First Blood - Complete Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Soundtrack Review

by Chris McEneany
Movies & TV Review


First Blood - Complete Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Soundtrack Review

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To help celebrate soundtrack-supremo Intrada’s 25th Anniversary – 25 years of pursuing cherished film scores, negotiating complex licensing rights, stringently producing the best they can from the original sources, and forging much appreciated relationships with composers, themselves, to ensure that we, the die-hard fans, can enjoy both classic, and less well-known soundtracks in their most complete form – it is an honour to now provide in-depth coverage of one of the label’s flagship releases … a pivotal score that helped them make an impact and garner themselves the kudos and entrepreneurial skills to become the leading light in a highly specialised, but incredibly devoted field. So, take a deep breath, sharpen your knife and tie that bandanna around your head because “that Rambo guy … he’s on the loose again” and we’re about to go on the run with him as we enjoy the complete score from Jerry Goldsmith to Sylvester Stallone’s First Blood (1982).

I have already written at length about the original “album” presentation of the score (see separate review), and that release is, thankfully, included here as a second disc, enabling for us to study again how the composer re-arranged, rethought and reconfigured his score into a “more listenable” concert experience, something that Goldsmith and many other composers frequently did during the 70’s and early 80’s, thereby making such works desirable for the very hands-on care and attention that went into their deliberate construction as bonafide variations-on-a-them, as it were.

It’s a long road … when you’re on your own

And it hurts when they tear your dreams apart.”

Returning, finally, to the original ½ inch three-track stereo elements that had only recently come to light in London, Intrada are, at long last, able to bring us the full score, as written by Goldsmith, in chronological order and properly encoded – unlike the original album presentation from the label and, later, from Varese Sarabande (who used that same CD as their master), which weren’t, due to the incorrect Dolby noise reduction of the ¼ inch masters. The original edits, complete with full intros, fade-outs and note sustains and all in film-order is only available now for the first time. The score was integral to the success of Intrada and one of the stepping stones that took them to greater glories, so you can appreciate how much of a labour of love this release is to them, and such a treasure of powerhouse film music to us.

The score for First Blood is not as big or as knowingly elaborate as either of the two more exotically dynamic sequels that Goldsmith fashioned. It feels smaller, more raw and jolting which, in the grand scheme of Rambo's trajectory, is only fitting. This is back home, and the enemy are his own people. This is a fight that shouldn't be happening. Goldsmith's music for First Blood reflects the anger and the fear, the guilt and the reflection of a confrontation that between two men who should both know better and about attitudes that have been created and honed over time until the humanity and understanding that they once shared has been either eroded or simply masked-over with war-paint. Thus, the dichotomy of Rambo, the series, is borne-out in the music – warrior and victim at once. Goldsmith had composed for outdoor adventures before – Planet Of The Apes, Capricorn One, The Wind And The Lion - and he would go on to explore the realms of such physically and emotionally draining yarns again in The Edge (a particularly incredible score, this one), The River Wild, The Ghost And The Darkness and The 13th Warrior, but it is still First Blood that feels the most primal and insistent.

This presentation commences with one of Goldsmith’s variations on the main theme. Here, in Track 1, we encounter the famous “It’s A Long Road” theme but in a guise never heard until now with this release. Dubbed the Pop Orchestra Version, you can’t help thinking that this curiously flavoured take just shouldn’t work … but, believe me, it does. A languid soft rock beat picks up, gentle guitar, together with piano and tepid drums in harmony to a very middle-of-the-road vibe, and then the orchestral main theme begins, and the end result sounds unexpectedly glorious. I have to say that I was a little reminded of James Last and his orchestra – not in the musical eloquence of what we hear (because it sounds terrific), but in the actual concept and arrangement. Having said this, if I was suddenly transported back in time to when Last had his TV show, and he and his players came up with this out of the blue, I would have been ecstatic.

And every new town just seems to bring you down

Trying to find peace of mind can break your heart.”

The score then opens up with the main theme, It's A Long Road, in slowly moving and gently earnest orchestral sweep. The yearning for kinship that has kept Rambo on the move since his return from the War burns throughout this loving and tender, string-led rendition. The thing about this piece is that, with its whimsical and melancholy John Barry sound, it actually makes us wish that poor John Rambo never transformed into the indomitable one-man-army that we came to know and love. There is such beauty and lyricism here that you can literally feel the tragedy in the air that this surprisingly humble guy embodies as he desperately seeks to find the last of his buddies from ‘Nam. This is the only time that we will hear and clearly discern any of that quintessential old Americana from Goldsmith to delineate the inner character of Rambo back in the home country. It speaks of a fragile and broken man who, for one shining, but forlorn moment, has the chance of friendship and reconciliation with this past. You hear this track now and its poignancy is tenfold. A warm, prairie-drifting tranquillity settles over the track, but Goldsmith is able to alter this tone very gently into one that lingers, with a final sustained note, in dejected agony. Both film and score, at this point, are at pains to establish John Rambo as, essentially, a kind-hearted and a quiet man. As much as we can’t wait for the action to begin, it is testament to Stallone’s performance and to Goldsmith’s eloquent writing that we sort of wish things had panned out differently for the big guy.

After learning that his last friend from the service has died, Rambo takes a sombre walk into the town to the accompaniment of Goldsmith's mournful military cadence, making its first appearance in what will become a fixed element of the scoring of the initial three films in the series, all of which were scored by Goldsmith, in Track 3, My Town. A duo of trumpets herald the noble sacrifice of that the warrior makes, not necessarily just John Rambo, but alluding to past glories and their dreadful price across the mists of time that all warriors have made, Goldsmith paying respect for the trials and traumas of armed conflict and even musically reminiscing over his own classic solemnity that he composed for his richly acclaimed score for Patton. The solo trumpet voice is also something that had appealed to him back in the sixties with his work for naval war film, In Harm's Way and the modern-day Western, Only The Brave (both scores reviewed separately). Whilst this motif will become synonymous with the haunted lulls between Rambo's more savage exploits, it acts here as the preliminary gatherer of our empathy for a heroic man about to be dishonoured and disgraced by the small-town bigotry embodied in his first encounter with his soon-to-be nemesis, Sheriff Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy), who attempts to hustle the stranger out of his jurisdiction.

It's a long road, and it's hard as hell

tell me what do you do … to survive?”

The brief Track 4, Under Arrest, (only 45 seconds long) is the crucial cue that brings in the now-classic 5/8 meter rhythmic action motif for Rambo. Teasle’s unfriendly advice has brought the veteran to the edge of town, and over the distinctive demarcation line of the bridge – as symbolic a border as you can get between the cosy world of “Jerkwater, USA” and the harrowed plight of John Rambo. Goldsmith’s music acts as the character’s affronted ego, a galvanising stick to prod the hero’s pride and goad him into making a stand. Rambo watches the police cruiser move off back towards a town that doesn’t, in truth, mean anything to him at all, and something snaps within him. He won’t be pushed anymore. This is where it stops. Wilfully and defiant, he strides back across the bridge, heading for the sleepy hick-town that doesn’t want him around. “You try to be nice to some people, eh, Teasle?”

Altercations and monosyllabic rebuttals from Rambo form the basis of his arrival and processing at the Sheriff’s Office. “Leave the ink on the hand,“ orders Ward (Chris Mulkey), exasperated at the vagrant’s belligerence towards getting finger-printed. Rambo makes immediate enemies of almost all the cops in attendance, but especially of the brutish Galt (Jack Starret), who is clearly just a bully with a badge. But even if Rambo is placid enough when it comes to the various indignations and official threats that Teasle and his deputies issue, it is a very different story when Ward attempts to shave him to make him decent for his impending court appearance. Restrained by Galt, the clearly anxious prisoner shrinks in fear from the blade being brandished at him, and in The Razor, suffers a terrible flashback to his time spent as a tortured captive in Vietnam. Goldsmith ramps up the tension with scalpel strings that slice away the civilian veneer and expose the battle-hardened beast that Special Forces turned him into. To the sound of hissing steam and something like a dentist’s drill cutting through bloodied gums, Rambo's mind snaps and the former Green Beret goes on the offensive. The music – jabbing chords, bleating, jaw-rattling brass, all manner of aggressively struck percussion – comes on in a relentless assault that doesn't let up for a second.

“Get him off me!!!! Get him offa me!!” grimaces Galt as Rambo smacks his skull against the cell-block bars, his fingers seeking the cop’s eyeballs and crushing his face. Ward attempts to haul him off, but Rambo flips him over and rams a fist into his kidneys. Goldsmith mimics the on-screen violence, his blistering salvo of staccato fury punctuated with various grunts of pain and shock from those on the receiving end of Rambo's vengeance. The piano bangs out harsh fist-like chords. Drums pummel away in the background like rolling thunder, the repeated cymbal clashes sizzling like broken glass and splintered teeth. “What the hell is …?” OOF! comes the poor feller’s own reply as Rambo thuds a boot into his groin and pitches him through a window. Another cop takes a backward dive out of the upstairs window. Rambo retrieves his fabled knife and, after cracking his elbow into a defenceless nose, breaks out of the joint and makes off into the street. With the excellent clarity of this recording, you can now really hear the various shakers and percussion rattling, and the fierce battering of the drums. His bid for freedom accompanied by a swiftly commandeered motorcycle (that even gets a gunning and Goldsmith’s strenuously exultant flurry of the main theme, acting now as a shrill fanfare, Rambo tears off down the road, Galt’s hasty rifle-shot nudged aside by a bystander-savvy Teasle. This has been the first action cue in Rambo’s long and illustrious career … and it has been a classic. Goldsmith is still amongst a very select few who can compose action cues as though he is directing little note-shaped characters across his manuscript, so adept is he at matching mood, movement, pace and motivation with the onscreen momentum.

When they draw first blood, that's just the start of it.

Day and night you've got to fight to keep alive.”

The immediate chase continues with Rambo, having ditched the motorcycle and now heading uphill into the woods on foot, coming across a deserted workman's yard. With tarpaulin, oily string and the mindset of someone “who can ignore pain … and weather … who can live off the land … and eat things that'd make a billy-goat puke” he embarks on his game of cat-and-mouse with the posse coming after him. With his Head Start (Track 6), Goldsmith hits the 5/8 meter with solid verve and some use of electronics to add some impulsive energy. But listen out for the delightful section in which he supplies a marvellously eerie little phrase of wavering higher strings over a steady pulse of lower agitation plucked from the bass as we, and Rambo, realise the mess that he has gotten himself into. This spell of indecision and trepidation is then rewarded as Rambo realises that this is exactly what he wants. This is his game now. And he can't lose. Goldsmith hurries the fugitive into the woods, spurring him with the urgency of the 5/8 motif in full flight. This heart-racing theme is carried over into the next track, Hanging On, as Rambo, harried by the sound of police search dogs and the shouting of the posse, discovers that he has run out of forest when he comes to the edge of a cliff. A sharp 5-note shock-wave from brass emphasises the height of the precipice. It's a tall order, but our boy can do it. He has no choice really, and together, Rambo and Jerry Goldsmith go over the side of the veritable abyss. A steady, driving rhythm commences as Rambo eases himself down the rock-face. The theme, itself, rises as he gets further down, ratcheting up the suspense as we discover that Galt, his eyes blacked-out and swollen, has hitched a ride in a helicopter and now has Rambo in his sights. Terrific long notes from the trombone add emphasis to the danger of his predicament, as the chopper begins to move in closer.

Against orders, Galt begins to fire at Rambo, who is stricken against the side of the cliff like a spider. “If you don't fly this thing right … I swear to God, I'm gonna kill you!” warns the deputy as his pilot gets cold feet in the therma-draught. He gets his prey in his cross-hairs. “Easy … he's mine ...” But Rambo gets the drop first, literally peeling himself off the wall of bullet-blasted rock and making that heartstopping free-fall down into the trees. Goldsmith takes the plunge as well in Track 8, Over The Cliff. See-sawing strings carve their way through the descent, icy and skin-prickling. They are met head-on by a barrier of unyielding brass as Rambo's fall is broken by the high tree canopy, his body bounced from bough to bough, until one severely unforgiving branch almost tears the fugitive in two. In agony, Rambo has to break himself away from the spikes of branches that have ensnared him, Goldsmith's disturbing brass almost mocking his plight until he drops, bloodied, to the ground. The cue doesn't give him a chance to breathe, though, as the helicopter lowers into the valley and Galt recommences with his target practice. Strings, piano and then drums and sparring trumpets and horns flare as Rambo swiftly picks up a rock and hurls it at the chopper, cracking its windshield and forcing the pilot to bank away … tipping Galt out of the open door in the process. As the deputy plummets ungainly to the eager rocks below, Goldsmith re-uses a portion of the same falling motif that we heard for Rambo a moment earlier, poetically linking the two adversaries in-extremis. Galt's drop doesn't end quite so well, however. It is something of a shame that his burly scream as he meets his maker is not recorded in the score, too. And nor do we get that fantastically sick splat as his bashed noggin falls back onto the blood-spattered rocks when Rambo roughly lets go of him after seriously eye-balling his corpse and taking his equipment.

It's a real war … right outside your front door

I'll tell ya … out where they'll kill ya.”

Horns and woodwinds waft uneasily before the strings as Rambo indulges in a spot of DIY surgery on his gashed arm in A Stitch In Time, Track 9. The brief passage then takes on a more ominous tone for edgy, muted brass and trailing woodwinds as Will Teasle and his men spy the body of Galt from high up on the cliff top. News comes over the radio, telling them exactly who they are up against, and whilst this certainly bothers some of the already injured posse, Teasle vows that he is going to pin Rambo's Congressional Medal Of Honor “to his liver” when he catches up with him.

And so begins one of Goldsmith's most impressive set-pieces in this or any score, with Track 10's awesome Mountain Hunt. Taking place in a lightning-split forest, Rambo's search-and-destroy campaign against Teasle's patrol becomes a savage Ten Little Indians routine as the highly trained commando takes them out, one by one, using stealth, booby-traps and brute force. Goldsmith creates a mood of high suspense, cleverly making us just as afraid of Rambo as the men hunting him. “Huntin' him? He's huntin' us!” Orchestral innovation and some vague, but unsettling electronic flurries and trills provide mimics of the natural sounds of the forest, gradually building into each successive “hit” that Rambo makes, effectively forming a pattern of musical stingers that loudly stab through the track to catch the unwary listener by as much surprise as Teasle's hopelessly outwitted deputies as they are successively ambushed. Listen out for the frightening and almost medieval string-play that reminds of Morricone's skittering violins for The Thing and similarly bowel-loosening work from Joseph Loduca for The Evil Dead. Once more, the clarity of this recording brings an extraordinary vividness to things such as the little wood-blocks, the glacial fluttering of the violins. Two-note sustains from woodwinds mark time until massive barrages of brass and percussion blast out of nowhere to incapacitate us, the tables well and truly turned as to who is stalking who. Goldsmith would develop this track for Part II, in which Rambo decimates the Russian soldiers in much the same way, but he would add a fantastic tick-tocking element for piano and strings that provide a much warmer sound, reflecting the relocation from the wilds of North America to the jungles of Vietnam.

With No Truce and First Blood (Tracks 11 and 12), the film and the score settle down for a spell as Goldsmith enhances the tragedy and bitterness of Rambo's plight. The softer, mournful theme for battles-past and former glories serenades the beleaguered soldier, now holed-up in a disused mine and feasting on a wild pig that he has caught and cooked. Although his posse has been hospitalised and Teasle, himself, is injured, the Sheriff has brought in the State Police, the National Guard and the media to saturate the mountains and aid with the man-hunt. But, of course, someone else has arrived too – one Colonel Samuel Trautman (Richard Crenna), the guy who recruited Rambo, trained him, commanded him and got knee-deep in “all that blood 'n' guts” beside him in Vietnam for two years. Now, perhaps surprisingly, Trautman, who would appear in greater roles in both the next two instalments, does not actually gain a theme of his own. He sort of shuffles his way into the military lament at the core of John Rambo more by-association than by anything Goldsmith personalises for him, and this only compounds our understanding that he is one of the “good guys”. A long section in Track 12 for a morose and wistful rendition of the trumpet wail plays as Rambo breaks radio silence to talk with his former commander, informing him that he is now the last of his team … and that all he wanted something to eat until Teasle put the boot in. Trautman knows that he can't bring “his boy” back in and, secretly, he is more than proud of how one man has run rings around the authorities. The sombre mood of painful reflection is broken when Rambo signs off and Teasle reveals that even if he is from a “small hick-town sheriff's department” he was still able to get a good fix on the hidden location of this “hero” from Special Forces. Goldsmith adds a worrying line to the track as Teasle gloats about how many men he is going to put on that ridge come first light.

The track then moves back into action-mode as the film cuts to the sight of squads of the National Guard progressing along both sides of a rushing river. Rolling drums and snares pound away in a stark and aggressive martial rhythm as they all pass by … and then Rambo suddenly appears from his incredible hiding-place beneath the cold water, the 5/8 meter returning with added speed for the piano as he attempts to cut back past their line of skirmish. It all goes wrong, however, when he suddenly happens upon some civilian hunters who give his position away and draw back the Guardsmen. Strings surge and percussion hammers, a xylophone clatters and Rambo is forced to escape and evade all the way back to his mineshaft, the last place I which he wants to be cornered by these weekend warriors. Brass and string flourishes keep the nerves on fire. Horns and trumpets provide cover for him, rising to an on-the-hoof fanfare as the main theme attempts to make itself heard amidst the pell-mell flight.

You could use a friend where the road ends

That's the place for me, where I'm me

In my own space, where I'm free.

That's the place I want to be.”

After Lt. Clinton Morgan (hardware store owner and useless part-time soldier) orders the mine entrance blown-up with a bazooka, and Teasle and Trautman survey the damage ruefully above ground, Rambo struggles onward through the maze of rat-infested shafts down below in The Tunnel. This section, Track 13, incorporates some wonderful chaos to it for jolting later section – the sort of wailing, unpredictable and nerve-shredding qualities of disquiet and unusually orchestrated clamour that made his score for Alien so downright eerie and frightening during its more ferocious moments. For the most part, however, this lengthy cue maintains the 5/8 rhythm in much slower, more deliberate form as Rambo wades through waist-deep sludge, determined to find a way out. Brass swells and gradually climbing strings whisper in our ear that things aren't going to be that easy. And when rats attempt to make a meal out of him, and Rambo plunges into a pit in his desperate bid to escape them, Goldsmith unleashes the orchestral demonics. Top-side, with hopeful hints from the woodwinds, Trautman senses that they've not seen the last of his boy just yet.

Track 15, Escape Route, shows Rambo the way out via a decrepit old hole in the ground. With the 5/8 meter, piano with some electronic support, helping to haul him back up into daylight, the Green Beret decides that he isn't running any more. He's going to take the fight directly back to the enemy. A brief section actually sounds like an earthbound variation on themes you would hear in one of his Star Trek scores, or even Total Recall, as Rambo first spies the way out of the mine. That splendid woodwind trill alerts him to the close proximity of the hunter forces, but it also instils a great sense of sneakiness about the fact that they all believe him to be dead. Leaping onto a passing truck and engaging its terrified driver in conversation - “Don't look at me. Look at the road. That's how accidents happen!” - Rambo ascertains what its precious and soon-to-be iconic cargo is. Goldsmith even seems to have a premonition about how inseparable the character and the bullet-spitting fury of the M60 machine-gun are going to be, supplying an irresistible high-pitched piping as a cartoon light-bulb winks on above his head at the thought of how much damage he can do with such firepower. The familiar racing rhythm reappears, now modified for higher strings and then the track ends with a glorious long note. These longer closing notes and bars, as well as some opening counterparts, are something that have never been heard on any release of this score before, and it is surprising just how much they add to the texture of the music, as a whole.

One of the score's most memorably bombastic moments comes next in Track 15, The Truck. Having commandeered the National Guard transport and booted PFC Cathcart (“Robert, A”) out of the cab, Rambo eludes his police pursuers and heads into town for a showdown that he couldn't back away from now, even if he wanted to. Poetically and mightily he guns the engine and roars across that same old bridge that marks the line between his world and Teasle's. Goldsmith's cue takes up the point as the policemen manning the roadblock sight their quarry steaming towards them. A repeated four note brass fusillade announces that trouble is a-coming. Excited strings entwine around them, the cue becoming a battering ram of leviathan proportions as Rambo increases his speed and bears down on the cowering cops. The strings and the brass spiral upwards in intensity until they climax in a euphoric statement of wanton destruction. Goldsmith would revisit this cue with even more of a rousing pay-off and a more dramatic bass build-up in First Blood Part II, in the scene when Rambo helps the POWs into the chopper and a crafty Russki Spetnatz gets to his feet and shoots an unarmed man in the back instead of taking out the muscle-bound uber-warrior wielding an M60, and our hero then mows him down with an epic belch of lead. Here, as the big truck blitzes straight through and over the roadblock, Goldsmith uses the fanfare almost as a Rocky-esque roar of jubilation and victory. If you're not on your feet and cheering at this stage … you'd best call a doctor.

The road is long, yeah – each step is only the beginning.

No breaks, just heartaches … oh man is anybody winning?”

The town quivers in fear during Track 16, No Power/Night Attack, as Rambo ignites the gas station and tears the whole place up with the M60. He blows up the local gun-shop, setting ammunition off like popcorn from Hell. Well-aimed bullets destroy the power supply and Teasle's domain falls into darkness. Goldsmith keeps the action going with a relentless series of motifs, backed all the time by that insistent rhythm. He makes the situation play out like a mission-in-progress, Rambo's deeds musically painted like some covert operation behind enemy lines. Brass, strings and woodwinds continually pepper the proceedings with jangling, instinctual phrases that repeat and build, repeat and build. Drums and snares remind us of the skilled precision of this guy as he stakes a claim on the town that disowned him. It is hard to sit still through a track like this … as it is with the majority of this score, in fact. Goldsmith was superb at tapping into the motor reflexes with his consistently exciting compositions and such eager rhythms. You genuinely feel propelled and urged into the fray, yourself.

In Hide And Seek, Rambo has realised that Teasle is lying in-wait for him on the roof of the police station. With absolute wrath, he systematically destroys the place with the M60 and distracts the rooftop assassin until he can gain entrance to the place. It is a nervous 5/8 introduction that, of course, leads you to expect a furious finale of yet more action – which, sadly, does not come. In the film, Rambo out-manoeuvres Teasle and pumps him full of lead, yet stops short of finishing him off with the timely intervention of Trautman. The story then leaves our hero at the mercy of a heartbreaking emotional collapse. David Morrell's original novel, Rambo was killed. But Kotcheff and Stallone see it differently, and Rambo survives and is arrested in one of the bleakest and most moving climaxes that the action genre ever had the guts to produce. This scenario leaves no further avenue for Goldsmith's tremendous music to continue. The album version over on Disc 2 addresses this and, with its composer's rearrangement, sees to it that we are taken out with a furious variation of Over The Cliff.

Therefore, CD 1 bows out as the film does, but with a little bit of a twist. As Rambo is escorted from the Sheriff's Office, Trautman by his side, the two trumpets wail out the military lament, now hailing the fallen from a new conflict, one that was fought on home ground. Rambo passes the badly wounded Teasle and pays him a cursory stare of justified malcontent. Technically speaking, he slipped up again, didn't he, Colonel? This haunting lament then segues directly into an instrumental version of It's A Long Road, which was one of the possible ways that Kotcheff was going to close the film. The vocal version, sung by Dan Hill, comes next in the final track. Personally, I think that both versions play just fine, but with history having marked out the vocal version as the one that we all know, there is a certain fondness that creeps back in when we hear those dejected and melancholy lyrics from Hal Shaper. A ballad at the end of a Stallone movie is also something of a trademark – at least it was back then – so the vocal alternative is perfectly apt. Plus, in a weird sort of way, the half-fragmentary lyrics come to fit Rambo's ever-roving, sullen and neglected disposition. They don't spell out the problem, they tease at it with a heartfelt combination of plea and simmering resentment – which is precisely the attitude that Rambo has.

As I have said already, I have covered Goldsmith's and Intrada's original album release previously, but it is worth mentioning how the differences can actually improve the listening experience in some respects. For instance, in Track 7 on CD2, Mountain Hunt, the composer brilliantly combines the momentous brass fanfare of The Truck, which we hear at the start of the track, with the driving martial beat for the National Guardsmen as they comb the riverbanks coming next, and then diving into the spooky posse-take-down sequence. Goldsmith often had such “concert compositions” in mind even at the writing stage, which explains how well some of these occasionally unlikely sounding cue combinations actually sound together. Intrada have remastered and properly encoded this album presentation so that it matches the impressive quality of the first disc, you'll be pleased to note. The last three tracks on CD 2 are great little bonuses that offer the icing on this already resplendent cake. Track 12 gives us a recording session take of It's A Long Road for a piano/vocal demo. Now despite the various tracks across this double-disc platter bearing the same title, this piece is the most immediately unusual. Playing like a gentle end-of-the-night crooning at the piano-bar, this soft, sensitive demo sounds almost improvised. I'm a die-hard fan, though, and I love it. Kudos to Douglass Fake and Roger Feigelson from Intrada for securing this terrific little extra.

And Track 13 quite brilliantly allows us to hear the famous Carolco Logo theme that Jerry Goldsmith composed and which craftily utilised part of Rambo's theme. This glorious little phrase became a much-loved statement of intent at the beginning of some awesome action/adventure movies such as Extreme Prejudice (full score by Mr. Jerry G, as well) and Lock-Up and Red Heat.

But perhaps the best of the lot is the final track, Rambo, which is actually the Special Summer 1984 Trailer music that Goldsmith composed before the first sequel was even fully under way. This takes motifs from First Blood and gives them a more powerful, more assured and swaggering posture that we can clearly hear is the beginning of how his themes will evolve for Rambo: First Blood Part II. There's a hint of the exotic Vietnam setting, and that polished, well-produced gleam that would denote Goldsmith's electronic-infused work from the mid-80's onwards.

And, finally, the release comes with detailed 16-page illustrated analysis about how Intrada, themselves, came about and how this score played such a profound part in their development. In short, this is an excellent release and its unlimited nature means that there is no excuse to miss out on it. First Blood gets my highest recommendation.

Full Track Listing

CD1 The Complete Original Soundtrack

  1. Theme from First Blood (Pop Orchestra Version) 4.07

  2. Home Coming 2.21

  3. My Town 0.29

  4. Under Arrest 0.45

  5. The Razor 2.37

  6. A Head Start 1.03

  7. Hanging On 2.02

  8. Over The Cliff 1.26

  9. A Stitch In Time 0.57

  10. Mountain Hunt 4.52

  11. No True 0.39

  12. First Blood 4.45

  13. The Tunnel 3.25

  14. Escape Route 2.36

  15. The Truck 1.00

  16. No Power/Night Attack 2.50

  17. Hide And Seek 0.57

  18. It's A Long Road (Instrumental) 3.22

  19. It's A Long Road (Theme from First Blood) Vocal: Dan Hill 3.19

CD1 Total Time 45.14

CD2 Original 1982 Soundtrack Album

  1. It's A Long Road (vocal: Dan Hill) 3.19

  2. Escape Route 2.36

  3. First Blood 4.35

  4. The Tunnel 4.00

  5. Hanging On 3.26

  6. Home Coming 2.20

  7. Mountain Hunt 6.01

  8. My Town 1.55

  9. The Razor 3.05

  10. Over The Cliff 2.05

  11. It's A Long Road (Instrumental) 2.51

Total Original Album Time 37.00

The Extras

    1. It's A Long Road (Recording Session Piano/Vocal Demo) 3.18

    2. Carolco Logo 0.19

    3. Rambo (Special Summer 1984 Trailer) 1.15

      Total Extras Time 4.57

CD2 Total Time 42.05

One of the most beloved of action scores and a massive influence on such hyper-kinetic yet emotionally charged material ever since. Goldsmith would explore and evolve his themes over the course of two more Rambo movies (Brian Tyler composed the fourth instalment, though he couldn't avoid paying homage to the master), but the raw guts of the character’s musical voice came into being with this incredible work of stirring adventure, moving pyschological complexity and haunting militarism. Rambo was given life by Stallone, but Goldsmith provided the impetus to get the blood pumping around his granite-hewn body. This pumping powerhouse score is the template for modern outdoors adventure music. It moves in-synch with the violence and with the rugged atmosphere of the environment, and yet it creates such iconic themes that it is hard to imagine the genre ever properly existed before Jerry Goldsmith wrote them.

With considerably improved sound quality that really provides pristine instrumental clarity, a detailed history of the score in a finely illustrated booklet, and bolstered by Intrada’s proud involvement in the score's continual popularity, this luxurious 2-disc release of First Blood is a fan’s dream come true. Rambo stands defiant on the cover-art, and this muscular and adrenalised score tells his story with passion, vigour and depth. Without Goldsmith's haunting lament-infused main theme, the character would not be half as sympathetic. Without his brawny energetic action cues, Rambo would have given up the chase and, like Col. Trautman once advised, Teasle could have picked him up “working at a gas station … there'd be no fight and no-one would get hurt.” So, Jerry, it's all your fault that Stallone and Rambo came to own the genre with one of the biggest bodycounts since World War II. With the label having already released a fantastic complete score for Rambo III, we just need them to unleash the mighty second instalment in all its glory and with improved sound. But, for now, there is enough musical testosterone here to keep Jerkwater, USA, in need of “a good supply of bodybags!”

Thankfully, Intrada's magnificent release is not limited and fans should have no problem picking up a copy from them ... which I urge them all to do.

Happy Birthday, Intrada … you drew First Blood with this one, and now it has come home.






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