Monday, February 15, 2016

Randy Edelman: The Countdown

There isn't much synergy between the MacGyver and Disney universes, but one name that appears in both places is Randy Edelman.  As I've been listening to many of his works of late, it's led me to pose a serious question: is he the greatest composer ever?

Edelman composed the MacGyver theme song (aka the greatest theme song in the history of television) and the scores of 16 episodes scattered throughout seasons 1, 2, and 3.  All of the composers who worked on MacGyver were great, but Edelman was the best.  His MacGyver scores were uniquely creative, evocative, rich, moving, and powerful, and his music played an integral role in fostering my love of the show.

I decided to rank my top 14 Edelman songs, including the themes from his MacGvyer episodes. I'm not familiar with everything he's ever done and so I may be missing some. All these songs are amazing and super hard to rank, but that's why I get paid the big bucks -- in order to make tough decisions like these.

Now I'm no music historian, and there are lots of brilliant composers out there.  It's just that when I look at his top 14 songs, it's hard to think of who has had a better run, though there are a few names that come to mind who are worthy challengers for the title of all time greatest composer:

  • Alan Menken.  His work on The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin alone would make for an all-time great career, yet he's done more and is still going strong.
  • The Sherman Brothers.  Unbelievable legacy.  They have at least 10 songs so far on my countdown with more to come in the top 8.
  • Vangelis.  Chariots of Fire is possibly the greatest song of all time, and his entire score from that movie is enough to bring him into the conversation.
  • John Williams.  In terms of volume of hits, John Williams is tough to beat.  Just Star Wars alone has a variety of memorable themes, and then throw in Indiana Jones, Superman, ET, the Olympic themes, Jaws, Harry Potter, and Amistad just to name a few.  And then there's the Jurassic Park main theme, which is another contender for greatest song of all time.
  • Tchaikovksy.  Speaking of the greatest song of all time candidates, how about the 1812 Overture?  Throw in the Nutcracker Suite and Sleeping Beauty and we're talking about a pretty talented fellow.
  • Mozart and Beethoven.  'Nuff said.

So clearly there are some worthy candidates for greatest composer of all time, but I believe that Randy Edelman's name deserves to be included in the discussion.  Without further ado, here are my top 14 Edelman songs.

14. Three for the Road.  Specifically the scene where MacGyver builds a rocket (the 2nd best MacGyverism ever) out of Guy Roberts' prized convertible while being chased at high speed.
13. Last of the Mohicans.  An excellent movie with an incredible soundtrack.  In particular, the Promentory theme is noteworthy for being awesome.
12. Dragonheart.  One of those songs where you may not recognize the name, but you've likely heard the song (considering it's used in movie trailers all the time).  In fact, for the longest time I was trying to figure out what this song was (i.e. I had heard it but didn't know what it was called). Recently it occurred to me that it sounded similar to Randy Edelman's other works, and so I listened to everything I could find by him.  And sure enough, I eventually found it.
11. Bushmaster.  This episode's soundtrack just grows and grows on me, particularly the parts where MacGyver and Kelly board the bus and then later when they talk in the dark church.
10. Phoenix Under Siege.  A fantastic march that plays while MacGyver and Grandpa Harry bravely defuse the bomb.
  9. Angels in the Outfield.  #33 on the Disney countdown.
  8. Thief of Budapest.  The Opening Gambit (MacGyver stealing a horse and attaching it to a helicopter) features not just one of the series' best stunts but also one of its most outstanding musical scores.
  7. The Prodigal.  The 2nd best MacGyver episode of all time which features the greatest-ever MacGyverism and a knockout theme.
  6. Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.  This is another one that is always used in movie trailers.
  5. Gettysburg.  An all time classic.
  4. Tall Tale.  #9 on the Disney countdown.
  3. Brisco County Jr.  This amazing theme has become synonymous with NBC's Olympic coverage, and Olympic viewers may not realize that it came from a television show from the mid 90's called The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.  I got the DVD for the first (and only) season last year, and I haven't got around to watching it yet but I am looking forward to getting into it at some point in the near future.
  2. MacGyver theme / Slow Death.  I've said earlier how the MacGyver theme song is the greatest in tv history.  The slowed down, sentimental variation on the theme heard in Slow Death and Trumbo's World is enough to bring tears to any MacGyver fan's eyes.
  1. The Gauntlet.  In my original post on this Opening Gambit (the climax of which I describe as the greatest moment in MacGyver, television, and human history),  I wrote:

There's actually a mistake in the credits when it says the music was written by Randy Edelman. In reality it was created by God himself.  It may be the most wonderful sound these ears have ever heard - it's certainly right up there as one of the greatest ever pieces of music from any era. 

That's all true.  It's one of if not the greatest song of all time.  It's at least right up there with Chariots of Fire, Jurassic Park, the 1812 Overture, the New World Symphony, Bolero, Ode to Joy, Saint-Saens Organ Symphony, and a few yet-to-be-revealed Disney songs.

So there you have it.  Whether or not Randy Edelman is the best composer of all time, I can at least say that he is my favorite.


  1. I finally got around to listening to that "Adventures of Briscoe County, Jr." theme song and definitely recognized it from NBC's Olympic coverage. My Edelman top-12 list will consist entirely of "MacGyver" stuff as I've definitely connected most with his musical scores from "MacGyver". Here's my list....

    #12. In a general sense, some of the dramatic cuts to commercial breaks in season 2 episodes, including the end of the second act on "Three for the Road" during the chase and Pete left hanging on the Phoenix Foundation's phone line on "DOA: MacGyver" as two terrific examples that stand out.

    #11. The scene from "Thief of Budapest" where MacGyver is rigging the stoplights to malfunction.

    #10. The scene where Katrina Bennett passed away in "The Prodigal", later recycled in that awful scene with Laura and the one-armed British doctor on "Slow Death".

    #9. The scene from the pilot where MacGyver is using the fire hose to lift the debris from the explosion in the Quiva laboratory.

    #8. The opening scenes from "The Gauntlet" when MacGyver is riding the bus into the village...and the piano-driven score when Kate Connelly is coming on to him in the jungle later in the episode.

    #7. The sentimental "soap opera music" from MacGyver's scenes with Lisa in parts 1 and 2 of "Lost Love". This score was recycled for MacGyver's scenes with Karen in "The Endangered".

    #6. The "march" music you describe from "Phoenix Under Siege"

    #5. MacGyver defusing the nuclear missile with a paper clip in the opening gambit of the pilot, a score recycled with slight variation in your favorite attic scene in "The Prodigal".

    #4. The music playing in the closing scene of "The Golden Triangle" after Nurei is killed and Ming tells MacGyver on behalf of the village that "now we are free".

    #3. The "Thief of Budapest" opening gambit music, especially the horse scenes from the beach.

    #2. Your "God's music" score from the opening gambit of "The Gauntlet", in particular the scene where MacGyver is running across the sand dune to get away from the military guys chasing him.

    #1. The entire hour of "Trumbo's World", but most prominently the opening gambit, which amounts to eight minutes of aural euphoria, my favorite moment being the score from the scene when MacGyver is unraveling the roll of barbed wire across the river (the best 10 seconds or so of music from the series). The rest of the episode is a party for the ears too, ranging from the piano music that played shortly after Charlie's death to the catchy jingle when MacGyver is making the suit of armor to the suspenseful music playing when he's about to blow up the dam to your favorite score from the episode's ending when Trumbo invites him to return in a year. The "MacGyver" soundtrack at its best.

    1. Thanks for coming up with your own rankings! You have some great ones on there including a few I had forgotten about. You're right that the Trumbo's World opening gambit is a great score, as is the fire hose in the pilot. In fact all the ones that you mentioned are great, and I can think of even more that neither of us mentioned -- it's amazing all that Edelman contributed in just 16 episodes.

    2. Any chance of you doing a top Ken Harrison and/or Dennis McCarthy list too? That might also be fun, although I agree that Edelman was the star player of the three.

      I actually had another element of "synergy" between MacGyver and Disney back in the mid-to-late 80s. You were too young to experience it at the same time but ABC aired "The Disney Sunday Movie" for three seasons on Sunday evenings and then "MacGyver" the following night. Both were appointment viewing for me each night....a literal one-two punch every week.

    3. I don't think I have enough material for a post, but a few that come to mind for Harrison are Good Knight MacGyver, Gold Rush (in the plane), Tommy Giordano (in the hotel room), and Bitter Harvest. For McCarthy my favorite is the one at the end of Partners (which as you know also features in several other episodes).

      That's cool that they had the Disney Sunday movie and MacGyver back to back -- that would be appointment viewing for sure.