RIZ ORTOLANI on LP,CD and Digital.

 

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Composer Riz Ortolani literally burst onto the world music stage when he co wrote the song MORE which was originally utilised in the movie MONDO CANE. Since this early composition and a composition that was a renowned world wide hit that was recorded by literally hundreds of artists the composer has written the scores to hundreds of movies both in his native Italy and the United States, England and Europe. The composer sadly passed away in Rome in 2014, but the musical legacy he left is immense. He worked on so many differing genres of film and with each assignment the composer gave to us the film music fans tuneful scores and haunting melodies as well as so many memorable songs. He like so many other Italian composers from the 1960.s and 1970.s worked on his fair share of Italian westerns, but Ortolani very rarely generated the same raw and savage sound as his peers with the composer often opting for providing a more romantic sound for his westerns, DAY OF ANGER I suppose is the exception with its harsh sounding brass and percussion that acts as a background to a catchy guitar lead theme that rivals anything composed by the likes of Nicolai. De Masi and to a degree Morricone.

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What was different about Ortolani and made him stand out from other Italian composers was that he worked on numerous non-Italian productions which were box office successes, thus gaining the composer recognition with a wider cinema audience. Movies he scored that were a success at the box office outside of Italy included, THE YELLOW ROLLS ROYCE, THE 7TH DAWN, THE GLORY GUYS, ANZIO and THE MCKENZIE BREAK. I was prompted to write this piece and the reviews after re-visiting THE YELLOW ROLLS ROYCE and realising just how many themes the score included. Ortolani was big on the use of themes, and introduced themes for certain characters and also situations that he repeated throughout the film and built up a musical character for the movie that not only complimented and supported but had a life away from the images and on screen scenarios.

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For example his score for MADRON which was a western shot in Israel and starred Richard Boone and Leslie Carron, not only contained the award winning song TILL LOVE TOUCHES YOUR HEART but also had to it at least three other major thematic properties, each one individual and attached to a character or a scene. At times I felt that Ortolanis music did not really suit some of the movies he worked on, GLORY GUYS for example was a little overblown and over the top, and it is rumoured that Ortolani never saw the movie before writing the score, but instead took his cue from the script and also discussion with the films director. Whether this is correct or not I cannot say, but there were many rumours surrounding Italian film music composers during this period, like the one that said Morricone had a library of scores at his home and would simply select one he thought would suit the film, not true ? We shall never know. I am sure there were occasions when Ortolani did not see the movie and gauged it from a script or even a cue sheet with timings, but either way the music was good and always filled with melody. So lets begin with a western, MADRON, in many ways it was a more serious version of TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA, with Boone playing the Eastwood character and Crron taking the role of the Nun which was played by Shirley Mc Claine. But its hard to say which film influenced which as they were both released in 1970, certainly TWO MULES was more of an audience draw simply because of the stars that headlined, but maybe MADRON was a better made movie in some ways.

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Ortolani’s score was quite unassuming and at times whilst watching the movie there is very little music at all or at least it seems that way, but I was always told if you notice the music too much then the movie cannot be that good, which when you think about it is very true. The song attracted much attention and the composers pleasant but understated scored is sometimes forgotten and overlooked by critics and fans alike. The LP on Quad records was issued in the latter part of 1970 and I think I am correct in saying no CD has ever been issued. Ortolani makes effective use of harmonica which could be performed by De Gemini on the soundtrack and enhances this with light and romantic sounding strings giving the work a pleasant and emotive sound. The song which opens and also closes the album is performed firstly by Richard Williams and then again at the end of the recording by Jan Daley, its a funny thing because the songs are the same as in lyrics and musical arrangements they both seem to have their own unique persona.
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From a western we head to England, for THE YELLOW ROLLS ROYCE a movie that was successful both in England, the USA and Europe, for this Ortolani penned a rather regal sounding work, which was filled with a richness that oozed pomp and ceremony right from the offset, it also contained the catchy and infectious song FORGET DOMANI which was given a vocal and instrumental outing within the movie. The score also featured the artistry of trumpet player Kenny Baker on the track entitled MAE, Ortolani created easy going themes that were laced with a Neapolitan sound and also fashioned beautifully romantic musical passages that were filled with a lush and lavish atmosphere. THE YELLOW ROLLS ROYCE is a score that should be in every film music collection, it is one of the composers best in my opinion as it combines the jaunty and the eloquent. Released originally on LP on MGM records the score has not received a CD release as a full score, but has been included on at least three compilations of Ortolani’s music.

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THE 7TH DAWN is an interesting score as the composer fuses both martial sounding music with romantic and Oriental flavoured themes, again the composer utilising brass and strings to great effect and underlining these elements with booming percussion and racing timpani especially in the action scenes, the harsh sounding brass is particularly effective and creates a hard hitting sound. There is also a lighter side to the work, again the composer provides a song, which is used as the love theme for the movie and performed by a chorus that would not be out of place in any of Mancini’s soundtracks. But then as now film companies looked at the soundtracks and encouraged the composer to include a song so that they could earn even more out of the movie after audiences had left the cinema. Ortolani’s surging and tragic sounding strings are stunning and work well within the movie as well as away from it. Dare I say that all the soundtracks I have mentioned so far are now on SPOTIFY, I know its not an ideal way to listen to them but at least one can get an idea what they are like at least.
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THE GLORY GUYS is another Ortolani soundtrack I remember buying on a United Artists LP many years ago, although it is a serviceable western score it does at times become quite abrasive and jagged because of the use of the brass, there is also an American sounding song, I say American sounding as in THE HORSE SOLDIERS type of style and sound. The song THE GLORY GUYS and the instrumental version entitled WARPAINT AND FEATHERS being the two stand out cues on the recording, both GLORY GUYS and 7TH DAWN were released as part of the Film Score Monthly FSM BOX 03 and are on disc number 11 of that set. Maybe in the very near future record companies will strat to release these gems onto CD and also I hope that one day Ortolani’s score for THE VALACHI PAPERS will make its way onto a compact disc./ Check out Ortolani, on LP on CD and on SPOTIFY/I TUNES. Enjoy.

 

CUSTER OF THE WEST.

 

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Released in 1967 CUSTER OF THE WEST was met with mixed reaction from both cinema audiences and critics alike, the movie attempted to show how the native American Indians had been treated by the government at the time, but also at the same time portrayed George Custer as a hero. The conflicting views within the story confused and also mislead watching audiences. The movie almost did not get made, in fact 20th Century Fox had wanted to make a faithful rendition of the life and times of Custer, but the costs spiralled and the studio decided to pull out of the project. It was at this point that Philip Yordan decided to step in and cast Robert Shaw in the role of Custer. Yordan’s movie was far from a faithful version of events, in fact it was no better than the Errol Flynn movie THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON, which too strayed from the truth and added bits and pieces that were pure fiction. Historians had numerous issues with the films storyline and were intensely critical of certain factors including the BATTLE OF THE LITTLE BIG HORN sequence which occurred at the end of the movie. For all its faults and criticisms however the movie was an entertaining enough production, and for me was a fusion of the earlier THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON and elements of THE SON OF MORNING STAR. One of the most enduring things to do with the movie was its vibrant and action filled soundtrack which was written by Brazilian born composer Bernardo Segall and although to a degree the soundtrack was cliched and not exactly original the music worked so well in the context of the film, supporting and underscoring many of the scenes that would have fallen flat without the musical support.

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Segall created a fully symphonic score and also provided the movie with a rousing song. The score was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the composer utilising to great effect the orchestras brass, string and woodwind sections and underlining these with thundering martial sounding percussion. There are a number of stand out cues on the soundtrack recording which I think I am right in saying has never had an official compact disc release, the only one being on a bootleg release which contained fifteen cues from CUSTER the remainder of the compact disc being given over to Nelson Riddles score for the western EL DORADO. I for one have the original LP on Stateside records (it was also issued on ABC and a single was available with a picture cover) The original LP release sports a wonderfully illustrated front cover. The score includes an alluringly poignant and emotive LOVE THEME which can be heard being performed by the orchestra in various guises throughout the soundtrack or more effectively being deployed over the end scene via a fragile sounding solo piano performance as we see Custer’s 7th cavalry laying dead in a circle falling where they fought, and Custer’s horse standing alone in the middle of the circle. I suppose one could say that CUSTER OF THE WEST was a fairly typical western score from the period and is sadly overlooked by many, but listening to it now it is obvious that this is a polished and quality score. My opinion for what its worth is that this deserves a compact disc or a digital release as it contains so many wonderfully stirring and emotive themes. The battle scene is scored in a forthright and commanding fashion, but the music never overpowers or acts as a distraction to the action that is unfolding on screen, the composer supports underlines and elevates, giving the scene an even greater depth and sense of despair and hopelessness as Custer makes his last stand against overwhelming odds.
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Segall worked only on a handful of films and TV projects, these included THE FISHERMAN AND HIS SOUL, THE JESUS TRIP, COLUMBO, AIRWOLF and MOON OF THE WOLF. He was not only a talented composer but was also a respected and gifted concert pianist. All I can say is surely there is a record company somewhere that would do this score justice with a CD release. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

MAJOR DUNDEE.

 

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Lets go back in time shall we, when men were men women were women and westerns were , well westerns. 1965 was a good year for movies and also soundtracks and it was also the year when Sam Peckinpah directed the Charlton Heston, Richard Harris civil war western MAJOR DUNDEE. Now this was an interesting movie and focused upon a group of regular Union soldiers, confederate prisoners, Indian scouts and a ragtag collection of bounty hunters who go in search of renegade Apache Indians. Being a Peckinpah western it was scattered with violent scenes and blood spattered encounters. The end scene in-particular which was a battle on the border with French lancers is impressive. The movie was scored by composer Daniele Armithetrof, who put a European sounding musical stamp upon the soundtrack, and although the score contained a rousing song performed by Mitch Miller and his gang the music was not what one would expect from an American made western during this period and that is why it is so appealing. The soundtrack was issued on CBS in the 1965, and contained seven cues, but the cues ran continuous not having any space between them, the album also contained sound effects on a number of the cues which for me somewhat spoilt the listening experience. However, saying this MAJOR DUNDEE still remains an entertaining score, with the composer throwing in some very different electronic effects on one or two cues. The Maestro also included some nice Hispanic/Mexican sounding passages and themes, utilising guitar and percussive elements to great effect. There are two songs on the soundtrack, the first being THE MAJOR DUNDEE MARCH and the second is a rather sugary and cliched sounding affair entitled TO BE WITH YOU, which to be quite honest one could skip over and not really miss it. Its a kind of Mancini/Mercer sounding song in a similar style to DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES or MOON RIVER, but not quite as good. The score suited the movie well and the composer underlined and punctuated the action, the romance and the melancholy well throughout. The soundtrack did get a re-release on LP and then onto compact disc, and finally having an expanded release on Intrada where it was paired with a new score that was commissioned for the movie,  but the new score by Christopher Caliendo never found a lot of favour with fans of the film.

 
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The original score by Armitheatrof is a soundtrack that you should try and check out and is available on Spotify now. I like it, maybe you will too. The march that the composer penned for the French Lancers is probably one of the highlights of the soundtrack. It is filled with pomp and ceremony and matches wonderfully the prancing lancers as we see them in the distance and as they ready to do battle with the unlikely band of heroes from across the border. As the two sides join in battle the composer integrates the Lancers theme into elements of the Dundee march and also adds to this Dixie for the confederate prisoners who are battling against the French alongside the Union troops, Armitheatrof also drives the music along with brass stabs, dark sounding piano and guitar in places, which makes for some great action music for this frenzied and somewhat chaotic battle at the movies conclusion.  Recommended.

THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS.

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THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS, opens in cinemas soon. A Disney movie for all the family and just in time for the pre Christmas hype that whips up the kids into a frenzy about the season of goodwill etc. etc. The score for this latest Disney extravaganza is by revered and respected composer James Newton Howard. There is something about Newton Howard’s music that is particularly suited to this type of film. It has to it a magical sound and also contains so much sparkle and shimmer it is hard not to become attracted and mesmerised by it. This is a score that is brimming with that feel good sound that warmth and copious amounts of good cheer. When listening initially I was reminded of Henry Mancini? Dont ask me why, I just suddenly thought, Mancini, maybe it is the time of year r the lush strings that evoked memories of SANTA CLAUSE THE MOVIE not sure, any way, Newton Hoard’s score is a beautifully crafted one and has within it little trademarks that we now associate with the composer via his scores for films such as MALEFICENT, add to this little references to THE SUGAR PLUM FAIRY etc. and we have here a hit soundtrack.

 

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Based upon the story by E. Hoffman where we see a young girl transported into a magical world of gingerbread soldiers and an army of mice. All Clara wants is a one-of-a-kind key that she hopes will unlock a box that holds a priceless gift from her late mother. She is presented with a Golden thread at her godfather Drosselmeyer’s annual holiday party, the thread leads her to the key, but no sooner has you got the key that it vanishes, disappearing into a magical and mysterious parallel world. Clarameets a soldier named Phillip, a gang of mice and the heads of State who preside over three Realms, these are The Land of Snowflakes, The Land of Flowers, and The Land of Sweets (my favourite). Clara and Phillip must be brave and go to the fearsome Fourth Realm which is home to the tyrant Mother Ginger, where Clara’s key is and hopefully when they retrieve it they will return harmony to the unstable world. So are you hooked already, I am. I suppose we could say that it was originally scored by Tchaikovsky, but that would be stretching the truth a little, although he did write the NUTCRACKER before the advent of film or at least film according to Disney.

 

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The story has entertained and enthralled so many children and adults over the years and I am confident that this latest manifestation of it will be just as popular. Newton Howard’s music is perfect for the story and the movie, its fragile and otherworldly style underlining and elevating the storyline giving it greater depth and even more of a magical feel. The composer also references certain themes from THE NUTCRACKER and interweaves these elements into his original score. In a number of ways the music does evoke memories of his MALEFICENT score, it is bold, sweeping and Grandiose, Newton Howard utilising choir, strings and proud sounding brass throughout, the quieter moments of the score containing subtle tones for woods and strings, which are affecting and poignant. The work is filled with a vibrant energy that is powerful and commanding, the strings drive the work along at pace in the more upbeat sections of the score but also add melancholy and an emotive sound in the lighter or quieter sections.

 

 

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We are treated to a musical pallet of colourful thematic passages and an abundance of moods that are light, dark foreboding and richly romantic and filled with melody. Many may say that this is sugary sounding score, but I recommend it to you, two bonus cues include a performance of THE NUTCRACKER SUITE by Lang Lang accompanied by choir and orchestra which is stunning and a vocal performance by Andrea and Matteo Bocelli, who sing FALL ON ME.

 

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OMA MAA.

 

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I know I say this a lot, but. Movie score Media have done it again, they have not only brought us a soundtrack that oozes quality but have again succeeded in introducing another young composer to the soundtrack collecting fraternity. The soundtrack is from the movie OMA MAA and the composer is Pessi Levanto. Now the composer maybe a new name to us but he as already created the scores for a number of feature films. All of which I hope to listen to in due course. The score for OMA MAA is fully symphonic and has to it a melodious and haunting sound. The composer fashioning rich and beautifully constructed tone poems which have to them a subdued lushness that are tinged with fragility and poignancy. Levanto combines strings with woods and piano that together bring to fruition highly alluring and attractive themes. Within the score there are sections which are given over to pensive sounding woods which are punctuated by harp and embellished with strings, their content being of the more romantic or melancholy leaning, but the composer also utilises the same instrumentation to bring forth dramatic and more urgent sounding pieces, combining the three types of instrumentation to great effect. There is a sadness present throughout the score that is emotive, its musical persona making a big impression or impact upon the listener, at times the style employed could easily be mistaken for the sound that is achieved by composers such as Rachel Portman or Debbie Wiseman, the richness and appeal of the thematic properties shining through and beckoning the listener to explore further. The work is a brief one unfortunately, with a duration of just 30 minutes. But the short running time is made up for by the abundance of themes. This one of those scores that you would probably look at in a record store and deliberate over for a while before committing to buying it, as there is not much info about the movie, and the composer being somewhat unknown outside of his native Finland, but you know when you take that chance and it pays off well OMA MAA is one of those cases, take a chance on it, check it out and be amazed, entertained and rewarded. You need to hear this.

 

Coinciding with the film’s wide release in Finnish cinemas, Movie Score Media presents Pessi Levanto’s score for the historical romantic drama Oma Maa. Directed and co-written by Markku Pölönen, the film is about the post-war reconstruction of Finland, following a heartfelt love story from the end of the war in 1945 until the country’s hosting of the Olympic Games in Helsinki in 1952. Starring Oona Airola and Konsta Laakso as the romantic leads, Oma Maa opens on October 26, 2018 all over Finland.

TRACK LISTING
1 Suite from “Oma Maa” 3:56
2 Opening and Ambush 2:12
3 Kiss 1:49
4 The Bakery 1:21
5 Bad News 2:14
6 Wedding 0:57
7 A New Home 2:50
8 Happiness 2:21
9 Annis Dreams 1:56
10 Winter Scenery 2:26
11 The Fire 1:42
12 Aftermath 3:28
13 The Letter and the End 1:38
14 Epilogue 1:17

 
MMS18022 • OMA MAA (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Music Composed and Conducted by PESSI LEVANTO
Release date (digital): October 26, 2018