The Essential Henry Mancini

by: Henry Mancini

Henry Mancini’s many movie and television scores and themes were so omnipresent in the 1960s and 1970s that it’s easy to forget why exactly that was so -- he wrote, scored and arranged pieces that were so memorable, sweeping and instantly recognizable that they were able to step out of their cinematic settings and straight on to pop radio. That’s an impressive feat, and Mancini did it several times with absolutely timeless and classic themes like “Moon River,” “The Pink Panther Theme,” “Peter Gunn,” and “Baby Elephant Walk,” each of which is instantly recognizable even if the listener has no clue what film or show it was originally embedded in. In all, Mancini won 20 Grammys, four Oscars and a Golden Globe, and he sold a ton of records, which made him the move score version of a superstar -- he did it by crafting subtly kinetic and rhythmic melodies and then placing them in huge, lush and jazz-inflected settings, but somehow still keeping the gist of it concise and digestible enough that everything came across fresh and alive in a quick two minutes on the radio. It’s difficult to imagine anyone ever doing it as well and pervasively again. Yes, Mancini belonged to a certain era near the close of the 20th century, but the best of his themes have long since escaped that box and entered world culture as musical touchstones. This two-disc, 36 track set features the very best of Mancini’s film and television work, and after listening to it, one will be amazed at how many of these pieces are already deep inside personal memory, even if the films and shows they came from aren’t. It’s the musical equivalent of a hat trick. ~ Steve Leggett

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