Network Distributing debuted a pair of exclusive vinyl soundtrack album releases this week. Focusing on two iconic ITC series of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Man in A Suitcase, these beautifully designed albums assemble a number of instantly recognisable cues on high quality 180g vinyl pressed by Pallas in Germany.

Network worked with renowned vinyl cutting engineer Ray Staff, whose credits include David Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars and The Rolling Stones' It's Only Rock 'n' Roll, to master the albums from the FX Group tape transfers.

Ray joined the legendary Trident Studios, based in St Anne's Court, Soho, in 1970 and he became part of the fledgling Mastering Department. His skill at working on major projects with Bowie and Elton John saw him progress to become Trident’s Chief Mastering Engineer. He is currently one of the chief engineers at AIR Mastering having worked with artists as diverse as Led Zeppelin and Supertramp and most recently on the triple platinum No 1 debut album and single by Corinne Bailey Rae.


Network commented: 'Although high-quality masters were already available from the 2008 CD releases, we have returned to the original analogue tapes which have been mastered afresh for vinyl to take advantage of the format’s more subtle dynamic range. Mastering and vinyl cutting have been supervised by one of the very best in the business, ensuring that these tracks have never sounded so good since they went down onto tape in the late 1960s.'

Created by Dennis Spooner and Monty Berman, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)'s 26 episodes were produced and made by Scoton Productions for worldwide distribution by ITC. Their track record stretched back to some of the classic 1960s series made under the ITC banner, including The Baron (1966-67), The Champions (1968-69) and Department S (1969-70). Filming commenced in May 1968 at ABC Elstree Borehamwood, continuing into July 1969, and the series featured the crime busting antics of down at heel private investigator Jeff Randall (Mike Pratt) and his partner Marty Hopkirk (Kenneth Cope). The major selling point was that the murdered Marty was reincarnated as a ghost in the very first episode My Late Lamented Friend and Partner, transmitted in September 1969, and then 'haunted' his partner throughout the rest of the series.

Providing the music for the series was legendary composer Edwin Astley. Ted had composed the memorable themes and cues for Danger Man (1960-68), The Saint (creating two arrangements for the black and white and colour episodes between 1962 and 1969), The Baron, Department S and The Champions. Of the distinctive harpsichord dominated theme of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) he commented: 'It has to be something distinctive in the orchestration or in the tune and I suppose that's why I used the harpsichord because in those days it was a very distinctive sound.'(1)

He recorded a total of 188 cues for the series and the harpsichord (often used as stings to herald the appearance and disappearance of Marty and effortlessly rearranged as his signature motif), organ, high strings and high-pitched flutes and clarinets add a melancholic counterpoint (Astley's use of the minor key underlining the series' quirky notions of the afterlife) to the dynamic music, driven by strident strings, drums, brass and bass, which scores the series' action sequences.

The album features the iconic opening and end titles, the trilling notes of the harpsichord highlighting a mid-tempo jazzy waltz, and specific cues from nine episodes. They brilliantly showcase Astley's splendid sense of melody, jazz structure (the music for Money to Burn is particularly lovely) and use of motif to enhance scenes. And on vinyl they sound more organic and subtle.

The thirty one episodes of Man In A Suitcase, created by Richard Harris and Dennis Spooner under its original title of McGill, were produced in collaboration with American producer Stanley Greenberg and prolific ITC producer Sidney Cole. Filming started at Pinewood Studios in August 1966 and the series was filmed in two blocks and completed in December 1967, by which time it had been given its more familiar title. The lead role of McGill, a disgraced CIA operative taking cases on a freelance basis around the world, was given to 28 year-old Texan method actor Richard Bradford after ITC's Lew Grade saw him in Arthur Penn's The Chase (1966).

Man In A Suitcase features the work of two composers, Ron Grainer and Albert Elms. Grainer needs little introduction. A prolific television and film composer, his signature themes for Maigret (BBC, 1959-63), Steptoe and Son (BBC, 1962-74) Doctor Who (BBC, 1963-89, 1996, 2005-), The Prisoner (1967-8) and Tales of the Unexpected (ITV, 1979-88) gained him worldwide recognition. He also branched out into films, such as To Sir, With Love (1967) and The Assassination Bureau (1969), and in 1971 produced the stunning score for The Omega Man. The Grainer theme to Man In A Suitcase would gain greater recognition in its appropriation for the Chris Evans Channel 4 show TFI Friday.

Grainer's strident piano, brass and percussion driven theme anticipates his work on The Prisoner and its boldness epitomises the values of the anti-heroic central character of McGill.  In counterpoint Albert Elms offers a range of contrasting cues for eleven episodes on this album. Again, his use of lietmotif, low key woodwind, moody brass and percussion offers a taste of what was to come with his eclectic work on The Prisoner. Here, the music switches from upbeat, 1960s pop and punchy action themes, to wistful melancholia or cute jazz with Spanish and Mexican influences (often as a musical accompaniment to that week's location in the episode).

Both albums make for very nostalgic listening, as wonderful examples of music from the golden age of television, and the album artwork is beautifully handled and presented by Martin Cater. Serious vinyl collectors will get a lot of pleasure from their analogue audio fidelity and quality.

(1) Andrew Pixley, Randall and Hopkirk - Accompanying Notes 2008 CD Release

Note: these albums are only available direct from Network's site.
Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)
Original Soundtrack Selections
Music by Edwin Astley
Network 7859033
Mono
Released: 28 October 2013

Man In A Suitcase
Original Soundtrack Selections
Music by Albert Elms
Theme by Ron Grainer
Network 7959028
Mono
Released: 28 October 2013

Although high-quality masters were already available from the CD releases, we have returned to the original analogue tapes which have been mastered afresh for vinyl to take advantage of the format’s more subtle dynamic range. Mastering and vinyl cutting have been supervised by one of the very best in the business – Ray Staff of AIR Studios – ensuring that these tracks have never sounded so good since they went down onto tape in the late 1960s. - See more at: http://networkonair.com/features/2013/10/25/the-story-behind-our-new-vinyl-releases/#sthash.9OaYXEsC.dpu

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