Thunderbirds Are Go (Series 1) – Volume 1 – Soundtrack Review

Thunderbirds Are Go presents a modernised return to Barry Gray’s iconic musical style for the original series, and that combined with several great themes and some fantastic action cues makes the album overall a truly mind-blowing musical experience.

10,000 Feet And Climbing opens the album, and the Barry Gray-esque compositional nature that encompasses much of the score shows itself straight away with loud, dramatic brass and frantic percussion that kicks in as the track begins. There is also a rather modernised element to it, as after a few seconds synthesizers start to take up supporting positions in the background. All-in the track makes for a fast-paced and very edge-of-your-seat introduction to the subsequent piece, what is of course the standout cue of the album; Thunderbirds March. The now practically iconic vocal countdown from the original series opens the piece, before thunderous (haha) brass then plays the opening notes from the classic Thunderbirds theme. What follows is a minute or so of full-on epic orchestra, with the track frequently dipping into the original theme and then rapidly moving back away. Stylistically the March sounds amazing, and although I would’ve perhaps liked it to be a bit more thematically complex (and longer!) it still makes for one hell of an album opening.

The first of the score’s major themes arrives in The Launch; the rescue theme. Much like the original Thunderbirds motif, it’s upbeat, heroic, memorable and incredibly dramatic, and it gets an lengthy and enjoyable fleshing out here. Considering just how iconic the Barry Gray theme is, I feel credit is very much due to the composers here as they have created a new theme that not only stands up really well against the original, but is also just really, really good (it would have been the standout cue of the album if not for the fantastic March piece). Subsequent track Dr. Meddings In A Fix then brings the new and original themes together for the album’s first action cue, and together the two tracks serve as a great thematic introduction (and reintroduction, for the Thunderbirds theme). The Hood’s theme then premiers in The Hood, He’s Back!, and while it’s not quite as unique or memorable as the previous motifs (being only a series of ominous notes shifting slowly downward in pitch), it is rather menacing.

Alan To The Rescue then jumps right into an action stride, with intense, fast-paced percussion and brass leading the musical charge. Things then slow down a tad towards the end of the piece for a rather victorious finale, which then leads into the much more sinister-sounding The Hood V.S. Kayo. As you might expect, a few seconds in the Hood theme makes a return before the track practically explodes with loud and dramatic brass that steer the music right back into action territory. Thunderbirds Triumphant then introduces yet another theme (or at least, it sounds like one); a heroic and well…triumphant motif as the Thunderbirds presumably succeed in their latest rescue mission.

It’s at this point that the album starts to settle into a bit of a groove, being primarily action cue-based which are then bundled together at various intervals to create several groups of musical content to go with each of the first season’s episodes. Space Junk gets things off to a weird-sounding start, being primarily electronic and very atmospheric in tone – almost Blade Runner-esque at points. London Branch Investigates then takes things back in time with some jazzy and upbeat spy music, a mood which is then continued through into Parker On The Prowl. The spy tone takes a more James Bond-y approach here, with ominous brass and rapid percussion delivering a near John Barry styled musical approach.

One of the most well known classic Thunderbirds episodes got remade for the new series; the very first episode entitled Trapped In The Sky. You might even remember it; it’s the one with the Fireflash. The bundle of album tracks dedicated to the episode begins with Major Landing Gear Fail, an intense and percussion heavy-piece that acts as a pretty dramatic introduction to the next track; Fireflash Landing. It’s one of the standout cues of the album, being a rather incredible-sounding recreation of the music for the original Trapped In The Sky episode (which was also then subsequently used as part of the main titles for much of the series). Here it sounds absolutely awesome, and despite its unfortunate shortness its a very worthy inclusion on the album. If I Don’t Make It then slows things down considerably for a rather melancholic and piano-based piece before things turn more optimistic with Mission Accomplished, which then finishes up the action group with several bold brass statements.

One thing that I have noticed through the album is that a lot of the cues are rather short (like, 30 seconds to a minute short) and given that a lot of them are grouped together for episodes, I can’t help but wonder if it might have been simpler just to edit these groups together into four or five minute suites instead. It would make for easier listening and given the rather large number of tracks, would likely improve the album structure overall. Anyway, Save One Life, Then Save The World begins the next action sequence, opening with almost horror-like rapid strings before then moving into more heroic territory with brass playing the opening notes of the Thunderbirds theme. The Train That Couldn’t Slow Down then continues this rather optimistic tone initially with slow and gradual brass notes, before then ramping up the pace towards the end with dramatic percussion. It’s A Runaway! is the thankfully lengthier (a whole three minutes!) conclusion to the group, featuring many an appearance from the new rescue theme and a whole lot of epic brass.

The rescue theme then appears again at the start of Thunderbird 2 Is Going Down, and in combination with loud percussion it makes for a very dramatic and grandiose two minute piece. Thematically, this theme is easily the best thing to come out of this score, it’s just so damn good, and it works so well with the original theme. The musical intensity then settles right down in International Rescue Meets Its Match, a track that starts rather dark and ominous before then gradually building back up with several increasingly hopeful thematic appearances from both the rescue and original Thunderbirds theme. Crisis Averted then moves into more triumphant territory for a minute before the action fully returns in FAB1 V.S. The Hoodlum, a fast-paced and percussion-heavy piece that features a welcome reprise of the Thunderbirds Triumphant theme introduced earlier on the album.

As the score starts to draw to a close, we are treated to several truly fantastic tracks to send things off. Whirlpool is a brass-based and particularly intense action setpiece that doesn’t hold back on the drama or the thematic references to both the rescue and Triumphant themes. Tracy Brothers To The Rescue then brings the heroism in full force with loud brass statements and a surprising yet excellent use of vocals for a particularly victorious rendition of the Triumphant theme. Closing Titles then reprises more of the thematic content from the original Thunderbirds theme that the March missed off, making for a great finale to the album overall.

All-in, Ben and Nick Foster’s score to Thunderbirds Are Go is mind-blowingly good. Stylistically it features a wonderfully modernised take on Barry Gray’s compositional approach for the original series, and thematically there are several fantastic-sounding reprises of Gray’s themes that almost bring a tear to the eye. The album overall pays an incredible amount of respect to his classic music without letting it completely take over the score, which in all honesty is a feat in itself. A great example of this is the new rescue theme, a great-sounding and very memorable composition that works well with the original theme but still stands on its own at the same time. Honourable mentions also go to the Thunderbirds Triumphant and The Hood themes. Other than a slight improvement to album structure (which can be frustrating at times given the large amount of annoyingly short tracks) I’d say this score is damn near perfect, and one that is well worthy of the Thunderbirds.

 

Score: 9/10

Standout Cue: 2. Thunderbirds March

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