In recent years’ soundtrack collectors have been very fortunate in having many out of print and long deleted film scores released onto compact disc, many of what people refer to as their Holy Grails seeing the light of day finally after being deleted or maybe never released. One soundtrack which I have always said is a prime candidate for a compact disc release is Lalo Schifrin’s fantastic score for MURDERERS ROW which was a movie in the Matt Helm series and starred Dean Martin as the laid back, Casanova of a spy who managed to get himself into so many implausible situations, many of which ended up with a lovely lady in tow or in his boudoir. But unlike the Bond movies it was all kind of clean cut and innocent. Any-way the score for MURDERERS ROW was originally issued on a COLGEMS long playing record in 1966 and the UK release was on the RCA VICTOR label with slightly different art work, the recording when it was released and available was quite hard to come by and nowadays has attained for itself something of a following simply because of the fact it was and still is so rare. The album occasionally appears on various online sites in an auction but these are very few and far between. It is a mystery to me why the soundtrack has not received a compact disc release as so many Schifrin scores have been made available in recent years on the shiny little discs and are readily available on sites such as Spotify and I Tunes. When contacting Schifrin’s own record label, they told me that it was a score that they probably would never be able to issue because of copyright problems. So, this gem of a soundtrack will sadly probably remain unreleased or at least not on CD. Now I am lucky because I do have the album and I did an LP transfer to my pc to preserve it and I was also lucky because it is a stereo recording. The album opens with a full working of the main theme for the movie, this a thundering start with the composer employing big band sounding brass and an up-tempo background courtesy of percussion and organ that is joined by more brass most notably saxophones who carry the central theme forward and upwards, with more percussive elements being added as the piece progresses, the jazz big band sound dominates the composition and drives it onwards in a very similar fashion to that of THE LIQUIDATOR score also by Schifrin. MURDERERS ROW is a mix of light sounding groovy tracks, jazzy inspired sections and the odd instrumental of I.M NOT THE MARRYING KIND which would ordinarily be supporting the distinct vocalising of Dean Martin but due to contractual restrictions none of Mr Martins were released on any of the Matt Helm soundtrack albums, and also due to same contractual restrictions Mr Martins image was not allowed on the covers either. There are also plenty of highly dramatic and fast paced interludes which seem to spring from nowhere to entertain and add a certain beat and urgency to the whole score.
Why oh, why is this not available on compact disc, this is probably one of the composers best scores from the 1960, s its right up there with BULLIT, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE and THE LIQUIDATOR. Its bombastic hard hitting and truly theme laden, ok the central theme or variations of it run through the entire score but it is an infectious theme that is never boring and one that I know listeners will never tire of. Like the FLINT movies, the Matt Helm series was very tongue in cheek and the music often reflected this but at certain points the composers involved would often score the movie as a serious entity thus the music worked even better and because the scene was scored in this way the scenario on screen also worked better. There are 12 tracks on the recording and every-one of them is wonderful, they are filled with an energy a vitality and just a good old fashion sound that we never seem to hear anymore. I love the way Schifrin’s music just seems to ooze a charismatic sophistication, with its light and airy sambas, its easy listening and laid back jazz tracks and of course it’s more powerful and commanding sections, Schifrin is a Master when it comes to relaying moods and atmospheres and in this score, he excels even more than usual, with the composer on piano, bass guitar (performed by Carol Kaye) who played on many Beach Boys hits, was the performer on LA BAMBA by Richie Valens as well as working with the likes of Quincy Jones, Phil Spector and Simon and Garfunkel to mention but a few bringing much to the work, which also contains strings, percussion, harpsichord, woods, Hammond organ, cymbalom, brass and even at one point an accordion taking a turn. The highlight of the score apart from the great theme is track number 4, SUZIES THEME (LOVE THEME) which is haunting and alluring, with the composer employing a light dusting of brushed percussion with dreamy sounding strings acting as a background to a delightful and mesmerising harpsichord solo that performs the love theme, this is to be honest an absolute delight and in many ways reminded me of the work of Stelvio Cipriani on THE ANONYMOUS VENETIAN, it has that easy going but at the same time beautifully crafted style to it. I know this soundtrack is not available on CD for everyone but maybe one day it will see a release and when that day comes you must add it to your collection immediately. Maybe Intrada, La La Land, Kronos or even Varese might pick it up in the very near future. We can only hope. If you don’t believe good it is click the link below and be converted.
Murderer’s Row (Main Title)
I’m Not the Marrying Kind
Suzie’s Theme (Love Theme)
Solaris (aka Murderers’ Row)
Iron Head (aka Murderers’ Row)
No Dining Allowed (aka Murderers’ Row)
I’m Not the Marrying Kind (End Title)