This showcases some of Herrmann's best and most notable work for science fiction and fantasy in five variably lengthy suites. Unforunately (for me at least) it starts with Journey to the Centre of the Earth which is a Herrmann score that has never inspired me a great deal. It does, however, offer one fantastic moment and that is the opening track which you would be forgiven for mistaking for the ominous strains of Danny Elfman's Batman as this uses the same five note motif. Herrmann uses it in a much slower and majestic way. That coupled with some great harmonies in the loud brass chords at the apex of the music makes for a thrilling start. The remaining selections feature Herrmann at the height of his fascination with curious orchestral texture and orchestration. The Giant Chameleon has lots of low farting brass that I honestly didn't find that inspiring. The rest is decent enough music, but it just doesn't sound like Herrmann was inspired as he should have been on this score. The next selection however is possibly my favourite Herrmann fantasy score which was for The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. The Overture is certainly my preferred non-Hitchcock overture and is absolutely thrilling. The Skeleton Duel is another classic, featuring tuned wooden percussion (xylophone) to mirror the rattling bones clattering away. Baghdad suggests the mystery of the city, but in this instance ends with a brief reprise of the Overture material. As with so many of these Herrmann re-recordings, the tempo is a little on the slow side, particularly in the Duel where the fight is rather geriatric sounding.
The Day the Earth Stood Still's original recording has such a peculiar atmosphere about it simply due to the recording techniques and performance that any other recording sounds a little too pristine in comparison to the crackly original tapes. However, most of the major motifs are included, the eerie theremin Prelude (Outer Space essentially), the thundering brass for Gort the Robot. Only the patriotic trumpet part doesn't appear at all. Tempo in this case is comparable to the original, although the piano rumbling in Radar could be a little more sprightly. Fahrenheit 451 was perhaps a more serious effort all round and despite having some sci-fi stylings, has a much more mature and ultimately more satisfying tone to it. With the Road and Finale being one of the most beautiful cues in the Herrmann canon it is an essential listen. I would, however, possibly recommend the longer re-recording made by Joel McNeely - also since the warmer recording suites this score better than the very clear Phase 4 recording.
Gulliver's Travels which is an extended suite from The Three World's of Gulliver features around half of the released score, although many of the tracks have different names to those originally used. This is some of the most whimsical music that Herrmann wrote, but is utterly delightful and charming. I don't think I ever expected to describe any of Herrmann's music like that. The Overture is a pompous 18th Century styled piece that sounds nothing like anything else by Herrmann, with perhaps the only hints being the occasional emphasis on the very high or the very low that suggests the very small and very large characters that Gulliver meets. The music generally follows in a similar vein, very much a pastiche of polite chamber music, but with perhaps a little more fun than the rather uptight music that it resembles. As the original score album is in mono and getting a little hard to locate, this is a good alternative and provides with the lion's share of the music on the original.
A good album where the Phase 4 Stereo is put to good effect and the unusual microphone placing works to the advantage of the music in most instances. Perhaps only the slightly lax tempo in some places makes the music seem less dynamic than it originally did.