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Album cover copyright (c) 1971 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall



Spectacular violent but melodic western score


One of the highlights of my week is reading Michael Winner's column in the Sunday Times, "Winner's Dinners", notionally a restaurant review but in reality, usually either a tirade against some unfortunate public relations person, a tirade against restaurant designer David Collins, a story about how rich he is, or a description of his latest girlfriend, these days usually 40 years younger than him.  Food is usually mentioned in passing, though he frequently can't actually remember what he ate, and even when he can, he doesn't know what it was called or what the ingredients may have been.  Generally, his meals are either the best or worst he's ever eaten.  (Hmm, sounds more and more like the film music reviews at Movie Wave!)  It is an absolute treat, and I encourage all readers to start reading the column - non-UK readers can access it from the Times's website.

Anyway, after that brief diversion: of course, before he was a witty columnist, Michael Winner was a film director, hardly one of great repute, but he did direct a number of well-received and popular films during the 1960s and especially 70s, most notably Death Wish.  But even though some of these were actually quite good (his reputation having been soured by his more recent output, you'd be hard-pressed to find many people who thought so), perhaps his greatest contribution to the world - aside from his weekly columns - was his regular employment of perennially under-appreciated composer Jerry Fielding.  They worked together six times in the 1970s, with the first collaboration coming on 1971's Lawman, Winner's first "Hollywood" movie (though it was actually shot in Mexico), with a stellar cast featuring Burt Lancaster, Lee J. Cobb, Robert Ryan, Robert Duvall and Sheree North.  It's a reasonably conventional western, though influenced by the kind of cynicism that was rife in the dying genre at the time.

Jerry Fielding was riding the crest of a wave following his acclaimed score for The Wild Bunch, and Lawman was the first western he worked on thereafter.  It is a brief, but hugely effective, and hugely impressive work.  It's a frequently brutal piece, inevitably with similarities to the composer's score for Sam Pekinpah's classic - Fielding's intelligence here leading him to write a score which is rather oppressive, dark and clustered but remaining tonal and melodic throughout.  The main theme is dynamic and powerful, boosted no end by a similarly dynamic and powerful recording, and forms the backbone of the whole score.  Some of the music is brilliantly dark and menacing, particularly "Requiem in the Pasture", which sees Fielding writing in that style but managing to keep the music emotional and moving at the same time.  There are occasional nods to the more traditional western style (Copland-via-Bernstein), most notably in the brief "Branding the Cattle", but these are infrequent.  "Laura's Room" is the most pastoral, beautiful piece here, with a gorgeous theme emerging.  The finale, "Finis", is nothing short of stunning.

Fielding - like Alex North, and much Jerry Goldsmith - is one of those film composers whose music was always so busy and interesting, with so many different strands, that it's almost impossible to imagine anyone being bored by it; and better still, it means his music reacts well to repeated listening better than most, always revealing some new facet or detail.  Lawman is a hugely accomplished score, released by Intrada as part of its Special Collection, and a worthwhile purchase for anyone who loves great film music.  In addition to the superb music, the album benefits from crystal-clear, dynamic sound and liner notes by Nick Redman which are as interesting as ever.


  1. Main Title (4:39)
  2. Step Wide (1:26)
  3. Ryan Rides (:40)
  4. First Meeting (:42)
  5. Old Family Burial Grounds (3:03)
  6. Harvey's Body (:40)
  7. Sitting Out (:53)
  8. Predators (4:01)
  9. Branding the Cattle (1:36)
  10. Requiem in the Pasture (4:14)
  11. Laura (:50)
  12. The Gun (1:20)
  13. Laura's Room (2:43)
  14. Corman's Funeral (:54)
  15. Resolution (2:52)
  16. Finis (1:18)