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LLLCD 1028

Artwork copyright (c) 1987 StudioCanal Image; review copyright (c) 2005 James Southall



Unusual but strong Tex Mex score


Jerry Goldsmith was going through his most experimental period when it came to using electronics in his music when he scored Walter Hill's Extreme Prejudice in 1987.  In the few years either side, he wrote some of his most synth-laden scores, such as Runaway, Legend, Hoosiers, Criminal Law and Warlock.  In the middle of all that comes this movie, a "sort of" western, half about drug trafficking across the Mexican border, half an all action shootout picture.  Extreme Prejudice has an orchestra - a Hungarian one, no less - this was from the time before Goldsmith got into trouble for recording in Communist states - but it seems like it's there almost to provide a bridge between multilayered synth percussion.  

All of this was at the behest of the director, who talked Goldsmith out of writing a big orchestral piece; and while many of the sounds are a little dated (the various noises in the score range from a straightforward drum machine to something that sounds like a cat drowning to something that sounds like what happened when you pressed several buttons at once on one of those early Casio digital watches), overall it's not a bad example of the composer's excellent ability to meld the acoustic with the electronic.  The composer created an unusual sound world for the movie, one which by itself is rather unlike any of Goldsmith's other scores.  There are certainly hints of other things - the brass writing in the action music is not unlike First Blood, there's a small synth phrase from Under Fire, the electronics can at times be like a less abrasive version of Runaway or Criminal Law.

The score's main emphasis is suspense - it is not always totally gripping, but frequently is, and it is always fascinating to hear the composer building his pieces, regularly on a small fragmentary piece of a theme, gradually building and building to a satisfying payoff.  Good as those sections are however, Extreme Prejudice's moments of brilliance come with the action.  The highlight is the nine-minute "The Plan", presented here in two versions, both Goldsmith's more orchestral original vision and the "synthed-down" version which was eventually used in the film, with far less of a role for the orchestra.  Both versions in fact have their pros and cons (though it would be a brave film music fan who claimed to like the redone version more).  

Other highlights include the trailer music (presented here as the first track) which offers glimpses of Goldsmith's ideas for the score without fully revealing them, the driving main title piece "Arrivals" and especially the final track, "A Deal".  A main theme was introduced very subtly in "Cash", the first bit of underscore after the main title, but then not heard a great deal thereafter until the end of the score - a fine example of Goldsmith's attention to detail and "big picture planning" for his scores, even for films like this one.  In "The Deal" the theme is developed and played by some sort of synthesised pan pipe - amazingly, it doesn't sound as bad as you might think from that description! - and is given a rapturous performance.  Synths still abound, but they are melded well with the orchestra to create a very memorable piece which makes for as satisfying a conclusion to the album as could be.  It's a little like the spectacular final cue from Under Fire.

If you can get over the synths - and I admit that is no small task - there is much quality here.  It is arguably more of an entertaining curiosity than a genuine example of Goldsmith at his best, but his fans will surely like it.  It comes from a "tricky period" in the composer's career because there aren't really the sweeping melodies to satisfy fans of his output from the 1990s and beyond, and the synths will surely put off many of those who grew up with the composer from the start of his career, but those who appreciate all strands of Goldsmith's remarkable output will find a great deal of impressive music.  The score was originally released on a 50-minute album put out concurrently by Intrada and Silva Screen at the time of the film's release, but this has now been expanded by 15 minutes and remastered to feature spectacular sound by La-La Land Records.  The best of the previously-unreleased material are the revised version of "The Plan" sequence (spread over three tracks) and enjoyable short synth cue "A Nice Fellow" (not to mention the brief but satisfying Carolco logo music by the composer, featuring a brief interpolation of the First Blood theme), and indeed the album does seem to flow better and be more satisfying than the original as a whole.  Like I said, it's no Goldsmith classic, but it is certainly an impressive example of the composer experimenting with electronic sounds without losing sight of the power of an orchestra.

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  1. Extreme Prejudice (2:12)
  2. Carolco Logo (:16)
  3. Arrivals / Main Title (5:19)
  4. Cash (7:27)
  5. Next Time (:21)
  6. The Set Up (3:20)
  7. Dust (4:16)
  8. A Nice Fellow (1:29)
  9. The Plan (2:02)
  10. The Bank (parts 1, 2 and 3) (4:58)
  11. The Bank (part 4) (1:31)
  12. The Plan (alternate) (9:21)
  13. Identities (1:47)
  14. To Mexico (3:05)
  15. No Friendlies (2:40)
  16. Positions (:51)
  17. They Don't Care (3:28)
  18. Fighting and Dying (2:12)
  19. The Funeral (2:10)
  20. A Deal (4:40)