Outlaws Original Music Soundtrack
Outlaws Original Music Soundtrack
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Outlaws was a first-person shooter developed by LucasArts and set in the wild west. LucasArts veteran Clint Bajakian was assigned to create the soundtrack and used both his classical training and influence from film composers to produce a spectacular production. Given the western setting, Bajakian focused on emulating the emotional sound of Ennio Morricone’s classic scores. He succeeds admirably in doing so, creating music that sometimes even surpasses Morricone’s own, yet still manages to engrave his own individuality and versatility on to the soundtrack. Fortunately, a limited edition album was released to showcase the results.
The opening theme instantly captures the western style of the game and seems to be a direct homage to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. As per Morricone convention, a passionate and memorable melody is presented first on trumpet and then with a whistle to the backdrop of the brisk strumming of a guitar. With each progression, Bajakian further perfects the sphagetti-western sound. Whether the subtle ascending modulations, the heroic vocal chants, or even some late electric guitar work, it all builds into a fulfilling whole. It’s one of the best emulations out there and a fantastic anthem in its own right. With a mixture of instrumental performances and synthetic samples, the implementation is also fantastic for its time and is still among the very best-sounding game soundtracks out there.
There is nevertheless a large amount of diversity in the soundtrack for those not as keen on the western sound. “Sanchez the Outlaw” depicts a Spaniard with a Spanish guitar solo, but it’s not run-of-the-mill stuff, but rather elegantly stylised and almost virtuosic. “The Train” and “The Ballad of Dr. Death” are a little more reminiscent of Bajakian’s more quirky Monkey Island work with their funk and country influences. The latter is nevertheless completely fascinating as a stand-alone achievement with all its twists and turns, even eventually incorporates some silly vocals. Meanwhile “Anna’s Theme” brings a lot of depth and humanity to the soundtrack with its melancholic oboe melody, ornate harpsichord, and heavenly chorus. It’s a prime example of Bakajian’s maturity as a classical composer, but also so Morricone-influenced too. In context, it works beautifully to reflect the main character’s loss.
Although the majority of the soundtrack is highly accessible, there are a number of experimental ambient themes. “The Shack”, for instance, is an unpredictable and mysterious composition featuring random use of all sorts of its forces. The piano is at the core of the soundtrack and its mixture of clamorous and percussive passages is reminiscent of modernists such as Hindemith. Similar elements take the forefront in “Revenge”, but it has a more cinematic tact, leading to some build-ups where the piano is used more as a supporting element. “The Mine” meanwhile expansively develops over seven minutes to offer everything from sporadic horror sections to tense percussive buildups. All these compositions work well in context, but it’ll depend very much on the listener whether they’re otherwise welcome. Some will find them fascinating and atmospheric, but others unpleasant or repetitive.
A large portion of the soundtrack retains the conventional wild west soundtrack. “Sanctuary” initially reinforces the main theme with an adaptation on guitar, to the atmospheric noise of wolfs howling. However, it eventually moves into a new section featuring an original melody presented with lonely but serene whistling. “The Sawmill” meanwhile captures the adventurous spirit of riding through the plains with its liberated rhythms and rustic timbres. “Two Feathers” meanwhile intersperses slightly eerie presentations of the main theme with free-roaming sections. There are further homages to ‘the man with no name’ trilogy in “The Last Gunfight” and “Showdown”. Both are anthemic compositions with charismatic trumpet leads and emotional orchestrations. They ensure the climax of the album is entirely fulfilling and bring the soundtrack round full circle.
The Outlaws soundtrack is another example of LucasArts’ musical mastery during the evolution of game music. Clint Bajakian really excelled emulating the Morricone sound during the score and the result is poignant both in and out of context. However, the diverse other pieces ensure the in-game accompaniment is colourful rather than stereotypical and ensures an even more entertaining stand-alone listening experience. While this is Bajakian’s only soundtrack release, it reflects his years of training and experience, so is nothing short of highly professional. While it was stunning for 1997, both musically and technologically, the soundtrack continues to hold up extremely well even today.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.