Michel Legrand's The Windmills of Your Mind LP is one of those forgotten treasures that slipped in and out of the mainstream without getting the recognition it deserves as a complex and serious work of art. It would be impossible to compete with Dusty Springfield's breathy May 1969 hit recording of the title track, so the author of the theme from The Thomas Crowne Affair doesn't; he concocts an elaborate combination of sounds to go along with the familiar melody, giving the listener a different perspective on the soon to be classic. Six of the ten tunes are co-written with Alan Bergman and his wife, Marilyn Bergman, including the title track, and those compositions are remarkably diverse. The four minutes and nine seconds of "Theme de la Piscine" has the piano and bass moving in two different directions with incidental instruments tying it all together. A marvelously clever strategy. "Theme du Concerto" adds some drama to the mix, the first of three tunes co-written with Jacques Demy. Legrand contributes an uptempo "Jazz Theme from 'Play Dirty'," the only title on this collection the conductor/composer brings to life without a collaborator. "Jazz Theme from 'Play Dirty'" feels like a pastiche of sounds generated for a long drive scene in a film, while "A Man's Castle" is a more traditional ride up the elevator. The only voice on the record comes in from out of nowhere with a wonderfully 1960s aura and sound. Singer Sally Stevens appears on "Ask Yourself Why," a nice change of pace for the collection from the woman who performed on records by Natalie Cole, Elvis Presley, Linda Ronstadt, P.F. Sloan, Burt Bacharach, Joan Baez, and so many others as well as on many a movie soundtrack. "Souvenirs" is some of the best "bachelor pad" music to be found anywhere.
Though the album looks like typical Muzak of the day, it is actually a splendidly diverse collection of songs packaged here to ride the fame of the Oscar-winning musician. The photo of Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway on the cover along with the words "Academy Award Winner" mislead -- one could easily take the white lettering on red that screams "Original Motion Picture Theme from The Thomas Crowne Affair" as a lure that this is the actual soundtrack to that film. Legrand's name and the actual title of the disc, The Windmills of Your Mind, are slyly placed in a dark blue that fades into the red. A shame because the music inside is deserving of a bit more respect. The class of Ray Conniff & His Orchestra clashing with the hip attitude of Ferrante & Teicher is truly what happens as side two begins with "His Eyes, Her Eyes." The liner notes, though gushing, are fair, and if read before purchasing, they do explain somewhat that this is a Michel LeGrand album, accurately calling him "one of the finest composers of this generation." The pensive photo of the maestro at the piano on the back would make a nice cover shot for a repackaging of this excellent effort.