skies includes a trumpet theme very reminiscent of one of the themes from Hans Zimmer's
Backdraft, and that is pretty much all I can say about this music. Again, nothing special.
The main theme from The X-Files, composed by Mark Snow, has been given a special, but
superb treatment. Arranged by Donald Fraser, in the style of Alan Hovhaness according to the
liner notes, the music is performed by the Hollywood Chamber Orchestra. While the original TV
version is very dramatic and almost ominous in its mood and style, this version is more beautiful,
mystical and at the same time a little sad, with it's woodwinds and trumpet solos. Definitely
Ending the album is the "End Credits" from David Arnold's pompous score for Independence Day - a
superb and very entertaining score in my opinion. Here it is performed by the City of Prague
Philharmonic Orchestra and the Crouch End Festival Chorus, which makes a splendid job. Although I
think that the horns in the original recording sound more powerful, and have more punch in them.
Here they almost treat the main theme as a pure fanfare, and sound very piercing throughout the
All in all Watch the Skies is a very enjoyable compilation of some of the most entertaining
science fiction music ever written.
Watch the Skies is a great collection of movie themes from a wide range of composers. The target
genre is very specific here, with alien invasion of one form or another being the subject matter of
all the films these scores have been selected from. Alien invasion stories have been extremely ripe
material for some of today's hottest composers of late, and this collection should illustrate just how
much this subject matter tickles their vision.
As with all of these types of collection releases, some of the selections are worth listening to over
and over again while others are good for occasional browsing. The real gem of this bunch of course
is Alan Silvestri's Contact. Performed by the always up-to-par City of Prague Philharmonic,
Silvestri's score is a wonderful blend of hope, tenderness, and mystery. Evoking some of the same
styles as Forrest Gump, Silvestri's cue is very different from the rest of the selections here,
which tend to assault the eardrums with militaristic cues. The only other track that is as different
as Silvestri's is of course John Carpenter's They Live track, performed by the master of electronic
fare John Beal. They Live is a working man's anthem, slow and deliberate, with a sense of sinister
undertones lying just underneath. This is one of the types of scores you either love or hate,
depending on how you regard Carpenter's rather unique take on scoring.
Another one of the pearls on this CD is Bernard Herrmann's The Day the Earth Stood Still. It is
especially interesting to hear this track, composed in the 1950s, and then take a listen to Danny
Elfman's two selections, Mars Attacks! and Men In Black. After performing this little experiment
you can see just how brilliant and ahead of his time Herrmann was and the wisdom of Elfman for
taking his cues from such past maestros as Herrmann.
Independence Day is always a treat, and the X-Files track is very enjoyable. The track representing
Christopher Young's Species is the sleeper of this bunch, and never fails to entertain. Which brings
up a good point, do bad science fiction films hurt the scores that often times don't match their horrid
quality? If Young's Species is any indication, then the subsequent release of Species II gives us a
dead end to an answer. In keeping with the confusing nature of score releases, it remains to be seen
what we will see in the stores and what we will have to continue to beg for. Rating: ****
EDITOR'S RECOMMENDATION - March 1999
This a cracking collection intelligently compiled and generous in its almost 74 minute length. The
sound is absolutely stunning. The album contains material from the Telarc and Silva Screen libraries
plus some material that has never been released before
The compilation kicks off with Bernard Herrmann's ground-breaking music, for The Day the Earth
Stood Still using, so very imaginatively the theremin, electronic violin, electronic bass and electric
guitar. Immediately afterwards we get Danny Elfman's cheeky send up of the 1950s sci-fi music in
his score for Mars Attacks and, later, his wild and wacky Men in Black music given some extra
magic by John Beal. Christopher Young's marvelous and mesmerising score for Species proves
that you can be quietly malevolent. John Williams is represented by his E.T. music in a nice relaxing
piano solo medley played by Michael Chertock.
Alan Silvestri's lovely music for Contact was one of my favourite scores of 1997 - beautifully
serene and compassionate in stark contrast to the other Silvestri score here, the harsh and
relentlessly driving rhythms of Predator, this performance produced and performed by John Beal.
They Live has a sleazy, slinky theme from John Carpenter and Alan Howarth while Richard Band's
creepily exciting music, based on James Horner's Aliens theme, designed to heighten the thrills of
a popular Aliens amusement park ride. Jerry Goldsmith's End Title from Alien is broods upon the
vastness of space, the music growing almost Vaughan Williams mystical.
Three or four tracks are devoted to electronic led scores: Denny Zeitlin's quirky and increasingly
eerie music for Invasion of the Body Snatchers; Elliott Goldenthal's spooky synthesizer score for
the cable-TV movie, Roswell; Christopher Franke's equally eerie electronic score for the Stephen
King shocker, The Tommyknockers; and Michael Hoenig's more introspective electronic/acoustic
Epilogue music for the TV series, Dark Skies.
One of the most interesting tracks is Donald Fraser's arrangement of Mark Snow's theme from the
X-Files - arranged, very cleverly, in the style of Alan Hovhaness.
The programme ends in great style with David Arnold's End Credits from his Independence Day
score given an absolutely cracking performance by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and
Crouch End Festival Chorus. Rating: ****1/2
FILM MUSIC RECORDINGS REVIEWS
Sonic Images’ collection Watch the Skies is aimed at a mainstream audience, but deftly avoids most
of the usual clichés encountered with SF-themed compilations. Highlights for seasoned collectors
include Richard Band’s music for Aliens - The Ride (based in part on James Horner’s themes for
Aliens), Denny Zeitlin’s smart “Main Title” from Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers
remake, Eliot Goldenthal’s “Main Title” for Roswell, Michael Hoenig’s “Epilogue” from Dark Skies
and an eight-minute suite from The Tommyknockers by Christopher Franke. Of course, no collection
of this kind worth its salt gets released without a version of The X-Files theme, and this is no
exception. Thankfully it’s an arrangement in the mournful style of Alan Hovhaness by Donald
SHIVERS Magazine, Issue 65
Aside from excellent acting and dazzling special effects, the best SF TV shows and motion pictures
usually offer music that creatively enhances the on-screen imagery. This aural element is
particularly important when dealing with alien-oriented story lines, as both the sights and sounds
must be appropriately eerie and exotic for audiences to become wholly engrossed in the action.
Watch the Skies offers an assortment of tunes that in one way or another reflect Hollywood's
ongoing infatuation with extraterrestrials. Following an adaptation of Bernard Herrmann's prelude to
the classic flick The Day the Earth Stood Still, the CD features 15 cuts culled from relatively
contemporary SF film fare. Themes to such well-known movies as Species, Contact, They Live, Men
in Black, Predator, Alien and Independence Day are included, along with previously unreleased
selections from TV productions like Roswell, The Tommyknockers and Dark Skies. The album also
features an unusual instrumental devoted to the amusement park attraction Aliens - The Ride.
Most of the cues are reproductions performed by ensembles such as the City of Prague Philharmonic
Orchestra, although a few numbers--like the main title to the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body
Snatchers--are original recordings. Since many of the replica renditions were initially generated for
other collections, the liner notes contain information identifying sources for the facsimile works,
along with concise commentaries on all of the compositions.
Watch the Skies presents SF fans with an ingenious assemblage of famous standbys, fresh selections
and rather offbeat readings of familiar scores. Despite the fact that nearly three-quarters of the
music featured on this album is already available elsewhere, the artful intermingling and creative
juxtaposition of the sundry tunes make the CD surprisingly dynamic and desirable. Babylon 5 buffs
will certainly relish a suite written by popular series composer Christopher Franke that's dedicated
to The Tommyknockers. And on the next cut, which spotlights the epilogue to the short-lived
television program Dark Skies, they'll also be introduced to the equally thrilling work of keyboard
player Michael Hoenig, who, like Franke, was formerly affiliated with the rock bands Tangerine
Dream and Agitation Free. Meanwhile, X-philes should find the classically imbued version of The X
Files theme quite entertaining, while folks seeking less mysterious music will savor Michael
Chertock's soothing medley of melodies from E.T.
Notwithstanding a couple of intentionally inventive interpretations, most of the counterfeit cues are
rendered in a fairly straightforward manner, providing listeners with a reasonably representative
(though by no means comprehensive) sampling of recent speculative soundtrack efforts. Although
more original performances would have enhanced the disc, Watch the Skies supplies SF-music
aficionados with an engaging overview of how Hollywood harmonically portrays the extraterrestrial
entities that so often play an integral role in many speculative movie and TV adventures.
The producers of this collection seemingly sequenced certain works side-by-side so listeners could
get a sense of how one composer influences another. Hearing artists like Bernard Herrmann and Danny
Elfman (Mars Attacks!) together, or the aforementioned Franke/Hoenig pairing, really helps to
clarify both the similarities and distinctive styles of each musician.
June 1, 1999
What, another compilation? All but true, however, this one has a few surprises and is more than
worthy of a look or two. The main selections blend new and old material from the sci-fi genre
covering a wide spectrum from the early 50s movies such as The Day the Earth Stood Still to
present day films such as Independence Day and Mars Attacks! What a few discerning people will
notice straight away is that a number of the offerings here are also available on some Silva
compilations, however they are faithfully done and frankly enjoyable and I don’t mind their re-
inclusion here at all.
Is it any good though? Frankly the inclusion of Species, Aliens: The Ride, Roswell, Dark Skies and
The Tommyknockers more than make up for the repeats and Species is surely the best track on the
album. The haunting end credits by Christopher Young are faithfully re-created by the City of
Prague Philharmonic and in fact makes you all the more annoyed that no commercial album exists for
this rather interesting score. The Aliens: The Ride segment by Richard Band is also very enjoyable
introducing and expanding upon James Horner’s scary entry in the Alien film series with enough
bombast to scare the seven bells out of anyone! Though its little additions from Dark Skies and
The Tommyknockers that really enhance this compilation from the standard fare.
Danny Elfman is represented well here from Mars Attacks! and the rather fast paced main title to
Men in Black with the latter one produced by John Beal, and Beal also supplies a faithful Predator
Main Title, another title sadly missing from our libraries. The curious oddity on this album is the
X-Files version utilized on this compilation. Weird it most certainly is away from its synthesised
roots and performed by Hollywood Chamber Orchestra, but it’s very enjoyable and that about sums
up the feeling I get from this compilation. In a word fun.
At 73:31 minutes long it’s a great album to pass the time away and frankly chill out to, and there’s
not many albums like this I could truthfully say that to! The album rounds off with the end credits
from the very bombastic Independence Day which although are a little haphazard rather than
accurate, are enjoyable nevertheless. All in all, not a compilation to avoid but frankly one to look
out for and listed to! Rating: ***1/2.
Russell C. Thewlis
LEGEND Magazine, Issue 28
Sonic Images have found their very own niche in the compilation album genre. The brand new science
fiction album Watch the Skies is put together comprising music from various sources in a way
aimilar to the Heart of the Ocean album. Carefully chosen re-recordings from the back catalogs of
Silva Screen, Telarc and Intersound catalogs are mixed from music from the original scores
previously unavailable on CD. To this, the remarkable John Beal adds cover versions of Men in Black
and Predator. Watch the Skies has a very enjoyable structure and is very listenable from beginning
It should also be mentioned that the orchestral re-recordings chosen for this album are all very
good. From the collector’s point of view one can, of course, argue that one doesn’t need to have the
City of Prague Philharmonic’s version of The Day the Earth Stood Still, Mars Attacks!, Species,
Contact and Independence Day on another album. On the other hand, these scores definitely deserve
their place on a good sci-fi compilation - and I prefer an already good, existing re-recording instead
of a new, poor one.
And collectors should not complain, because Watch the Skies has its share of pure goodies as well.
This album presents, for the first time, Elliot Goldenthal’s music for Roswell, a small electronic
score with complimentary acoustic performances. It’s not one of the composer’s most inventive
scores, but it has many of his trademarks and is an interesting inclusion on this album. Further,
Christopher Franke’s electronic music for The Tommyknockers is included. It’s a lengthly suite
containing the main elements from the score, which is a very dark, eerie and atmospheric
experience. Michael Hoenig’s all electronic ‘Epilogue’ from Dark Skies is also a premiere recording,
but this does not measure up to the standard of the other tracks on the album - it’s uninventive. The
only way I can justify its existance on this compilation is that it provides some stylistic variation.
That goes for the inclusion of John Carpenter and Alan Howarth’s They Live as well.
Two of the tracks on the album are electronic cover versions of originally symphonic scores. That
concept can make anyone shiver running out for new earplugs, but hold your horses. The man
responsible for these recordings is John Beal, who once again has done a simply flabbergasting job.
He did a couple of tracks on the Harner compilation as well (Commando and Vibes) amd they came
very close to the originals. The two cover versions he has contributed on Watch the Skies are the
main titles from Danny Elfman’s Men in Black and Alan Silvestri’s Predator. Now, you can hear
that these recordings are not acoustic if you listen closely, but when the Men in Black cue is up and
running after its chaotic introduction the sound is as close to an orchestra as you can come without
having one. I don’t know how this guy does it. It just sounds absolutely great. It probably has to
do with John Beal being very sensative when it comes to the nuances of the original compositions.
And the ‘Beal Electrosymphonic Orchestra’ is equally impressive in the Predator cue. You can hear
that the strongs are synthetic, especially when they are in ‘tremolo mode.’ but the brass and
percussive electronic sounds are frighteningly authentic. In fact, it’s lots of fun to listen to these
electronic versions and I am just amazed to hear what it’s possible to do with samplers,
synthesisers and sequencers and stuff like that these days.
Interestingly, Watch the Skies also contains two alternative renditions of familiar sci-fi themes,
John Williams’ E.T. The Extreterrestrial and Mark Snow’s X-Files. E.T. is a charming suite arranged
for piano performed by Michael Chertock, and X-Files is a suite arranged for chamber orchestra,
with a wonderful trumpet solo, arranged int he style of Alan Hovhaness (!).
Watch the Skies is a good sci-fi compilation album. I appreciate the inclusion of previously
unavailable material, the inclusion of alternative versions of familiar themes, and I sincerely
appreciate John Beal’s rousing cover versions. Rating: ***1/2.
MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES
Watch the Skis is a compilation of themes from famous "alien invasion" movies and television
specials. This 70+ minute album presents a wide variety of musical styles from a wide variety of
composers. Only a handful of tracks are from the original soundtrack recording, but the re-
recorded themes sound excellent and I have no complaints there. The Cincinnati Pops and the City of
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra do some excellent renditions of some famous sci-fi music.
The CD opens with The Day the Earth Stood Still. While this is an old score from the 50s by
Bernard Herrmann, the Cincinnati Pops manage to give it an more modern sound. Since I’ve never
heard the original recording of this theme, I have no idea whether Herrmann’s scoring was timeless
or whether it was more the quality of the orchestra and recording technology. More than likely it is
a mixture of the two. Nevertheless, it is still good stuff, and I’d like to hear the full score. Species
is another good one, a more quiet peace with lots of strings that is pretty common for sci-fi/horror
film music. Two recent Danny Elfman themes are present as well: Mars Attacks, and Men In Black.
While the re-recordings manage to capture the inherit weirdness of ole Danno, they really aren’t
all that great, but Mars Attacks is the better of the two. Probably the best track on the whole CD
is the Independence Day end titles. It is performed excellently by the Prague orchestra and is
definitely the highlight of the whole compilation. Still, it wasn’t anything too special since I already
own the original score.
This is a pretty nice compilation CD, with the only real drawback is that you probably already own
the complete scores to most of these tracks. It would be a good buy if the tracks appeal to you, or
you always on the lookout for different recordings of your favorite music. Rating: ***
SOUNDTRACK REVIEW CENTER
July 6, 1999
Conspiracy theorists, abductees and those of you who just like a good alien invasion film can rejoice
at the arrival of Watch the Skies, a CD tribute to 50 years of fears from above. Bernard
Herrmann’s The Day The Earth Stood Still gives way to the Disney warmth of Danny Elfman’s Mars
Attacks, ending up - fourteen tracks later - at Independence Day. Along the way, the CD hits
Contact, They Live, Men In Black, Predator, Roswell, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, The
Tommyknockers and others. A great comp, but it loses a point for including E.T. ****
Rue Morgue Magazine
Among miscellaneous film music collections, Sonic Images. Watch The Skies (SID-8901) was a
superior collection of cues from 16 science fiction films, from familiar motives like Bernard
Herrmann`s THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL to more recent popular offerings including John
Williams’ E.T., David Arnold’s INDEPENDENCE DAY, Danny Elfman’s MEN IN BLACK, and Alan
Silvestri’s CONTACT. Of particular interest are a handful of exceedingly good original soundtrack
excerpts from films that have not previously been preserved on disc - Elliot Goldenthal’s spooky
synthmusic from the TV-movie ROSWELL, Michael Hoenig’s introspective music for the TV series
DARK SKIES, and Christopher Franke’s eerie music for the Stephen King miniseries, THE
Randall D. Larson
Fandom, Inc. (1999 Year-End Soundtrack Reviews)
January 6, 2000
The legendary Day The Earth Stood Still eases us into the fantastic world of this exceptional sci-fi
compilation CD. Danny Elfman’s Mars Attacks, a throwback score to the fifties is next and truly one
of the strongest cues on this disc. Christopher Young’s music from Species is a wondrous seven-
minutes plus of gentle, swelling music. Michael Chertock creates a touching piano medley from E.T.
An introspective feel is generated by Alan Silvestri’s Contact score. Alan Howarth steps up with the
modern western cue from John Carpenter’s They Live. Danny Elfman matches Barry Sonnenfeld’s
over the top filmmaking style with Men In Black, recreated flawlessly by John Beal. Next up is a
dynamic cut from Predator. John Beal is right on target with his rendition of Alan Silvestri’s
memorable action score. Richard Band adds Aliens -The Ride which has never before been released.
We get the end title from Alien. The tense, paranoid inducing main title from Invasion Of The Body
Snatchers by Danny Zeitlin. One of the top composers of the past decade, Elliot Goldenthal, creates a
haunting, thought provoking three minutes from the cable movie Roswell. Christopher Franke has a
never before released suite from Tommyknockers, which is better than the movie it represents. The
epilogue from Dark Skies has never been released before now. It sounds very similar to the next
cue, The X-Files theme from Mark Snow. The last cue, the nine minute, massive sweeping of
emotion comes from Independence Day. A mighty seventy-three minutes worth of music to say the
January 31, 2000
For many centuries people have dreamed of meeting extraterrestrial intelligence. Does it exist in
the Universe? Are these beings good or bad? What can we expect from meeting them? How will
this happen? Yet while we do not have clear and definite answers to these questions, we are aware
of many events when people on Earth have met with something unknown and unexpected. Many
films are devoted to the encounters of Earthly people with extraterrestrial beings both in outer
space and on our home planet. And in this compilation released by Sonic Images Records, we are
presented with music of the soundtracks to some of the most bright and famous films of this kind
(such as "The X-Files," "Independence Day," "Men In Black," "Alien," "Aliens," "E.T.," "Mars
Attacks" and many others). This music was created by such a well-known and talented composers
as Christopher Franke, Mark Snow, John Williams, Danny Elfman, Jerry Goldsmith and Alan
Silvestri; all who have a large creative "luggage" of the work in film music. All of the
compositions included on the album are created and performed on the high professional level, though
who could doubt this after seeing such a famous names!
The album has its specific features, the primary of which is that the general mood of the music is
an anxiety of some terrible and unexpected events to come. Actually this feeling lies in the name of
the compilation - "Watch the Skies." This mood is understandable if we recall the plots of the films
and musical themes which are used in the album. Most of them are dealing with the struggle of Earth
people with hostile aliens from outer space, which come in different shapes and forms, clearly or
secretly. Only the peaceful and tranquil themes from "E.T." and "Contact" dissolve this strain of
alarm before the Unknown danger from beyond. It seems that the authors of the compilation are
warning us - be careful and vigilant, watch the skies, because many unknown mysteries are hidden
in the Universe. The truth is out there, but to know it may be dangerous for you! So, do not miss
this new release of the film music from Sonic Images Records. This album is a very bright and
Musical Gazette (Republic of Belarus)