A collection of Italian western themes and songs, well more than a collection it was THE COLLECTION or at least it was probably the most extensive collection of music from spaghetti westerns at the time of its release, its kind of funny looking back at this set as when I first got it I used to think when listening through wow, this is a great theme or a brilliant song, wouldn’t it be fantastic to have the complete score from this movie or at least a few more cues from this score. Well 16 years on many of the tracks featured are available on compact discs that contain the full scores; we certainly have come a long way in that time. But this 4 volumes set still holds a certain fascination for collectors and is still as fresh and wonderful to listen to now over a decade and a half later. A number of the tracks featured were originally put together on a double LP set on the seven seas label called THE BEST OF THE BLOODY WESTERNS, again another classic release from Japan which was in a gatefold edition with some great pictures and stills from the movies included. I think the appeal of the SPAGHETTI WESTERN ENCYCLOPEDIA was and still is the all round variety it contains, there are numerous songs performed in English and also Italian, instrumental tracks from scores and classic Italian western themes from the leading Maestros who worked within the genre. In fact nothing as ambitious has been released or made available commercially since. Remember this was at the same time as CAM first announced their own SOUNDTRACK ENCYCLOPEDIA series, which began with items such as CORRI UOMO CORRI, A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN, THE PRICE OF POWER and MINNESOTA CLAY. Each disc in the SPAGHETTI WESTERN set is packed with what we now call classic western music and between the four discs we are treated to no less than 94 cues of music and songs. I would not say that the discs are compiled in any particular order in the way of release date etc, but whoever compiled them obviously had a good knowledge of the genre and the music and also was very conscious of what collectors really wanted. The variety and mix of styles is commendable and makes for an entertaining and thrilling listening experience.
Volume one launches with the instrumental version of A GRINGO LIKE ME from Morricone’s first western score GUNFIGHT AT RED SANDS(1963-CAM), we all know this in effect started Morricone’s involvement with the spaghetti western, but was before the real spaghetti western sound had been formulated by the Maestro. It is in fact a rather clichéd and Americanised sounding theme, and the movie itself was something of a concoction of Italian and American takes on the western, or at least an Italian take on an American made western resembling something that was more like an American made B movie as opposed to a European production. Morricone in HIGH NOON or GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL mode producing something that sounded more like Tiomkin or Newman. Track 2 on disc one is completely the opposite it is the archetypal trumpet theme from 1000 DOLLARI SUL NERO (1967-CAM) by the highly gifted trumpet player and composer Michele Lacerenza this for me is the epitome of what a spaghetti theme should be, the flawless trumpet solo flows like gently running stream over a background of castanets, organ and what I am sure is a mandolin that support and embellish Lacerenza’s gracious and stirringly beautiful trumpet performance. Track 3 is the first vocal on the collection, from TEMPO DI MASSACRO (1966-CETRA) Sergio Endrigo provides us with an energetic vocal performance entitled BACK HOME SOMEDAY sung in English this is one of the great Spaghetti vocals. And a score that I have to say deserves a full release and sadly has not yet received one. Tracks 4 and 5 are both taken from Piero Piccioni’s MINNESOTA CLAY (1964-CAM), directed by Sergio Corbucci this was also an example of the early Italian western, released in the same year as A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS this had Cameron Mitchell in the title role, Piccioni’s score leaned more towards the conventional sound of the western soundtrack, no choir, whistling or shall we say original orchestration present. 100.000 DOLLARI PER RINGO (1966-GEMELLI) is represented next, the title song, RINGO DOVE VAI? penned by Bruno Nicolai and performed by Bobby Solo is certainly a worthy addition to the Italian western score canon. As is track number 7, “The Lanky Gunman” from PER IL GUSTO DI UCCIDERE(1965), great guitar playing and a highly original rendition of the song by the composer Nico Fidenco, THE LANKY GUNMAN AIMS AT YOUR REWARD, TONIGHT HE RODE IN TOWN SO I AM TOLD, AND WHEN YOU MEET YOUR BOUND TO DIE, classic stuff. Track 8 is an instrumental version of the theme, but the sound on this is rather inferior, maybe taken from the film and it also contains gunshots, still a great theme though.
Two tracks from ADIOS GRINGO (1965) the first being the instrumental version by Benedetto Ghiglia which is a low key affair for harmonica, electric guitar and Spanish guitar, this is followed by the song from the soundtrack performed by Fred Bongusto who also co wrote this with Locatelli, something I noticed with this was the instrumental version was published by CAM but the vocals rights were the property of fonit? The great Francesco De Masi is represented next on track 11, with his stirring and powerful theme for SETTE WINCHESTER PER UN MASSACRO (1966-GDM). Track 12 thru till 14 are from Luis Baclov’s SUGAR COLT (1968-GDM), this contains one of the most endearing Spaghetti western themes I have ever heard and the composer makes excellent use of orchestra combined with male voice and a little squeak or trill that punctuates the proceedings on the opening cue. TRE PISTOLE CONTRO CESARE (1967-parade) is up next the title song is performed by the ever energetic Don Powell, with Marcello Giombini’s excellent orchestral backing forging onward in galloping mode complete with choir, racing snares, whistle and electric guitar, this is outstanding. Track 18 is from LA SPIETATA COLT DEL GRINGO (1966-CAM) the vocal A MAN MUST FIGHT is performed by the sadly missed Peter Tevis with a superb orchestral arrangement by Francesco De Masi. Another classic vocal comes next in the running order Gino sings the Italian version of QUEL GIORNO VERRA from UN FIUME DI DOLLARI or THE HILLS RUN RED (1966), this is followed by the theme from the movie , which is probably one of Morricone’s most neglected and forgotten spaghetti works. Carlo Savina and Don Powell collaborate on the following track, POCCHI DOLLARI PER DJANGO (1966-PARADE), Savina’s almost fanfare like brass heralding a fast paced and entertaining instrumental that is the background for Powell’s exuberant vocal in which he sings of A LAWLESS TOWN THAT HAS GONE ASTRAY, AND A MAN WHO LAYS COLD ON THE SAND. Stelvio Cipriani pitches in for the first time on the collection with 2 tracks from his BOUNTY KILLER (1966-CAM) soundtrack, which include the main title theme and also the excellent composition entitled SENTENZA DI MORTE. Marcello Giombini makes another appearance on track 22 with his vocal version of BALLATA PER UN PISTOLERO (1967-CAM) that is performed by Peppino Gagliardi. Track 23 and 24 both hail from LO VOGLIO MORTO (1968-CAM) composer Nico Fidenco was often asked to compose a score in the style of Morricone when writing for westerns, in this particular case he certainly is influenced by Morricone, but at the same time produced an original and haunting soundtrack that was filled with rich themes and scattered with musical motifs and trademarks that are now so readily associated with the spaghetti western. Harmonica, solo trumpet, choir and racing snares all feature within these two entertaining pieces, “Galloppata Tragica” and “Clayton Ballade”.