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302 066 626 2

Album cover copyright (c) 2004 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall



Excellent underscore that just doesn't work away from the screen 


With modern action thrillers in the cinema becoming less and less satisfying as they increasingly seem like ways of massaging big stars' egos and giving them "high concept" things to do, the best place to find a good old-fashioned brainless piece of action fun is on the small screen, with shows like 24 leading the way.  It's utterly ridiculous stuff, but is simply breathlessly exciting.  The central conceit, that the 24-part series documents a one-day period, in real time, was a good idea by someone, and worked very well in the first season, though has pretty much been abandoned these days (not officially, of course, but character seem to manage to travel at remarkable pace over long distances during advert breaks).  The series follows the Los Angeles "Counter Terrorism Unit", focusing on Agent Jack Bauer, at various stages just an agent, leading up the unit, a renegade, or back to being an agent again, but always showing a remarkable knack for getting himself into tight situations but managing to get out of them just in time to save the world - again.

It was always going to be difficult to maintain something like this over more than one season, since so much of it is based on genuinely unexpected things happening to lead characters (this isn't like your typical show where you just know that none of the main characters is going to get killed, so you lose some of the tension - virtually all of the original cast has now been killed off in one way or other - though several of them still manage to find their way back in).  However, the second season was still fairly strong and, after a pretty dreadful third one, things got well and truly back on track in the fourth, and so far the fifth seems to be at a similarly high standard.  Everything about the show is utterly absurd, but this doesn't stop it being completely enjoyable, and Kiefer Sutherland excels in the central role.

Composer Sean Callery has scored every episode, with the music seeming to take on a greater role (and certainly a bigger budget) as time has gone by.  Without a traditional main title sequence, the main theme took a short while to become apparent, but it features in all the episodes, frequently as part of the underscore itself.  I'm probably one of the very few people who watches the show every week, and every single week gets reminded of Bruce Broughton's Shadow Conspiracy theme, but there's an uncanny (and presumably entirely coincidental) similarity which is impossible not to spot for those familiar with the score.  There's an extended arrangement of it (nearly five minutes, in fact) which opens this album of music from the first three seasons - though it's quickly apparent that the bar or two you hear through most shows is as much as you need.

As seems to happen curiously often with tv shows, particularly modern-day ones, music which seems excellent in the show itself just doesn't seem to work so well on CD.  There's a couple of reasons why this might be: first, that by necessity most of the cues in the show are very short, so to work on an album either they need to get stuck together with one another in a not-necessarily-musical fashion, or fleshed out into expanded versions which the base material just can't support; and second, with every episode featuring probably 20-30 minutes of score, and there being 72 episodes being covered by this album, that makes just finding one track from every three or four shows very difficult.  This album focuses on the action music, as you might expect, but this is very much music designed to support the visuals rather than work away from them, frequently being driven by synth percussion more than anythinig else.  Occasionally, when the (fake) orchestra takes over a little, such as in "Copter Chase Over LA", things are more interesting, but sadly even here it's let down by the music being electronic rather than real.

Indeed, the best selections on the album are the more emotional, lighter ones, such as the touching "Jack's Revenge at the Docks", and the nice guitar-led "Salazar's Theme".  The finales from seasons one and three - "Terry's Death" and "Jack's Humanity", respectively - make a nice way of ending the album, but in truth it just doesn't really work.  Perhaps making the material being covered more concise - an album of music from just one season, like the releases of the Alias music have been, for instance - would have helped - but for all that this is superb tv music and bolsters the show considerably - sadly it doesn't cut it on disc.

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  1. 24 Theme (4:41)
  2. Up and Down Stairs (2:44)
  3. LA at 9:00 AM (1:57)
  4. Jack on the Move (2:19)
  5. Jack's Revenge at the Docks (4:02)
  6. Kim and Terry's Escape from the Safe House (2:03)
  7. Jack in the Limo (2:41)
  8. In Pursuit of Kyle (2:39)
  9. Salazar's Theme (1:54)
  10. Copter Chase Over LA (2:32)
  11. Jack Tells Kim He's Not Coming Back (2:12)
  12. The Bomb Detonates (2:38)
  13. Palmer's Theme (1:50)
  14. Alexis (2:04)
  15. Coliseum Finale (1:56)
  16. Amnesia (2:14)
  17. Jack and Kim Trying to Reconnect (3:06)
  18. Terry's Death (5:33)
  19. Jack's Humanity (2:14)