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U.N.C.L.E. Soundtrack

by Terry Endres

Over the past ten years I have scoured the soundtrack bins of any and all music stores I've encountered looking for re-issues of those jazzy U.N.C.L.E. scores. My vigilance was rewarded recently with the Razor and Tie compilation [RE 2133-2]. Although Hugo Montenegro fiddled a bit with Jerry Goldsmith's original main theme composition, the arrangement is aggressive and effective; it clearly conveys the excitement and intrigue of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Before this, however, I had to satisfy myself with a number of unusual finds that other may find interesting:

Silva Screen Records released a 1992 collection of TV themes under the title The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: Cult TV Classics [FILMCD 712]. The U.N.C.L.E. theme here is arranged and performed by the Brain [Brian?] Fahey Orchestra. It is suitably jazzy and dynamic, but lacks the bite and kick of the Montenegro arrangement. Other related themes include two Mission Impossible tracks [ "Theme" and "The Plot" -- Lalo Schifrin and the San Diego Pops Orchestra]; Danger Man -- which would later arrive in the US as Secret Agent ["High Wire" written by Edwin Astley, performed by Brain Fahey]; Mannix -- remember, he started as an operative of Intertect -- [Lalo Schifrin and San Diego Pops Orchestra]; The Saint [Astley performed by Fahey]; The Avengers[Laurie Johnson performed by The Barry Gray Orchestra]. This was a nostalgic gold mine for me as it included so many spy themes, reminding me of how three decades earlier my brother and I would "borrow" agents when enough of our friends joined in on our adventures. Unfortunately this did not include anyone who remotely resembled Emma Peel [sigh!] or April Dancer [sigh!!].

Secret Agent File [GNP/Crescendo -- GNPD 2166] was released in 1984. Billy Strange's interpretation has a good deal of energy, a lot of saxophone and James Bondish guitar. Other themes of note include no less than 6 James Bond themes, I Spy, Our Man Flint, The Prisoner and Get Smart!.

Among Capitol Records' collection of Ultra-Lounge CDs is TV Town [CPD 7243 8 53409 2 5]. This includes a take on the U.N.C.L.E. theme by Al Caiola. The brass section is a measure too forceful and comes off sounding a bit like a college marching band. However, the other instrumentation is adequate. Tacked on to the end of the U.N.C.L.E. theme is a composition by N. Harris called The Spies. Other tracks of note are Mannix and Burke's Law Suite [Remember, Amos Burke began working for U.S. intelligence in 1965]. Some of the themes in this suite were also used for Honey West [sigh!!!].

A 1996 a compilation of TV themes by The Ventures [Tele Ventures -- EMI E2-53738] includes The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Heavy on the surfer sound, the zestful arrangement provides a pipeline for espionage! Other tracks of interest include a version of Secret Agent Man [the U.S. theme for Danger Man] without the female chorus; Mission: Impossible; Hawaii Five-0 [didn't McGarrett have a previous connection with military intelligence?]; and Get Smart!.

I'm sure there are other versions yet to be re-released, such a wonderful jazz composition is likely to have been covered by numerous artist. Nevertheless, it has been an enjoyable challenge to sniff out these delightful variations that prove the old cliché: "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."


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