The music for I Spy was one of the series' more impressive attributes -- not just the memorable main title theme by composer, arranger and conductor Earle Hagen, but also the background music for each of the 82 episodes of the series, all of which was newly composed; most were by Hagen, but some were by his chosen deputy, Hugo Friedhofer (himself one of the lions of Hollywood film music). This CD marks the first commercial release of Hagen's background music for the series, representing five episodes from three continents -- one of the more unusual aspects of the scoring of the series was that Hagen traveled to all of the exotic locations utilized in filming, in order to absorb (and record) the local musical influences and any other cultural elements that would help in writing the music. Coupled with his own background in jazz, big-band swing, and film and television scoring, the results were startling, as on the first suite, from the pilot episode, "So Long Patrick Henry" -- at one point he gets into a fugal thing with a Chinese mouth organ called a "sho," while an electric bass plunks a nine/eight rhythm in the background; later in the same score, he gets a big-band sound going, coherent with everything heard up to this point, and works in a very funny homage to the "007" theme from the James Bond movies of the era. Everything else here is just as clever and filled with surprises, musical and otherwise, whether laced with the flavor of Japan, Mexico, or Burma -- but the best part of this disc is the suite from "Mainly on the Plain," a lighthearted episode that starred Boris Karloff as an eccentric Spanish professor who goes off on a Don Quixote jaunt with the two agents, Robinson and Scott, in pursuit to protect him. The music is rich in warmth, humor, orchestral and folk coloration, and never gets dull for a moment. The sound is excellent, up close and personal with no flaws in evidence and no apologies needed anywhere. The annotation is extremely thorough, making this perhaps the best showcase for Hagen's talents and work that has yet appeared on CD.
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