Some film scores are simply better than their films. It's been a while since I've seen "The Magnificent Seven" -- on television -- and I can only recall a big, lumbering, pale imitation of its source, the great "Seven Samurai," one of the most exciting movies ever. But in a key respect the Americans bettered the Japanese, with breathtakingly evocative music. If Elmer Bernstein pays homage to Copland -- quite a bit of it (and to Prokofiev, de Falla and Ravel too) he nonetheless weaves it into dramatically effective work identifiably his own. As one would expect with the author of "The Man with the Golden Arm" he is especially inventive in his use of guitar and percussion. Of course the main attraction is that leitmotif, the main-title theme (repeated six or seven times -- no problem when you get the goose bumps each time). The Philip Morris folks dumbed it down to sell Marlboros, and too many people surely think the score a mere excuse for a jingle. Removed from considerations of lung cancer and heart disease that theme is still one of the best. In its own odd way it suggests the pop music of the time -- one can hear Gene Pitney singing it (as he did the Bacharach-David tune "The Man who Shot Liberty Valance," a brazen but enjoyable copy), or Herb Alpert appropriating it several years later for his pop-mariachi sound -- and that only heightens the interest. No, this score is far more than ad music. This is a masterpiece.
Quite decent sound through speakers. In reviews of Rykodisc's initial release a number of people complained of distortion, and one mentioned tape hiss, and though the defects are vaguely audible -- you can hear the hiss fading out before the music -- there is no substituting for the authentic soundtrack ambience here.