Film Music Review
The Sammy awards






Blazing Saddles (1974)

Music composed, conducted and produced by John Morris.

26 Tracks (Playing Time = 41:31)

Music orchestrated by Jonathan Tunick. Performed by the Blazing Saddles Orchestra (Hollywood Studio Symphony Orchestra). Music and lyrics for “The Ballad of Rock Ridge”, “I’m Tired”, and “The French Mistake” by Mel Brooks. “Blazing Saddles” music by John Morris and lyrics by Mel Brooks. Includes Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick Out of You” with lyrics adapted by Mel Brooks; and “ April in Paris” performed by Count Basie and his Orchestra. Also contains performances by Cleavon Little, Madeline Kahn, and Frankie Laine. Album produced by MV Gerhard, Dan Goldwasser, and John Morris. Remix and digital mastering by Mike Mattessino. Editing assistance by Neil S. Buck. CD art direction by Mark Banning.

La-La Land records 1072

Limited Edition of 3000 copies

Rating: ***


The music of John Morris is woefully underrepresented on CD but La-La Land continues to correct that situation with this recent release of BLAZING SADDLES. This was Morris’ fourth film score and third one for Brooks (after THE PRODUCERS and THE TWELVE CHAIRS).

As is the case with these comedies, Morris was often required to find ways to fill in scene changes or emphasize a particular scene’s humor. That meant that there were really no wide swaths of music required in the score itself. Morris had to do a lot in a short span of time. In fact, for BLAZING SADDLES most cues are little more than a minute in length. It is in the musical numbers using Brooks’ lyrics where the score has the best chance to show off Morris’ orchestral skill while adding a bit to the shtick as well. Brooks’ comedies always feel like modern updates of Yiddish theater and early vaudeville skits with a Broadway show sensibility. All of these things are on display throughout BLAZING SADDLES as well.

“Blazing Saddle” opens the film and sets the tone rather quickly. Frankie Laine, one of the legends of Western singing, performs this song straightforward as a traditional ballad. The notes reveal that the recording took around an hour and no one had the heart to tell Laine that he was singing a song for a comedy. It is one of the first of many set-ups that makes the film such a classic. There is also a version of this opening title song in a choral version and in an instrumental/solo version in the bonus track section of the disc. One of the highlights of the film is surely Madeline Kahn’s washed up German chanteuse performing “I’m Tired.” Morris scores this song for a very “cheap” (as he calls it) ensemble creating a thin sound that is perfect given the setting. It is similar to a Weill song as well giving it an added humorous touch perhaps lost to all but musical theater fans. On its own the score still manages to conjure up some of the scatological humor of the film but it obviously works far better in the film than it can here on its own, a common problem with comedy scores that have to be listened to a bit differently than their big-scale dramatic counterparts. Still, this is an important release for one of the great comedies of the 1970s that demonstrates how to communicate and accent a film with the smallest of brushstrokes.

The score is presented in mostly film order with eleven “bonus tracks.” These are generally instrumental versions of the songs giving you a chance to hear Morris’ music more and are a welcome addition to the disc. There are also some source cues (“Hail to the Chief” and a brief hint at “Springtime for Hitler” make an appearance) as well.

In La-La Lands presentation of SPACEBALLS, the label had a rather meager booklet to accompany a rather lengthy musical presentation. The reverse is the case here with the booklet featuring a good essay by Dan Goldwasser (though a small portion is essentially word-for-word from his essay in the earlier release). Lyrics for all the songs are provided as well as lyrics for an unused song. Orchestral personnel are also listed.

Overall a fine release in great sound and a welcome addition to the Morris discography.


--Steven A. Kennedy, 3 September 2008

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