First off! Where have you ben Mike? I know its been a while since I wrote for Score of the Month, but after much hiatus for personal reasons and going a bit mental for a while, I am firmly back.
Anyone who has had any sort of lengthly conversations with me regarding my favourite composers, will know that Jerry Goldsmith is pretty high up on my list… In fact, this is the second time he is featuring as part of #SotM after my lengthly review of his 1968 score for Planet of the Apes.
I had sadly all but forgotten the Rambo score, that was until my mate Ric suggested it during a conversation on a new video for Off The Record. Since listening again, I have been filled with life and yet again my admiration for Goldsmith’s compositions are at the foreground…
One of the many interesting thing about this score, is the fact that there was a more “poppy” arrangement of “It’s A Long Road” composed and arranged for singer Dan Hill.. I guess in some ways, it loosely links to my comments in SotM #9 for Junkie XL’s Divergent where he had teamed up with Ellie Goulding to incorporate her into the score, but this takes it a little further. I’m almost certain that someone else may have come in to rearrange Goldsmith’s cue for the Dan Hill version of “It’s A Long Road”, but i could be wrong there, it may have been Goldsmith working on these arrangements all the way through (If anyone knows, please let me know).
“It’s A Long Road”, is basically the opening cue “Home Coming”, it’s as sad as it is lonely, but it is also hopeful and peaceful all at the same time. I really love this opening cue, the trumpet for the main theme supported by the arpeggiated guitar lines really sets the character up and the string lines are so lush, they really pull on your heart strings and they just sound for lack of a better work, perfect. As the cue comes to a close, we hear those heroic french horns and woodwinds before the strings join the composition again and highlight a more adventurous and hopeful sentiment.
Cue two, "Escape Route”, features those famous “wandering around and up to no good” Goldsmith piano ostinatios which I really love... A lot of the orchestration, style and choice of instruments in the following cues are actually very reminiscent of his earlier work for Planet of the Apes, which really isn’t a bad thing in my book. From here, the score album mixed very nicely into “First Blood”, which has a very military vibe to it, intrinsic to Rambo’s character. This cue mixes and blends very cleverly with key motifs from “Home Coming” and “Escape Route” as the score begins to show Rambo in action while also reminding us of his softer side. The use of this merge is consistent throughout the score, “The Tunnel”, “Hanging On”, and “Mountain Hunt” are good examples of this and a great example of pacing and motif done well.
”Mountain Hunt” is an interesting cue to me, because the tension in it reminds me of parts of Alan Silvestri’s score for Predator! While this film came out later in the 1980s (1987 to be precise), I definitely feel Goldsmith’s approach Rambo (perhaps through experimentations he had had while scoring Planet of the Apes) were a case study for Silvestri while composing the Predator score.
Another favourite cue of mine is “My Town”, mainly because it underpins crucial parts in the story where we really start to learn of the horrors that Rambo has been suffering post war, but it’s also musically intriguing. The rhythmic build, french horn section and slower arrangement of the “Home Coming” cue are brilliantly powerful within this scene.
When you really dig deep into the score, there is actually not a great deal of music, but I think it is an absolutely classic and a strong example of how really amazing music and key motifs can be arranged, rearranged and reorchestrated in truly powerful ways. It took me a long time to realise this as a film composer, if only I had listened to Goldsmith earlier.