Saturday, February 7, 2015

CD (Fan) Review – Miami Vice: The Complete Collection, by Jan Hammer

While Miami Vice is one of my favorite TV shows of all time (I had the good fortune to interview Lieutenant Castillo himself, Edward James Olmos, in the late 1990s), it is not my absolute favorite (that would be the 1960s Star Trek series), and there are other shows that I enjoy far more and that are closer to my heart in terms of nostalgia and sentimental value.

That being said, I truly believe that the Miami Vice music score is the best television score of all time. And by score, I don’t mean the two or three soundtracks that came out in the 1980s and mostly featured hit pop songs of the era that played on the show.

I’m talking about the purely instrumental score composed and performed by Jan Hammer and that is the sole focus of this two-disc release.

Cynics would say that the synthesizer music is cheesy and dated. I dare say such cynics are wrong. Sure, the 1980s were the heyday of synthesizer music, much of which was schmaltzy back then. But for his Miami Vice music, the synthesizer was simply an instrument which Hammer used as a tool to craft iconic sounds and memorable, epic themes. The synthesizer is the medium, and Hammer’s bold and chilling compositions are his message.

I’ve listened to some of Hammer’s later records, and as good as they are in and of themselves, his Miami Vice work is so unique and special it’s in a class of its own. I think this is not only because the music perfectly underscores the images it was originally designed to accompany, but also because it tells a compelling story all its own.

It is precisely in this way that the Miami Vice music of Jan Hammer transcends its time and place and remains visionary to this day.

--Raj Manoharan

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