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Film Music Review (Volumes 1-7)





JOE 90 (1968)


28 Tracks (Total Time: 78:22)

Music composed and conducted by Barry Gray. Album produced by Tim Mallett and Ralph Titterton. Original sessions engineered by Bob Auger, John Richards, and Keith Grant. Digital Transfers by Phil Farlow Audio Services. Additional transfers by Andrew Frampton and Tim Mallett. Mastering by Andrew Lang at K & A Productions. CD article researched and written by Cathy Ford. Additional research by Martin Townley. Art direction and design by Damien Doherty.

Silva 1209

Rating: ****


JOE 90 lasted all but a season from 1968-1969 with only 30 episodes. Like all the Gerry Anderson productions, this one has its devoted followers. After many years of wondering if Barry Gray’s music for the Gerry Anderson television series JOE 90 would ever see a CD release, Silva has released this superlative collection of music from the cult favorite. The music here is pieced into single tracks for some of the episodes. Along the way there are tracks for the “Main Titles” and some individual cues such as “The Colonel’s March” from the episode “ Colonel McClaine.

The music Gray composed for JOE 90 is interesting because it serves a bridge between his music for previous Anderson productions and that for his music that would be written for SPACE:1999. There are some instances of 1960s pop/rock sound evident in places, but for JOE 90 Gray seems to have followed more along the lines of underscoring a spy series taking a cue from Barry without simply copying the style or approach. The dramatic underscoring is a bit more sophisticated in JOE 90 than in earlier scores providing more thematic material within an individual cue or enough of a motive or sound that communicates a lot in the most simplest of gestures. There are some distinct orchestral combinations that follow certain characters throughout the score as well making it easy to bring them to mind without having to necessarily see them.

On greater display is Gray’s technique for comedic underscore. “The Race” is one of those tracks that is fun to listen to as Gray moves back and forth from comedic, cartoonish, sounds to unusual atmospheric writing and dramatic scoring. Taking a page from Carl Stalling, there is a lot of music that serves a mickey-mouse style. The music also moves gently from exciting action cues to anxiety-building suspense cues and everything in between. The music here may seem like an unlikely release for those unfamiliar with the series. But those who love Gray’s other output should definitely take a listen to the music provided here. Others fond of pop-related scores will enjoy moments like the “Double Agent Entertainment,” the “Ballon Flight” sequence from “Project 90,” or the brief little waltz in “ Dr. Darota’s Alpine Clinic.” There are moments of fun international music among which “Porto Guavan” from “Big Fish” is just a little piece of musical heaven as is the “Mission Tango 120” from “Hijacked.” Gray also provided musical sequences with Arabic and Asian flavoring as well. In “King for a Day” there are moments that sound like a cross between a Rota score and Jarre’s music for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. It is just another indication as to the talent of this often admired but generally overlooked composer. Some will find the Rachmaninoff-like “International Concerto” worth the price of the disc alone. It is followed by a “Piano Recital by Igor Sladek” (pianist Robert Docker).

There is a lot of music here to admire. The disc includes “stingers” used to notify viewers that the show was about to begin (as with the pre-title “Century 21” track) or that a break was about to begin or conclude. There is even music from the “Lyons Maid Commercial.” An “Opening Titles” sequence concludes the disc without the distraction of additional sound effects or dialogue. All of this is presented in excellent sound (minus one track with reduced, but unavoidable, source distortion) that identifies those tracks which were recorded in stereo apart from those in mono. The remastering is done well enough so that these differences do not distract from the music (over half the tracks are in stereo).

The accompanying booklet provides a brief episode, or scene, synopsis for each track. Solo performers are also identified where appropriate. (For example, noted haromonica player Tommy Reilly appears for a solo in “Lone Handed 90.” And guitarist Vic Flick is also on hand in the ensemble.) A complete musician list is included along with session recording dates for the episodes (down to the times for the entire session!).

There is a lot to admire in the presentation of this entire package that provides music from throughout the series and fans will surely enjoy the opportunity to revisit this music.


--Steven A. Kennedy , 21 July 2006

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