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Section Header
Apollo 13
1995 Regular

1995 Gold

1996 Promo

Composed, Co-Orchestrated, Conducted, and Produced by:
James Horner

Co-Orchestrated by:
Steve Bramson

Score Vocals Performed by:
Annie Lennox

Trumpet Solos Performed by:
Tim Morrison

Surround Sound Album Produced by:
Shawn Murphy
Jim Henrikson

Labels and Dates:
MCA Records
(May, 1995 - Regular/Gold)

MCA Promotional
(February, 1996 - Promo)

Also See:
Legends of the Fall

Audio Clips:
Promotional Album:

3. "All Systems Go" - The Launch (0:28):
WMA (186K)  MP3 (229K)
Real Audio (142K)

4. Docking (0:30):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (238K)
Real Audio (147K)

11. Re-Entry & Splashdown (0:36):
WMA (231K)  MP3 (287K)
Real Audio (179K)

12. End Titles (0:32):
WMA (211K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

See extensive availability information in the Notes section below.

  Nominated for an Academy Award.

Apollo 13
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Buy it... on the promotional album if you own only a handful of James Horner's scores and are in search of the composer at his very best.

Avoid it... if the understated respect that Horner conveys in his rather short score doesn't appeal to your need for more lavishly melodramatic efforts from elsewhere during that era of his career.

Apollo 13: (James Horner) An impressive critical success across the board, 1995's Apollo 13 arguably remains director Ron Howard's most respected film. It examines the events of the near disaster of Apollo 13's mission to the moon from the perspective of the Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks), Fred Haise (Bill Paxton), and Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon), their friends and family, and mission control. Not often does a film with all the traits of a historical documentary stir up such popular interest, but a remarkable collection of cast performances, outstanding special effects, and a variety of awards recognition assisted Apollo 13 in its journey to mainstream acceptance. One of the film's more obvious elements was its music, with an intelligent collection of 1960's pop songs selected for inclusion in the film. Above and beyond that source usage, James Horner's rather short Oscar-nominated score (clocking in at about an hour in length) served as patriotic inspiration for many of the film's more exciting scenes. The year of 1995 was a most impressive one for Horner; fresh off of the overwhelming popularity of the superior Legends of the Fall, he produced two above-average scores for children's films, Balto and Casper. Next came his two Academy Award nominated gems, Braveheart and Apollo 13, and while the legacy of Braveheart has persisted and eventually overshadowed Apollo 13 to a great extent, debates continue within the soundtrack community about which of the two is actually a better fit for its film. In this regard, Apollo 13 triumphs, partly because it works while restraining its understated patriotism so well, and partly because of the film's vastly more intelligent design. There is really no way to appreciate Horner's music fully without also appreciating the high quality of the film itself. The composer's heroic theme epitomizes the patriotic American spirit, and its sincerity and raw, dedicated, and serious power drives the score with the perfect feel of a respectful historical documentary.

Several motifs are utilized by Horner in Apollo 13, but one primary theme defines most of the score. Aside from the inevitable comparisons to Aaron Copland that some listeners will force upon this theme and its noble trumpet sub-motif (in some scores, these complaints are valid, but here they're a stretch), Horner's attitude is distilled with reverence. It never dances and twirls, nor does it try to get cute or bloated, as many believe a score like Independence Day to be. As Horner stated in early 1995, "If you start off with a big score, it sets an audience up for just another sci-fi movie... except Apollo 13 is a documentary; you know where it's going to end. What I'm trying to get out of the story is the idealism." And the distinction between fantasy and stark reality is very strong in Apollo 13. There are indeed moments of whimsical wonder for the dreams of great space exploration, but the score never deviates from the dark and occasionally frightening realities that the dangers of space travel present. The main themes, led by a lonely and simple seven-note rising and falling fanfare for NASA, are dominated by brass, which is appropriate for the American spirit of adventure. Aside from the launching sequence and heroic climax of the astronauts' return, the noble NASA motif and primary theme are performed mostly with solitary trumpet solos by veteran Tim Morrison. The brass represents the far-reaching aspirations of NASA, though maintains the vast and solitary plight of a small space capsule in such an enormous void. The horns often echo off into the distance (in fact, it's built directly into the main theme), which also signifies the vastness of space. The momentous, massively orchestral mounting of theme during the launch sequence can send shivers up a person's spine when combined with the awesome visuals on the screen. The final climactic return to that grand theme unfolds when the capsule emerges from radio silence and the crew is discovered alive. The short choral statement of the theme during Hanks' epilogic dialogue is pure magic.

Beyond the two primary themes exist many other ideas hard at work in Apollo 13. Every part of the orchestra is utilized to its best talents, using the soloists of the ensemble much like mission control collecting ideas during the height of the film's panic. As a brilliant move, Horner employed the voice of Annie Lennox to perform classy wordless vocals twice in the score. Lennox's voice itself has almost a historical significance alone in American culture, and her low tone enhances the dramatic and dark aspect of the score for one crucial cue, "The Dark Side of the Moon." Her voice seemingly represents the moon itself, inviting and beckoning the astronauts towards her, yet forbidding and cold at the same time. The solemn cue lures Tom Hanks' Jim Lovell into a dream-like state, where the heroic brass theme starts to build in his fantasy; as reality sets in, only Lennox's bittersweet voice remains. She returns for a rousing and very enjoyable performance of the title theme at the opening of the end credits (over a powerful synthetic rhythm). Combined with a choir and electronic base, the format of this presentation will remind many listeners of Glory. The synthetic elements and choir are both used with great effect in the score. The pulsating electronics build the momentum as the launch sequence nears lift-off, and represents the technically sophisticated nature of what we are watching. It also establishes the strong beat and determination that the marching snare drums cannot achieve alone. The snare, as in many other Horner scores, is used to a great degree in Apollo 13; it is perhaps more appropriate in this film than a few of the others considering the militaristic and governmental influences in the story. On the other hand, Horner's typical use of a children's choir is always entertaining. This was a period in time when Horner was using the choir in almost all of his scores, and it creates a perfect fantasyland for the Apollo 13 astronauts. Its light, whimsical touch floats like the weightlessness itself, beginning as the crew members take off their helmets in space for the first time and concluding during the slow-motion finale of the film, as to foreshadow future expeditions into space by the Apollo missions.

The score does take a while to get jumpstarted, with the songs chosen for the film dominating early scenes. Once the launch sequence pushes the score into gear, the songs are largely confined to short bursts on the astronauts' tape players (by the start of the landing sequence, the songs are completely absent). Two parts of the score that are rarely discussed are Horner's ideas for tension and panic. The tension is palpable when watching the film, and Horner contributes to it by understating his suspense cues. The "Docking" cue uses a synthetic choral effect along with a slowly marching timpani, string, and wood block rhythm to build to an elegant but subtle climax. The uneasy trumpet solos in this cue are a perfect representation of the balance of confidence and nervousness in the capsule during the scene. The rhythm adds great suspense and even dread to the tricky task of aligning and attaching the two space vehicles; the rumbling holds its breath in a single, pulsating note until the docking is completed, at which time the timpani suddenly quits. In the latter half of the score, Horner pulls out a variety of lightly tapping percussion to accompany mission control and the astronauts during their thought processes. In the cues "Into the L.E.M.," "Carbon Dioxide," and especially "Four More Amps," Horner's slight, but effective use of wood block, snare, and the tingling of cymbals represents the transferring of an electrical current. This interesting technique is expanded upon for the score's one panic cue, "Master Alarm," in which Horner makes the most the crashing, descending piano motif that he introduced a few years earlier (in scores like The Pelican Brief) and would extend into Titanic. The continued tapping of wood block, snare, and cymbal signifies the energy trickling out of the damaged spacecraft, while the frantic bursts from the piano accompany the wildly pitching craft. The cue appropriately ends as suddenly as it began, as Lovell's discovery of the horrifying truth of the situation sinks in. An extension of this sound is more unorganized in the later "Manual Burn" cue, easily the weakest two minutes of the score.

Aside from the music itself, the CD releases of this score are complex enough to make a man's head spin. In sum, there were four official Apollo 13 releases in 1995 and 1996. Universal apparently decided that the quality of the film was so great that its dialogue and sound effects should be mixed into the score and songs for all of its commercial soundtrack releases. Any substantial fan of the film will admit that this decision makes the albums a worthy souvenir, and the superior production quality of the audio in the film is quite interesting to enjoy along with the score. But the score has its own merits that demand attention (apart even from the source songs), and most potential listeners wouldn't be well served by Universal in the end. The regular release (which was the only one available in most stores) contains a frightening amount of dialogue and songs, with little untouched score. There's no reason at all to purchase this product. A "gold edition" edition features practically identical contents, but the music, dialogue and sound effects were digitally transferred into Dolby surround sound on a gold-plated disc similar to the label's treatment of the scores for Schindler's List and Dances With Wolves. Although this was a limited pressing, it was readily available for a few years at regular retail stores (finding it online thereafter is your best bet). If you seek the regular version of the music, complete with all the dialogue, sound effects, and songs, go with the gold edition (unless you don't have the equipment to appreciate it, of course). When pumped through a surround system, the sound of the gold presentation is simply spectacular, especially during the launch sequence. With any luck, your neighbors will be calling the police because of the sound of the rocket rumbling through their living room. The reverb on the "Blue Moon" song by the Mavericks is stellar as well, mirroring the song's prominent and equally echoing mix late in the film. There was also a 2-CD release of Apollo 13 in Australia in 1995, though it contains nothing new; the first CD is identical to the American regular release and the second one only offers more songs from the era.

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For die-hard film score and James Horner fans, though, nothing less than the promotional release will do. The promo is the typical Academy "for your consideration" treatment of the score, with 15 minutes of extra music and the rest thankfully dialogue free. At an hour in sum, it is blissfully unadulterated, and it's highly recommended if you can get your hands on a copy, regardless of whether it was a real pressing or one of the numerous bootlegs that has spawned from it. The sound quality on the promo, though obviously less impressive than the surround sound version, of course, is crystal clear. The only downside of the promo is that the "End Credits" cue is a slightly different mix than that heard on the other albums. An extended version (by a minute) likely matching the film's presentation, the key of the orchestral sequence that follows Annie Lennox's base-enhanced portion at the start is incongruous. For listeners familiar with the mix heard on the commercial albums, it's a bit distracting. Those who make their own compilations of the score may be advised to copy all tracks from the promotional album except for "End Titles," for which the commercial versions are superior. For more information on the differences between all of the various releases of the score, including the ways to determine if you have a genuine promo copy, see the notes section at the bottom of this page. In summary, Apollo 13 is both a classic film and score, the latter leading a very strong field of film scores in 1995. Like Glory and Legends of the Fall before it, Apollo 13 captured the attention of many casual movie-goers at the time of the film's release, bringing an awareness to both film music and Horner's career that would eventually bubble over with Braveheart and Titanic. There is no doubt that this was Horner at his very best; he has produced great scores in the following dozen years, including The Mask of Zorro and its forgotten sequel, but rarely has he hit the nail on the head as squarely as with Apollo 13. Parts of it are certainly underwhelming, and its short length is a necessary side effect of the film's extensive use of songs, but Horner addresses each need of the film with masterful respect. This score is easily among the best of the 1990's. Price Hunt: CD or Download

    Score as Heard in Film: *****
    American/Australian Albums: ***
    Gold Edition Album: ****
    Promotional Album: *****
    Overall: *****

Bias Check:For James Horner reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.13 (in 98 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.19 (in 187,899 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

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 Track Listings (1995 Regular and Gold Releases): Total Time: 72:45

• 1. Main Title* (1:31)
• 2. One Small Step (dialogue) (0:42)
• 3. Night Train - performed by James Brown (3:27)
• 4. Groovin' - performed by The Young Rascal (2:26)
• 5. Somebody to Love - performed by Jefferson Airplane (2:55)
• 6. I Can See for Miles - performed by The Who (4:09)
• 7. Purple Haze - performed by Jimi Hendrix (2:48)
• 8. Launch Control (dialogue) (3:28)
• 9. All Systems Go/The Launch* (6:39)
• 10. Welcome to Apollo 13 (dialogue) (0:38)
• 11. Spirit in the Sky - performed by Norman Greenbaum (3:50)
• 12. House Cleaning/Houston, We Have a Problem (dialogue) (1:34)
• 13. Master Alarm* (2:54)
• 14. What's Going On? (dialogue) (0:34)
• 15. Into the L.E.M.* (3:43)
• 16. Out of Time/Shut Her Down (dialogue) (2:20)
• 17. The Darkside of the Moon* - performed by Annie Lennox (5:09)
• 18. Failure is Not an Option (dialogue) (1:18)
• 19. Honky Tonkin - performed by Hank Williams (2:42)
• 20. Blue Moon - performed by The Mavericks (4:09)
• 21. Waiting for Disaster/A Privilege (dialogue) (0:43)
• 22. Re-Entry & Splashdown* (9:05)
• 23. End Titles* - performed by Annie Lennox (5:34)

* score track composed by James Horner
(track times on packaging incorrect and not given for overlapping dialogue tracks; correct times here)

 Track Listings (1996 Promotional Release): Total Time: 58:31

• 1. Main Title** (2:33)
• 2. Lunar Dreams* (2:39)
• 3. "All Systems Go" - The Launch** (10:19)
• 4. Docking* (2:21)
• 5. Master Alarm (3:04)
• 6. Into the L.E.M.** (5:08)
• 7. The Darkside of the Moon (5:17)
• 8. Carbon Dioxide* (5:42)
• 9. Manual Burn* (1:52)
• 10. "Four More Amps"* (3:20)
• 11. Re-Entry & Splashdown (9:06)
• 12. End Credits** (6:59)

* previously unreleased track
** contains previously unreleased music

 Notes and Quotes:  

James Horner quote from an article published in the L.A. Times (February 13, 1995):

    "If you start off with a big score, it sets an audience up for just another sci-fi movie, except Apollo 13 is a documentary; you know where it's going to end. What I'm trying to get out of the story is the idealism, everything that was great in the guys at Mission Control and in the capsule, the best thing about NASA. And that's a very elusive thing to bring out with a flute, but that's what I want--idealism, in a very different way. If I go with something you don't expect at all, it'll be just magical. My trick is that the films are all so different. I have no high ambitions to win 35 Academy Awards. I just try to be the best at what I can be and work on the best movies I can and not get too wrapped up in the day-to-day ups and downs of it, which is difficult enough."

Availability Notes:

  • The "regular release" (MCAD 11241): Contains rock/pop songs and some of Horner's original score, with dialogue excerpts heard over the music. Regularly priced and in print.

  • The "promotional CD" (MCA3P-3432): Features only James Horner's score with no dialogue. Presumed to be an Academy Award "for your consideration" release, it is not for sale commercially. It includes about 15 minutes of extra music not heard on any of the other releases, and sells for around $50.

  • The "gold edition CD," (MCAD-11316): With only a limited printing, it features a gold-plated "Ultimate MasterDisc" CD and Dolby Surround sound. It contains extra narration and sound effects (more than on the "regular release").

  • The "Australian 2-CD" release (MCAD11241/MCAD211358B): At the same time as the regular edition in America, this set was printed and released only in Australia. The first CD is identical to the U.S. "regular release" and second CD contains extra rock songs. No extra score is included, and cover art is consistent with the other releases.

How to distinguish the promotional version from possible bootlegs:

    The real promotional copies have the following writing on the bottom top of the disc: "Motion Picture Artwork and Artwork Title © 1995 Universal City Studios, Inc. (p) © 1995 MCA Records Inc MCAP-3432." In the center of the authentic promotional CD should be: "MCA3P-3432 A50609Ma," across from "MFG BY UNI."

    The bootleg promotional copies have the following writing on the bottom of the disc: "Motion Picture Artwork and Artwork Title 1995 Universal City Studios, Inc. Promotional CD Only - Not for Sale." In the center of the bootleg CDs is: "201604-2."

    Both feature a black and white cover with the same artwork as the regular releases. However, at the bottom of the promos is written "Original Motion Picture Score from Apollo 13 Composed and Conducted by James Horner" and on the top right is "MCA3P-3432" written sideways.

  All artwork and sound clips from Apollo 13 are Copyright © 1995, MCA Records, MCA Promotional. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 9/24/96 and last updated 1/17/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1996-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.