Composer Gianni Ferrio worked extensively within the Italian film industry from the early to mid 1960s through to the mid eighties scoring all types of genres of film. He worked on numerous thrillers and also scored his fair share of horror and Giallos, plus a fair few comedy capers to his name. The composer also wrote many scores for Italian made westerns and although he was part of the group of composers that many like to call the Italian western school of music he did not really conform to the stylistic norm which formed what we know today as the Italian or spaghetti western sound. He rarely utilised a whistler or employed the grand operatic sound that was used in nine out of ten instances when the ultimate gunfight took place. Instead, Ferrio created, I suppose, a spaghetti western sound all of his own and although it remains a part of the spaghetti western culture as a whole, it also has a life of its own and an originality to it. Continuing the ever surprising re-issue program of Italian soundtracks is Hillside CD Productions who, in conjunction with GDM and also at times Hexachord, released a number of what were thought to be rare or even lost western scores. Their latest batch of compact discs include , which was released in 1972. On first listening to the score I was a little perplexed as, to be honest, it did not sound anything like a western score at all, even the title song “That Man” performed by Ann Collin (vocalist on DEAF SMITH AND JOHNNY EARS) who also wrote the lyrics is offbeat and bares very little or no relation to what I had come to think of as a western soundtrack. This however does not mean that the score is not an agreeable one, at least parts of it anyway. The composer creates an almost lounge or easy listening atmosphere at times with a jazz infused sound – a style that he has employed before on westerns as in SENTENCE OF DEATH and also in parts of FIND A PLACE TO DIE, A MAN CALLED SLEDGE and AMICO STAMI LONTANO ALMENO UN PALMO. Ferrio fuses a jazz style with that of symphonic and normally it works quite well as in the aforementioned examples. This time however the mix just does not seem to gel and at times the music falls flat and becomes very repetitive to the point of being annoying.
OK, I know it’s a film score so the music is tailored for the action on screen and also is written with storyline and events in mind, but so were Ferrio’s other western contributions and I have always found the composer to have produced reliably melodic and exciting scores that not only were tailored to the needs of the movie but worked well away from the images. For me, however, this is lacking and although there are some nice cues where Ferrio combines subdued horn and harpsichord with jazz piano underpinned by smooth sounding strings, aided by the use of vibes. He also employs flugelhorn and percussion within the score which create an atmosphere that is far from a western. In fact on listening to the score for the first time I thought that Hillside had gotten the tapes mixed up and this was not actually the music from the spaghetti in question but music from a spy movie or another Giallo. It is unmistakably Ferrio, but it is not one of his best for this particular genre, uninspired, overlong and monotonous. Production values are very good though and the sound quality is stunning – also art work is attractive and eye catching. But as far as the actual content goes it’s a soundtrack that you would listen to once, if that, and never return it to the CD player again. I think record companies should really start to be more selective about what they are releasing in these less than affluent days and stick to the practise of quality not quantity and don’t take it as read that if they release a spaghetti western score it will be a crowd pleaser. It will be welcomed with open arms and wallets if it’s good but not if it’s a mediocre example.