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RAMBO – Brian Tyler

January 25, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Clark Douglas

John Rambo, that complex-political-symbol-turned-pulp-hero played by Sylvester Stallone, is finally back. After a long absence in which nobody really seemed to miss Rambo very much, Stallone has brought the character back to life in an attempt to quench the undying mild curiousity of his fans. His new effort is winning reviews similar to those that greeted the second and third Rambo films, and people generally seem a lot more cynical about seeing 60-year-old Rambo do battle in the jungle than they did about seeing 60-year-old Rocky do battle in a boxing ring.

Bad as the original “Rambo” films were at times (especially the latter two), they all had top-drawer scores from composer Jerry Goldsmith. Goldsmith’s first effort was gritty action music mixed with pensive moments of thematic reflection, the second score was blood-pumping American machismo, and the third score adopted a lot of ethnic elements. Since Mr. Goldsmith is no longer with us, composer Brian Tyler was called upon to fill his shoes. That’s a mighty big task, but Tyler seems qualified for the job. Tyler was called upon to replace Goldsmith when Jerry’s score for “Timeline” was rejected, and he also paid homage to Goldsmith and other composers with his exciting effort for “AVP: Requiem”.

Tyler begins by offering up an appropriate tribute to Goldsmith with a brief cover of the “It’s a Long Road” theme in the opening cue, “Rambo Theme”, which segues into some pleasant original material establishing the location of the film (Burma). However, the action is anything but Goldsmithian in “No Rules of Engagement”, a fun and exciting piece of music that comes a little closer to suggesting Hans Zimmer. This seems to be the rule for the score, rather than the exception, and that somewhat familiar Remote Control/Media Ventures sound permeates most of the action music.

Speaking of action, there’s a whole lot of it on the album. “The Rescue” is full of percussion-heavy adrenaline, Rabin-style rock guitars break out in “Hunting Mercenaries”, and the highlight is probably the not-bad John Powell imitation “The Compound”, seven minutes of solid entertainment. These action-packed cues are balanced with more reflective moments in pieces such as “Aftermath” and “The Call to War”, while suspenseful atmospheric cues like “Prison Camp” and “Crossing Into Burma” pad the running time even further. The best new material of the album is arguably “Battle Adagio”, which puts the spotlight on Tyler’s lovely original theme written for “Rambo”. The album runs a whopping 75 minutes (Tyler is quickly becoming the James Horner of album releases), and it’s a pretty big task to sit through the whole thing.

“Rambo” is certainly a score that has some merit, but when it reaches it’s conclusion and spotlights some iconic Jerry Goldsmith material in the “Main Title” and “End Title” cues, one is only reminded of just how much more satisfying the Goldsmith efforts were. Tyler’s music somehow sounds too familiar, there’s not much here that we haven’t heard before, and it would have been much more interesting if his writing had somewhat echoed Goldsmith’s (ala “Timeline”) rather than Zimmer’s. If you’re a fan of Tyler’s more MV/RC-inspired efforts like “Annapolis” and “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”, I can certainly recommend this album without hesitation. But if you’re a fan of the Goldsmith scores hoping for an extension of the sound provided in those efforts, I’m sorry to report that you’ll be sorely disappointed. As far as I’m concerned, this album will probably collect dust while “First Blood”, “Rambo II”, and “Rambo III” keep making their way back into my cd player.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Rambo Theme (3:31)
  • No Rules of Engagement (7:09)
  • Conscription (2:56)
  • The Rescue (4:01)
  • Aftermath (2:36)
  • Searching For Missionaries (7:03)
  • Hunting Mercenaries (2:41)
  • Crossing Into Burma (6:57)
  • The Village (1:44)
  • Rambo Returns (2:42)
  • When You Are Pushed (2:26)
  • The Call to War (2:50)
  • Atrocities (1:41)
  • Prison Camp (4:42)
  • Attack on the Village (3:02)
  • Rambo Takes Charge (2:23)
  • The Compound (7:46)
  • Battle Adagio (3:07)
  • Rambo Main Title (3:26)
  • Rambo End Title (2:59)

Running Time: 75 minutes 42 seconds

Lionsgate Records 20014 (2008)

Music composed and conducted by Brian Tyler. Orchestrations by Jeff Toyne. Recorded and mixed by Joel Iwataki. Edited by Gary Krause and Joe Lisanti. Album produced by Brian Tyler.

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