“A Million Ways To Die In The West”
Music By Joel McNeely
Featuring “A Million Ways To Die”
Performed by Alan Jackson
18 Tracks/Disc Time: 41:52
After the rip roaring success of his theatrical film debut, “Ted” which was a blockbuster hit two years ago, Director, Producer & co-writer Seth MacFarlane could literally do no wrong. “A Million Ways To Die In West” which is his much heralded follow up to “Ted” with a rather star studded cast until “Ted 2” is unleashed next summer. The film stars MacFarlane as cowardly sheep farmer Albert Stark living a rather non existant exsistance in the town of Old Stump. Doorknob Stark has just lost his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried, “Les Miserables”) to a wealthy local businessman named Foy (Neil Patrick Harris, “How I Met Your Mother”) and spends his days drinking away his sorrows with his best and his pathetic only friend Edward (Giovanni Ribisi, “Ted”) and his prostitute fiancée, Ruth (Sarah Silverman, “The Sarah Silverman Show”). begins to fall for the mysterious new woman in town named Anna (Charlize Theron, “Monster”), he must put his new-found courage to the test when her husband, a notorious gun-slinger named Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson, “Taken”) announces his arrival.
While the film has met with a rather mixed set of reviews, there definitely is a major positive to this film and one that is definitely more than welcome. When Director Seth MacFarlane announced this film, he immediately chose composer Joel McNeely to write the musical score to this film. McNeely is one of the more unheralded composers in the industry who has written some very memorable music in the past for films such as “Tinkerbell”, “Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale”, “Iron Will”, “Lover’s Prayer”, “Samantha” and the brilliant, “Terminal Velocity” while contributing some exceptional music to the well received TV Series, “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”. McNeely has been working steadliy on the hit animated series, “American Dad” which was created by MacFarlane with great success. The score to the this film is a throw back to the straight ahead Western genre scores that composers Elmer Bernstein, George Duning, Jerry Goldsmith, Bruce Broughton and John Williams have put their memorable stamp on. McNeely’s music is a very memorable ode to these composers work and it is a very engaging and invigorating listen filled with memorable themes and some pretty rousing material that will definitely please fans of the genre as well as McNeely’s.
Starting with the fun opening song “A Million Ways To Die” which is performed with enjoyable ease by country star Alan Jackson featuring lyrics by Seth MacFarlane (who also plays the harmonica throughout the score) is a throwback to those golden age Westerns of yesteryear and leads to the fun and memorable “Main Title” where McNeely really soars with some really rousing material that establishes the score’s main theme that is full of sweep and will remind most of Elmer Bernstein at this pure Americana best. McNeely turns on the delicate Western charm with the tracks “Missing Louise”, “Rattlesnake Ridge” and “Anna And Albert”, the latter playing off as a beautiful love theme featuring tender flute, guitar and piano solos that really tug at your heart strings which is material that Bernstein himself would’ve been very proud of writing himself. The score has its fair share of over the top rousing action material with the comical but straight laced “Saloon Brawl”, the upbeat and lush, “The Shooting Lesson”, “Clinch Hunts Albert” which really channels Bernstein the perfect hilt all the way through, the propulsive “Racing The Train” and “The Showdown”. “Sheep To The Horizon” is the score’s happy ending that reprises the main theme with some wonderful variations leading into a great romantic coda and into the “End Title Suite” track that follows which wraps everything up to a rousing end to this excellent score.
The album is pretty short, but a very pleasant and exciting listen that features McNeely at the top of his game here and to be honest I was hoping that there would’ve been just a little more of his score featured on the album to make it that much better. Despite that, it is really great to see Joel McNeely scoring a meaningful project and that goes for alot of other composers too. “A Million Ways To Die In The West” does a couple of more things. One, it restablishes the fact that there is a director that does care about thematic material for this film which has been severely lacking of late and two, that composers should go back to writing rousing material and utilizing the full orchestra to revive and go back to the great material composers were used to writing before this wave of electronics and soloists have taken over. This is very refreshing and rewarding listen and without question another solid Summer film score which gets a major Thumbs up!