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CD Reviews Thunderbirds and Thunderbirds 2

By Nick Joy


Thunderbirds *** 1/2

HANS ZIMMER

Universal

18 tracks - 50:23

A sense of nostalgia pervades Hans Zimmer's score for Jonathan Frakes' "Spy Kids with Spaceships." It's not just the fact that the movie nods affectionately towards the original '60s puppet show, but because Zimmer regresses to a simpler form of music. It's like Gladiator or The Thin Red Line never happened, and the composer remained entrenched in his Bruckheimer action-fests of the mid-'90s. Packed with heroic driving anthems and thrashing percussion, this could have easily slipped into Zimmer's discography somewhere between Crimson Tide and Broken Arrow.

Proud of its heritage, the score commences with a synthetically-enhanced slightly up-tempo version of Barry Gray's classic Thunderbirds titles. Entitled "Thunderbirds Are Go," it sounds enough like the original for the listener to recognize the orchestra, and thankfully respects it source material in a way that Apollo 440's "Lost in Space" did not.

Whenever Lady Penelope and chauffeur Parker make an appearance on the score they are accompanied by a regal theme to signify milady's aristocracy. Perhaps it's wishful thinking on my part, or just a flight of fancy, but the Lady Penelope cues occasionally recall Zimmer's previous lady/ chauffeur pic Driving Miss Daisy. Sir Ben Kingsley's evil genius The Hood is supported by the standard sinister orchestral devices of slow low strings and ominous percussive bangs, and a layer of synthetic male choir added to the mix. There's also a recurring motif that replicates the first three notes of Howard Shore's Orc-motif (as used prominently in The Fellowship of the Ring's "Amon Hen")

Action cues "TB3 Takeoff," "International Rescue" and "Thunderize" are fairly interchangeable, and all offer variations on Zimmer's heroic theme, which is a rousing hybrid of The Rock and David Arnold's Bond scores. The best track is "F.A.B.," a climactic cue that builds from whimsy into a full-blown interpolation of Barry Gray's main theme. This anthem has never sounded so impressive and powerful, and the only minor quibble is the sudden cut-off; I'd have loved another minute or so of this full-on experience.

"F.A.B." is where the album should have finished, and indeed I recommend you stop the disc at this very point to save you from the dreaded pop song "Thunderbirds are Go" by Busted. Clearly added to the disc for commercial appeal, there really is no crossover between the fans of Zimmer's score and the teenage girls gagging for another hit of light British pop.

In all, this is a remarkably fun and unpretentious score, and may not find favor with those who like a maturer Zimmer bolstered with ethnic instruments and Lisa Gerard's chanting. But for throwaway popcorn thrills, this is a far better bet than you might have expected. It won't be appearing on the Academy's short list early next year, but is applauded for having only a single song and for reminding us that Zimmer is not adverse to a bit of fun.




Thunderbirds 2 *** 1/2

BARRY GRAY

Silva Screen FILMCD609

27 tracks - 60:05

Smartly timed to tie-in with this summer's big-screen remake, Silva Screen releases a second dose of Barry Gray's classic Thunderbirds TV scores. This is the third of Silva's ongoing series of archive Gerry Anderson releases, following Thunderbirds 1 and Captain Scarlet, with the first season of Space: 1999 being prepped for later this year.

The inventiveness and scale of these scores betray their humble 35-piece orchestral origins, sounding twice as big and offering rousing themes. This completes the release of all available music from the series, and is the first time that the cues have been out on a commercial label. There's an eclectic mix of military, action, suspense and jazz cues, providing underscore to six more episodes. However, while these cues are attributed to single episodes they were frequently re-used in other episodes, thus making them more familiar than you might have thought.

The iconic "Thunderbirds March" is presented this time without the "5-4-3-2-1" countdown narration, thus allowing the listener to fully appreciate the majesty of this perennial favorite. The greatest surprise on the album is "Flying High," a song originally recorded for the end titles, but ultimately discarded after two recordings, and dissatisfaction from Anderson. While not in the same league as Stingray's "Aqua Marina," give me this over Russell Watson's "Faith of the Heart" any day.

The liner notes include synopses of the relevant episodes, as well as part two of an ongoing history of Barry Gray's work with Anderson. A reasonably-priced, attractively-packaged release for Anderson fans and the new generation of kids who want to delve into the franchise's past.

MailBag@filmscoremonthly.com

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