When the name Henry Mancini is mentioned it straight away conjures up memories of evergreen and infectious themes from movies such as BREAKFAST AT TIFFANYS,THE PINK PANTHER, CHARADE,THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES, THE THORN BIRDS and so many more. Mancini not only possessed the ability to underline the dramatic and emotional content of a movie with his music but he also had a knack and a definite gift to create melodies that lived outside of the films environment and in many cases became worldwide hits. This compilation is a combination of two albums that the composer released in 1975 and 1976 in which he acted in the capacity of an orchestrator, arranger and conductor rather than a composer although there are a few original Mancini compositions included within its duration. Mancini released a number of studio albums where he would arrange various film themes and popular songs in his unmistakable style and put his own distinctive musical stamp upon each one. The opening 8 tracks are taken from THE COP SHOW THEMES album which was issued on RCA in 1976, this includes popular themes from American cop shows that became essential viewing in the U.S. and the U.K. during the 1970,s such as BARETTA, KOJAK, S.W.A.T.,THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO,HAWAII FIVE O and THE ROCKFORD FILES and showcases the music of composers such as Patrick Williams, Dave Grusin, Mike Post, Morton Stevens, Barry De Vorzon and Billy Goldenberg, it also has some outstanding performances by featured soloists such as Artie Kane, Lee Ritnenour, Dick Nash and Graham Young. It also includes the haunting and well known theme that Mancini penned for THE MYSTERY MOVIE which was a regular part of weekend viewing in the U.K. and a not so well known theme from the show THE BLUE KNIGHT entitled BUMPERS THEME which was also the work of Hank Mancini.
During the 1970,s a number of compilation albums were released by artists such as Ron Goodwin, Mantovani, Geoff Love, Ronnie Aldrich and Mancini etc which included various TV and film themes and for collectors these were often that only way that they would get to hear the music from their favourite movies or shows as at this time the original versions were very rarely released, film studios often ignoring the value of music that was written for both TV and Cinema. THE COP SHOW THEMES section of this entertaining compilation opens with Mancini’s MYSTERY MOVIE theme, which is a pleasant and easy going piece for strings which are supported by light percussion and uncomplicated brass punctuation and a striking if brief trumpet solo all of these elements are underlined throughout by use of a synthesiser that relays and carries the theme along at a easy pace. I suppose this is typical Mancini, infectious and haunting a theme that is heard long after the track has finished by the listener. Next up we have, the strong vibrant theme from THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO by Patrick Williams. The big band sound meets dramatic layers here both of which are further enhanced by the use of jazz influences to create a hard hitting theme that surely would make anyone aware that the show was about to begin and have them rushing from the kitchen into the lounge to sit and watch it. Music from THE BLUE KNIGHT is next, BUMPERS THEME is a slow paced and almost sleazy sounding piece, written by Mancini and performed by alto sax, flugelhorn and trumpet with flourishes of rich sound coming from the brass section of the band to give it a sound that is luxuriously opulent and in many ways a gentle nod in the direction of the sound achieved by Glenn Miller in compositions such as MOONLIGHT SERENADE. Track number 4 is Mancini’s take on Billy Goldenberg’s opening theme for the Telly Savalas led cop show KOJAK which again became essential weekend viewing for many during the 1970,s. Goldenberg’s pulsating and vibrant opening music ushering in and introducing another edge of the seat episode that featured the flamboyant and lollipop sucking cop with attitude, this track also contains the theme from S.W.A.T. composed by Barry De Vorzon, Mancini interweaving both of the up beat compositions into a medley in which both themes compliment each other wonderful. During the 1970,s with the coming of disco there were a few versions of the De Vorzon theme one in particular being by Eumir Deodato that entered the U.S charts and was also a popular floor filler in the U.K. Track number 5 KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE SPARROW is taken from the soundtrack to BARETTA, music here is courtesy of Dave Grusin. Mancini follows this with the ever popular theme from THE ROCKFORD FILES by Mike Post who of course provided us with the themes for HILL STREET BLUES and THE A TEAM among others. The quirky sounding harpsichord performed by Artie Kane is an outstanding feature of the arrangement that Mancini relays.
Morton Stevens up beat and toe tapping theme from HAWAII FIVE O is next up and Mancini gives the theme a real work out with strings, vibrant percussion, guitars brass and also an enthusiastic and flawless trombone solo by Dick Nash. The cop show themes come to an end with the striking theme from POLICE WOMAN, again written by Stevens. So the first half of the compilation certainly gets a thumbs up it is a fairly up tempo selection that are obviously all familiar and have that uplifting atmosphere.
On then to the second half the compilation, SYMPHONIC SOUL, essentially Mancini’s version of some of the sweet soul numbers that were doing the rounds during the 1970,s and I have to say although they are all well performed and also well orchestrated and arranged they do at times seem to fall short of the mark, but maybe I feel this way because in the 1970,s I was actually playing the original cues to dance floors in the U.K. Disco fever took off fairly late in England in fact it seemed to come and go swiftly and was over before it had got a chance to begin, the likes of Barry White and Van McCoy however were always popular even before disco planted its self on the dance floors in the U.K. White for his deep and sensual vocals and McCoy for his work with groups such as The STYLISTICS. In this section the numbers that Mancini runs by us include SATIN SOUL(White), BUTTERFLY(Hancock), AFRICAN SYMPHONY(McCoy) and a watered down version of the Average white bands classic, PICK UP THE PIECES etc, I am not in anyway saying that these arrangements are lacking or inferior at all, but they are not the originals and for me the originals rule. There is also a new version of Mancini’s PETER GUNN which has a nice disco vibe to it sounding more like something that The Salsoul Orchestra would have released rather than coming from Henry Mancini. Like the first part of the compilation there are a number of featured solo instruments being performed throughout, these include, piccolo. Trumpet, African finger piano, organ, bass guitar, electric piano and flute, with the ever present support of Mancini’s romantic strings and big band brass. So overall this compact disc is a varied and uncomplicated listen, it is a collection that I would recommend with my most positive reaction being focused upon the COP THEMES section of the disc. Nice retro looking art work with some brilliant notes by Oliver Lomax and great unblemished sound quality. Another hit for the Dutton Vocalion label.
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