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Artwork copyright (c) 1971 Turner Entertainment Co.; review copyright (c) 2004 James Southall



Wonderful western score


With a shrill blast of the main theme on solo trumpet, so begins Jerry Goldsmith's most outstanding western score.  He worked in the genre on many occasions, but most of the movies have now been forgotten - things like 100 Rifles, Bandolero and Take a Hard Ride may have produced outstanding scores, but who remembers the films?  That's probably the only reason that Goldsmith's western themes and scores are not as celebrated as those of his peers, for he wrote some truly stunning music for the wide open plains of the west, though often concentrating on the personal relationships and emotions at the heart of the stories rather than going for the landscape itself.  Wild Rovers actually falls somewhere in between the two.  The movie - made by Blake Edwards in the wake of the "anti-westerns" like The Wild Bunch and Once Upon a Time in the West, concentrated on a pair of cowboys who are to go a tragic and devastating journey after they rob a bank simply as something to do.

Director Edwards wanted a different sound from those he usually got from Henry Mancini for his movies, and so tasked Goldsmith with the unenviable task of following in the footsteps of Aaron Copland and writing something along the lines of Billy the Kid.  While Goldsmith has often been accused of plagiarising Copland's work, in truth he was only utilising the same folk elements as Copland had done, most notably the traditional "Goodbye, Old Paint"; but, of course, Goldsmith went far further and contributed numerous ideas of his own for a wonderfully melodic and uplifting score.  After the piercing trumpet opening, the composer drafts in guitars and harmonica for a rousing performance of his theme.  Highlights are two tracks in the middle of the score, "Wild Horses" and "Bronco Bustin'" - full-bodied western music in the greatest tradition of The Magnificent Seven etc, with Goldsmith's distinctive touch.  Rousing and exciting, it's difficult to tire of listening to the two pieces.  Also included, interestingly, is a radically different early version of "Bronco Bustin'" which is far more restrained, though still nice.  "Cattle vs Sheep" is at the other end of the spectrum, a powerful and dissonant blast of orchestral menace for a gunfight sequence; its impact is such that the cue that follows, a lengthy rumination on the main theme for solo guitar, seems unusually powerful and emotional.  "The Knife" is another great piece of action music, while the score concludes with a moving end title piece.

For the album release in 1971, Goldsmith - as was common at the time - re-recorded the score in London.  Film Score Monthly present both readings of the score here.  While not radically different, the original tracks contain a few bits that didn't make the re-recording, but there are a couple of songs from the original album which weren't in the film, sung by Goldsmith's daughter Ellen.  (The album tracks had already been released on CD twice when this CD came along - first, coupled with The Great Train Robbery, and later with The Last Run.  Both of those albums are now out of print.)  With excellent sound and liner notes, this is a first-rate package of one of Goldsmith's best scores.

Original tracks

  1. Main Title (4:53)
  2. Friendly Advice (2:01)
  3. A Sleepless Night / Checking Up (3:19)
  4. Snow Country (1:14)
  5. Wild Horses (3:30)
  6. Bronco Bustin' (revision) (1:57)
  7. Bronco Bustin' (original) (1:59)
  8. Cattle vs Sheep (1:10)
  9. Quiet Thoughts (2:35)
  10. The Cemetery / Red Snow (1:58)
  11. The Knife (3:19)
  12. Old Times (3:40)
  13. Final Destination (2:14)
  14. End Title (1:54)
  15. Wild Rovers Sheb Wooley (3:31)


Album re-recordings

  1. Early Morning / The Wild Rover Ellen Smith (4:26)
  2. Friendly Advice (1:57)
  3. Wild Horses (3:47)
  4. Snow Country (2:04)
  5. Old Times (4:00)
  6. The Knife (3:38)
  7. Bronco Bustin' (2:03)
  8. Sleepless Night (2:58)
  9. Saturday Night (2:26)
  10. Final Destination / Texas Rangers Ellen Smith (6:03)
  11. Wild Rovers (2:00)
  12. Little Purple Poppy Betty Wand (1:35)
  13. Ballad of the Wild Rover William Holden (1:50)