Carlos Rafael Rivera

" Godless is fine musical story telling "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the download only release

I have recently discovered the series Godless on Netflix, even though it aired about 3 years ago. Damn Netflix for it and its never ending selection of titles. Anyway, the series is a must see, because you're encountering interesting character development, characters having stares that depict what they're thinking rather than saying, and its when visuals and music find each other on more than one occasion. The name responsible for this effect in the series is Carlos Rafael Rivera, and probably like many I discovered him through The Queen's Gambit 3 years later. But Godless was first in line (if I'm not counting A Walk Among the Tombstones) and its story is one that deserves to be heard as well.

Godless is apart from anything else a soundtrack that underscores the visuals so carefully, it's easy to revisit all those wonderful scenes by just listening to them here, and I can understand that people will have a harder time connecting to the music if they haven't seen the series yet. "Doubtful Canyon" with its Braveheart temptrack ("Battle of Sterling") is so much more potent in the series, "Thirty Horses" with its energy and urgency is telling it so much more explicit through the visuals and don't get me started on the power of "Where the Hell is LaBelle", when everything is told without any dialogue whatsoever during those amazing final minutes, right until the tolling of the bells that descent along the men going down the mine. Visually and musically Godless found Carlos Rafael Rivera, and he found the soul of all those characters in return. Like Roy who found the inner soul of Ghost, the horse he tries to break in "Roy Rides Ghost". Rivera crafts a battle of perseverance very delicately by hinting the main theme, but above all the theme for Alice (considering Alice is always looking at Roy when she's working on her ranch), until going back to that main theme when Ghost and Roy find each other in a ride through the country. Again it's in these moments that Godless becomes more than just a simple mini series.

And the music's just telling one powerful story after another. "Truckee" and his first of many lessons on becoming a man is another one of those amazing scenes where few words are spoken, but visuals tell it louder than words ever could. And Rivera's music is subdued but subtle in that coming of age moment. The same for the poetic tragedy of "A Tragedy in LaBelle", you just have to envision the main theme immediately after it to realize how potent the music is at such a subtle level. But the heart of any score is still the melody that shape characters. And like the music, they are subtle but powerful nonetheless. "Mary Agnes & Callie" is a bit too much to my liking linked to E.T. (you'll realize what I mean when you hear it), "Alice" has by far the best character theme (and opened "Breaking Horses" powerfully before it) and the LaBelle theme is all over the place during a stunning final episode. Again everything has been building towards a stand/off and the final episode doesn't disappoint. Same for Rivera's poetic music, always calm in its emotional underscoring but just sometimes hitting the extra emotional note and sending some goosebumps up your spine. Like the LaBelle theme in the middle of "The Battle for LaBelle" or the relieving send off of "Atascadero (Denouement)", it's all story telling at its most delicate.

Godless is a good score, but the sad fact is that most of this fine music is linked so hard to the visuals that it loses its potency the more you hear it away from those visuals. As someone who adored it in the series, it remains great to revisit all those powerful scenes in my mind, but I can understand that people will have a hard time connecting to the music if they don't know what it does inside the series. Therefore I can only wholeheartedly recommend the series, as it is a stunning visual but subdued character study of an age long ago. And Rivera's music is taking that study seriously, and taking every character on a personal quest for survival and growth. And even though it doesn't feel the same away from the series, Rivera still leaves an impression behind the moment you leave LaBelle behind.

The impact this music has in the series!
The theme that won an Emmy. And even though I like it as opening track, I still prefer its effect in the longer variations.
Several themes that make an everlasting impact, such as Alice theme.
I think it will be harder to truly connect to the music if you haven't seen the series.

Track Listing

1. Godless Main Theme (1.02)
2. You Lost your Shadow, Bill (1.26)
3. Welcome to LaBelle (2.15)
4. The Devil Himself (1.15)
5. An Incident at Creede (4.04)
6. Roy's Gift (1.20)
7. Thirty Horses (2.46)
8. Mary Agnes & Callie (1.21)
9. Mcnue Leaves (3.04)
10. Doubtful Canyon (4.27)
11. Roy Rides Ghost (7.24) Excellent track
12. Blackdom (2.12)
13. Truckee (5.30)
14. The Ballad of John Cook (2.00)
15. A Tragedy in LaBelle (2.51)
16. The Pox House (2.53)
17. Breaking Horses (5.59) Excellent track
18. Alice (2.58) Excellent track
19. Dear Roy (3.46)
20. Where the Hell is LaBelle (7.22) Excellent track
21. Roy Digs His Grave (2.16)
22. Fleeing a Massavre (0.36)
23. Here it Comes (1.19)
24. Whitey (1.23)
25. The Battle for LaBelle (4.46)
26. LaBelle Opera (2.23)
27. McNue Returns (3.32) Excellent track
28. The Duel (4.06)
29. Atascadero (Denouement) (6.38) Excellent track

Total Length: 92.54
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 1 votes - average 4/5)

Released by

WaterTower Music / Reprise B07DZPD3R3 (download only release 2018)

Orchestrations by

Jeremy Levy & Jordan Seigel

Performed by

The Budapest Art Orchestra