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50 to 1
  • Composed by William Ross
  • Momentum RLP / 2014 / 38m

Telling the true story of Mine That Bird’s win at the 2009 Kentucky Derby, 50 to 1 is the typical sports movie underdog story that has proved so popular over the years.  Composer William Ross has scored a few movies in this genre over the years and has written some fine music along the way, but 50 to 1 is easily the best of them.  His interesting approach to the score emphasises the rural upbringing of the horse’s owners, contrasting this with orchestral grandstanding for the racing scenes.  The former portions are dominated by all sorts of guitars, banjo, mandolin, harmonica and fiddle and are delightful, varying from a gentle country/bluegrass feel (the lovely opening “Ten Years Later”) to at times a more rock-inspired approach (as in “Riding to the Ranch”).  The first more symphonic track, “Meeting Bird”, is a lovely piece of Copland-via-Bernstein Americana; the style revisited later in “Bird Plays”.

The warmth of much of the music is so attractive – the kind of music that is almost guaranteed to put a smile on the listener’s face (“Training Bird” in particular is a playful orchestral piece that is a joy to hear and would I’m sure appeal to anyone who has enjoyed John Williams’s last few Americana-laced scores).  I don’t know the context, but the tango that appears out of nowhere in “Calvin’s Luck” is an unexpected little treat.  What will perhaps have the broadest appeal of all are the large-scale pieces accompanying the various races.  The sound is first heard in “The Breeders’ Cup” and Ross’s orchestral march is absolutely fantastic, resembling the kind of orchestral powerhouse writing that attracted many of my generation (and previous generations) to film music in the first place.  “Borderland Derby” is a darker piece but no less dramatically compelling.  There’s no doubting the main attraction here though – the finale, 15 minutes of music over the last three tracks.  “The Kentucky Derby” is an adrenaline-pumping opening to it (slightly resembling one of Williams’s Olympic themes); “Prelude to the Race” a fanfare introduction to the main event, “The Race and Epilogue”, opening with a dramatically dark passage featuring modern percussion (for the first time in the score) before building up into a classic inspirational underdog-coming-through piece of musical storytelling – it’s a wonderful piece and a fitting finale to a very strong album.

Rating: **** | |

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  1. mastadge (Reply) on Saturday 5 April, 2014 at 17:08

    Thanks! I’d been waiting for someone to discuss or review this. Will almost certainly pick it up now.

  2. Mary E Brewer (Reply) on Thursday 10 April, 2014 at 19:21

    The movie was awesome and all of the songs were awesome and not just William Ross’s musical score which is just terrific ..but also can be heard are two songs by Christian Kane.. Whiskey In Mind and Something’s Gotta Give..both amazing songs…