CD Review: Villa Rides! – The Western Film Music of Maurice Jarre
Legendary Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa has always been a colorful presence in film. The larger-than-life bandit was made for the big screen. But nowhere has Villa had such a rousing musical accompaniment as that of Maurice Jarre‘s scorefor VILLA RIDES! (1968).
The film doesn’t take itself seriously, though it isn’t quite as colorful as its lead character. The same can’t be said of Jarre’s evocative Mexican-flavored music. A new recording of the complete score arrives from Tadlow, VILLA RIDES! – THE WESTERN FILM MUSIC OF MAURICE JARRE, and the CD is a beaut.
Jarre wrote four themes for the score. Many of them employ a huapango rhythm of alternating 6/8 and 3/4 bars. (The rhythm is famous from Leonard Bernstein’s “America” from West Side Story). Jarre tips his hat to Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti Westerns with Villa’s theme. The folk-like melody for whistler takes on a rousing heroic bent when voiced by the trumpet and full orchestra.
The joyous Mexican theme—representing the land, the people and the revolution—again uses the huapango rhythm, mixed with a mariachi flavor. Mitchum’s Texas mercenary pilot gets his own theme in the odd meter of 7/8. His love interest, Fina (Grazia Buccella), is given her own gentle waltz. Jarre weaves this quartet of memorable themes throughout the score. But the real stars are the infectious rhythms and Jarre’s lively and unique percussive orchestrations.
Bonus tracks from other Western films scored by Jarre round out the album. What could have easily come across as padding instead becomes a lively introduction to more great music. Tracks from THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN, EL CONDOR, RED SUN, THE PROFESSIONALS, and especially the theme from TV’s CIMARRON STRIP show off Jarre’s distinctive style in a quintet of memorable scores.
After massive reconstructions like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and TARAS BULBA, VILLA RIDES may seem lesser material. Instead, the music is a welcome change of pace from those major dramatic works. The score is quite effective in the film and it makes for equally enjoyable listening on its own. Nic Raine and The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra take to the Mexican rhythms like South of the Border natives. Producer James Fitzpatrick displays his customary expertise in balancing the various instruments. Liner notes by Frank K. DeWald give readers valuable insight into the various films and scores.
Throughout the disc, Jarre shows an affinity for the Western genre that may surprise some film music fans. Most importantly, Jarre’s dramatic flair and distinctive style are on full display in this thoroughly enjoyable disc.