TV Show "24" Original Musical Score CD

Composed by: Sean Callery

In 2001, 24 hit television screens and became quite the success, spawning seven further seasons detailing the badass yet unlucky career of CTU (counter-terrorist unit) agent Jack Bauer. Its real-time format within a 24-hour period helped create a suspenseful, surprise-laden experience, although after the first season the show gradually lost focus of the real-time aspect in favor of drama (imagine dealing with a stack of terrorist schemes and action scenes uninterrupted in just one day). The music by Sean Callery is an electronics and synthesizer-laden score that, despite its TV budget, contributed greatly to the suspense of the show and has some outstanding moments. It even garnered Callery several Emmy awards.

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been many albums for the music of 24, for while it’s not a thematic powerhouse like Lost or Battlestar Galactica, the music is up there in TV scores and has its own set of themes and motifs, unlike many other spy/military shows. Thus the albums miss a lot of highlights for those who love the show and pay attention to its music. These compilations also don’t reveal the many themes and motifs as most that manage to get on album appear only as one-offs. However, they are good listens and the absence of vast highlights won’t bother those who aren’t big fans. The first album here collects highlights from the first three seasons, clocking in at less than an hour and heavily focusing on the first season, which is a little frustrating for me personally as a fan as I know that there were great moments in the next two seasons that would have been great to feature.

The first track is a suite of the main theme, parts of which graced the first episode. The last twenty to thirty seconds is used for the end credits. It’s a good main theme, with its theme suite conveying American heroism, personal loss, and drama to show its malleability. It’s more of a Jack Bauer theme, playing in scenes where he does something especially heroic or badass, or when he has an emotional high, and almost always features in the season finale’s climatic cues.

A lot of the material on the show features catchy beats and tunes as Bauer and friends run around Los Angeles. Most of the cues Callery puts in this style are repetitious, but feature tiny variations or different secondary notes to keep things interesting. The best of these cues on this album is “Jack in the Limo”, which is both very dramatic and groovy. While electronics-heavy, Callery does somewhat duplicate a brass and string orchestra with synthesizers, which at times can come off as a bit cheesy, especially in scenes involving planes and helicopters. “Copter Chase Over LA” is the sole example of this on the album, a thrilling chase cue from season three. Far less corny is “The Bomb Detonates,” a somber theme from season two which got Callery an Emmy Award.

Thankfully, Callery tries to add diversity to his music, taking advantage of the ethnic backgrounds of the various foreign terrorists or breaking out the choir at choice moments. The latter is true for “Jack’s Revenge at the Docks”, a very sad and dramatic cue from Bauer’s final showdown with the main villains of season one. “Escape from the Safehouse” has some wild guitar and wailing vocals for East European hitmen terrorists while “Salazar’s Theme” features a calm yet sinister guitar piece for Mexican drug lords. In later seasons there would be a low synthesized choir for Russians, drum beats for Africans, and plenty of noticeable music for the various Middle-Eastern organizations (who would dominate every other season).

Aside from the main theme the album also features “Palmer’s Theme”, an appropriately Presidential motif for the first black president (in 24-verse). This is actually half of his theme, with his first appearances being scored by a basic two-note motif which sometimes gains extra notes and a piano rhythm. Jack’s family garners its own two themes, one a simple piano piece for annoying daughter-in-peril Kim. The other, much better theme is showcased in “Jack and Kim Trying to Reconnect”. The latter theme, though disappearing for the middle seasons, got to be part of the show finale’s grand ending music, a way to connect the whole show together and look back on the early seasons. The first season villains have a sinister electric guitar/rock motif in “Alexis.”

There are two finale cues to close out the CD. I won’t describe the one for season one too much, as its title contains a large spoiler. If you haven’t seen the show yet, avoid looking at the track titles on the album. Suffice to say, it’s a pretty good piece of music from one of the most shocking moments on television. The other finale cue, “Jack’s Humanity”, is from season three and is just great, featuring a piano melody that builds until climaxing in the main theme. It concludes in a reflective mood and a peaceful reiteration of the main theme. It’s actually the last two minutes of an unfortunately shortened cue.

Overall, this is a good album for fans of 24, and for fans of more electronic scoring, though the use of synthesizers in lieu of an orchestra might be off-putting. Its main drawback is the length of an album covering three seasons. In my opinion each season could hold up its own album.

Rating: 6/10

Track Listing

  1. Main Theme (4:41)
  2. Up and Down the Stairs (2:44)
  3. LA at 9:00 AM (1:57)
  4. Jack on the Move (2:19)
  5. Jack’s Revenge at the Docks (4:02)
  6. Kim and Teri’s Escape from the Safehouse (2:03)
  7. Jack in the Limo (2:41)
  8. In Pursuit of Kyle (2:39)
  9. Salazar’s Theme (1:54)
  10. Copter Chase Over LA (2:32)
  11. Jack Tells Kim He’s Not Coming Back (2:12)
  12. The Bomb Detonates (2:38)
  13. Palmer’s Theme (1:50)
  14. Alexis (2:04)
  15. Coliseum Finale (1:56)
  16. Amnesia (2:14)
  17. Jack and Kim Trying to Reconnect (3:05)
  18. Season One Finale (5:33)
  19. Jack’s Humanity (2:14)

You can buy the soundtrack here.

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