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100 GREATEST TV THEMES, Volume 2

Disc One: 25 Tracks (Playing Time = 70:47)

Disc Two: 25 Tracks (Playing Time = 70:31)

Disc Three: 25 Tracks (Playing Time = 69:10)

Disc Four: 25 Tracks (Playing Time = 76:26 )

Tracks produced by James Fitzpatrick, Michael Jones, Rick Clark, and A.R. Dom Swan. The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Carl Davis, Nic Raine, Kenneth Alwyn, Derek Wadsworth, and James Fitzpatrick; the Daniel Caine Orchestra; London Music Works; the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Geoffrey Burgon; Michigan Music Works; the London Ensemble; the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Mike Townend; and the Jiri Nedoma Trio. Also features the Crouch End Festival Chorus, the Williams Family Singers; the Rembrandts; Mark Ayres, synthesizer; Nigel Beaham-Powell, synthesizer/samples; Hal Lindes, synthesizer; Who’s Who; Marie Kopecka, soprano; Richie’s Funk Team; and Lesley Garrett, soprano. Recorded by John Timperly, Glenn Browne and Gary Thomas. Compiled and mastered by Rick Clark. Artwork and design by Damien Doherty.

Silva Screen Records 1240

Rating: ***1/2

 

You might have missed Volume One of Silva’s television music collection, but here is their second outing already and it is massive. Music from 100 different television programs spread across four discs comes out to over 4 ½ hours of playing time. There is a variety of television music from the past 30 years or so on display here. There are large orchestral versions of some of these themes, or suites as in the opening music from 24. The approach makes this a far more listenable experience than those double-disc surveys of original TV themes with their minute-length presentations. Original versions of the themes are useful to fans of those series but in this case one gets a survey of music in better sound, if not always in great performances with tempos essentially dead on throughout. It would be exhaustive to overview each of the 100 tracks presented here but there are plenty of highlights. If you are a fan, or a child, of 1980s TV there is a lot to like throughout the release with plenty of Mike Post themes strewn throughout the four discs. There are some fun unique surprises along the way as well.

Most of the performances are by the Daniel Caine Orchestra which appears to be a modified jazz ensemble with brass and occasional strings. This means that many of these tracks include some central improvisational passages. The sax solos are a little rough in quality, which works fine in places like the music for 21 JUMP STREET. Occasional brass intonation issues do not distract usually. Performances by the City of Prague Philharmonic appear throughout the disc in quite passable . Newer electronic studio recordings from things like the London Music Works (apparently a modified acoustic and programmed ensemble which may be replacing the synth realizations provided by Mark Ayres for the label, though some of his work is included as well). Geoffrey Burgon appears with the Philharmonia in recordings of his own music work for British television. Many UK shows are represented here familiar perhaps only for the TV junkie. (For example, disc one includes a track from CAPTAIN PUGWASH an UK John Ryan animated series that ran from 1957-1966.) Something unfortunate in this packaging is the lack of dates for the various shows included. It is also an educated guess that a lot of these are repackaged here from various other Silva presentations. Most likely you will not get much duplication here. Each disc moves back and forth from American and British television themes and from quite familiar shows to the obscure.

Disc One opens with a suite of music from 24 including some electronic sounds placed against a full orchestra. Then we are off into several selections from 80s TV, including an overlong performance of the theme from ALF. That these semi-urban jazz themes with their mostly non-string arrangements are included mixed in with things like Gounod’s “Funeral March of a Marionette” (used as ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS theme) makes for some variety in the release. Of particular interest to fans will be the orchestral theme presentations of music by Lee Holdridge (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and BUFFALO GIRLS), Kamen’s theme from BAND OF BROTHERS (followed here by the theme for BARNEY MILLER!), and Burgon’s music from BLEAK HOUSE and THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA. Arthur Rubinstein fans will enjoy the availability of music from BRING ‘EM BACK ALIVE (one of two Indiana Jones knock-offs that made it briefly to TV) and CHINA BEACH. Also fun on this disc is an orchestral performance of the theme from 1976’s CHARLIE’S ANGELS.

The second disc features a mildly successful vocal rendition of “The Good Old Boys” (from THE DUKES OF HAZARD) and the original (?) cover of “I’ll Be There For You” (FRIENDS) by The Rembrandts. Three selections from various CSIs open the disc performed by some group humorously called “Who’s Who.” They are passable but overlong. Nice surprises on this disc include Elfman’s theme for DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, Howard’s E.R. theme, and the “newer” theme for KOJAK by John Cacavas (in a performance by the Royal Philharmonic). Fans of British TV will like the inclusion here of the theme from FAWLTY TOWERS, but this disc tends to stick closer to American television including music from recent series like HOUSE M.D.. There are several selections from Mike Post’s many series on this particular disc (HARDCASTLE & MCCORMICK, HOOPERMAN, HUNTER, and LAW AND ORDER). Daniel Caine’s group performs these along with highlights that include music from HEAD OF THE CLASS, Fielding’s HOGAN’S HEROES theme, and music from EERIE INDIANA (oddly quite interesting), EVENING SHADE, FAMILY TIES, and others. Many of the themes on this disc are heavily influenced by rock and pop styles. The one big “movie music” orchestral theme is Elmer Bernstein’s HOLLYWOOD AND THE STARS from that one season documentary in 1963-64.

Goldsmith fans take note that disc three includes three minutes of music from POLICE STORY and the main title for QBVII. There are more familiar names on this disc as a whole which includes Giacchino’s LOST theme, Edelman’s MACGYVER, Mancini’s REMINGTON STEELE, and a couple of Morricone themes (for MOSES THE LAWGIVER and THE MEN FROM SHILOH—aka THE VIRGINIAN). Themes from MORK AND MINDY, QUINCY, NIGHT COURT, and SIMON AND SIMON will send some down memory lane. There is an extended performance of THE SIMPSON’S theme (featuring some of the tacked on chorus line dance segments). Given the composers represented here it is no wonder that this is easily the more interesting disc as a whole.

The final disc likely will appeal more to fans of British television and features an odd collection of relatively lesser known series or cult favorites, many of them one season wonders. Some things worth noting include the only recording of Elfman’s theme for the short-lived SLEDGE HAMMER on CD (?). The disc also ends with that 1970s soap opera theme classic, Barry Devorzon and Perry Botkin, Jr.’s THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS in a full orchestra performance conducted by Fitzpatrick.

This is a massive and important overview of television music unlike anything we are likely to see—until volume 3 appears! Sound throughout is excellent. The set is packaged in a standard multi-disc box with the slim booklet featuring nothing more than title, performer, and publisher information. At the very least this is a great musical trip down memory lane for even the casual TV fanatic, especially those interested in series from the past 20-30 years. Personal preferences for a less seemingly random presentation aside, this is hard not to recommend, though the potential for subsequent “Great 1980s TV Themes” or “Great TV Drama Themes” may be in the Silva crystal ball. Hunting down Silva’s first volume of Greatest themes 1-100 might make a full weekend’s worth of musical enjoyment.

 

-- Steven A. Kennedy , 5 August 2008

Comments regarding this review can be sent to this address: stev4uth@hotmail.com

 


 

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