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.
Find more Star Trek merchandise news and reviews at TrekMovie.com.
Wow. This could be a purchase.
I wonder if The Search for Spock will get one more re-do. I didn’t get the expanded OST on release and these two are the only ones missing from my collection. Though I’ve only got 20th Anniversary edition of TMP.
Hmmm…. I’m not so sure this is worth picking up. I do have that last album and as much as I love the score it just doesn’t seem like enough inducement to spend the money. I’ll think on it some more however.
Jumped on this quickly and ordered. I have the ST:TMP special release they did a long time ago and it is amazingly well done. It’s also impossible to find anywhere so glad I bought it when I did.
Tempting, but I would be very happy with an iTunes release too. Digital Hi-Fi has come a long way.
Digital releases are tough to do on an album like this. It takes a 3rd party like La-La Land Records to make a deal to combine material owned by one entity with material from another company. In the case of Star Trek II, the original album tracks are licensed from Warner Music Group while the unreleased material belongs to Paramount Pictures.
La-La Land Records would not be granted the digital rights, so the best way of releasing this is on CD.
Thanks for the reply Neil!
For people who want a nice digital copy, buy the CD to support La-La Land’s efforts and just rip the CD in a lossless format and call it a day :-)
That’s exactly what I do with all of the things I buy from La-La Land/Intrada/Varese. The problem with this specific release is that when you rip it in anything other than Windows Media Player, it places several tracks in their own folders and containers, and mis-identifies the artist as the track name, probably as a result of the reasons you mentioned with property vs licensing. Quite a mess to clean up and get it right.
there are only two programs you should use for ripping CDs to lossless or lossy file formats.
for windows, use exact audio copy:
for macOS, use XLD:
both pull tags from freeDB/CDDB, and all of those tags are editable before ripping (in case there are mistakes).
What about a vinyl release was that at all considered.
This was always intended as a CD release.
I’m leaning toward ordering one, but…
I’ve heard that in most digital media, a higher res original *does* sound better in a lower res final… particularly as explained in articles I’ve read about Buray and DVD. If I understand correctly, the audio source material for this new CD is higher res than CD audio (but can’t be released as a FLAC download, for example, for reasons Matt explains in a comment).
Can anyone speak to the probability that the CD will sound different (better?) than the last CD from a few years back? Perhaps the new mix/remaster is what will distinguish it, more than the fidelity?
I’m genuinely asking… not trying to instigate anything… my tech knowledge is more than some, but less than others. 😊
Thanks for any insights you may have!
I have my copy and can say I certainly does. The “sound” is the same, however this release is fuller, slightly warmer, and I can hear more detail, especially in the strings, and the brass, and really everywhere. It is also noticeably not “pinched” in the way the OST or the 2009 Retrograde release were.
The previous releases can be traced back to the 3-channel (Left-Center-Right) digital recording, and an analog backup of that recording, while this release was made from the Analog backup recording made at the same time as the digital recording.
The digital recording at the time was remarkable in many ways, but it was very early digital technology, which meant it was limited in terms of dynamic range and bitrate, leading to it sounding a little pinched etc.
The Analog tapes they found for this release does not have that restriction, and combined with improved production techniques from Neil S Bulk and Mike Matessino, and the high-res digital encoding you mentioned above, make this a considerable upgrade.
If you have not done so, please do yourself a favor and get this.
Thanks for your post… really appreciate it!
I always wondered why the spacesuits had a handle on the front. Just so a genetically-engineered superman could lift it? Why would he even need a handle? And did he have assistance in real life?
The handle must have been added just for the lift; the suits were reused from TMP, in which they did not have the handles.
Oh, this was an insta-buy!
“The bagpipes are tuned differently and play in a different key than a traditional orchestra,”
This is where we are at with going back to the well so many times.
I wonder what the 2030 re-issue will sound like. I have literally 5 versions of this soundtrack over 30 years.
It’s my fault for buying the same thing over and over again.
Like a poor marksman, I keep. mising. the. target. on the other releases so I’m quite happy to have ordered this one. But – I don’t like them digitally monkeying with key changes decades after the fact. I could just buy a Prague Orchestra cover version if I wanted not quite but almost original orchestrations. I much prefer entirely original recordings (with the standard cleaning and such of course)
We present the adjusted version as a bonus track. The track in the main program on disc 1 is not altered.
woot woot! Make no mistake – I’m quite excited for this to arrive. Thanks for the good work!
The Trek movie that just won’t die. ever. Bow down before KHAAAAAAAN!!!!!!
I ordered it immediately upon hearing about it. I do wish that there were a blu-ray audio version. But, I am happy with this.
After I read this, I needed to take a four hour drive.
Nothing can be better than the windows rolled down, speeding through the summer air, passing and being passed by cars and trucks with BATTLE IN THE MUTARA NEBULA at full blast.
Mutara Nebula AND Genesis Countdown and I agree with you!!
Bit of a late reply, but my mind is on this score and release. I find some cues, such as the above mentioned and especially Surprise Attach have a way of making my accelerator foot heavier …
If only I had a CD player…
Chris, CD players are cheap and plentiful. Ever set foot In a thrift store?
An external cd to attach to a computer via USB ran about $12 the last I looked.
Not even a DVD or Blu-ray player?
Mine just arrived and I was very excited to open it. I haven’t listened to it yet, but upon opening the case to look at disk 2, I’m pretty sure the CD case broke. I’m not messing with it too much so it doesn’t break any further, but the part that’s supposed to swing open, the middle part that the disks are actually sitting on, seems to have not opened on the hinge but actually cracked and is bending. It’s hard to explain. Has anyone else received theirs and experienced anything similar?
I may have spoken too soon. This it might just be how this opens. I’ve never seen it before but my wife seemed to be familiar with it. Hopefully it’s ok!