The longest track on the record is up next, the ten minute “Wagon Wheels.” It is certainly the most cinematic of the six sides. Beginning with some relaxed bass and drum figures from Brown and Manne, Rollins takes his time coming in. When he does, it is as if the tumbleweeds are slowly tumbling along, nothing is rushed. The space Sonny takes is reminiscent of the wide open spaces of Monument Valley, where so many classic Westerns were filmed.
“There Is No Greater Love,” is another fine ballad, notable for Sonny’s fluency, and a nice bass solo from Brown. Finally, we come to the title track, “Way Out West,” written by Rollins. It is his own take on the genre, and evokes sort of a “Home On The Range” feeling, again reminding us of the infinite vistas of the Old West.
The recording of Way Out West took place in one marathon session which began at 3 a.m. March 7, 1957 — and stretched into the late morning hours. Besides the original six tracks released on the album, there were alternate takes of “I’m An Old Cowhand,” “Come, Gone,” and “Way Out West.” The Original Jazz Classics 24-bit remastered release includes these alternate versions, which are all worthwhile in their own right.
Way Out West is one of the most unique recordings in the extensive Sonny Rollins catalog. It is also one of his finest.