Welcome though this digitally re-mastered release of the score from Westworld is, ironically I would have actually preferred to hear the soundtrack from its sequel Futureworld (1976) (also composed by Fred Karlin) and I was a little disappointed that this disk didn't include cues from that production too. However, it's worth noting that a superior score does not always mean a superior movie. When it comes to the two films, Westworld is light years ahead in terms of quality, but although Karlin's music is an integral part of that success, music that works exceedingly well married with its images does not necessarily translate into a satisfying listening experience.
The opening piece, 'The Western Warble', is a very typical bit of wild west high jinx with frisky banjo, fiddle and even some whistling thrown in for good measure. But while it's fine as source music, it offers nothing in the way of originality and soon outstays its welcome. Of course, and this applies elsewhere on this particular score, the intention was clearly to create a sense of comfortable familiarity, setting up the viewer for the later sudden shift in emphasis from light playfulness to dark thriller. This is also the case with the 'Theme from Westworld', a routine country and western tune used as a kind of pastiche, again lulling the audience with its knowing sense of ordinariness. The first musical indication that things are not quite as cosy as we have been led to believe appears on 'Chase from Westworld', a jazzy, electronic oddity that's off-kilter enough to send out all the right signals, while 'Robot Repair' also works in a similar way, accompanied by a cluster of echoing whistles and drones.
Much the same as 'The Western Warble', a number of other cues are really conceived are original 'source' music, concocted by Karlin to depict various artificial worlds within the story, as with 'Welcome to Westworld' and its bar room piano version of the title theme, again ironically effective in the movie but simple-minded and bland otherwise. More worthwhile musically are 'Medieval World', an authentically traditional sounding medieval cue which is actually rather appealing and 'The Queen's Indiscretion', showcasing an engaging Elizabethan style melody. There's also the amusing Elmer Bernstein homage of 'Stagecoach Arrival', which should win some appreciative smiles from western fans. Probably the most interesting track on the CD is 'The Gunslinger', an effective, darkly rhythmic piece with piano and grating strings. Very different from everything else on offer here. Less worthwhile though are 'Bar Room Piano', which is exactly what the title suggests and 'Hovercraft Muzak', a banal example (as was the intention) of 'supermarket' muzak. Finally 'Chase from Westworld-Part 2' provides some more atmospheric, slightly ambient mood music, but is hardly riveting.
Westworld is quite a difficult score to assess. It does everything right in terms of its role as a film soundtrack and yet a good deal of its appeal is lost once removed from its source. Do we as fans simply want a permanent record of a film soundtrack or do we want to enjoy stand-alone dramatic, emotional music in its own right? And where do the two cross-over? Ultimately the value of a score like this one will be decided by your own personal approach to that quandary. Whatever the case, be sure to check out the movie itself as it's a class act and certainly the best place to appreciate this music.