Various Artists, Inner City Beat: Detective Themes, Spy Music and Imaginary Thrillers 1967-1977

Sharon O'Connell

By Sharon O'Connell

on 03.11.14 in Reviews

The popularity of the movie soundtrack as standalone album is perhaps now at its peak, with numerous hip archival labels, such as Trunk Records, Death Waltz and Finders Keepers, dedicated to releasing overlooked, obscure or previously lost scores from old films. And thanks in large part to DJ Shadow, Portishead and David Holmes — who used cinematic samples to create their own panoramas — the concept of the soundtrack to an imaginary movie is now so well established it’s a genre in its own right.

Previously unheard sounds from the spy/thriller/detective genres

Inner City Beat, then, feeds our seemingly limitless appetite for sounds from the spy/thriller/detective genre and ranges from orchestral imaginary film scores to what sound like fast-paced TV themes. It’s collated from British library music companies such as DeWolfe and KPM, who commissioned music to sell to film and TV productions in the ’60s and ’70s. Most of the works have been unheard until now, but that’s neither to deny their cool allure, nor to dismiss their composer’s talent.

The parameters of the genre are firmly fixed, so rippling vibraphone motifs, swelling strings, brass and sax blasts, jazzy organ runs and hissing hi hats are standard, but familiarity is a huge part of the listening pleasure. So too is the visually suggestive nature of this compilation, which is amplified by the inclusion of a 60-page graphic novel with the same title — the work of illustrator John C. Patterson and ’60s British pulp-fiction writer Markham “Badly” Antringham.

The ghosts of soundtrack maestros John Barry, Lalo Schifrin, Ron Goodwin and Jerry Goldsmith hover close by, notably on Syd Dale’s Bond-like “Danger Musicians at Work” and the “Bullitt”-styled “On a Bicycle Made for Three,” by Brass Unlimited. If the contribution of Norrie Paramor (who produced early hits for Cliff Richard & The Shadows) seems familiar, it probably is — it’s the theme from early-’70s TV series “New Scotland Yard.” Unsurprisingly, echoes of the themes from “Danger Man,” “Hawaii Five-O” and “The Saint” abound, but however heavily stylized and retro, these sounds are eternally stylish, too.