Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Neil Norman is a legend.

When I was a teenager I bought his two LPs of science-fiction TV and movie theme cover-versions.

Upon listening to them, my intial feelings were ones of disappointment, as I realised that I had blown my pocket money on records that didn’t contain the original versions. Yet over the years, Norman’s sheer funkiness hooked me in a way that I never saw coming.

I remember in 1984 when I went to see Star Trek III in London – those were the records the cinema was playing as we sat there waiting for the movie to start. And many’s the time that I’ve come across the original scores and recognised them purely because I’d heard Neil Norman’s arrangement so many times.

As a result, twenty years on, I’m still playing them.

And so, it turns out, is he.

It seems that, since I was a kid, Norman and his pals have been busy, funking-up an encyclopaedic number of film and TV themes, and this album is just one of many CDs they now have to their name. And, just as I have fought against growing-up for most of my life, these guys appear to have been embracing the nerdiness of their youth too, and even been watching the same TV shows as me. The X Files, Babylon 5, Xena, Hercules, even The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai is on here, lovingly performed with respect and shamelessness.

Even in his sleeve-notes he encourages his audience to ignore all those boring cynics, and embrace the fun. Here’s what he says about his original composition Conquest Of The Thaxton Nebula:

"I composed this in the middle of nowhere at my ranch in Central California near Point Conception. I had the wits scared out of me while on my late night constitutional by a midnight launch of a spy satellite from Vandenberg AFB over the next range of hills. A short time after the 2nd stage separation I was bathed in a fine mist of assymetrical hydrazine!"

My favourite track though had to be the Star Trek Encounters one. Not only do he and his band attempt to seriously evoke the wonder of the Star Trek legend, but they also repeatedly charge into wild cover versions of famous incidental music from the show. Vena’s Dance, Spock’s battle against Kirk on Vulcan in Amok Time, the Klingons’ theme from the movies and later, it’s all here. They might as well have titled this track 'Suite from Futurama'.

Rarely does my appreciation of orchestral music stretch to actually shedding a tear, but sometimes, when I find something to be really really funny, to me that's beautiful.

Long live Neil Norman and his Cosmic Orchestra!

(available here)

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