December 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Michael McLennan
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster: Len Mullenger

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Breakheart Pass  
Music composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith
Performed by the Hollywood Studio Symphony Orchestra
Orchestrated by Arthur Morton
Produced by Ford A. Thaxton
  Available on La La Land (LLLCD 1044)
Running Time: 46:33
Amazon UK   Amazon US

Breakheart Pass stars Charles Bronson as a secret agent in this twisty Alistair MacClean yarn that's. The cast includes Ben Johnson as a shady U.S. Marshall, Richard Crenna as a travelling state governor, Ed Lautner as a military man, with Charles Durning, Bill McKinney, David Huddleston and Roy Jenson rounding out the cast of this western full of conspiracies and shady alliances.

Also along for the ride with a big supply of thrills is veteran film composer Jerry Goldsmith, no stranger to the western genre having scored genre entries as diverse as The Black Patch, Hour Of The Gun, 100 Rifles, Rio Lobo, Bandolero and The Wild Rovers as well as the TV scores for such series as Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, Wagon Train. Goldsmith was going through a golden period during the 1970s, which started with his acclaimed score for Patton in 1970 and continued with other great scores including Papillon, Chinatown, The Wind And The Lion and ending the decade with great scores such as Logan's Run, The Omen, Islands In The Stream, Capricorn One, The Boys From Brazil, Alien and his masterwork Star Trek The Motion Picture.

Breakheart Pass, scored in the middle of the 1970's was the first of a trio of train-based adventures that Goldsmith would score, the other two being The Cassandra Crossing and The Great Train Robbery. The combination of the train elements and Goldsmith's propulsive, percussive western style makes Breakheart Pass one of the highlights of his 70s scores and one of his very best title themes. The opening cue 'Main Title' trundles along at a great pace, book-ended by rhythmic horns while the theme is carried by brass and synthesiser and a smattering of superb honky-tonk piano playing.

What really surprised me upon listening to this score for the first time on disc is how much of it is not the action score I remembered from viewing the film many years ago. Many of the cues are suspenseful in nature, that isn't to say this is a problem, as with Goldsmith there's always great texture and odd time signature changes to always keep the listener interested. Plus that fabulous theme crops up in various guises, a harsh version at the end of the suspense track 'Medical Supplies', a pacy reprise in 'The Trestle', and a superbly quirky rhythmed version towards the end of 'The Casket / Box Car Fight'. (The latter cue also reminded me of his writing in Planet of The Apes and The Cassandra Crossing.)

On the whole this score is well worth the purchase in my opinion. That theme, which has to be one of Goldsmith's best, never outstays it's welcome while the remainder of the album has as many twists and turns as the films plot, with Goldsmith's superb inventive rhythms and orchestrations. I mentioned the use of synthesisers earlier and for those dissenters of Goldsmith's use of electronics: don't worry! Their use is minimal and with subtlety, most of the time you hardly notice their use at all.

The downside? I have a personal quibble that track 12 'Here They Come' at 59 seconds long is too short. I'd have loved to hear this developed but then, that's the nature of film scoring. The last two tracks ‘Bonus Track’ totalling 31 seconds are virtually pointless.

As I said: minor quibbles. This is a great album that rewards the listener more and more on each successive listen, and certainly has staying power.

Tim Lines

Rating: 3.5

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