June 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Monte Walsh (2003) & Crossfire Trail  
Music composed by Eric Colvin
  Available on La-La Land Records LLLCD 1006 - http://www.lalalandrecords.com/  
Running time: 66.39

monte walsh

This CD contains the scores for two recent TV movie westerns, both starring Tom Selleck, directed by Simon Wincer, and scored by Eric Colvin. In 1990 Wincer directed Selleck in the Australian big screen western, Quigley Down Under, which was scored by Basil Poledouris. Colvin, a relative newcomer to film and TV music, has worked with Poledouris on several occasions, as a synthesizer programmer on Starship Troopers (1997), Breakdown (1997) and Amanda (1996), as conductor and score mock-up artist on Les Misérables (1998), and has also contributed to the Film Score Monthly produced documentary Basil Poledouris: His Life and Music (1997).

As may be expected, Colvin’s music for this these westerns, one of the most masculine of all genres, carries something of the rugged, robust appeal of Poledouris’ writing; particularly his score for the mini-series Lonesome Dove (1989) (which was also directed by Wincer), a work which helped define the sound of the modern incarnation of the movie West. Equally there is here much of the noble, eloquent sensibility of Bruce Broughton, not just the heroic majesty of Tombstone (1993), but the lyrical poetry of O Pioneers! (1992) and True Women (1997).

Monte Walsh is the bigger, more recent and acclaimed of the two TV films, and its score dominates the disc, occupying approximately 44 minutes of the running time, leaving the music from Crossfire Trail to act as a 22 minute supporting feature; though booklet notes by Selleck indicate that Colvin wrote more music for this latter film. Whatever the reasons for Crossfire Trail’s lesser representation on disc, the selection of cues results in a satisfying anthology.

Adapted from a novel by Jack Schaffer, Monte Walsh was previously filmed for the cinema in 1970, on which occasion it was scored by John Barry – I reviewed the FSM release of the score here. There is little to compare in the two scores, and if Colvin’s work can be compared to Barry’s at all, it is much closer in spirit to Dances With Wolves than to the 1970 with which it shares its name. The presentation beings with a newly recorded version of a folk" song written for the film by Colvin, and performed by Keith Carradine & Tom Selleck. The much rougher, in-character film version of this "Cowboy Lullaby" ends the Monte Walsh part of the album. It sets the scene well, but certainly shouldn’t encourage the actors to give up their day job, having an authentically homespun down-on-the-range feel. By coincidence Marco Polo’s new recording of Dimitri Tiomkin’s Red River (1948), reviewed on FMOTW last month opens with a main title setting the same text… "sleep / settle down, little doggies". So what we have here is a charming homage by Colvin to one of the masters of the genre.

What follows is a mixture of large-scale pictorial Americana, quiet reflection and action adventure. The music for both scores fits its mould perfectly, generic in the best possible way in that it is instantly evocative of the West as seen through film and television, yet has its own personality and flair. Colvin’s music is romantic, elegiac, exciting and dynamic, and for those who love Western music makes a most worthwhile purchase. Others should find this a rewarding, if perhaps not quite essential addition to a well rounded collection. Either way, Eric Colvin is a young composer to look out for. I suspect we will be hearing much more from him in the future. For more about him visit the Eric Covin website.

Gary Dalkin

***(*) 31/2

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