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LAST STAND AT SABER RIVER
Rousing western score soars with spirit
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1997 Turner Pictures Worldwide, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
A well-regarded 1997 tv movie, Last Stand at Saber River told the story of a Civil War veteran determined to leave the conflict behind him and rebuild his family life. Based on a novel by Elmore Leonard and starring Tom Selleck, it was produced by Michael Brandman, who enlisted his friend David Shire to provide the music (it was the fifth of seven collaborations between the two). Shire was fairly prolific in television at the time, and has a number of westerns on his resume - but, amazingly, this is one of only two of his 46 scores from the 1990s to have been released on CD - and the only one of all the westerns he has done.
One can't help but demand "more!" when listening - this is wonderful music. This 38-minute album is chock full of great themes, beautifully-constructed, well-orchestrated, dynamically-recorded music which is more than enough to stir the stirrups of any lover of music from westerns. The opening track presents the expansive, rousing main theme composed in the classic American western way - an exciting and memorable piece. The following track, "Reunion", presents two further themes - one full of longing, almost mourning, before the mood changes with the beautiful family theme.
There's a great, all-action presentation of the main theme in "Horse Drive" which is full of the spirit and adventure of life on the great open plains of old; and there's even better action music to come in "Wagon Chase", a lengthy thrill ride of a piece which will delight any fan of Shire's, or of the great western scores of Bruce Broughton in recent times, or Elmer Bernstein before him. Another highlight is the emotional "Finale", with a sweeping presentation of the brief theme first introduced in the score's second cue.
There's so much life here in this score - it's the sort of thing which is both intelligent and exciting which got so many into film music in the first place - and the sort of thing which, sadly, seems to have no place in films anywhere any more. That sad truth can't stop us enjoying the album, though, and it's hard to imagine many film music fans who wouldn't enjoy this one. The album - released by Intrada before the days of their limited editions, so it was available in those places you used to have to go to buy film music, "shops" - features notes from the composer about every track, and if you can track down a copy then it's very much worth it.