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Rousing western classic from Broughton

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VCL 1102 1014

Album cover copyright (c) 2005 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall

When Silverado was released in 1985, the western was pretty much dead - no major studio had released on in years, and there was little clamour for them to do so.  But the film very slightly re-energised the public's appetite for the once all-conquering genre, and a few more westerns have appeared in the twenty years following its release.  Director Lawrence Kasdan was trying to make "a beginner's guide to a western" in a way, throwing in virtually all the elements that made the genre so popular in years gone by, and he assembled a strong cast in the process - Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner, Danny Glover - and the person who seems about as unlikely to appear in a western as any other, John Cleese.

Bruce Broughton has, in the years since, scored more westerns than anyone else, writing some terrific scores in the process (especially Tombstone) - but Silverado, his first big hit, arguably remains his masterpiece, the score when he really announced himself as a force to be reckoned with in film music.  It is no surprise to find Broughton wisely treading the same path as that trodden by Elmer Bernstein, Jerome Moross and Aaron Copland before him, and the expansive, brilliant main theme, a western classic which would surely be as well known as The Magnificent Seven or The Big Country if only the film were.  Propulsive, exciting, expansive, evocative of wide open prairies, cowboys on horses and all the rest, it's a great piece.  It receives its fullest presentation in the opening title but is heard in many variations over the course of the album, for instance in "On to Silverado", a delightfully sweeping piece which includes some playful touches and also a nice, long presentation of the main romantic theme, which swoops and swoons like the best of them.

Where Broughton's score differs from those other composers' is in the action music, which is taut, thrilling and frequently very dark.  There seems to be a tip of the hat to Jerry Goldsmith's best western score (the exceptional Wild Rovers) in the terrific "The Getaway / Riding as One" - but while that piece is quite broad and expansive action music, more frequently the action is denser, darker - and always brilliant.  The consecutive pieces "Ezra's Death" and "An Understanding Boss" and "Party Crashers" are as black as nails, with Broughton making full use of the expanded horn section he assembled for the score and throwing in some growling trombones for good measure.  Perhaps best of all is the lengthy track "McKendrick Waits / The Stampede / Finishing at McKendrick's", whose low bass sound mike make your speakers fly off their stands.

Broughton has one of the most instantly recognisable and most personal styles of all the Hollywood composers and even in this work, which inevitably draws inspiration from the countless classics which went before it, is resolutely his own.  This is a joyous score, one featuring so much melodic invention and proper orchestral music that yet again one can only lament the fact that Broughton - who only has John Williams for competition when it comes to writing good, old fashioned orchestral film music - seems to get so little quality work these days.

The original soundtrack album featured most of the score's highlights and was a very strong album, but to tie in with the film's twentieth anniversary, Intrada released this expanded version, featuring the entire score, a couple of source pieces and one alternate track.  It also features much-improved sound, liner notes from Broughton and Intrada's Douglass Fake, and nice packaging.  It really is one of those classic scores which belongs in any film music collection - honestly, film music just doesn't get much better.

Disc One tracks

  1. Main Title (4:46)
  2. Padem's Horse (1:33)
  3. Tyree and Turley (3:39)
  4. That Ain't Right (1:13)
  5. Padem's Hat (3:37)
  6. The Getaway / Riding as One (6:07)
  7. Den of Thieves (1:46)
  8. The Strongbox Rescue (1:53)
  9. On to Silverado (6:23)
  10. McKendrick's Men (1:24)
  11. Ezra's Death (1:52)
  12. An Understanding Boss (1:47)
  13. Party Crashers (1:37)
  14. Tyree and Paden (:52)
  15. McKendrick's Brand (:50)
  16. You're Empty, Mister / Emmet's Rescue (3:43)
  17. Behind the Church (1:15)
  18. Augie is Taken (2:36)

Disc Two tracks

  1. Worried About the Dog (2:07)
  2. Prelude to a Battle (4:50)
  3. McKendrick Waits / The Stampede / Finishing at McKendrick's (8:24)
  4. Hide and Watch / Jake Gets Tyree / Then Slick, Then McKendrick (9:30)
  5. Goodbye, Cobb (2:05)
  6. We'll Be Back (4:22)
  7. The Bradley Place (1:48)
  8. Jake Gets Tyree (alternate) (2:15)
  9. The Silverado Waltz (2:03)