David Rose & His Orchestra

Bonanza

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This CD is a reissue of a relative obscure Bonanza television soundtrack LP that was done by the series' music director and resident composer, David Rose, following the second season of the series. As he explained in the original notes reprinted here, with some 60 episodes behind him, he had more than enough material for several LPs and was able to select what he believed were the 11 strongest tracks for this release. He wasn't far off the mark -- using a somewhat larger orchestra than was the case for the actual soundtrack recordings (and, thus, reversing the usual order of orchestration when it came to soundtrack albums), he delivered a surprisingly lush body of music that made for particularly enjoyable listening at home in stereo (then still a new enough phenomenon to impress listeners, and a feature not available on television). Indeed, the results may be a little too lush and smooth, at times more resembling generic pop-instrumental music than anything especially "western" in nature -- "Ponderosa," for example, now comes off as a piece of mood music, drenched in strings and reverb with harp flourishes that makes it seem a long way from 19th century Nevada in spirit or origin; none of which means that it isn't unexpectedly, hauntingly beautiful. (One also must wonder how much of the music Rose supplied for the series was material that he'd already written, and simply cast in a western mode for use on the series). "The Balloon Riders" is a similarly languid, string dominated piece with a lovely horn part, but the highlight of the album, other than the "Bonanza" main theme and "Ponderosa," has to be "The Legend of Sam Hill," at four minutes easily the longest cue here and a study in musical storytelling and leitmotif -- or, at least, it would be if Rose gave it a chance to escape from the contemporary (i.e., early 1960s) mood music arrangement that he has given it here; it was one of the better early episodes, with a poetic element that isn't lost in the writing even if some part of what's here comes off as the kind of material that easy listening stations used to fill time with (and it's certainly the finest piece of music ever composed in association with film material featuring actor Claude Akins). The CD finishes with Lorne Greene's vocal version of "Bonanza," complete with chorus, which comes off less hokey than it should -- Greene could sing, and he is able to sell lyrics that were otherwise so embarrassing to all concerned, that they were never used after the pilot episode.

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