Neil Norman and His Cosmic Orchestra, Greatest Science Fiction Hits

Nic Brown

By Nic Brown

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Greatest Science Fiction Hits

Neil Norman and His Cosmic Orchestra

During the heady sci-fi days of the late '70s, Neil Norman and his Cosmic Orchestra recorded their Greatest Science Fiction Hits: reinterpretations of the theme songs of the greatest science fiction hits ever (most are familiar, but you tell me if you remember the "hit" shows One Step Beyond or Journey Into the 7th Galaxy). Norman's recordings almost all include the foolproof Cosmic formula: lay down a disco beat and then play the theme's melody on top of it with a synthesizer. At times, things sound less than cosmic, but for the most part Norman's primitive synthesizers transcend the sci-fi cliché of a wailing theremin and create something charmingly low-tech and human, like the image of a robot with an obvious zipper on his costume. Things really come to life, though, when Norman breaks out of the disco formula, like his performance of the Star Wars theme as — what else — an intergalactic march with a bossa nova bridge. Brilliant. Or the best thing here, the version of 1951's "Radar (When the Earth Stood Still)," whose angular, rhythmic keyboards sit atop a gritty, urgent rhythm section. Nothing could sound more modern.