Jerry GOLDSMITH Take
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