Sky Riders CD – ALEPH 043


As a thriller, Sky Riders is frankly quixotic. It posits a sketchy tale of an American industrialist (Robert Culp) whose wif e (Susannah York) and children are snatched by terrorists from their Athens home and spirited away to an abandoned monastery perched like an eagle’s nest on a remote and impregnable peak in Thessaly. The Greek police (their chief played, inexplicably, by the adorable Charles Aznavour) are helpless; all seems lost until the timely arrival of the kidnapped woman’s former husband (James Coburn), a kind of soldier of fortune who swiftly hits on a plan: a daring guerilla rescue by hang glider.

It’s worth noting that Sky Riders, however minutely it may figure in Lalo Schifrin’s overall career, marks something of a watershed for the composer. Recorded in February of 1976 (a busy year that would include music for a total of five feature films, a television movie, and a generous sprinkling of episodic TV), it would prove to be the last, for a time, in that long, innovative line of jazz/funk-dominated scores with which Schifrin made his reputation. Later in the year, he would score—and earn an Academy Award nomination for—Voyage of the Damned, delving into a more conventionally orchestral if still compelling style. For the next two decades—until director Brett Ratner asked him to revive the funky mode of Enter the Drago n for Money Talks (1997)— this was the musical arena in which Lalo would explore, and delight.

– Julie Kirgo