Were that James Horner had composed more western scores. While his final compositions were for the 2016 Antoine Fuqua remake of The Magnificent Seven, and he was well-versed in action films, there aren't any scores in Horner's lengthy oeuvre, which otherwsie fit the western bill.
That is, however, except his score for 1998's The Mask of Zorro. While the film is fine, with only a few sword fights and some decent horse chaces to recommend it instead of simply watching the Errol Flynn version of Robin Hood, Horner's score is vibrant throughout. Given that the composer did so very many action scores throughout his career, such as Aliens, Commando, and Avatar, it's wonderful to hear The Mask of Zorro's music, which steps away from the pure bombast of that work.
The appeal of of Horner's score for The Mask of Zorro is the exceptional usage of acoustic guitar to evoke a certain Mariachi feel throughout the whole thing - beginning right away with The Plaza of Execution and carrying on throughout. That piece also introduces all the other hallmarks of Horner's score, including rhythmic touches such as castanets and the use of actual flamenco dancers' stomps and claps.
The most exciting piece is The Ride, which sees Horner's more traditional orchestral work pair perfectly with the flamenco and Mariachi elements to create an exciting exercise which is arguably more iconic to the film than its actual theme. It's astonishingly vibrant, and listening to it, one feels as if they're riding right alongside Antonio Banderas.
The end credits duet, I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You by Latin vocalist Marc Anthony and Australian singer Tina Arena, did fairly well on the European charts, but it's a song very much of its time, and the overwrought ballad is in better company alongside the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears than in an action film.
The twentieth anniversary vinyl edition of The Mask of Zorro, from Music on Vinyl, is pressed as a double LP, limited to an edition of 750 copies. It marks the debut of Horner's score on wax, and sounds amazing. Sadly, due to the composer's passing in 2016, there are no notes from Horner or commentary within the gatefold jacket. There are some nice film stills and production credits, however.
THE MASK OF ZORRO (1998) / COMPOSER: JAMES HORNER / LABEL: MUSIC ON VINYL/AT THE MOVIES / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW