Hugo Montenegro & His Orchestra

Original Music from "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."

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The title of this album is a bit of a misnomer: while it does contain music that was used in the television show of the title, the versions that appear were produced especially for this record. However, no one interested in this kind of music is likely to complain because the new versions benefit from tight, snappy arrangements by Hugo Montenegro that transform them from background music into lounge instrumentals full of rock and jazz elements. The tone is set right at the beginning with "Theme From 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.'," a hard-hitting slice of spy jazz that combines a surf music-style drumbeat and rhythm guitar with a swinging, brass-driven melody worthy of Henry Mancini's "Pink Panther" soundtracks. Other memorable tracks include "Illya," a midtempo track that layers a moody melody with elements of European folk music over a subtly jazzy beat, and "Wild Bike," an intense and fast-paced action cue that filters the arrangement devices of soundtrack scoring through the musical language of bebop jazz. However, not all the tunes on Original Music From The Man From U.N.C.L.E. are this strong: ballad-paced cuts like "A Martini Built For Two" and "Solo's Samba" tend to be less interesting and adventurous than the uptempo cuts, mainly because they are content to hit a mellow groove and ride it out for a the requisite few minutes. Another problem with this album is that it is quite short (the total running time is just over 27 minutes). Despite these quibbles, anyone with an interest in James Bond-style spy thriller music will enjoy this album because it delivers the jazzy goods and hardcore soundtrack fanatics will be delighted to see that the tunes that Montenegro rearranges were penned by soon-to-be-famous composers like Lalo Schifrin and Jerry Goldsmith. Overall, Original Music From "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." offers enough solid, catchy instrumentals to make a worthwhile listen for spy jazz and lounge collectors.

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