While the first volume in this wonderful series focused on TV and movie themes in the Western vernacular, such as Bonanza, Gunfight at the OK Corral, et al., this second collection digs deeper into the American kitsch experience -- as envisioned through the eyes of a German family's view of popular culture in the States. There are no less than 23 selections here that vary in range and quality from Nat "King" Cole and Stubby Kaye's bizarre rough and rowdy theme song for the Jane Fonda vehicle Cat Ballou, to Jose Feliciano's rockabilly singing of "Old Turkey Buzzard" from the film MacKenna's Gold, to Glen Campbell's gorgeous "A Man With True Grit" from the film True Grit. There's a vibe that runs through all of this seemingly disparate material, and that is how the Western theme song evolved from a simple Hollywood instrumental with lots of sound effects to the aftermath of Ennio Morricone's adaptations for spaghetti Westerns by Sergio Leone to the involvement of show tune composers such as Elmer Bernstein and Dan Black in the genre. There are traditional contributors of course, such as Tex Ritter with his theme to Wichita, the Sons of the Pioneers with "Sugarfoot," and Johnny Gregory with his theme from Bronco. But there was also an era when singers like Wayne Newton contributed his silky Vegas voice to the series Stagecoach and Andy Williams and his champagne throat sang on the soundtrack for the John Huston/Paul Newman vehicle The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean. Thankfully, there is also a fine rendition here from the original released soundtrack to the television program Wagon Train, and Dean Martin weighs in with "The Wind, The Wind" from the film Pardners -- yes, it was a comedy. The package, unlike other Bear Family packages, contains literally no liner notes, but the sound has been remastered expertly and the booklet includes literally dozens of reproductions of movie posters (mostly German versions!) and stills from both film and TV. This is every bit as essential as the first volume and even more off the beaten track.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek