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BREAKHEART PASS (1975)

Music composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith

17 Tracks (Playing Time = 46:41)

Executive Album Producers: MV Gerhard and Matt Verboys. Album produced by Ford A. Thaxton. Performed by the Hollywood Studio Symphony Orchestra. Orchestrations by Arthur Morton. Music Editor: Ken Hall. Audio restoration Consultant: Chris Neel. Digitally Edited and Mastered by James Nelson. CD Art Direction: Mark Banning.

La-La Land LLLCD 1044

Limited Edition - 3000 Units

Rating: ***

For a long time, I have found that film composers often rise to great heights for great films and for the rest they simply do their best and leave it at that. In the case of Jerry Goldsmith, one of the film music giants of the past four or five decades, it seems he has composed an adequate score to fit the somewhat bizarre western story. As Jeff Bond describes the story in his CD notes: "BREAKHEART PASS, which placed Charles Bronson (hot off the success of DEATH WISH) in a kind of Agatha Christie mystery-adventure set on a train in the old west." That doesn't seem to call for an epic western score and Goldsmith has wisely chosen not to compose one for this potboiler action film.

What Goldsmith does provide is one of his catchy rhythmic main title themes (2:35), which accompanies the story and keeps chugging along like the train itself. The theme or portions of it forms the framework from which he builds many of his other cues, such as "Free Ride/ Hot Stove" (track 2 (5:01). Much of this score sounds like it might be for a TV movie, which is not such a bad thing since Goldsmith composed some very memorable TV music.

This soundtrack does provide some unusual electronic effects. Jeff Bond points out that BREAKHEART PASS was done the same year as Goldsmith's score for LOGAN'S RUN and both feature use of synthesizer. In the case of BREAKHEART PASS, Goldsmith uses it to symbolize Calhoun, the film's villain ("No Word Yet" - track 6, 1:00). That's not traditional western-style instrumentation but it works for Goldsmith because he uses it effectively.

Since this is essentially a mystery set in the old west, Goldsmith's score features many cues of suspense buildup. One of these is "Night Watch/ Help Yourself" (track 7, 5:41), with plucked strings and ample use of percussion, especially xylophone.

There are also two bonus tracks which together total less than a minute ("Four Styles" - track 16, 0:11/ "Charge" - not by Goldsmith, track 17: 0:20). They are totally unnecessary additions to the soundtrack album.

In the CD booklet, the notes are extremely hard to read on the first two pages. This is all too common with art designers who feel the need to put text over photo backgrounds with little contrast to separate them. The remaining pages are better, with the film stills placed apart from the text. Jeff Bond's notes are perceptive and helpful.

Though it's not one of his best 1970s scores (there's a selected filmography on the inside CD case), BREAKHEART PASS is a soundtrack worth adding to your collection if you're a Goldsmith collector.

--Roger L. Hall, 31 May 2006

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