Today I am going to look at the work of composer Hugo Montenegro. Montenegro is probably more famous for his re-interpretation of other composer’s music. His version of Ennio Morricone’s The Good, The Bad And The Ugly topped the U.S. charts (making it to #2). But Montenegro did his own tunes as well and provided the soundtracks to a few spy movies, namely The Ambushers, and The Wrecking Crew – starring Dean Martin as Matt Helm. He also composed the theme (from 2nd season) for the TV series, I Dream of Jeannie, which has got to count for something!
Montenegro’s re-versions of other composers tunes, in this day and age are a little redundant – as it is quite easy to access the originals. But that wasn’t always the case. As a lad, growing up in rural Australia, it was virtually impossible to access Morricone’s The Good, The Bad and the Ugly – whereas Montenegro’s was easy to find. I still have several western compilation L.P.s, from my childhood, with Montenegro’s version on them. On top of that, it got radio play too.
I must admit I find Montenegro’s original movie scores a bit too scattered for my liking, and don’t follow the plot. A wild swinging tune is great to listen to, while not watching the movie, but with the film, if the intent is to convey suspense – then the number fails – such as in the Frank Sinatra detective thriller, Lady in Cement.
I almost see Montenegro’s music as a toy from my youth. It was great when I was young, exposing a young fella to the wild multitude of sounds out there. But now as an adult, I think Hugo can be locked away in the cupboard, (or slipped into the bottom of the toy-box) and in its place, composers such as Morricone, Goldsmith, Bernstein, Williams et al should be sampled.
Mort Goode’s liner notes to the album, ‘Original Music From The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ say this about Montenegro’s contribution:
‘One of the most intriguing elements that keeps “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” moving sprightly or stealthily each week is music. It sparkles or sputters. It tantalises or tickles. It relieves or revives. The variety of musical themes has been expanded for this album. This original music is fascinatingly arranged and conducted by Hugo Montenegro with a swashbuckling orchestra conjuring up images of U.N.C.L.E. escapades. Several talented and renowned composers have contributed to the music.’