Music composed, arranged, and conducted by Peter Thomas.
16 Tracks (Playing Time = 56:55)
Original album produced by Jurgen Kramer. Featuring the Peter Thomas Sound Orchestra. Session produced by Peter Thomas. Engineered by Hans Endrulat. Recorded January 1976, Bavaria Tonstudio, Munich. Originally released on Polydor 2371 655.
Universal UK/Zoom/Polydor 06007 5332917
Documentary films in the 1970s continued a trend to focus on natural environments, but there were threads of documentaries exploring unusual phenomena like UFOs and Bigfoot. The marketing was enticing to even young viewers and this reviewer can admit spending a number of matinees discovering where Noah’s ark was, if Bigfoot was real, and even if aliens were here first. The latter documentary approach grew out of a whole genre of books by Erich von Daniken’s book Chariots of the Gods which appeared as a film in 1971. Daniken’s “researched” popular paperbacks purported to explore discoveries from throughout the world of ancient objects that could only have come from a more advanced, extraterrestrial civilization. It is a storyline that would be capitalized years later in the popular STARGATE film and subsequent television series, and even INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL.
MYSTERIES OF THE GODS (1976) was a sequel of sorts to the earlier film. It likewise featured a string of interviews and narration. Original a German film, its American distributors re-cut it with different interviews among them the psychic/astrologer Jean Dixon. It gained cult status when William Shatner was asked to provide the narration. The music for this and the earlier Daniken adaptation, is by Peter Thomas. Thomas’ career goes back to the mid 1950s where he started providing music for television. His scores for two 1960s films, FLUCHT NAC BERLIN (1961) and DIE ENDLOSE NACHT (1963), gained the composer his most critical attention. Thomas’ Polydor album gets a re-issue here including some additional music not possible to include on the LP and features a bonus performance by Daisy Door of the song “Dankeshon fur das Wiedersehen.” Door had a hit with an earlier Thomas song.
Thomas’ music is truly a piece of its time featuring a mix of contemporary jazz, a little disco, some funk, and electronic ideas all blended together to create a rather interesting album, often referred to as electro-lounge music. The musical sound is very much a part of its time that would hope to communicate to a younger audience. Some may find it a close cousin to Barry Gray’s television music. Thomas did create a sort of similar sound for a number of German sci-fi series in the 1960s (SPACE PATROL and THE SPELL OF THE SINISTER ONE) and a similar Barry-Bond like experience for the German Bond-like Jerry Cotton films. The heart of the album is the 18-minute medley titled “Cycles of the Gods” which revisits the score in an extended form common for LPs in this period. Certainly it is one of the highlights. The orchestral funk sounds and interesting sounds all contribute to an album that is worthy of its cult status and uniqueness.
A strong main theme appears in the opening title track which helps provide a musical reference throughout the score. Along the way, Thomas incorporates a little Beethoven in “Sonata of the Blinding Lights” and even a little Bach (“Fuga Astronautica”) that blend live instrument and electronic sounds. Thomas creates great melodic ideas that are cast in popular styles of the day and make for an overall intriguing flashback. “When Joshua Came to Jericho” features some fascinating electronic ideas, snippets of a spiritual, and funk guitar. In some respects, the score is a sort of FORBIDDEN PLANET meets Wendy Carlos. But Thomas’ music can be reflective as well in a modern style that melds an easy listening orchestral sound with a sort of New Age quality. The whole album is a real fascinating time capsule of musical style and experimentation with electronics that makes it a rather unique work. Listen to the unusual sounds in the disturbing “Gods and Natives” which brings in ethnic drumming and flute sounds and you are not far from some of the Morricone-like experimental film music of the 1960s and 1970s. There is an Asian-tinged take with this style in “The Fire-Breathing Ships.” Thomas tends to cast these sounds against funk guitar ideas contemporizing the score. What Thomas’ music manages to do is create a futuristic sound against ancient backdrops that further enhances Daniken’s thesis which viewer’s would experience perhaps at a subconscious level.
The Peter Thomas Sound Orchestra would launch the career of Giorgio Moroder and go on to make a number of other albums. The style fuses lounge, go-go music, funk, and other pop developments of the 1960s and 1970s into an often interesting album.
Easily recommended to fans of early electronic, fusion, and unusual film scores of the 1970s which may become a guilty pleasure for many.
-- Steven A. Kennedy, 29 August 2011
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