Best of the Month
Classic Western Scores from United Artists (1959-1969)
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin, Gerald Fried, David Buttolph,
David Raksin, Elmer Bernstein
Disc One [Total Time = 72:59]
THE UNFORGIVEN (14 tracks, 31:20) -- music by Dimitri Tiomkin (1960)
CAST A LONG SHADOW (17 tracks, 41:32) -- music by Gerald Fried (1959)
Disc Two [Total Time = 79:01]
THE HORSE SOLDIERS (13 tracks, 28:49) -- music by David Buttolph (1959)
INVITATION TO A GUNFIGHTER (17 tracks, 50:05) -- music by David Raksin (1964)
Disc Three [Total Time = 57:41]
GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (17 tracks = 45:22/ 5 bonus tracks = 12:13) --
music by Elmer Bernstein (1969)
Album produced by Lukas Kendall. Analog to Digital Transfer for INVITATION TO A GUNFIGHTER and GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: John Davis. Music Score Remix and Digital Assembly for CAST A LONG SHADOW, INVITATION TO A GUNFIGHTER, GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: Michael McDonald.Digital Assembly for CAST A LONG SHADOW: Ed Johnson.Digital Mastering: Doug Schwartz.
Executive in Charge of Music for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer: Barbara Custer.
CD Art Direction: Joe Sikoryak.
Project Consultant: Douglass Fake.
Still photography and poster images from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Phot Archive.
FSM Vol. 10/ No. 10
Difficult as it may be to believe, this is the 159th soundtrack CD release ffrom the Film Score Monthly series. Almost all of them have been single CDs of one or two soundtracks. As far as I know, this is the first multi-disc set to contain five different film scores. The only other 3 CD set from FSM was Bronisalu Kaper's great score for MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1962).
What struck me from these five western scores was how much they differ in their approach.
The first one, THE UNFORGIVEN by Dimitri Tiomkin, is one of his most unconventional efforts with a strong rhythmic sense for the Indian scenes and a beautiful and sensitive love theme that actually became a pop hit in 1960. Tiomkin's music in this underrated film starring Burt Lancaster and Audrey Hepburn is both lush and lusty with its heavy orchestration, especially his use of the strings and drums. The faster sections of this score, such as "The Kiowas Attack" (track 13, 3:23), are a forecast for such later Tiomkin scores as THE GUNS OF NAVARONE and THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE. I remember when I first bought the LP for THE UNFORGIVEN and thought the sound was very distant and hollow. That can still be heard a bit on the CD remastering but is not so obvious. In any case this Tiomkin soundtrack fully deserves to be brought back to life in the newer digital format and remains one of my favorite western scores of these years, though not nearly as great as Tiomkin's THE ALAMO. Unfortunately no extra music remains for this soundtrack. This first CD release has retitled track titles in place of the inaccurate ones listed on the original LP album.
For me the second soundtrack on Disc One, CAST A LONG SHADOW by Gerald Fried, was the least memorable of the five in this set. But it still has its moments. The opening "Main Title/ Chip's Introduction" (track 15, 2:59) effectively uses banjo and guitar to set a folksy mood to this 1959 film which starred Audie Murphy , Terry Moore and John Dehner. The faster cues seem a bit too lackluster and repetitious, such as "Plans for Santa Fe/ The Roundup" (track 22, 3:40). But their are also more sensitive scenes that are handled better by Fried, like the longest cue: "Family Quarrel/ Matt's Return/ Janet and Matt" (track 19, 5:18). This is a good score but nothing exceptional. It makes its CD debut, presented in the correct chronological sequence.
Moving on to Disc Two, there are also two scores: THE HORSE SOLDIERS, with mostly arrangements of Civil War songs by David Buttolph, and INVITATION TO A GUNFIGHTER, one of the jazzier western scores for its time by David Raksin. The Buttolph score includes nine Civil War songs which are very nicely arranged, sung by an unidentifed studio male chorus. There is also a very good original song written by Stan Jones: "I Left My Love" (track 2, 2:36). Jones is the same songwriter who wrote the title song for THE SEARCHERS, one of John Ford's and Hollywood's greatest westerns. As mentioned in the notes, THE HORSE SOLDIERS is really more a Civil War film rather than a western but it doesn't sound out of place in this compilation. This is the CD debut of this score from an electronic stereo LP master.
David Raksin's INVITATION TO A GUNFIGHTER is what Luka Kendall calls in his notes "a psychological score in that its often chamber-sized forces seem to evoke the characters' emotional anguish." To accomplish this more intense mood, Raksin makes prominent use of the woodwinds and brass but without the strings. He also uses uncoventional instruments for a western. The best example of this is "Lullaby/ Last for Awhile"(track 22, 5:23) with a lovely Baroque sounding theme played on a harpsichord (by Raksin) while Yul Brynner hums, sings and speaks in French, the lyrics provided by Elizabeth Wilson. This lullaby theme reappears in the last two cues: "I Give You Two Lives/ Forgive Me/I Now Bequeath" (track 29, 7:03) and "What He Wanted" (track 30, 1:23). While it's a more difficult soundtrack to follow without knowing the background of the story and the characters, Lukas Kendall has provided full descriptions for this film which are recommended reading while listening to this highly intense and unusual western score by Raksin.
On Disc Three there is only one score, this time by one of the supreme masters of vintage western music: Elmer Bernstein. The first in the series was the classic western score for THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN in 1960. Following that came RETURN OF THE SEVEN in 1966 and then GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. The last in the series was THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN RIDE! in 1972, the least memorable of them all musically or emotionally. Lukas Kendall correctly writes that odd as it may seem, the original MAGNIFICENT SEVEN was not issued until the 1966 sequel on a United Artists LP for RETURN OF THE SEVEN. The original 1960 score wasn't available complete until a Rykodisc CD was released in 1998. As Kendall explains in his notes, GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN was largely put together by his two orchestrators: Leo Shuken and Jack Hayes. Kendall writes: "although almost all of the specialized percussion that enhanced the 1960 soundtrack is omitted, the 1969 recording is very strong, owing to Shuken and Hayes's mastery of the orchestra, their intimacy with the music (having orchestrated it in the first place), and Bernstein's supervision and conducting, which took place in London at CTS Studios." What seems different about the 1969 GUNS is the more prominent brass sound and fuller orchestral balance. But the themes are similar enough to the original 1960 soundtrack that this 1969 second sequel doesn't quite match up to it or even the 1966 RETURN OF THE SEVEN. Yet it is a well performed and recorded soundtrack with excellent sound, as remixed from the original three-track masters. As with the other four western scores in this FSM set, GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN is also a CD premiere release, with correct track titles.
Once again Film Score Monthly has provided film score fans with a generous amount of music from the past. This 3 CD set is just another example of their attention to high quality production in all areas -- the music, the notes, and the colorful and well designed artwork. And for an extra chuckle, make sure to look at the vintage wanted posters for the five composers which appear on the booklet cover ...
Though none of these western scores are among the greatest ones and might not even qualify as "classic." Yet thanks to FSM, they are all worth adding to a western fans collection.
--Roger Hall, 28 September 2007
Help support the mission of
Film Music Review
Use this handy Search...