Erich Kunzel

Fantastic Journey

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This was the fourth of Erich Kunzel's many albums devoted to orchestral science-fiction film music, a genre that took off after 1977's Star Wars struck it rich and hasn't shown any signs of slowing down since. Yet, in the examples heard here, it was a genre stuck in a lucrative rut -- and as such, one cookie-cutter fanfare, spangled action sequence, and sweeping title tune follows another. A few minutes of historical examples are included, with the bulk of the CD being devoted to post-Star Wars scores through 1989. There is too much space accorded to Danny Elfman's mediocre music for Batman -- a 15-minute concert suite, no less -- and not enough from Bernard Herrmann's fascinating early electronics-decorated "The Day the Earth Stood Still" -- less than two minutes. Now and then, the pros throw you for a loop -- like Jerry Goldsmith's whimsical, electronically spiced rock roll blues that opens the end title for Explorers before the usual orchestral peroration takes over, or Alex North's neo-classical end title from Dragonslayer, and, of course, John Williams' famous hepcat "Cantina Band" from Star Wars. Digital and analog synthesizers are mixed in with the orchestral tracks on several selections, and the Cincinnati Pops, as usual, are recorded superbly. Yet, from this corner, the most interesting music on the whole CD is the spectacular, all-electronic interlude "Through the Black Hole" by Paul Freeman -- rather condescendingly labeled as "sound effects" -- which suggests the terrors and wonders of outer space more chillingly than any film scorer's cliché. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi