Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
rob + = email

2018 January 15 • Monday

The 500th Soundtrack of the Week! This is a milestone! And how better to celebrate than with literally the first soundtrack I happened to glance at today? It's no big deal, just John Barry's music for The Legend of the Lone Ranger.

This is a curious record. It finds Barry in mid-career and you'll hear echoes of his music for Moonraker as well as anticipations of some of his later concert music and tinges of disco seeping into the frame.

What you won't hear much of, though, is much in the vein of some of his better known western writing, such as The White Buffalo or his sprawling and award-winning Dances With Wolves score.

The harmonica, which Barry loved to use as an "American" element in his composing, does a lot of the work in the music here, while fans of Barry's particularly powerful way of writing for strings will be happy with many of the moods and melodies he comes up with here.

I wonder if this movie was any good at all. Merle Haggard sings the theme song "Man in the Mask" (not a high point for anyone involved but decent) and, more ominously, narrates some chunks of exposition for two other tracks, "The Legend Begins" and "The Breaking of Silver".

That kind of thing was fine on The Dukes of Hazzard, as it cleared the way for a commercial break, but if it's deployed in the movie out of necessity or convenience, it doesn't bode well for the film itself.

If you grew up with The Lone Ranger on radio or television, then you can't think of it without hearing the "William Tell Overture", and Barry dutifully comes up with his own nimble, airy and fleet rendition of it.

Also of interest are "Ambush" (which is in 9/8) and the driving and soaring "The Valley Chase" (which is the piece I'd want in my head coming out of the theatre.

John Barry completists and even non-completist fans should enjoy most of this record. A complete and chronological release would be most welcome, assuming there's a good deal from this score still unreleased.