I thought with the release of the new BOND movie SPECTRE I would review a couple of excellent compilations that include music from spy movies and thrillers that have a crime scenario which were made in the hallowed studios of Cinecitta in Italy, we all know that JAMES BOND IS GOOD, but in the words of the producer of both compilations Wolfgang Maier BUT ITALIANS DID IT BETTER. Which is in many ways true, the Italians were responsible for some pretty ingenious spy movies which were produced during those swinging sixties and endured and continued to be made throughout the 1970,s. Of course the Italian productions did not receive the coverage/publicity or even the distribution that the James Bond pictures got but nevertheless did contribute and become an important and entertaining part of the spy genre in film. The musical side of things in my ever so humble opinion was too as good if not at times more inventive and original than the works of Barry, Norman, Conti, Arnold etc etc, and even today 99 percent of examples outshine the most recent contributions made by Newman. Numerous composers were involved in the scoring of these James Bond look a like films, many of the Maestros had previously been active within the genre of the Spaghetti western and a handful of them before that had scored numerous examples of the Italian made Peplum flicks or Sword and Sandal adventures. De Masi, Piccioni, Morricone, Nicolai, Pisano, Fidenco, Orlandi, Alessandroni, Baclov etc are all names readily associated with this particular type of motion picture, each of them lending their own particular style and stamping their individuality upon them creating superbly luxurious sounding tone poems, easy listening masterpieces and full on action cues that although dramatic still managed to retain that essential musical attraction, or in other words a catchy tune. Plus let us not forget the contributions made by artists such as Edda Dell Orso who,s magical vocal talents graced the soundtracks of many of these movies, Franco De Gemini,s unmistakable harmonica playing and again Alessandro Alessandroni,s distinct whistling, sitar playing and guitar solos alongside his choir IL CANTORI MODERNI. The two compilations were both released in the latter part of the 1990,s the first being OUR MAN IN R.O.M.E. which contains 20 tracks all of which are of the highest quality. It also contained a new vocal version of Bruno Nicolai’s infectious theme for UPPER SEVEN, which is performed by Sabrina Montesi and is a perfect opener to the compilation, setting the scene for all of what is to follow.
For some reason when listening to Miss Montesi I am put in my a little of Bjork, I think because her voice is just so striking and suits perfectly the music of Nicolai, with romantic but at the same time mysterious strings, Alessandroni,s whistle and the near big band sound achieved by the composer on this track. She was an already established vocalist at the time that this recording was issued but it was her first foray into the Italian film music world. Track two is an equally iconic cue amongst collectors of film music from Italia, it is the instrumental version of KILL composed by Junior Pisano and Jaques Chaumont, with conducting and arranging duties undertaken by Berto Pisano, it’s a fast paced and high octane piece for brass, guitar and strings, the vocal version of the theme is also included on the compilation TRACK NUMBER 15, with vocals courtesy of Doris Troy (although I did think this was a male vocalist-before reading credits). Track number three is another composition from Bruno Nicolai who for want of better description first came to the attention of collectors via his unique conducting and arranging skills for Ennio Morricone and other high profile Italian film music Maestro’s. SPY CHASE is a quite easy going uptempo composition for orchestra and choir and at times can be likened to the works of Armando Trovaioli and Piero Umiliani, the track is taken from Nicolai,s score to AGENTE SPECIALE UK which soon after the release of this compilation received a full score release on DAGO RED records. For track number four we stay with Nicolai this time from KISS KISS BANG BANG the track being KISS ME WARREN PLEASE. Another cue from this score is also included on the collection, LOVE LOVE BANG BANG is an engaging and upbeat vocal by Nancy Cuomo. A change of style and also composer for track number five, music by the revered Maestro, Piero Piccioni with vocals provided by the composers preferred performer Lydia McDonald, BEFORE ITS TOO LATE is certainly no big blockbuster Bond song but it holds its own thanks to Miss McDonald and the inventive arrangement produced by Piccioni, taken from AGENTE 077(see what they did there)- DALL’ORIENTE CON FURORE. The instrumental version is also included which is performed at a slower tempo, with steamy and sensual sounding trumpet, woodwind and vibes that are all brought together by a slow and alluring percussive backing. The next cue is also the work of Piccioni, MISSION MORTE MOLO 83, this time we are treated to a catchy trumpet solo supported by an even more infectious backing which when combined create a typical Italian sound from the 1960,s.
Track number 7 is the work of Nicolai again and again taken from AGENTE SPECIALE UK and followed swiftly by the vocal from A GENTAR SI MUORE FACILE, which has music by Carlo Savina and could be Don Powell but I cannot be sure as the vocalist is unaccredited, either way its entertaining and could easily be taken from a western rather than a spy movie the instrumental version of the cue being included within the collection Track number 16.
Looking down the tracks on this first compilation it is more or less the best of Nicolai, Pisano and Piccioni, although there are a few exceptions with contributions coming from the aforementioned Carlo Savina, Luis Baclov, Gino Marinuzzi jnr, and Nico Fidenco with their compositions from A QUALSIASI PREZZO, TRE GATTI GIALLI and SUPERCOLPO DA SETTE MILIARDI respectively, the latter being represented by a hip shaking composition entitled SUPERCOLPO SHAKE. The films represented within the compilation span from 1965 through to 1971 and are I think representative of the style of music that was being employed within Italian made spy movies during this period. Notice not a Morricone track in sight. I particularly love the instrumental version of A GENTAR SI MUORE FACILE by Savina, it is mysterious and melodic and at times one thinks this could be from a western but then it alters and the mood changes along with the tempo as it launches into a cha cha cha type tempo for a while before reverting back to its mysterious beginnings, the composer utilising organ and percussion muted trumpets and romantic sounding strings to create so many moods in a short duration. So OUR MAN IN R.O.M.E. is if nothing else entertaining, but it is so much more, go buy it now seek it out online, its something of a rarity, and that’s because its so, good. Nicely and imaginatively packaged. So you got OUR MAN IN R.O.M.E that’s great everything is complete, ummmm not quite what you need now is SEXY VOICES !!!!!!! No,,,, I don’t mean you have to listen to it whilst talking in a husky voice, SEXY VOICES is the sequel compilation, and equally as alluring and entertaining as its predecessor. Released a few months after OUR MAN IN R.O.M.E. this compilation has an impressive line up of musical excellence taken from Italian spy movies. The collection opens with a vocal track from VEDO NUDO music by the illustrious film music/jazz Maestro Armando Trovajoli. LETS FIND OUT has an attractive vocal performance by Isabel Bond, which is supported by groovy sounding percussion,Hammond organ and jazz infused brass flourishes.
Track number 2, is the work of composer Luis Enriquez Baclov from the movie CUORI SOLITARI, TO THE BARREN MOOR is filled with deliciously easy flowing sounds and jazz filled performances for piano, saxophone and percussion that are further supported by strings and choir. I first heard this on a General music long playing record back in the early 1970,s, which was something of a show reel album for the composer and included music from this score plus a handful of others, in fact there is another cue from CUORI SOLITARI included on this compilation, which I have to say for me rivals the artistry and the originality of Morricone, FINO ALL ORIZZONTE can I suppose be labelled as being Morricone-esqe in its overall sound and style but at the same time there is an originality about it that is affecting and attractive. The composer employing a meandering piano which he supports with strings and intersperses with Edda dell Orso,s exquisite wordless vocals. SEXY VOICES is a collection of jazzy, upbeat and infectious sounds that are haunting and also highly entertaining. Morricone is represented within this compilation via his music for, VERUSCHKA (1971) and CRESCETE E MOLTIPLICATEVI (1973). But I think the highlight cue for me personally comes from Piero Piccioni, track number 7, LA VOLPE DALLA CODA DI VELLUTO, the composer utilising soaring female vocal (Edda of course) to great effect in this sensual and gracious sounding piece. In my opinion this second compilation is not as dramatic or hard hitting as OUR MAN IN RO.M.E. but its every inch as good because it compliments and contrasts the first release, the two discs show the variety of music that was written for Italian made spy movies and also displays the versatility of the composers who wrote for the genre, hats of to Wolfgang Maier for having the forethought to release these two collections at a time when many of the tracks were unreleased, of course since these two CD,S have been released many of the soundtracks have been issued in their complete form, but this takes nothing away from these releases. Worth finding, scour the internet people add these to your collection right away, again great packaging and some really nice notes by John Bender, who’s knowledge on Italian film is boundless.
Other scores represented include, A DOPPIA FACCIA (Orlandi),
UN DETECTIVE (Bongusto/Pregadio), KILL (Pisano), L’AMICA (Bacalov), IL COMMISSARIO PEPE (Trovajoli), the excellent BASTA GUARDALA (Franco Pisano) and others.