Composed, Produced, and Performed by:
Evan H. Chen
LABEL & RELEASE DATE
Limited online release, initially only available
through the record label's website.
Buy it... only if you have absolutely come to terms with the spin-off show
and know exactly what you're asking for.
Avoid it... if you're looking for anything remotely close to being an
extension of Christopher Franke's better known and vastly superior sound for the
rest of the "Babylon 5" franchise.
Babylon 5: Crusade
: (Evan H. Chen) How quickly can a
successful television show die? Just ask fans of "Babylon 5." No fan of the show,
which ran for five full seasons on the TNT cable channel throughout the late
1990's, will testify that it was a masterpiece compared to feature film
alternatives. But the strength of the show's legacy resides in an immensely loyal
popularity amongst its fans, a loyalty that would be tested when producer J.
Michael Straczynski began seeking new spin-off territory for the concept after its
fifth season. One aspect of the sci-fi adventure show's success was the consistency
of its synthetic music, provided through the run of "Babylon 5" by Christopher
Franke. Undoubtedly, Franke's futuristic electronic style was a perfect fit for the
series, and yet, for the 1999 spin-off series "Crusade," based on the same
general universe, Straczynski decided to employ the talents of newcomer Evan H.
Chen. The classically trained composer's first initiation into the "Babylon 5"
universe was for that show's final film, "A Call to Arms," and, needless to say,
longtime fans (and Chris Franke, for that matter) were shocked. Not only was Chen's
music for that feature completely inappropriate, but it nearly ruined the spirit of
the production. With such monumental changes occurring in the "Babylon 5"
storyline at the time, including the final showdown between President Sheridan and
the allies of the Shadows, the doomed fate of Earth, and the introduction of the
'Excalibur' starship, the score was extraordinarily underdeveloped. It was after
this immense disappointment to fans of the show that Straczynski announced the even
more surprising and disconcerting news that Chen would write all the music for the
forthcoming "Crusade" spin-off, reportedly displacing Franke from the concept
permanently. The producer's bold rationale was that "a new show must have a new
and totally different sound." Expectedly, the mass of "Babylon 5" fans erupted
with immediate disagreement, citing Chen's music as one of the reasons why the
studio cancelled the doomed "Crusade" so swiftly.
It's rare that any album will receive Filmtracks' absolute
lowest rating of "FRISBEE." Every album, even the poorest of them, typically
features some redeeming quality or, at least, appeals to the audience at which
the music was directed. That cannot be said of "Crusade." It's also not unusual
for a score to work brilliantly in its film or show but fail miserably as a
listening experience on album. The delinquency of Chen's music for "Crusade,"
however, spans both realms. There are countless reasons why this music is a bust,
and some of them point to the most fundamental rules of scoring. First and
foremost, the music has no heart or personality. It's a series of barely realized
sound effects and sparse samples strung together seemingly without much thought.
It clunks, clicks, taps, and thumps its way without any sense of larger
development. Libraries of electronic samples were becoming quite accomplished by
1999, and yet Chen decided, for whatever reason, to choose the least compelling
sound effects and string them together in a senseless, atonal series of awkward
movements. Secondly, Chen disobeys the basic rule of respecting scene changes,
whether that entails location or emotion. The same constantly droning music
continues from one scene to the next without any change in tone or inflection.
Drastic or beautiful events could unfold on screen (or even something as mundane
as the Excalibur dropping into normal space) and Chen's music piddles along as
though absolutely nothing happened. Thirdly, the Eastern influences in the music
have nothing to do with the content in the stories, making the sound a forced
representative of all potentially alien cultures. Lastly, and maybe the most
amazing failure of the music, is Chen's total inability to capture the emotional
tone of any of the scenes. Instead, he has a habit of completely ruining a scene
with music that does not adjust to meet the tension level of the action or
Additionally, Chen's lethargic and uninspired main title music
is completely devoid of the spirit or character that Franke always used to
illuminate the beauty and epic scope of the grand, futuristic premise. The title
sequence for "Crusade" was the subject of jokes because of its grammatical
errors, and Chen's barely registering theme ensured that environment of mockery.
Outside of this wretchedly boring title music, there aren't many aspects of
individual cues presented on the show's album release that merit discussion.
The remarkably poor "My Way" cue stoops to the usage of laughing infant and
squeezable baby toy sound effects. The "Future Pleasure" and "Rainbow" cues
are so jumbled or grating in presentation that their only conceivable purpose is
to irritate. Overall, with no theme, no consistent tone, no identifiable style,
no respect for scene, no explanation for the Chinese elements in the concept, no
logical reason for the change in composer, and few qualities that adhere to the
fundamental definition of music, Chen's work for "Crusade" is a disaster. It
contributed to the premature death of the show, and the massive 68+ minutes of it
on album will tell you why. It was released by Franke's Sonic Images label, long
the provider of episodic and compilation music from the "Babylon 5" series. It
was advertised as a "web-only" release (only for purchasing through the Sonic
Images site), and, by some amazing reports, it was rumored to have initially sold
quite well. Fans of the show would have much preferred the release of another
batch of episodic scores by Franke, or the long delayed prospect of a third major
compilation from the entire run of the show. Instead, those fans were treated to
an album of uninteresting and nonfunctional music, a total mess that at best
might be considered some kind of twisted, alternative new age album. The only
redemption for "Babylon 5" fans is the sad fact that the concept languished for
years, killing Chen's involvement, before an attempted comeback in the late
2000's marked the return of Franke for the straight-to-DVD release of "Babylon
5: The Lost Tales." As the adage goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" FRISBEE @Amazon.com: CD or
Total Time: 68:14
1. Main Title (1:30)|
2. Hyperspace (5:46)
3. Future Pleasure (2:46)
4. Elizabeth (3:39)
5. Galen's Wrath (4:42)
6. Sorrow (6:57)
7. Shanghai Tan (2:58)
8. Patterns of Soul (6:41)
9. Alwyn's Story (6:13)|
10. Mars Dome (5:03)
11. Battlestation (3:15)
12. Rainbow (2:22)
13. Visitors (6:24)
14. Invasion (5:37)
15. My Way (3:09)
16. End Credits (0:36)
The insert includes long comments from Chen and Straczynski, but
curiously lacks credits. The comments from Straczynski are as follows:
"When the time came to consider music for "Crusade," the easiest thing in
the world to have done would be to call Christopher Franke, whose stellar work
made sister-series "Babylon 5" something sonically magnificent. The dangerous
thing is to reach out and try new things, to experiment. Chris is an artist,
Chris understands: a new show must have a new and totally different sound.
And for this new series, we wanted a very particular sound, something I hadn't
heard before. We found that blend quite by accident, when Even Chen's first demo
CD came in the door of Babylonian Productions. It blended Western sensibilities
with Eastern scales, Chicago jazz with an industrial sound, even using Chinese
musical scales to give otherwise ordinary music a suddenly different
sound...laying in a high, reedy flute on top that, as Evan says, seems to go
nowhere, then bringing up a hard rhythm underneath it.
It was something I'd never heard before. Classically trained, a product of the
best training in both the East and the West, Evan Chen created a sonic imprint
unlike anything used on any previous science fiction TV series...and it's a mark
of a true artist that this first soundtrack is being released by Chris
They are brothers in art, and the only two musicians to work within the confines
of the "Babylon 5" universe. Enjoy."