June 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Michael McLennan
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster: Len Mullenger

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Joe 90  
Music composed and conducted by Barry Gray
Performed by The Barry Gray Orchestra
Produced by Tim Mallett and Ralph Titterton
  Available on Silva Screen (SILCD-1209)
Running Time: 78:22
Crotchet   Amazon UK   Amazon US

After a long wait, fans of Barry Gray's score for Joe 90 need wait no longer. For those of you who may not know what on earth this soundtrack is for, Joe 90 is a ‘super-marionation’ show from the late 1960's from the same people who produced Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet. The premise of Joe 90 is that young Joe McClaine, the nine year old son of Professor McClaine (who works for W.I.N. - World Intelligence Network), is a secret agent. The Professor has a secret laboratory underneath his idyllic country cottage which houses BIG RAT (Brain Impulse Galvanoscope Record And Transfer), a spherical machine that young Joe can step into and gain the same brain patterns of any individual who has also been scanned. So for example: Joe can become the world’s greatest racing car driver or be a virtuoso pianist or become an astronaut or a test pilot. In other words, live out all the fantasies of the show’s intended young audience.

This is the most technically developed of Gerry Anderson's Century 21 puppet shows, with the characters looking more in proportion and closer to life than his earlier works. Sadly the increased verisimilitude was not matched with success with audiences. As much as was possible for puppet show, Joe 90 relied more on character, dialogue, and less on hardware than shows like Thunderbirds or Captain Scarlet. What it does retain is the superb scoring abilities of regular Gerry Anderson composer Barry Gray, who yet again delivers a multitude of mouth-watering melodies.

One thing Barry Gray never did was talk down to his 'young' audience, and while this is mickey-mousing for sure, it’s done with panache and great integrity. After the usual Century 21 'sting' logo that preceded all of Anderson's shows we get straight into the instantly-hummable 'Main Titles', a theme that was once described to me as 'surf dude music', and it's not hard to imagine a 60's group like The Ventures playing this. The theme gets a workout in various guises throughout the album, a militaristic version in the track 'Splashdown' and even a cowboy version in the track 'Lone Handed 90' for the obligatory 'it was only a dream' episode with Joe back in the Wild West. This piece also includes the talents of the renowned harmonica player Tommy Reilly.

Other great moments within this album are the theme to Hijacked, appearing in 'Mission Tango 120' and 'Showdown At Coletti's Hideout', sneaking-around music that wouldn't be out of place in a Pink Panther film. The theme also appears in the excellent 'International Concerto', which interpolates the appropriate melody of the locale that Joe (who has the brain patterns of a concert pianist) is playing in, a snippet, for example, of the French national anthem for when he's playing in Paris.

All in all this is a superb album, made up from a combination of existing stereo and mono tracks. Silva Screen, in co-operation with Fanderson (the appreciation society for Gerry Anderson), are to be applauded for their work in bringing Barry Gray's music from the vaults and into the daylight for fans old, young, and new, to savour. For me this is a nostalgic trip back to when TV music was at it's finest and composers didn't have a bank of unlimited orchestral samples to work with, and where composers would work their creative juices off to get the best results from just a small ensemble of musicians.

I wholeheartedly recommend this release, and I hope before long we get a release of UFO. If it’s put together with the quality of this package, it will be an essential purchase.

Tim Lines

Rating: 3.5

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