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The Magnificent Seven
Album Cover Art
Co-Composed by:

Co-Composed, Arranged, and Produced by:
Simon Franglen
Simon Rhodes

Co-Orchestrated and Co-Conducted by:
J.A.C. Redford
Carl Johnson

Co-Orchestrated by:
Steven Baker
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Sony Classical
(September 16th, 2016)
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Regular U.S. release. A vinyl album is also available.
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Decorative Nonsense
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Buy it... if you consider yourself any enthusiast of James Horner whatsoever, for The Magnificent Seven is a very competent, faithful assembly of the composer's rough ideas into a remarkable postmortem tribute.

Avoid it... if you have nightmares that Horner's stylistic recycling habits are so powerful that they outlived his corporeal being, because any detractor of the composer will consider this work one more defiant punch from the grave.
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WRITTEN 12/17/16
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The Magnificent Seven: (James Horner/Simon Franglen/Simon Rhodes) Filmmaker Antoine Fuqua struggled mightily with how to translate the love and respect for 1954's Seven Samurai and 1960's The Magnificent Seven into 2010's cinematic sensibilities, and many critics assailed his 2016 version of the tale for remaining predictably morbid in its outcome without embellishing enough of the heroism in its midsections to remain a satisfying tale. Indeed, the "grittiness" of 2016's The Magnificent Seven was necessary but possibly the element of the film's undoing, though it still managed to draw substantial box office returns. The story of a gang of seven gunslingers in the Old West saving a town from a ruthless industrialist is nothing new, of course, and the execution of the character depth and fighting sequences are the point of interest in the 2016 Fuqua telling. Ultimately, the film will not likely be remembered for its merits, but the situation with its soundtrack will remain an important point of emphasis. Fuqua had overcome doubts about taking on The Magnificent Seven in part because of insistence by composer James Horner during their collaboration on Southpaw. Naturally, when Fuqua decided to proceed with the Western project, Horner was slated to join him. The famed composer had grown disillusioned with mainstream Hollywood projects in the 2000's and had taken to writing concert music and scoring only obscure films that spoke to his personal interests or, in many cases, simply turning down major assignments not involving directors whom he considered a friend. His sudden increase in film music output in the mid-2010's marked a celebrated return to his 1990's level of activity, though that rejuvenation was cut short by a airplane crash that took his life in 2015. Horner had taken to flying as an escape mechanism, and by all reports, he simply conducted a maneuver at too low an altitude in Southern California when his vintage aircraft hit the ground. Because of the immensely busy schedule that Horner had signed for between 2014 and 2016, he was stacked with projects in various states of completion and release on film and album at his death, and The Magnificent Seven represented the one score for which he had written material but not had a chance to tailor it to completed footage.

The story of how Horner's rough sketches for The Magnificent Seven came to exist in the final film are well told but deserve repeating. Knowing he would be swamped with work on Hacksaw Ridge and The Great Wall in 2016, not to mention the Avatar sequels always lurking around the corner, Horner decided to start hashing through themes for The Magnificent Seven during the week of his preparations in London for recording his concert piece, "Collage." After that recording, he returned to California to escape to the skies in his airplanes. Upon learning of Horner's death, his team of arrangers, editors, and orchestrators decided to arrange and record the fledgling themes with a London orchestra as a gift to Fuqua. This group of frequent Horner collaborators was helmed by Simon Franglen, veteran synthesizer arranger who had worked with Horner since Titanic. Also involved were editors Simon Rhodes, Jim Henriksen, and Joe E. Rand, orchestrator and conductor JAC Redford, and performer Tony Hinnegan, who had yielded many of the most famous woodwind performances throughout Horner's recordings. All of these men dated back to the late 1990's with Horner, and Rand, Henriksen, and Hinnegan go back further. Understandably, Fuqua was overwhelmed when hearing what was literally the final composition by Horner, and he insisted, with the surprising backing of MGM, upon an ensemble arranging effort by the team to flesh out this Horner material into a final score over the subsequent nine months. The two Simons made the bulk of the compositional arrangements; Franglen's background extended from synthesizer programming for James Newton Howard and Alan Silvestri in the early 1990's while Rhodes has become a renowned recording and editing engineer and got his feet wet with Trevor Jones at the same time. Both, along with Redford, have a history with Thomas Newman, and that comes to play in The Magnificent Seven as well. They decided to treat the film organically, recording an 80-member ensemble together and only electronically manipulating live recording of specialty elements with sparing frequency. They desired a gritty environment to match Fuqua's passion for Horner's music from Thunderheart but sought to produce that effect with real instruments and voices. The film ultimately featured 107 minutes of music, making the score almost a wall-to-wall presence on screen.

Horner's only major reservation about The Magnificent Seven before his death was how his music would be perceived against that of Elmer Bernstein for the 1960 film, a significant worry given the memorability of the famous classic theme and its major-key heroism that quite frankly wouldn't fit into Fuqua's version (or modern Hollywood). As Franglen and Rhodes started work on arranging Horner's ideas for the remake, they ran into the same problem, testing drop placements of Bernstein's theme into various places in the movie. Ultimately, while you hear hints of the rhythmic foundation of the classic tune in a few cues throughout the score, the only obvious placement is saved for the end of the film. Even in these interpolations, the switch to the major key will be potentially jarring for some listeners. Fortunately for the team, Horner's annoying but lovable habit of self-referencing throughout his career made the task of interpolating his compositional style into the score a comparatively straightforward task. Some listeners might view this music for The Magnificent Seven to be a rather tedious copy and paste job, taking passages from a plethora of Horner works and layering them with the composer's usual performance elements. But, ironically, the consistent voice within Horner's writing style is what made this score possible, and, for better of for worse, this final work is a tribute to those dozens of prior Horner scores referenced, the ultimate Horner copy and paste job that ends up functioning quite well as a score on its own because of the precision with which the team accomplished the emulation. The instrumentation and texturing of The Magnificent Seven is all very familiar, soloists on acoustic baritone guitars, banjos, qenas, shakuhachi, and horsehead fiddle joined by various vocalists ranging from across the sonic spectrum to provide tones common to many Horner endeavors. Every instrumental application is carefully included to recall a prior Horner work, from the military snare rips to the ethnic woodwinds, the twinkling piano to tapped cymbals, the echoing trumpets to the noble French horn layers in the finale that inspired his "Collage" work. Banjos and guitars, manipulated and "distressed," as Franglen explains, are largely the basis for the grittier tone of the work, and for the two minorities in the gang of seven, you hear echoes of the composer's ventures into Latin and Eastern realms. The only Horner staples totally absent from the soundscape are his applications of fuller, upper-tone choir and the realm of electronics.

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Average: 3.41 Stars
***** 31 5 Stars
**** 51 4 Stars
*** 39 3 Stars
** 26 2 Stars
* 11 1 Stars
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Track Listings Icon
Total Time: 76:37
• 1. Rose Creek Oppression (1:55)
• 2. Seven Angels of Vengeance (3:24)
• 3. Lighting the Fuse (1:21)
• 4. Volcano Springs (2:56)
• 5. Street Slaughter (3:22)
• 6. Devil in the Church (2:06)
• 7. Chisolm Enrolled (3:10)
• 8. Magic Trick (2:37)
• 9. Robicheaux Reunion (1:47)
• 10. A Bear in People's Clothes (2:01)
• 11. Red Harvest (2:02)
• 12. Takedown (5:50)
• 13. Town Exodus - Knife Training (2:11)
• 14. 7 Days, That's All You Got (1:49)
• 15. So Far So Good (4:32)
• 16. Sheriff Demoted (1:58)
• 17. Pacing the Town (3:53)
• 18. The Deserter (4:52)
• 19. Bell Hangers (1:43)
• 20. Army Invades Town (3:34)
• 21. Faraday's Ride (4:03)
• 22. Horne Sacrifice (2:42)
• 23. The Darkest Hour (4:28)
• 24. House of Judgment (5:25)
• 25. Seven Riders (2:58)

Notes Icon
The insert includes a list of performers and a note from Simon Franglen about the circumstances of the score.
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or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from The Magnificent Seven are Copyright © 2016, Sony Classical and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 12/17/16 (and not updated significantly since).
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