Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My most listened to Western movie soundtracks

As part of Legends of Western Cinema week, I'll be posting a couple Western movie themed posts this week.  Check out their page for links to other posts in this series.

First up, since I've been thinking of little else lately:  music.  Western are a huge part of my life, and the scores that go with those movies almost an even bigger one.  Most of these, I suspect most people won't have heard of, but they're a huge part of my life.

These are my most-listened-to Western film scores at this moment in time.  I have so many other Western scores I love just as much, including several all-time favorites, but they're out of play rotation right now, for various reasons.  They'll come around again.  But right now, here in the middle of 2015, these are the ones I'm playing most often.

1. Rio Conchos - Jerry Goldsmith (1964)
I think if I only had one score to listen to the rest of my life, I would not be upset if this were the one.  It is my most played score over the past twenty-five years, by any composer in any genre, and for all the hundreds of times I've played it, I am still not remotely tired of it.  It's a score that matches my mood most days. You want the essence of me in musical form?  This score just about covers it.
Favorite cue:  "River Crossing"

(Main Title from Rio Conchos)

2. Hour of the Gun - Jerry Goldsmith (1967)
I might also be fine if this was the only score I had to listen to for the rest of my life.  This one's not as dark as Rio Conchos.  It starts upbeat and ends upbeat, but covers lots of moods and action in the middle.
Favorite cue: "The Search"

(Sort of a compilation cue from the score)

3. Wyatt Earp - James Newton Howard (1994)

No, the list isn't going to be all Goldsmith (though it easily could be, LOL).  I listen to Wyatt Earp all the time.  There's a short album and an expanded album, and I trade off between them depending how much time I have.
Favorite cue: "It All Ends Now"

(My favorite cue from Wyatt Earp)

4. Big Jake - Elmer Bernstein (1971)
My favorite Western movie, and my favorite Bernstein score.  Great classic Western theme for Jacob McCandles, exactly what you expect from a John Wayne Western.
Favorite cue:  "Survey/Ambush/Buzzards"

(Main theme)

5. Lonely are the Brave - Jerry Goldsmith (1962)
I'll be talking more about this movie later this week.  But this score?  Perfection.  In every way.  It's poignant, gentle,  playful, actiony, and sad.
Favorite cue:  "Run for It"

6. The Missing - James Horner (2003)
Never seen this movie, never want to.  It would ruin the music.  I love this score so much it's not funny.  It's not the Bernstein-esque "traditional" Western sound, but it's one of my top ten favorite Horner scores.  This is a score I write to.  It's sweeping, beautiful, and aching. It's one of those Horner scores that makes me want to climb inside the music, because it's not enough to just listen to it.
Favorite cue: "The Long Ride Home," all 16 glorious minutes of it.

7. Take a Hard Ride - Jerry Goldsmith (1975)
Boy, does this one have a great main theme.  This is one of the CDs that stays in my car and I listen to it often while driving.  Not a dark score, but not a light score either.  Nicely in the middle.

8. Breakheart Pass - Jerry Goldsmith (1975)
Because train music never gets old.
Favorite cue: Here it Comes

(Main title)

9. Tombstone - Bruce Broughton (1993)
I sometimes find it ironic that I love this score, but don't like the movie at all (except for Michael Biehn).  I also find it ironic that one of the things I did not like about the movie when I saw it in the theater was that the music, in context, didn't work for me.  But I love it by itself.  (Rather like the score to Waterworld by James Newton Howard... didn't work for me in the movie, either, but it got listened to over and over and over on CD.  What can I say?  Some scores are just like that.)
Favorite cue:  "Looking at Heaven/End Credits"

10.  The Scalphunters - Elmer Bernstein (1968)
Probably the lightest, most cheerful of the ten scores listed here, but still has that distinctive Bernstein sound.
Favorite cue: "Joe Bass and the Scalphunters"


  1. I hadn't realized Jerry Goldsmith did so many Western scores. The only one I'd heard so far was bits of Wild Rovers, most of which is a bit clangy-sounding for me, but I do like the variations on "Goodbye, Old Paint."

    Now how have I managed not to hear Big Jake until now? Bernstein is just the best—The Magnificent Seven, The Sons of Katie Elder and The Comancheros are my favorites of his. I also love John Williams' The Cowboys and Jerome Moross' The Big Country and The Proud Rebel.

    1. Yeah, I own Wild Rovers, but I play it rarely. Not a fave of mine either. But I left off of my list several of Goldsmith's Western scores that I love (but have rather worn out)... Bandolero, 100 Rifles, Rio Lobo, The Loner... they're all great, and well-played around here.

      I love the scores to Sons of Katie Elder and Comancheros! Actually, just about all Bernstein Westerns. I listen to Hallelujah Trail, Drango, and Cannon for Cordoba quite a bit as well. One can never go wrong with Elmer Bernstein!

  2. I'm listening to these as I clean up the kitchen and get breakfast on the road, and Tootie came running in just now, while I'm listening to "Big Jake," and said, "It's Robin Hood music! I love Robin Hood music!" Lol! So while we may think "This clearly says cowboys and horses and riding around having adventures," to a 3-year-old, it's Robin Hood music. Well, she got the adventure part, anyway.

    1. And Sarah thinks "The Missing" sounds like "Cinderella."

    2. Hey, at least she didn't say "turn that off!" LOL. Big Jake sounds like riding on horses, so why not Robin Hood? Hee.

      Glad you're enjoying them. Most of my favorite cues weren't on youtube, but that's probably a good thing, as I don't think you'd have been listening to them. I picked prettier, safe cues to post instead.

    3. I have to say about the only things they've see where people are riding horses is Errol Flynn's Robin Hood, Disney's Zorro, and The Apple Dumpling Gang. They love to try to guess what I'm listening to while I cook -- they know a lot of my standards by now. Yesterday, Daniel was whistling the theme from North and South and declared it's his new favorite song :-D

      I was noticing that a lot of these were really bouncy and non-minor.

  3. The only one that doesn't really grab me is "Take a Hard Ride." Nothing wrong with it, just doesn't grab me. The others are all awesome, and I've been cycling through them all morning.

    1. Hm, the post ate my Scalphunters cue link... Fixed that. You know that one, though, cuz I'd sent that to you before.

    2. Of course I know that cue! That's me riding around on a horse. It's on my "morning music" compilation, so I hear it a couple times a week :-D

  4. I LOVE the Wyatt Earp score. Dearly. My favorite tracks are the ones with the Wyatt and Urilla theme. :-)

    The Missing is one of those movies I've been interested in, but haven't been allowed to see (because, y'know, it's rated R and I'm sixteen and I have wise parents who call the shots on these sort of things. ;-D) I didn't know the music was by James Horner!

    And the Tombstone soundtrack is so great. Oh, you didn't like the movie? Really? I think that's the first I've ever heard someone say they didn't like it. (I haven't seen it yet.) So you liked Wyatt Earp better, huh? :-)

    Great list!

    1. I've seen The Missing, and neither of you are missing much.

    2. Yes, I am one of the very few people out there who does not like Tombstone, but don't judge the movie by that! It's a very popular Western. I saw it in the theater when it came out, didn't like it then. Saw it again for a second time last year to see if all that passage of time had changed how I would look at it... and nope, I still didn't like it. I am just not personally fond of the characters in it. I don't like them or want to spend time with them, and they have a modern vibe to them that personally grates on me. It's my least favorite of the many Wyatt Earp movies I've seen.

      Wyatt Earp, on the other hand, I love dearly. I love Wyatt, I love every one of his brothers in that one, I love Doc Holliday, I love that Warren is in included, I love Bat and Ed, I love that it's not just an "OK Corral" movie, but covers his whole life. This one just works for me, and I find it a very satisfying movie. The only thing I'd change is the casting of Josie. She bugs me. Everything else is great.

      I also very much love Wyatt and Doc in Hour of the Gun.