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Comments about the soundtrack for Robotech (Various)

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Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review
• Posted by: Todd China
• Date: Sunday, May 3, 2009, at 8:35 a.m.
• IP Address:

(The following donated review by Todd China was moved by Filmtracks to this comment section in May, 2009)

Robotech: The Perfect Soundtrack Collection: (Various) The 1980's was a great time to be a kid. As an elementary school student, I used to go over to my grandparents' house every afternoon after school to watch cartoons such as "Voltron," "The Transformers," and "G.I. Joe." I used to wake up every morning at 7:00 and watch Robotech. I was too young to fully appreciate how great the show was when it first aired in 1985, but I rediscovered the series in high school and in college. Robotech was more than a toy commercial; it was an epic, character-based, romantic space opera that spanned three generations. Even my dad thought Robotech was cool. The 85 episode series was made up of three unrelated Japanese anime series which Carl Macek obtained and combined into a saga of three parts: The Macross Saga, The Robotech Masters, and The New Generation. In order to accomplish this, a few lines of dialogue were altered in the translation, and new scenes involving the Robotech Masters were produced and inserted into The Macross Saga. The general consensus is that the first and third installments were good, and the middle one sucked. Musically, an entire library of score and songs was newly created for the American version of the series. As many as five different composers contributed background score and songs, but the principals were Ulpio Minucci and Arlon Ober.

The music of Robotech was very much in the sci-fi film scoring style of John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith (Arlon Ober cited Goldsmith as one of his biggest influences). A traditional orchestra, along with electric guitars, synths, and drum sets, performed the score. I have always loved the Star Wars-like main title of Robotech, with its heroic trumpet march and swirling woodwind runs. Perhaps a regular orchestral percussion section could have benefited this theme, as the use of drum sets instead of tympani gives it an odd contemporary rock sound. The main title was Minucci's most valuable contribution to the score; he wrote a handful of other cues, but nothing else he wrote was nearly as good. The main title does go through some interesting variations in the score. A lonely muted trumpet plays the theme as we see scenes of desolation from the alien wars (Desolation). My favorite version was the use of a solo oboe on the theme as characters contemplated their hopelessly messed up romantic relationships (Love Theme). For example, the love theme plays when poor Lisa Hayes considers knocking on Rick Hunter's door while standing in the rain, all alone and forlorn.

Robotech does not offer much in the way of compositional innovation or thematic complexity. What it does offer is a lot of memorable melodies and orchestral licks that immediately bring to mind specific moments in the Robotech series. Rick Hunter has a dashing, rock-based saxaphone theme (Rick Hunter's Theme) that plays whenever he does something daring or brash, such as interrupt the SDF-1 ceremony with a fly-by during the very first episode. The Zentraedi, a race of humanoid giants sent by the Robotech Masters to reclaim the SDF-1 flagship from earth, were given a menacing theme on electric guitars (Zentraedi Theme). Another enjoyable cue (Alien Attack) features lower register piano on the downbeats and weird synth sounds on the upbeats, followed by a desperate sounding electric guitar and orchestra theme that plays whenever the Zentraedi are on the attack. For the New Generation, a creepy synth theme was introduced for the Invid. In addition, there was also an enjoyable syncopated synth action cue (Cyclones) for all those cool scenes of the Cyclones in action.

Remember that relentless sixteenth note theme that played on the electric guitars (Battle Stations) every time the enemy was approaching? We'd see close-ups of the bridge officers informing Captain Gloval that "Enemy ships are approaching!" Skull Squadron would spring into action as Lisa Hayes' voice proclaimed on the intercom, "All hands to battle stations --this is not a drill!" Then an equally exciting rock orchestral cue (The 15th Squadron) would play over scenes of the Veritech fighters and the Zentraedi pods in action. Remember when Zentraedi ace pilot Miriya Parano shrinks herself to human size in order to hunt down and kill her human nemesis, the bespectacled, blue-haired Max Sterling? The Robotech theme underscores their videogame duel as Miriya realizes that she is playing against her nemesis. Later, a wild, jagged piano motif (Confrontation) underscores the following scene in which Miriya attempts to assassinate Max, who is in love with her. Harp arpeggios and sad violins (the second half of Broken Heart, which plays over every "big emotional" scene) accompany the scene as Max and Miriya end up in each other's arms.

In one of the biggest moments of the entire series, Zentraedi lord Dolza assembles his entire fleet in a move to obliterate earth. Lynn Minmei sings "We Will Win" as the humans and Zentraedi defectors stage a desperate battle to save the earth. This was one of the best uses of songs in the Robotech series. Overall, the songs in Robotech are highly sentimental (even sappy) and the lyrics can get corny, but they all exude sincerity. "We Will Win" was the best song in the Macross Saga, while "My Time to Be a Star" is simply embarrassing. Reba West, the actress who played Lynn Minmei, also performed the songs. She initially refused to sing and was only induced to perform after her fellow voice actors got her drunk (That explains a lot). The song disc also features songs from The New Generation, Robotech: The Movie, and Robotech II: The Sentinels. The songs from the little-seen movie are all decent, except for "Saved by Science," which is just plain bad. Yellow Dancer's songs are all enjoyable enough, although their 80's synth-pop sound really dates these songs. A genuinely heartfelt and inspiring song is "To Be Together," from the wedding of Rick Hunter and Lisa Hayes in The Sentinels. This is a beautifully written and performed song about love and commitment. Many Robotech fans loved this song so much that they used it at their own weddings. Meanwhile, the synth instrumentals in The Sentinels, meant to give a more futuristic feel to this ill-conceived, badly written, and ultimately aborted sequel to Robotech, is mostly boring, cheesy, and lame.

This soundtrack, despite its "Perfect" appellation, is not quite complete. Several cues are missing, most notably the high register piano version of "We Will Win." During the production of this album, some of the original master tapes either could not be found or were damaged beyond repair. Instead, in the case of the instrumental "We Will Win," there is an alternate, lower range piano version of the theme included on the album. The sound quality overall is excellent, with two exceptions: "Roy Fokker's Theme" and the Robotech "End Titles." Sometimes it just doesn't pay to be a fan of a cult animated sci-fi series from the 80's. Streamline also released a "perfect" VHS collection, which featured both the original subtitled Japanese version and the American version of Robotech. This project was never carried to completion. The likelihood that this series will ever be reissued on VHS or DVD is remote. But thank God for this 10th anniversary soundtrack. We will always have the music. ****

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