Is it just me, or is Blaze of Glory the best soundtrack ever?

Never one to underdo things, Jon Bon Jovi pulled off a feat of staggering over-achievement with his 1990 debut solo album. When Young Guns II star Emilio Estevez asked permission to use Bon Jovi’s 1986 hit ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ on the soundtrack, JBJ composed an entire suite of original songs instead, including the Billboard No.1 ‘Blaze of Glory’. 

What’s even more remarkable is that, while the film is so-so, the album is a stone-cold classic, receiving Grammy and Academy Award nominations. Considering it’s all commercial country rock, the breadth of the music is impressive, moving seamlessly from AOR (‘Billy Get Your Guns’, ‘Justice in the Barrel’, ‘Never Say Die’) to honkytonk workout (‘You Really Got Me’) and gospel (‘Bang a Drum’), each serving the narrative perfectly. All this plus special guest appearances from Elton John, Jeff Beck, and Little Richard, and quotations from John Donne and The Bible.

JBJ had imagined himself a cowboy before, but the story of Billy the Kid (Estevez), whose celebrity also seals his doom, clearly struck a chord. “All this fame don’t bring you freedom, though it wears a thin disguise,” he sings on the stirring closer ‘Dyin’ Ain’t Much of a Livin’. Having sold some 40m albums, he must have felt that disguise getting thinner himself.

Yet this is no vanity project. Like the best Bon Jovi songs, ‘Miracle’ and ‘Santa Fe’ celebrate courage in the face of insurmountable odds, even though, as acknowledged on the beautiful campfire ballad ‘Blood Money’ – a benediction from Billy to his betrayer/killer Pat Garrett (William Petersen) – there’s no way out. 

With its sunbaked slide guitar, military drums, and whispered-prayer middle eight, the bombastic ‘Blaze of Glory’ even leans towards the profound. Here, JBJ traces the intertwining of infamy and immortality right back to Cain and Abel, celebrating the living, the dying, and everything in between. The result is a peerless soundtrack to a perfect movie, no matter that the latter only exists in Jon Bon Jovi’s head… or is it just me?

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