October 4, 2012
As a young lad “Shane” was the very first movie that made a lasting memory on me and part of that experience included the Theme from the Faraway Hills.” My father had purchased a 45RPM which I distinctly remember having a red label (Columbia). Later on when my hobby slowly began to take over my life I discovered it was Paul Weston. 45 years later it became part of my collection.
For years I had always wondered why no one had ever released the soundtrack to the film. The stories were many, ranging from severe damage to the audio, Paramount Pictures having no interest in releasing it, not enough market because it was Victor Young, the Ladd family, and the theories went on and on. I had resigned myself to the fact that there would never be a release. Victor Young didn’t have the interest that composers such as Newman, Waxman, Herrmann and others had. Time and time again I would tell people that Hollywood waited until Victor Young was dead before they finally gave him an Oscar. There was an occasional release but unlike Herrmann who seemed to have every note he had ever written published Young was ignored. Richard Kauffman offered a nice compilation on the now defunct Koch label and Henry Mancini did an excellent concert compilation he performed as a tribute to a man who at one time went out of his way to help him.
With little fanfare La-La Land has made available a 2000 limited edition release with wonderful liner notes by fellow hobbyist and editor of Film Score Monthly Magazine Jim Lochner. It was as much of a treat reading his take on the score as it was listening to it. It is a mono transfer and there is a certain amount of wow, flutter, and distortion that could not be cleaned up. Consider it an archival recording and accept the limitations and you’ll be extremely grateful for the release. If you’re picky you might want to avoid this one. To this reviewer this release is a dream come true. Each track selection was a reliving of the movie which starred Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Brandon De Wilde, Jack Palance, and Elisha Cook Jr. While it only one Oscar for cinematography it was nominated for several others and in my opinion a top notch effort for director George Stevens. The liner notes explain all of the details of how the cast was selected and how Stevens put this masterpiece together.
Highlights of the 66 minute score include the main title which includes”Theme from the Faraway Hills” and the love song”Varsovienne.” The main title is a lush one which enhances the beginning of the scenic photography of the film which was shot on location in Wyoming. The “Varsovienne” is a traditional Polish dance that has the sound of a delicate lullaby and compliments the other material in the score. Both melodies are repeated often. “Tree Stump” is underscore for Shane and Starrett removing a stubborn stump. Young chose to use a classical style which is proud and majestic (Bach would approve) and excellent counterpoint. This track certainly shows the versatility of Victor Young who seemed to be right at home in any type of genre. There is a mournful offering on the English Horn which is a eulogy for Torrey (killed in a gunfight) in “Cemetery Hill” and repeated again in “Apotheosis and End Title” Sprinkled into the score are traditional songs such as “Dixie,” “America,” and “Beautiful Dreamer.” “Fourth of July” offers a celebration march in the Sousa style along with an ominous few bars from the Bassoon which is a danger signal for trouble brewing.
Considering the material that digital mastering guru Doug Schwarz had to work with this is a very listenable CD that fans of both the film and Victor Young will enjoy. It deserves a place as one of the finest examples of the Western genre ever composed. Highly recommended.
Total Duration: 01:05:08