Today La-La Land Records just released a new 2-CD limited edition extended soundtrack for James Horner’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which has been totally remastered. There is also a new extensive set of liner notes. TrekMovie talked to the team who put it all together to get the details.
Wrath of Khan soundtrack remastered
“If Genesis is indeed ‘life from death,’ I must return to this place again.”
Good words, and maybe–just maybe–they were in the back of soundtrack producer Neil S. Bulk’s mind when he found out there was a hole in La-La Land Records’ CD release schedule.
“I had thrown out some suggestions,” he said in a recent phone interview with TrekMovie, “and Trek II was one I’d wanted to revisit.”
Bulk worked with veteran music mixer and editor Mike Matessino on Retrograde Records’ 2009 expanded CD release of James Horner’s beloved music for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and to this day remains very proud of that disc. But in the 12 years since, Bulk felt he’d learned a thing or two about how he could make a few things even better. “It may not be radically different,” he said, “but it would satisfy me.”
As it turns out, a surprise awaited him when he requested the master tapes from the studio. “I thought we were going to get the exact same tapes as last time,” he said. “I thought, ‘I know what the inventory is, we’re gonna get these tapes and I can get this done very quickly.’ And what happened was Paramount found a lot more tapes—and it turns out they were the recording sessions. Last time we had selected takes. This time I had the recording session.”
This wealth of material allowed Bulk to create a new two-CD release featuring the original score as presented in the film on disc one, with the original 1982 album release and additional bonus tracks on disc two.
“Everything on the score presentation is from the new high res tape transfers, and so are the bonus tracks. The original soundtrack album tracks are new transfers, but they’re the same tapes that we used for the Retrograde album.” Bulk said that the tracks were also fully remixed and remastered by Mike Matessino. “That specific album program has not been remastered since the first CD came out 30 years ago, so it felt like it was time to do it.”
One of the bonus tracks, titled “Theme of Star Trek II,” is the first CD release of what was a special edit originally released in 1982 as a 45 rpm single—and it’s only there because your humble reporter told Bulk about its existence. “You’re in the thanks because of that!” he told me. “That was one of those things where I didn’t know that existed 11 years ago, nor was there space for it if I did.” And now we can all enjoy it.
Other bonuses include two tracks originally prepared for—but not used in—the 1982 album (“Kirk in Space Shuttle” and “Kirk Takes Command”) and unreleased alternate takes, including two additional versions of “Amazing Grace.”
“The bagpipes are tuned differently and play in a different key than a traditional orchestra,” Bulk explained, “so they recorded two versions of ‘Amazing Grace’—the orchestra part—in different keys [D and E flat] to see which one they could get closer to the bagpipes. And they went with D. So the E flat recording is new to this release. We also did one where we adjusted the bagpipes to better match the orchestra, because we can do that now, digitally.”
Listen to an exclusive sample of “Kirk Takes Command” from the remastered soundtrack below:
New liner notes
Another feature unique to this release: brand new liner notes from Deniz Cordell, who chose to approach his work in an essay style. “There had already been a terrific track by track dissection that Jeff Bond, Lukas Kendall and Al Kaplan did for the Film Score Monthly/Retrograde Records release,” Cordell said. “It just seemed that to do that again would be redundant. The last couple of liner notes I’ve written in the past few years didn’t have a track by track, and I found it liberating. It allows you to find a different way of talking about everything.”
Cordell’s approach, then, was to write the notes that he would like to read. “A lot of people who are going to get this, like me, probably have the Film Score Monthly edition,” Cordell said. “So I kept asking myself: What can these notes provide, so that they might occasionally say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that,’ or ‘Oh, I never made that connection,’ or ‘Oh, I have to listen to that track again.’ I really wanted to find something new, so that the notes would sort of justify their existence. Because the release sounds amazing. I don’t think the score has ever sounded better.”
A key part of Cordell’s approach was conducting new interviews with director Nicholas Meyer, producer Robert Sallin, former Paramount Vice President and Head of Music Joel Sill, James Horner’s widow, Sara, and many others. In the end, he conducted so many interviews that not all of them could be incorporated into the final product.
“I talked to Walter Koenig, and poor Walter had to end up on the cutting room floor,”
Cordell said. “But even if they’re not quoted directly, everyone I spoke to, their insights and reminiscences all deeply informed the way I approached talking about the score and film, and it’s all reflected in the final writing of these notes. It pieced things together for me in a way where I felt like the finished essay could sit comfortably next to the Film Score Monthly liner notes, where they could live nicely side by side.”
One of Cordell’s favorite quotes came from an interview with Jim Henrikson, who served as music editor for the first two seasons of the original Star Trek series and later became one of James Horner’s most frequent collaborators. Henrikson told Cordell about a musical philosophy that Horner shared with him. “The music’s job isn’t to make you cry. It’s to allow you to cry.”
“When he said that,” Cordell remembers, “I thought, well, that has to go into the notes, because it is as sure a crystallization of Horner’s style as I can think of. It really just gets at what makes his film work different from other composers.”
The new edition of the Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan soundtrack went on sale today for $29.98. It is available exclusively as a 2-CD set at lalandrecords.com.