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302 066 155 2

Artwork copyright (c) 1982 Carolco; review copyright (c) 2003 James Southall


Frenzied action score by the master

The second of the two series of films that are basically the biggest successes of Sylvester Stallone's career was the Rambo trilogy (with, if rumours are to be believed, a fourth installment not far away).  Of course, the Rambo films pretty much defined a generation of action movies, with the shoot-em-up style seeing not only the likes of Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger rising to fame but also B-list alternatives like Jean-Claude van Damme and Steven Segal.  Most of those films received the risible scores they so richly deserved, but surprisingly Jerry Goldsmith - in the middle of his most expansive period in terms of orchestral music - took the baton for the Rambo series.  The law of diminishing returns inevitably applies to films and their sequels, but let's face it, there wasn't much to diminish from in the first place here.

Anyway, the score is dominated by furious action music as you might expect, but what's surprising is the low-key and beautiful way Goldsmith scored the character of John Rambo himself.  His trumpet theme, accompanied by guitar and sometimes strings, is one of the best character themes he's ever come up with.  Heard in the opening cue "Home Coming" and later, in a slightly fuller arrangement, in the unused end title music, there is a nobility and level of class to the piece that you really wouldn't expect in a Sylvester Stallone movie.

For the action music, Goldsmith wrote with a level of detail and complexity unusual even for him, with clustered brass, fiendishly complicated percussion hits and sometimes a synth bass accompaniment combining to give quite ferociously exciting results.  Suspense obviously rears its head as well, with no finer example than in the six-minute "Mountain Hunt", which is pretty much the prototypical stop-start action/suspense cue that Goldsmith wrote so often over the decade.  Another clear highlight is the frenzied "The Razor", intelligent action scoring at its finest.

Rounding out the album after the gorgeous unused end title music is Goldsmith's song "It's a Long Road", sung by Dan Hill, which as far as these kind of 80s anthems go is actually quite good.  The album's been released twice on CD.  First, Intrada issued it in 1988 as the first in their Film Music Treasury series, adding an extra track compared with the LP.  Then, after that had been out of print for many years, Varese Sarabande issued it again, with identical content (though different packaging).  First Blood is one of the defining action scores of a decade filled with them, and it certainly not out of place alongside the slightly more illustrious offerings that Goldsmith was conjuring up during a particularly incredible phase of his career.

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  1. Home Coming (2:21)
  2. Escape Route (2:39)
  3. First Blood (4:36)
  4. The Tunnel (4:02)
  5. Hanging On (3:29)
  6. Mountain Hunt (6:06)
  7. My Town (1:55)
  8. The Razor (3:08)
  9. No Power (2:51)
  10. Over the Cliff (2:03)
  11. It's a Long Road (2:51)
  12. It's a Long Road Dan Hill (3:19)