Carlo Savina was an established name within film music circles long before the Italian western came into being. It was Savina who conducted the first BEN-HUR LP re-recording for the great Miklos Rozsa in Rome. But Savina was not just a Musical Director, he was a composer in his own right and composed numerous scores for Italian cinema and came up with interesting and original soundtracks within numerous film genres. Savina also conducted for a number of Italian composers – Nino Rota to name one – and it was Savina who took up the baton to direct the orchestra on Rota’s THE GODFATHER soundtrack. But it is Savina as a composer I am here to review, or at least this particular foray into the world of the Italian produced western by Savina. Originally released in 1971, EHI AMIGO…SEI MORTO! or HEY AMIGO REST IN PEACE was a fairly low key western which starred Wayde Preston. Although it was produced at a time when the Spaghetti western had already established itself with critics and cinema audiences, it contained a more Hollywood approach. It even had the “look”, as in the way it was dressed and photographed, of a Hollywood produced western yarn.
Savina’s score is not as Spaghetti sounding as one would like; it just did not seem to have much content and sounded lack-lustre. In saying this, the composer does utilize a fuzzy sounding guitar at certain points within the score which is similar to Morricone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST guitar flourishes, although the utilization is similar but nowhere near as operatic or impressive. Being candid, I found this western soundtrack a little repetitive. It seems to me that the composer found something in the way of a theme or even of a sound and then filled time with it, repeating the phrase or passage of music until it becomes annoying and although it contains a handful of themes, these themes are almost instantly forgettable. By this I mean they are not tunes that stick in one’s head or themes that you find yourself humming or whistling, or even thinking “that’s good” whilst listening. A number of cues are more or less non-descriptive in their thematic content and in essence are just musical sounds strung together with a whisper of a theme raising its head momentarily, performed by guitar or trumpet.
The title song is performed by Don Powell who contributed the lyrics and collaborated with Savina on a number of film songs and is included twice on the disc. This is a fairly serviceable western ditty although the lyrics are a little dull and banal with Powell shouting “Eh amigo you’re dead”, as a type of chorus for the song bridging the verses; his shouts being underlined and supported by trumpet and mid tempo harpsichord. The composer also utilises a mournful sounding saxophone within the score, which is a little out of place in a western score. When one compares this soundtrack to VENGEANCE or COMIN AT YA by Savina, it pales in the light of their originality, appeal and substance. Even the vocal performance on VENGEANCE by Powell again, is head and shoulders above this one.
I know that film soundtracks are not written by composers to create nice themes and melodic music and that the music has to fit the action but within the Spaghetti western genre we have been spoiled with so many themes and so many great songs which stand their own away from the images. I suppose every so often we have to accept that not all Italian westerns were good and that the musical scores could also be a under par. Savina’s music for the cinema has been very good in most cases but his scores for the western genre are maybe a bit hit and miss in quality. Savina’s AND GOD SAID TO CAIN and VIVO PER LA TUA MORTE are two more titles which were not exactly shining beacons musically, for a genre that has spawned so many memorable soundtracks. The CD has an eye catching front cover and the eight page booklet is filled with colourful stills from the film, together with examples of the publicity posters but no liner notes – which I personally feel are a MUST for Italian films. Good stereo sound though.