I remember as a kid sitting watching this movie, it was in a local flea pit called THE GAIETY, which had a reputation of showing movies a few months after they had been released. I was a little bemused because I had watched the original SPARTACUS and thought that it was great, this low budget B movie directed by Sergio Corbucci however I felt at the time was a little uninteresting and slow and certainly not in the same league as the Kirk Douglas epic. It was not until a few years later that I discovered more about the Italian Peplum and became to start to appreciate its qualities and also its pitfalls, and after seeing a few more Steve Reeve movies I became hooked upon their quirky but on many occasions incorrect historically story-lines. So it was also not until this time that I discovered who Sergio Corbucci actually was and also that the score was courtesy of Piccioni. Maybe not the composers best effort for the cinema, but as an avid collector of Italian soundtracks I decided to try and seek out the score on LP, of course it proved elusive, because it had not been issued. So it was a delight to hear that our good friends at Digitmovies had decided to include it in their Peplum soundtrack anthology. As I have already stated it’s certainly not the best of Piccioni, and at times one could easily forget it was actually penned by this Maestro. But as far as I remember the music serviced the picture very well and after all that’s what movie music is all about isn’t it? Piccioni’s score contains its fair share of atonal or suspense cues, with the odd flourish or burst of action and melody. But it is still an interesting early effort from the composer before he had established himself as a composer of note and originality. The production values from Digitmovies are as always very high, and once again they have presented the CD with striking and colourful art work and interesting notes. Worth a listen.
The expansive and comprehensive re-issue and release of classic Italian movie soundtracks continues on the ever industrious Digit Movies label. IL CORSARO NERO (BLACKIE THE PIRATE) is a swashbuckler that paired the acting talents of Terence hill and Bud Spencer. As always this unstoppable acting duo turn out some interesting and entertaining performances, and swap the familiar surroundings of the old American west for seascapes and tall ships in this tale of treasure, pirates and adventure. The character of the Black Pirate was created by writer Emilio Salgari and the story has been committed to celluloid a number of times, in fact the first version was produced in 1920, when a silent version of the story was directed by filmmaker Vitale De Stefano. Other versions include Allmeto Palermi’s take on the subject in 1937 and also Sergio Sollima’s popular 1976 movie. This particular edition which is considered to be the best was directed by Vincent Thomas in 1971, and contains a suitably riotous and infectious sounding score by composer Gino Peguri. The music has been issued before on an RCA LP, in 1971, this is now a very rare item, and is hard to find. The theme was also issued on a single 45rpm record, but again is also very difficult to locate. The compact disc re-issue not only contains the music from the LP and single, but also has 15 additional never before released cues 9 of which are in stereo, the remaining 6 being in mono. The score is a varied collection of thematic material, which includes, light sounding compositions, as in track number 1 NEL MAR DEI CARAIBI, period pieces, which are demonstrated in cues number 2, GLI AMORE DI ISABELLA and track 17 ISABELLA A CORTE. Hispanic laced numbers as in tracks number 4 POSADA DE MARIA and 11 IL VICERE DI SPAGNA, it also holds a number of melodic and dramatic musical encounters, the most prominent in the dramatic stakes being cue number 7 ALL’ARREMBAGGIO Add to this the march type composition that the composer has penned the best example being CORO DEI CORSARI and the various arrangements of the movies main title song ORZA QUI POGGIA performed by vocalist Paolo Ferrara, along with the instrumental versions of the cue and it all adds up to a extremely good listen. I will say that the song does sound better sung in Italian as the English lyrics are somewhat clichéd. I must admit to being a little apprehensive about this score at first, probably because of the genre of movie more than anything else, but as soon as one begins to listen to it, one instinctively knows that it is a soundtrack of worth. I am in no doubt that this will become a firm favourite with collectors, and for those of us who have heard it before, this re-issue will just rekindle the interest in the score. As usual the packaging provided by Digitmovies is second to none, and the sound quality is excellent. Another wonderful score brought back to life by the unstoppable Italian soundtrack specialist.
Maurice Jarre holds a special place in my heart as a music lover and also as a collector of film scores. Why? Because it was Jarre who many, many years ago got me into film music – well at least it was his mysterious, adventurous and lavish music for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA that fired up my interest in movie scores and began my long love affair with the art of scoring motion pictures. Many years later after I had met him and corresponded with him for a while I counted myself very lucky to have known him. Sadly he passed away far too soon and left a vacuum within the film music fraternity that will never be filled. It is via re-releases of his wonderful film scores such as this one, that we can again experience and appreciate his genius and also marvel at his talent as a composer, arranger, orchestrator and conductor. Jarre’s music for A WALK IN THE CLOUDS is probably one of his most musically poetic contributions to cinema, its lush and romantic sounding phrases and themes are elegance, luxuriance and emotion personified. The opening track is a testament to this statement because within cue number 1, “Main Title/Boat Arrival”, we hear wonderful melodic writing that has a fullness and also a sumptuous aura to it. But at the same time Jarre’s magical sounding soundtrack reveals a more intimate and withdrawn persona. The string section lead the proceedings with the composer enlisting solo guitar, woodwind and a scattering of brass with just a hint of percussion to support the strings. These elements combine delightfully to create a piece that is not just hauntingly beautiful, but also a joy to experience. One of my favourite tracks on the soundtrack is cue number 7, “Butterfly Wings”. At first it is a piece which purveys an atmosphere of drama and maybe a hint of urgency but as the composition settles and progresses, Jarre brings into play a light and airy sound with strings and chimes introducing what will be the core theme of the cue. Strings and brass combine and soar in unison to fashion a restrained but effective crescendo which melts away to usher in a pensive woodwind solo which continues with a more subdued and if possible more emotive variation of the theme which brings the all too short cue to its conclusion.
Also within the score there are some more robust sounding sections, one of which is track number 9, “The Harvest”. This is a brisk and vigorous sounding piece, full to brimming with confidence and a joyous expectation, the composer creating an up-tempo jolly sound via the use of strings, woods and mariachi sounding brass. It is an effective piece; both infectious and uplifting. There are no less than 12 previously unreleased cues on this expanded edition of the score, one of which is track number 8, “Morning Walk/I’ll Stay”. This begins with woodwind underlined by subdued strings, the woods introducing and developing the core theme and passing it to the strings and vice versa, faraway sounding brass in fleetingly introduced, but it is the woods which are prominent in the first instant. Heart warming solo guitar is then introduced which is enhanced by gracious sounding strings, but these fade and a sorrowful cello solo is heard, which creates a melancholy but emotional atmosphere. Strings then raise their melodious heads and bring the composition to its end. Track 10, “First Kiss” is what one would expect from a cue titled as such, heartfelt soaring strings, play out a fully romantic version of the central theme, augmented by light woods that etch an atmosphere of ebullience upon proceedings. This score is one which will be savoured and enjoyed by all who listen to it. It matches perfectly the romantic content of the film’s storyline and exudes the atmosphere required for such a tale. This is Jarre at his romantically laced best with the composer at his most melodic and, although the work is not twenty years old yet, it is a classic Jarre score.
Teo Usuelli, is another Italian composer that has been almost overlooked by collectors, I personally first encountered his music in the movie SAUL AND DAVID, on an old CAM LP record, and I know this is probably not the best example of this gifted music smiths talents, but it certainly made me aware of this Maestro. The movie was directed by Silvio Amadio and featured the acting talents of the stunning Barbara Boucher and Rosalba Neri. Usuelli,s beautifully crafted and performed score is a delight to listen to, and contains not only somber, tense and harrowing themes, but light and easy going passages that will haunt the listener for days after the initial listen. Usuelli puts to effective use the combined sounds of female voice organ and what sounds like an Ondes martinot (I am probably wrong- I don’t know the difference between a crotchet and a cheese quaver). The effect he realizes is certainly attention grabbing and lasting. The romantic sounding central theme which usually penned for the production is heard in varying arrangements throughout the work, and is pleasing in every manifestation. Strings, female voice, choir and laid back brushed percussion give it a full work out in track number 21. There is also a more up tempo theme, that has an almost disco sound to it, in which Usuelli has a female performer repeating the word SEXUAL in a provocative and steamy fashion over a hip sounding backing track made up of percussion, bass guitar and jazz sounding electric guitar which can be heard in track 22. The way in which the composer combines electronic sounds and the more conventional instrumentation of the orchestra is quite breathtaking, most definitely a musician ahead of his time and one who was clearly not afraid to experiment. The final track on the CD is also a stunner, romantic strings open the cue, then solo female voice becomes centre piece of the composition with strings building around it, creating a lush and fully starry-eyed sound that will I am sure please any connoisseur of the Italian film score. This is another almost forgotten gem from the vaults of BEAT records archive, and a score that I can only recommend that you purchase straight away. Packaged well with some great art work, and a nice booklet that includes more stills and notes on the film, the music and the composer. Well worth the money.
Jim Parker is a composer who works predominantly on scores for television productions, his music has graced and supported the likes of THE HOUSE OF ELLIOT and SOLDIER SOLDIER, but like many television scores he has had to work within a less than lavish budget, this however has never deterred the composer in any way from producing soundtracks that are intricate, inventive and more than worthy, plus works that sound not only lavish but quite grandiose. BODY AND SOUL was one such project, the composer producing a semi classical sounding score which relied on strings and woods as its mainstay. On hearing Parker’s haunting theme for the first time some years ago I was under the impression that this had to be the work of an Italian composer or a composer from anywhere in Europe apart from the UK, the sound and style of Parker’s engaging and highly melodic work is in many ways similar to the style of Stelvio Cipriani, strings carrying the central romantically laced melodies whilst being enhanced by light and fresh sounding flourishes from piano, woodwind and subtle usage of harpsichord. The cello also features throughout the score, and its sorrowful heartrending performance is a vital component of Parker’s spellbinding compositions. The CD opens with the central theme performed by a small string ensemble, that seems by volume to grow in size as the cue moves along, the composer utilizing strings and clarinet playing in unison to great effect whilst adding little scatterings of harpsichord which themselves act as an introduction to a mesmerizing cello solo which although short lived makes its mark upon the listener. The remainder of the score is as delightful and haunting as the main theme, the composers orchestrations being precise and well thought out. Parker’s delicate placing of woods and underlying strings in certain cues adds depth and atmosphere to the story that is unfolding and creates a wonderful listening experience away from the images it was intended to support and enhance, Body and Soul is probably a CD that many collectors would pass by in the browsers in record stores, which is a shame for them as it is a admirable addition to any discerning film music enthusiasts collection.