There are many new releases of soundtracks every month, I think now with the various streaming services more than ever, and of course there are also so many re-issues, some with extra music others just straight re-releases of what was available before. Gone are the days of seeking out the various soundtracks on CD in the many record and CD shops instead its easier to just type and click the details into ones PC and up they all pop. Which made me think about soundtracks that newer collectors might had missed out on, which may not have made it to the likes of Spotify or Apple Music and the quality and wealth of music that comes from the Italian produced western.
Its surprising that some of the younger recruits to the ranks of movie music collecting might not have experienced the spaghetti western score, yes of course almost everyone is aware of the music of the great Ennio Morricone when it comes to Italian westerns, but what of other composers who were also active within the genre and were equally responsible for establishing and developing the sound of that genre and created a whole new way of scoring westerns.
Many of the scores from Italian productions have eventually in one form or another made it to CD during the past three decades, and some titles proved very popular especially if they were the work of known composers such as Morricone, Bruno Nicolai etc.
In this article/review I will list a few of these and try to persuade newer collectors of film music to savour them you never know they might for a few minutes stop applauding Hans Zimmer, and move away from the soundscapes and drone like hums and crashes, but I doubt it. I suppose the best place to start is with the CD releases on the iconic soundtrack label C.A.M. and those that were issued as part of CAM’s Soundtrack Encyclopaedia, which initially included one hundred titles.
One of the titles was Los Amigos (1973) or Deaf Smith and Johnny Ears, as it was entitled outside of Italy, the movie starred Anthony Quinn and Franco Nero and was a really good movie which had a robust and interesting score by composer Daniele Patucchi, now although this is a Spaghetti western it was a little different when it came to the music, there were no real stock sounds from the genre included in the score and it is more or less a Hollywood sounding soundtrack, with the composer opting to use brass, percussion and strings in the main, the score did however include two good songs, the title track The Ballad of Deaf and Ears and also Even if you’re not the First one, both of which had lyrics and were performed by Anne Collin with music provided by Patucchi. The score included instrumental versions of these also and a scattering of dramatic and quite bombastic sounding cues.
With the music sounding more like Bernstein and Goldsmith in places, this was a straight LP (issued in 1973) track to CD release containing no extras for the compact disc which was issued in 1991, and was like so many of the CAM first CD releases notoriously short in its running duration which was just over thirty minutes, but the music is worth adding to your collection.
It was one of very few spaghetti westerns that had an LP release outside of Italy with the soundtrack appearing on EMI in the UK. Patucchi also scored movies such as Black Killer and Death Played the Flute both released onto CD by Hillside/GDM.
Another, release from CAM was one that carried on the practise that CAM had begun back in the 1960’s of releasing two scores on one LP which was good news for collectors, the CD release contained Adios Gringo (1965) and Un Dollaro Tra I Denti (For a Dollar in the Teeth) (1967) aka-Stranger in Town, the latter being the first in the trilogy of movies in the stranger series of movies that starred Tony Anthony.
Both scores were the work of composer Benedetto Ghiglia, who also created the music for El Rojo, and Four Dollars for Vengeance, and were not what we know as traditional Spaghetti western scores, if traditional is a word in the vocabulary of the Italian western soundtrack. Ghiglia who was an already established composer of film scores was known for experimenting with percussive sounds within his soundtracks, and in a way, he successfully invented his own unique sound to accompany the very few westerns he scored.
The CD for Adios Gringo and For a Dollar in the Teeth was released in 1996 and had a running time of nearly an hour, it again is certainly well worth listening to as both scores are inventive and innovative and a look into the musical world of the Italian western before the sound that we are now familiar with established itself.
Another movie in the stranger series was A Man, A Horse, and A Gun, Shoot First Laugh Last or The Stranger Returns. The now iconic soundtrack was written by Stelvio Cipriani. I say iconic mainly because of the score’s central theme, which was covered by so many artists throughout the world including Henry Mancini and LeRoy Holmes. The theme being quite simple and sparse sounding but straight away conjuring up the feel and atmosphere of a western. The soundtrack was issued on a CAM LP originally as the B side to Charles Dumont’s score for another Italian western The Belle Starr Story which sadly has never been released onto CD.
The premiere CD release of Cipriani’s score came as part of the first batch of the Cam Encyclopaedia and is now long out of print and rare, but it was then re-issued by CAM as a three score CD which also included selections from the Cipriani’s first western score The Bounty Killer, as well as a few tracks from Nevada, a lesser known western from Italy, again released in the Cam Encyclopaedia series but in a later set of discs.
I think the reason for a re-issue quickly was that CAM had received so many complaints about the short running time of the score which was under thirty minutes and there were so issues on the sound on a couple of the tracks. The three-score compact disc is worth having to appreciate the talent of Cipriani, but if it is a fuller version of A Man A Horse and a Gun you are wanting then the definitive edition must be the Hillside/GDM release. Which contains the long version of the theme which was for some reason missing from both CAM CD releases, even though it was featured on the original LP. The Hillside release also features the original artwork from the LP release which is stunning.
Stelvio Cipriani wrote numerous inventive scores for westerns and his music for the movie Blindman is certainly one for your collection, as is his music from They Call Me Hallelujah both of which are on a par with the quality of A Man A Horse and a Gun.
Other titles in the first batch of C.A.M releases included in the CAM Encyclopaedia came in the form of Corri Uomo Corri by Bruno Nicolai, and The Price of Power by Luis Bacalov, two names who were thought to be pseudonyms for Morricone at one point.
But of course, we know that is not the case as both were talented Maestro’s in their own right and have since the early days produced many original sounding works, Baclov also being responsible for the music to Django, A Man Called Noon, Bullet for the General, Gold for The Bravados, The Grand Duel, Sugar Colt and many others.
With Nicolai creating scores for movies such as The Bounty Hunters, Django Shoots First, Dead Men Ride, Gentleman Jo Uccidi, 100,000 Dollari Per Ringo, Landraiders, (not an Italian Western), El Cisco, Shanghai Joe, and others.
Another soundtrack in the famed CAM series was Man Pride and Vengeance, which was sold as a western when it was issued on LP but in fact is a movie about a bullfighter and is a dramatic romance set in Spain, which had a score by Carlo Rustichelli, who contributed many scores to the western genre, such as Revenge at El Paso, Un Treno Per Durango, Dio Perdona io No!, Buffalo Bill L’Eroe Del Far West, and The Ruthless Four.
I am sure if CAM had concentrated upon releasing just westerns in the series in the initial batch it would have been more lucrative for them, instead they focused more upon the music of Nino Rota which although were all classic scores did not seem to attract the attention of as many collectors that the thought it would at the time which was in the early 1990’s. Since those early days of CDS there have been so many re-issues and definitive edition releases it is hard at times to keep track, and with Sugar music now reissuing so many titles out of the CAM catalogue, I am sure it will become even more confusing.
So that is why I am focusing on westerns at this time, and some of the titles I will mention are available at Hillside CD production, which has always been a forerunner in stocking Italian movie scores especially westerns. Ballata Per Un Pistolero, is a great western score penned by Marcello Giombini, and probably one of the less known titles. The score is fast paced and filled with so many of those sounds that we readily associate with the spaghetti western genre, racing timpani, trumpet solo’s, guitar riffs and strings driving all these elements forward, the composer also employing organ to great effect and adding little nuances and quirks of orchestration that could only come from an Italian western.
As well as these familiar sounds there are also flourishes of symphonic themes that evoke the style of Tiomkin, and Newman, but it is essentially a spaghetti score that is overflowing with themes and inventive compositions. This was released onto CD by Hillside GDM and is deleted but can be heard on digital platforms, In, my opinion it stands alongside Giombini’s Sabata, scores in the entertainment department and is more dramatic and has to it a rawer sound.
Scores by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino for the western genre, were always entertaining, even if they were not pure spaghetti sound as invented by Morricone and Leone, but they had to them solid and haunting themes and the composer was very inventive in utilising strange sounds and introducing quirky orchestration on certain projects, these included titles such as The Specialist, The Man With the Golden Pistol-aka-The Man Who Came to Kill, Kill the Wicked, Vendetta Per Vendetta, and Trusting is Good, Shooting is Better.
All of which contained strong scores, he also scored movies such as Requiem for a Gringo, Sfida a Rio Grande, Today, it’s you Tomorrow Me, and Sapevano Solo Uccidere. His style was at times more Hollywood than Cinecitta his scores containing a grandiose sound that evoked the style of American western soundtracks at times.
Gianni Ferrio has been represented well on CD and is a composer who like Benedetto Ghiglia invented his own brand and style when it came to scoring westerns. Ferrio mixed jazz influences with symphonic atmospheres to create a sound that was to become popular with fans and critics alike. His score for Quei Disperati Che Puzzano di Sudore e di Morte is not only atmospheric but contains driving and intense pieces throughout, the composer employing Spanish guitar, organ, harpsichord, strings, percussion, and brass to purvey a sense of high drama.
The composer also integrated Mexican mariachi sounds into the work which were affecting and atmospheric. The score was originally released by Cinevox on LP record who later re-issued the score onto CD. And more recently have issued an expanded edition of the soundtrack containing much more music. Ferrio also worked on films such as Djurado, A Few Bullets More, Heroes of the West and Fast Hand which contained the song That Man, all are well worth a listening to see the extent of his influence within the spaghetti western genre.
Other interesting scores by Ferrio as in westerns, include the superb Find a Place to Die, Sentenza Di Morte with its unusual but effective title song The Last Game, El Desperado, and Amico Stammi Lontano Almeno Un Palmo, which also had a serviceable title song Let it Rain Let it Pour, Fort Yuma Gold, and California. All of which were made available on compact disc.
The musical world of Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, is at times an acquired taste, but mostly a rewarding listen, the composers fusing a folk like sound with symphonic passages and adding guitar and vocal performances, we all now They Still Call me Trinity, The Man From The East and scores such as Valdez Horses and the infamous score for Keoma the Violent Breed.
But let us not forget the entertaining music for Tedeum, Mannaja, and Zorro which I still count as a western.
Talking of Zorro there was another version of the story which was filmed about the same time as the version scored by De Angelis, this outing for the masked avenger was scored by Gianni Marchetti, who worked on a handful of Italian made westerns, and produced an adventurous and melodious score for the movie, which was released on a CD that contained excerpts from two other soundtracks that were composed by Marchetti. Going off topic just for a sentence or two,
I also recommend Marchetti’s One Step to Hell which although not a western but set in Africa contained a score with so many western references it is a must have for any Italian film music fan it was issued by Hillside CD production and GDM.
His score for Seven Red Berets too is a must have and released on CD by Kronos records. The score for this was originally released on a CAM double soundtrack LP the other score being Cowards Don’t Pray or Taste of Vengeance, a western which was also scored by Marchetti. This was also re-issued in expanded form onto compact disc on the GDM label in 2006.
Michele Lacerenza is well known as an accomplished trumpet player, it is his performance we hear on scores such as A Fistful of Dollars and Il Malamondo by Morricone for example.
But Lacerenza was also an accomplished composer and worked on a handful of westerns in the 1960’s, most notably L’Ira di Dio, 100 Dollari Sul Nero and 20,000 Dollari Sporchi Di Sangue, all three scores are iconic and were all produced and released by Hillside CD production and GDM with re mastering by Roberto Zamori. Lacerenza’s superb trumpet performance on Johnny’s Theme from 1000 Dollari Sul Nero becoming a part of the history that has built up around the Italian western score and synonymous with the genre.
The soundtrack also contained the song Necklace of Pearls performed by the late Peter Boom who also performed the song for Corri Uomo Corri and told me in interview that Morricone conducted the score for Nicolai.
It was also Lacerenza who performed the trumpet solo for Nora Orlandi when she scored Ten Thousand Dollars for a Massacre, an excellent score, which was released by CAM and is now available on digital platforms, as is her score from Johnny Yuma.
Carlo Savina too has produced some wonderful scores for westerns as in Comin at Ya,(A 3D Western), Joko Invoca Dio E, Muori-aka Vengeance, and Ringo and his Golden Pistol all of which were released onto CD.
Angelo Gioachino is a composer who scored early Italian westerns, and these included Three Dollars of Lead and The Damned Pistols of Dallas both of which were originally CAM LP releases, both soundtracks have been re-issued onto CD and have become quite hard to get in recent years. Although the sound realised for both movies lean’s more towards an American sound rather than a European one.
However, they are still interesting examples of western scores from Italy and for fans and collectors of everything Spaghetti are must have items. Robby Poitevin is another composer that worked on spaghetti westerns, with scores for movies such as A Name Cried Vengeance, Killer Calibro 32, Odia Il Prossimo Tuo, and Little Rita of the West standing out.
If I were to be asked to pick a theme that epitomised the Italian western score, I think I would have to say it would be Gunmen of the Ave Maria, which had a score composed by Roberto Pregadio, and Franco Micalizzi, it is a theme that is literally crammed full of all the stock sounds of the Italian western score, whistling by Alessandroni, choir courtesy of Il Cantori Moderni, electric guitar solo, and a soaring trumpet performance by Lacerenza,
Its all there and it’s a score that if you do not have you should get asap. The score was originally released on Hillside/GDM, again re-mastered by Roberto Zamori and produced by Lionel G Woodman. And was paired with They Call Me Trinity also by Micalizzi and Pregadio and featuring the now famous song as performed by Annibale. Both scores have since been re-issued in expanded editions. And other scores by Pregadio such as Four Pistols for Trinity, L’Ultimo Killer, Un Buco In Fronte, and Micalizzi’s Sacremento were also made available on compact disc.
Nico Fidenco I have to admit is one of my favourite composers when it comes to Italian westerns, To the Last Drop of Blood, One More For Hell and Bury Them Deep immediately come to mind as do The Texican, In the Shadow of the Colt, Dynamite Jim, A Taste of Killing, and John Il Bastardo, most of these were released on Hillside/GDM in wonderfully clear crisp sound.
John Il Bastardo I think stands out because of its style, a style that is maybe a watered down Morricone sound, with barking male choir and racing timpani electric guitars and trumpet solos, Fidenco, taking a more pop orientated approach to scoring westerns rather than operatic and grandiose as Morricone did. Let’s not forget in Italy during the 1960’s westerns were in production 24/7 and even though Morricone was a genius it would have been impossible for him to work on every single one of them, so directors and producers asked composers such as Fidenco to write in a style like that of Morricone.
Also worth a mention are the many western scores of Francesco De Masi, Quella Sporca Storia Nel West, Seven Dollars on the Red, Vado L’Ammazzo E Torno,Ringo Il Volto Della Vendetta, Arizona Colt and so many more. De Masi like the majority of Italian composers working in the western genre very often included a song within his scores,
Find a Man for example performed by Maurizio de Graf in Quella Sporca Storia Nel West and The Man from Nowhere from his classic score for Arizona Colt, De Masi also often utilised the artistry of Alessandro Alessandroni, on whistle and guitar and made effect use of Alessandroni’s choir Il Cantori Moderni.
I always felt that Francesco De Masi like many other composers who scored Italian westerns often fused styles and whilst one can hear that the music is from a spaghetti western it also retains much of the grandeur and the sweeping symphonic prowess of movies such as High Noon and The Bravados.
Composer Nino Oliviero also penned the score to a western entitled Ringo Del Nebraska, Oliviero was the collaborator with Riz Ortolani on the score for Mondo Cane which included the international hit song More.
Then we have Lallo Gori, who wrote the music for westerns such as Buckaroo, Tequila, Black Jack, and Con Lui Cavalca La Morte. And another great Piero Piccioni, who like Ghighlia and Ferrio, did not conform to the stock sounds of the spaghetti western score, but instead fashioned his own unique style, that was at times jazz influenced, his scores for movies such as The Deserter, Minnesota Clay, In the Name of the Father the Son and the Colt, A Gun in the hand of the Devil, Sartana, and others are still to this day fresh and appealing.
As well as the few titles I have mentioned, I should also put into the equation the scores from Italian westerns or westerns scored by Italian composers that have still not received a release. Gods Gun by Sante Maria Romitelli, for example, the composer’s music for Spara Gringo Spara being an essential purchase for any film music connoisseur. Other unreleased scores include The Hunting Party and Ciakmull-Man of Vengeance by Ortolani, Seven Guns and Seven Brides for the McGregor’s by Morricone, El Puro by Alessandroni, The Stranger in Japan by Cipriani, Cemetery without Crosses by Hossein, The Belle Starr Story by Dumont, A Man Called Sledge by Ferrio, are just a handful of worthy titles that should be released onto compact disc if the tapes still exist that is.
And the scores of Felice De Stefano, which are classic in every sense of the word. Then there is the work of composer Vasili Kojucharov which are filled with so many of those familiar stock sounds of the Italian western score, such as God is My Colt 45. Pino Calvi’s incredible score for The Revengers, (which deserves a re mastered release) was his only western score as far as I can see, and he is not alone in the one western score club, Armando Trovajoli’s excellent The Long Days of Vengeance was that composers only excursion into scoring a sagebrush saga, Pippo Franco too scored just one Italian western L’odio E Il Mio Dio, and I am sure there are more examples, whilst composers such as Piero Umiliani, worked on a handful including The Son Of Django.
The titles included in this article just scratch the surface in the world of Italian western film music, as there are so many more that you could explore, some of the titles mentioned are still available in very limited quantities from outlets such as Hillside CD production who run an excellent mail order service.
(see list below for titles they currently have in stock.).
FERRIO-A FEW BULLETS MORE
FERRIO-HEROES OF THE West.
LAVAGNINO-THE MAN WHO CAME TO KILL
LAVAGNINO-VENDETTA PER VENDETTA
LAVAGNINO -KILL THE WICKED
LAVAGNINO-TRUSTING IS GOOD SHOOTING IS BETTER
GIOMBINI -BALLATA PER UN PISTOLERO
DE MASI-RINGO IL VOLTO DELLA VENDETTA
CIPRIANI -THEY CALL ME HALLELUJAH
CIPRIANI-THE GREAT ADVENTURE
SAVINA-JESS & LESTER
GIOACHINO-THREE DOLLARS OF LEAD
GIAOCHINO-DAMN PISTOLS OF DALLAS
NICOLAI-MY NAME IS SHANGHAI JOE
MARCHETTI-ONE STEP TO HELL.* not a western but very good score.
PATUCCHI-DEATH PLAYED THE FLUTE
KOJUCHAROV-GOD IS MY COLT 45
PREGADIO-IL PISTOLERO DELL’AVE MARIA
MORRICONE-HERE WE GO AGAIN PROVIDENZA
MORRICONE-LIFE IS TOUGH EH PROVIDENZA
LACERENZA-20.000 DOLLARI DI SANGUE
FIDENCO-JOHN IL BASTARDOMARCHETTI-ZORRO