The mid 50s to mid 60s were a golden age for creative orchestrators. The arrival of high fidelity stereo sound brought a whole new interest in what kind of sophisticated tone colors could be obtained with an orchestra that was often spiced up with a few new exotic electric instruments and modern stereo effects. Hugo Montenegro was one of many arrangers who was part of this creative scene. Hugo was not as hip and smooth as Henry Mancini or Quincey Jones, and sometimes his music descended towards the heavy-handed pomp of Arthur Fieldler, but sometimes he also came up with some fairly good recordings too. The soundtrack to the weekly TV show, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, is probably one of his best, although it is also inconsistent.
60s spy soundtracks tend to be treasure troves for those who seek exotic instrumental music and “U.N.C.L.E.” has its share of gems, but it also has some tracks that are extremely corny and show Montenegro at his worst. One of the best tracks is the main title theme which features a hard driving odd-metered horn riff very similar to Schifrin's classic "Mission Impossible". On side two, "Illya" matches the classic spaghetti western guitar sound favored by international spies and surfers to a laid back Latin lounge groove and features an odd high pitched keyboard, possibly an early synthesizer. Top tune honors though go to “The Invaders”, a classic menacing noire crime jazz theme played in an exotic 5/4 beat. The lesser cuts on here range from decent, but unremarkable easy-listening, to some really unbearably silly kitsch numbers.
To the collector of spy/crime soundtracks and exotic instrumentals there is enough good stuff on here to make this worth picking up, but there is also enough corny material on here to keep this record from being in the top ranks of this genre.