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Many of the major film composers of the 1960s and ’70s cut their teeth and honed their skills not on theatrical films but on work for the small screen. Writing for television taught them to create effective music quickly and economically. This wide-ranging 5CD set from Film Score Monthly (drawn from the archives of M-G-M Television) features rare and exciting television work by composers best known for feature films—John Williams, Leonard Rosenman, Dave Grusin, Jerry Fielding, George Duning, Lalo Schifrin—as well as musicians long adored for their television work, such as Gil Mellé, John Parker and Billy Goldenberg.
Disc One leads off the collection with John (“Johnny”) Williams’s music for a single episode of The Eleventh Hour (1963), a spin-off of the popular Dr. Kildare series. This is the only M-G-M series episode scored by Williams, who was primarily working for Universal at the time. It is followed by Leonard Rosenman’s score for The Phantom of Hollywood (1974), which mines the atonal and dissonant style of The Cobweb while also incorporating melodies from classic M-G-M musicals. Also heard on the first disc is jazz trumpeter Don Ellis’s brief but probing score for The Deadly Tower (1975), NBC’s controversial film about a real-life sniper who killed 13 people in a deadly shooting spree at the University of Texas in 1966.
Disc Two features Dave Grusin’s hip music for three episodes of Assignment: Vienna (1972-73), an international-intrigue series which starred Robert Conrad. Grusin incorporated a cimbalom into his otherwise contemporary jazz score to give the music an Old World flavor. Among the disc’s highlights are the pieces for jazz trio and quartet composed as source music for the nightclub operated by Conrad’s character, heard here for the first time absolutely complete (only truncated versions were featured in the show).
More music from the same series—but by a different composer—makes up the first half of Disc Three. John Parker, who also worked on CHiPs, brought a slightly more conventional sound to the show, although he too used cimbalom and a similar orchestration.
The other music featured on Disc Three comes from Jerry Fielding’s delightfully diverse score for the TV movie, Shirts/Skins (1973). Although he was better-known for scoring films that explored man’s dark side (The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs), Fielding was equally adept at scoring comedies. This telefilm about six overstressed businessmen engaged in a wacky contest gave Fielding the opportunity to stretch his musical muscles in several directions. His big-band arrangement of “Sweet Georgia Brown” is just one aspect of this appealing score, which also includes a zany march, a bit of vaudeville and some quasi religioso moments for scenes set in a church.
Disc Four is devoted to music from Then Came Bronson—both George Duning’s largely traditional score for the TV-movie/pilot (1969) and Gil Mellé’s more diverse contribution to two episodes of the ensuing series (1969-70). Duning’s romantic idiom was perfectly suited to this tale of a motorcycle-riding drifter out to discover himself and his country, encompassing a beautiful love theme in its rich orchestral palette (the score is for a relatively large group of 35 musicians). Mellé’s two episode scores include one fairly traditional effort, “The Circle of Time” (this was before his electronic music breakthrough), and a more intriguing, jazz-based score written for only eight players (“The Forest Primeval”). He adapted the latter into a 14-minute jazz suite (“Waterbirds”) for a rare 1970 LP.
Lalo Schifrin’s complete score for Earth II (1971) (which FSM previewed in The Cincinnati Kid, Lalo Schifrin Scores Vol. 1), a science-fiction TV movie with its otherworldly sounds created by non-traditional use of orchestral instruments as well as extensive use of electronics, opens Disc Five. It is followed by music for a 1976 failed pilot film about an international “Impossible Missions”-type team, High Risk, composed by Billy Goldenberg. Mysterious, restrained yet elegant, this score also explores unique sounds with such instruments as electric sitar, synthesizer and echoplexed electric flutes.
The 32-page booklet includes extensive background notes by film and TV music historian Jon Burlingame, plus stills and artwork selected by Joe Sikoryak—BUT there’s more! With so much fascinating music contained on these discs, FSM is providing additional notes online for selected scores. This historical collection sheds new light on the work of several well-known composers and is a must-buy for all collectors interested in the “full picture” of ’60s and ’70s dramatic scoring. Order yours and “tune in” today.