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Artwork copyright (c) 1981 Universal City Studios; review copyright (c) 2003 James Southall



Gorgeous score highlights an underappreciated side of Goldsmith

Jerry Goldsmith is renowned for his bombastic action scoring - he pretty much invented action scoring, in fact - and some people often seem to be under the impression that he can do nothing else.  Those who know his work well recognise instantly that this is nonsense (though those who only know his work from the last few years would be pretty justified in drawing that particular conclusion) and scores such as Islands in the Stream, A Patch of Blue and The Flim Flam Man demonstrate that, along with being the film composer with no peers when it comes to action music, he also has a special place when it comes to scoring human drama.  His great friend Alex North was the prime example of a composer managing to express human emotion - he did it better than any other - but Goldsmith surely comes close to matching him.  

Raggedy Man was released as part of the first phase of Varese Sarabande CD Club discs, back in 1991.  Needless to say, it's long sold-out, but Goldsmith fans should beg/steal/borrow a copy if they don't already have it.  The movie, starring Sissey Spacek, Eric Roberts and Sam Shepard, and directed by Jack Fisk (who these days is better known as the production designer of choice of David Lynch and Terence Malick) is a tale of life and love in small-town WWII America.  The score is a work of outstanding beauty.  It shares much in common with another little-known Goldsmith gem A Girl Named Sooner (now available on Film Score Monthly's Silver Age Classics series).

The disc opens, as you may expect, with the main theme - simplicity itself, the piece features virtually nothing but guitar, flute and harmonica, and represents Goldsmith at his introspective best.  It's a gorgeous melody, one of the legendary composer's most compelling and attractive.  While these days he tends to score romance with the typical Hollywood wash of strings, there was a time when he wrote in a very different way, and it seemed a much more personal and therefore affecting way of composing.  

"Henry and Harry" opens with a Mexican-flavoured flourish for trumpets before setting out another lengthy variation on the main theme.  "Number Please" marks the first appearance of action in the score - surprisingly dissonant, featuring subtle electronics, almost like a small-scale version of material from Poltergeist, it's highly-effective.  "The Kite" has a new theme, closely related to the main theme, but this time with a slight degree of tension and foreboding; these aspects are gradually allowed to come to the fore as electronics and low strings take over, before a B-theme from the first cue is given a full arrangement; and finally some Flim Flam Man-style joyous woodwind material accompanies the main theme performed first by harmonica, then for the first time by the whole string section.  It's a terrific way of highlighting how Goldsmith can score sudden shifts in on-screen mood while keeping everything completely musical - a technique mastered by barely any other film composers, probably only three or four who are working today.

The lengthy "Runaways" - at 6:28, the album's longest cue - begins with another brief statement of the main theme and then develops into some new material, with sprightly string runs accompanying some Magic-style harmonica work and bucolic flute solos.  Some of the score's most anguished suspense music follows - while clearly this is not the kind of moving material exhibited elsewhere in the score, it remains clear that it is music written from the heart - as all of the best film music is.  Again, the cue goes through a whole host of ideas over its length without ever losing its musical identity.

You will not be shocked that "Mexican Tune" is a Mexican tune, with a heart-meltingly beautiful guitar duet set to marimba backing; half way through, a couple of singers start singing in Spanish.  It's a beautiful song.  It shares no thematic material with the rest of the score and I'm unclear as to whether Goldsmith actually wrote it or not, but since it is not credited otherwise on the album, we must assume so.  It is immediately followed by "End of Calvin", which opens with some shrill trumpet music and goes on to be the score's big action piece.  The strings-and-brass, rhythmically-driven music could not be mistaken for the work of anyone else.  The album closes with a reprise of the beautiful main theme.

Raggedy Man is a score that attracts little attention, probably mainly because most people have simply never heard it, but it shows a side of Goldsmith rarely seen.  It's nothing short of outstanding, right up there with Islands in the Stream as one of his all-time most beautiful efforts.  Anyone who appreciates Goldsmith's low-key Americana writing from the late 1960s and early 70s is bound to love it, and I would say it's probably his most underrated score.  You just can't put a price on music of this quality - it's the sort of music that drove me to like film music in the first place, and is affecting and moving in the extreme.


  1. Main Title (3:53)

  2. Henry and Harry (5:11)

  3. Number Please (4:34)

  4. The Kite (4:40)

  5. Runaways (6:28)

  6. Mexican Tune (2:57)

  7. End of Calvin (3:54)

  8. End Title (2:09)