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Red Dead Revolver and the Italian Western

posted Jan 22, 2015, 10:40 PM by Koray Savas

    Not too many film score fans also double as spaghetti western fans, but it is that genre of film and music that helped spark my love for the medium over 10 years ago. Rockstar's Red Dead Revolver launched on May 3, 2004; and instantly became a video game classic that my friends and I played endlessly. It was a bonafide homage to the Italian western, and more specifically to what Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone achieved with their film collaborations. From the Clint Eastwood lookalike main character, to a mission straight out of The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, to a trio of bosses named Sergio, Ennio, and Eli. This game was the ultimate love letter to these filmmakers. The soundtrack was entirely comprised of pre-existing music, save for an original saloon cue by Harry Cohen. The selection was beyond perfect, providing a tailor fit musical narrative to the gameplay, the story, and its endlessly unique characters.

The Cast of Characters

    Only two cues were taken from Morricone scores, neither of which are of the popularity caliber of his Leone work. However, that is where Red Dead succeeds, in its use of music not already embedded in the public conscious. It allowed everything to melt into an uniformly original experience. This music, taken out of the context of their respective films, and placed within this game's world, still brought life to the actions on screen. Infectious, melodic, and at times ridiculously hilarious, these scores provided a backdrop to the single and multiplayer mayhem that regularly occurred on my PlayStation 2, which in turn opened up a whole new avenue of film music for discovery.

    This style of music is certainly not to everyone's taste, but I feel anyone with a love for melody and rhythm should be able to find something of interest among the vast myriad of western scores out there. Electric guitars, harmonicas, whistling, galloping percussion, and bellowing shouts and chants all come together to form a truly distinct soundscape. Times are especially rough with the lack of any new films being produced. The last straight-up action western of any value that I can think of was 2007's 3:10 To Yuma. Quentin Tarantino also helps introduce younger generations to a forgotten genre with his films, but that still doesn't give room for newly composed music. Ignoring the film scene momentarily, however, Red Dead Revolver's own spiritual sequel, 2010's Red Dead Redemption, is also worth giving a spin. Bill Elm and Woody Jackson were able to achieve something really special there. The change from linear narrative to an open world sprawling frontier required more nuance and form from the music. Elm and Jackson delivered that while still maintaining the classic spaghetti western instrumentation. A striking musical palette that entrances and excites as the score plays out. Here is hoping that Rockstar's third installment isn't too far off.
    Once upon a time, there were more western films being made every year than anyone could ever conceivably want. The genre burned out, and it didn't help that a lot of those films just weren't well made to begin with. What they did leave behind, though, was an endless well of music to relive and experience anew. From maestro Morricone to Bruno Nicolai, Alessandro Alessandroni, Stelvio Cipriani, Luis Bacalov, Francesco De Masi, Marcello Giombini, Gianni Ferrio, Franco Micalizzi, and countless other talented composers.

    Over the past decade, a lot of these scores have been made available thanks to the fine folks at GDM, Beat Records, Digitmovies, and other Italian soundtrack producers, via Screen Archives Entertainment. Unfortunately, most of them were not exactly cheap to import, and a few were hard to find due to the nature of their highly limited pressings. Either way, I managed to track them down, making my personal goal of adding all of the film scores utilized in Red Dead Revolver to my score collection a pleasant reality. Even though this crusade was highly driven by nostalgia and a love for all things spaghetti, there is no denying that these scores share a uniquely fun sound that you simply cannot find in any other genre of music. To anyone with the time and curiosity to listen, I present a selection of my favorite Red Dead film scores to discover for yourself: