Review: Silverado (1985)

Composer: Bruce Broughton

Label: Intrada  

Catalogue Nr.: MAF 7096



In the 1980's, the classic big-sky Hollywood western was practically dead but Director Lawrence Kasdan wanted to bring the genre to a glorious big screen revival with Silverado, 'a western for people who have never seen a western'. A twist of fate unites four different guys, Paden, Mal, Emmett and his brother Jake, on their way to Silverado, which is a town in the hand of the ruthless rancher McKendrik. Emmett killed McKendrik's father in self defence and the son turns to the corrupt sheriff Cobb to kill Emmett and his friends, so they have to fight for life and justice. The film's biggest selling point is the cast with Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Danny Glover and Kevin Kostner as the hero quartet and John Cleese, Linda Hunt and Jeff Goldblum in supporting roles. Although Kasdan's self-confident idea did not really seem to work out as planned when the box office results were rather poor, the film later turned out to be far more substantial over the years especially with the growing home cinema audience. In the end, Kasdan's film really helped to remind people what classic westerns were all about: exciting big-sky adventure.  

The score:

Another star of the film was composer Bruce Broughton's exciting score that would become his big breakthrough and earn him his one and only academy award nomination for best original score to date. His name was generally unknown to the cinema audience before he scored Kasdan's western nostalgia. Only two years earlier he came out of his feature film debut The Prodigal (1983) and until Kasdan hired him for Silverado, he was almost exclusively working on a string of television projects with the unsuccessful sci-fi comedy The Ice Pirates (1984) sandwiched-in as the only other big screen project. Considering that it was his first score for a big-budget production, the result is truly marvellous and you can clearly hear that the music comes from a composer who was reaching out for greater things. The heart of the score is an instantly recognizable but sparsely used main theme that perfectly carries the heroism and spirit of the story while the majority of the underscore is quite different and a complete contrast to the theme's warm and uplifting Americana. It comes along as mickey-mousing with a serious tone that is supporting the action of the moment rather than following or re-telling the film's story or character development.

With that in mind, it is no wonder that virtually every cue that features the main theme is a winner, from the gentle build-up in "Main Title" to the rousing conclusion in "We'll Be Back (End Credits)". A truly outstanding cue is "The Getaway / Riding As One" where the theme is literally riding out of a dark action-suspense cue before receiving a striking new twist at the end with an accompanying horn line that is almost Goldmsith-esque in its clever use. In "On To Silverado" the theme is loosing its heavier side and is turned into travel music with a more lush and romantic tone for solo trumpet, strings and woodwinds with a light-hearted touch comparable to the earlier cues "Tyree And Turley" or "The Stongbox Rescue". These bright and colourful passages are in the minority while dark and subdued underscore supports the always present threat from McKendrik's bandits really well in the film. Cues like "That Ain't Right", "Paden's Hat", "McKendrik's Men", "An Understanding Boss", "Tyree And Paden", "McKendrik's Brand", "You're Empty, Mister / Emmett's Rescue", "Behind The Church" or "Worried About The Dog" are best described as filler music but with some interesting orchestrations showing up here or there such as a calm motif for low-played flute whenever it is night in the film.

Action music receives its fair share in this score as well featuring a dark tone that fits with the atmospheric pieces, with an emphasis on low brass strikes and outbursts, driving rhythmic passages and heavy percussion strikes. "Ezra's Death" is a notable piece where the music is bearing a trademark brass figure that would later return in other, more action heavier Broughton scores such as Lost In Space (1998). "Party Crashers" is a frenetic cue where Broughton handles the string section in a way comparable to John Williams' more recent action music. Apart from occasional action outbursts during the suspense cues, the lions share of action music comes with the finale which carries the lengthiest and busiest cues of this double CD set. The main theme returns as a strikingly dark and grim variation at the end of "Prelude To A Battle" and a another short heroic statement in "McKendrik Waits" / (...)" before the four heroes take revenge on McKendrik for his many crimes. "(...) / The Stampede / (...)" is accompanied by clusters of percussion as well as atonal horns and staccato flutes that continues into full blown action music and more mickey-mousing near the end. During the cat-and-mouse game at McKendrik's place, Broughton switches between tension-building suspense and sudden action outbursts while the final duel between the corrupt Sheriff Cobb and Paden has a dramatically serious swelling of strings as Cobb hits the ground. The main theme kicks back in when Jake screams the famous line "We'll Be Back"! 



Score as heard in the film: 85%

Score as heard on CD: 77%

TOTAL: 81%


The presentation:

Intrada Records rightfully revisited this score with a newly mastered release of the complete original score that comes on two discs and clocks in at 84 minutes which is almost twice as much music as on the old original single-disc release from the same label. The only material that is missing are piano source cues performed by Bruce Broughton himself but this is no big deal because that sort of material falls into the category 'oddity' anyways. What surprised me the most about this release was the outstanding sound quality because the score sounds as clean as if it was recorded today without any hiss or anomalies. The arrangement with the entire finale and bonus material on disc two has been the source of some criticism but I was not really bothered by that. Bob Peak's beautiful painting thankfully replaced the cheap-looking promo photo of the heroes that was used for the old release. However, I noticed that Intrada has a new habit of using 2-CD jewel cases with small hinges on the inner part of the case that is holding the discs. These hinges break easily and thus making the case useless, so they should better switch back to normal jewel cases in the future.

Presentation by the Label: 94%



Silverado is a nice mixed bag of scoring and becomes even more impressive if you consider that it brought Broughton to wide attention and more high profile projects. The main theme is pure gold and has long entered the vocabulary of classic western themes. For the underscore,  the composer perfectly avoided to fall into any cliché traps and scored the action sequences with a rather effectively serious and dark tone in favour of a stronger narrative connection. That results in a difficult and somewhat exhaustive stand-alone listening experience especially with this new release of the complete score because for most of the time you will find yourself waiting for the next outburst of the excellent main theme while the dark suspense material and mickey-mousing-with-a-serious-tone that forms the underscore hardly offers enough colour to be equally exciting. Only the final action music brings some necessary variation to the material. Broughton would later compose another score for a western called Tombstone (1993) and there he would work around that problem in a very interesting and innovative way.

Review by Andreas Creutzburg



Disc One

01. Main Title (04:46)
02. Paden's Horse (01:33)
03. Tyree & Turley (03:39)
04. That Ain't Right (01:13)
05. Paden's Hat (03:37)
06. The Getaway/Riding As One (06:07)
07. Den Of Thieves (01:46)
08. The Strongbox Rescue (01:53)
09. On To Silverado (06:23)
10. McKendrick's Men (01:24)
11. Ezra's Death (01:52)
12. An Understanding Boss (01:47)
13. Party Crashers (01:37)
14. Tyree And Paden (00:52)
15. McKendrick's Brand (00:50)
16. You're Empty, Mister/Emmet's Rescue (03:43)
17. Behind The Church (01:15)
18. Augie Is Taken

Disc Two

01. Worried About The Dog (02:07)
02. Prelude To A Battle (04:50)
03. McKendrick Waits/The Stampede/Finishing At McKendrick's (08:24)
04. Hide And Watch/Jake Gets Tyree/Then Slick, Then McKendrick (09:30)
05. Goodbye, Cobb (02:05)
06. We'll Be Back (End Credits) (04:22)
07. Bonus Track: The Bradley Place (01:48)
08. Bonus Track: Jake Gets Tyree (Original Version) (02:15)
09. Bonus Track: The Silverado Waltz (02:03)