A new quartet of CD releases from the Spanish soundtrack label Quartet records have been announced, Frenzy by Ron Goodwin and Henry Mancini, A 4 CD set of Elmer Bernstein’s Magnificent 7 scores, an expanded Mary Queen of Scots by John Barry and last but certainly not least an expanded version of Ennio Morricone’s The Sicilian Clan, all good scores in fact all I think are worthy of that much overused “Iconic” label in their own particular and unique way.
Frenzy is a great release containing both the music of Goodwin and Mancini, the latter’s score being rejected by Hitchcock and replaced by the Goodwin soundtrack.
The release is a tribute to both composers who were indeed giants in film music and both were active in the easy listening and cover version market, both composers releasing compilation albums during the 1960’s and 1970’s containing evergreen favourites and arrangements of their own film themes and also the work of other composers for film. The release marks the film’s 50th Anniversary and it is considered by many to be one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best movies.
This is a premiere release of both score’s and I know will be a welcome addition to any film music connoisseurs collection.
In 1971 John Barry composed a regal, haunting and wonderfully thematic score for Mary Queen of Scots, now thanks to Quartet we can savor even more of the composer’s music from the production, originally released on an LP record at the time of the film’s release this is an expanded edition of the now classic score by the British composer. The original recording ran for just under thirty minutes, and the subsequent (bootleg) of the score on CD also having the same duration when it was released alongside Anne of the Thousand Days by Georges Delerue a few years ago. This is a stunning edition of the work having been remastered and a staggering fifty-three tracks including the original album cues and the original score and source tracks. It is I think one of the composers best scores from the 1970’s.
It also boasts a twenty-page booklet and liner notes by John Burlingame who is an authority on John Barry. Totally recommended. Any Elmer Bernstein score is always welcome in my book, but a set of four compact discs containing his superb soundtracks for The Magnificent Seven cycle of movies is a sheer delight.
The collection is lovingly produced, restored, and mastered by Chris Malone, the package designed by Nacho B. Govantes comes with cover art created by Jim Titus and a thirty six-page booklet with an in-depth essay by the well-known and respected music writer Frank K. De Wald. It includes music from all four movies in the series that were released between 1960 and 1972, it is one that you must own.
The only release in this foursome that I am suspicious of is The Sicilian Clan, this is a classic Morricone score, and probably one of my favourites from him. Suspicious you say surely not!!!!! Why? Well I will tell you, all the time the Maestro was alive any re-issue of this was restricted to the ten or sometimes eleven tracks that were available originally, firstly the LP release and then later on subsequent re-issues on CD, then there is the eleven cue edition on digital platforms, the score I am sure was originally owned by CAM with Morricone exercising his right as a composer many times about re-issues of the score. But then Sugar took over the CAM catalogue and we saw it re-issued again. Many record labels and producers enquired over the years about extra music and were I am told that there was no extra music which is something I believe and still do, so now suddenly up pops a quartet release supposedly expanded and taken from master tapes that were supplied from a source in Italy, now this is where it gets complicated, because each time I criticize this source named in the releases info and its authenticity I get threats of a legal proceedings, so all I will say is the extra cues could well come from the American release of the film, which Morricone supposedly wrote extra music for, but if that is the case why would those tapes be in Italy? Unless they are from Morricone’s own archive, and is this another case of the computer being utilized to create tracks from existing material as we have witnessed in past releases on various Italian based labels? I will add that if these are from the American version of the movie, great, fantastic and I am wrong I apologize, but I have seen that cut of the movie and I cannot recall there being that much extra music and certainly not a track that resembles an easy listening cue which could easily be taken from any Morricone score from the 1960’s.
I am in no way disrespecting the Maestro, or the score for The Sicilian Clan, as there is NO doubt at all that this is an iconic work from the Maestro and a truly expanded release of the score would be a fitting tribute to his memory, it’s just that I am doubtful of how these extra cues have been unearthed after so many years of other record labels and producers asking for them, the Maestro passes away and low and behold, hallelujah and hosanna there is extra music available now. Would Morricone have written extra cues for a film that was to be released outside of Italy seeing as he was being ignored in America at this time by filmmakers etc, who up until the 1990’s looked upon him as a second-rate composer?
Well Maybe, could they have been added but not by Morricone? Because two at least do sound like cover versions of the core theme from the score, again possible. Maybe the label will answer, maybe they will provide concrete proof that these tracks are authentic, maybe the devil will play snowballs in hades, and then hell will freeze over who knows? I point this out because IF it is not music from the movie and just put together on a computer or cover versions this is a case of misleading collectors and that is not right.
On examination of just two of the “Expanded cues” I and another person who is well versed in production of soundtracks noted that there were two varying sounding tracks, and maybe these had been badly pitched up or pitched down recordings of existing cues that had been edited together, then there are other cues that on closer examination do not even sound as if they are being performed by the same musicians, these extra tracks sounding less professional and polished, having to them a rawness, maybe they were demos or Morricone decided not to use them? Quartet are well known for releasing great titles and it’s brilliant that they can, their visual presentation is vibrant and colourful but the sound and the authenticity of some of these (mainly Italian scores) or at least certain cues from them are for me at least suspect.
Roma Come Chicago is a release of theirs that comes to mind with the sound being dull and having fluctuating sound levels that drop in and out from track to track, as well as having significant chatter and distortion on several the cues. In fact, I remarked at the time that the Bootleg recording of the score which had been doing the rounds for many years sounded far superior and had more music. I feel and I have to be honest here as I am a film music critic who hopefully does not mislead collectors because I am a collector also, the score for The Sicilian Clan is one of Morricone’s best, but the way in which this edition has been presented as in “EXTRA” music is not quite ringing true with me, so I would say if you have the score and love it stick with your copy,(sometimes less is more) maybe if you have not got this in your collection it could be a nice addition to your soundtrack stock, or even go online and take a listen on any of the digital platforms.
However, the artwork is striking the label utilizing the front cover art of the UK LP release of the soundtrack which was on EMI. And notes from writer Jeff Bond.