Friday, 1 April 2011

VG Score Review - Red Dead Redemption (Bill Elm & Woody Jackson)

Lately, some of you may have been wondering why I went from many posts in a short period of time, to roughly zero posts in about a month. The answer, and something that I will hopefully be writing about in the future, is that I have got caught up in one of the greatest sci-fi TV shows for all time. Having received the second season DVD set for my Birthday, I have been obsessing non-stop over it and it's soundtrack. I won't reveal here which show it is (although not exactly new, it's also not exactly old either), but will instead write about it in the future. One other DVD present that I received for my birthday was The Social Network, which will be added to my list of films to review, and will likely to the newest DVD that will be found on this site until Christmas.

For now, I shall be reviewing yet another video-game soundtrack,  and hopefully a few more film scores in the days to come, after which I will dive yet again into the abyss of my DVD collection.

Hunt it down, skin it and feast on it's juicy goodness... if you are looking for an interesting ambient score that perfectly captures the wild heart of the west.

Leave it stranded in Monument Valley... if you are prefer a stronger thematic core for your western soundtracks, such as can be found in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly by Ennio Moricone.

Rockstar have always prided themselves on providing nigh-on revolutionary soundtracks for their games. However, in Red Dead Redemption they were unable to lean on their valuable crutch from their Grand Theft Auto series... The car radio. With this feature, Rockstar were able to pull the player even deeper into the world by staging actual in-game radio stations with a playlist of about 30 songs per station.
In Red Dead Redemption, no such thing is possible, as In-Horse radios are still yet to be invented even now. Instead, Rockstar had to take a leap of faith away from their standard fare, and hired Bill Elm and Woody Jackson of Friends of Dean Martinez quasi-fame to create an immersive and adaptable instrumental score that would reflect the qualities of some of the greatest western movies. In this sense, Elm and Jackson have created a masterpiece of videogame scoring that was not only among some of the best in-game music of the year, but a landmark for the industry in general. The music in the game captured the mood of the west perfectly and seamlessly adapted itself for any situation, whether that be slowly creeping through a guarded fortress, or dashing to rescue a poor man's wife from a lynch mob.
Elm and Jackson don't take too many risks from the already-established musical styles of such films as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and use the rather familiar template of almost-hummed vocals, electric guitar, harmonica, horns and a menagerie of whistles. This all adds to the game greatly, but is less successful when isolated on CD. Whilst it is perfect music to have in the background, it fails to sustain attention for as long as any film score might, with each track slowly trundling along (although rather still rather excellently so) in the background of your mind. In fact, it is interesting that the general pace of most of the album reminds of a tumbleweed!
Whilst the instrumental music is perfect in-game, and serviceable on record, where this album really shines is in the songs placed at the end. Each one is so shockingly perfect for the CD, for the game, and for the genre in general, that I sat open-mouthed in wonder for the first few listens of them. The way that these songs were implemented into the game is so rare and cinematic for a videogame that it is difficult to put into words what they add to the experience.

To summarise, I do not regret this purchase in any way, although I can quite easily see why some might be turned off by it's meandering qualities. However, I don't think anyone can argue about the quality of the songs at the conclusion of the album.
As a small preview of what to expect from the soundtrack, here are my two favourite musical moments from the game, the first of which is all instrumental, the second being my favourite song from this release:

Rating: 7.8

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