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Lonely are the Brave
  • Composed by Jerry Goldsmith
  • Varese Sarabande CD Club VCL 0609 1094 / 2009 / 62:19

Five years after scoring his first film (1957’s Black Patch), Jerry Goldsmith had managed to get himself noticed by a number of people; one of them was the legendary film composer, and head of music at Fox, Alfred Newman, who had earlier done so much to further the careers of Alex North and Bernard Herrmann.  Newman personally recommended Goldsmith to Kirk Douglas, star of Lonely are the Brave; and so, his career really kicked off.  This was by far his biggest film to date.  Douglas stars as a loner cowboy in contemporary times who pines for the good old days.  He deliberately gets himself arrested just so he can help his friend escape from prison, but when he gets there he finds out his friend doesn’t actually want to escape; and then he faces a life on the run after he does escape himself.  It also stars Gena Rowlands, Walter Matthau and George Kennedy, was written by Dalton Trumbo, and is generally very highly-regarded..

Goldsmith was a master at scoring westerns.  As this album’s liner notes point out, perhaps the reason that so few people acknowledge that (outside of his core fans, of course) is that he never really scored a standout western film – no Magnificent Seven or Wild Bunch appears in his filmography.  But he was really something of a pioneer in this genre.  Lonely are the Brave is from 1962, a time when westerns – pretty much all westerns – featured music that was composed by, or composed to sound like, Dimitri Tiomkin or Elmer Bernstein.  Then Goldsmith came along and wrote this cerebral, mature score at such an early stage in his career – remarkable.

A youthful Jerry Goldsmith

The score is anchored around the main theme.  When first heard, it’s played by solo trumpet, and Goldsmith uses it in very much the same way as he would the theme he wrote for John Rambo twenty years later – a lonely guy, with noble intentions, misunderstood by the world.  It’s a beautiful theme and the composer gets through all sorts of variations on it.  No other film composer has ever used themes as well as Goldsmith – on so many occasions, he would write a theme and then extract parts of it here and there to play in completely different guises, linking his music together in such a way as to provide uniquely coherent scores.

There’s not too much action music here – much of the score is more reflective.  But when it does come, there’s a kind of visceral power behind it which creates a big impact.  “Barroom Brawl” is a great cue; “Surprised Sadist” is much darker, with the combination of high strings and low brass which was to become the composer’s trademark action style already in evidence here.  “Hard-Gained Ground” is much more like traditional western action music – a free-flowing, melodic gem.  Then the climactic “Run For It” is another highlight – introducing a new theme so late in the day which, oddly, would later become the main theme for the tv series The Loner.

Goldsmith’s subtler music to underscore anxious emotions is brilliant – “Worlds Apart” is breathtaking, a particular highlight.  But that’s just one example of the remarkable maturity and confidence shown by the composer.  This is a brilliant score, the best of Goldsmith’s early years, and it’s remarkable to hear how finely-honed many of the techniques he was to employ during the course of his career already were.  With excellent liner notes by Robert Townson and fine sound quality, this is one of the best soundtrack releases of 2009.  *****

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