Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Cop Show Themes by Henry Mancini

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.)

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