Henry Mancini

The Great Race (Music from the Film Score)

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Strictly speaking, this isn't a soundtrack album in the traditional sense, though it is packaged that way. Rather, what composer/conductor Henry Mancini and RCA Victor have done is transform the former's music for the film into an album, rearranging and re-ordering the material for a balanced listening experience, independent of their place or shape in the film itself. What's more, the results are not only not bad, but very enjoyable, residing somewhere between a movie soundtrack and an easy listening concept album. Zany, lunatic, period pop-style numbers alternate with elegant waltzes, lullabies, and effect music that mostly goes toward the loopy side of Mancini's sensibilities. But all of it has a propulsive, forward momentum (like the movie itself) that won't release the listener. The brief choral parts, set to "The Sweetheart Tree," only add to the variety, while slowing down the proceedings only minimally with their lyricism. Dorothy Provine, who was a co-star in the movie, also provides a novelty vocal number, "He Shouldn't-A, Hadnt't-A, Oughtn't-A." And there's a low-key wind-and-piano-driven instrumental with the self-consciously witty title "Cold Finger," providing a subdued and subtle lead-in to the zany finale, the "Pie-in-the-Face Polka." The album is a good promotion for the movie, though it also would have stood nicely on its own terms in 1965, as an entertaining easy listening experience. And for good measure, there's good use of stereo separation in the arrangements and recording, and also, in the original LP, a handsome gatefold package that recalls an era in American popular culture that was already beginning to slip away.

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