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This rootin'-tootin' salute to Westerns on TV and movie screens was the most popular demonstration disc at the 1987 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas -- and it's easy to hear why. Before you can say Hopalong Cassidy, the disc opens with the stunningly-reproduced stereophonic hooting of horses on the range, followed of course by a leisurely trot through the "Hi -O-Silver" section of Rossini's "William Tell Overture." Excerpts from Elmer Bernstein's score for The Magnificent Seven -- which contains probably his most memorable theme, along with a Copland pastiche -- are given a spectacular arrangement by Christopher Palmer. The usual big-time Hollywood composers of the past, Alfred Newman ("How the West Was Won"), Dimitri Tiomkin ("Gunfight at the OK Corral," "High Noon"), Franz Waxman ("The Furies") and Jerome Moross ("Big Country") show up -- and collectively they prove that Westerns invariably brought out the best in their craft. A Palmer Boston Pops-style medley of TV themes with gunfire punctuation turns up, as does a taste of the genuine article, Richard Hayman's "Pops Hoedown" -- complete with whoops from some hired hands on the recording stage. Why, even Frankie Laine, then 73, was lassoed out of semi-retirement in order to authentically resurrect "OK Corral," "Rawhide" and his big hit "High Noon." Laine sounds pretty good, hamming it up in "Rawhide" and delivering "High Noon" in clipped phrases. The weight of Kunzel's Cincinnati Pops enhances the stature of this music to no end -- and Telarc's pickup of the sound is as broad as a big screen and deep as a desert canyon. This is one of the best of Erich Kunzel's many discs, and it sounds as if he and the Pops are having a ball recording it. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi

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