Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Ron Jones Project

In the last couple of years we have seen a renaissance in expanded releases of Star Trek music, including the Star Trek VI complete soundtrack announced earlier this week. One of the best of these releases has been Film Score Monthly's "Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Ron Jones Project." We have been remiss in not putting out a detailed review, but that ends today. See below to find out what is in this epic 14-disc set.

 

Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Ron Jones Project

With the release of "Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Ron Jones Project," Film Score Monthly/Screen Archives Entertainment bring TNG fans the most ambitious soundtrack offering in the 46 year history of the franchise. Priced at $149.95 for the 14-disc set (or song by song at iTunes or Amazon), the Ron Jones Project provides more than 16 hours of music. The set includes music from more than 40 episodes of TNG all composed by Ron Jones, from "The Naked Now" to "The Best of Both Worlds." The discs also include music from the video games "Starfleet Academy," "Starfleet Command," and more than 70 different alternative tracks and alternate cues.

Packaging and Design

The Ron Jones Project set arrives in a handsome box and includes three multidisc jewel cases holding all 14 discs. Each jewel case is color coded, and uses the famous LCARS design motif associated with TNG which is a nice nostalgic nod to the era when Picard's crew reigned supreme.

The only real misstep with the packaging and design is that these multidisc jewel cases are somewhat clunky to handle and close, although the alternative of 14 individual jewel cases would have been too cumbersome. The disc design are especially nice, featuring main and secondary character pictures on the front of the disc. Every major character, and favorites such as Reginald Barclay, are included.

The packaging and design shows a great deal of care, much like FSM/SAE showed on their previous Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock expanded scores released last year.

Liner Notes

The liner notes are included in an excellently produced 60 page booklet included with the set. The pictures includes both episode/video game images and behind the scenes moments with Jones as he conducts or composes. A six page essay by Jeff Bond and Lukas Kendall begins the liner note book, and it includes many interesting tidbits of soundtrack trivia. For example, even though the pilot episode "Encounter at Farpoint" was composed by Dennis McCarthy, it was Jones who recorded the first ever TNG score because of scheduling. The notes detail why Jones music was selected for the collection, making a convincing argument for why Ron Jones is significant in the pantheon of Trek composers. After the essay, the booklet becomes an indispensable guide to each of the tracks on each of the discs.

For those who enjoy unusual track titles (think the names of the offerings on the Star Trek 2009 movie soundtrack), the tradition continues with such titles "Horny Doctor" (Track 7) of "The Naked Now" or "P for Picard" (Track 28) of "Lonely Among Us." Also of value to soundtrack aficionados is that the liner notes reveal the dates which the score was recorded, usually at the Paramount Pictures Scoring Stage M, although interestingly also at the 20th Century Fox Scoring Stage. All in all, the liner note achieves a level of detail and trivia that most fans will probably enjoy.

The Music

Listening to all 14 discs is a dauntingly fun assignment. In doing so, certain trends and ideas emerge. For example, Jones' work on more than 40 episodes represents a history lesson of how TNG music changed when control went from Gene Roddenberry to Rick Berman. Early episodes have a tonality and fullness more in line with the original 1960s show and reference the Jerry Goldsmith theme song often. Later episode scores reflect a more 1990s TV sensibility with more ambiance, less motif and melody. It is quite a testament to the talents of Jones and his fellow composers that they were able to work with these new requirements, although there are perhaps some moments of incidental ambiance music that goes on too long. However, Star Trek writer and director Nicholas Meyer has a theory that art thrives on limitations and Jones' work is consistently of such a quality and enjoyability that it almost proves the theory.

There are many episode scores worth mentioning in their entirety, including "Final Mission," "Who Watches the Watchers," and "The Offspring." One of the best is "The Naked Now." Track 3, "Longing for Sight" is beautiful if brief at one minute, 51 seconds. Track 8, "Exploding Star" is heroic and truly exciting music. A personal favorite is the Romulan themes and music from "The Defector" which syncopates with sulky intrigue. TNG's episodic music isn't perhaps as instantly recognizable as the cues from TOS, however this collection goes a long way in rectifying that because while listening, associations with various characters and moments are relived without the distraction from the composition that dialog and sound effects present. I listened to the Romulans themes again and again in giddy excitement, to tell you truth, and it made me want to rewatch "The Defector."

Interestingly, some of the very best music is from the video games. Track 1, "Starfleet Academy Themes" from disc 14 could have easily been utilized for one of the feature films. It bends the original themes of Star Trek in such a way that an original and beautiful theme emerges with a healthy respect for the history of Trek music.

Concluding Ideas

This is a serious set that would be appreciated by many fans. It is a piece of TNG history and for soundtrack aficionados, it really is an ambitious and rewarding experience to enjoy the most complete collection of a Trek composer's music ever collected.

Available on CD and Digital Download

The limited edition set is available at FilmScoreMonthly.com for $149.95 (also at ScreenArchivesEntertainment).

You can also download individual songs, or individual "albums" from the set at iTunes or Amazon.

And you can still enjoy the liner notes, which are available for free at FilmScoreMonthly.

 

FSM provided sample for this review.

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I bought all of the Ron Jones stuff off of iTunes and it is wonderful! I always used to think that early TNG music was especially generic but it was actually quite nice (in a synthetic 80’s sort of way) and now I have a new appreciation for it. I also like to listen to the RJ stuff instead of the ingame music in Star Trek: Online. Adds so much to the game!

Jones has been busy in his post-Trek years, too – one quick example: he works with Billionfold, Butch Hartman’s cartoon company, and wrote the theme to “The Fairly Oddparents” and other toons.

It’s a superb set for sure! My wonderful trophy wife gave it to me as an anniversary gift. Anyway, Ron Jones is my favorite composer from TNG. Now, if only…we had those TOS unreleased scores (mostly second and third season) all in one set like this!

Give me Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner any time.

where are the scifi tv and scifi movies columns/it’s been since oct. 2011

Oh, I’ll gladly take Ron Jones over James Horner. Horner just cannibalizes his previous scores and calls them ‘new’.

You’ve actually forgotten to mention that Ron is the composer for the most culturally dominant animated series, Family Guy. (Love it or hate it, it’s eclipsed the Simpsons.)

That said, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Ron Jones in person when they offered this set at a special meet-and-greet with Ron at a local comics bookstore in Burbank. (So, not only do I own the set… but it’s autographed by him as well!) I was surprised that the event was not particularly well-attended, but that gave each of us more time to chat with Ron, who posed for pictures and hung out with us for quite some time.

I found Ron to be genuine, warm and funny, and he seed to really enjoy answering questions and telling stories about his experiences on Next Gen. I wish I remembered more of the details… I just remember laughing a lot.

I haven’t made my way through the entire set yet, but it is definitely worth the money, autograph or no autograph.

Ron Jones. Even with most duds in Season One and Two of Star Trek: The Next Generation, you could hear in his music that he was one of the hardest working people on the show. Listening to “Q Who” and “Where science has lease” really showcases how much he wanted to give each episode it’s own musical identity. It was marvelous.

Kind of paints an ever more positive image of Rick Berman when he fired Ron off the show.

#7 — I always wanted to meet RJ so I could ask him what it was like working for Rick Berman…lol…

Oh, and to get his opinion on sonic wallpaper…lol!!!

“Box #05” represent, btw…LOL!!!

I see the Rick Berman bashing has begun. Okay, his biggest mistake was firing Ron Jones. But let’s forget the Berman controversy and stick to Ron Jones, the composer.

Ron Jones did great work for TNG. His scores were rich in melody, harmony and featured exciting syncopated rhythms. Of course, the pinnacle of his work was “The Best of Both Worlds.” But I love his work on “The Nth Degree” also. He is one of the great composers of Star Trek.

@6 “Oh, I’ll gladly take Ron Jones over James Horner. Horner just cannibalizes his previous scores and calls them ‘new’.”

Oh sure, “Titanic” sounds just like “Star Trek II, which sounds just like “Field of Dreams” Come on dude, you can do better than that, can’t you?

Perhaps there is a reason why James Horner does major movies and wins Oscars, and Ron Jones now works on Family Guy and American Dad. LOL

Want Now!

Not to mention Horner’s incredible score of Avatar (and another Oscar nomination there for Horner…cha-ching!)….yea,the Avatar soundtrack sounded a like like Star Trek II…..NOT! :-))

Don’t care, bring on the TOS scores.

I have noticed bits and pieces of Horner’s work, particularly his stuff in the 80s, that sound similar to each other, but he’s hardly a hack or anything. He’s one of the best adventure movie composers out there, and Trek was lucky to get him when it did.

Same goes for Ron Jones. Another one of the greats.

Thanks for some other informative site. The place else could I am getting that kind of information written in such an ideal approach?
I have a venture that I am just now working on, and I have been on the glance out
for such information.

I must admit to not being a fan of TNG but those early episodes have some great themes. Alas, as you say, the other Treks suffered from a dull drone throughout, a nature of TV then and now, and not Bermans doing. It’s something which continues too today, that and the loss of the opening credits.
As for Horner….if you have heard Battle Beyond the Stars main theme…TWOK! The Titanic hitting the iceberg….Klingon Theme from SFS. or the Aliens attacking… for me personally Horner is a one note wonder… not in Jerry Goldsmiths league.
Back to these CD’s… now must be the time for a Original Series boxset. ‘Bread and Circuses’ for example!!!

Love a lot of the music of Ron Jones.

Quick conspiratorial shout-out for Bear McCreary, too!

Jerry Goldsmith is number one but ron is good too

Heh-heh. The Ron Jones Project sounds like a 70’s Prog Rock band. :)

Not to bash later Trek, and Berman’s decision to let Jones go… but it did suffer from a lack of distinctive music. Occasionally a great sounding score would stand out,from the norm, like Bryan Tyler for Enterprise “Canamar” and “Regeneration” or somebody collaborating with Dennis McCarthy would reintroduce some synth, as in “Terra Prime”. My ears would prick up, but it never seems to last and the guest composer wouldn’t be heard from again…

James Horner hasn’t written a great score since the 80’s. He used to be excellent, but now he’s a hack. Sorry. I’m a film score collector since 1976. I have my favorite composers. Horner used to be one but now he writes sonic wall paper like a lot of other composers do now. It might be softer, prettier sonic wallpaper but it’s sonic wallpaper. Ever since Titanic, everything he writes sounds a lot like Titanic. I suspect he’s trying to recapture lightning in a bottle…either that, or James Cameron likes wussified soft scores. Either way, I gave up on Horner and Williams a long time ago. Honestly, I’m not sure who writes great bombastic and epic scores anymore since I got bored with the style composers use now. If Goldsmith were still alive and in his prime, you’d know what a great composer is! Up until Insurrection, that man could take a mediocre film and make it great just through the music! Now THATS talent!! And probably talent such as we won’t see again in the film industry!

#10 — Ok Rick…sorry…lol!!!!

Oh dear God I want this. Ron Jones’ music rocks!

….And now I have to go re-install Starfleet Command and crank the volume up. His Romulan and Lyran themes for that game are absolutely delicious.

#23 — You’ll love it…and it’s definitely worth the investment! :-)

Wow MJ you are so wrong. AVATAR does sound just like many of Horners other scores and of you can’t hear that then I have little respect for your musical knowledge. Go watch ST III, Titanic and especially Glory, and you willunderstand. Qtips aren’t that expensive, you might want to invest in some.

I love James Horner Trek scores, btw.

I bought this set a year ago, I guess better late than never on the review. Its definitely worth getting.

What a bunch of losers. Throwing away good money for crappy soundtracks from a TV show. Like Shatner said “Get a life”

$150 dollars? ill wait for it on iTunes, TUVM….

No, I just make more money than you, don’t be jealous.

#26 — Horner’s Trek scores and Krull were among his best. Coccoon was great too but it’s true he was mostly recycling his own work and absolutely NOT in the same league as Goldsmith…

#28 — It’s OUR money to “throw away”.

Troll.

No I am not a troll. I like Trek too, but I’m not a fool to have my mouth water over every little toy or cd they throw out to grab your money. They know a lot of Trek people are weak when it comes to crap like this.

Don’t feed the trolls, people.

Totally off-topic here, but it’s been reported that concept artist Ralph McQuarrie has died.

http://www.ralphmcquarrie.com/

RIP

Met

Warning for trolling

FiveMinutesToMidnight

This is great and all, but I just wish they’d release the track they used in Ben Sisko and Kassidy Yates’ wedding. It’s one of my favourite Trek tracks of all time.

#35 — AHHH!! That’s awful news!!! My heros are dieing off…:-(
R.I.P. Mr. McQuarrie — you were sure an influence to me. I still have my Star Wars Portfolio that came out around the same time as the film. This sucks.

#13

Ahh yes, because we all know an Oscar is a pure measure of talent with no politics involved and not an award handed out by old white men patting each other on the back ;)

Horner is infamous for self-plagiarism. He’s done some very good scores (notice I never said he wasn’t a good composer, merely that Ron is a better one) but he tends to rip-off his own work in incredibly egregious ways.

Every composer steals from someone else, that’s hardly news or even a bad thing, really (everything is a remix, etc.). It’s not even news that composers use old scores for new work, it’s just that Horner tends to be really obvious about it.

#35

Very said to hear about McQuarrie, he did great work.

danielcraigsmywookiebitchnow

Why did it take a year and a half and people asking to see a detailed review of this amazing set, Is it even available directly through them any more or just ebay price gougers?

this set came out sept 2010

#36 And what are you going to do. I can can come on here and show you nerds what kind of weak geeks you are.

danielcraigsmywookiebitchnow

you might want to mention the material on the bonus discs (13 and 14) are not available through download on amazon or itunes.

@ 42

Um, Anthony can ban you, since it’s his site. Second, I admit I’m a nerd. I don’t care what you think about that.

@ 23

Ha. I’m not Rick Berman obviously. But I can defend him. But firing Ron Jones and changing the music direction of TNG was a mistake. And you are right. The music for seasons five through seven became music wallpaper since that’s what Berman wanted. It was a problem. Of course, when composers were allowed to write melodies or had to, you had good music. See “The Inner Light.”

danielcraigsmywookiebitchnow

MJ its no secret that he recycles alot (NOT ALL) but a lot of his previous musical cues. listen to his score of cocoon either before or after you listen to star trek II. Listen to the score Rocketeer and star Trek II, listen to his scores for the 2 zorro movies he composed and listen to Star Trek II, listen to his scores for a beautiful mind and bicentennial man and Deep Impact there are major moments in those 3 scores that are note for note flurish for flurish identical to each other. and yes even in Titantic and avatar there are few musical cues which are recycled from his earlier work.

Horner himself has even said he is a fan of finding new twists on his previous work to include into any particular score he is currently working on, sort of as an easter egg to his fans.

I love James Horner, but the guy does recycle his musical cues more than most composers.

danielcraigsmywookiebitchnow

33
The set is well worth the money.
And not just to trek fans,there is a huge market of film and tv score afficinados out there who spend way more than the msrp of this on a single score cd for a rare, limited pressing or out of print score cd.
even on movies or shows that dont have the fan base that trek does.

I dont regret spending my money on this when it was released back in sept of 2010

8 dont forget RJ was also working his musical magic on Ducktales those first few seasons of TNG as well.

#45 — Exactly. You seem to understand my beef with Berman, so why defend him? LOL!!

@ 48

I’m not talking about Berman’s bad decision regarding TNG’s music and for that matter the soft rock song for Enterprise. As much I hate that song, I do admit it grows on me. I just think overall, he gets a beating whenever his name is brought up. He’s done some good work. Producing many of the classic TNG shows.

But here’s a good article from a Trek blog defending Berman. And I liked Deep Space 9, Voyager and Enterprise.

http://startrekdom.blogspot.com/2007/06/in-defense-of-rick-berman-by-jared-buss.html

@ 35

Vultan,

Sorry to hear that Ralph McQuarrie passed away. He not only did work on Star Wars but worked on Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Won an Oscar for Cocoon. (1985) in the visual effects category.

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