Some twenty-one minutes - almost a third of this splendid,
generous album - are devoted to bonus tracks covering five extra, John Wayne-Elmer
Bernstein,western movie scores.
I mean to cast no aspersion on the great ‘Duke’s’ western
‘oaters’ when I observe that many of the plots tread just as familiar and
similar territory as his horses covered. And I mean no disparagement when I
suggest that Bernstein’s scores, also habitually revisit the same soundscapes:
the bucolic, sentimental, Mexicana and those equestrian rhythms. I hastily add,
however, that the master adds wonderful colourful harmonies and orchestrations
that always catch the ear.
Take those equestrian rhythms. I rather think Elmer
Bernstein must have spent many hours studying the movement of horses, the
trotting, cantering, galloping; the intricate variable cross rhythms of those
hooves are captured so frequently in all his western scores. You hear them
through the True Grit score; in the second track, for instance, ‘A
Dastardly Deed’ where unusually bass piano chords are used most evocatively
(and you smile as Wayne’s Rooster Cogburn falls from his horse in an alcoholic
haze in the track ‘Ruffled Rooster’). Then in the quirky, yet tense, The
Shootist ‘Opening Sequence’ you are immediately arrested by jingling spurs,
irregular trotting rhythms and witty neighing interjections. And,
interestingly, in the final bonus track Bernstein, cunningly and ironically
suggests that the emerging motor technology seen in Big Jake, is
no match for the good old four-legged friend of the cowboy.
Of course Elmer Bernstein will be forever remembered for the
thrilling score he penned for The Magnificent Seven. Its swagger is
sustained through all these scores together with, in many instances (especially
in The Sons of Katie Elde ) of those appealing Mexican rhythms and
The opening track of the True Grit score synthesises
all these elements opening with the main theme pronounced in a relaxed manner -
amiable ambling material with a jazz –inflected solo trumpet, soon joined by
other trumpets in with pastoral evocations broadening later to suggest broad
western vistas. Mattie’s feisty yet essentially feminine character is finely
drawn and I was fascinated to note almost Vaughan-Williams like material in
‘Bouncing into Danger’/’Over Bald Mountain’ and elsewhere.
Highly recommended to all
Elmer Bernstein admirers
Michael McLennan adds:-
I was never familiar with much of this score beyond the main
theme, but to hear Bernstein’s bucolic western style brought to life in such a
clean recording is truly a treat. The action material of ‘Preparation Dugout /
Dugout Stakeout / Shots Galore’ in particular stood out to me – it was
unmistakeably Bernstein, epic and rambunctious, but also unmistakably recent.
And for a moment I thought I’d heard a fragment of the as-yet-unreleased score
Bernstein wrote for Scorsese’s Gangs of New York. (We can hope!)
What with Film Score Monthly’s recent release of the ‘Elmer
Bernstein Collection’, together with a new recording of Kings of the Sun (with
much of the same team that worked on this release, including Fitzpatrick), it
truly is a great time for Bernstein collectors.
Sensational. Kudos to James Fitzpatrick.