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Soundtrack Review

Cover Image


Original Television Soundtrack


Composer: Barry Gray
Label: Silva Screen Records
RRP: £13.99
SILCD1597 (CD), SILED1597 (download)
Release Date: 13 September 2019

Barry Gray’s music is unmistakable, sophisticated, evocative, clever, funny, catchy… and mainly written for children’s TV. It’s a stunning irony that he wrote big scores for small screen shows. From Thunderbirds to Captain Scarlet and back to Stingray, his work provided a stirring musical backdrop to fantasy adventures that mainly starred puppets.

However, come June 1969 he started work on a score for a live action series: UFO. Unlike its predecessors the show featured humans, bigger and better effects and a whole lot of running about. It promised to provide everything that puppets couldn’t offer.

Over 12 sessions, spanning around 18 months, Barry recorded the score that would appear in 26 episodes of the alien invasion series… and the surprise was that instead of matching the heightened visuals with big sounds he generally did the reverse. The music written for UFO is mainly quite sparse on instrumentation. It also relies heavily on repeated motifs and common phrases, such as the four-note hook of the main theme.

While undeniably quintessential Barry Gray, much of the music has hints of the easy listening quartet about it, ripe with parping Hammond organ, floaty flute and chiming guitar. What saves it from falling into ‘'60s swinging party’ parody is the arrangements, which are always inventive. There are hints of past glories, too; especially the use of unresolved chords and the ever-present parping brass.

The biggest problem with collecting all the show’s music into one place is that it highlights Gray’s reliance on the main theme’s four-note hook. We get it sinister, jaunty, moody, slow, fast and wrapped up with touches of arrangements from previous Anderson shows – track 7, ‘Straker and the General’, is a good example. There’s more than a hint of Stingray’s ‘March of the Oysters’ about it. As a result, this release is both enjoyable and a tad frustrating. The repetition can be wearisome, especially after the umpteenth repeat of those four notes, but it’s also familiar and engaging.

Barry Gray rarely put a note wrong and with this UFO score he maintained that standard. It’s just a shame he relied so heavily on so few ingredients. As a result, it’s for the fans only – this collection won’t be winning the great man any new admirers. On the plus side, though, is the sound quality – it sounds great.

So, did I enjoy it? Yes. Will I listen again? Of course. Is it worth buying? Totally. Is it Barry Gray’s best work? No, not in my opinion. But I’ll still give it a good mark, despite it all.


Anthony Clark

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