"Wyatt Earp (1994)"
Expanded Soundtrack Review
La-La Land Records LLLCD1250
Disc One: 21 Tracks/Disc Time: 54:21
Disc Two: 22 Tracks/Disc Time: 77:33
Disc Three: 22 Tracks/Disc Time: 36:46
Grade: A+ (Best of 2013)
After the resounding success of Clint Eastwood's memorable Oscar winning "Unforgiven" in 1992, which pretty much revived interest in the Western genre in full force with studios around Hollywood were quickly looking to buy up and produce an original script that would hopefully be a resounding success at the box office much like "Unforgiven" did in late summer of 1992. Within six months to a year, almost every studio had produced or had a Western film in development which included the likes of "Bad Girls" (Fox), "Tombstone" (Disney), "Maverick" (1994), which was the hit remake of the hit TV series by "The Fugitive" creator Roy Huggins, "The Quick And The Dead" (Sony), "Wild Bill" (MGM) and one crossover modern Western action/comedy, "The Cowboy Way" (Universal). Of those films, "Tombstone" and "Maverick" were major successes, while "The Quick And The Dead" has become a cult favorite for many thanks to the exceptional direction of Sam Raimi. What "Tombstone" has in common with the film I'm about to talk about "Wyatt Earp" is that they were both competing productions by Disney and Warner Bros. which were pretty much neck in neck to be released about the same time as one another. "Tombstone" was finally released on Christmas Day 1993, and was a huge success and "Wyatt Earp" was still in the post-production stages and was finally released in the Summer 1994. The film a personal pet project by Oscar Winning Director/Actor Kevin Costner, who scored big time with his powerful and unforgettable "Dances With Wolves" and his collaborator, Dan Gordon spearheaded the big screen story of the mythical Western law man, who brought justice along with law and order with brute force and passionate resolve. Costner then chose the right director with the right experience (other than himself) to bring the project to life and finally to the big screen after years of struggling. That man was director Lawrence Kasdan, who scored a major hits as a director with the memorable films, "Body Heat", "The Big Chill" and "Silverado", while also writing the screenplays to some of cinemas most iconic films and franchises in Indiana Jones ("Raiders Of The Lost Ark") and Star Wars ("The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return Of The Jedi").
The film unlike the blockbuster action hit that was "Tombstone" (one I personally also prefer along with many other people), "Wyatt Earp" tells the tale of the legendary lawman through his trials and tribulations of his youth led by his headstrong father Nicholas (the great Gene Hackman) trying to guide him to a more positive light which later leads him to Dodge City where Earp started to assert himself as one of the West's more intimidating and feared lawmen. Soon after Earp's destiny leads him to the Arizona town of "Tombstone" where everything was starting to boom. Earp soon meets up with his family after retiring as a lawman to finally settle down in peace. He soon meets the love of his life, Josie and eventually his destiny starts to take a much larger and fortutious fate which includes the death of his younger brother Morgan and the infamous battle with Curly Bill and the Cowboys gang, the memorable battle at the O.K. Corral with Ike Clanton and his strong friendship with his old friend, gambler and charismatic hard core drinker Doc Holliday (Dennis Quaid). The film featured a huge cast that featured Catherine O'Hara, Mark Harmon, Michael Madsen, Bill Pullman, Isabella Rosellini, Tom Sizemore, JoBeth Williams and many more. Unfortunately with a running time of over three hours, the film was not a hit and was blown away by Oscar winners "The Lion King" and "Forrest Gump" and the summer's biggest blockbuster, "Speed". Critics weren't too kind to the film either and deemed it boring and kept mentioning "Tombstone" and its' success in comparison and has been its' long shadow since then.
Despite all of this, the best thing without question which was largely overlooked in critism with the film was the stellar-Oscar caliber work of the red hot James Newton Howard, who had just scored a major coup with a well deserved Oscar nomination for one of his more memorable and popular scores in his career, "The Fugitive", which was released while this film was in production. Howard was well on his way to establishing a pretty solid relationship with Kevin Costner as well as Lawrence Kasdan, having scored his wonderful urban drama, "Grand Canyon". The score to this film has an epic quality to it that makes you think of those Golden Age scores that featured that lush, melodic and grand sound. In just listening to the score you can easily tell that Howard was really inspired by this story and really went the extra mile to write a score that not only is memorable, but easily the great part of the film. Filled with rousing moment, drama all on an epic scale, La-La Land Records' expanded album is easily one of the best expanded albums of the year.
From the memorable strains of the "Main Titles", Howard establishes the score's signature theme which is lush, tender, melodic and filled with power and nobility just like the man the music is intended for. The score is just filled with moments such as these that also include "The Wagon Chase", "The Buffalo Hunt (Long Version)", "Bringing In Stillwell / Making Bail", "The Saddletramp / Passing The Bottle / Startin' A Commotion", "The Brothers Prepare / The Shootout", and "Ride Outta Town (Long Version)". "The Brothers Prepare/The Shootout" is a terrific stand out track amongst the many that really builds up the legendary re-enactment of the O.K. Corral shootout with the Earp banding together with Doc Holliday in two. Howard does a great job in balancing these moments with dramatic and romantic ones as he demonstrates effectively in the tracks "Stage From Prescott / Wyatt Meets Josie", "The River Seduction", "Wyatt And Josie In Bed" and "The Wedding (Long Version). These track feature Howard at his most romantic giving a great shading to score's main theme as more of a tender love theme for Wyatt and Josie introducing solo guitar and violins into the fray. He also under scores Wyatt's past in very delicate manner in the tracks "Urilla Dies", and "Winter To Spring / Wyatt's Nightmare" which are tracks of poiganancy as well as brooding darkness underneath the surface.
La-La Land's exceptional release of this score is one that easily caught me by great surprise because I remember the original soundtrack release being very strong featuring an hours' worth (which was quite alot at the time of release due to musician's reuse fees), but that wes merely an appetizer for what was really missing and that is a boat load of terrific material that would've cost Warner Bros. Records a fortune to release with the high re-use fees of the time. Clocking at over 125 minutes of score, "Wyatt Earp" might seem like a lengthy chore to listen to, but it really does play perfectly in its' complete form much like a classical piece of music. I can understand why people have been raving about this one and I have to agree with them. This definitely is a terrific album and worth the price of admission. It's a shame it was not chosen for Oscar contension because it did deserve that much despite the films' box office disappointment. La-La Land has really brought justice to a score that truly deserved it and this one is worth the special treatment. Enthusthiastic Thumbs way up!