You know that most of us as film music collectors have what is often referred to as a wants list and there are a few titles that are our holy grails, well one score that was mine I managed to get about eleven years ago on a CDR. Yes, it was a bootleg, and I am sorry I even thought about buying it but buy it I did. But, before you all rush to the police station to report me the score was not so they told us ever going to be released, even though a handful of reputable record labels did try and get it an official issue. In fact, I was involved in talking to a publisher for an English label who were very keen to release it, the score in question is Roma Come Chicago or Bandits in Rome, this is a hard hitting and highly dramatic score from two of the most important music Maestro’s in Italian film scoring, Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai. A few tracks did appear on a compilation and 1 or 2 made an appearance on the B side of the Poo records label LP of Hornets Nest, which was like a carrot being dangled in front of collectors, because if there was one track or even two there were surely more around somewhere. As I say the bootleg had around twenty three tracks, and the sound quality was very, very good. The score has now been given an official release, its on the Spanish label Quartet, who these days seem to be very industrious. Fantastic I thought an official release of this iconic score, but stop, wait a minute, let check the time of the boot and the tracks. Ummm, more tracks on the bootleg, five more tracks in fact. Sound, well I don’t, know, I think the boot has the edge, its sharper on many of the cues, whereas the Quartet edition although official is dull sounding in places. Right before anyone shouts witch hunt, this is a review (which is a personal opinion of the reviewer) I am a film music critic and I do not just analyze the score but also the quality of the release as in sound and presentation.
This latest quartet release is in a word disappointing, it’s a score many have been craving, and this is in no way a salute to the great Ennio Morricone, it is not a tribute but in many ways a travesty. I am sure if he were still alive, he would have stopped this release. Like he did so many others that he felt were not his best or reflected his talent.
The opening cue sounded promising, with its rather chaotic sounding percussion, that evokes several other Morricone cues from the same period, this upbeat percussive onslaught is the Main Title, but on looking at the movie, I don’t think it is, this cue is not even on the old bootleg at least not in this form? You all know I am a great admirer of Ennio Morricone and Italian film music in general I have been since I was ten years of age and that was a very long time ago. So, I do get annoyed when a score of his is released and the record label does not do it justice, and there is a lot of examples of those I can tell you.
So, Roma Comme Chicago is added to that list for me it just does not cut it, the sound is at times distorted, this is especially noticeable on tracks number 4 and number 8 which are variations of the dramatic theme, its like it has been recorded at a volume that is far too loud and the meter has gone off the scale, and yes I am aware that in Italy a lot of soundtracks had quite poor quality sound when they were recorded or first released on LP record, one only has to listen to things like Find A Place to Die by Gianni Ferrio and also other releases such as releases on Ariete records back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. But saying this when Find a Place to Die was issued on compact disc the sound quality was superb. On listening again and again Roma Come Chicago suffers from a distortion or a chatter on the more delicate sounding cues aswell as in I Like My Life lll which is track number eleven.
Look! I am not going to say to you this is a fantastic release, and it has superb sound, because it clearly does not, and if I were to say to you it was flawless then I would not be doing a credible job as a critic, would I? If I said go buy it and you did, you would then hear the obvious flawed sound and think, well I won’t be reading his reviews again, would you not? The score without a doubt is excellent, so for that and that only it is desirable from a Morricone/Nicolai fans point of view, but the audio on this is no better than listening to a bad bootleg, thankfully many already have the boot that was doing the rounds. However, I wont say stick with that, because any official release MUST be supported, especially when its Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai, and I in no way support the bootleggers that are around, but don’t expect this to be crystal clear and fully restored, because it is not, they can say it is but come on just take a listen guys. The annoying thing is that this is a million miles away from the sound quality on other Quartet releases, such as The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and Midnight Cowboy so why? Roma Come Chicago also suffers along the way from a few volume drops throughout the discs duration, again this seems to occur in the more dramatic cues or the various arrangements of that theme, which again makes me think the problem is in the original recording or mix and maybe could not be improved upon, there are also sections of these cues that speed up, and begin to sound as if they are trying to get to the end of the cue before the tape runs out, sorry for being flippant but that’s it, Rome Come Chicago or Rome like Chicago, or Bandits in Rome, whatever it is called where you are, deserves much better.
My opinion, for what its worth after this review is that this was a rushed release, it became available and the label wanted it out there asap, there’s a saying isn’t there, more haste less speed, in this case it’s more haste less sound quality. The cover art too is wishy washy, but thankfully one can flip it to show a much better cover art. As a Morricone/Nicolai fan of over fifty years, I feel let down, and disappointed, as a critic I am just being honest, I don’t think there is a law against that is there? CD available now, and an LP version is on its way. I wonder whats next on the Morricone front. Looking into my crystal ball i see a western.. no two westerns. Both with same characters and a number 7 involved. If I am right cross my palm with dollars….