I think everyone in the world of film music is still in a state of shock on hearing of the death of composer James Horner. They have also been waiting with baited breath for his score to the western THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN to be released, well the wait is over and the score is here. Yes of course many will be comparing both the movie and the score with the original but this I think is not the right way to go about it and I hope that I can review it without saying where is the original theme, sorry just said it but you know what I mean, I think we have to listen to the new score with open minds and fresh ears although there is a hint of that famous theme in track number four VOLCANO SPRINGS, I say a hint because Horner resists the temptation of going into a full rendition or arrangement of it, he teases us a little with a short burst of strings then dilutes the theme into something that is similar but also at the same time different. I love the way Horner and co-composer Simon Franglen have made use of various percussive elements and also an inventive inclusion of a pan pipe sound which at times is calming but then alters direction become more sinister and aggressive, these sounds are fused with soprano voice giving the work something of a connection with the spaghetti western score, al’ a composers such as Morricone, Nicolai and Baclov, but I have to say because of the pan pipes it is also somewhat reminiscent of Horner’s WILLOW and at times Goldsmith’s UNDER FIRE. The soprano is heard from the offset of proceedings in track number one, ROSE CREEK OPRESSION this opens with Horner’s trademark echoing trumpet flourishes which are embellished by both percussion and strings, with pipes being added as the track progresses, with two soprano voices performing in unison. This deployment of instrumentation is heard more prominently and in a sustained outing in track number five, STREET SLAUGHTER where Horner and Franglen successfully create a powerful and also a melodic piece that evokes both Italian and American westerns scores of days past, mixing a grand sound with a more unconventional approach to scoring a western. Track number two SEVEN ANGELS OF VENGEANCE, is a powerful addictive listen, driving strings are punctuated and supported by brass and percussion, with horns returning and taking on a core theme but soon being overwhelmed by percussion that is interspersed with bells, pan pipe stabs a wailing if but fleeting harmonica and then eventually the strings which give a short but effective rendition of the theme originally introduced by the horns, it is an interesting cue that also includes strident sounding guitar strumming and Hispanic sounding nuances. At times when listening to the score one forgets that this is a western, but there again define what music is western etc., it’s what works for the movie in the end, in my opinion this works well away from the movie.
I found it enjoyable and yes I admit to listening out for similarities between it and Elmer Bernstein’s scores for the MAGNIFICENT SEVEN cycle of movies, but I was not disappointed when it did not explode at every opportunity into arrangements or different takes on those scores and their central and secondary themes. This is an original score no doubt of that as in the way it is orchestrated, it contains some surprises and also a number of moments when one could say Oh yes typical James Horner, but is that a bad thing. For the many devoted fans of the original films score there is a snippet at the end of the compact disc in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and its credited to Mr Bernstein, but this is the only direct reference to Bernstein’s slice of classic sounding Americana, and even this is different it’s a more subdued version or arrangement but one that still hits the spot. One of the highlights for me is track number, twenty-one, FARADAYS RIDE, this is a full working of what can I suppose be called the scores central theme, complete with vocal backing and those proud sounding horns that are carried along by strings and supported by timpani and strumming guitars, its proud, hopeful and anthem like and a compulsive listen, by this I mean as soon as cue finishes you want to go back and listen again. Overall a good score and entertaining listen and another reason to mourn the loss of such a gifted composer. Just go buy it……….