Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
rob + = email

2013 March 04 • Monday

In the years from 1959 to 1985 only two television soundtrack albums hit number one on Billboard's Top Pop album charts. The first was Henry Mancini's Music from Peter Gunn and the second, twenty-six years later, was Miami Vice. This complete collection of Jan Hammer's music for Miami Vice, not the two soundtrack albums which presented a mixture of Hammer originals with pop songs, is the 259th Soundtrack of the Week.

According to the liner notes, when the single version of the Miami Vice hit the number one spot on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles chart, Hammer got the news first from Henry Mancini, who called him at home to congratulate him. Hammer was most honored.

The double CD of this music is long out of print and very expensive on the used market. You can buy downloads of the mp3s from Jan Hammer's web site, though.

It begins with the theme, one of the most memorable in the history of television music. It's a great piece of work. As rocking as it is, a surprisingly large amount of the other material is dreamy and laid-back. There are echoes of the theme in some of the other cues, such as in "Chase".

My personal favorite track from the two CDs' worth of material is "Crockett's Theme". The recording here is different from the one on the first Miami Vice soundtrack album. I suspect the album version is a re-recording, and the one in this collection is the original recording as heard on the show. I'm really not sure which one I like better. It's a great tune and, according to the liner notes, it was a number one hit in Europe. The same melody reappears in "Crockett's Return".

Rico has his own theme, too, in "Rico's Blues", which is a cool, slinky blues with some interesting melodic and harmonic twists. Part of it is a little bit like The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".

Other highlights include the heavy, dramatic and atmospheric "Evan", the wistful "Rain", the half-romantic, half-creepy "Shadow in the Dark", the dreamy and melancholy "The Talk" and the twisted, Jan Hammer take on country that is "Texas Ranger" (from an episode starring Willie Nelson as a Texas Ranger).