Milano: Il Clan Dei Calabresi

Milano_clan_calabresi_DDJ002Once again the BEAT records company come up trumps with another fantastic sounding soundtrack from the supreme silver age of Italian film music.  I have for many years championed the music of Gianni Marchetti, as in my ever so humble opinion he is one of the unsung heroes of music for Italian cinema, one of those composers who made great contributions to this quirky, dramatic and at times surreal world of film but never really received the recognition he so richly deserved. One can just tell from the outset of this soundtrack that it is one that will savoured and devoured by all serious collectors of music all, a italiana for the cinema. It is a hard hitting slice of scoring in which the composers puts to effective use various stock instrumentation that have become the calling card of many a Italian Maestro, i.e.; powerful sounding piano, harmonica, driving underlying strings, harpsichord, vibes, female voice (which is quite subtle and understated in this case),  whistling, mysterious sounding woods, jaws harp, electric guitar passages that are at times fuzzy sounding and fast paced percussion, all of which in this particular case are combined and intertwined on occasion with funky sounding backing and infectious thematic properties that not only suit the film perfectly but also have the ability to be entertaining and engrossing as stand alone pieces.  The composers obvious gift for producing melodic and catchy musical phrases and passages becomes apparent early on in the score and pays off big time for the listener,  the central themes for the score re-occur throughout the work but are given a bright and fresh sound on each outing by the composers inventive and innovative skills as an arranger. Amongst the many cues on the compact disc we are treated to some lighter and laid back sections in which the composer employs an easy listening almost sleazy sound which too is effective, creating that dim lit night club atmosphere with a meandering almost improvised piano solo backed by lazy sounding percussion that is punctuated by an uncomplicated double bass that marks time in a deliberate and systematic fashion. For me this is a wonderful score by Marchetti, and I feel that we as film music collectors have been missing out because of the unavailability of this composers work on any type of recording, maybe now the vaults at Italian record companies are becoming slightly less congested compared to what they were a few years back, Marchetti’s musical gems will be uncovered and released at last, if they are half as good as this particular score we will all be in seventh heaven. More Marchetti Please…

 

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MUORI LENTAMENTE TE LA CODI DI PIU.

 

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Composer Gianni Marchetti, is probably more than any other Italian film music composer underrated, underused and also under represented on recordings of any type. I first discovered Marchetti via his scores for COWARDS DON’T PRAY and SEVEN RED BERETS which were issued as a double soundtrack album on Long playing record back in the 1960s by CAM, these two atmospheric and haunting works were a great introduction for me as at that time I was still discovering the multi faceted, alluring and ingenious world of the Euro score. The composer’s obvious ability to create lingering and effective themes and his gift and talent for orchestration was refreshing and attractive. The problem was that there was at that time little or no other scores available for me to collect. This situation has sadly not been remedied to any great extent and Marchetti’s scores have in my opinion been neglected by record labels and also because of this collectors are in most cases still unaware of this composers wealth of material. Hillside did release COWARDS DON’T PRAY around two years ago, and earlier this year they issued MUORI LENTAMENTE TE LA CODI DI PIU (DIE SLOWLY, YOU’LL ENJOY IT MORE). I was actually always under the impression that this was a western score, as I had seen the LP cover many times in ads etc. from CAM, and this had Lex Barker brandishing a rifle dressed in what I thought was a Jim Bowie type jacket. I did find out later of course it was not a western. Hillside’s release of this score contains many more cues than the original LP record; 35 in all. Marchetti’s score is a multi edged one, it contains large expansive string arrangements that would not be out of place in one of those over the top romantic Hollywood pics, these are full and richly luxurious and sweep and swell in a style that can only be labelled as grandiose.  Intimate and poignant tone poems that are intricate and delicate, hard hitting jazz infused action cues and highly charged jazz compositions that fuse big band and lounge styles flawlessly. 
Add to this already eclectic musical palette stunning solos on saxophone, electric guitar, piano and trumpet all supported by percussion and enhanced by lightly strummed guitar with occasional light use of vibes and subtle inclusion of organ and strategically placed harpsichord, plus the exquisite and unblemished vocal performances of Italian film music’s first lady Edda Dell Orso and the precise and faultless inclusion of the Il Cantori Moderni chorus of Alessandroni and what we have here is a classic in every sense of the word. Its one of those rare soundtrack moments when you are never tempted to reach for the fast forward button or to jump a track, the listener will just sit and do what they are meant to do Listen, from track 1 through to track 35 and then play the disc   again. The central theme is the core or backbone of the work, it is infectious and appealing and the composer utilises the composition or arrangements and elements of it throughout the score each time it is a delight because the composer keeps it fresh, vibrant and effervescent on each appearance. This is a must have compact disc, its contents being, dramatic, exciting, emotional and extremely pleasing and entertaining. I only hope that more Marchetti is on its way. Highly recommended.

The Last snows of Spring/The Tree with Pink Leaves.

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Three Franco Micalizzi soundtracks on 2 compacts discs, this is a real stunning collection of the Maestro’s finest work for cinema. Three romantically laced scores which all compliment each other perfectly and make for a wonderful listening experience for any fan of the composer or any Italian film music enthusiast. All are from the 1970s which was a particularly fruitful period for Micalizzi, during this period he created some of Italian cinemas most memorable soundtracks and was involved with numerous popular movies of all genres. Micalizzi established himself quickly as composer who was consistently good at delivering a top notch score no matter what type of film it was. The first score featured on this Digit movies release is THE LAST SNOWS OF SPRING which was released into cinemas in 1973, this was a popular movie throughout Europe and the soundtrack sold well in Italy as well as outside of that countries borders. This tearjerker of a film was even advertised on UK television as was the soundtrack album that got a limited UK release on K-Tel records. Ok nowadays it would probably be relegated to late night cable television if it was indeed shown at all as time has not been kind to it and now it is looked upon as a sentimental and syrupy example of 1970s cinema. With a fresh faced child actor Renato Cestie taking the part of a boy who’s Mother has died and refuses to accept his Fathers new partner. The score however has managed to stand the test of time and even now sounds as bright and melodic as it did way back when I first heard it on the RCA Original Cast LP which I purchased from Michael Jones in London. Micalizzi,s gift for melody is evident in the first flourishes of the films love theme. The CD release includes the 13 original album tracks, plus we are treated to a further 10 cues which were not before issued in any format until now, Micalizzi, manages to create an atmospheric as well as heartrending sound throughout the score, via use of the string section, harpsichord, guitar, piano and also subtly placed woods which not only support but enhance the many swelling string flourishes that send a shiver up ones spine as they rise and fall throughout the work. There is also a song on the soundtrack, CRIANCA, performed by Trio de Paula and Gino Marinuzzi which I would compare to the style of Antonino Carlos Jobim, as it has a definite Brazilian sound about it. 

Micalizzi also utilises a jazz sounding organ which can be heard at its most effective during track number 12-VODKA PER DUE, when it is showcased alongside harpsichord and percussion. This is a score that one will never tire of and I am sure will be returned to on many occasions. Next up is The lesser known, THE TREE WITH THE PINK LEAVES, a film in many ways similar to THE LAST SNOWS OF SPRING, a tearjerker involving a young male child (Renato Cestie) and his sadness about the break up of his parents, a sadness that eventually drives him to run away but tragedy strikes and he is involved in an accident and sadly dies for this movie Micalizzi again created a suitably emotive score, in which he utilises solo guitar that is supported heavily by strings and woodwind. There are certainly similarities between the two score, I suppose there would be as they were both written by the same composer almost back to back, THE TREE WITH PINK LEAVES was released in 1974. The highlight cue for me from this soundtrack is track number 26 on disc 1, FAVOLA which is a combination of strings, harpsichord and soothing sounding woodwinds that are punctuated by piano and guitar; it is a sheer delight and one of Micalizzi’s most haunting pieces. Originally released on Cinevox records, the LP has now become sought after by collectors, not just for the music it contains but also for its vibrant and eye arresting art work some of which is reproduced for this CD release. The soundtrack is spread over two discs and runs from track number 24 to 28 on disc one and then continues tracks 1 through to 5 on disc two, a score that contains light jazz orientated cues with sleepy sounding trumpet being lifted by sentimental strings, romantically infused pieces and some cues that mange to be mysterious yet highly harmonious. Again a wonderful score, which will be firm favourite of collectors old and new. The third score on this collection, has never been issued in its complete form before, a few tracks appeared back in 1976 on a Franco Micalizzi best of collection, that was released on RCA in Italy and also a 45rpm single did get a release, THE WHITE HORSES OF SUMMER again is a tearjerker, and involves yet another sad tale about a young boy, who when holidaying in Italy falls from a cliff and badly injures himself, but through this accident brings together his parents. This score by Micalizzi, is quite stunning, full of melody, and also features the stunning soaring wordless vocals of Edda Dell Orso, this release features no less than 19 tracks which are pure unadulterated romantically Micalizzi. Delicate piano solos, soaring strings, beautiful female voice, charming themes and a delightful song all go to make up a rewarding and enriching listening experience, I recommend this one of Digitmovies latest releases whole heartedly I just hope that more Franco Micalizzi soundtracks will be made available on compact disc, as he is certainly one of those unsung heroes of film music. Packaged very well by Digitmovies with notes by Claudio Fuiano, and clear and very crisp sound. This is certainly one for the collection. 

Oggi a me domani a te

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I have always found Lavagnino scored westerns to be a fusion of American and Italian styles, by this I mean we get the larger scale orchestral flourishes that one would normally associate with the likes of Dimitri TiomkinMax Steiner etc, plus the catchy and rhythmic themes or passages that can be linked with Italian scoring approaches to the genre. This particular score is very welcome on compact disc. I was particularly pleased as I do recall going to see the movie back in the 70s and thinking that maybe the film was a little slow and thus found it difficult to pick out Lavagnino’s work, and at that time did not really appreciating it in conjunction with the images up on screen. I just could not understand why the final showdown was not scored but remained minus music? However after a few years I did see the movie once more and being older and a more seasoned collector of soundtracks and also understanding better the mechanics of film music I took on board the way in which the music did integrate and work with the films storyline, this is in no way a traditionally scored spaghetti, if there is such a thing? There are certainly very few of the musical trademarks present that we so readily identify with the genre, i.e., whistling, electric guitar solos, female voice or choir but what we have instead is more classical sounding western score, that includes a theme with a catchy hook, various saloon pieces, a number of near atonal action/drama cues I say near atonal as they still seem to retain elements that are musical and have tonality, a tender and poignant love theme plus a sprinkling of short almost martial sounding takes on the scores opening or central theme, and also an alternate theme that has a military style. Lavagnino makes excellent use of percussion throughout, rumbling kettledrums acting as an ominous sounding background to tense strings and a threatening organ rift. Track 14 for me personally is a highlight as it is here I feel traditional American western score meets Italian western in a somewhat low key but effective fashion. This certainly is a score that should have been issued onto CD as it is an important one within the collection of works that can be categorized as the genre of spaghetti western soundtrack. Sound quality is superb, how do Digitmovies achieve this top quality sound with items over 40 years old? Presented wonderfully with eye catching artwork and informative notes included. One to add to your collection.

DIO PERDONI LA MIA PISTOLA and ANCHE DJANGO LA CAROGNE HANNO UN PREZZO.

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Composer Vasco Vassil Kojucharov was born in Bulgaria, but decided to make his home in Italy. He studied initially in Sofia then moved onto Moscow where he furthered his musical education at the conservatory there under the watchful gaze of Aram Khachaturian. After a number of years conducting the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra the composer continued to study withFranco Ferrara at the legendary conservatory of Santa Cecilia in Italy, his ties with Italy were strengthened when he began to compose music for the cinema and collaborated with Maestro Nino Rota. The Italian composer frequently praising and spotlighting Kojucharov’s artistry and strength as a composer and conductor. Kojucharov’s music is something of an unknown quantity amongst collectors, the reason for this being the lack of recordings that are available. Thankfully BEAT records in Rome has partly remedied this by releasing a handful of compact discs containing his music from Italian made westerns. This is one of the latest additions to the BEAT catalogue and boasts two western scores, DIO PERDONI LA MIA PISTOLA and ANCHE DJANGO LA CAROGNE HANNO UN PREZZO. Both scores contain many of the standard musical trademarks that we all now associate with the spaghetti western score and the genre as a whole, and in a number of ways the style that the composer employs is not a millions miles away from the style and sound achieved by composers such as De Masi, Cipriani, Lavagnino and Fidenco. His use of solo trumpet combined with harmonica (performed by Franco De Gemini) and rich sounding electric guitar is stunning and evokes memories of the origins of the Italian western score. The composer also utilises strings and percussion to great effect, the strings either underlining the composition or sweeping it forward, whilst the percussion acts as a perfect enhancement and background to the proceedings, augmenting and punctuating with dramatic and booming force. Each score has fine thematic properties and highly melodic cues which the composer develops and repeats from time to time in differing arrangements or maybe faster tempo or at times downbeat versions of each scores central theme can be heard. Both soundtracks are worthy additions to any collection, and I am confident that once heard you will be returning this disc to the player for regular outings. I look forward to more music from Maestro Kojucharov very soon. Maybe his excellent score for DJANGO THE BASTARD will one day get a release.