Outlaws – “Outlaws” (Clint Bajakian)February 17, 2010
Outlaws is one of four albums NaturalChemical from Slightly Dark just distributed a in FLAC. These are all VERY rare and obscure, though admittedly that’s kind of hard to say about this Lucasarts classic. I must say I’m a sucker for spaghetti western music (and hey, who isn’t?) and so Clint Bajakian’s take on the genre for the cult classic Outlaws is an amazing treat to hear in full lossless audio! Remember though: this is in FLAC so you can’t run it in iTunes – do yourself a favor and grab Winamp, Foobar, or Cog! Thanks a bunch, NaturalChemical!
This is the main theme from Outlaws, a western-themed FPS released in 1997. The first thing you’ll notice is that the instruments here are simply incredible. Outlaws was composed using a live orchestra, which was very rare back in those days (Arc the Lad, claimed to be the first RPG to use an orchestra, came out only in 1995). Coupled with a digital recording, the quality of this soundtrack will last forever because of those instruments.
And boy is this album amazing! It’s got a nice guitar opening with a strong main melody that will get repeated several times in the soundtrack. At 0:35 you have the addition of the traditional spaghetti western whistling, which sounds absolutely fantastic when coupled with the rock guitar and drums. At 0:55 we have the expected trumpets and choral support which transitions into a clarinet solo at 1:12. There is a wonderful break at 2:08 with a harp punctuated by rich guitar echoes – this part just sounds really cool. Then we have the dramatic build to the end at 2:49 with tambourine and a revisit to the main theme. And you know, this is just the first song in the album!
The entire soundtrack has beautiful development and build, with a very rich texture and unique use of instruments (in some places it sounds as if he’s channeling Berlioz and post-modern composers). I mean just look at all the instruments used here: steel guitar, strings, drums, choral, trumpets, clarinet, harp, tambourine – and these are just the ones I can recognize!
What’s more, each song in the album is unique – they may share a lot of the same instruments, but no piece feels generic or like old terrain, which can happen a few times in game soundtracks – or any soundtrack, for that matter! In fact, this album was so breathtaking, I sat and listened to the whole 48 minutes nonstop, without doing anything else – a rarity. It’s that good and really makes me want to play the game, too (from the screens on the back of the box, it’s got some fantastic cel shaded cutscenes, too!).
Which makes it a damn shame that both soundtrack and the game are very rare – the game itself goes for $80-$150 on Amazon! John Romero even listed it as one of his favorite games of all time, but the fact that Lucasarts has not reprinted it or made it available on Steam is just a shame (though judging by the Wikipedia article, this may be because it’s very buggy in later versions of Windows).
As for the composer, Clint Bajakian is one of THE top US composers, having composed over fifty soundtrack, including Grim Fandango, The Curse of Monkey Island, and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves in his almost 20 years with the industry. Sadly, few of his soundtracks seem to have made it to album. He is now head of the Game Audio Network Guild (GANG – check out their awards ceremony if you ever attend the GDC!)
If there is any downside to Outlaws, I think that its soundtrack simply references Ennio Morricone too strongly – I have such a longing to hear “Ecstasy of Gold” and the rest of The Good the Bad and the Ugly (or Once upon a Time in the West, for that matter) that it kind of softens this amazing work Bajakian produced. While there’s no better source to borrow from than Morricone, he also just can’t be beat, even with the low-fi recordings of the original. I feel that with a few more memorable tracks like “Outlaws”, the album would have really stood out more than it does already.