William Ross is a composer who has scored numerous movies and has always in my opinion produced scores that serve the picture well, he also manages on each outing to give film music collectors a tuneful and pleasurable listening experience even if the music is played without the images that it was intended to originally enhance. His latest scoring assignment 50 TO 1 also falls into this category, working wonderfully within the context of the movie but also standing up on its own as music that is exciting, enjoyable and exhilarating. Based on true events 50 to 1 tells the story of a racehorse named MINE THAT BIRD and the animals stunning and almost unbelievable comeback and win at the 2009,Kentucky derby. I say almost unbelievable because the story is simply that, it’s a heart warming tale of an animals triumph over adversity and against all the odds a story of an animal that comes through and touches everyone’s emotions, as composer Ross comments in the sleeve notes for the compact disc release, “If it’s true that we tend to root for the underdog, then the story of Mine That Bird is one for the ages”. Ross has written a score that encompasses a number of styles and these styles accompany the many differing characters or classes of characters that are in the movie, it takes the listener to the depths of despondency and underlines the feelings of disappointment felt by the horses owners when all seems lost and hopeless, then the score steps up a gear and enhances perfectly the determination of the animal and the pride and elation felt by the people who put their faith in him. As with the majority of films that are within the same collective as 50 TO 1, i.e. SEA BISCUIT, PHAR LAP and to a degree CHAMPIONS, music has a major role to play, and composer William Ross certainly delivers in all departments with this score, bright and triumphant brass flourishes are combined with strident and swelling string crescendos to highlight Mine that Bird and his unrelenting determination to come through, it is a score that will I know bring a tear to the eye of many who listen to it. It is filled with emotion, pride and has at its conclusion an almost joyous and thankful atmosphere a kind of “We Did It” feel and sound. The score opens with the track, TEN YEARS LATER, a tuneful and rambling guitar acts as a background to a harmonica solo that is laid back and slightly blues orientated, this is supported by a sprinkling of piano and further use of guitar, making this a pleasing and easy going opening to the compact disc. Track number 3, RIDING TO THE RANCH is an upbeat affair for a rock slanted guitar solo and percussion, and although short lived this is a foot tapping and entertaining piece. Track number 4, MEETING BIRD has a slightly comedic edge to it, slide guitar and fiddle combining to create a kind of ho-down atmosphere.
Track number 5, A MUST SEE HORSE, is a slightly apprehensive sounding cue, strings being the backbone of the composition that give it a homely and warm feel. In track number 6, THE BREEDERS CUP, Ross introduces a more fully symphonic mood and enlists the strings once again to open the cue, these stridently carry the piece forward but soon melt away to segue into a more low key less driving composition that is guarded and subdued. Track 8, is another mischievous piece BIRD PLAYS, opens with wailing but harmonious harmonica and introduces a square dance composition that has infectious and entertaining properties. If I had to draw comparisons between this soundtrack and others, I would say that 50 TO 1 has the grittiness and intimacy of ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, the mesmerizing values of THE NATURAL, the drive and get up and go of HOOSIERS and the melodic heart of LEGENDS OF THE FALL. Tracks 17 and 18 for me are the highlights of the score and bring it to its triumphant and highly emotional conclusion, PRELUDE TO THE RACE and THE RACE AND EPILOGUE seem to melt into one and give us a near 11 minute piece that is filled with driving strings ominous sounding brass and thundering percussion, the final cue gradually building as it underlines Mine that Bird at first struggling in the derby, but slowly but surely becoming stronger and eventually heading to the front of the field, the composers music accompanying the horse as he powers on to win the race and assuring a place in history. I cannot recommend this soundtrack highly enough, a beautiful score once again from Mr Ross. Released on momentum as a promo, this is the labels first release and I hope it will not be their last, well packaged in a digi- pack, with interesting sleeve notes courtesy of Tim Greiving and contributions from director producer Jim Wilson and composer William Ross.
Read other recent reviews by John Mansell: Erika
, Il Plenilunio delle Vergini
, Le Altre