LANDRAIDERS.

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There is certainly no argument about how good this score is, but do we really need another version or edition of it out on CD, in fact do we really need all these so called ltd editions or definitive releases of soundtracks ? Back in 1969 Beverly Hills records released the soundtrack to LANDRAIDERS on a long playing record, then a few years ago Prometheus did a release of the score with extra tracks on compact disc which I was happy with apart from a few little bits of distortion and echo here and there, but nonetheless it satisfied my thirst for this soundtrack to be available on the compact disc format. As a collector now for nearly 50 years, I am getting a little tired of record companies trying to cash in on releasing scores that supposedly boast extra tracks or improved sound quality and I have to say sadly that Digit Movies and at times labels such as BEAT and GDM/Hillside in Italy are guilty of this practise, ok I agree that it is good to have extra tracks at times, but this depends on just how many so called bonus tracks are being released and of course if they are in fact genuine extra un-released material and not computer enhanced or re-mixed versions of cues that were already available. Track number 6 on the digit release is one such case, ok it was not on either of the previous releases, but the musical elements present in the cue were but in shorter duration so how do we know that these elements have not been spliced together or mixed together, track 8 is also a little suspect in my eyes, it’s a slowed down version of another cue with segments of Luisa theme tacked onto the end, so again how do we know these were cues from the score. I suppose its an argument that I would never win and we have to trust Digit on this one, Many collectors have hinted that this latest edition of LANDRAIDERS has far superior sound quality to the original LP and also the Prometheus CD, but if they did not have the two previous releases how would they actually know ? On listening closer I would have to say that maybe the sound is improved but only marginally and one cue in particular track number 10, BRUCIATELLO VIVO (GLI INDIANI) which is a full working of the magnificent and powerful LANDRAIDERS theme sounds rather flat in places and also overblown and strained in fact on first couple of listens I checked my speakers in case they had a fault the cue also has distortion and even needs to be tweaked a little on the reverb the choir seem to be eating the microphones rather than standing back from them. Again I say this is not criticism of the wonderful music but of the production values which are meant well I am sure but fall a little short in the quality department. What I will say is if you love Italian western music and have not got this score in your collection then it is a must have CD for the great music upon it, if you have like myself been collecting for a while now and already own either the Prometheus CD or the original LP then spend your cash on something else. Of course this is a purely personal take on the release and is not in any way a slight upon Digit movies as the majority of their releases are like the veritable Phoenix rising from the ashes and dust of archives, many of them being a labour of love, but what I said at the start of this review still stands its not about squeezing the last bit of cash out of collectors for the sake of a few seconds or maybe a handful of minutes of extra music, its about releasing quality items that will please and delight collectors ensuring they will want to buy more, as for the extra music scenario, remember at times less is more.

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COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES

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This superbly tongue in cheek and comical movie is boosted enormously by the even more tongue in cheek but at times adventurous and heroic sounding score that has been penned by composer Jody Jenkins. COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES, contains a riveting and powerful sounding soundtrack that makes many references to past scores for Zombie flicks as written and performed by the likes of Goblin, Fabio Frizzi but the composer elevates this type of scoring with some full blown symphonic sounds and adds a rich sounding choir that is supported by driving strings and snarling brass to create a robust and daunting sound that would not be out of place in any Hollywood blockbuster. The compact disc opens with HEROES, this is a fast paced cue that opens more or less at full throttle with the composer bringing into play guitar, strings and choir right from the outset, it is a powerful opening that stops suddenly to segue into a solo harmonica performance that itself then melts into a Spaghetti Western flavoured sound, with trumpet, guitar and choir being the main instrumentation, this then alters and goes upbeat once again, percussion laying down a background whilst choir brass and strings play out an exciting and blood rushing theme. The cue alters once more and moves into a more subdued style, the composer treating us to a melodic and haunting sound performed by the string section, electric guitar and supported by percussion enhanced by choir and a subtle use of brass.

 

 

Track number 2, MAIN TITLE, is again fuelled by chorale sounds and also strings which introduce the central theme from the movie performed on electric guitar which is embellished by percussion and choir. Track number 3, AHHH, A BABY ZOMBIE, commences with a slightly off kilter sounding rendition of twinkle twinkle little star, but this soon evaporates and gives way to a cue that is in the main made up from electronic sounds and stabs, the composer creating an atmospheric composition which for me conjures up memories of vintage horror movies, the sound I would say is uneasy and at times jumpy but at the same time contains a rhythm which keeps it moving and interesting as every so often the cue picks up pace but then reverts back into a somewhat low key atonal sound. The score is overall a delight and I have to say I did not find myself reaching for the forward button on the CD player at anytime whilst listening to it, the composer has created a soundtrack that not only works well within the context of the movie, but it also delights and entertains on its own as just music. Track 5, is one of my own personal favourites, ZOMBIES TAKE LONDON, contains so many styles and sounds, foreboding and atonal colours are fused with upbeat and high octane interludes performed by brass and swirling strings which lift and push forward the proceedings, choir too is again utilized to add an atmosphere of darkness to the composition and the composer again includes a smattering of electric guitar and a hint of harmonica within the cue.

COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES the movie will probably not be an Oscar winner, but it is an entertaining and hilarious take on the Zombie cult movie, Jody Jenkins score is however worthy of recognition as it contains so many musical colours and atmospheres and it will I know become a favourite amongst collectors of film music.The vibrant and varied soundtrack should be in every collection of quality movie music. Once again Movie Score Media have given the film music collecting community a gem of a score, that maybe ordinarily would not have seen a release and with track titles such as MENTAL MICKEY, ZIMMERFRAME CHASE how could it not appeal to all. Highly Recommended.

Arthur of The Britons.

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As a teenager I remember the series ARTHUR OF THE BRITONS becoming essential viewing for me on a Sunday afternoon. One of the many attractions of the series was the rousing and epic sounding theme for the show written by Hollywood star composer Elmer Bernstein, now how Bernstein became involved with the series which was a Harlech TV production I do not know, all I do know is that the theme was infectious, robust and bold sounding working wonderfully with the shows opening credits which were fast and hard hitting. Bernstein’s music doing exactly what a TV theme should do and grabbing the viewers attention and setting the scene for some great swashbuckling adventures, daring do, chases, swordplay and inventive story lines that starred Oliver Tobias in the title role, with Michael Gothard as Kai and the ever popular Jack Watson as Llud. The series ran from 1972 through to 1973 and during that time 24 half hour episodes were produced and aired. The series was a little different from the more traditional tales of King Arthur, it places Arthur as the leader of a small band of Celts who are living in Britain some two hundred years after the Romans have left and tells of Arthur’s dream to form a union of Celts, Jutes and other tribes so that they can effectively oppose the Saxon invaders who are arriving in Britain in ever growing numbers. Arthur is helped in his quest to form a united Britain by his adoptive Father, Llud, and his step brother, Kai, who is himself a Saxon foundling that was taken in by Arthur’s tribe.
The incidental music for the series was not written by Elmer Bernstein, the scores for the series were the work of British composer Paul Lewis who had worked on other television and film projects and also was responsible for penning a number of works for concert hall performance. At the time of the series being aired I was not really aware of the composers involvement, all I knew was that the music for the show was very good. Its hard to believe that it has taken some forty years or so for Bernstein’s driving theme to be released and for that I say a big thank you to Silva Screen, the incidental music as some may refer to it as has been issued before or at least a suite of it was made available on a compilation album of the music of Paul Lewis. But this I am sure is the first full release of music from the series. The music that Lewis produced for the series is some of the best I have heard from this period in television, in fact it is overflowing with dramatic and romantic interludes, contains tense and strong thematic material and serves the series effectively. The varied and inventively created elements of the score combine to generate an exciting and overly attractive and entertaining work, which at times conjure up a number of feelings of de ja vu for this listener at least.
Lewis’s music sounds more like a full blown film score as opposed to a television soundtrack, the composer orchestrating and arranging the music to a high standard that is quite honestly on a par with THE VIKINGS and THE LONG SHIPS soundtracks By Nascimbene and Radic respectively, this sound I think can be heard more prominently in track number three, CELTIC HORNS THE LONGSHIP, two rather subdued horns play in unison at the offset of the composition, creating for want of a better word a near restful atmosphere, this mood soon alters as the horns become louder and more threatening in their sound but after a brief period they revert back, again to a softer ambience before more brass is added and usher in strings which then introduce another level of uneasiness, all of the time the horns remain in the background punctuating and supporting, the composer adding wood wind and subdued percussion gradually, thus building the tension and atmosphere of unease and uncertainness‘. Horns are used again as the mainstay instrumentation in track number four, SENTINELS, which although brief is highly effective. Track number five, TO BATTLE is full to brimming with martial sounding instrumentation, woodwind, snare drums driving strings and jagged brass stabs and growls open the cue but are halted to be replaced by a more aggressive sound that is created by swirling strings and booming timpani which towards the end of the composition overwhelms all other instruments. This is an album that should be in your collection, it has been such a long time coming it would be re-miss of any self respecting soundtrack collector, old or new to not purchase it. Wonderfully presented and with marvellous sound quality. The score has a sound to it that could be Walton or even has certain affiliations to the style adopted by composer Frank Cordell on Cromwell and also maybe a gentle nod in the direction of James Bernard, I Recommended this to you without reservation.

5000 DOLLARI SUL ASSO.

  • Released on BEAT records Italy, June 2013

 

5000 DOLLARI SULL’ASSO.

5000 dollari sul asso

THE FILM

LOS PISTOLEROS DE ARIZONA, to give it it’s original Spanish title was released on December 31st1964 and had a number of alternative titles, 5000 DOLLARI SUL’ASSO, in Italy, 5000 DOLLARS ON AN ACE in the U.K. and DIE GEJAGTEN DER SIERRA NEVADA in GERMANY, to highlight just a few. Although produced after Sergio Leone’s A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and Sergio Corbucci’s initial entry into the western arena MINNESOTA CLAY, it became one of the first Spanish/Euro made westerns to be purchased and distributed by Metro Goldwyn Mayer.
Essentially this was a Spanish or “Paella” western but was co-produced by Italian (FIDA-CINEMAFOTOGRAPHICA-ROMA) and German (INTERNATIONALE GERMANA-COLOGNE) film studios, which is something that occurred regularly during the early 1960,s on European productions, the movie however was filmed entirely in Spain on location in the Aragon region of the country and at the Balcazar studios in Barcelona, which had been established by Alfonso Balcazar Granda and his Brother in 1951. Produced by Edmondo Amati and Alfonso Balcazar Granda, 5000 DOLLARI SULL’ASSO was predominately inspired by the westerns that had been made during the 1940,s and 1950,s by American filmmakers and also a handful of German made westerns that had been released in Europe, although a fairly entertaining movie with an active storyline, it was not a movie that could be deemed to be either particularly original or outstanding within the western genre. The film was released at a time when the Euro-western had not fully established itself as a separate entity from American productions and many critics looked upon any non-Hollywood western as a clone or rip off of the already established genre. Alfonso Balcazar Granda directed the movie under the pseudonym of Al Bagran and also collaborated with Jose Antonio De La Loma and Alessandro Continenza on the films screenplay, the latter being the author of the original story. When working on the screenplay the director was keen to cast an American actor in the leading role so Alfonso travelled to Paris to look for an actor to take the lead in their movie, it was there that heard about Robert Woods who was a fresh faced American actor and model.

Woods had been working in Paris acting in the theatre and also doing modelling sessions for Helmut Newton and Piere Cardin for which he was well paid, he had travelled to the French capital on his way to Italy to be considered for a part in the Otto Preminger movie THE CARDINAL. Unfortunately for Woods but fortunately for Balcazar Granda the actor was not successful in getting the role. At first Woods turned down Balcazar Granda, but the filmmaker was convinced that Woods was perfect for the movie and the day after his first meeting with the actor a determined Alfonso returned to the theatre where Woods was performing and offered him a five movie contract which the actor agreed to sign, as Robert remembered. “When Alfonso Balcazar offered me the lead in the film “$5000 On The Ace”, I was doing a Chekhov play called ‘The Seagull’ at The American Theatre in Paris, on the Quay D’Orsay… I turned Alfonso down at first, because of the money… but when he returned a successive night with a contract for five films and a much improved offer, I accepted without reluctance… I had no reluctance to doing a European Western… In fact I thought it was a great idea…something new”. Woods character Jeff Clayton had an uncanny resemblance to the central figure portrayed by actor Giuliano Gemma in the RINGO films, but when one takes into consideration that 5000 DOLLARI SUL’ASSO was released before these, maybe the Woods character had in fact inspired the main protagonist in A PISTOL FOR RINGO and THE RETURN OF RINGO in some way, the film having a common link because of Alfonso Balcazar Granda performing writing duties on A PISTOL FOR RINGO for director Duccio Tessari. Robert Woods also took a hand in contributing to the screenplay for 5000 DOLLARI SULL‘ASSO, the actor adding a number of his own ideas to a script which possessed a SHANE slanted storyline and an ending that had certain similarities with the classic western RIO BRAVO. “The movie took eight weeks of principal photography to complete and an additional week of action-scenes after they sold it for an American release to MGM…I didn’t do much re-writing…the script was good… I just tightened up some of the scenes and took out some clichés… all by mutual agreement” recalled the actor. The film included an international cast of actors from Spain, Italy, America and Germany with Woods being ably supported by Fernando Sancho as the lovable but untrustworthy rogue Carrancho, Helmut Schmid who put in a convincing performance as a cruel henchman named Jimmy el Negro and Maria Sebaldt (under the alias of Maria Sevalt) who portrayed Hellen, the love interest in the story.

Robert Woods recollected memories of the director and one of his co-stars Fernando Sancho, “Alfonso and I had few differences, which were worked out, with the sale of the film to America and the help of my agent, David Niven, Jr…. Petty grievances, for example, about redoing some of the most dangerous stunts… Fernando and I became life-long friends and went on to work many more times together… I miss him”.
The films storyline contains a fairly basic plot but has some interesting twists and turns, Jeff Clayton wins 5000 Dollars in a poker game and gains shares in a ranch as part of his winnings, Hellen and her Brother David (Giocamo Rossi Stuart), are also partners in the ranch and are unwilling to enter into business with Clayton. Soon after collecting his cash winnings Clayton rescues a Mexican bandit named Carrancho, but the only thanks he gets is to be immediately robbed by the same bandit. As if this is not enough bad luck for him Clayton is told by Hellen and her Brother that they think his claim to the ranch is not valid because of the way he obtained it, Hellen and David enlist the services of an attorney called Dundee (Richard Haussler) to see if Clayton’s claim on the ranch is a legitimate one but unbeknown to them, Dundee is actually planning to take the property for himself. The attorney employs a group of thugs to persuade land owners in the surrounding area to sell their properties to him by the use of strong arm tactics and then hatches a plot to have David arrested for the murder of the towns former banker, who has actually been killed by Dundee’s henchman Jimmy. His plan is to prove David guilty and then take possession of the ranch by having a relationship with Hellen. David is arrested and taken to jail and would have been hanged if it were not for the intervention of Clayton who testifies on his behalf and proves that he is innocent. Clayton then enlists the aid of his partners who realise that Dundee was behind the accusation against David and also receives help from the bandit Carrancho who turns out not to be as bad as he likes to think he is, the unlikely allies clash with Dundee and his hired guns in a fight for the ranch. The movie is overflowing with shootouts, energetic fist fights and numerous chases, which are all set against the backdrop of some stunning landscapes photographed by cinema photographer Roberto Reale.

 8718THE MUSIC.

The score for 5000 DOLLARI SULL’ASSO was composed and conducted by Italian Maestro Angelo Francesco Lavagnino and was his first western score. The composer was born in Genoa Italy on February 22nd 1909, he graduated from the Giuseppe Verdi music conservatory in Milan, with a diploma in violin and composition and spent much of his early career working as a musician in orchestras that were performing in the concert halls and opera houses in Italy. Whilst doing this he also began to teach music and it was during this period that Lavagnino decided to start to compose music for film, his first foray into film scoring came in 1947 when he wrote the music for the comedy drama, NATALE AL CAMPO 119, which was directed by Pietro Francisci and starred Vittorio de Sica. As the 1950,s began Lavagnino started to become known within his native Italy as a composer of great talent producing music of high quality and also he was able to adapt to any genre or style of film. He also continued to teach music at this time and helped other composers come to grips with the technicalities of film scoring, one such composer was Francesco De Masi who he not only tutored but engaged as an assistant for a few years. The composers first major film scoring assignment came in 1951 when he provided the soundtrack for OTHELLO which was directed by Orson Welles, Lavagnino also scored the actor/directors FALSTAFF-CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT in 1965 and it was probably because of his first collaboration with Welles that the composer began to be offered assignments on bigger budget productions which included non-Italian movies such as Henry Hathaway’s action, drama, adventure LEGEND OF THE LOST, which starred John Wayne, Sophia Loren and Rossano Brazzi in 1957, the British made GORGO in 1961 and Italian/American co-production ESTHER AND THE KING for Director Raoul Walsh in 1960. Lavagnino seemed to excel when he wrote music for documentaries and won awards for his work in this particular area of film. At The Cannes film festival in 1955 he was nominated for the Palme d’Or for his music to CONTINENTE PERDUTO and won the special jury prize at the same festival for the score. In the same year he won the Silver ribbon award for his score to CONTINENTE PERDUTO which came from The Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists. In 1956 his stunning score for L’IMPERO DEL SOLE (EMPIRE IN THE SUN) garnered him another nomination from the film journalists and in 1957 he was awarded the silver ribbon from the same organisation for his music to VERTIGINE BIANCA (WHITE VERTIGO).

Lavagnino was Sergio Leone’s first choice of composer when the filmmaker was filming A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, but the director was persuaded to engage a lesser known young music composer named Ennio Morricone, because the films distributor felt that Morricone would be a better choice. One wonders if the music for the Italian western genre would have evolved in a different way or indeed would have been as successful as it was if Lavagnino had scored the first Leone western. Obviously Morricone would have at some stage in the proceedings scored a western, but maybe the sound achieved would have also been different if Morricone had not collaborated with Leone in the early days of the genre. I say this because although Lavagnino’s music was at times highly original it was certainly more classical in its style and sound than Morricone’s and often leaned towards a more Americanised or conventional sound with some of what can now be deemed as being Spaghetti infused passages when the composer worked on westerns, but saying this Lavagnino created numerous western scores and put his own unmistakable musical fingerprint upon them. In the latter part of 1964 and throughout 1965, Lavagnino not only composed the score for 5000 DOLLARI SULL’ASSO but in addition worked on a number of other Euro-westerns, THE TRAMPLERS, L’UOMO DALLA PISTOLA D’ORO, THE MAN FROM CANYON CITY, OCASO DE UN PISTOLERO, SEVEN HOURS OF GUNFIRE, JOHNNY WEST IL MANCINO, SOLO CONTRO TUTTI and the comedy western I DUE SERGENTI DEL GENERALE CUSTER. He also penned the music too at least another seven western movies over the next few years one of the last being, SAPEVANO SOLO UCCIDERE in 1971. Lavagnino scored over 200 movies during his illustrious career and was responsible for creating some of cinemas most haunting and atmospheric soundtracks, his music supporting, enhancing, ingratiating and in certain cases almost caressing the movie or project he was involved with. The composer passed away in Gavi, Italy on August 21st 1987.

 

 

 The music for 5000 DOLLARI SULL’ASSO was issued on compact disc (CAM-CSE 116) in 1993, but the soundtrack release did not contain all of the music from the score, the song for example A GAMBLING MAN which was performed by Don Powell, who also provided the lyrics and included a whistling performance by Lavagnino was missing from the edition that C.A.M issued although an instrumental version of the theme, minus the whistle was included twice? Powell’s vocal version however was released on a 45rpm single at the time of the films release and the recording did make an appearance on a two record set called THE BEST OF THE BLOODY WESTERNS, on seven seas records in the 1970,s and later appeared on disc two of the Japanese four compact disc compilation, THE SPAGHETTI WESTERN ENCYCLOPEDIA, (King Records KICP-434) in 1994.

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The edition of the score that was released by CAM in 1993, had a running time of 42 minutes and contained 17 selections from the soundtrack. This expanded release of the score from BEAT records has a running time of 53 minutes and includes 23 cues, including the Don Powell vocal. The music is a fusion of the sound and style that was associated with western movies that had been produced in Hollywood and also it contains certain sounds and quirks of orchestration and instrumentation that would eventually themselves become a part of the “Spaghetti Western Sound”. Mexican Mariachis, jaunty saloon piano passages, dramatic and tense sounding pieces and melodic and plaintive interludes which are all enhanced and punctuated by electric guitar, trumpet performances and a brief but memorable whistling introduction to the song. Lavagnino’s score is a classic work from a genre that has produced a veritable smorgasbord of sounds, styles and musicality that still to this day inspires and influences cinema and film scoring.