Tall Men/Victor Young

January 25, 2008

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Victor Young of all of the Golden Age composers is by far the most overlooked and why that is puzzles me. He wrote over 300 scores in 21 years, amassed 22 Oscar nominations, one Oscar for Around The World In 80 Days, and was wildly successful at any genre he attempted including the fine score to this 20th Century Fox film The Tall Men (1955) directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Clark Gable, Jane Russell, and Robert Ryan. Filmed in Cinemascope with a 4+ million dollar budget it tells the all too familiar tale of a cattle drive from Mexico to Montana complete with saving the love interest from indians, snow created from gypsum and cornflakes on the back set, and thousands of cattle which were breathtaking to see in cinemascope. While not considered a top 100 or even 250 film of all time it did gross 12+ million dollars and 5 million in rental to show a nice profit for Fox.In the tradition of “Call of the Faraway Hills” from Shane the main theme is a big, bold, and expansive one, depicting the hugeness of the west and the filming in cinemascope. “Cattle is an especially nice cue that allows Victor and orchestrator Powell to give this theme the full treatment. “Tall Men”, written by Ken Darby is a theme that is repeated on many tracks including a Jane Russell vocal. The idea of a popular tune (filmed after High Noon) was on the minds of studio heads and this film was no exception. While the treatment that Young gave it, especially in the romantic moments with Russell and Gable, along with a cute cartoon like treatment in “Nella Swings Hips” the lyrics are downright corny! Tracks such as “The Skull” and “Ben And Indians” are quite obvious the cliched indian music, that is what the listener expects to hear. “The Stagecoach”, with its string rhythm depicts wagon train moving but it also reminds me of a lot of cues that Victor used in Around The World In 80 Days, something which he may have already begun work on considering the time frame. “Jayhawkers” is a dark brooding cue with some references being given to the Darby “Tall Men” theme albiet in a minor key. “The Plains” makes excellent use of an acoustic guitar with strings providing subdued harmony in the background. “Red Cloud”, an indian track, uses limited brass with the “tom tom” music less the timpani pounding, along with a humorous interplay of an additional theme almost cartoon like. One must keep in mind when listening to Victor Young that he didn’t use rhythm such as snare drums or timpani. The “Tall Men” vocal is sung by Jane Russell but the bonus demo, another vocal of “Tall Men” with different words will forever be listened to by a singer who cannot be identified. A small word of caution! This recording  was likely taken from the original studio tapes. The overall transfer, condition of master, and restoration is excellent save for one or two brief spots where there is a slight hesitation. The overall restoration by Matessino is excellent. It was jus likely something that couldn’t be repaired. While this is a limited edition CD of 1500 copies, at least at the time of this writing, there appear to sufficient amounts in stock. Such a shame that Victor’s material doesn’t sell better. But as I said at the beginning of the article he is overlooked and I’m still puzzled.

Track listing1. Main Title (02:05)2. The Barn (00:47)

3. Tempest Grove (01:44)

4. Next Day (00:44)

5. The Skull (01:09)

6. Ben And Indians (02:23)

7. The Cabin (04:39)

8. Nella (03:41)

9. Nella And Ben (04:49)

10. The Blanket (00:32)

11. Morning (02:09)

12. The Stagecoach (01:32)

13. Nella Swings Hips (00:22)

14. Mexican Priest (03:51)

15. Night Camp (02:46)

16. The Countryside (00:34)

17. Cattle (05:58)

18. Jayhawkers (03:13)

19. The Canyon (01:57)

20. Junior (01:21)

21. Clint (02:25)

22. The Caravan (03:05)

23. The Plains (02:41)

24. The Towering Rock (03:01)

25. Red Cloud (02:24)

26. Mineral City (01:12)

27. The Tall Men (03:13)

(vocal by Jane Russell)

28. Finale (01:11)

29. The Tall Men (demo) (04:41)

bonus track

Total Duration: 01:10:09

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