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  • Composed by Elmer Bernstein
  • Kritzerland / 2011 / 43:08

A 1957 “sort of” western starring Jeff Chandler, Drango is set in the aftermath of the US Civil War.  It’s a fairly low-budget film which isn’t remembered by too many now, over half a century later, but remembered here thanks to its music, by the already-great Elmer Bernstein, six years and about twenty scores into what would become a very long and very glorious career.  When it came to westerns, there was nothing “sort of” about Bernstein, of course – his contribution to the genre is indelible.  But while The Magnificent Seven set the pattern for the scores which followed, it’s always interesting to hear his music for westerns written before that – he hadn’t yet identified the wide-open, expansive sound he would use to write his themes for that film and those which followed, yet there is much in common elsewhere.  (I know, before every man and his dog writes to me, that this film isn’t actually a western, but it shares much in common with films in the genre and is actually frequently identified as such.)

Bernstein anchors his score around a propulsive, dramatic main theme which is warped and weaved through nearly everything, in so many different ways.  It’s at its best when being used as part of some dynamite action music, of which there is a large amount.  Big and brassy, aggressively percussive, it’s stirring stuff from the composer.  He doesn’t really get acknowledged for that side of his musical personality very often (the gentler, emotional side quite rightly gets the lion’s share of the attention – and indeed there’s some of that here, in particular the gorgeous “The Children’s Gift”) but the vast swathe of Bernstein releases over the last few years have shown just how versatile he was – he really did master every genre of film, the way precious few film composers ever have.  Drango is a hugely enjoyable album, the first official CD release; sound is mono but very crisp and clear, and most importantly it contains some fabulously dynamic music by Elmer Bernstein.  ****

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