Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2009 November 09 • Monday

The eighty-sixth Soundtrack of the Week is Charles Bernstein's score for Mr. Majestyk.

I'd really like to see this movie. I've read the book and, of the half-dozen or so Elmore Leonard novels I've read, it's the one I enjoyed most. As I recall, it's about some guy (Bronson in the movie) who grows watermelons. It's kind of a Thieves' Market (filmed as Thieves' Highway) sort of story, in which what should be a simple bit of free enterprise goes terribly wrong.

For reasons I can't remember, criminals start leaning on Bronson and messing with his melon patch and making it hard for him to hire people to pick the melons for him so he can sell them. Wouldn't you know it, but they kind of picked on the wrong guy. It happens.

Bernstein's music starts out with a theme that manages to combine '70s action music with overwhelming melancholy. The melody is played by trumpet with lots of reverb, accompanied by moody keyboard playing (reminded me of the keyboard intro to The Monkees' version of "Daydream Believer"), great guitar work (acoustic and with wah-wah), just the right touches of strings (adding a kind of "Age of Aquarius" feel) and harmonica (perhaps a nod to that greatest of Bronson movie soundtracks, Morricone's Once Upon a Time in the West), plus the very important deep-pocket percussion.

It's a masteriece. "His Own Man" continues the melancholy with the addition of some spacey sort of noises. "Melon Harvest" has a propulsive guitar part but is likewise infused with sadness. "Danger Lurks" begins as pure tension (almost sounds like free improv) before resolving to the Majestyk theme.

There's a bit of Mexican-flavored music ("At the Cantina", "Cantina Romantica"), country ("Country Juke") and the self-explanatory "Bobby's Truck Rock 'n' Roll". The titles of most of the cues should give you an idea of how they sound: "Stealth", "Contemplation", "Tension Dimension", etc.