On Dusty Groove this is considered something of a holy grail, so when a sealed original pressing turned up (for $40, ouch), I took the plunge.
It's a sealed, mint copy
all right (a cut-out which would originally have been remaindered for a buck or
two), but it has a serious and dramatic edge warp at the outer perimeter of the
record. Like it's been exposed to heat.
Oh Christ. (Did I mention the $40?) But
the beginning of Side 1 plays perfectly — and the beginning of the record is
where the warp lies. Fingers crossed for Side 2.
Now, the music. I had a CD of
this and I'd listened to it and never understood what the fuss was about. Well,
the cause of the fuss is immediately evident from the vinyl version. Even
though this is flimsy seventies vinyl (1976 to be exact) — probably the cause
of the warp — it is sonically splendid. It seems the folks at RCA hadn't
forgotten how to make records since the days of Living Stereo. Magnificent
clean, open sound.
The spacey, wailing, soaring electric organ on Mancini's own 'Mystery
Movie Theme' by Clare Fischer no doubt appeals to hipsters (it certainly
appeals to me) but the loping country music beat of this tune takes a bit of
getting used to. The insouciant, scampering electric piano solo by Artie Kane
on 'The Streets of San Francisco' is another highlight. In fact 'The Streets of
San Francisco' (composed by Patrick Williams) is an odyssey of immense musical virtuosity. My god, it's good.
And then there's Ronnie Kane's alto sax on 'Bumper's Theme' (from a TV movie of
The Blue Knight, based on Joseph Wambaugh's novel) which also has some tasty
trumpet and flugelhorn from Graham Young. 'Bumper's Theme' is something of a
throwback to the slinky jazz of Mancini's own Peter Gunn, and indeed it's a Mancini composition. Graham Young has a
piercing, Mexican sounding solo on 'Kojak'.
The guitar solo on 'S.W.A.T.' (a Barry DeVorzon composition) by Lee
Ritenour is tremendous, reminiscent of his heyday on Steely Dan.
And since it's
a ludicrously short record (about 12 minutes a side!) I don't have to wait too
long to find about the effect of the warp on Side 2. It plays fine. There's a
bit of surface noise here, but it doesn't seem to be related to the warp. Phew.
Other solo highlights include the harpsichord (Artie Kane, again) and Don
Menza's tenor sax, both on Mike Post's 'The Rockford Files'. It's beginning to seem I'm
just listing the soloists who are (helpfully) credited on the back of the album
cover, but their contributions really are outstanding.
What a magnificent
record. It just sounds wonderful, even though the sight of this poor mangled
piece of vinyl rotating on my turntable is equal measures pitiful and
laughable. I'm chuffed that the album also includes a version of Morton
Stevens's 'Hawaii Five-O', one of my favourite TV themes of all time. And dig the
Roy Lichtenstein-style cover art.
If like me, you had only previously heard this in digital versions you must seek out the vinyl. It's a revelation.
Henry Mancini, The Cop Show Themes (RCA AFL1-1896)
(Image credits: all from the incredibly useful Discogs.)