March 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

Jerry GOLDSMITH Rio Conchos  OST   FILM SCORE Silver Age Vol. 2 No.8 [75:29]

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Rio Conchos followed in the wake of the John Wayne vehicle, The Comancheros (music on Film Score Monthly FSMCD Vol 2 No. 6) in that both films shared the same scriptwriter and novelist, Claire Huffaker and there were a number of common plot threads and character archetypes. But Rio Conchos was altogether a far darker, more hard-bitten tale with some pretty unsympathetic characters led by a grizzled Richard Boone as Major Lassiter bent on avenging the murder of his family by marauding Apaches.

Jerry Goldsmith, who already had substantial experience scoring for westerns, provided a blistering score that broke new ground for the genre. Vivid, gritty, colourful, full of jagged rhythms and sophisticated orchestration including the imaginative use of a panoply of percussion giving the score an air of menace and Latin colour appropriate to the film's Mexican locale, the music owes more to Stravinsky and Bartok rather than Copland. Here was one of the first psychological (as well as action) approaches to scoring a western.

The opening track catches one's breath. Tambourines, suggesting wild, clanging spurs, whiplashes, and scratcher comb add barbaric underlining to a rather mournful, slightly syncopated harmonica folk-like melody. Other cues continue the mood of flinty, brooding malevolence. Castanets and guitars, snearing brass, in exciting varying rhythmic patterns, add vibrant colour to many tracks. There is a palpable coiled rattlesnake-like menace attached to those cues associated with the Apaches. I was impressed with the excitement and exuberance and then the quiet build up of tension of 'River Crossing' the treading rhythms of the colourful percussion instruments is particularly good. So too, is 'The Aftermath' with its equally telling use of even more colourful percussion; and 'Wall of Fire' is breathtakingly fast-paced thrills.

Quoting the release that accompanied my review copy, "The existing CD of Rio Conchos is a re-recording conducted by the composer for Intrada Records in 1988. FSM's new release features the original soundtrack - never before released - as recorded for the film at 20th Century Fox in 1964. The recording is complete, in chronological order, and in excellent mono sound with eleven cues not included on the Intrada CD, including a great deal of moody, flamenco-based material for Tony Franciosca's character and a lengthy bravura action cue ('Drag Race') written largely for percussion. Bonus tracks include a seldom-heard vocal version of the title theme and five tracks of score remixed in stereo, focusing on the action-packed climax.

This is a thrilling score of infinite variety within a limited overall canvass and one that holds the attention through its 62 minute length. As usual the FSM documentation is thorough and fulsome.


Ian Lace

[This Rio Conchos CD is available exclusively from the magazine and website ( for $19.95 plus shipping: Film Score Monthly, 8503 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, CA90232. Phone: 310-253-9595; Fax: 310-253-9588; ]


Ian Lace

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