November 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

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

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The Wild Rovers  
Composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith
  Available on Film Score Golden Age Classics FSM Vol 6 No 15
Limited Edition of 3000 copies

Total Running Time: 79.13 (see full details below the review)
Film Score Monthly, 8503 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, CA90232; Tel: 1-888-345-6335; overseas: 310-253-9595; fax: 310-253-9588

wild rovers

Following such Film Score Monthly Jerry Goldsmith double-feature releases as The Stripper / Nick Quarry, The Film Flam Man / A Girl Named Sooner and Stagecoach / The Loner, comes this unusual programme of The Wild Rovers / The Wild Rovers. Yes, you read that right, for what we have here is the never before issued score as heard in the film The Wild Rovers, followed by essentially the same music as re-recorded for the "original soundtrack album", followed by two short bonus songs.

As the official Film Score Monthly publicity release explains:

"Previous LP and CD releases of Wild Rovers have been a London re-recording, with two songs performed by Ellen Smith (actually Ellen Goldsmith, the composer's daughter). This definitive CD features the complete, Los Angeles-recorded underscore (never before released), including the unused title song performed by Sheb Wooley; followed by the complete London album recording (including the "Friendly Advice" track from the 1986 MCA LP, resequenced as Goldsmith intended); and then two bonus tracks of source music vocals from the film -- all in stereo."

The film itself is a revisionist western, hacked to pieces by MGM and released to general indifference at 106 minutes, only to be rediscovered and somewhat more acclaimed in a 136 minute Director’s Cut. To quote FSM:

"The Hollywood western gasped its last breaths in the late 1960s with revisionist classics with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Wild Bunch. In 1971 Blake Edwards wrote and directed a Hollywood "anti-western" if there ever was one: Wild Rovers, in which William Holden and Ryan O'Neal play a pair of down-and-out cowhands who rob a bank and make a run for Mexico.

Although Edwards had a longstanding relationship with Henry Mancini (Peter Gunn, The Pink Panther), he turned to Jerry Goldsmith for Wild Rovers, having been impressed with Goldsmith's ability to score character in Patton (1970, FSMCD Vol. 2, No. 2). Edwards sought an Aaron Coplandesque effort which would treat authentic cowboy songs in the symphonic idiom, and Goldsmith responded with a theme-and-variations approach which even utilizes the same folk song elements ("Goodbye Old Paint") as Copland's ballet, Billy the Kid.

The result is a melodic and pleasing score that ranks as one of Goldsmith's finest in the Americana idiom. The cues range from authentically "folksy" to fully symphonic and "Coplandesque"; like Patton, the score is brief and focused on its almost monothematic personality, but not without modernistic action cues -- such as "Cattle vs. Sheep," for the death of Karl Malden's rancher."

All of which is a fair enough description, though in actual listening the music is sometimes more admirable than enjoyable or memorable. Starting with the soundtrack itself there is much imaginative, well crafted writing, with a central melody strongly indicative of Goldsmith of the period – "Checking Up" is just one cue which anticipates the gentle moods of Papillon (1973), while a short introspective woodwind theme points to the romantic side of Logan’s Run (1976).

The cue "Wild Horses" is a definite highlight – a rousing, heroic setting of the main, indeed virtually only fully developed, theme (apart from a honkytonk piano interlude) which is equal parts Copland, Bernstein (Elmer, as in The Magnificent Seven (1960)) and Moross. There’s a true folk-heart to this music as well as a pastoral-heroic quality which is thoroughly rewarding. "Bronco Busting" (appearing in original and revised versions) is close to being more of the same, while "Quiet Thoughts" again sets the main theme, this time as a quiet lovely and reflective folk-like melody with the lead taken on guitar.

Later tracks are less satisfying, the spartan underscore of "The Cemetery/Red Snow" developing the theme into stark unsettling territory, while "The Knife" takes the melody apart and rebuilds it as something dark, violent and unresolved. The closing of the cue offers strong modern action writing which nevertheless does not particularly stand out in the composer’s own very strong body of work. "Final Destination" again finds Goldsmith very much anticipating the sound world of Papillon in its harsh aggressive tonalities, while one may also find echoes of the darker side of The Blue Max (1966).

The score concludes with Sheb Wooley’s unused main title song, an effective enough folk ballad setting of the main theme, though Ellen Smith’s version in the following LP version is much preferable.

So we come to the original LP release, which using the original orchestrations, is pretty much the same as what we have already heard. Five cues are omitted (though one, "friendly advice" is added), the music is resequenced and there are some low key sound effects on the main title, but it really would be a die hard fan who would feel the need to have both versions.

However, while not the authentic original soundtrack (which is obviously of overriding importance to some) it is important to note that the LP version does have not only far richer, fuller, more detailed sound, but also somewhat more energetic and focused performances. Of the two it is far to be preferred. Hardly surprising given that the orchestra performing appears to have been the same superb National Philharmonic which a few years later who record Charles Gerhardt’s Classic Film Scores series and such Goldsmith classics as Alien (1979).

Still, here they are both versions on the same disc, and considering the album only sells for little more than one might pay for 30 minutes of score from a new film, there’s nothing to complain about. Just decide which version of what is a good but somewhat repetitive Jerry Goldsmith score you would sooner listen to.

Gary Dalkin

Score *** 3
Album re-recording **** 4

Track listing
Music Composed and Conducted by Jerry Goldsmith
  • Lyrics by Ernie Sheldon
  • 01 Main Title 4:53
  • 02 Friendly Advice 2:01
  • 03 A Sleepless Night/Checking Up 3:19
  • 04 Snow Country 1:14
  • 05 Wild Horses 3:30
  • 06 Bronco Bustin' (revision) 1:57
  • 07 Bronco Bustin' (original version) 1:59
  • 08 Cattle vs. Sheep 1:10
  • 09 Quiet Thoughts 2:35
  • 10 The Cemetery/Red Snow 1:58
  • 11 The Knife 3:19
  • 12 Old Times 3:40
  • 13 Final Destination 2:14
  • 14 End Title 1:54
  • 15 Main Title (Sung by Sheb Wooley) 3:31
  • Total Time: 39:46
Album Recording
  • 16 a) Early Morning b) The Wild Rover (Sung by Ellen Smith, Lyric by Ernie Sheldon) 4:26
  • 17 Friendly Advice 1:57
  • 18 Wild Horses 3:47
  • 19 Snow Country 2:04
  • 20 Old Times 4:00
  • 21 The Knife 3:38
  • 22 Bronco Bustin' 2:03
  • 23 Sleepless Night 2:58
  • 24 Saturday Night 2:26
  • 25 a) Final Destination b) Texas Rangers (Sung by Ellen Smith, Traditional Arranged by Jerry Goldsmith) 6:03
  • 26 End Title: Wild Rovers 2:00
  • Total Time: 35:59
Bonus Tracks
  • 27 Little Purple Poppy (Sung by Betty Wand) 1:35
  • 28 Ballad of the Wild Rovers (Sung by William Holden) 1:50
  • Total Time: 3:28
Total Disc Time: 79:13

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