Film Music Review
The Sammy awards










Music composed and conducted by Joe Harnell

24 Tracks (Playing Time = 46:11)


Rating: ***

Among the popular ‘70s television series, THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN and his counterpart, THE BIONIC WOMAN often forced viewers to watch both shows by creating multi-part episodes that were shown as part of one series and then completed on another.

The 1970s most popular mythic creature was undoubtedly Bigfoot. In the midst of a multitude of specials and even feature films exploring the mystery of Bigfoot entered our bionic characters’ storylines. The music for the current disc comes from the second of a two-part episode that began on THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN and concluded three days later on THE BIONIC WOMAN. It’s title refers to THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN two-part episode about bigfoot that aired in the previous season.

Joe Harnell wrote some 400 plus hours of music for television with his theme for THE INCREDIBLE HULK among his most memorable. THE BIONIC WOMAN is important as the series that sort of launched his television scoring career as it was the first series he worked on after years as the music director of THE MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW. His music is usually conceived on a more symphonic scale and is often filled with beautiful lyric writing.

The melodic content of Harnell’s music is what often draws one in to his music and that is the case with this disc as well. Yes, this is mid-70s TV music. What that means is that there is a small, thin string section, with a good brass section. A very forward harpsichord sound (likely electronically produced) often mixed with other keyboards and more electronic ideas is prominent in this score.

There is a long 12-note ostinato pattern that flows underneath several action segments in the score as Harnell builds tension through a sequence that make the music a fascinating multi-textured experience. The variety in the score, and its use of a variety of intriguing sounds all serve to create a blend of contemporary scoring techniques. That Harnell tends to still find a harmonic grounding point for these threads that feel like they will be pulled out of tonality altogether is something worth listening for as the various tracks play out. This is a score that emphasizes more strange sounds and unusual musical ideas that tend to fall more into a horror film at times, but the jazzy undercurrents and the various recurring motifs all help pull the music together into a quite coherent whole. A more melodramatic lyric idea appears in “ Steve is Dying/Shalon’s Choice” which features a romantic blend of trumpet and flute. But it is in the action music that the real interesting music lies and there is plenty of that here. The variety of keyboard sounds also helps off set the otherwise smaller orchestral forces. Strings tend to be further back in the sound picture with percussion, triangle prominently clicking away, a bit more forward as in a pop ensemble.

The release includes an unused main title for the series (which is a wonderful cue that includes the addition of a harpsichord-like sound in its style), intended to replace the original one by Jerry Fielding, four alternate cues, and four different versions of “Jaime’s Action Theme” which closes off the disc. Oliver Nelson’s theme for THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN also makes an appearance in several marked tracks as well.

This is the second volume of music from THE BIONIC WOMAN, the first featured music from the episode “Kill Oscar.”

Easily recommendable to fans of the series, the CD is available from the composer’s website, and features an on-line track analysis by Randall D. Larson:

Clips can be heard here:


--Steven A. Kennedy, 29 October 2008

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