The theme to Peter Gunn is not just one of Henry Mancini's most popular compositions, but also one of the most recognizable and beloved of all movie themes. Two CDs totaling 156 minutes of interpretations -- by Mancini and others -- of music from the Peter Gunn series might be overkill even for Mancini/Peter Gunn enthusiasts. Nonetheless, you can't fault this compilation for breadth of material, starting with disc one, which has 23 tracks from Mancini's The Music from Peter Gunn (as well as one track from his More Music from Peter Gunn). Be aware, or even cautioned, that nothing else on the first CD is as dynamic as the ominous "Peter Gunn" itself. Most of the other cuts are more sedate pieces in the cool/noirish jazz style; suitable for a long-running TV series, no doubt, but not as arresting as "Peter Gunn," or as attention-holding when listened to without accompanying images. Only on "Blue Steel" do you get the more dynamic, adventure-heralding jazz you'd hope to hear more of after "Peter Gunn," or even Mancini's soundtrack to Touch of Evil. And only on the smoky "Spook!" do you get more of that growling guitar that makes "Peter Gunn" such a standout.
The second CD is mostly devoted to more Peter Gunn music -- often, but not always, covering pieces also found in Mancini versions on the previous disc -- by members of the ensemble Mancini used to record the Peter Gunn soundtracks. The first ten tracks on the disc are by Ted Nash and Maxwell Davis; the next 11 are the entirety of trumpeter Pete Candoli's More Peter Gunn album. These are, as you might predict, not all that dissimilar from the Mancini interpretations, though generally they're less interesting and full-sounding. The compilation closes with four versions of "Peter Gunn" by other artists, including King Curtis, Mundell Lowe, Buddy Morrow, and Duane Eddy, whose hit rendition -- featuring his trademark low guitar twang and snaky sax -- is the best and most famous "Peter Gunn" of all. Although the liner notes are reasonably lengthy and detailed, there's a disappointing lack of hard information on the original recording and the issue dates of the releases on which any of the material on the two CDs originally appeared.