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Commando
  • Composed by James Horner
  • Varèse Sarabande CD Club / 2003 / 43:27

Arnold Schwarzenegger was going through his “golden period” when he made the ludicrous Commando in 1985, after the similarly ludicrous but wildly successful Conan: The Barbarian and (perhaps) slightly less ludicrous Terminator; it was the first of a series of successful action films produced by Joel Silver, before Predator and Die Hard.  It also marked one of the first very commercial films scored by James Horner and so should, I suppose, be considered something of a landmark in the composer’s career.  His approach was unusual but effective: blending layer upon layer of synth pads with steel drums, a solo saxophone and occasional orchestral interludes.  It sounds awful but works rather well.

The big problem is that, with the exception of a gorgeous love theme which appears at the end of the first and last tracks, this is basically three quarters of an hour of the same couple of bars of music repeated again… and again… and again.  Of course, there are changes and variations introduced along the way, but by the end you feel like you’ve been bludgeoned over the head with a baseball bat for several days.  (Well, I do anyway; your experience may differ.)  The action stuff is actually virtually the same as a bit of music from Clear and Present Danger (and various other Horner scores), barring the unusual orchestration.  There is momentary relief from the action in the suspenseful “Matrix Breaks In” (highlighting a pan flute, no less) but, well, “momentary” is the operative word because the drum machines soon burst out again.

Despite its problems, it’s an extremely effective score and, when taken in small doses, rather enjoyable too.  Horner has rarely written music quite this intensely frenzied.  It’s just rather difficult to listen to the album from one end to the other.  The score was released for the first time in 2003 by the Varèse Sarabande CD Club, limited to 3,000 copies.  I’d recommend it to Horner completists first and foremost, though others may well find a bit of value.  **

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