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Artwork copyright (c) 2004 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2004 James Southall





Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughan, Brad Dexter, James Coburn, Horst Bucholz - these are the men who played the septumvirate celebrated in the movie's title - and each did well - but nobody's contribution towards this classic movie was greater than the magnificent Elmer Bernstein's.  Inspired by Kurasawa's The Seven Samurai, veteran director John Sturges made one of the last great "traditional" westerns before the likes of Leone and Peckinpah turned them on their heads, with seven gunslingers being hired by some villagers to defend their town against bandits (led by Eli Wallach).  Perhaps its impact has been muted somewhat by the vastly inferior sequels over the years, but that's a pity - it's a great film, and almost impossible to think that of the cast, only Brynner was particularly well-known at the time - the careers of the others were launched here.  They had a lot to be thankful to Mr Bernstein for - it's difficult to imagine the film having been much of a success without its vibrant, legendary score.

There is little I can say here that hasn't already been said countless times about this music.  Clearly heavily inspired by his teacher Aaron Copland, Bernstein painted in the broadest of strokes, combining aspects of folk music with expansive, beautiful Americana and sometimes ferocious action music.  The main title has become so familiar, I suspect many underrate its quality, but it is truly one of the great movie themes, doing everything the theme for a film like The Magnificent Seven should do - a rousing and memorable piece of music that few who see the movie are likely to forget in a hurry.  Of course, it was used to sell Marlboro cigarettes for a long time, and has been heard in countless other places as well.  When it suddenly bursts forth at the end of "Worst Shot", it is difficult to resist leaping forth cheering.

Is the rest of the score able to match?  You bet!  From the pulse-pounding action music of "Calvera" through the pleasing folk tunes of "Fiesta" and others, the amusing bullfighting music of "Toro", the gorgeous romance of "Petra's Declaration", this is a score of numerous wonderful themes.  It is also a score which has been released a number of times - incredibly, it took decades for it to be released at all (save for a watered-down re-recording of Bernstein's almost-identical score for the first sequel), but now four have come along.  The first was a re-recording conducted (well) by James Sedares; then came another fantastic re-recording, this time done by Bernstein himself in Glasgow, which appeared but then disappeared again almost immediately after a legal dispute; then Rykodisc released the original tracks for the first time, in mono.  Since all three of those albums were out of print, Varese has now re-released the Ryko album with identical musical content, though new notes, to make this all-time-classic available once again.  In truth, there is a vibrancy and vitality to the original recording which isn't found in either re-recording, though of course they benefit from first-rate stereo sound.  But whichever recording you choose, make sure you do choose at least one of them, because this is a score you shouldn't be without.

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  1. Main Title / Calvera (3:58)
  2. Council (3:13)
  3. Quest (1:00)
  4. Strange Funeral / After the Brawl (6:47)
  5. Vin's Luck (2:02)
  6. And Then There Were Two (1:44)
  7. Fiesta (1:09)
  8. Stalking (1:18)
  9. Worst Shot (2:59)
  10. The Journey (4:37)
  11. Toro (3:21)
  12. Training (1:26)
  13. Calvera's Return (2:36)
  14. Calvera Routed (1:49)
  15. Ambush (3:09)
  16. Petra's Declaration (2:28)
  17. Bernardo (3:31)
  18. Surprise (2:06)
  19. Defeat (3:26)
  20. Crossroads (4:46)
  21. Harry's Mistake (2:48)
  22. Calvera Killed (3:33)
  23. Finale (3:28)