Arguably a milestone for both director Sergio Leone and his musical cohort Ennio Morricone. After deconstructing the classic American western by way of The Good, the Bad & the Ugly and A Fistful of Dollars, Leone distilled his intentions with 1968's Once Upon a Time in the West. For his part, Morricone framed Leone's meditative camerawork and mythic narrative with a mix of hauntingly spacious pieces and reconfigured snatches of old-timey tunes. Just within the stretch of the first four pieces here, Morricone evokes the endless expanse of the West with a Copland-esque aria (the main title theme), weaves some twisted grit into the showdown theme with loads of guitar fuzz ("As a Judgment"), ingeniously combines whistling and a clippity-clop rhythm for a respite piece ("Farewell to Cheyenne"), and conjures the surreal end of the cowboy mythos via a wonderfully disjointed serial-style number ("The Transgression"). And whether sounding upbeat or stark, Morricone informs it all with the dry and windswept vacancy of the West. Beautiful and stunning.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook