Monday 8 October 2012

High Plains Drifter Soundtrack finally released!

It's been a long time comin', but I was overjoyed to learn that Dee Barton's fabulous score for Clint's 1973 film High Plains Drifter has finally been released. We can only hope that Barton's scores for Play Misty For Me and Thunderbolt and Lightfoot may soon follow. Intrada have released High Plains Drifter to coincide with Universal's 100th Birthday celebrations. It was with Universal that Clint also made Play Misty For Me, so I'm tentatively hopeful that Misty may one day emerge on the silver platter. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot was released through United Artists, so I'm not sure who currently holds the rights to Barton's score. 
Above: Intrada's 24 page booklet has a choice of cover art.
Here's the official information from Intrada.
Label: Intrada Special Collection Volume 217

Date: 1973
Tracks: 27
Time = 54:27

At long last! World premiere of complex, highly original score for justifiably famous Clint Eastwood western with director as star. Dee Barton scores with unusually strong minor key main theme in western garb, then heads into Lago (the town) with much more under his saddle! Complex, experimental ideas play on strings, guitars, harmonica, percussion, early synths, electric bass, voice... an array of tense, dissonant colors! But there's much more than what has been known up to now: Universal's multi-track scoring session masters revealed numerous orchestral cues in traditional western guise that filmmakers dropped in favor of vivid experimental cues. New ideas like "Dummy Wagon" bring broad, expansive themes into play, action cues such as "Gunfight", "Shooting Stacy" offer intense brass figures amongst chaotic strings, even a sturdy vocal version of main theme with orchestra adds color, all of these being heard for first time ever, illuminating fact that composer intended much longer score than what (admittedly effective) amount remains in finished production. Dee Barton (famed composer/arranger for Stan Kenton as well as uncredited composer on several Dirty Harry films and composer of Eastwood's first directing effort: Play Misty For Me) writes with requisite nod to Morricone in use of rhythm, short motifs to punctuate script lines, so forth, but then takes off in his own direction with extremely challenging music - amongst western genre's most unorthodox ever. Intrada presentation offers every cue recorded by Barton, mixed into dynamic stereo from mint condition complete three-channel scoring session masters. Flipper cover offers dramatic shot of star under "Universal 100th Anniversary" banner on one side, exciting original poster campaign on the other. Take your pick! Dee Barton conducts. Intrada Special Collection release available while quantities and interest remain!
My Thoughts:
The Audio quality of Intrada's release is quite superb. The music retains a crisp clarity that seems to defy its 40 year age. Joe Sikoryak (who I have had the great pleasure of working with) has again provided an excellent booklet with an attractive layout. Sadly, there isn't a great deal of rare or unusual photos within the booklet. Instead, the regular, much repeated pictures are used to accompany the first rate (and highly detailed) liner notes provided by Douglass Fake.
Whilst I would never claim to be an expert on the use of illustrative material, I have spoken to many fans over the course of many years, and for them, it remains something of a grievance. However, I am also aware that some studios have, on occasions, offered a relatively small amount of stills to support projects such as soundtrack releases. It appears to be something of a red tape area, which I have increasingly found hard to accept. In addition, I also believe that 'fans' or 'collectors' sometimes own more photos or relevant illustrative material than the actual studios! The result of which, often leads to a feeling of genuine frustration. From a fans perspective, it is often summarised as a 'wasted opportunity' or a missed chance to 'make it something special'. Projects such as soundtrack releases are rarely privileged a second outing, and it is for that reason, that fans and collectors alike, rely upon it emerging at its very best. The choice of photos or posters may perhaps be perceived as a minor quibble or even an insignificant moan. But the arguments can sometimes spread beyond the boundaries of simple illustrative material.
High Plains Drifter is undoubtedly a very welcome and long overdue soundtrack, and we of course praise and applaud Intrada for overseeing its eventual release. The soundtrack is by definition, a celebration of the film's audio history, painstakingly produced and sounding quite magnificent throughout. Drifter's audio significance is restored, preserved and available for future generations. But can anything be done to make it that little bit 'special'?

Well, perhaps so...
Along with many other 'fans', I have always regarded Radio Spots to be an integral part of a film's audio history. Intended as an audio aspect of the film's original marketing campaign, the soundtrack CD would seem to provide the ideal opportunity and location for their inclusion. So it raises some interesting questions:
Was anyone aware of their existence?
Did anyone ever suggest their use?

Would Universal have been able to supply them?
There are in fact, a very nice set of Radio Spots to accompany High Plains Drifter, which (IMHO) would have rounded off this soundtrack rather nicely indeed.
So why not?
A simple key word search on the internet would have brought us to Intrada's attention. As an owner of a set, I would have been more than happy to provide Intrada with them for use on this release. There are many collectors such as myself, and we are all relatively easy to find. We are always here, and always available to assist. There are no hidden agendas. Among the many likeminded people I have had the privilege to speak with; we seem to share a common concern. The majority would be happy to help and assist, if only someone would ask... From my experience, collectors and fans simply want any Eastwood related product to appear at its very best. The individual has nothing to gain from it, other than perhaps a simple credit for their help.

It remains an interesting (if rather clouded) topic of conversation that I am sure will continue long after the end credits have rolled. But I would genuinely welcome some input on the subject. I'm sure it would prove fascinating. Perhaps Mr Douglass Fake of Intrada would be happy to participate and provide us with some answers on this subject.