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Editor's Choice -
Best of the Month for June 2007

 

 

 

THE BIG COUNTRY (1958)

 

Music composed and conducted by Jerome Moross

42 Tracks (Playing Time = 74:00)

Executive Album Producers: MV Gerhard and Matt Verboys. Produced for La-La Land Records by Ford A. Thaxton. Digitally Mixed and Mastered by James Nelson. CD booklet notes by Randall D. Larson. CD Art Direction: Mark Banning.

La-La Land Records LLLCD 1055

Limited Edition - 3000 Units

Rating: ****

Track Titles

1. Main Title (3:21)
2. Julie's House (2:10)
3. The Wedding (3:09)
4. The Hazing (1:49)
5. Courtin' Time (1:21)
6. The Terrill Ranch (1:35)
7. Old Thunder (1:40)
8. The Raid, Parts 1 & 2 (3:39)
9. McKay's Decision (1:03)
10. The Capture (1:28)
11. McKay's Triumph (0:35)
12. Major Terrill's Party (1:30)
13. Major Terrill's Party, Part 2 (1:09)
14. Waltz (2:16)
15. Polka (0:54)
16. Night in Blanco Canyon (0:52)
17. McKay's Ride (1:20)
18. McKay is Missing (2:02)
19. The Old House (2:18)
20. Waiting (0:30)
21. Horror Stories (1:04)
22. Big Muddy (2:33)
23. Still Waiting (1:37)
24. McKay Alone (1:20)
25. Night at Ladder Ranch (1:09)
26. The Fight (2:54)
27. Cattle at the River (2:21)
28. Pat's Mistake (1:20)
29. Buck Comes for Julie (1:12)
30. The Abduction (1:10)
31. The Captive (1:34)
32. The Attempted Rape (2:10)
33. The War Party Gathers (2:39)
34. McKay in Blanco Canyon (2:27)
35. Jim and Julie (0:35)
36. The Major Alone (1:51)
37. The Duel (0:51)
38. The Death of Buck Hannassey (2:44)
39. Ambush in Blanco Canyon - Part 1 (1:16)
40. Ambush in Blanco Canyon - Part 2 (1:47)
41. The Stalking (1:21)
42. End Title (1:59)

For those who have seen and enjoyed THE BIG COUNTRY this CD release will come as a special pleasure, especially after waiting for nearly 50 years for a complete version.

Just to mention the many fine actors in this popular western, they are: Gregory Peck (Jim McKay), Carroll Baker (Patricia Terrill), Jean Simmons (Julie Maragon), Charles Bickford (Major Henry Terrill), Charlton Heston (Stev Leech), Chuck Connors (Buck Hannassey) and Burl Ives in an Oscar-winning performance as Rufus Hannassey.

The new CD is more satisfying and has more music than the re-recording released by Silva in 1988.

This CD with The Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Tony Bremner and Produced by Christopher Palmer has a playing time of 55:15. The new La-La Land CD adds almost 20 minutes to the playing time and is the original soundtrack conducted by Jerome Moross.

In 1997, I ran a web poll of Favorite Film Scores, and THE BIG COUNTRY came in at No. 6 (in a tie with Elmer Bernstein's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD). That just demonstrates the popularity of this sprawling western epic.

THE BIG COUNTRY is also at No. 21 on my list of 100 Essential Film Scores.

There is no need to write a long review here since this score by Jerome Moross is one of the great western film scores.

The opening Main Title is famous for its swirling violin argeggios and prominent use of horns and timpani. It set the stage for another memorable western Main Title two years later -- Elmer Bernstein's THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. Unlike many of the western scores from that era, like HIGH NOON, neither of these westerns have a title song. They don't need them.

Many of the more than 40 cues on THE BIG COUNTRY CD are rather short but the rhythmic flow of the music is continuous and provides plenty of excitementt, including a bunch of delightful dance cues, such as tracks 14 and 15.

One of the most thrilling cues is "The Welcoming" (track3), and as Randall Larson writes : "the music's rhythm along with the braying urgency of the horns, which here and elsewhere thoughout the score will signify the belittling bravado o fthe cowboys, drives the sequence fastly onward."

Randall Larson's excellent booklet notes are titled, "Big Music for The Big Country." His coverage is extensive with subject headings covering "The Movie"; "The Composer"; "The Score"; and "Track-by-Track" descriptions. There should be more CD notes that are this comprehensive.

The CD booklet is beautifully designed by Mark Banning, with many film photos and a complete list of the Orchestra Personnel. This list is of special interest because it includes a few future well known composers: Dominic Frontiere on Accordion, and John T. Williams as one of three pianists used for the soundtrack recording. Also featured is the popular Larindo Almeida on Guitar.

This is a first class CD production and all who were involved deserve high praise for their efforts.

One of the best releases of a vintage soundtrack this year.

Highly recommended.

 

--Roger L. Hall, June 2007

Comments regarding this review can be sent to this address: Film Music Review

 


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