This album was always going to be a winner for me as it merges some things I love, namely, cowboy songs and cowboy movies.
Tex (1905 -1973) was one of the great exponents of the Hollywood cowboy song. If anyone was qualified to sing it he was. He was born in Texas, and was a Hollywood B-western cowboy star for a while in the 1930s and 1940s.
His bio makes for interesting reading for those with more than a passing interest in the western films of Hollywood (see Bio links below).
He also had a substantial career as a country music hit maker. He touched on western swing and straight country but it his cowboy songs and ballads which he is most known for.
Cowboy ballads lend themselves to a bit of "Hollywood" and the genre is inexorably tied up with and most popularised by Hollywood westerns.
Allmusic has as good a definition as you could wish for: "Cowboy Music was originally handed down from the genuine Old West articles, its repertoire consisting of songs sung on the open range to pass the time on cattle drives. This tradition continued to inform country & western music long after its attendant lifestyle had all but disappeared, since romanticized cowboy mythology still held a fascination for many. That fascination resulted in the production of innumerable Western and cowboy films, and with those films came a revival of interest in cowboy music. Actually, it wasn't so much a revival as a hunger for more mythology — singer/actors like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry relied far more on new compositions which evoked similar themes of cowboy life. The performances and production of cowboy songs depend largely on the context — while movie songs were usually recorded with modern soundtrack-style orchestras, old-time groups like the Sons of the Pioneers relied on traditional, unadorned acoustic instruments".
Tex's songs / versions are not usually the lonesome cowboy ballads of "The Sons of the Pioneers" or others (well not from what I have heard thus far – I haven't heard much of his 30s or 40s work though). They have been tarted up a little and made more "Hollywood" but they are still evocative of time and place and usually have a narrative and moral point that sucks you in.
Tex's voice is straight ahead and not as expressive as that of Bob Nolan, Gene Autry or Roy Rodgers but he has the requisite amount of drama the songs require (no doubt something left over from his Hollywood acting days) and his voice is commanding. He is like a country version of Burl Ives.
If you accept the observations above then you will enjoy Tex .. especially after a few beers.
This is Tex's first album after a long career of 78s and singles.
This is a collection of film theme songs.
Some of these songs were recorded for the films by Tex though I suspect the versions here are not the film versions but specifically re-recorded here. But then again there are different orchestras and conductors listed so who knows. You can google if you feel compelled.
If you have seen the film then the versions only help to relive the film in your minds eye but even without having seen the film the songs are pretty "filmic".
If you havent seen at least half the films below ... then shame on you.
Tracks (best in italics)
- The Bandit – Carr, Do Nascimento, Turner – from the 1953 Brazilian 1953 "O'Cangaceiro" ("cangaceiros" were poor peasants who roamed the north-eastern deserts of Brazil in the first decades of the 20th Century) which is a Brazilian western inspired by American westerns. I have never seen it but have always wanted to … if anyone has a copy … the song fits in perfectly with the other cowboy songs.
- Wichita – Salter, Washington – from the 1955 film "Wichita" beautifully directed by Jacques Tourneur and starring Joel McCrea. This is a Tex film theme original, and co-writer Ned Washington wrote just about every second film song. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ned_Washington
- I Leaned on a Man – Shanklin, Rosenman – from the 1957 film "The Big Land" starring Alan Ladd and Edmond O'Brien. The song has the feel of "Sixteen Tons" … and much like that song it is quite downbeat.
- Brave Man – Evans, Livingston – from the 1954 western musical film "Red Garters" starring Rosemary Clooney and Guy Mitchell. Bob Livingston was a founding member of the The Sons of the Pioneers. Evans and Livingston wrote many songs http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Livingston and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Evans. In feel not dissimilar from Ritter's High Noon … though with a familiar familial backing vocal chorus.
- The Searchers (Ride Away) – Jones – from the 1956 film "The Searchers" (possibly the greatest film ever made regardless of genre) … the theme was originally done by The Sons of the Pioneers and written by a friend of director John Ford. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stan_Jones_(songwriter) . Not as otherworldly as the "Sons" version but still quite powerful. The song clearly articulates the central figure in the film, the tortured Ethan Edwards.
- Last Frontier – Lee, Washington – from the 1955 film "The Last Frontier" by the masterful Anthony Mann and starring Victor Mature and Guy Madison. I think Rusty Draper did the film version – you google it.
- Remember the Alamo – Bowers – from the 1956 short "Down Liberty Road" which Tex appears in. I've not seen this film. A Tex film theme original – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remember_the_Alamo_(song). A story song which gives the orthodox view of the siege of the Alamo. Still stirring in its own way. Though for my money "Green Leaves of Summer" from John Wayne's 1960 film, The Alamo, is the best of the Alamo songs. "Remember the Alamo" has been memorably covered by Donovan, Johnny Cash and others though by favorite version is by cowpunk-ers and ex-Dills, "Cowboy Nation".
- High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me) – Tiomkin, Washington – from the good but overrated 1952 film "High Noon". This is Tex's theme song to the film and probably the most well known western film song. That and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" … which actually wasn't in the film. Tiomkin is a legend among film composers for his ballsy, memorable soundtracks, especially the westerns. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimitri_Tiomkin
- Marshall's Daughter – Jones, Murray- from the 1953 film "The Marshall's Daughter" which I haven't seen. I believe Tex does this theme song to the film. A lament by the father of a beautiful girl out west.
- Prairie Home – George, Smith – from the famous Disney documentary from 1954, "The Vanishing Prairie" – I haven't seen this film either. A fairly standard clip clopping cowboy song.
- Trooper Hook – Fried, Fielding – from the underrated 1957 film "Trooper Hook" starring Joel McCrea and Barbara Stanwyck– this is Tex's theme song to the film. Another song that narrates the films plotline. The song however emphasises the the stirring elements of the cavalryman, Trooper Hook, whereas the film is a low key study of racism and miscegenation.
I'm keeping this.
Note: "High Noon" in the film version was a #1 hit in1952.
I Leaned on a Man
Remember the Alamo
High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me)
- His son is John Ritter of "Three's Company" fame.
(originally posted: 19/09/2010)