REMINGTON STEELE INVESTIGATIONS SUITE 1157
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SOUNDS OF STEELE
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Hank Mancini and Company
The theme for this show was penned by a jazzer, the legendary Henry Mancini (born Enrico Nicola Mancini). Known for writing several TV themes such as Peter Gunn, The Pink Panther Show, The NBC Mystery Movie, The Invisible Man, Charlie's Angels, What's Happening!!, and Newhart. He also penned many, many movie themes with Moon River being his most well known piece. Mancini was what we call a theme arranger/composer meaning he usually did just the theme, maybe some stock music, but didn't do a whole soundtrack, especially later in his career. His themes packed a punch and he was obviously the right man for the job. So even though i have limited experience at reviewing/dissecting music, here goes.
The first season of Remington Steele gave us two versions of the opening theme. the first was used in one episode only, which was the pilot, Licensed to Steele. The themes both contained the eventual main melodic structure of all the later themes. The first episode featured a slow, oh so slightly jazzy theme. it was laid back and melodic, with a brass solo (flugelhorn) voice carrying the melody initially. It kicks in before the voice over, almost setting the tone for it. The flugel voice eventually gives it over to a vibraphone, then goes over to the sax voicing and full ensemble ending with a crescendo. Reminiscent of a lounge band sound, a GOOD lounge sound. It was a small ensemble, which was probably used for future tags, with a voice over by Stephanie Zimbalist. The ending tag of this opening (when the full ensemble comes in) theme became the signature of the Remington Steele theme. It could be heard in the ending and commercial break themes, which i am assuming Mancini also penned, but i don't know for sure.
Rest Of Season One
The voice over for the remainder of the season was changed slightly. Words were different at the end and Zimbalist's voice over actually had emotion and inflection. The theme was changed also. Same idea, just arranged differently. It opened with a Hammond type electric piano sound and not immediately with the melody. It lets the voice over be the dominate 'theme' and once it is established, the melodic structure finds it way in. this flugel (or trumpet maybe, i can hear traits of both so i am not 100% sure) voice carries the melody a tad bit longer than it did in the first episode before, again giving it to the vibes. This voice also carries longer than the first and helps to set up a more relaxed feel. The next is the saxes much like it predecessor, slightly elongated again giving way to the same ending as before. the jazzy hi-hat and ride cymbal back beat remain constant through both.
The Second Season
Ahhhh, at the time this was my freaking favorite theme (it was out done but we'll get to that later). This one featured a driving seriously jazz/rock (dare i say fusion:0) approach. The brass clearly carried the melody but the strings were indispensable in this version, as with the woodwinds who again wrestle the melody away for the tag ending. Mancini had a knack of making an orchestration sound like a small ensemble. This theme was rather brassy so it really captured your attention, especially when the first two bars are almost all woodwind ascending note crescendos. this theme was also brighter but that would change for the next season. At the time i loved the bright brassy sound, but now it almost hurts to listen to. Trumpets shouldn't be bright by nature. A brass player needs to breath correctly to get a darker sound. But then again maybe that was Mancini's intention. Personally i think the players were negligent in their interpretation. And musicality waned periodically with several trumpet 'fwacks' (when a player doesn't exactly nail a note when played but instead finds it after the initial attack of the note. I hate 'fwacks'. if you're a musician,especially a professional, there is no excuse for them.). But that's just my opinion. But if it was a studio orchestra, you get what you pay for(But NBC had a tradition of killer studio orchestras). Anyhoo, it featured a couple key changes and utilized the strings wisely. It also featured another tag ending that was sometimes used.
The Third Season
This season took a drastic change of pace for the opening theme. We are greeted by the ominous low brass with half notes crescendo on each attack to give us a half time feel even though it is still in 4/4. Electronica is the name of the game here with Mancini choosing to use an electronic drum set.( i so miss the 80's) We are set up by the low brass until we hear a simulated gunshot which heralds the high brass in for the melody. The trumpets express much more musicality here with accented notes on the first beat of every measure, accented first by a ride cymbal crash followed by the hi-hat(open and closed alternating). After the first strain of the melody, the strings and woodwinds underlay with 4 expressive notes to bring the high brass back in with the melody again as the strings hold under the melodic line for a harmonic convergence until the brass back off and the strings and woodwinds assume the melody mimicking the same articulation and their underlying theme is assumed by the high voiced woodwinds. This brings us to the bridge when all the brass voices get to speak in unison, alternating with the high brass ascending and low brass descending,(very nice harmonic structure) then vice versa for the next measure, resting for a half rest while the electronic drums take over(or maybe even a synthesizer- i'm bad with electronica), then back to the brass. Mancini adds a little more defined syncopated rhythm. The bold statement is finished and the strings prepare the same four notes as before but the saxes assuming the melody on that strain, again mimicking the same accents and dynamics that remained constant throughout. Finally the strings set up the final statement, taken over the melodic structure again until all the voices finish together. Very laid back but very straightforward. Varying very little from the original from season one.
The Fourth Season
Yeah boy! This is my all time favorite theme. It's dynamic, with a little bit of Broadway Andrew Lloyd Webber rock coupled with the Mancini jazzzzzz. Sweet. This version is much more detailed and complex than the others combined. The first note alerts you to that. It's still in an easy 4/4 with a half time feel, thanks to the back beat but the melody is driving with an intensity that Mancini rarely writes. The low brass start on half notes then accented quarter notes, then eight notes why the strings play pure melodic madness ascending to the full melody. We get the gunshot to announce its presence again. One slight difference here is there are more orchestral instruments. And the tympani shall speak! It all but replaces the set player from before. The high brass mimic last seasons melody, same accents, same rhythm, just a little brighter than before. And the piece de resistance? the French freaking horns baby. The French horn was meant to play notes like that (ahh, Scarecrow and Mrs. King French horns ruled) They replace the lighter string voice from season 3. And that was the element missing. It is easier to transfer between high brass (trumpets) and low brass (trombones, euphs,etc) with the middle voices (french horns). And it works perfectly here. The four notes are turned into 5 with the horns throwing in an eight note to jazz it up. The set player lays in a heavy beat on 2 and 4 to complement and drive the whole tune, with the tympani giving it it's melodic/harmonic structure. (point/counterpoint crap) The high brass come in again and lead us into a key change where a different flavor we haven't experienced before is added. The french horns and possibly the low brass kick us back into the original key and the brass bring us to the bridge. this time it is ultra staccato with the snare playing heavy on the notation. The electronica kicks in again but this time it is underlined with a bassoon type sound to help strengthen the electronica. Electronic instruments suffer from a thin sound often. The voices continue to trade off until the third exchange includes everyone (is that a China Boy cymbal crash i hear?) with the brass building on the underlying theme which is now the primary theme, with again, staccato dynamics. Strings set up the saxes then the strings come back to set up the brass and voila, a quick crescendo to the last statement and we have an ending. Almost a fff to a mf. A great theme for a great show. LoveItLoveItLoveItLoveItLoveItLoveIt!
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