Great Western Themes: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra /Carl Davis – Membran multichannel SACD 222911, 38:21 [www.membran.net] **** [Distr. by Naxos]:
The Big Country, High Noon, Bonanza, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Magnificent Seven, Once Upon a Time in the West, Blazing Saddles, For a Few Dollars More, A Fistful of Dollars, Rawhide, The Green Leaves of Summer, Gunfight at the OK Corral.
Mike Townend is responsible for these excellent arrangements for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to evoke the sweat, dust and heat of the somewhat out of fashion Western movie, and the results remain entirely in keeping with the originals. Those expecting music for Westerns in the style of Elgar will be sorely disappointed, or considerably relieved.
Conducted by former New Yorker Carl Davis, who has done so much for film music in the UK and is well-known for his scores for films (silent and talking) and TV, the orchestra responds with suitable energy and tenderness, tight rhythms and high spirits give the impression they seem to have enjoyed setting these pieces down. Most notable are the touching cor anglais solos, and the authentic-sounding parts for guitar and percussion which left a smile on my face.
The recordings date from the mid-1990s when the RPO made a big series of recordings which have appeared and continue to appear on a variety of labels. The recording ethos seems to me to have been based on a modern version of a more subtle Decca Phase 4 stereo setup; the masters may have been 20-bit, the results are big-boned and full-fat. The mastering for the multichannel mix results in a slight wraparound at the edges which I found quite pleasant, the rears being used for ambience. If these are artificially derived, they are mighty good as they seem to be the real thing.
The notes do not give any information about the recording process, except for a general outline about SACD, and the essay on the RPO is about 15 years out of date. To cap it all, the editors have amazingly omitted the names of the composers of the film scores – imdb.com will come to the rescue there. In Europe this series is at upper budget price, and the issue more than makes up for its short measure with its big helping of exuberant fun.
— Peter Joelson