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Soundtrack Review

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Joe 90
Original Television Soundtrack


Composer: Barry Gray
Label: Silva Screen Records
RRP: £13.99
SILCD1721 (CD), SILED1721 (download)
Release Date: 14 April 2023

Joe 90, the series about a young boy who’s brainwashed each week and then kills people [for all the right reasons, of course], was a strange addition to the Anderson catalogue. It looks really slick, the characterisations are so much better than Captain Scarlet, its immediate predecessor, but the central premise is… odd. To say the least.

Yes, there’s a flying car and the big brainwashing machine but it’s effectively a spy adventure featuring a killer child. I see what the idea was – make an adventure series where the young audience can imagine themselves in the title role – but it’s a misfire, perhaps because children like watching adults in these types of narratives. We all loved The Man from UNCLE around this time, less so Joe 90. Whatever’s the case, it remains more a footnote than a ‘must watch’ show in the canon of Gerry and Sylvia despite its excellent production values.

However, there’s still gold to be found… in the soundtrack. Once again Barry Gray delivers a great score, full of energy and invention. Even when he’s retreading old themes, such as the tracks ‘Air Sea Rescue’ and ‘Running the Gauntlet’, it’s still full throttle stuff. What is increasingly evident, however, is the reuse of the main theme in various guises. This ploy reached overkill for the soundtrack of UFO and there are times in Joe 90 when I wished the three-note title track motif didn’t sneak in, but it rarely overstays its welcome.

The best news is that the music all sounds really rich and sumptuous. Some of the Captain Scarlet incidental music seems thin, especially when compared with what we had in Stingray and Thunderbirds, but for Joe 90 we’re treated to a big fat score, full of warmth and dynamics with plenty of nods to previous shows. ‘Boy with a Suitcase’ plunders Stingray, for example, but you’d be daft to complain when the result is so good. Meanwhile, Barry’s piano on ‘Sladek’s Recital’ is pure joy. He could really play, could Mr Gray.

So where does that leave us? Well, the music is Barry almost at his best; there’s barely a dull note to be found, so while I find the series to be largely unengaging there’s very little wrong with Joe 90’s score.


Anthony Clark

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