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THE LEGEND OF BUTCH AND SUNDANCE
Poledouris's final score is a lovely western with a personal touch
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2003 Once Upon a Time Films; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall
The late Basil Poledouris seemed to become disillusioned with the world of Hollywood film scoring in his latter years, turning down the chance to make big money and virtually retiring after the turn of the century, working on films only when they were directed by good friends, or when they made a really personal connection with him. It was the later circumstance that saw him working on The Legend of Butch and Sundance, a television project telling the "true story" of the famous duo, and the sort of thing that ordinarily wouldn't even be able to think of securing the services of a composer of the stature of Poledouris.
He wrote the music for the greatest television western of all, Lonesome Dove (and provided his greatest score in the process) and, while The Legend of Butch and Sundance is certainly nothing approaching that in terms of quality, musically it isn't nearly so far behind. Poledouris introduces his main theme in the opening track, and it's a cracker - I presume that the project's budget dictated that there would be no large orchestra here, so instead the composer focuses on a folk-music ensemble and a small orchestra, augmented high-quality orchestral samples, but I've often thought that working with small ensembles is in many ways harder than writing for full orchestra, and it can really bring out the best in composers from time to time.
The rollicking, galloping, rambunctious main theme is one which will bring a smile to many a face - so many great western themes have been steeped in the traditions of folk music, and this can be added to the list. It's used frequently over the course of the album, but is one of those pieces which is so infectious it never outstays its welcome. Elsewhere, the score remains fast-paced, with real energy, and while the performing ensemble may be small, the music is not. The drama reaches real heights in "First Kill", which shows what emotional riches can be wrought by a fine composer even when he has limited resources at his disposal.
There's a great love theme here too, heard in "The Man I Love", a beautifully affecting piece presented in a lilting arrangement. It's obvious to say that such music comes straight from the heart, but in truth there is a really personal touch running through all of this score. On the one hand it's tragic that Poledouris was taken away so young, but it's fitting that his final score was such a strong one - beautiful melodies, a great sense of adventure, and distinctively Poledouris throughout. It's great that this fine score is finally available to buy, courtesy of Moviescore Media.