I imagine if you were there in 1964, or grew-up
with The Man From UNCLE then this release is something special. Otherwise
it is more of academic interest, a useful document of a style of scoring which
influenced a decade or more of television and even extended its reach into the
hip and cool side of movies. Film Score Monthly are certainly treating
this release as a major event; it's the company's first ever double album, with
almost eighty minutes worth of music on each CD. The album also comes with a
splendidly produced 28 page colour booklet featuring detailed notes on the development
of the show, the composers and the music selected for the album, written by
film music expert Jon Burlingame. This is the official publicity announcement:
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1964-68) was television's first major spy show, an
hour of high-style adventure starring Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo and David
McCallum as Illya Kuryakin, resourceful agents of a worldwide peacekeeping organization.
Their battles with the international criminal conspiracy Thrush, and other assorted
bad guys, kept audiences enthralled for four seasons on NBC.
Now, the best of all four seasons of U.N.C.L.E. music (over
two and a half hours!) has been assembled into a 2CD set. In addition to suites
drawn from the three first-season Goldsmith scores, the album includes music
by Lalo Schifrin, Morton Stevens, Walter Scharf, Gerald Fried, Robert Drasnin
and Richard Shores. The music is newly remastered from the original monaural
session tapes, with fourth-season music remixed in stereo. Veteran film-music
journalist Jon Burlingame, who has written extensively about the series through
the years, chronicles the entire history of U.N.C.L.E. music in a lavishly
illustrated 28-page booklet.
This is Film Score Monthly's most elaborate production to date,
a long-awaited collection of exciting original tracks from a fondly remembered
'60s classic. This limited-edition release is sure to be a sought-after collector's
item for U.N.C.L.E. fans, Goldsmith aficionados and anyone interested
in great TV music!
Now I'll cheerfully admit that I was never a fan
of The Man From UNCLE, even growing up in the 60's regarding it as a
cheap television attempt to cash-in on the James Bond movies. Nevertheless,
as someone who never saw more than a handful of episodes several decades ago
- and more recently a couple of the dreadful "movies" cobbled together from
two part TV shows - the sound of the music on these discs is instantly familiar.
Following the example set by Jerry Goldsmith, who
defined the sound of the show with his title theme and pilot score, a handful
of composers created a sound which spread throughout the burgeoning TV spy genre
and into such related areas as cop and detective dramas. This is the sound of
American TV for anyone who was watching television in the 1960's and '70's.
Brassy, percussive, jazz-influenced ensemble music with one foot in traditional
techniques, all the while looking towards the current sounds of the 60's and
paying homage to the very different types of cool defined by John Barry and
The album opens with Goldsmith's title theme, and
later contains the versions used for each of the four seasons of the show including
arrangements by Lalo Schifrin and Gerald Fried. The first disc also contains
suites totalling around 38 minutes for the pilot show, The Vulcan Affair, and
the two further episodes scored by Goldsmith, The Deadly Games Affair and The
King of Knaves Affair. The orchestra for the pilot consisted of 27 musicians,
while later recordings featured 15-18 players. Of the first 29 episodes, 14
had original scores, the music then being recycled in typical television style
in later shows. Thus the series developed a distinctive sound as various themes
and motifs recurred throughout each season. The small, string free, orchestras
gave the show a necessarily intimate sound, the composers having to depend heavily
on imaginative colourings rather than massed forces and shear power.
Regular composers were among others Robert Drasin,
Gerald Fried, Lalo Schifrin, Richard Shores, and Morton Stevens, all featured
on these two CDs. The album contains representative suites from 19 episodes,
as well as the title themes and Goldsmith's "Meet Mr Solo", an MOR cocktail
lounge theme penned for commercial release.
As to the scores themselves, they are literally
generic to a fault, in that they actually do define an entire genre. This is
television spy music circa mid-1960's USA. The Goldsmith cues are clearly identifiable
as the composer's work, boasting muscular rhythms and strong brass writing as
well as infectious melodies. As for the rest, well, it does the job. As Jon
Burlingame says, this music was written quickly and meant to be heard once or
twice mixed with dialogue and effects played back through poor quality TV speakers.
That said, the mono sound (stereo for the fourth season suites) is pretty good,
though the recording is nothing special. Likewise the music is functional and
triggers and instant nostalgia trip back the way the world of formula television
used to be. Cult, kitsch and really rather negligible other than as a cultural
artefact, this is what it is; a lovingly prepared and beautifully packaged celebration
of some routine scoring which managed to define untold hours of highly mediocre
television. One for Man From UNCLE devotees and Goldsmith completists.
Gary S. Dalkin