WEST AND SODA was a well made and slightly satirical animated feature that was brought to the screen by Italian film maker, Bruno Bozzetto. The movie has a pretty down to earth and basic plot which involves a villain who’s greed gets the better of him and attempts to make a widow marry him so he then has access to her land and other property. But a stranger who ambles into town has other ideas and becomes intent on taking the villain and his associates down. I think this animated movie was probably aimed more towards the adult market as opposed to the kids, as it’s storyline is based upon and includes a number of references and nods in the direction of various westerns to extent that it at times mocks the western genre as a whole. So, one would have to have some knowledge of western films to be able to understand the humour that the director employs as he over-exposes the WESTERN stereotypes that we have been seeing for many years. In my opinion the film is probably an acquired taste, you will I think either loathe it or love it, I loved it and especially the score by composer Giampiero Boneschi, who manages to capture the essence of the western score from both American and European examples of the genre. But of course, being an Italian production there are an abundance of musical references to the Spaghetti western or at least Homages to the composers that scored those quirky and entertaining sagebrush sagas. The opening cue WEST AND SODA begins with harmonica (performed by the great Franco De Gemini) which could be straight out of Luis Bacalov’s THE PRICE OF POWER, a vastly underatted work for the genre and one that seems to be overlooked by fans.
But then when you stop and think about the cue, maybe Bacalov took inspiration from Boneschi because WEST AND SODA was released four years previous to THE PRICE OF POWER, so maybe I am looking at the score from the wrong prospective and it is not influenced by the likes of Morricone, Nicolai, Ferrio, Cipriani etc but was a pre cursor to a number of their scores and the composer was just as much as an innovator and responsible for the creation and the development of the Italian western sound as the aforementioned and many others. The score also includes some interesting choral work that sounds very similar to Morricone’s THE HILLS RUN RED and also like the IL CANTORI MODERNI,(thats because it is them performing). There are certainly familiar sounds within the score from American or Hollywood westerns with the composer utilising romantic sounding strings and writing in such a way that it purveys a huge expansive vista such as monument valley or the rich and lush prairies of the old west. Which every so often builds and heads into a more Wagnerian sound or even Rossini in the a slightly less rousing version of THE WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE. But for much of the time there are definite Italian or Spaghetti western sounds present, these at times being emphasised maybe because it is an animated feature?
Track 4 for example contains solo trumpet and driving percussion to which is added horn as the cue builds and then shortly afterwards stops, this is a sound that I have heard in a number of other Spaghetti western scores, Fidenco’s excellent JOHN IL BASTARDO for example in the instrumental version of the THE BALLAD OF JOHN. So, it’s a question now of who influenced who? WEST AND SODA is not spaghetti through and through as the composer also creates dramatic and tense musical environments via a sound that is not dissimilar to some of the early western scores of Dimitri Tiomkin or for that matter Alfred Newman, Max Steiner et al. There is even the obligatory clip clopping sounds to mimic a horse which act as the background to a lilting string arrangement and syrupy sounding harmonica solo which is even more easy than easy listening. The score has a TANGO influenced piece which is also in my opinion a kind of homage this time to the silent film era, as it sounds very comedic and fast paced with over the top flourishes. But that is just a personal feeling.
There is of course the mandatory saloon track, and a square dance type track, but every Italian western score has its fair share of those. Overall WEST AND SODA is a rewarding listen, it is like a musical who’s who or what is what from the Western score, soft and also tense and expansive representing those Hollywood productions and quirky and thematic highlighting the sound of or at least the sound that would become associated with the Euro-western from Italia. An interesting and as it turns out an innovative score, originally released on Carosello records, its thanks to BEAT RECORDS that this is at last on CD with great art work and pristine sound.