The Big Country/Moross

April 27, 2007

 


Big_country_LLLCD1055

As of this writing in April 2007 there are 35 recordings of The Big Country including compilations and a bootleg listed in Soundtrack Collector, the database of film music. With that information I had to ask MV Gerhard, owner of La-La Land Records, why are you releasing yet another version? “Because I like it and its one of my favorite scores” was the long and the short answer. Both the SAE and this La-La Land recording are virtually identical. There is a small but significant improvement in the remastering over the SAE release. This is an official release albiet a limited edition of 3000, as opposed to the SAE release which was a promo for the Film Music Society and the Moross family. As a result only 400 hundred copies were ever legitimately offered to the general public. There is also a small repair that was made in the track “The Raids Part 1&2” to the timpani solo bridge between the parts. It now is a much smoother transition between the sections. And please to set the record straight this is a mono OST recording from the United Artists film. Remastering doesn’t equal digitally recorded quality.

The 4 million dollar William Wyler directed film had an all star cast of Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Charlton Heston, and Carroll Baker. Burl Ives won a supporting actor Oscar for his role as Rufus Hannassey and deservedly so. The scenery and filming were spectacular. The big country, big stars, big budget were all played up in its release. The film met with less than reviews. It wasn’t a matter of disliking it but more of a scenario of not being swept off your feet by it. It is a good film with some interesting dialog and storyline but nothing spectacular. All save the Oscar nominated score which is entirely another story. The score is spectacular! Jerome Moross, a concert composer who did some film work, created a masterpiece which just sounds big! The “Main Title” which is played and performed on nearly ever Western compilation ever put together is the soul of Western and Americana film and concert music. You can’t not think of the west without humming this wonderful tune. It is used in several of the tracks usually as a bold expansive look at the scenery but also in tender moments with a solo violin or a lush romantic moment in “Big Muddy” or almost broadway like in “McKay is Missing”. And this is just the main theme! There are enough themes in this score to fill up several modern scores of today! There are themes for Pat, Julie, Major Terrill, the fight, and the abduction. “The Welcoming”, another expansive western theme, could just as well have been the main theme. “The Hazing”, “Courtin’ Time”, “Julie’s House”, and “Polka” are just some of the inventive themes all different. There is a short 1+ minute horror/sci-fi dissonant track in “Horror Stories”, “The Fight” with its strains and hints of The Cardinal at the end of the cue but the beginning is almost Herrmann like with its creepy bassoon chords repeating and repeating. “Cattle at the River”, a scene where the Hannassey’s were turned away for water, and one of the more exciting cues is included on this OST but was not part of the final film. In fact while viewing one part of the film where McKay (Peck) is trying to ride Old Thunder I found the music to be part missing and part lacking only to find that on the soundtrack the proper music was actually there in “McKay’s Decision” and “McKay’s Triumph” but not included in the film.

Some of the names that went on to bigger and better things were Alexander Courage, Gerald Fried, Dominic Frontiere, and John Williams. The liner notes by Randall Larson are as always superb. I only wish I knew 1/10th of what he knows. The liner pictures are a bit confusing! There is a picture of Leech and the colonel but the quote underneath the picture has to do with a conversation between Leech and McKay? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to have had a picture of them with the quote underneath?

In conclusion, there is really very little discussion necessary as to how great this score is. There can be heated debates as to the merits of the film itself but William Wyler at least for me has directed three pictures which contain some of the greatest soundtracks of all time: The Best Years Of Our Lives, Ben-Hur, and The Big Country. Friedhofer, Rozsa, and Moross make quite a dynamic trio! If you have nothing then there is really no decision to be made at all, get this recording. If you have the LP issue from 1958 then get this recording. If you have never viewed the film and are more concerned with the sound quality the Silva release SSD 1048 or variation of is the answer for you. It is a faithful reproduction of 55+ minutes of the score and is recorded in a digital format, performed quite nicely by Tony Bremner and The Philharmonia Orchestra. As good as Nelson is at Digital Outland he can still only do so much with a mono analog recording. Since there were only ever a few hundred copies of the SAE recording it can be eliminated from this discussion as a non factor. In case you do have it and $20.00 won’t break the bank get this La-La Land recording anyway. There is certainly enough merit to warrant $20.00. Keep the SAE and enjoy the 64 page book that came with it! This soundtrack is in the top 100 of all time and comes with my highest recommendation!

Golden Score Rating (*****)

La-La Land LLLCD 1055

Produced by Ford A. Thaxton

Edited and Mastered by James Nelson at Digital Outland

Track listing

1. Main Title (03:21)

2. Julie’s House (02:10)

3. The Welcoming (03:09)

4. The Hazing (01:49)

5. Courtin’ Time (01:21)

6. The Terrill Ranch (01:35)

7. Old Thunder (01:40)

8. The Raid Parts 1 & 2 (03:39)

9. McKay’s Decision (01:03)

10. The Capture (01:28)

11. McKay’s Triumph (00:35)

12. Major Terrill’s Party (01:30)

13. Major Terrill’s Party – Part 2 (01:09)

14. Waltz (02:16)

15. Polka (00:54)

16. Night In Blanco Canyon (00:52)

17. McKay’s Ride (01:20)

18. McKay Is Missing (02:02)

19. The Old House (02:18)

20. Waiting (00:30)

21. Horror Stories (01:04)

22. Big Muddy (02:33)

23. Still Waiting (01:37)

24. McKay Alone (01:20)

25. Night At Ladder Ranch (01:09)

26. The Fight (02:54)

27. Cattle At The River (02:21)

28. Pat’s Mistake (01:20)

29. Buck Comes For Julie (01:12)

30. The Abduction (01:10)

31. The Captive (01:34)

32. The Attempted Rape (02:10)

33. The War Party Gathers (02:39)

34. McKay In Blanco Canyon (02:27)

35. Jim And Julie (00:35)

36. The Major Alone (01:51)

37. The Duel (00:51)

38. The Death Of Buck Hannassey (02:44)

39. Ambush In Blanco Canyon – Part 1 (01:16)

40. Ambush In Blanco Canyon – Part 2 (01:47)

41. The Stalking (01:21)

42. End Title (01:59)

Total Duration: 01:12:35

 

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