May 2000 Film Music CD Reviews Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
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Jerry GOLDSMITH Take A Hard Ride    OST   FILM SCORE MONTHLY Vol. 3 No.1 [46:40] 
Available exclusively from the magazine and website ( for $19.95 plus shipping.

By the mid-1970's the Western was a dying genre, struggling to stay alive by resorting to ever more desperate measures. In an attempt to appeal to a contemporary audience Take a Hard Ride (1975) offered a standard genre plot, but shook things up by filling the lead roles with popular 'blaxplotation' stars Jim Brown and Fred Williamson, and by adding a dose of kung-fu. Covering all bases, the film also starred spaghetti western legend Lee Van Cleef, unsurprisingly playing a ruthless bounty hunter. Part buddy-pic, part violent comedy adventure, the result was a 70's disaster of a movie, further contributing to the death of a once great genre.

As so often, one of the few to walk away from a bad film with real credit was composer Jerry Goldsmith. His first film score was for a western, Black Patch (1958) and through the 60's and 70's he wrote a series of fine western scores. Take A Hard Ride proved to be his last until the implausible but entertaining Bad Girls ( 1994), part of the early 90's western revival. In keeping with the kitchen-sink approach of Take a Hard Ride, Goldsmith crafted a somewhat schizophrenic score. Generally there are two approaches to western scoring. First, the big, open plains, Copland inspired rousing orchestral sound as demonstrated by Jerome Moross' The Big County (1958), and, with added spicy-Mexican flavour, Elmer Bernstein's The Magnificent Seven (1960). Second, that inspired by Ennio Morricone's eclectic baroque-psychological spaghetti western sound, which revolutionised the genre via Sergio Leone's Dollar's Trilogy (1964-66) and Once Upon A Time in the West (1968), and in which anything could go, from wild vocal calls to electric guitars. Usually, the two schools do not mix.

Take a Hard Ride is unmistakably Goldsmith, with muscular action writing and devices familiar from other mid-70's scores such as Papillon (1974). Binding the score together is a big, classic Americana theme, for which rousing really is the best word. In typical Goldsmith fashion, the theme is also used for more plaintive settings, while the delicate Latin-tinged guitar and percussion both look back to The Magnificent Seven and forward to the composer's own Under Fire (1983). Yet elsewhere there are spaghetti western devices a-plenty. A brooding, threatening harmonica, quirky percussion and a striking electronic 'sting' processed through a reverb unit which is used to build tension, and which resembles elements of the following year's Logan's Run.

Complete with orchestrations by Arthur Morton, Take a Hard Ride is typical mid-70's Goldsmith, which is to say that it is very good, though not one of the composer's truly great scores. It is certainly far better than the film deserved. The album features all the music from the film, presented in film order, and mixed into stereo (the film was released in mono) from the original multi-track session masters. The sound is very good, though with just a little distortion on the very loudest moments. As usual with Film Score Monthly releases, the booklet is well produced and informative, the finishing touch to an excellent package; once again congratulations are due to producer Douglass Fake.

For all serious Goldsmith fans Take a Hard Ride is another essential purchase. The less dedicated might prefer to concentrate on acquiring some of the composer's bona fide classic scores, though I doubt any film music fan would regret for a moment money spent on this release.


Gary S. Dalkin



Gary S. Dalkin

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