Spacelab9 has released a four-LP set featuring all of John Williams’ music for the seminal ‘60s sci-fi series Lost In Space, and it is absolutely majestic. Entitled Irwin Allen’s Lost In Space - The Complete John Williams Collection, the slipcase-enclosed collection has each LP on a different colour of vinyl (purple, blue, green, and orange), with notes on the music for each of the four episodes that explain the initial use of each cue, and where they reappeared in successive instalments of the series.
As the listener reads along, they’ll learn that this music would find its way back onto Lost In Space in successive episodes. For example, The Earthquake, from The Hungry Sea, would become the music which played under the ‘Next Week on Lost In Space’ teaser for upcoming episodes and Stranglehold, from Island in the Sky, would become the danger motif for Dr. Smith.
It’s all capped off with an essay by Kevin Burns, entitled Finding Lost in Space, in which he explains the story of how these recordings were discovered in the vaults of 20th Century Fox just weeks before they might have crumbled into dust. In 1990, Burns was ‘still a wet-behind-the-ears promo producer in Fox’s domestic syndication department’, who was searching for clean copies of the music from the series in advance of an upcoming cast reunion in Boston.
Harry Snodgrass, head of 20th Century Fox’s sound department had found the original Williams’ recordings ‘stacked up in pizza boxes over on one of the sound stages’. They were partially eaten by termites - including the music for the first episode The Reluctant Stowaway - and by the time Snodgrass started backing them up to Digital Audio Tape, the then 25-year-old magnetic films ‘were pretty much crumbling to dust during each transfer’.
Thankfully, the rest of the music was successfully transferred, and with the music from The Reluctant Stowaway rescued from the original Fox music and effects split tracks, all of Williams’ compositions for Lost In Space are now together in one location because, as Burns writes, it’s ‘not only important - it’s also damn fine music’.
It’s a soundtrack and science fiction fan’s dream collection, and while the price tag for this ThinkGeek exclusive might be steep, it is absolutely worth it. The listener will find themselves glorying in just how good these early orchestral scores from a now-titan of cinema are, as the music on these four LPs is amazing. While Williams’ main title theme is absolutely iconic, it’s pieces such as The Chariot Continues (also from The Hungry Sea), which give glimpses into the thrilling work for which the composer would be later known on Star Wars. As liner notes ably point out, the score for ‘My Friend, Mr. Nobody presages his ‘brilliant sense of wonder’ on Close Encounters of the Third Kind’.
Sonically, it is a bit hot at times, with certain cues running overly loud on the first LP, which contains the music from The Reluctant Stowaway. The brass instruments push into the red as the music comes pouring out of the speakers, and listening gets a little rough for a touch, at the rate of about once or twice per side. Given that these tracks were rescued almost thirty years ago, and from tapes that had been stored poorly for over two decades, the fact that they exist at all is impressive in and of itself.
Given that there's nary a second of tape hiss or distortion otherwise to be found, minor issues such as a slight tendency to hotness do not at all hamper the experience of sitting in front of one's speakers and glorying at just how wonderful it is to listen to hours of Williams' early work. Over five decades on, the music contained in Irwin Allen’s Lost In Space - The Complete John Williams Collection demonstrates just how important the composer would be to genre music from the very earliest days of his career.
IRWIN ALLEN’S LOST IN SPACE - THE COMPLETE JOHN WILLIAMS COLLECTION / COMPOSER: JOHN WILLIAMS / LABEL: SPACELAB9 / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW