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June 2001Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings /June01/

The Mexican  
Tracks 3, 9 & 11 co-written with Abraham Laboriel; trumpet solos by Gary Grant
  Orchestrated by Conrad Pope and the composer
  DECCA 013-757-2   [49:16]

The Mexican

Includes the songs: 'These Boots Are Made For Walkin'' (Nancy Sinatra), 'You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You' (Dean Martin), 'Safety Dance' (Men in Hats), 'Why Can't We Be Friends' (War), 'El Cable' (Esquivel)

Starring Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, the tag most frequently attached to The Mexican, is 'Tarantino Lite', and not having seen the film but based upon the soundtrack album, this seems a reasonable description. There are pop songs, but rather than the disc following the modern pattern of pop compilation plus token score track, this tilts the balance offering five pop numbers totalling 15:29 and almost 35 minutes of score by Alan Silvestri. The score itself could most definitely fit into the 'Tarantino lite' category, being essentially a post-modern and very knowing pastiche/parody/homage to the Western film music of Ennio Morricone. In titular geography and subject matter we are in the territory of the Spaghetti Western, and Silvestri plays up to the fact on every occasion, making this a joyfully witty affair for seasoned Morricone buffs - showing that this isn't exactly a serious affair, one track is called '10% Clint'!

The main title, complete with anthemic trumpet immediately sets the scene for brash yet tongue-in-cheek melodrama. 'Blame Shifting' introduces a question and answer melody for banjo, harmonica, bass and whistling man which will recur through the score. 'Oye' is a vibrant Mexican flavoured 'folk song', while '10 % Clint' is The Good, the Bad and The Ugly with the serial numbers if not filed off, then lightly abraded. So it goes, taking a turn for more mysterious and atmospheric lands with 'Frank's Dead' and introducing a surprisingly tender love theme in 'Leroy's Morning' which sounds as if it comes from a more straight-faced film, eventually developing into a melody not so far removed from Alex North's central Cleopatra love theme. The more serious and comic elements of the score weave together surprisingly well and even if you haven't seen the film you may find yourself becoming hooked on these expertly crafted sounds by the third or fourth listen. By the time Silvestri introduces his trademark big wordless choir backing the big bold trumpet in the title track you know Ennio Morricone will either be grinning from ear to ear or calling his lawyer. Hopefully the former, as this is simply fun, and a great tribute to Morricone and the classic 'Dollar' westerns.

It is a rather fragmented album, with many of the score cues lasting only a minute or so, and the following piece adopting an entirely different mood. The songs each introduce an entirely different vibe again, and may have been better placed altogether at the beginning or end of the disc. The playing and sound are razor sharp with some particularly pleasing and well-defined bass. An attractive release which should match its film well.

Gary S. Dalkin


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