Two lesser-known spy film soundtracks, written for two related movies starring Michael Caine (both based on books by author Len Deighton), and written by two very famous composers, make for a natural pairing. John Barry's music for The Ipcress File is the more accessible of the two scores represented, a pop-jazz pastiche in a light vein, with some good sax, vibraphone, and piano on tracks like "Alone in Three-Quarter Time," and distinctive solo electric guitar on the main title music -- and further into the score, the zither gets one of its bigger workouts in film music since The Third Man. One also hears in this score the first use of a light flute-driven misterioso theme that Barry would later make extensive use of, in slightly rewritten form, in They Might Be Giants (1971). The music for Billion Dollar Brain, written by Richard Rodney Bennett and conducted by Marcus Dods, is more demanding but also more daring and rewarding, a beautiful (yet largely atonal) body of music, built around a main title theme for three pianos and orchestra and, throughout the body of the work, several striking pieces for the Theremin-like droning of the Ondes Martenot. This CD (made in the Czech Republic) contains both soundtracks complete, and each has been augmented with a minute or so of key dialogue from the opening of each movie. Both scores have been transferred from very clean sources and reveal far more detail than the old vinyl pressings of either, though Billion Dollar Brain rather makes this an essential acquisition, as the movie for which it was written has not been (and has very chance of ever being) released on home video, as of 2002. The annotation is useful as far as it goes, and the artwork re-creates poster and publicity stills attached to both movies.
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