Soundtrack Review: The River Wild

Soundtrack Review: The River Wild

The River Wild Soundtrack Review: This is a review of the film score The River Wild by Jerry Goldsmith.

At a glance:

35 tracks
79 minutes of score
Geek Score: 85.1
Total Minutes Of Excellence: 37.25
Album Excellence: 47%
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How are the scores calculated and what does it mean?

The River Wild is a great action movie from the 90s set in the great outdoors and mostly on or near a river. Starring big names like Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon, this movie got more attention than from just fans of the genre. This is a story about a family in trouble. The dad is the busy business guy who never have time for his family, always disappoints them because of his important work. The mom is distraught and the son is starting to hate his dad. The plan to save the marriage is to take a vacation and do some river rafting where the mom used to work as a guide before. The father disappoints them again and says he’s got some important things at work. However the father surprises them by coming after all. Little do they know that another crew lead by charmer Kevin Bacon and his companion John C. Reilly, dangerous bank robbers and killers, want to take the same route down the river to escape with their money. Director Curtis Hanson had signed up Maurice Jarre to do the score and he recorded a full score, including alternates, but his score was deemed to not fit the movie so it was rejected during postproduction. Jerry Goldsmith was brought in to score the replacement score in August of 1994. Still, Goldsmith himself also had to revise a number of cues to please the director. This score is composed by Jerry Goldsmith and this review is part of Big J’s Sunday.

It opens with ‘Practice’ which is the opening scene where we see Meryl Streep’s character practicing her rowing skills against a beautiful sunrise. The theme is adapted by Jerry Goldsmith from the traditional song “The Water Is Wide” and is a beautiful tranquil theme meant for Gail and her connection with nature. It is also used as the family theme where everything is idyllic. I love the ending of ‘Practice’ which is a faster, almost action-like sequence where Gail is giving it all to end the practice. In any case, a beautiful adaption and theme. ‘The Field’ is a more laid back version of the opening theme. The softness of this cue is great and shows a stark contrast to what’s to come. ‘Let’s Go Boys’ is the family finally together and they are ready to push off into the river. The same theme is playing, but with a different upbeat swirling theme woven in the theme. ‘Here We Go’ starts with a bit of that ending of that more action-filled ending of ‘Practice’ before it transitions into the main theme, but much more force and tempo this time.

Most of the first part of this score is spent with the main theme and it’s variations. This is a a theme for the good times, when the family is together, getting their life back together as they all go down the river in unison. The first time we get into a bit of trouble is with ‘No Favors’ which is a spat between Gail and her husband. The swirling woodwinds at the end is a brilliant touch. It’s serious, but not too serious. It shouldn’t overplay the real danger that comes later and it doesn’t. ‘Graffiti’ has an adventurous sound to it, a bit of mystery, as they see the cave paintings from a forgotten past. Jerry’s love for synths is well known and in ‘My Life’ it’s the premiere of his synth work for this score with a reverberating synth and big percussion beat for the ending. Trouble is coming.

The action theme that Jerry Goldsmith wrote for this score may sound familiar. I would say it’s a mix of Rambo and Star Trek. In ‘Wade’s Over’ you can hear the first part of the action theme at 1:03. Particularly the part from 1:28 sounds like Rambo, a powerful rhythmic and bombastic theme. I also love the part from 1:55 where you have the swirling horn motif followed by the big percussion blasts. It feels very Star Trek to me. Jerry’s trademark suspense music comes in at 2:50 with that low synth pounding underneath. This is great for every Jerry Goldsmith fan. The action music is used for both the danger of the river and of course the bad guys throughout the film. ‘Get The Drinks’ is where the family has realised that something is wrong with their “friends” and they hatch a plan to escape from the robbers. It’s the first time the score goes into an almost dissonant way with just a layer of percussion on top and some woodwinds coming in a little later. Of course it explodes into a frantic action spectacle from 2:50. ‘Stand Off’ is another suspense cue with pizzicato strings. Jerry likes his synth percussion and I love the big powerful reverberating synth percussion in ‘Pictures’. He could make pretty much anything exciting when he used percussion like that. We’re in a bit of suspense and mystery period now though with the main theme seemingly gone while we’re waiting for the action to step in. It finally arrives with ‘What Happened’ which prominently uses the main action motif. Very exciting stuff!

the score ends in excitement with ‘Vacation’s Over’ a 10 minute monster cue that contains some of Jerry’s best action writing. The rhythmic repetition and build up is brilliant and something newer scores seems to be missing for the most part. The horns keep the action very entertaining as well with it’s up and down variations. Again, I love that synth percussion and the exciting synth bass line as the underscore. It’s perhaps a bit too long? Normally I love long cues, but there’s something about this that tells me it would be perfect as a 5 minute cue. ‘One Left (Revised #1)’ is pizzicato strings building up to big percussion blast. ‘Family Reunion (End Title)’ is a nice cue for the reuniting of the family which naturally use the Water Is Wide motif and in the middle there is a woman singing with a country/pop variation before it transitions into Goldsmith’s own adaption of the theme. I could do without the singing, but Jerry’s music is great. Of the alternatives, the most interesting is perhaps ‘One Left (Revised #2)’ because of the synth in the beginning and the electronic violin version of ‘The Water Is Wide’.

Well, we asked for a complete release and here it is. Sometimes we don’t know what we’re getting, but this does suffer a bit from it because if you compare this to the RCA release, that release had the best stuff neatly compressed into 30 minutes or so. This score really has it all, and not everything is great, but I’m still glad I got it. The score contains some thrilling action music and I love Goldsmith’s late action music even though it’s not a favorite of the purists. Getting this score is a no-brainer. Not only do you get Jerry Goldsmith’s complete score, but you get Maurice Jarre’s rejected score as well. As a listening experience I do recommend the RCA release, but since this one sounds better, you can easily make your own playlist.

1. Practice *
2. The Field
3. Let’s Go Boys *
4. Here We Go *
5. No Favors
8. Wade’s Over *
9. Same Old Story
21. What Happened
22. Do It!
24. Vacation’s Over
26. Family Reunion (End Title)
34. Great Timing (Original) *

GD Star Rating
Soundtrack Review: The River Wild, 9.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating


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