Henry Mancini ranks right up at the top of a list of composers who wrote for movies and TV. He crafted memorable melodies and framed them with witty and inventive arrangements that in most cases still sound fresh today. Midnight, Moonlight & Magic: The Very Best of Henry Mancini is a 23-song look at the master's work in films and on TV. It spans the years 1958 and 1972 and includes his most popular themes such as the sassy "Pink Panther Theme," the rocking "Peter Gunn," the sweet "Moon River," and the swinging "Baby Elephant Walk." The compilers also found room for some lesser known but still worthy material like the wonderfully bluesy and dreamy "Dreamsville," the rollicking "Pie-in-the-Face Polka" from The Great Race, "Frish Frosh" from High Time, and 1972's "Mystery Movie Theme." Throughout Mancini deftly balances his romantic streak with an ear for the unusual that kept even his sappiest tunes from being too smooth. For example the frenzied piano line on the otherwise treacly "The Sweetheart Tree," the inventive way he combines instruments in "The Inspector Clouseau Theme," or the spooky keyboard sounds on "Theme From 'Cade's County'" are the touches of an inspired craftsman. Other times the melody is just so strong, like on the deathless "Charade," that it doesn't matter how many smooth vocals and swooning strings get piled on top. It still escapes being corny. The collection is very strong, one of the best single-disc Mancini compilations on the market. The only thing holding it back, and giving lie to the title's claim to be the "very best" of his work, is the omission of anything from perhaps his finest soundtrack, 1962's Experiment in Terror. The theme song at least should have been here. Apart from that flaw, this is an entertaining disc that shows just how wonderful Mancini's film compositions truly are.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra