It is unbelievable just how many Spaghetti western scores have been released in recent years thanks to labels such as HILLSIDE,GDM,DIGIT MOVIES etc etc. Hillside seem to have slowed in their release programme but I am sure that Mr Woodman and Professor Roberto Zamori will be back with something that is very special, meanwhile lets look back to 2008 when GDM/Hillside released the Nico Fidenco soundtrack for the 1966 production RINGO IL TEXANO or THE TEXICAN as it was re-titled for releases outside of Italy. The movie was a fair example of the Euro western because it was filmed in Spain and I suppose really was a combination of the style of the Italian or Euro western and also the more traditional Hollywood or American made B western movie. Director Lesley Selendar an American was credited as being one of the most prolific western feature makers with 107 titles accredited to his name, he worked on TV shows also including the popular LARAMIE (43 Episodes), THE TALL MAN and DANIEL BOONE and feature films such as ARIZONA BUSHWHAKERS, FORT UTAH, THE LONE RANGER AND THE CITY OF GOLD and TOMAHAWK TRAIL to name but a few. The star of the movie Audie Murphy was I must admit a little out of place as the central character Jess Carlin, the actor seeming awkward in certain scenes but saying this Murphy was a veteran of Hollywood sage brush tales and was in the end an asset to the production attracting many of his fans to the movie. The villain of the piece Luke Starr was played by another American actor Broderick Crawford with Diana Lorys as Kit o Neal the love interest and two genre favourites Aldo Sambrell and Antonio Casas in tow. Murphy’s character has decided to hang up his guns and settle down in Mexico but after receiving news that his Brother who is a newspaper owner has been murdered he decides its time to strap his pistols back on and head back into the States to find the killer. The soundtrack was originally released on the RCA label on a long playing record, paired with another score by composer Nico Fidenco IN THE SHADOW OF THE COLT which itself was given a full score release in 2007 by GDM. Fidenco was a composer that simply shone when scoring westerns, his style just seemed to lend itself to these quirky and entertaining pieces of cinema. The composer very often providing a soundtrack that combined dramatic elements with catchy pop orientated material, he would create haunting and stirring themes that never failed to grab the attention of the watching audience and thus also attracting the attention of film music connoisseurs at the same time. How the collaboration between the director and composer came about I am not entirely sure, but I am glad it happened.
Fidenco created an upbeat and tuneful soundtrack for the movie and as per usual enlisted the assistance of Alessandroni and his excellent Il Cantori Moderni as well as providing the vocals himself for the films title song. Fidenco wrote a haunting opening theme for the film which is heard as a vocal and later in the proceedings is given quite a meaty sounding orchestral work out complete with bold sounding horns, brass flourishes and upbeat percussion that are all brought together by choir and strings. The CD contains 11 tracks which are taken from the original LP release which are stereo mixes. Then there are a further 21 cues taken from the actual film score which are in mono. This for me ranks alongside other Fidenco scores such as ONE MORE FOR HELL, TO THE LAST DROP OF BLOOD, LO VOGLIO MORTE and JOHN IL BASTARDO all of which are excellent. If you have not managed to add this compact disc to your collection then its about time you did, Recommended.
Released in 1966 and directed by Tonino Valerii, PER IL GUSTO DI UCCIDERE (the taste of killing) was an action packed Spaghetti western that contained a storyline that involved a bounty hunter who preferred to do things a little different, Hank Fellows (Craig Hill) watched various robberies on banks and stagecoaches and instead of intervening he would track the robbers to their hideout and then dispatch them thus getting the bounty for them and also recovering the stolen booty which he returned to the rightful owners for a big pay out. When fellows encounters a bandit Guy Kenneback the job becomes more personal as Kenneback was responsible for the death of Fellows brother. The musical score is the work of Nico Fidenco, this composer was particularly active during the 1960,s and worked on many westerns that were seen as B movie features but still added much to the reputation of the spaghetti western genre. Fidenco was at times hired because composers such as Morricone and Nicolai were not available and his sound is not dissimilar to that of the two Maestro,s mainly due to his connections with Alessandro Alessandroni and his IL CANTORI MODERNI, Fidenco started his musical career as a singer and would often record cover versions of famous film songs, he would also perform on his own soundtracks which he does on THE TASTE OF KILLING contributing the vocals for THE YANKEE FELLOW a vocal that is reprised later in the score as THE LANKY FELLOW by the Wilder Brothers. The score is conducted by Willy Brezza who also wrote a number of film scores and too was a singer, Fidenco would also utilise the conducting skills of Giacamo Dell Orso, on a number of his scores this talented composer and arranger would not only direct but at times would actually compose sections of the scores for Fidenco. THE TASTE OF KILLING is in many ways a typical spaghetti western score, the instrumentation containing soaring trumpet solos, racing snares, electric guitar solos, chorale work and galloping percussion. The track THE LANKY GUNMAN as it was then titled was issued on the double LP set THE BEST OF THE BLOODY WESTERNS which was on the Japanese seven seas label, it then re-appeared in a slightly different arrangement on the King records four CD set THE SPAGHETTI WESTERN ENCYCLOPEDIA and on a handful of other compilations before the score was released in its complete form on the GDM/HILLSIDE label in 2010, the recording included 12 cues in stereo and a further 23 in mono which were taken directly from the film score. Presented well by Hillside unfortunately devoid of notes, but containing various examples of the publicity posters for the movie within its eight page booklet and an eye catching front cover this is a soundtrack worth adding to your collection, sound is surprisingly clear and crisp. Recommended.
Directed by Joe d’Amato under the alias of John Shadow CANTERBURY NO 2 or TALES OF CANTERBURY was a rather bawdy, comical and erotic movie. The film was scored by Guido and Maurizio De Angelis who first came to the attention of film music collectors via their score to TRINITY IS STILL MY NAME. Over the years the composing duo have acquired quite a following and are well known for their somewhat unorthodox methods of film scoring, their style definitely being unique and original. De Angelis combine a folk or traditional sound with symphonic flourishes and to a degree it works well, they also have something of a tradition for producing catchy or somewhat unusual songs within their film scores, KEOMA comes to mind as does AFFYON OPPIO and the aforementioned TRINITY IS STILL MY NAME which contained two vocals TRINITY STAND TALL and the haunting REMEMBER, to be fair it is probably these vocals that they are better known for in Europe rather than their orchestral compositions but saying this their symphonic efforts are well crafted and in most cases are fine examples of music from Italian cinema. CANTERBURY NO 2 has never seen a release of any kind so this compact disc on Kronos records is certainly a welcome sight.
It is in my opinion one of the De Angelis brothers better efforts and contains a handful of themes which are heard in various guises throughout the work, the composing duo arranging and orchestrating these to allow them to remain fresh throughout the work. There are a number of musical references within the soundtrack that have certain affiliations to other De Angelis scores and there is also that unusual, quirky and original sound present all the way through the work that we immediately associate with Guido and Maurizio plus two vocals. It is surprising that this soundtrack was not issued at the time of the film being on general release in Italy because the composers were during this period much in demand and also popular among collectors all over Europe. Released as part of the Kronos Gold series this score will I am certain become essential listening for any fan of Italian film music it is entertaining and also theme laden. Presented well by Kronos with vibrant cover art this is certainly one for you.
As you have probably gathered I am not the most ardent fan of Hans Zimmer, but saying this credit where credit is due his music for INTERSTELLAR for example is stunning and GLADIATOR remains one of my favourite scores by him, I also am a fan of his THE DA VINCI CODE and then going back a few years BROKEN ARROW and his highly acclaimed music for THE LION KING plus there is BACKDRAFT which for me is still a stunning and exciting soundtrack. When I first saw BACKDRAFT it was in TOWER RECORDS in London’s Piccadilly Circus, in a large presentation box, I remember it because I also purchased THE ROCKETEER on the same day. Both were imports and quite expensive, however after hearing them the price was irrelevant. BACKDRAFT is a score that is brimming to overflowing with bold and highly stirring thematic properties, Zimmer certainly had his Wagner hat on when he was working on this project. Creating proud and strident sounding motifs for brave men of THE FIGHTING 17TH, and lighter more emotive pieces to accompany the brothers in the films storyline and the more intimate sections of the movie. The film itself was also highly entertaining and certainly a case of image and music working perfectly in unison to create great atmospheres and together heightening the tension and purveying the non action situations. The compact disc opens with a vocal, SET IN MOTION performed by Bruce Hornsby and The Range, and penned by him and John Hornsby this is one of two songs that feature in the soundtrack the other being, THE SHOW GOES ON again by Hornsby. The opening score cue is Zimmer’s FIGHTING 17TH, it is a march of sorts a kind of martial introduction to proceedings with snare drums opening underlined by strings and leading into a full on patriotic theme performed by horns, woods, percussion and strings which are still supported by snares. Strings then become more prominent and introduce and embellish a more pronounced brass performance. Mid way through the cue the music turns more sinister and ominous this depicting the flames and explosion that takes place on screen resulting in the death of the main characters Father who is a fire fighter, the sight of a fire fighters helmet laying on the ground surrounded by debris to the sound of Zimmer’s lone trumpet is in a word stunning. Track two THE BROTHERS is more of a low key affair the composer employing piano and heartrending strings to create a warm and homely sounding theme. THE ARSONISTS WALTZ a is I think a clever piece of scoring it contains a certain air of foreboding but also seems to have about it a romantic feel that I can only think underlines the sense of fascination that the arsonist has with fire.
One of the outstanding cues within the soundtrack for me personally is track number 6, BURN IT ALL, this is in effect a knock em down and drag em out cue, there is certainly no room for any low key parts to this track it is full on powerful and unrelenting. We hear what I can only describe as a fire fighter breathing with the aid of respirator this introduces strings that introduce Zimmer’s forceful power house of a five note motif that forms the backbone of the composition, add to this brass and crashing percussive elements, electronics and piano that sends chills through the listener plus chorale support and more booming percussion and rasping brass flourishes and what do you have? Well a track that one just has to go back and listen to again and again. This is a combination of instrumentation both symphonic and synthetic that is not only powerful but at the same time highly emotional. The cue ends with that haunting trumpet solo an ominous sound that purveys loss and also sadness.
Track 6 segues into YOU GO WE GO, which again is a fervent and striking piece for strings that are strident and punctuating brass and percussion with choral effects present This moves into a more fraught sounding section which at times can be reminiscent of Jerry Fielding’s action music for THE WILD BUNCH but only fleetingly. Track number 8, FARENHEIT 451 is a slow are more emotive version of the opening theme, cello is added to create emotion and melancholy, but is soon overwhelmed by the brass section which brings forth a mood of deep passion that is laced with a proud and noble sound. The score closes with a triumphant and commanding cue, SHOW ME YOUR FIRETRUCK, in which we hear many of the central themes from the score, in fact an overture I suppose this is a fitting and resounding conclusion to this wonderful soundtrack again you will I know go back to this again and again. In my opinion Zimmer at his best and coming from me that’s a recommendation.
Released on Kronos records june 2015.
Born on the Portuguese Island of Madeira in October 1977 composer Nuno Malo has within the past five years or so become a name that is instantly recognisable within the film music collecting fraternity, his scores for movies such as JULGAMENTO, MANO, THE CELESTINE PROPHECY, AMALIA and more recently his excellent work for the film NO GOD, NO MASTER has garnered him much deserved praise and critical acclaim from all corners of the globe and established him as a composer of note. As a child he had always been interested in films and watched numerous movies, he always knew he wanted to be part of film making but it was at the age of twelve that he decided that it was music that he would concentrate upon. His first scoring assignment came in 2003 with THE POLICEWOMAN, he had written a piece of music for a concert that was to be performed in Portugal but was unable to be there as he was already living in Los Angeles but the director of THE POLICEWOMAN Joaquim Sapinho was present at the concert and liked the composers music so asked him to score the film, Nuno was pleased to work on the movie as he was allowed to utilise an orchestra which was something that was rare in his native Portugal and ever since that first assignment he has encouraged many Portuguese directors and composers to utilise the orchestra rather than employ only synthetic sounds. For this particular release Kronos records goes back into the not to distant past of the composer to release his wonderfully melodic and affecting soundtrack for BACKLIGHT or THE SIGNAL as it was entitled in a number of countries. The composer has created a melodically sublime and particularly haunting musical score for this motion picture from 2010 which became the number 1 box office movie in Portugal in that year. The director Fernando Fergata produced a thought provoking piece of cinema and it has thankfully in recent times been referred to as a cinematic masterpiece by a number of critics, which is a statement that I would have to agree with. BACKLIGHT is a solely Portuguese production but most of the picture was shot in The United States which is a surprising factor.
The composer combines both conventional instrumentation with synthetic components and fuses these elements together seamlessly to fashion a plethora of exquisite musical compositions. These highly thematic pieces combine to create a stunning and emotive work that oozes a deep and profound sense of emotion that is underlined and complimented by darker but melodic atmospheres and moods. The composer also brings into the equation choir and an outstanding solo voice (which is actually the composer himself performing) which gives the work a somewhat unworldly persona via its ethereal aural contribution, which just establishes to an even greater degree the outstanding talent and versatility of this composer/performer. Malo in my opinion is a composer that is comfortable within any genre and with his score to BACKLIGHT enhances each scenario to perfection supporting without being intrusive and producing sounds and harmonies that are not only fitting for the storyline of the project but also have life away from the screen. It is a score that contains numerous themes all of which segue easily into each other and also at times mirror each other, one underlining another or parts of a theme being subtly introduced within another, thus creating a fine consistency and continuity to the work as well as ingratiating the movie and supporting every frame of film where music is utilised. There is a sound present within the score that is very much akin to that of the late John Barry, Malo combining strings and choir in a very similar way to that of the British music- smith to bring forth affecting, moving and haunting melodies that sweep over the listener creating an ambience that is calming but at the same time highly charged. There is so much within the score it is sometimes difficult to comprehend that all of this thematic material has come from one movie or indeed from one composer.
John Mansell © 2015
(John Mansell is a member of the IFMCA and also author of numerous essays and reviews on film music).