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Prototypical 1970s action score from Goldsmith

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* * * 1/2

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conducted by


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LLLCD 1044

Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall

A slightly silly film starring Charles Bronson (which makes it an exception to the rule - most films starring Charles Bronson are decidedly more than slightly silly), Breakheart Pass is an Alistair Maclean mystery framed within a western context.  Jerry Goldsmith scored all sorts of slightly silly action films in the 1970s, writing a concoction of great music which remains influential to this day (listen to something like Twilight's Last Gleaming, then listen to Mission: Impossible III and tell me you don't hear it).  Any fan of those scores, or indeed his westerns, should be delighted with this first-ever release of Breakheart Pass from La-La Land Records.

The main theme is vintage Goldsmith, rousing and propulsive, with the brassy orchestra accompanied by guitar; it's another great western theme to add to the composer's roster (and, more's the pity, virtually the last one he ever got to write).  Fragments of it appear through the score, but to be honest it is more of a suspense score than an action one - if I were to describe a 2006 score in those terms, I would probably be on the verge of throwing the CD through the window, seeing if I could hit next door's child, and hoping to never have to hear it or the child again; but in a strange way, it's high-praise when talking about a 1970s Jerry Goldsmith score.

Goldsmith just didn't write uninteresting music in the 1970s.  It's one of the laws of the universe, along with the area of a circle being equal to pi multiplied by the square of the radius, and people who don't vote in elections spending the whole time moaning about the government.  In Goldsmith's hands, suspense comes with multi-layered winds, strings that do something other than just moan along in the background, and brass that plays music rather than just blurting out at maximum volume every few minutes.

One thing at which film score collectors of a certain age will raise a wry smile is the little suspense motif that runs through some of the score - take a listen to "Medical Supplies" and see if you can spot a certain controversial composer's signature four-note "danger motif" - it's hard to avoid.  Well, I smiled, anyway.

When it comes, the action music is great too - "Box Car Fight" is absolute, classic Goldsmith action music, and "Runaway" is one of those slow-building action cues for which Goldsmith was so justly-renowned.  It builds to a ferocious, almost-deafening climax.  The next track - "No Word Yet" - introduces the score's only real misfire, which is the electronic music associated with the movie's villain.  It not only sounds dated, it also sounds out of place with the general mood of the score; fortunately those moments are few and far between.

By the time the score reaches its conclusion with the brilliantly-exciting reprise of the main theme in "Reunited", Goldsmith has taken us on a wonderful journey, with his music being full of the energy of the train journey.  This release is a great boon for Goldsmith fans - the recording is in mono, but crisp enough; and the music is excellent.  Nobody writes music like this any more for films - and that is a real shame.


  1. Breakheart Pass (2:33)
  2. Free Ride / Hot Stove (5:01)
  3. Medical Supplies (3:58)
  4. The Trestle (2:55)
  5. On the Move / Runaway (2:47)
  6. No Word Yet (:58)
  7. Night Watch / Help Yourself (5:39)
  8. Who Are You? (:44)
  9. The Casket / Box Car Fight (7:11)
  10. Make Up Your Mind / Leaving the Fort (1:27)
  11. A New Friend (1:47)
  12. Here They Come (:59)
  13. Raiding Party (3:55)
  14. No Entry (1:29)
  15. Reunited (4:05)
  16. Four Styles (:11)
  17. Charge (:20)