CD: Rat Patrol (1966)

March 7, 2011 | By

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Rating: Excellent

Label:  La-La Land Records/ Released: January 18, 2011

Tracks & Album Length: 45 tracks / (78:40)


Special Notes: 12-page colour booklet with liner notes by Jon Burlingame / Limited to 1200 copies.


Composer: Dominic Frontiere




The Rat Patrol TV series was the creation of underrated writer / director Tom Gries (Will Penny) which lasted two seasons before production partner United Artists got ‘cold feet’ from the deficit financing arrangement, and canceled the show in spite of its audience popularity.

According to Jon Burlingame’s CD liner notes, Alex North was hired to score the pilot episode, but after budget overages, both Gries as director and North as composer were dumped, and Dominic Frontiere was brought in to score not specific episodes, but roughly 90 mins. worth of multi-purpose stock music for the series – enough to last, at the very least, one season.

What’s remarkable about Frontiere’s custom library music is the immense variation of material that spans action, tense danger, furtive maneuvering in dark corners, and source cues – all based on the composer’s impressions from printed script pages.

It’s a testament to the composer’s brilliance that this album stands on its own as a vivid portrait of kick-ass soldiers fighting evil Nazis in the Libyan desert without melodrama nor jingoistic attitude. There is humour in the series’ theme – witty, jubilant, and a as tuneful as Elmer Bernstein’s Great Escape theme, or the “Colonel Bogey’s March” from Bridge on the River Kwai – but Frontiere’s variations are wildly different, and slanted towards desperate, or in-the-heat-of-the-moment tension.

The big bonus for series fans is the robustness of the music, as Frontiere recorded his score in Munich in stunning stereo. La-La Land’s mastering is top-notch, and every nuance of Frontiere’s beautiful writing is crystal clear: the multiple groups of lyrical brass, the snappy snare drum and rumbling percussion, and cues with stripped-down instrumentation (“Breaking In and Searching”).

Among the cues one can hear traces of jazzy rhythms, Spanish harmonics, and little nods to modern masters, such as the Herrmannesque triadic motif in “Desert Sun,” the chromatic patterns in “Rats in Action,” and the charged counterpoint between a cascading brass pattern and the series’ merry theme in “Rats on Patrol.”

The CD is sequenced to create a dramatic flow, guiding the listener through various adventures, but imparting a whole level of subtext: Frontiere’s music captures the superficial excitement of a good adventure, but he also captures  the emotional consequences of reckless actions, being too cocky amongst one’s mates, genuine mortal danger, and a hunger for a sense the normalcy of home.

La-La Land’s prior Frontiere release was music from The Outer Limits TV series, a must-have, multi-disc set that captures a more haunting side of the composer. Hopefully the label’s next salute will be music from The Invaders (1967-1968), and the long-forgotten urban western drama Stoney Burke (1962), the latter series co-directed by Tom Gries.



© 2011 Mark R. Hasan


External References:

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