More and more Italian soundtracks are making it to CD these days, the sad thing is most of them have already seen a release, and also had further re-issues some including extra cues others being released with the same track line up of either the original LP releases from the 1960’s and 1970’s or the original compact disc release. Many of the CAM soundtracks that were issued onto LP record during the 1960’s and into the 70’s and the 80’s were notoriously short in duration, some running for less than thirty minutes. The question I ask about this tidal wave of “new releases” that labels such as Cinevox, Beat, and Sugar music are re-issuing is do the collectors need them or want them and also is it fair on collectors for so many to be released, with the same track listings for what is seen to be a high price in the retail market.

I think collectors etc would probably be more accepting of so many re-issues if they were to be released on maybe a budget label that is attached to the main record label, as we had in the days before CD’s with labels such as Sunset and even really cheap labels such as MFP and Hallmark both labels issuing some great soundtracks and compilations which were film music related for the princely sum of under a pound sterling. Instead labels that have issued scores several times continue to get more mileage out of them by presenting them with different artwork, or add different liner notes etc, attempting to make them desirable from an avid collector’s point of view, with the music which is the important thing often taking second place. All the time applying a full price tag to them. So are these a genuine attempt for labels to preserve scores or is it merely another way of getting A few dollars more out of collectors.

Ok, re-issues are in many ways a good thing, especially if you missed the soundtrack first time, second time or even third time around. But these re-issues for me personally are surplus to requirement, with some having a re-issue twice in a twelve-month period. Recent examples include The Big Gundown (La resa di Conti) by Ennio Morricone, a classic score, and a big favourite with many, but one that has been re-issued many times in its original form and in expanded and then so-called definitive editions onto compact disc, and with the popularity of vinyl was also issued on an LP record. So, in my opinion this is an example of record labels getting more mileage and of course ultimately generating more revenue from a score that is fifty-six years old this year, with very little outlay or need of a lot of restoration/remastering work. The thing is do they sell? Well, no record company ever says they do not, but often stress that the soundtrack market is “specialist”, so in other words sales are limited then, yes?

I may be wrong, but I am sure that The Big Gundown has been released on at least eleven separate occasions from its initial release on UA records back in 1966 to its most recent incarnation on BEAT records in 2022. And let’s not forget the digital releases too on the various streaming platforms, which have been many.

The so called definitive compact disc version was issued on GDM, which was re-mastered apparently, but the sound quality was as agreed by many critics and collector’s variable and even questionable because of its echoey reverb making it sound as if the mix was not quite correct or badly unbalanced. The same can be said for the recent Beat re-issue, so is it the same master? Who knows and it’s not worth asking because they wont tell you.  

American labels do also re-issue soundtracks, but they tend to be more selective and at least leave a decent gap between any subsequent re-issue of the re-issue if you get what I mean. And in the cases of La La Land, Intrada, and Varese these re-issues in most cases give the collectors content that is worth having and paying extra for, with thick booklets crammed with notes and lots of stills from the movie or movies.

Italian labels in my opinion do not, and just keep on releasing and re-releasing over and over, with some of the titles beggaring belief as to “WHY” they have even considered re-issuing them. Comedy scores for example, are at times are like the movies themselves, with anyone outside of Italy not really getting the humour or indeed the quirky sounding scores, these scores being a wallpaper of sound that accompany many movies that are just not worth the celluloid they are on. Beat records have been guilty of this many times, with some of these soundtracks literally being un-listenable or laughable because they just have no depth or substance, and this is not the fault of the composer, after all they can only do their best and if the movie is bad how can they be inspired to create something that passes as even mediocre at the best.  Again, a case of the labels releasing something for the sake of it not even thinking if they will sell or not. But I suppose that is up to the individual label, well yes, but would you not think that their time, money, and effort would be better invested re-issuing something that collectors might be vaguely interested in?  But that’s another problem, most Italian labels do not listen to the collectors, makes sense I would have thought that if you are going to release something you want to sell it and make money to invest in more releases that are popular to again sell and make more revenue? Maybe not! There are I would guess several scores that are in the music vaults of CAM, Beat, GDM, Cinevox, etc that have been gathering dust for years.

I think it all started to go wrong when, labels like Digit Movies came on the scene, who at first released lots of brilliant music, and I thank them for that. They soon showed signs of slowing their avalanche of releases probably because they realized that the material was just not good enough. But, other labels, producers and self-titled remastering guru’s (for want of a better description) then began to also release material from Italian cinema and TV, and because the number of labels grew the number of good titles dwindled, because every label wanted to issue  certain scores.

So faced with popular titles drying up, labels and producers turned to the not so good items (which there are many) and flooded the market with soundtracks that collectors had not heard of, and the labels relied upon collectors buying these because of the composer. After this the labels started to run out of the not so good items so rather stop or become more selective, they turned to the dire and dismal examples, and that’s what has been happening since. Sugar music acquired the CAM catalogue and embarked upon a re-issue program that was vast, but all had been issued before, many in the original CAM soundtrack Encyclopedia, so what was the point? Well, the point was to try and entice fans to buy again and again, maybe because of new artwork and sometimes because of an extra thirty seconds of music. Because film music collectors do tend to do this, and record labels are well aware of the habits of said collectors. Quartet records from Spain have become heavily involved with the release of vintage Italian film scores, again their programme began with impressive titles which were very well presented and remastered to a high standard, but in recent months maybe the urgency to release certain scores has overshadowed the care and attention that the label once had when releasing a soundtrack. Three releases come to mind two are Italian one is by a British composer from a British movie.

The first time I began to notice a less than remastered sound was on Roma come Chicago, by Morricone and Nicolai, the release seemed to be rushed, containing less than inspiring art work and a sound quality that leaves much to be desired, this was an important release one that had not been available commercially and was released not long after the death of Morricone, but for the few of us lucky enough to have the score already on cdr it was disappointing to say the least, as the Quartet editions sound paled in the light of the quality of something that was basically a bootleg.

This is also the case with Femmine Insaziabili by Bruno Nicolai, again nice to have the extra cues but maybe improved sound would have been a better idea? The Quartet sound quality again being surpassed by the Easy Tempo CD and LP release and only just marginally superior to the original Ariete release.

Then the re-issue of Zulu by John Barry, in both stereo and mono, the mono sounding superior to the stereo tracks, and the extra cues well less than three minutes, and that is distorted. I think Quartet are a good label they do release some great titles, but…..attention to detail especially in sound department is recommended by all. 

Now there is also the computer-generated track, or (Music never available before) there have been a number of Italian scores that have been re-issued with extra music which is great, but then after a while up they pop again with even more music? So why not include the extra music in the definitive edition in the first place? Probably because this so-called extra music on the re-issue of the definitive edition is not from the score but is elements of the score tracks that have been cobbled together by the hallowed and revered person who is supposedly responsible for the re-mastering, in other words this person remixes pieces of tracks and combines them to present them as a rare and never before released cue.

Also, there is the Karaoke version of the song?  So, the instrumental version of the vocal then? Or is it just the vocal track with the vocal taken out? Probably either way it’s what is known as a scam where I come from. And Italian labels and certain re-mastering operatives based in Italy are so guilty of this, prove me wrong, but I don’t think they can. I have been collecting now for 60 years, and I have seen so many releases and re-issues some official some not, but what I loathe is collectors being lied to for the sake of an extra few euros, yes this is an outspoken article, but its one that comes from the heart and one that I hope will resonate with other film music lovers. Of course, there are labels that release soundtracks that are genuine, and their owners etc are all devoted film music fans, and share a love of the music with fellow collectors. But this is aimed at labels that are in essence making a quick buck for very little outlay and to be blunt are conning fans out of their hard-earned cash. They know who they are which makes it even more disgusting. They are not soundtrack lovers but soundtrack mercenaries. This is no way a slight on the Maestro’s that have written so many great film scores, their music forever lives on in the recordings, but do we really need so many releases of the same score? It is also not a slight upon the legitimate people in the industry that produced so many great soundtrack releases over the years, some sadly no longer with us, and others no longer producing because of the shoddy releases that have flooded the market in recent years. In fact I say to those retired or semi retired, please come back. And to others who I think could take this personally, well if the cap fits wear it.