Maestro Ennio Morricone is probably the most prolific composer of film music in the 20th Century and continues to surprise and delight fans in the 21st Century only the other day we were presented with a new score by the Maestro which is unmistakably Morricone through and through, he just has the amazing ability to establish a sound and his style in the opening bars of any melody or theme that he pens and his undeniably unique musical fingerprint is recognised by all instantly. He not only writes for film and television but does also make the a number of forays into the world of what aficionados like to refer to as being “SERIOUS” music which is for concert hall performance. However if you were to stop a member of the public who knew just a little about films and music and ask them who is Ennio Morricone they would probably answer “He is the Italian guy who writes music for westerns” which is to a point true I suppose, but when you take a look at the musical output of this great music-smith one can see that western film scores take up a very small percentage of his contributions to film. As a collector of Italian music I am pleased to say that most of Morricone,s western scores have been released in complete editions or at least have had the odd track here and there on a compilation or music collection allowing collectors to at least savour certain cues from the scores. It is as we all are aware the Western score or the western sound that he invented along with director Sergio Leone on the DOLLAR movies, the composers creativity and originality when writing for western films more or less rejuvenated film music collectors interest in the western score and it is this type of soundtrack that the Maestro is still best known for, although I don’t think that Morricone himself would agree with this. Two westerns that were scored by Morricone however do remain unpublished, apart from a track or two along the way, which invariably were the same tracks on each occasion and were included in most collections of his work for the “Spaghetti Western”, as it was crudely dubbed by critics outside of Italy.
The two scores in question are, SEVEN GUNS FOR THE McGREGORS and SEVEN WOMEN FOR THE McGREGORS and it looks as if these two westerns scores are never going to be issued on a compact disc in complete form with various reasons being given as to why, but these last two Morricone western scores are certainly worth waiting for and I am sure that they will go like those veritable hot cakes that always seem to sell so well as soon as anyone decides to issue them on compact disc. Released in 1966, SEVEN GUNS FOR THE McGREGORS was in fact the first movie to be produced by Jolly Films after filmmaker Sergio Leone had departed the company, his assistant director for the film A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, Franco Giraldi was given the job of helming the production which starred Robert Woods, Agata Flori, Alberto Dell’Acqua and Fernando Sancho and to be fair Giraldi made a pretty good job of things. The production team involved on SEVEN GUNS FOR THE McGREGORS also included a number of technicians etc that had worked alongside Leone on the first DOLLAR movie and this also included composer Ennio Morricone.
The movie itself is essentially a comedy but also surprisingly contains a large amount of quite brutal violence, a hefty body count along the way and lots of what can be seen as rip roaring action scenes and brawls. The movie which was based on an idea by Duccio Tessari was filmed on location near Guadix, it boasted a couple of impressive scenes these were a particularly realistic and tense knife fight which took place on a waterwheel and also a really exciting and exhilarating attack on a train, in fact the assault on the train was so realistic that actor Fernando Sancho who portrayed one of the stories villains was nearly decapitated by an iron bridge as the train passed under it.
Thankfully Sancho escaped unscathed, which is more than can be said for some of his fellow cast members who sustained broken ribs and other injuries but were forced to carry on as the budget and schedule for the film was so tight. A number of the cast for the movie had originally been either stunt doubles or Circus performers so the frantically paced action scenes were at times very fast and certainly furiously entertaining. Ennio Morricone’s score was somewhat different from the western scores he had produced during this period of his career, written in the year after he worked on films such as A PISTOL FOR RINGO, THE RETURN OF RINGO and Leone’s FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and in the same year as THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY,NAVAJO JOE,THE HILLS RUN RED and THE BIG GUNDOWN.
The Mcgregors score seemed to contain more of an American sound to it, by this I mean that the composer scored the movie in a fashion which was original but not as unique as his approach on A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, with cues such as SANTE FE EXPRESS being expansive and urgent but also containing a more typical western sound or at least a western sound that we had become used to. Morricone making effective use of timpani (racing snares) and near anthem like but at the same time urgent sounding brass that is supported by choir underlined by strings and punctuated by piano.
The striking and pulsating opening theme is presented in the form of a somewhat tongue in cheek sounding march “MARCIA DI McGREGORS” underlines perfectly the persona of the central figures within the movie and adds a certain comedic rawness or bawdiness to the proceedings with Alessandro Alessandroni’s excellent Il Cantori Moderni providing the vocals and mid way through the track the whistling that are interspersed with shrill sounding Harmonica and Bagpipe effects supported by thundering martial sounding drums that just underline the Scottish connections of the McGregor family. The style that the composer employs at times within the score echoes the sounds of the Italian western soundtrack before it had truly established itself, by this I mean it is at times like listening to a western score that was written before or at the time of Leone’s first Dollar movie, however this does not take anything away from the quality of the soundtrack as this is a western score to die for, in fact anything from this period and by Morricone is an essential purchase. The sequel SEVEN WOMEN FOR THE McGREGORS (aka-UP THE McGREGORS), which was released in 1967. Actor Robert Woods did not return for this second outing of the troublesome Scottish family but like the previous movie it was directed by Franco Giraldi and was again a combination of comedy, action and violent scenes which are at times even more brutal and horrific than the first movie, we are treated (if that’s the right terminology) to executions, torture scenes and also a massacre of an entire towns population and a harrowingly effective scene that involves a child walking through the town being the only survivor of the carnage.
Robert Woods was replaced by almost unknown actor David Bailey, which was something of a risk on the part of the producers but a risk that paid off as Bailey was an impressive replacement for Woods. In this tale The McGregors gold is stolen by the same Mexican bandits under the leadership of Leo Anchoriz reprising his role from the previous outing and the McGregor boys set off in hot pursuit to retrieve it along the way encountering seven Irish women who they become romantically involved with, a cross eyed dentist also pops into the storyline and there are even more full on fist fights and drunken situations dotted throughout the storyline. Morricone again supplied the music, the original theme or a variation of it at least being utilised at certain points, but the remainder of the score was more of a low key melodic affair with Morricone penning a particularly melancholy central theme for strings and harmonica, which could easily be mistaken for a theme from any of the Winnetou movies which were produced by the Germans during the early 1960,s. The lighter more subdued approach mirroring the romantic involvement of the McGregors with the seven Irish girls. Hopefully both scores will find their way onto compact disc very soon, they would fit perfectly into the essential purchase category and make loyal Morricone fans ecstatic. So who is going to release these two soundtracks.