One of the most sophisticated pop-jazz soundtracks of the 1960s -- a decade filled with entries in that genre -- The Thomas Crown Affair was pretty much driven, for sales purposes, by its seductive opening track, Noel Harrison's rendition of "The Windmills of Your Mind." But composer Michel Legrand had also taken an exceptionally bold approach to the overall scoring of the movie: after screening a five-hour rough cut of the film he wrote a full jazz symphony independent of the final editing or timing of the shots and scenes, which he then cut to fit the film. This approach had been used in the past for films mostly on those rare occasions when scores were written by established classical composers such as Arthur Bliss and Ralph Vaughan Williams -- who had their own ways of working and felt no need to see a final edit, leaving it to the music director to make the music fit. This approach wasn't favored by Hollywood because it left too much up to the composer and could get very expensive. But for Legrand and the score, it was a liberating experience, allowing him the freedom to write his impressions of scenes that would presumably be (and ultimately were) in the final cut of the movie. The quality of the music was reflected throughout the soundtrack, which has held up astonishingly well as freestanding music across four decades; indeed, in the company of moody yet dazzling virtuoso pieces such as "The Chess Game," "The Windmills of Your Mind" almost pales as a creative work.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder