Two popular television shows from the 1960,s that have both had incarnations of the original ideas hit cinema screens this month are MISSION IMPOSSIBLE and THE MAN FROM UNCLE. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE of course is an already established series and franchise, with ROGUE NATION being the fifth instalment, but the latter title although still having a loyal following from its days on TV has not seen any real attempts by Hollywood or any other studios outside of tinsel town to update the original 1960,s episodes or feature film. Directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Hugh Grant and with a bit part for David Beckham (ya know what I mean). This movie I think is about to become the first in a series of films that tell of the exploits of the guys from U. N. C. L. E. The musical score is the work of Daniel Pemberton, who’s music for the television series THE GAME caught the ear of many a little while back.
Pemberton maybe not the most well known composer of film music but he certainly creates soundtracks that are not only memorable but do their job perfectly underlining and supporting the scenarios on screen. Unlike the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE series the composer or maybe the director decided not to utilise the original MAN FROM UNCLE theme which was penned by the great Jerry Goldsmith over fifty years ago. Many collectors were shall we say a little surprised and put out by this, but for me I think it showed great inventiveness by Pemberton, it would have been easy to arrange an already familiar and popular theme and score the movie with it, instead he has come up with one of the most inventive and tuneful soundtracks of 2015 thus far. Yes it is true to say that he employs a style that is at times pure 1960,s but the themes as far as I am aware are original, the score has to it an almost spaghetti western demeanour the composer creating this with electric guitar, breathy woods and flourishes from the harpsichord and at one point employing a near wailing choir which is maybe a gentle parody of Morricone’s NAVAJO JOE or Cipriani’s BLINDMAN or even MATALO by Mario Migliardi, its that type of sound but fused with this Italian western style there are three other types of sound, firstly a definite nod in the direction of THE IPCRESS FILE or even VENDETTA by John Barry with cimbalom taking a prominent role and then we have an influence or style introduced that could be Piero Piccioni, Gianni Marchetti, Francesco de Masi, Nico Fidenco et al, all of whom were composers active on spy and crime capers from the studios of Cinecitta in Rome during the 1960’s and 1970’s, this style encompasses accordion, Hammond organ, Italian traditional sounding music and easy paced tango rhythms that are supported by cheeky little guitar riffs. Then we are treated to a sound that is akin to the style ,of British composer Edwin Astley, it is a kind of pop orchestral style that Pemberton has fashioned fusing the light and melodic passages with dramatic high octane pieces, but it works so well.
There is even a reference to Morricone’s MAN WITH THE HARMONICA composition, complete with fuzzy sounding guitar present at one point. In other words this is a score that is filled to the brim with infectious melodies, up lifting percussive performances and inventive thematic material that will linger for a long time in the listeners brain.
The soundtrack album also contains a handful of vocals, OH NO I hear you say!!!! But its ok the score tracks outnumber these songs and to be honest the songs have been chosen well fitting in perfectly with the score cues and adding much to the film I suspect. Vocals are courtesy of performers such as Solomon Burke, Nina Simone, Roberta Flack, Louis Prima, Peppino Gagliardi, Tom Ze and Valdez, Luigi Tendco and Gianfranco Reverberi. The compact disc opens with the Roberta Flack song, COMPARED TO WHAT. The first score track however is OUT OF THE GARAGE, which has something of an apprehensive and shady beginning, the composer creating an air of mystery via use of bass, piano and shimmering and icy sounds, this segues into a more upbeat but still sinister and uneasy sounding theme performed on breathy Barry-esque woodwind, this melts away and gives precedence to a more upbeat percussion that acts as support for cimbalom punctuated and enhanced by woods again and a full on upbeat tempo performed by drums, bongo’s and catchy baseline. In some ways this is reminiscent of the early work of Lalo Schifrin or even some of Francis Monkman’s work on THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY and Roy Budd‘s GET CARTER or at least the ending of Budd’s opening theme for that movie, the jazz infused wood wind relaying an atmosphere that oozes uncertainty with bongo‘s punctuating the proceedings.
Track number two, MY NAME IS NAPOLEON SOLO, is for me one of the highlights of the score, but saying this there are really no stand out moments as the entire score is superb, I think its because Pemberton sets the scene for the remainder of the score within this cue, and gives us a taster of the excellence that is to follow. The track begins with a harpsichord or maybe Celeste in a Morricone type chimes composition which can I suppose be compared with the watch melody in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, the quiet opening soon builds into something more substantial with electric guitar again taking centre stage and percussion giving weight to the central theme. The composer then brings this part of the composition to an end and again utilises the gravely and breathy woodwind, that is carried along on a wave of inventive percussion giving the piece an infectious and highly original sound, upbeat backing that comprises of drums, jazz infused Hammond organ, and bass is in a word entertaining. Entertaining is a word that I would use to describe the entire score for THE MAN FROM UNCLE, it is infectious, haunting, melodic, dramatic, exciting and a soundtrack that every collector of quality film music should own and EON if you are listening you should buy this also, Pemberton should be the next 007 composer.
THE BASS FLUTE PERFORMANCE FOR THE SCORE.