Opening with the aptly named “Flying Circus,” Lalo Schifrin’s score for the 1976 adventure flick Sky Riders may take a few listeners by surprise for the first five or six minutes (the entire first track and part of the second) as Schifrin seems to be placing the action in a circus ring. But there’s no circus ring involved in this eccentric film… only an elaborate and dangerous rescue… by hang glider. Sky Riders is the kind of film that three decades later seems almost impossible to take seriously – regardless of how tough James Coburn looks gliding through the air. And Schifrin’s score (released now by Aleph Records) is  classic 70s jazz/funk – a style that Schifrin knew and put to use in a way that would make him a legend.

The tracks are extensive (with only eight tracks on the album there’s still an impressive 48 minutes of music here) and each one stands on its own as a strong piece of composition. A few of the tracks are especially memorable. The call and answer patterns in the adventurous “Copters and Gliders” contains so much high-energy action and thrilling string rhythms (equally matched by pounding drums) that it’s easy to picture the exotic airborne stunts taking place in this film – but it’s the gentle finale of this track that really gives it the depth and personality that makes it memorable.  The lengthy and repetitive string-plucking solo in the middle of “The Riders” is hard to forget (and would be at home in any horror film). It’s the first sign of an air of mystery and suspense that shows up unexpected after the giddiness of the first few tracks.

For those listeners who may not have seen this film in its original 70s glory (or heard this score when Schifrin was at his peak) much of this music will sound over the top and cheesy. Even diehard Schifrin fans will surely find a bit to giggle at in the opening track – yes it’s beautiful and reminiscent of delicately flying trapeze artists – but it provides the backdrop for an action-rescue movie. Overall, there’s plenty to enjoy here, just take yourself back 30 years and close your eyes.

Zach’s Rating: B
Perfect For: Schifrin fanatics who miss the funky film scores of the 70s
Stay Away if: You can’t take a buoyantly jovial mix of circus and action music seriosuly

To purchase the Sky Riders score, visit Amazon

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