THE AVENGERS: ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK RECORDINGS
Shortly after David K. Smith and I decided to create this music section of The Avengers Forever, we discussed the possibility that someday, following in the wake of other ITC soundtrack releases like The Prisoner and Barry Gray's music from the Gerry Anderson series, the original soundtracks from The Avengers may be released. If these other ITC recordings were saved, then surely some Avengers tracks must be in an archive somewhere. We even discussed contacting Laurie Johnson himself to find out if he knew if any original recordings existed. We were pre-empted in this by the announcement a few weeks later that Demon Music would indeed be releasing original soundtrack recordings from The Avengers. I wish we could take the credit; maybe there was some butterfly effect going on or maybe somebody up there just likes us.
As I mentioned previously, music from "Pandora" and "The Joker" from The Avengers, and "Cat Amongst the Pigeons," "Obsession" and "Tale of the Big Why" from The New Avengers has been available for many years. These recordings however were re-recordings with Laurie conducting the London Studio Orchestra. The main theme has of course been recorded scores (sorry) of times and has been available on many compilations for the last 40 years, but here, finally, we have the originals!
The 35 tracks on the album feature music from 15 episodes from the Emma Peel era, and one from the Tara King era. The opening and closing credits are also from the Tara King era and even feature Laurie himself announcing the number of the take.
Episodes featured are "Dead Man's Treasure," "Escape in Time," "What the Butler Saw," "Honey for the Prince," "The Joker," "Return of the Cybernauts," "Quick-Quick Slow Death," "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station," "The Superlative Seven," "Murdersville," "Mission... Highly Improbable," "From Venus With Love," "The See-Through Man," "The Hidden Tiger," "The Living Dead" and "Invasion of the Earthmen."
The album is well balanced and representative of the series in terms of tension (many of the tracks feature the individual episode title theme leading up to the dramatic on screen caption), romance ("From Venus With Love" (Section A) which even interpolates a little of Holst's The Planets suite), action cues, suspense, whimsy (take "March of the Butlers" from "What the Butler Saw" for instance) and the playful ("Mission... Highly Improbable"), but overridingly it demonstrates Laurie's considerable skill at juxtaposing the eerie or menacing against the urbane or innocent. Consider the Greensleeves-style pastoral that belies the sinister goings on in "Murdersville" and the detached 1930s gramophone record playing in "The Joker."
Much of the music written for these particular episodes was of course tracked into others where required, the racy episode title music from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station" accompanied many of Steeds and Emma's fight scenes as the final minute of "The See-Through Man" would accompany many of their car chases through the sleepy lanes of Buckinghamshire. You will no doubt find more. That is one of the joys of this album, the memories and images that these tracks evoke.
The album, just before the end titles of course, rounds off with the "Tag Scene" which would cover the witty exchanges between Steed and Emma/Tara at the end of each episode. Each track is played in its entirety, ranging from 49 seconds to five minutes 29 seconds, and which would then have been edited and re-cut to suit its particular use. The main and end titles are of course the original, shorter, standard TV recordings. The sleeve notes are written by Laurie Johnson himself.
One thing: The Avengers Soundtrack disc comes as part of a three disc set, 50 Years of the Music of Laurie Johnson with The Avengers being disc 1. Disc 2 features some of his other TV and film work which, though excellent, is readily available elsewhere, including The New Avengers theme which is a re-release of the London Studio Orchestra version. But rest assured disc 1 is worth the cover price alone. The package also claims to be Volume 1—so maybe, hopefully, there's more of this marvelous music in store.
Max Pemberton is the Associate Editor of Films In Review, New York, NY.
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