Bill Elm & Woody Jackson’s score to Red Dead Redemption can be labeled as if Ennio Morricone’s music had a baby with Nick Cave & Warren Ellis’ music and it was raised by Quentin Tarantino. It’s terrific even if a bit repetitive. I think a lot of Red Dead fans were wondering initially how the score would be handled.
The two musicians were picked by Rockstar mainly due to their style. They were part of a band called Friends Of Dean Martinez, which was a group that was essentially a Southwestern alternative rock band. They played instrumental pieces that pretty much all sounded like Morricone homages. Red Dead Revolver for the PS2 was source tracked by tons of classic western scores from Ennio Morricone, Luis Bacalov, Bruno Nicolai, Gianfranco Reverberi and many more. It all became an iconic interweaving that formed a unified sonic identity to the spaghetti western game. In short it made the game damn amazing. However, I can't imagine it was cheap using all that music.
So, when Rockstar took the game into their “free roam” style and went with an original score I think I was not alone in being curious as to what it would be. The good news is that the score is a full fledged Morricone mock-up. The use of trumpets and synths give it a fresh edge, but it’s such a befitting score. The only quarrel I have with it is that it’s very repetitive. The main theme is great and a few of the action cues are amazing, but overall what we have here can be labeled as non structured loops. Something that you can’t really blame on the composers considering this is a “free roam” game and the cutscenes are incredibly short when they do happen. “(Theme From) Red Dead Redemption” is quite fantastic and there are a few other stand out tracks.
The important part is that amongst all the Morricone homages the score still has its own identity. You could hear a snippet of this music and immediately think “Red Dead Redemption”, and that’s thanks to the impressive use of brass instruments.
Part of the game takes place in Mexico and the music picks up a Mexican feel to it when you head south of the border. Unfortunately that’s not really represented on this release.
Am I happy with this score for this amazing game? Absolutely. It’s a terrific accompaniment, but it could have used a little more muscle and could have been less repetitive. Just look at how bold Morricone was with his scores.