It’s a good Sunday when work is halted, domestic errands and jobs are finished and all that remains is the ultimate aim of sitting down and listening to some soundtracks. Today is such a day and almost 6 weeks after it’s release, I have stopped being so ‘precious’ and finally bit the bullet. I am listening to James Horner’s last ever soundtrack – The Magnificent Seven.
Even typing ‘last ever’ is painful. For me and many others he has been a huge part of my film music journey. Made me feel emotions I never knew I had and was a ‘go to’ whenever I needed my spirits lifted. So much has been written about Horner so it’s time just to listen.
The emergence of this score is just as sad as Horner’s tragic death. He had done the score to a previous Antoine Fuqua [director of The Magnificent Seven] film, Southpaw and influenced Fuqua to direct the remake of this classic western. Horner, even though there was not yet anyone signed to score the film, read the screenplay and went on to record a suite based on his interpretation of said screenplay with the help of his friend and collaborator Simon Franglen.
Heartbreakingly Horner intended to surprise Fuqua with the suite in a bid to actually do a full score for him but of course it never happened. Franglen went on to play Horner’s music which Fuqua loved! And so Franglen several others of Horner’s long time collaboraters converted the suite into a full score. Thinking about this it must have been emotionally quite difficult for them doing this but they have done him proud.
I didn’t really know what to expect as Elmer Bernstein’s score to the original 1960 movie is one of the great, great soundtracks. Considering it’s a ‘fleshing out’ of a suite it’s a very cohesive score with some depth. There are hints of a western score but they are not overdone.
In Jonathan Broxton’s [MOVIE MUSIC UK] excellent review he writes of how this last score is in it’s way an homage with many cue references from Horners score, and I agree. Deliberate or not they are wonderful to hear.
These are the references I heard:
Lighting The Fuse – in there is a quirky and short trumpet piece which I am convinced is from the Sneakers
Street Slaughter has echoes of Avatar
Nuances of Field of Dreams in Red Harvest
For me the strongest cue is The Darkest Hour which is superbly orchestrated. The cue which prompted the reality of no longer being able to listen to any new Horner music overcame me in The House of Judgement and the tears continued with the very last track Seven Riders.
Nice touch that it ended with Bernstein’s glorious title them from the original film.
PS Don’t think the soundtrack cover is strong enough.
1. Rose Creek Oppression
2. Seven Angels of Vengeance
3. Lighting the Fuse
4. Volcano Springs
5. Street Slaughter
6. Devil in the Church
7. Chisolm Enrolled
8. Magic Trick
9. Robicheaux Reunion
10. A Bear in Peoples Clothes
11. Red Harvest
13. Town Exodus – Knife Training
14. 7 Days, That’s All You Got
15. So Far So Good
16. Sheriff Demoted
17. Pacing the Town
18. The Deserter
19. Bell Hangers
20. Army Invades Town
21. Faraday’s Ride
22. Horne Sacrifice
23. The Darkest Hour
24. House of Judgment
25. Seven Riders
Available on Amazon, iTunes and Spotify
Royal Albert Hall – November 1st 2015
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Conductor Justin Freer
There are not many concerts where you can hear Jerry Goldsmith, Leonard Rosenman, Michael Giacchino, James Horner, George Duning, Sol Kaplan plus a few other composers pieces all in one [magnificent] concert hall but that’s what one of the most successful tv franchise can give. Star Trek has garnered some best of the best composers for not only the tv series but also the many film spin off’s. This was as billed, the ultimate voyage with full orchestra and the most meticulous editing of clips shown on a 70 foot screen. This fast spreading entertainment format is giving a new platform to film music as we know it and it’s exciting!
The first thing I noticed as I took my seat is that I was way underdressed. There was a sea of red, black and yellow varying Star Trek uniforms, and to top that someone [in costume] walked toward his seat shouting the most perfect Klingon though I couldn’t actually tell you what he said. The hall was packed, the lights dimmed and without intro or fanfare we were off with Jerry Goldsmiths Main Title from Star Trek:The Motion Picture.
“Star Trek was difficult for me; I really sweated that one out for ten days, just getting the basic theme’ – Jerry Goldsmith
As the screen fills with images of space the voice of William Shatner booms out telling us about the importance of ‘steering the ship’ brilliantly setting the theme of exploration. One of my favourite cues from the first Trek film is Klingons, being played live it sounded more threatening than ever. 2 B Human is a sweet piece from S.T Insurrection and was played against Spock and Data taking about the choices they made. We meet surely the biggest threat to the intrepid crew ever – the Borg, in ‘Captain Borg’ from S.T. First Contact dark and fiendish cue.
One of two real treats came as Ron Jones took over the baton and conducted the orchestra with his compositions for tv series 3/episode 26 called The Best of Both World Part and received glorious applause from the die hard fans. James Horner’s Epilogue and and End Title from S.T.2:The Wrath of Khan had a comic turn as one of the ‘effects’ within the music was a percussionists spinning round one of those hollow, plastic tubes which children play with – magic! For me the only piece which didn’t sit right with the rest of the programme was ‘Defiant Ending’ from Deep Space Nine. It sounded really out of place.
The second treat was in the form of composer Jay Chattaway this time taking the baton to conduct his composition Close Bonds:The Inner Light Suite from S.T. The Next Generation, a very poignant cue set against clips of crew mates from various S.T. tv shows and films. And it neatly ended with ‘Main Theme from Star Trek: The Original Series’ with a montage of clips and photo’s including Gene Roddenbury, the models & costume makers, make up artists and off set pictures. With bongo drums being played to the hilt this was a thrilling end to the journey and the audience went wild! The precision of such a concert is mind blowing, the editing of each segment having to match the timing of the orchestral piece. It’s a marvel and certainly opens up a new and exciting way to listen to film music.
Here is the full playlist taken from the excellent Programme Guide crammed full of photo’s and essays to keep all Trekkies happy.
This is one of 3 remaining soundtracks which will be released after Horner’s tragic death. The solemn and comtemplative feel of it makes it difficult to give a subjective view so I stress that this is not a review, merely my first reaction.
This a very different James Horner with dark shades and haunted by a questioning and sad piano. You recognise the measured tones immediately, this is a score where the space between each note matters. Careful use [meaning not over the top] of drums send a distinct message of fear.
The cue A Long Road Back is led by the piano and as it develops, it is quite beautiful for a movie depicting such a savage sport. Horner uses electronic sounds, again with precision. They are at their strongest in Hope vs Escobar which runs for 8 minutes and 26 seconds. Again a measured use of these sounds are what makes it work.
There are many cliches which can fit into an action film and I am glad to say that Horner has not gone down that road. I will visit this score again once I have seen the movie. From this, my first listen, I would say it’s a raw meditation of sorts, reflecting both the inner and physical torture the film depicts.