CD Review by Gregory S. Burkart
At this point I couldn't imagine seeing an episode of Battlestar Galactica without hearing the surging, heart-pounding strains of Bear McCreary's unforgettable score. If it were missing or replaced, even for a single episode, the whole thing would feel unbalanced and wrong. I'm not alone in this, as fans of this show (which includes practically everyone who has ever turned on a television set in the past 5 years) are quick to mention in their praises. Thankfully, we don't have to worry about the absence of this music, as Bear's apparently with us for the long haul (such as it is ? there's only one season left, after all).
From the outset, that percussive crazy-quilt score became permanently cemented to the Galactica experience: the tense opening strings of the prologue sequence; the taiko tribal drumming that drives the space battles and the haunting solo violins and female wails underscoring moments of crisis and heartbreak... but his style truly comes to full flower in the third season as he expands his sound spectrum to include even darker colors than before, spiraling into despair as the characters head toward what seems like certain doom in the forthcoming Season 4 (right around the corner, kiddies!).
All the familiar motifs are here: the Celtic uileann pipe themes representing the Adama family (?Admiral And Commander?); thunderous tribal drumming to convey the heart of a warrior culture (used to the fullest in ?Precipice? and ?Storming New Caprica?); pensive Philip Glass-style solo piano (?Battlestar Sonatica?); bluesy slide guitar (?Dirty Hands?) and the cascading waves of sitar and duduk pipe (?Mandala In The Clouds?) that signify the spiritual threads intricately woven through the story.
There is a greater ethnic diversity at play here, but not once does it come across as an attempt to homogenize a wide assortment of cultural styles into one big ?otherworldly? tribal fusion blob. Instead, I get the feeling that McCreary, along with the series' creators, set out to capture the essence of various nomadic cultures (such as Bedouin, Roma or Adivasi), all of whose musical styles reflect the search for a new place to call home.
If the rest of this material was substandard, I would still recommend this CD on the basis of the final track, a truly spectacular rendition of Bob Dylan's classic ?All Along The Watchtower? (by Bear's brother, Brendan ?Bt4? McCreary), which memorably accompanied the final moments of the Season 3 finale, giving epic weight to the jaw-dropping revelations in those concluding scenes. Despite the fact that just about everybody's covered this song since its inception ? with Jimi Hendrix's take eclipsing Dylan's in most people's memories ? this version will surely become the stuff of legend among Galactica fans for its gut-wrenching intensity and cinematic scope, rendered beautifully on a wide range of both traditional and rock instruments (including solo guitar by Steve Bartek, formerly of Oingo Boingo). The song is so integral to the season's story arc that it is referenced in ?A Distant Sadness? from the premiere episode, and finally works its way into the penultimate track ?Heeding The Call,? which essentially baits the hook for the climax.
Fans of the series (isn't everyone at this point?) can rejoice at the arrival of this CD, and most importantly occupy their minds as they wait in feverish anticipation of Season 4... but even disassociated from its cult TV rep, this CD would be a worthy addition to anyone's music collection. The emotional content and technical excellence represent an artist in top form, and he continues to grow with each release. Fortunately, we'll soon be treated to at least one more round...