Category Archives: Reviews

SOUNDTRACK SUPPLEMENT ELEVEN.

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Well, it’s been another busy three weeks or so, the soundtrack new releases seem to be as in abundance as cov-idiots sunbathing on a packed beach on the south coast of England. Well nearly anyway, a plus being is that the actual releases are probably more sensible than the sun worshippers. Intrada have re-issued THE YOUNG LIONS (1958) by Hollywood veteran composer Hugo Friedhofer, this is a score that was crying out for a remastered release and as always, the Intrada label have responded giving us a quality edition of Friedhofer’s wonderful soundtrack.

 

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This is a 2 CD set and a release that every self-respecting collector of film music should own. I have always felt that Friedhofer was so underatted, his score for ONE EYED JACKS the Marlon Brando western, was for me and many others probably one of the scores that influenced the western score as realised by many Italian composers, the style of the movie too had a great influence upon the way in which westerns were produced in both Hollywood and Europe. THE YOUNG LIONS is essentially a blockbuster, it starred Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Maximillian Schell, Hope Lange, Barbara Rush and Dean Martin. A powerhouse of a movie with brilliant direction from film maker Edward Dmytryk that contained stunning black and white cinematography by Joseph MacDonald. Friedhofer’s score earned the composer an Academy Award nomination and this edition of the score spread over two compact discs contains not only Friedhofer’s original score but also the source music from the movie as well as a re-mastered recording in stereo of the 1958 Decca LP record release.

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Frank K. DeWald provides informative and easy to read notes, the release is packaged well with attractive artwork and graphics throughout. It is a must have item.

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From a classic 1950’s movie and score to a new movie, and also to a composer that you may or may not be familiar with. Arthur Valentin Grosz has written an emotive sounding score for the movie THE SHEPHERD. This subtle but powerful work is available digitally on the usual platforms and will be available later this year on compact disc from Kronos records. The composer has crafted a work that is filled with emotive and lilting tone poems, it sounds as if the score is performed by a small string ensemble, with piano featuring throughout the work. Plus, there are solo performances from violin which is more pronounced within the main theme from the score. Although it is a short soundtrack, there are several moments within it that are affecting and well worth taking a listen to. My hope is that more soundtracks by this composer will be made available on compact disc as there are a handful available online, but its always good to have a CD that one can hold look at and treasure.

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Another score by the composer that is worth a mention is THE BASEMENT, which was released in 2017, a horror movie, it is in many ways attractive and alluring, with the composer fashioning a melodic but malevolent sounding work, utilising various eerie sounds along the way, which are darkly sinister and unsettling which act as punctuation and support to the more conventional instrumentation and synthetics that he employs. Listening first to THE SHEPHERD and then to THE BASEMENT displays the composer’s inventiveness and also his adaptability in creating different sounds and varying soundscapes.

 

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The next score I was attracted to in the past few weeks is DIE WOLF-GANG, now this is a classy and wonderfully melodious and haunting work, the composer Andreas Weidinger, serves up an interesting and above all entertaining soundtrack, that has to it a mysterious and magical sound. The film entitled THE MAGIC KIDS-THREE UNLIKELY HEROES outside of Germany, is an action adventure fantasy romp, Vlad a young boy joins one of the most important and famous schools of magic in the world. There he meets fairies, trolls, witches, and Dwarfs. He is accompanied by his Father, and they soon discover that they are the first Vampires in the town where the school is. But it is not too long before Vlad makes friends with other kids that are attending the school. The score is a symphonic one and has to it an air of silver age style as in Goldsmith and to a degree John Williams, flyaway strings, cheeky and impish compositions plus full on action cues and grand sounding musical themes. The composer adds some nice touches where he combines strings with voices and creates otherworldly sounding passages, but above all this score for me just works so well and not just within the film, away from the picture it is a soundtrack that is easy to listen to and also has a great action content. There are of course comic sounding cues and also the more romantically slanted pieces, which stand out because of their sumptuous and lush style. Certainly, one for the collection, check it out asap, whilst you are doing that also find his score for IRONCLAD-BATTLE FOR BLOOD from last year, another triumph of inventive and interesting scoring that is heavy on the percussion and literally radiates full on powerhouse action cues.

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Composer Valentin Hadjadj wrote a beautifully subtle score for the 2019 movie, UN MONDE PLUS GRAND, it is filled with subdued but at the same time affecting compositions, the style employed did evoke a sound and style that I have maybe heard before in the work of composers such as Desplat, Aufort and Amar. The film focuses upon Corine who decides to leave Paris after the death of her soul mate Paul, she travels to Mongolia where she is to direct a film. But what she encounters there is more than she could have imagined, she meets A Shaman named Oyun and this meeting in affect changes her life. Oyun can see in Corine a rare talent or a gift, which he wants to unveil. Corine agrees to undertake a journey in which she will discover new cultures and uncover forgotten ways, but essentially the journey she undertakes is one of discovering herself. I would not say that this is a large or lush sounding work, in fact it is the opposite, but it is the fragility and also the subtlety of the music that is the attraction and also why it works so well and supports the storyline beautifully, never being overbearing, but always being supportive.

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Which is what good film music is all about. Again, this is a short score available on most digital platforms, but the briefness is not a problem as I know once heard you will return to the beginning and start all over again. Recommended. You also might like to listen to GIRL by the composer, which was released in 2018, the cue FLYING being breath-taking.

As in most soundtrack supplements I like to go back and take a look at a couple of past releases that you might have missed. THE FILM MUSIC OF series as realised by Chandos records has included many great compilations of the movie music of mainly British composers from what I like to call the Golden Age of British film. Of course, many are aware of the talents of Clifton Parker, George Auric, William Alwyn, Richard Addinsell etc, but what about Constant Lambert and Lord Berners? Well if you are not familiar with these two composers and their work for the cinema, there is a simple way of changing this.

 

 

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THE FILM MUSIC OF Constant Lambert and Lord Berners was released back in 2000. And in my opinion, it is a stunning collection of excellent music for film. The recording by the BBC Concert Orchestra under the able Baton of Rumon Gamba is a powerful and entertaining release and contains music from, ANNA KARENINA and THE MERCHANT SEAMEN by Lambert and NICHOLAS NICKLEBY, CHAMPAGNE CHARLIE and HALFWAY HOUSE by Berners, it is a treasure trove of stupendous and lavish and luxurious British film music, and one that if you have not added it to your collection should do so right now. The music is superb, and the performance is polished and flawless. If you cannot get the compact Disc the recording is available on the Spotify site.

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Staying with British film music, and to a score for a now classic British horror. BLOOD ON SATANS CLAW, this I think like WITCHFINDER GENERAL was on a lot of film music collectors wish lists, the music by Marc Wilkinson was an important part of the moves storyline, it added a virulent air to the already uneasy and malevolent film, oozing with an evil and otherworldly atmosphere. The composer’s music was eventually released on Trunk records back in 2012, to the relief of many who had been searching for it and asking for it to be released since the films release in 1970. The movie which is often shown on TV has attained a cult following, it deals with witchcraft and was at the time of its release looked upon as being highly controversial, because of some of the then thought to be explicit sexual scenes included and also scenes of violence. It was also the movie that placed actress Linda Hayden in the public eye an also starred Patrick Wymark, Barry Andrews, Michele Dotrice, and Wendy Padbury. Directed by Piers Haggard, it remains as chilling today as it did when first released. If you have missed this film and its score, then its about time you took time out to watch and listen.

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So onwards and more horror, this time from a more recent movie, DARK LIGHT was released in 2019, but the score by Holly Amber Church has just in the last week or so been released. Again, the composer delivers a no holds barred creep fest of unnerving and totally freaks you out music. But like with many of her scores we do find some respite and quieter moments, which are welcome amongst what seems like a sea of relentless sinister and chilling material. I think that music in horror movies must be the hardest type of film music to write, it’s a very fine line that the composer walks, because they do try not to go overboard or even give the game away with any sudden musical moods, Holly Amber Church as she always does provides us with a commanding score, that not only enhances and acts as musical punctuation between the frights and those “Is it over yet moments” but also serves as the musical glue that holds the whole thing together. The composer is there all the time, adding sounds underlining sudden moves and adding atmospheres, moods and those spine-tingling musical touches that are probably the reason you are hiding behind the sofa right now. Released on Notefornote records, and available digitally this is a must have score for horror fans, and any fan of quality film music.

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Swedish film music label Movie Score Media never seem to slow in their release of soundtracks that ordinarily would not see the light of day, the label will this month release THE ASCENT which has an atmospheric score by composer Max Sweiry. Released in 2019, MSM have just announced the release of the score. The film, which was also entitled STAIRS, tells of a special military unit who are sent into a civil war situation to gather vital intelligence, they find themselves trapped on a never ending stairwell, which they have to climb to escape, but to survive the trial and get off the stairs they must face past misdemeanours and sins. A mix of thrills, war and horror the score perfectly underlines and reflects the mood and tension of the move, it is however more soundscape than a musical/symphonic score, but it is nevertheless effective and contains a handful of cues that are less harsh and contain some elements that can be described as melodic. These interludes even if they are short lived make for a pleasant listening experience even if one is waiting for the mood to alter in an instant.

 

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There have been many documentaries about the great painters, and Monet has been the subject of a number of these. One of the latest is CLAUDE MONET-THE IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE, which contains a bright and vibrantly melodious score by composer Michelino Bisceglia, this is a beautifully crafted work, filled with luscious themes and sweeping romantic passages the composer has created a highly emotive and perfectly poignant score. The music entices, ingratiates and wonderfully adds colour to a film about one of the master’s who gave us so many colourful and alluring pictures. The score is as affecting and attractive as the art-work it is enhancing. A gem of a score filled with so much heartfelt emotion and delightfully delicate and descriptive musical poems. I could listen to this score all day long. Recommended.

 

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There are a number of soundtrack being made available on digital platforms and being dated as new scores, where as they are actually older films, one such release Is, JACQUOU LE CROQUANT which was released in 20017, the music is by the film’s director Laurent Boutonnat. The movie is based upon the 1899 novel by Eugene Le Roy and also was inspired by the 1969 TV mini-series of the same name. It tells of a young peasant who leads an uprising against an evil nobleman and was nominated for the French equivalent to the Oscars, The Cesars in 2008.  The score is incredibly well written and orchestrated and beautifully performed, teeming with emotive and dramatic laden themes, it is an accomplished work and one which I am sad I have not encountered before now. Strident and vibrant strings are utilised to the maximum underlined by timpani, percussion and brass, this is a soundtrack that once you hear the opening bars you just know it is overflowing with a majestic and affecting quality. The composer also employs choir in a number of the tracks and combines this with all the elements that I mentioned at times adding woods and piano which give the work a fragility and romantic aura. There is also at times a greater use of percussion and brass that brings a more powerful and commanding element to the score.

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Recommended yes most definitely. I would also recommend that you check out another score by the composer, GIORGINO from 1994, which has to it a Donaggio/Herrmann sound, this too is also available on Spotify.

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The ever industrious DRAGONS DOMAIN never seem to slow from releasing good quality soundtracks from movies which maybe we would not be attracted to, this month the label re-issued Richard Bands score for the low budget sci-fi horror flick, THE DAY TIME ENDED, which as with all Richard Band scores is a delight. It seems that no matter what the budget this talented composer always delivers something that is special. This edition of the score has 18 tracks whereas other releases contained just 14, the new re-issue also boasts new eye-catching artwork and once again great notes by Randall Larson with quotes etc from the composer. This fresh remix of the Band’s score, is taken from the original 24 track masters which were recorded in London back in 1979. I for one am grateful for the expanded version of this score, and I hope for more Richard Band from DRAGONS DOMAIN soon.

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The label also released composer Lee Holdridge’s soundtrack for the NBC mini-series 10.5, which was aired back in 2004. The score has never been issued onto a compact disc, and like Richard Band Holdridge is a composer that always fashions wonderful music that suits any genre, subject or situation. His scores for movies such as BEASTMASTER, SPLASH, OLD GRINGO, and the superb EL PUEBLO DEL SOL etc being essential to any film music collection. For 10.5 the composer turned to a more synthetic or digital sound, with most of the soundtrack being realised via recording digital instruments into MIDI. But as always, the talent of Holdridge shines through, and its certainly one to check out.

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Back to 2108 for the next score again a case of the soundtrack coming out on digital platforms after the movie was released, WINTER WAR or FROZEN FRONT, is set in the January of 1945 and concentrates upon the first regiment of French paratroopers that fought alongside American troops in the battle to liberate, Alsace which is a province of France that borders both Germany and Switzerland. The movie is directed, written and scored by David Aboucaya, who also is in the cast of the movie. The score is not what you might expect seeing that this is a violent war movie, the themes realised by Aboucaya are for the most part emotive and rather delicate sounding, although there are a handful of cues that lean towards the action or martial style that we have come to accept in war movies that are set in the second world war. Most of the more robust tracks such as MORTAR ASSAULT, HENAQ’S MADNESS and GERMANS INCOMING all occur in the second half of the score. It’s a soundtrack that is certainly worth a listen, and as it is now on platforms such as Spotify its easy to try before you buy as it were.

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Next to the music of Francois Tetaz, now here is a composer who I spotted a few years back when I heard his atmospheric score for ROGUE, which I thought was inventive and very original, I loved the way he utilised voices as part of the score, more or less using them as instruments, by this I mean he integrated them into the music so they were part of the orchestra rather than be featured as soloists etc. His other scores include WOLF CREEK and THE PORTAL. He has utilised the same style in JUDY AND PUNCH, the movies storyline encompasses drama, comedy and crime and is set in the town of Seaside which incidentally is nowhere near any sea. Two puppeteers Judy and Punch are attempting to breath new life into their marionette show, when Punch accidentally kills their baby after a mad drinking session, Judy who has also suffered a brutal beating at his hands, joins forces with a band of heretics who have been outcasted by the town to enact a terrible revenge upon her husband and the inhabitants of the town. The score is as offbeat and quirky as the movie, which I suppose is a good thing as the music helps establish a strange and completely off the wall atmosphere. Again the music is highly inventive and certainly unusual, it has to it a neo-classical persona but also the composer adds choral work that is effecting and creates a sound and style that is akin to the early film scoring assignments of Danny Elfman. One to seek out, but if you like strait-laced and unchallenging music maybe this is not for you, however if you like something that is innovative and unusual then what are you waiting for?

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Now here is something that I was initially puzzled over, THE DEBT COLLECTORS, which is apparently entitled DEBT COLLECTOR 2 in some places, so I looked at the credits for both and they are basically the same. So, is DEBT COLLECTORS, THE DEBT COLECTOR 2, or is it THE DEBT COLLECTOR’S as it is also billed as? Anyway, does not really matter in the grand scheme of things does it, well unless you are the debtor I suppose because then you might have two DEBT COLLECTORS turn up looking for cash or whatever. The score I am glad to say to both movies is by Sean Murray, so that helps because after a search I found the score to the first movie as well, so bonus. But it’s the DEBT COLLECTORS that I am focusing on for now. I have to say that I have not come across Sean Murray before now, but you know there are such things as happy accidents, because I am of the opinion that this score will be attractive to many. I can’t say that it’s a particularly original work, because there are along the way many little sounds, quirks or instrumentation and slices of style that we have possible heard before, in fact if I were to say that this is like a fusion of UNDER FIRE and a handful of Italian western scores, I think you will get the general Idea, the composer utilises Pan Pipes or maybe samples of them within the work, and they add so much atmosphere to the proceedings, I have since UNDER FIRE always loved the use of Pan Pipes in a score, but Murray takes this further and employs wood instruments that mimic the sounds of THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY or EL PURO at times, which is great if you are a spaghetti fan. The score is a fantastic piece of musical fun and grabs the listeners attention all the way through. It also includes tense and dark sounding passages, with the composer utilising low and ominous sounding piano, which he laces with percussion and supports with strings to create apprehensive and edge of the seat moods. The styles included evoke a handful of genres as in crime capers, dramas, western and action. It is a relentless piece of work in that it is one of those soundtracks where you are looking forward to what is coming next with great anticipation before the track you have listened to has finished. Good stuff.

 

 

There are also a handful of game soundtracks I would like to recommend to you, these include CREATURE IN THE WELL by Jim Fowler, DESPERADOS lll vol 2 by Fillipo Beck Peccoz, DISINTEGRATION by Jon Everist and MINECRAFT DUNGEONS by Peter Hont, Johan Johnson and Samuel Aberg. All four stand out and also are all very different.

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TV scores this month also have featured amongst the new releases, THE SALISBURY POISONINGS being one that I thought was particularly good. The three-part drama that is based on true events was shown on the BBC and I have to say was one of the best things I have seen on television since this lockdown started. The acting was superb, direction focused, and the score work extremely well underlining the tense and unnerving storyline as it unfolded. Music was by composer Rael Jones who has previously come to notice for the music on HARLOTS and MY COUSIN RACHEL.

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ALL OR NOTHING-THE BRAZIL NATIONAL TEAM is also an entertaining score but maybe in a more up beat and up lifting way, the soundtrack contains numerous styles and purveys many moods and creates a number of atmospheres, all of which are written by composer/artist Fabio Goes, the series is produced by Amazon, and is like a fly on the wall documentary that follows the Brazilian football team after they have won the 2019 Copa tournament. The Brazilian born singer/songwriter has produced an interesting score and further cements his place as an original artist in the world of film and TV music with this latest soundtrack.

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Of course if there is nothing that interests you in this latest edition of Soundtrack Supplement, I suppose you could always click onto to Spotify and find, the soundtrack from the latest Netflix movie, EUROVISION SONG CONTEST-THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA. Which actually has some nice orchestral work by composer Atli Orvarsson, which is condensed into one six minute and twenty second cue on the release, and an onslaught of quirky, over the top, cheezy songs?  No!  (well you do surprise me) ok see you next time.

FANNY LYE DELIVER’d.

 

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There have been many filmmakers that have written, produced, and directed movies and have also acted as the composer of the musical score too. There have also been filmmakers that have tracked their movies with music that is already known by various artists placed previously composed and at times established themes onto their production. Quentin Tarantino comes to mind in more recent times, for using music from other movies within his, in effect acting as a music supervisor. Stanley Kubrick with 2001 A SPACE ODDYSEY must be top of the list for utilizing already written pieces and using them effectively in his masterpiece. These talented individuals are few and far between, but I am pleased to announce that we have one amongst us right now who composes the music for his movies, so for me he is a step above the directors who track music onto their productions.

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Thomas Clay is a composer, Director, film editor and writer. He has been working on this film project for some time and at last his efforts have come to fruition in the form of the feature film, FANNY LYE DELIVER’D, for which he has written the original score. I say original because it fits squarely into that category, the atmospheric and absorbing soundtrack has an affecting presence as soon as one begins to listen to it. I will say to those of you who maybe are a little cautious of director/composers, don’t worry, give this a chance, ok, it is on first listen somewhat difficult to grasp, but stay with it because once you begin to delve deeper and listen more intensely it is a soundtrack that I know you will adore. I began to listen and after the first three cues I got to thinking that the instrumentation sounds faithful for the period in which the movie is set, which is the mid-17th Century. But, the way in which the instruments are purveying the music initially seems somewhat strange, however it is a sound and an overall style of composition and performance of these compositions that soon begins to come together and make perfect musical sense to any listener. I say any listener, but I mean this listener.

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The music is in a word superb, it is a score that I will say right here and now I would love to see become nominated and hopefully win the OSCAR, BAFTA and GOLDEN GLOBE for best original score, because it is spilling over with originality and brimming with an inventive and innovative style. Although this is a soundtrack fashioned and created in 2020, it has within it sounds, phrases, motifs and nuances that are straight out of the Jerry Goldsmith, John Barry and Ennio Morricone book of how to score a movie, and score a movie well. The music is polished and wonderfully melodic and contains a quality that I have to say I have not heard in a long while.

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The opening cue OLD SOLDIERS evokes the style of Ennio Morricone, the composer utilising to great effect, choir and strings that act as support to a beautifully flawless trombone performance by Joergen Van Rijan, this is a simple and slightly understated opening which reminded me somewhat of the DESERT OF THE TARTARS, its trombone lead being unusual but also at the same time sounding perfect, the composer adding subtle use of percussion that has a martial style as the cue reaches its conclusion. DRESSING UP, (track number 2) is a lighter piece, which contains two delightful performances by Swedish lutenist Jakob Lindberg and British recorder player Piers Adams, who is also a member of the baroque group Red Priest.

 

These performances blend and compliment each other whilst being supported and given a tempo or beat using tambourine with a fleeting trumpet solo adding depth to the piece with subdued but brief employment of underlining strings. It is a tantalising and haunting composition, that has an air of joyfulness to it.

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The score for me was a delight to listen to, we have here a new movie, set in the mid-17th Century, that boasts a score that is arguably one of the finest I have ever heard for an independent movie production. I say it is an original work because it is, but at the same time I hear influences from a number of composers, but this at the same time does not make it less than innovative or weaker in its inventiveness. Every composer in the world has been influenced by someone or something, even a half heard sound that trickles into the subconscious and lodges there can emerge years later, with film music it is what the composers does with it, as in how they present it, arrange it and more importantly how they place it. Thomas Clay has simply got it right on this score, he fashions pleasing and dramatic themes, melancholy interludes and tense driving pieces that all combine and interweave to create a score that is richly entertaining. Its style and sound are a combination of spaghetti western, romantic drama, thriller, Horror and adventure. It also features several soloists and a chorale group.

 

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ANDREA INGHISCIANO.

 

Which is why this score is such a wonderfully diverse and attractive work. Cornetto player Andrea Inghisciano collaborates with singers I Fagiolini on the cue, THE TRUTH (track number 8), strident strings and timpani introduce the piece, the timpani fading and the strings becoming more mysterious as the Cornetto solo commences, both strings and cornetto fusing and rising to create a haunting almost ghostly sound, voices are then introduced, which again create an air of mystery these are supported by a short tremolo effect on the strings that also underline the closure of the track. Andrea Inghisciano also collaborates with trombonist Joergen Van Rijen on track number 6, SECOND MORNING which is a subdued but beautiful composition, with trombone taking the lead enhanced by strings, the composer also bringing into the equation brass that builds with the strings to create a triumphant sounding crescendo of sorts that certainly hits the correct emotional spots.

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JOERGEN VAN RIJEN.

APPROACH OF THE SHERIFF (track number 7) is I think one of the more robust and action led pieces on the soundtrack, oozing with an urgent and driving musical persona that is purveyed by brass and percussive elements and struck strings, that when combined create a striking and tense sound. The track THE TRUTH (Track number 8) also has to it an urgent style, which is performed by Andrea Inghisciano and I Fagiolini. There is such a wealth of variation within this score that it is difficult at times to comprehend that it is all from the same work.

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I Fagiolini.

Having seen the movie, I was impressed how the music heightened the tension and added a greater depth and atmosphere to the proceedings. Within the score there are references to the spaghetti western scores of the 1960’s, and this is a style that is also present within the movie, with close ups of eyes, faces etc, the way in which the film is scored in my opinion is also similar to that of many Italian made westerns, with the music becoming part of the action and the storyline, plus adding a near operatic feel to the proceedings. But what I was struck by more than anything was the way that the composer utilised real instruments and vocalists and fashioned themes and developed them throughout, underlining, punctuating, caressing and at times ingratiating the movie with these. The music is filled with a plethora of colours and textures, one moment being brooding and dark and then altering its stance and style to purvey a more romantic or melancholy mood. The film for me personally evoked memories of WITCHFINDER GENERAL and A FIELD IN ENGLAND.

 

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The cinematography is stunning, with misty landscapes of the English countryside captured beautifully by Giorgos Arvanitis, who is known for his work on O VALTOS in the early 1970’s and other movies such as SUCH A LONG ABSENCE  and more recently BLIND SUN in 2015. The cast too are impressive in their roles, Maine Peake and Charles Dance being the most striking.

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The story opens in 1657, and the storyline focuses upon an isolated farm in the county of Shropshire. Where a family has made their home, Fanny (Maxine Peake) is the dutiful downtrodden wife who is married to an ex-Captain John (Charles Dance) who fought in the English Civil War against the King. They have a young son Arthur and as a family follow the strict lives of Puritans.

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However, when a young couple played by Freddie Fox and Tanya Reynolds arrive and take shelter in the barn one day whilst the family are at worship, the Lye’s commitment to the Puritan faith and lifestyle is challenged and begins to falter because of the new and extreme ideas that are brought into their world by the two visitors. The couple are being pursued by a sadistic and unforgiving Sherriff and his odious henchman, who track them to the Lye’s family home. For a movie that takes place in one location and only having a handful of key characters the director gifts us a story that is intense and raw but at the same time thought provoking violent and intimate.

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The ending is superbly done, but I will not spoil it for you, I urge you to seek this movie out, but more importantly for Movie Music International followers, please check out Thomas Clay’s richly vibrant and wonderfully inventive score. The end titles music is also something to savour and enjoy, MARCH TO JOY is a new take on ODE TO JOY but given a totally new rendition, Beethoven meets spaghetti western, now that has got you curious.

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LOOKING BACK AT THE WORK OF PINO DONAGGIO.

 

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Pino Donaggio is a composer who had much success in the early days of his career, at one time being hailed as the new Bernard Herrmann, he scored predominantly horror movies and his name became synonymous with films such as CARRIE, TOURIST TRAP, THE HOWLING and PIRANHA. After which the composer seemed to fade away a little and began to focus upon Italian productions. Donaggio worked with Joe Dante in the States and because of his reluctance to move away from his homeland of Italy and set up in Hollywood he possibly missed out on scoring other Dante movies that came later such as GREMLINS and THE BURBS. The composer also scored many Brian De Palma movies. These included, DRESSED TO KILL, RAISING CAINE, PASSION, DOMINO, HOME MOVIES and BLOW OUT. He also wrote a score for SNAKE EYES but this was rejected.

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I thought it might be an idea to go back to the start of the composer’s film music career and look at scores he composed in the early years. Beginning with the composer’s first foray into the world of scoring films which was the Nicholas Roeg movie DON’T LOOK NOW. I think this film had a profound effect upon me, it was a movie I saw after I had heard Donaggio’s music, and in effect it was the music that made me want to see the film, and also the art work on the Carosello original Italian import LP record. It’s a weird thing because although the music lent much to the movie and made it an even more compelling piece of cinema the composer never worked with Roeg again. Released in 1973 DON’T LOOK NOW or A VENEZIA…UN DICEMBRE ROSSO SHOCKING (IN VENICE A SHOCKING RED DECEMBER), Is a creepy thriller that was adapted for the screen from a short story by the author Daphne De Maurier that was written in 1971.

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The movie starred Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, who are a married couple that suffer a tragic loss when their young daughter Christine is drowned in an accident. The couple travel to Venice where Sutherlands character has a commission to restore a church. Whilst there they meet two sisters, one of whom says she is a clairvoyant. She tells the couple that their daughter is trying to contact them and warn them that they are in danger. The husband dismisses her claims and refuses to have anything to with them, but he soon begins to experience strange occurrences and sightings. Although essentially a thriller, the director Roeg focuses more upon the grief of the parents and their sense of loss, and upon the psychology and the effect that death can have on people especially when it is a child that has died.

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It is a polished and well-made film, with special attention being centred upon the way in which the loss of their daughter effects the couple’s relationship, the plot of the movie obviously features a strong supernatural element, but it is the concentration of the more personal aspects of the story that in my opinion make this a classic in every sense. The subject of grief being handled with great sensitivity throughout. The picture is also edited marvellously, the director making effective use of flashbacks, and flash forwards that are intercut and fused so that at times its like watching two different storylines, and this gives the watching audience a greater perspective of what is actually happening but also at times this approach can alter ones opinion and maybe confuse a the storyline a little. The music that Donaggio composed for the movie, added a chill to the proceedings, lifting the story at times, but mostly adding to it a greater sense of tragedy and apprehension.

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It is in certain places a mysterious yet alluring work, the composer on certain occasions fashioning an almost Vivaldi musical persona. Donaggio,s lilting and haunting theme for John (children’s play) is simple but effective both in the movie and away from it, the solo piano performance sounding almost clumsy in a way, but this I think is its appeal and also why it is such an effectual piece of scoring. The cue CHRISTINE IS DEAD, is spine tingling, with icy strings opening the cue, which are replaced by a wolf like howling effect that is underscored by dark and ominous low string, this sound would become a musical trademark that became familiar in later Donaggio soundtracks, PIRANHA and THE HOWLING for example, the sound achieved is not only unsettling but purveys a sense of disbelief and great emotional pain. Johns theme is repeated throughout the score in varying arrangements and is featured within the Love Scene which at the time was a controversial section of the picture, but one that was vital to the rest of the storyline. Donaggio utilising piano as before but then adding, guitar and woodwind to the performance making it lighter and easy listening in it’s overall style. The cue STRANGE HAPPENINGS is where we see the more foreboding side of Donaggio, dark strings become taught and stressful, and the composer punctuates these with pizzicato commas and full stops, until the strings reach a tense crescendo, he then introduces more strings which build and create a even greater sense of uneasiness, these are as they build interspersed with frantic woodwind stabs that also add a greater sense of urgency. For a first score this was indeed a great achievement, especially as Donaggio had previous to this been predominantly a singer song writer. One can understand why he was being called the new Bernard Herrmann, with his inclusion of ominous and sombre strings that seemed to drag the audience down to a new and evil level, that was murky and gripping.

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The soundtrack did also feature a song, which is the first track on the soundtrack recording, with the composer presenting it as an instrumental on two further occasions within the recording. Donaggio’s music is perfect for the unsettling persona of the movie and is also a wonderful accompaniment to the location in which the movie was set. The Compact Disc was issued in the UK on the That’s Entertainment Records label.

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From a thriller to a more openly horrific picture and score, but still a mystery. In 1976, the composer was assigned to write the music for a Brian de Palma film entitled CARRIE. De Palma had originally wanted composer Bernard Herrmann to work on the movie, but whilst negotiating with Herrmann the famed film music composer was taken ill and subsequently died after finishing work on Martin Scorsese’s TAXI DRIVER. This left De Palma without a composer, and an ever-looming completion deadline, De Palma and Herrmann had worked together on SISTERS and OBSESSION, so the director was obviously looking for something which was akin to the style of Herrmann. A friend of De Palma’s had been impressed with Donaggio’s music for DONT LOOK NOW and gave De Palma a copy of the soundtrack album. After listening to the recording the director was convinced that Donaggio was right for the movie, so Donaggio was sent a rough cut copy of CARRIE which had been temp tracked with selections of Herrmann’s classic PSYCHO soundtrack, this was to give Donaggio an idea of what was required, the rest as they say is history. CARRIE the movie went onto attain cult status and was acclaimed by all who saw it, and Donaggio’s atmospheric and darky unsettling score gained much attention and recognition and placed the composer firmly on the film music map.

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The score was not all virulence and fearsome jagged cues, in fact for a horror movie it contained interludes that were very melodic and verging on the melancholy and becoming romantic at times. Although, the majority of the score was filled with a sense of impending doom with starkly dramatic cues that built upon the already tense and nervous content of the film. Donaggio employed icy and sharp sounding strings that could stop anyone in their tracks. The cue CONTEST WINNERS contains elements of a beautiful and haunting melody which opens and closes the composition. The track BUCKET OF BLOOD is ingenious scoring, as it lulls us all into a false sense of ITS GOING TO BE OK and then turns into a sinister and totally unsettling piece that says THERE IS NO ESCAPE, I AM GOING TO GET YOU, RUN! The movie quickly attained a cult following and is applauded by critics, audiences, and filmmakers, many of whom it has influenced in their own movies and TV productions. Donaggio’s tense score aids the storyline greatly and is the driving force behind many of the scenes. At times being full on and at other moments acting as a smouldering presence that warns that all is not well or good.

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I think my favourite Donaggio score must be DRESSED TO KILL, there is just something about the sound he achieved in this that attracts me and totally mesmerises with its luxurious yet threatening persona. Working with De Palma must have inspired him to write in such a grand and opulent way, the track THE MUSEUM I think being one of his finest scoring moments within his entire career. It is a simmering and brooding piece, which is inspired I would think by Herrmann, the strings are gloriously dark but at the same time have a bitter- sweet aura about them. The film which was a thriller is filled with intrigue and has more twists, turns and ups and downs than a fairground rollercoaster ride.

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And the music compliments, enhances and underlines all of these, the composer punctuating, supporting, and giving more depth to the film and its unfolding plot. Although Donaggio is associated with a great deal of thrillers and horror related pictures, his music at times is highly lyrical and emotive, the composer fashioning affecting, haunting, and delicate tone poems that ingratiate and give power to many of the scenes, making horrific scenarios even more shocking and adding substance and texture to any storyline and it is the way in which he fuses these quieter and calming moments with the more fearsome ones that makes him the masterful Maestro that he is.

 

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In 1978 Donaggio scored the western, AMORE PIOMBO E FURORE (LOVE LEAD AND RAGE). Aka CHINA 9. LIBERTY 37. Donaggio has a co-writing credit for this movie with John Rubinstein, but essentially the score was Donaggio through and through. The movie which was an Italian/Spanish co-production starred Fabio Testi, Jenny Agutter and Warren Oates, with famed director Sam Peckinpah taking a small role. Directed by Monte Hellman this was probably one of the last Euro westerns that was released, coming after CALIFORNIA which is noted as being the last official Spaghetti western which was released in 1977. The western genre was a rare excursion for Donaggio in fact I think I am correct when I say he only scored two, the other being the comedy western BOTTE DI NATALE, CHRISTMAS BARREL aka- THE FIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS. (1994) which was an attempt to revive interest in the Italian western by Terence Hill and Bud Spencer.

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The score for AMORE PIOMBO E FURORE was supportive of the movie, but was it a genuine spaghetti western score, in my opinion it contained some lilting and melodic themes, but it lacked the savagery of past scores by the likes of Morricone, Nicolai and De Masi, in fact it was more akin to the Western score as envisaged by Hollywood before the spaghetti western genre became popular. The composer utilising strings and harmonica to create his core theme for the score. Nevertheless, the music supported the action and was an entertaining listen for collectors away from the movie.


I do not think it’s possible to discuss Pino Donaggio without mentioning the scores for THE HOWLING and PIRANHA, both films directed by Joe Dante, and both being somewhat tongue in cheek parodies of past horror movies. The director infusing his own brand of black comedy into both. PIRAHNA was released in 1978, with THE HOWLING following three years later in 1981. Although neither movie can be taken totally seriously there are some great moments of horror in each of them. THE HOWLING in my opinion being the better of the two. Although saying this PIRAHNA had its moments both cinematically and musically. The opening theme for THE HOWLING is typical horror movie stuff, with a howling wolf leading into a great musical statement that crashes in and heralds the start of the proceedings, the composer kicking things off in a grand style off in a grand style, purveying, uncertainty and the unexpected, the track then alters and goes into a more sinister sounding piece which is somewhat of an anti-climax to the robust opening, but the music sets the scene perfectly for the film and as the story unfolds the composer develops a collection of unnerving and creepy sounding interludes that are overflowing with tense sinewy strings and jumpy breathy woodwind stabs with only little snippets of respite in the form of a romantic and delicate theme performed on solo piano and then later given a fuller rendition with the string section taking the lead.

Donaggio is a master at scoring horrors and has a commanding talent for underlining the horror without being over blown or too bombastic, his scores for both THE HOWLING and PIRANHA are superbly written and in PIRAHNA we hear a Vivaldi influence in the opening theme, which is strident and filled with to overflowing with an energetic musical persona. Both scores contain beautiful themes for the few quieter moments they allow us, again the composer making excellent use of the piano and strings combination, fashioning romantic and melancholy pieces, that although are essentially filled with a melodic romanticism, they too also possess an underlying sense of apprehension.

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Both soundtracks were released on the Varese Sarabande label as LP records, with both releases boasting stunning cover art. Each has received compact disc re-issues; THE HOWLING being given an expanded release on LA LA LAND records a few years ago. PIRANHA being issued on the Varese Sarabande club label with same running time as the original LP record.

From two horror movies to something less taxing on the emotions, well at least something that won’t, jangle your nerves and send shivers up you back. It might however, make you laugh when you are not meant to and lose a little faith in cinema along the way that’s if you actually manages to stay in the cinema or in front of the video/DVD to watch it. HERCULES was released in 1983, and starred INCREDIBLE HULK star Lou Ferringo, let’s just say it will probably be better to focus on the music rather than even mention the film itself. This was a cheap looking, no storyline extravaganza, filled with bad acting, dodgy camera work and a lack of any type of direction whatsoever, and we wont mention those special effects, will we? (I said don’t mention the special effects).

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Donaggio fashioned a suitably Majestic and rousing theme for the production, and the score itself was good, but it became lost in the debacle that was HERCULES, the thing is because Donaggio had found favour at around this time, a soundtrack LP was issued, ironic because during this period many good films with equally good soundtracks did not get their music issued onto a recording some only recently having a soundtrack issued. HERCULES is a score I have to admit I rarely as in never return to, the LP and also a CD of the score has sat on the shelf for years where it has gathered the proverbial dust of time, and on listening to it again recently for the purpose of this article I still found that the music brought back memories of the awful movie, with the failings of the production clouding my ability to get past track three.

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The same can be said for a few scores that the composer produced at this time,  THE BARBARIANS comes to mind, not that often but only on bad days. The score was a mixture of both symphonic and synthetic with the latter having the larger slice of the pie as it were, it was at times effective but more often than not the music did little to enhance or support, but with a film like this I think it must be very hard for a composer to become inspired into writing anything that is remotely appealing or in tune with the films storyline.

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It is a great pity that Donaggio in my opinion made the wrong decision about re-locating to the United States, because if he had and also had worked on bigger production for De Palma, Dante etc you never know it might have been his name on the credits for THE UNTOUCHABLES etc.

SCREAMING THEMES, SHOOTOUTS AND STARED ARIAS.

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The Italian or spaghetti western has whether we like it or not had a profound influence upon cinema as a whole. Many contemporary movies have taken the key stock attributes of the Spaghetti western genre and converted them to fit the scenarios of thrillers, horror movies and even sci fi and adventure films. It is a genre of film that although not loved by all has a style and a presentation that is recognised instantly even if it is disguised in a movie or TV drama in other genres. The music for the Italian produced western played a major role in the development and the structure of the movies within the genre, and although it was Ennio Morricone who along with film maker Sergio Leone created what we now know as the spaghetti western sound, there were numerous other composers and performers that also contributed to the ongoing fashioning and development of the original sound that Maestro Morricone put in place on the soundtrack of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. I thought it would be an idea to look at the key musical works within the spaghetti western genre. This will not be all Morricone, far from it as I am of the opinion that many of the scores by other composers although inspired by Morricone are at times more inventive, because of the budgets involved and also because of the quality of the music that was produced at times for movies that were less than memorable some examples of soundtracks I will look at are I admit rather lacking and there are also others that one often thinks of as a little ridiculous in their style and overall sound, nevertheless they all contributed to the sound and style of music that we associate with the genre and were examples of film scoring that we had never been heard before, and also a sound that is still today instantly recognisable and in use as in mimicked within many types of films. I am not going to go into lengthy explanations of how the genre came into being, or indeed focus for any time on the plots stars or directors, this is a subject that we have already covered here at MMI, no it’s the soundtracks which were often Good, sometimes Bad and could be Ugly that we will discuss and maybe you as collectors might not have been aware of them and seek them out if they are available.

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So, I think the most unusual approach to scoring a western might have been undertaken by Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, when they scored KEOMA, a violent western that starred Franco Nero, the movie was overall a good western, but the quirkiness of the score in my opinion was verging upon the unlistenable. The composers decided to make use of vocals on the score, but the vocals were off beat and slightly eccentric. In the hands of another composer the score for KEOMA would have probably taken on a more conventional sound if there is such a thing as a conventional sounding Italian western score. With the De Angelis brothers however, it broke new musical ground, but was not popular with all who heard it. I think it is probably my least favourite Italian western score, simply because of the songs, or at least the style of the performance of the songs. One critic described the vocals as grating, while another likened the female vocals to something like Buffy Saint Marie on acid. The vocal performances were courtesy of Sybil and Guy and the descriptions by the critics of their vocalising is a pretty fair one.

 

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The music for KEOMA was a far cry from De Angelis score for the 1971 movie THEY STILL CALL ME TRINITY, a comedy western which was released some five years previous. KEOMA was savage, angry, and unforgiving, which matched the mood of the central character, but still became off putting when watching the movie, because the audience was trying to catch what the vocalists were saying. The musical output of Guido and Maurizio De Angelis was filled with a quirky sound which was effective within the films they worked on and for most of the time was an entertaining listening experience away from the movie. KEOMA however was for me not a great experience, with the score I think being the last on my list of spaghetti western soundtracks to be played. It is shall we say an acquired taste, and leave it there. It was not just Guido and Maurizio De Angelis that had a strange way of approaching and scoring westerns, Carlo Rustichelli for example, had a habit of including circus music in a number of his western scores, which was also at times a little puzzling. And although a great many of the composers scores were epic in their sound, he produced a handful that if you listened to them without being told they were western scores would assume they were from comedies of movies involving clowns and trapeze acts.

But to something positive in the genre, and to composer Gianni Ferrio, SENTENCE OF DEATH, again not the most conventional of scores even for a spaghetti western, the composer employing jazz influences throughout alongside percussive elements and Mexican sounding guitar solos to create a good score, but a slightly confusing one for any listener who had not seen the movie. Breathy woods accompany steamy sounding saxophone and double bass in sleazy sounding cues, that would not be out of place in any Giallo or cop picture. The song THE LAST GAME performed by Neville Cameron, is odd in itself, the intro spoken rather than sung, with Ferrio underlining and punctuating with a laid back jazz backing, and gradually building to a crescendo of sorts with the vocalist hitting the top notes and solo trumpet combining with organ and percussion to create an interesting combination and sound. One could never accuse Ferrio of being part of what was to be known as the school of Italian film music, he very rarely utilised a whistler, and his style was unique and I think because of this he stood out even more. I have to admit buying the soundtrack to SENTENCE OF DEATH because it had such a cool cover, but after a few listens I began to appreciate the soundtrack and also to engage with the style of the composer, which made me want to hear more of the same. Probably not the best example of the spaghetti western sound, but a worthy addition to any collection.

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Another Spaghetti western score which I think can referred to as a classic example of Italian film scoring is SPARA GRINGO SPARA, The music is by the seasoned composer Sante Maria Romitelli, who provided us with a score that just bursts with energy and vibrant original musical content. It boasts a number of up tempo almost beat/pop tracks which are entertaining, foot tapping stuff. The score also includes a number of tracks that can be categorised as dramatic, symphonic and near operatic, like many scores for westerns which were produced in Italy during the 1960s and 1970s the soundtrack features performances on electric guitar, harpsichord, trumpet and organ, which are either as solo instruments or as a combination of all of these. SPARA GRINGO SPARA is a soundtrack that is made up of themes for the films principal characters.

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For example TEMA DI STARK (track number 7) is a powerhouse of a cue, it begins with an organ motif which is joined and eventually overwhelmed by strings and brass, this then leads into an electric guitar solo, backed up by organ and vibes, the track develops into a full blown version of the theme for Stark, which is carried along by the string section with organ and guitar making entrances along the way, certainly stirring and inspiring stuff. There are also a handful of compositions on the soundtrack that can be described as suspense cues, not musical or thematic, but nevertheless go to make up an interesting part of this score.

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Released in 1967, BANDIDOS is a good Italian western, it holds one’s attention via its original storyline but like most Italian produced westerns does have its lulls and lows as far as the story is concerned. One of the film’s most appealing attributes has to be the musical score by composer Egisto Macchi who fashioned a haunting and theme laden soundtrack, the stock instrumentation and sounds of the spaghetti western are present throughout, the composer relying upon solo trumpet performances, choral support, female voice, harpsichord, organ, jaws harp, bass guitar, percussion, dramatic strings, electric guitar, harmonica, sporadic trills from the woodwind section, racing snare drums that are punctuated by manic sounding brass stabs and vocals courtesy of Nico Fidenco, who I personally think had an input into the score as well as performing the songs, I say this because there are certain sounds or quirks of orchestration within the soundtrack that are distinctively Fidenco, the use of timpani, woodwind, choir and also soaring trumpet solos are stunning and at times rival the work of Lacarenza and Morricone, the overall combination of instrumentation however have to them a sound and style that just says to me Fidenco. Macchi was born in Grosseto Italy on August 4th 1928 he worked in many areas and genres of music, these included, film scores, classical, avant-garde, musique concrete and he contributed many compositions to music libraries. He began composing in 1953 and was not only a gifted composer but a proficient conductor/arranger plus he played violin and piano. After creating and founding The Musical Theatre of Rome with Domenico Guaccero, Macchi established Studio R7 in 1967, which was an experimental electronic music laboratory. In the same year the composer joined Gruppo di improvvisazione di nuova consonantal, which was an avant-garde improvisation group to which he recruited composer Ennio Morricone who was a long-time friend of his. During his career the composer worked on approx: 20 motion pictures, he passed away on August 8th 1992 aged 64.

 

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It is unbelievable just how many Spaghetti western scores have been released in recent years thanks to labels such as HILLSIDE,GDM,DIGIT MOVIES etc etc. Hillside seem to have slowed in their release programme but I am sure that Mr Woodman and Professor Roberto Zamori will be back with something that is very special, meanwhile lets look back to 2008 when GDM/Hillside released the Nico Fidenco soundtrack for the 1966 production RINGO IL TEXANO or THE TEXICAN as it was re-titled for releases outside of Italy. The movie was a fair example of the Euro western because it was filmed in Spain and I suppose really was a combination of the style of the Italian or Euro western and also the more traditional Hollywood or American made B western movie.
Director Lesley Selendar an American was credited as being one of the most prolific western feature makers with 107 titles accredited to his name, he worked on TV shows also including the popular LARAMIE (43 Episodes), THE TALL MAN and DANIEL BOONE and feature films such as ARIZONA BUSHWHAKERS, FORT UTAH, THE LONE RANGER AND THE CITY OF GOLD and TOMAHAWK TRAIL to name but a few. The star of the movie Audie Murphy was I must admit a little out of place as the central character Jess Carlin, the actor seeming awkward in certain scenes but saying this Murphy was a veteran of Hollywood sage brush tales and was in the end an asset to the production attracting many of his fans to the movie. The villain of the piece Luke Starr was played by another American actor Broderick Crawford with Diana Lorys as Kit o Neal the love interest and two genre favourites Aldo Sambrell and Antonio Casas in tow. Murphy’s character has decided to hang up his guns and settle down in Mexico but after receiving news that his Brother who is a newspaper owner has been murdered he decides its time to strap his pistols back on and head back into the States to find the killer. The soundtrack was originally released on the RCA label on a long playing record, paired with another score by composer Nico Fidenco IN THE SHADOW OF THE COLT which itself was given a full score release in 2007 by GDM. Fidenco was a composer that simply shone when scoring westerns, his style just seemed to lend itself to these quirky and entertaining pieces of cinema. The composer very often providing a soundtrack that combined dramatic elements with catchy pop orientated material, he would create haunting and stirring themes that never failed to grab the attention of the watching audience and thus also attracting the attention of film music connoisseurs at the same time. How the collaboration between the director and composer came about I am not entirely sure, but I am glad it happened.

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Fidenco created an upbeat and tuneful soundtrack for the movie and as per usual enlisted the assistance of Alessandroni and his excellent Il Cantori Moderni as well as providing the vocals himself for the film’s title song. Fidenco wrote a haunting opening theme for the film which is heard as a vocal and later in the proceedings is given quite a meaty sounding orchestral work out complete with bold sounding horns, brass flourishes and upbeat percussion that are all brought together by choir and strings. The CD contains 11 tracks which are taken from the original LP release which are stereo mixes. Then there are a further 21 cues taken from the actual film score which are in mono. This for me ranks alongside other Fidenco scores such as ONE MORE FOR HELL, TO THE LAST DROP OF BLOOD, LO VOGLIO MORTE and JOHN IL BASTARDO all of which are excellent examples of scoring.

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Talking of excellent examples of Italian western scores how about a classic one. Originally released in 1967 on a CAM LP record which also included tracks on the B side from THE BELLE STARR STORY with music by Charles Dumont, this Cipriani spaghetti western score has to be one of the most popular and well known non-Morricone western scores from the 1960s. The theme was covered by numerous artists worldwide including the likes of LeRoy Holmes, Geoff Love and Henry Mancini – the latter held Cipriani’s composition in high esteem and was a composer who Cipriani said was an inspiration to him. A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN was also one of the first soundtracks to be re-issued by CAM as part of their Soundtrack Encyclopaedia series (CSE 102). But sadly, the recording was slightly flawed and was of a very short running duration; the original CD release running for just 23 mins 40 seconds. CAM did re-issue the score again with a few extra tracks and included it on a disc with tracks from two other westerns scored by Cipriani, THE BOUNTY KILLER and NEVADA. So it has been available before but not in such a complete version. This latest edition is, as far as we are aware, the entire score which was originally a project that CAM were contemplating at the time of the film’s release and is made up of tracks from a mock-up LP as well as cues from the film’s soundtrack. It contains 11 previously released cues and a further 11 released for the first time, billed as bonus tracks – although, in saying this, the central theme from the score is repeated a few times but in differing arrangements. The sound achieved by Hillside/GDM is amazing and all tracks are in full stereo apart from track 22, which is a mono mix of an alternate version of the central theme. Presentation is also very well done, with the original LP cover being utilized and a number of attractive and colourful stills and publicity posters from the film decorating the disc booklet. The score by Cipriani is, in every sense of the word, a “CLASSIC” and it is this soundtrack along with examples from the same period by Ennio Morricone, Gianni Ferrio, Bruno Nicolai, Francesco De Masi and Nico Fidenco that set the standard and also created the precedence and style that was to become the iconic spaghetti western “SOUND”.

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The CD opens with the now familiar and dare I say famous theme, “Un Uomo un Cavallo una Pistola”. Spanish guitar punctuated by subdued bass electric guitar open the cue and usher in shrill but melodic woodwind, establishing the main body of the theme. Strident, forceful strings add momentum and increase the composition’s tempi. The strings are then joined by racing snares, bells and eventually an electric guitar which takes on the role established by the woods and continues to pick out Cipriani’s infectious theme. Trumpet is added to create a wonderful rich and exuberant sound depicting the man and the horse riding at speed. The tempo then alters drastically as the composer introduces a slower and more romantic arrangement of the central theme. Woodwind again with low brass and strings are combined with a laid-back percussion supporting them. Again, the tempi changes and becomes fast paced but only very briefly, bringing the cue to its conclusion as it fades.
Track 2, “Una Canzone per la Luna”, is the secondary theme for the score, and in many ways evokes memories of Morricone’s “Goodbye Colonel” cue from A FEW DOLLARS MORE. Subdued percussion, bells and martial timpani are interspersed with electric bass and piano creating an almost bolero sound, which has the central phrasing of the theme performed by woodwind and also at times passed to solo trumpet which is slow and mournful in its overall sound, supported by sparse use of electric organ. Track 3, “Faccia a Terra”, is one of the highlights of the score; driving percussion, punctuated by whip sounds act as background to a striking and memorable trumpet solo which itself is embellished by the use of a rasping voice which creates a stunning and highly original effect. I am also glad to say that, on this version of the score, the re-mastering has been done wonderfully because on the original CD release there was a slight imperfection that was very noticeable on this particular track, which has now been remedied. Overall, this soundtrack is a rewarding listen and one of the Italian western genres greatest non-Morricone scores.

 

Black Killer
Black Killer

The first Italian western score I ever heard by composer Daniele Patucchi was DEAF SMITH AND JOHNNY EARS or LOS AMIGOS as it was called in Italy. I remember thinking that the music was not pure Spaghetti in its style and overall sound but was a fusion of that type of scoring together with a more conventional approach which harkened back to the days of the traditional western according to Hollywood. BLACK KILLER was released in 1971, two years before LOS AMIGOS and although the master tapes of the score were the property of CAM Dischi in Rome, the soundtrack never got a release on LP records at the time of the film’s release – which is surprising because the composer’s DEAF SMITH AND JOHNNY EARS did and was even issued in the UK on EMI records. This had to be something to do with Anthony Quinn and Franco Nero being in the aforementioned movie and BLACK KILLER starring Klaus Kinski who was little known in the UK at that time.

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Patucchi’s score for BLACK KILLER was a little more spaghetti sounding than LOS AMIGOS as it contained a number of references to the then already established sound of the Italian produced western; the composer utilizing a rasping electronic sound and instrumentation which clearly had connections with scores by other composers from the genre, i.e. banjo played in unison with a saloon type piano, fiddle (which is reminiscent of Morricone’s FIVE MAN ARMY), Spanish guitar solos and a fairly light and up-tempo central theme which again is reminiscent of the style employed by Morricone in films such as BANDA J AND S.

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There are several darker and sinister, dramatic interludes within the score, where Patucchi calls upon electric bass guitar, percussion and tense sounding woods to create a taught and edgy atmosphere. Plus, we hear cues that are variations on the core theme; the composer orchestrating and arranging these so that they remain fresh and vibrant on each outing. Harpsichord, guitar and Celeste are utilised throughout to create some nice low-key moments which can be considered romantic in their overall sound. This is demonstrated in track seven, which includes all of the instrumentation I have already mentioned plus lush strings. In track nine, percussion together with bass guitar, underlined with woodwind provide a tense mood; the tension building further with the introduction of electric guitar stabs and noises which – whilst not exactly musical – add much to the composition. A score that grows on you and one that is sadly overlooked.

 

Quella sporca storia nel west
Quella sporca storia nel west

Next we have a gem of a score from the genre of the Spaghetti western. QUELLA SPORCA STORIA NEL WEST, features a great title song performed by Maurizio Graf, the artistry of Alessandro Alessandroni as a choral director co-composer and guitarist, the distinct sound of il Cantori Moderni, the unmistakable talent of Franco D Gemini and of course the originality and the musical prowess of Maestro Francesco De Masi. Released in 1968 this is one of the many spaghetti westerns which were popular with audiences around the world during the 1960s through to the mid to late 1980s. Francesco De Masi had a unique style and sound when working on any type of movie but for me it was the western genre in particular where the composer excelled. His scores for westerns such as ARIZONA COLT, 7 DOLLARI SUL ROSSO, KILL THEM ALL AND COME BACK ALONE, and SARTANA NON PERDONA, to name but a few, all contain musical elements which are essentially akin to the Italian western sound but alongside them and fused within them have a style that evokes the Hollywood produced western scores such as HIGH NOON, THE BRAVADOS, THE TIN STAR etc., etc. De Masi not only utilized the typical expansive Americana sound of the western as envisaged by composers such as Tiomkin, Newman and Bernstein but he also stamped upon each project the inimitable sound of the Spaghetti western and further embellished this sound with a style and inventiveness that was all his own. The CD opens with “Find a Man” (Tema di Johnny) performed by vocalist Maurizio Graf. This performer’s distinct vocalising was utilized by many composers in Italy and he worked on numerous western soundtracks.

 

Maybe I am being a little over the top here, when I say I think that this is possibly the best song written for an Italian western, as it not only has great lyrics by Audrey Stanton and A. Alessandroni and an outstanding performance by Graf, but it also contains a fantastic jangling guitar riff courtesy of Alessandroni and a melodic and infectious musical backing consisting of organ, percussion, piano and lavish sounding strings;

“Find a Man Who Never Killed Not Even For the Love of Gold,
Find a Man Who Never Lied and Offer Him Your Soul,
Find a Man Who Never Stole From Any Man a Woman’s Love,
Find a Man Who Never Lied and Never Let Him Go”.

How can this not be a winning formula for a western song.
More than any other De Masi western score this includes some wonderful choral work which can be heard in cues such as “In Memoria” (track 3) and “Johnny Sulla Croce (track 16). It’s also a score that has a number of standout tracks – the composer creating secondary themes which because of their strength and quality could easily act as main titles for other assignments. For example, track 11 “Il Villaggio di Santana” is a great action piece containing driving percussion, uplifting and forthright Mexican flavoured strings, strumming guitars, proud sounding horns, whips and xylophone. All of these elements combine to create something anthem like and stirring in its overall sound. The composer fuses both Italian styles with that of a more conventional western sound and the end result is not only original but pleasing and rewarding for the listener. The soundtrack was issued previously on a CAM LP back in 1968. CAM re-issued the score in 1995 paired it with 7 DOLLARI SUL ROSSO but there were no extra cues included and it was a re-issue of the LP tracks. This edition contains all of those tracks 1-19 on the disc, plus we are treated to a further 8 cues, which are alternate takes on a handful of the previous tracks. Sound quality is outstanding, and the presentation is handled nicely with many stills from the movie and informative notes by Filippo De Masi the composer’s son. This was the seventh CD to be issued by BEAT records in the Francesco de Masi western score series.

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The Italian made western was a popular genre with cinema goers, and in the UK I know that many examples of these movies were often shown as B features alongside movies that were produced in the UK and the U.S. THE BIG GUNDOWN for example was the support feature to THE WRECKING CREW and A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL was shown as the second feature to a variety of main programmes. In the 1970,s both A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE were shown on the same programme, and DEATH RIDES A HORSE was shown prior to the main feature in many picture houses, cinema audiences whether they liked it or not were always able to get an ample fix of spaghetti.

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In 1969, a movie that was shown as a B feature was GOLD OF THE BRAVADOS, a movie which had a limited distribution and also a very short run at cinemas, the production was scored by Luis Bacalov. For some reason this is a soundtrack that is rarely spoken of, I don’t understand why as I count it as one of the composers better scores for the western genre as in it does not re-use any themes from the composers other soundtracks, many collectors had in fact encountered music from the movie without knowing it on Bacalov’s compilation album PAESAGGI which had been released on General music in 1972, the compilation featuring the central theme form the score, the actual soundtrack for GOLD OF THE BRAVADOS did not receive a release until 1995, when it was featured alongside another Bacalov western score for the comedy LA PIU’ GRANDE RAPINA DEL WEST, on a GDM compact disc, this was a very limited edition that had been produced by Hillside CD production and distributed by GDM with each release individually numbered.

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The track that was a familiar one to collectors was ADIOS TIERRA MIA, which opens the score it is a typical sounding Bacalov composition, purveyed wonderfully by woods, whistler, solo trumpet, strings and harpsichord, it is in my opinion one of the composers most accomplished themes for a western at least, and rivals the grandeur and the melodic content of IL GRANDE DUELLO (1972). It is certainly a case of the music being far superior to the film it was written for in the case of GOLD OF THE BRAVADOS, the score has an almost epic sound at times and oozes Hispanic and South American colours, which is something that Bacalov also achieved on his soundtrack for A MAN CALLED NOON.

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One of the most entertaining Spaghetti western scores in my opinion is Marcello Giombini’s SABATA which was released in 1969, the soundtrack is filled with vibrant themes and has to it an abundance of energy that underlines the action and also acts as musical punchlines to many of the scenarios in the movie. The score is essentially made up of a handful of principal themes, some of which are integral to the films storyline and are identifiable with the films central characters, the most prominent and noticeable being the theme for BANJO, the composer taking the opportunity to interweave his theme for the character into key scenes which he is featured in, thus the audience become accustomed to hearing the theme either on the score or in the context of a scene where the character Banjo is playing the instrument.

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The soundtrack also featured the bouncy and infectious theme for SABATA and themes for the villains. It is in a word STUNNING and also a wonderful and masterful piece of scoring by Giombini. The soundtrack LP was issued in the 1970’s on a Japanese import, which was on the U.A. label, there was also a single released in the UK and Italy which featured SABATA theme on the A side and BANJO on the B side. Again, released on U.A. records.

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The soundtrack was issued onto CD by Hillside CD productions and GDM in 2001 paired with RETURN OF SABATA, again scored by Giombini in 1971, the sequel was not such an entertaining movie and the score too lacked the stature and inventiveness of the original, but it was a bonus to have both scores on one Compact Disc. The soundtracks have been re-issued separately onto compact disc in recent years, but my opinion is that the original GDM/Hillside release is still the one to have.

 

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Staying with the SABATA series, and to the second movie in the trilogy, ADIOS SABATA, THE BOUNTY HUNTERS or INDIO BLACK. Was released in 1970, and because Lee Van Cleef was not available to take on the role he was substituted with Yul Brynner who’s interpretation of the SABATA character was the opposite of Van Cleef. The movie although enjoyable was mainly played for laughs and gimmicky stunts which worked well or in most cases fell a little flat. The score was by Bruno Nicolai, who many had heard of via his associating with Ennio Morricone when he acted as the composer’s musical director on numerous scores. Nicolai had written the music for a number of westerns, but ADIOS SABATA is one of his best, although at times it does verge upon being a direct imitation of the work of Morricone, with strange noises, grunts, chants and whistles being utilised throughout. The score was released for the first time onto compact disc by Hillside cd production in 2001, the release being distributed by GDM. Again, the score received a re-issue a few years later, but again like the other SABATA scores the Hillside/GDM release has the edge over the others.

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Finally, I going to head for an unreleased score, well when I say unreleased it has not received an expanded Compact disc release, it was however released onto LP by CAM records and also on a single on the same label and is a title I mentioned earlier in this article. THE BELLE STARR STORY was a double soundtrack release it being the A side to A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN, the film which was released in 1968, was met with mixed reactions, but all in all was a good movie and probably the pre-cursor for films such as HANNIE CAULDER.

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The score is by French composer Charles Dumont, the soundtrack LP opens with a fanfare of sorts that introduces a vocal entitled NO TIME FOR LOVE, which is something the main character of the movie identifies with. The vocal is performed by the movies star Elsa Martinelli, who delivers a suitably sultry and sensual vocal. Dumont penned the music for the song as well as the score and the lyrics were provided by Andre Salvat and Norman Newell. The music for the song is sparse whilst the vocals are being performed, and comprises of woods, bass guitar and a subtle Spanish guitar, until the vocal or first part of it at least comes to an end, and then Dumont enters the fray with a galloping and quick paced piece that is performed by timpani, percussion and horns with strings supporting. This comes to an abrupt end as the vocal is again re-introduced this time with a more elaborate support of strings giving it a more romantic feel and atmosphere. Track two, is an instrumental version of the song and the composer employs dramatic strings to open the cue, but these are then tailed off and amore lush and sumptuous rendition of the song is performed by soaring strings which themselves fade and lead into a delicate and quiet guitar solo. Track three is WESTERN CASINO, which is self-explanatory, and this is where the saloon piano piece comes into the work, Dumont providing a jaunty, honky-tonk saloon sound via the at times off kilter piano that is backed and punctuated by strummed banjo. THRILLING PER UNA STELLA is the title of track number four, Dumont, switching to a more dramatic musical style, with electric bass, percussion, brass and bongos, combining to create a taught and apprehensive sound, that is quite reminiscent of Cipriani’s A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN, the track builds with the composer adding strings that seem to envelope and carry the remainder of the instrumentation, bringing the track to a close. Track five, is a guitar version of the central theme and is entitled BELLE STARR GUITAR. Which is brief but effective, the final track is BELLE STARR, in which Dumont creates a suitably western sounding riding cue, with brass, strumming guitars, electric bass punctuations and rumbling percussion. A short but interesting and entertaining soundtrack, that sadly was at the time of its release ignored by many.

SOUNDTRACK SUPPLEMENT TEN.

Music platinum record. Music notes and treble clefAlthough we have been in a lockdown and also have and are still living through some very strange times, the release of film music does not seem to have slowed that much, collectors now even more turning to the internet and also to the digital platforms that offer us out favourite composers and their latest scores. This past month and the coming few weeks looks set to be a busy time for soundtracks, and even though cinemas are not yet open some of the big movies are being streamed so that we may partake in the adventures and the trials and tribulations of characters old and new. As with other soundtrack supplements I try and give you potted reviews of many new releases, plus I attempt to select three maybe four releases which did not get the coverage they deserved on release and also some that were sadly overlooked.

 

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I am going to begin with two scores that are from documentaries, both of these films look at popular genres of film one detailing the rise and fall of the house of Hammer as in the British film studio that produced so many Gothic horrors that are now considered to be classics of the cinema and the second film which focuses upon the genre of the PEPLUM the Italian films that were produced at the same time as Hollywood was engaged in making so many Biblically slanted movies such as BEN HUR, KING OF KINGS and THE ROBE for example, The PEPLUM or the sword and sandal collective of movies also acted as a pre-cursor to the birth of the Italian or Spaghetti western.

 

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But I begin with Maximilien Mathevon and his atmospheric homage to the musical sounds of the horror genre as realised originally by the likes of James Bernard, Harry Robinson and their like for the most beloved horror flicks from the Hammer films studio. In his score for the documentary TERREUR ET GLAMOR, MONTE ET DECLIN DU STUDIO HAMMER, the composer presents us with a score that is inventive and at the same time a little cliched, but not in a bad way. Yes, he does utilise a core sound or at least elements of the style and sound that we associate with Hammer films, but he takes this as a foundation or starting point and adapts and bends it to shape a familiar but at the same time fresh musical approach. I think I am correct when I say that this is a totally synthetic score, but because it is electronic does not alter the end product and take anything away from it in the quality, entertainment or indeed in how effective it is departments. The composer giving us at times slightly up-beat and contemporary sounding pieces that for me evoked the style of both GOBLIN the Italian band, composers Fabio Frizzi, Brad Fiedel and Jay Chattaway and also leans towards a kind of TANGERINE DREAM style in places. But even through the electronic sounds we still hear references that can be deemed as classic horror film music with shades of PROFUNDO ROSSO shining through in places. With chilling slightly off kilter chimes being underlined by organ and dark sounding interludes becoming the mainstay of the work. With a familiar brassy fanfare of sorts every so often entering the fray.

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The second work by Mathevon is PEPLUM, a documentary that was released in 2019, again the composer hands us a score that is founded upon the sound of the Italian made movies within that genre, this time I think the music is slightly more interesting than the Hammer score, with choral effects being given more prominence. The sound that he achieves especially with the brass on the opening cue ARENA is certainly authentic to the style of scoring that was prominent on films such as THE TRIUMPH OF THE TEN GLADIATORS and MACISTE IN KING SOLOMONS MINES by composers Carlo Savina and Francesco De Masi respectively. This score for me is far more developed than the previous example, the composer evokes the style of the genre wonderfully and I think although cannot be totally sure that he on this occasion includes performances from conventional instruments alongside that of synthetic ones, but it is again electronic sounds and textures that make up the majority of this work. Well worth a listen. Both are available on digital platforms via Plaza Mayor.

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From two documentaries about movies, to a score that we first heard fifty-four years ago in 1966. DJANGO was a film that was to say the least controversial, mainly because of the use of what was considered to be gratuitous violence and also a very high body count. Directed by Sergio Corbucci and starring Franco Nero in the title role, the musical score was by Argentinian born composer Luis Enriquez Bacalov. Now the title song is a familiar one and when heard for fans of the western genre and DJANGO specifically evokes images of the central character dragging a coffin through thick mud whilst the song plays and the films opening credits role. Of course, the film and to a degree the score gained something of a notorious reputation because the movie was banned in many countries. The song specifically has more recently been given new life via its use in Quentin Tarantino’s DJANGO UNCHAINED, where some of Bacalov’s score from the original film was also utilised. The soundtrack was available on LP originally and has subsequently been re-issued on various compact discs, each one more or less claiming to be the definitive edition, it was the composers first major scoring assignment, and he worked on it in a year that was a busy one for him, because in 1966 he also scored SUGAR COLT and QUIEN SABE, two more spaghetti westerns, the latter entitled A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL being a political western where his score was supervised by Ennio Morricone.

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His score for DJANGO is to be honest nothing that is abundantly original, and the composer also used various tracks from it in other western scores such as A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL. But it does have a certain amount of originality being a spaghetti western score, because it contains very few of the what are referred to as the stock sounds of the Italian western score, we hear no whistling, no choir, no cracking rifle butts or indeed grand near operatic gunfight duel music, instead the composer went for a more Mexican sounding score with a number of vocals sprinkled throughout and also included some dramatic and heart stopping set pieces that employed brass and percussion which were elevated and brought to new heights by the string section which at times were piercing and highly charged. So, although I say not that original. I suppose it was because it basically broke the mould as in it steered clear of the style and sound that was already fast becoming the innovative creative style of the spaghetti western. Bacalov did however make effective use of solo trumpet at times which is more prominent in the various arrangements of the cue, LA CORSA on the soundtrack release. The various releases of the soundtrack all contained different cues and a couple even have suites of music from the score, and all also have both the English and Italian vocal versions of the title song, my personal preference being the Italian recording by Roberto Fia. The English language version just does not hit the right spots. If you have missed this (I don’t know how) but if you have then it’s time that you put that right.

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Moving on from a classic Spaghetti western score to four releases of the music of Barry Gray, UFO, FIREBALL XL5, SUPERCAR and THUNDERBIRDS. All familiar shows I would think for many of us, that were realised by Gerry Anderson from the early 1960’s onwards with SUPERCAR being the most senior of the four. SUPERCAR debuted on British TV in 1961, the vehicle which was a prototype was able to travel through the air as well as run on land and on and under the ocean. Mike Mercury was the central character and pilot of the car and along with his companion a young boy Jimmy Gibson who was an orphan travelled the globe in search of adventures. SUPERCAR was designed in the series by a Professor Popkiss and a Dr. Beaker who were always on hand to modify and improve it to suit whatever mission it was involved on. Gray’s music added much to the series and the title song became an instant hit with fans of the series young and old. For a series such as this aimed at children the scores were quite large with many of Gray’s soundtracks being performed by a medium to large orchestra, or at least it sounds that way.

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Silva screen have released selections (20 tracks) from various scores onto compact disc and also digitally, as they have also done with THUNDERBIRDS in fact Silva have released a number of albums which feature music from the THUNDERBIRDS series, but soon (June 17th) they will issue a 40 track collection which contains a wide selection of music from the popular series.

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The company have also released UFO which was again a series produced by Anderson but this time with live actors and not puppets purveying the imaginative storylines. Again the music is courtesy of Barry Gray and it is not until you look at just how many different shows the composer scored that it dawns on you just how much of a contribution he made to British TV and film music. The UFO release also contains 20 tracks and is well worth taking a listen to, there was always a little bit of snobbery amongst collectors of film music where TV music was concerned and even more of an aversion to admitting that they actually liked the music from a kids show. But the soundtracks as penned by Gray not only contained those hooks the audience opening themes but also had to them a great symphonic presence. UFO was a little more modern sounding with the composer utilising Hammond organ and up-beat percussion whilst having the central theme purveyed by a hip sounding electric guitar. In places having an easy listening sound, but nevertheless an entertaining listen as are the majority of the scores by Gray.

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FIREBALL XL5 I remember well as a child, the first few episodes were in black and white, the title of the series was from the name of the space ship that was involved, it was part of the interplanetary space fleet that were ordered to patrol and protect sector 25 of the solar system from the threat of an alien invasion. Steve Zodiac was at the helm of XL5 and he and his trusty crew which comprised of Venus who was a doctor and very attractive for a puppet if I remember, Professor Matic, and Robert (as opposed to Robbie) the robot who acted as the ships co-pilot. Again the music by Gray was dramatic but all the time laced with a kind of pop sound, in fact the end titles of each episode was scored with a song at times, which became popular when the show was on regularly. The vocal by Don Spencer was released as a single with Charles Blackwell providing a John Barry seven-esque arrangement. This special release of music from the series has been released by Fanderson and contains a staggering thirty tracks in clean and clear sound quality. There is very little doubt that Barry Gray put his own musical stamp upon many of the Gerry Anderson shows, and with these releases that have been issued by Silva Screen and the Fanderson label, it will ensure that new collectors will get to appreciate the talent of this somewhat underatted composer and they will also be welcomed by those who have been fans for years who like me will recall many happy memories watching the shows and hearing the music.

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Varese Sarabande has for many years been a record label that we as soundtrack fans associate with excellent film music releases and it is also a label that never seems to slow its re-release of soundtracks in expanded form, The Varese Sarabande club releases are items that we all look forward to. And this month we have two scores that I am sure will be welcomed by many, SEAQUEST DSV was a television series, which many thought was rather lack-lustre, in fact I myself would go as far as to say thet the music created for the series by John Debney was far superior to the series itself, it lacked substance in the writing department, and although it was quite hi tech for its time as in computer graphics etc, the episodes were rather weak as in storyline and dialogue. Whereas the music was superb, and I for one am pleased that Varese have released this two compact disc set. Disc one is dedicated to Debney’s score for the pilot episode which I think was feature length and entitled TO BE OR NOT TO BE.

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The music is thrilling, exciting and filled with anthem like themes, that are overflowing with a rich and vibrant atmosphere, it is fully symphonic and for television score is grand and strident. Disc two contains highlights from season One of the series, and again the composer is Debney, who delivers what I think is a more developed and even grander musical affair. For any fan of the series and also any admirer of the music of John Debney this is a must have set.

 

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As is the second Varese Club release THE RUNNING MAN by composer Harold Faltermeyer. Now this is a composer who has written some memorable themes for movies such as BEVERLY HILLS COP, TOP GUN, FLETCH, TANGO AND CASH and KUFFS. His music which is electro synth pop has to it a dramatic feel at times and is particularly effective in action led films such as those mentioned. THE RUNNING MAN was released in 1987, and for this release Varese have put together a deluxe edition, which comprises of 35 tracks. I will say that this is probably not one of my favourite soundtracks, but it served the picture well and when listening to it away from the movie it does have its moments including a memorable core theme which pops up here and there along the way. As you are aware I am more of a symphonic film music collector and at times when I hear scores such as this I do think I wonder what Goldsmith would have done here or what Williams might have done with this? But you can’t win them all.

 

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ULZANA’S RAID,  is a classic western from 1972 directed by the masterful filmmaker Robert Aldrich, a renegade Apache goes on a killing spree and is pursued by a posse cavalry who are under the command of an inexperienced officer, they enlist the help of a seasoned scout McIntosh played by Burt Lancaster, who is helped by his Indian friend KE-NI-TAY, it is a movie that does not hold back and certainly does not bow down to so called political correctness. It is filled with violent scenes and shows how horrific and hostile the Indian wars were. The film does not try to conceal links to the then raging Vietnam war as a small group of American troops struggle against the elements and also against an enemy that is more familiar with the terrain than they are. The movie has somewhat similar themes to other westerns that were produced around the same time as in VALDEZ IS COMING and THE STALKING MOON. The score is by composer Frank De Vol, and is too something of a classic, the composer fashioning a symphonic work that is rich in themes as well as supportive of the action on screen. At times the score being sparse and subdued which in many ways helped to create a greater sense of tension, again in a similar way that Fred Karlin scored THE STALKING MOON and Charles Gross supported VALDEZ IS COMING.

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In many ways the music penned by De Vol has a similar sound and style to that of fellow American composer Jerry Fielding, but as always with his film scores De Vol managed to create something that was innovative and inventive, the soundtrack was not released at the time of the films release and its thanks to the ever industrious INTRADA records in the USA that we at last are able to savour and appreciate this wonderfully tense soundtrack. De Vol utilises a proud cavalry march theme as a foundation to the remainder of the work, but soon the score mirrors the tension and also the savagery that is being acted out on screen. The work is made up from two main themes, the first being the march to accompany the troopers and then there is another element which is very much linked to the Apaches which is at times a more relaxed and less aggressive style. The score is powerful, exciting and at times fast moving and unpredictable, it’s a soundtrack that is filled with vivid rhythmic structures and also percussive elements that are underlined and punctuated via the brass section. Its on the edge of your seat material and perfectly enhances the movie. Listen to the cues HIDE AND SEEK and FIRE POWER which display this action led and relentless musical persona. A great score for a great movie.

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Let’s stay with a western for the next potted review, originally released on LP by Dot records back in 1968, I have always thought that this was a particularly interesting work by Greek composer Hadjidakis. BLUE, the movie, which starred Karl Malden and Terence Stamp, was made very much in the style of The Magnificent Seven and contained traces of the Spaghetti western genre. Hadjidakis is probably best known for his scores to Never on A Sunday and Topkapi which both enjoyed success at the cinema during the 1960s. He also composed a rousing score for 300 Spartans. (still the best version of this Historical tale).

 

The score for BLUE contains a particularly haunting central theme which is first heard in the opening cue, ‘The River’, and is reprised throughout the work in cues such as ‘Nocturne’, ‘Scherzo’ and ‘Blue And Joanne Near The River’. As well as the lighter interludes, the score also contains an equal amount of action and dramatic moments, as in the infectious and nerve jangling ‘The Mexicans In the Village’ and the driving and intense sounding ‘Preparation Of The Villagers’. Hadjidakis, utilises the guitar solos of Laurindo Almeida to great effect and the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra play their hearts out. I also think that the composers use of cimbalom on some of the cues is particularly effective and striking. In fact, the orchestration on the score is highly original throughout and the composer realizes great dramatic and romantic heights by combining instruments that are not ordinarily used on the scores for westerns. The soundtrack has only been re-issued on compact disc in Greece on the Sirius label which I know is hard to obtain. But surprisingly it is available on Apple music as a download, it is a score which you should at least listen to, inventive and original are the two best words to describe Hadjidakis’s foray into western scoring.

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Patrick Doyle is a composer many have followed from his first forays into writing music for film, HENRY V for example and then later with more intimate scores such as INTO THE WEST and the excellent INDOCHINE. In recent years Doyle has written the music for some big box office hitters such as HARRY POTTER, PLANET OF THE APES and the wonderful CINDERELLA, his latest score which is again a collaboration with film maker Kenneth Branagh is ATREMIS FOWL a story of mystery and magic with lots of intrigue and action thrown in, the movie has in fact drawn many negative reviews, and these as well as the corona virus pandemic has led Disney to stream the movie on its Disney plus channel, a shame because the story I have always found engaging and attractive.

The score is as one would expect quite large scale with Doyle blending into his soundtrack the Gaelic sounds of Ireland, giving it a little more ethnicity, and adding much to the flow and enhancement of the movie. There is a homely or rich sound present throughout which has to it a Gaelic air and is pleasant for the most part. I am however not going to say to you this is the best of Doyle, because that is just not true, I found myself tiring of the score mid-way through, mainly because there is in my opinion very little variation and the music is repetitive. Yes, there are some affecting interludes FATHER AND SON, DEAR FRIEND and YOU’RE NOT GOING for example, But, these moments are I have to say few and far between. I am also not convinced that this is not totally symphonic as I detect the use of more than the normal amount of maybe samples and electronic support, (I am probably wrong) which for me deadens the impact and also the quality, so maybe a missed opportunity by the composer to create something that is special, but it serves the movie, and also does have a handful of emotive moments, I won’t say it is a must have score, or an essential purchase, but I will say maybe check it out on a digital platform and try before you buy, because everyone has different tastes.

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From something that I personally can take or leave to a soundtrack that I want to tell everyone about. SIMONS GOT A GIFT, or to give the movie its original French title, LA DERNIERE VIE DE SIMON was released in the latter part of 2019, maybe because it was a French movie I missed it, and also missed the release of its enchanting score by Erwaan Chandon. The movie is a romantic/sci-fi film, The central character is Simon who is just eight years of age, he is an orphan who has it in his heart that he will find a family who will take him in and love him. But Simon is no ordinary child, he has a secret which is a power to take on the appearance of everyone he touches. The musical score is in a word charming, the composer provides the movie with some of the most elegant and alluring themes I have heard in a long while, the music is rich and luxuriously attractive, strings are the main stay of the score and the composer enlists the assistance of delicate chiming effects throughout to add to the work a sense of the fragile and also the magical and also enlists a female voice at certain points which hits all the emotive spots. It is one of those soundtracks that you sit and listen to and think WOW just WOW, the simplicity and the delicate persona of the music simply washes over the listener and it has to it a life of its own away from the movie. This is probably one of the most beautiful scores I have heard thus far this year.

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ERWAAN CHANDON.

I have to admit that I have listened to it over and over as it is such a haunting and pleasant work, its one that I would recommend in a heartbeat, so please find it and be amazed at the talent and the artistry of the composer and the sheer incredible melodic content of this score. It is like James Horner, John Williams and touches of Georges Delerue all fused into one. But there are also phrases and nuances that are certainly individual to this composer’s touching and affecting style. This is subtle but powerful, romantic but also has to it darker moments. It is eloquent and elegant but above all enriching. Check it out ASAP. Available digitally at the usual platforms.

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Other releases that I have noticed this month are the subdued yet atmospheric score for the NETFLIX movie THE PLATFORM by Aranzazu Calleja, on the Plaza Mayor label, the music is edgy and apprehensive and certainly a score not to be listened to alone, the composer creating a highly effective soundtrack that supports and enhances the movie. Adding greater depth and even more of a tense and nervous level to its already perplexing atmosphere.

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VEINTEANERA DIVORCIADA Y FANTSTICA by composer Dan Zlotnik is also worth a mention a varied score with some lovely light and romantic themes that are mixed in with a handful of up tempo Latin sounding tracks, an interesting score, simple but also one filled with differing styles, again released via Plaza Mayor and available on Spotify etc.28470

Finally, to the latest score by composer Christian Heschl, UNBEKANNTE HELDEN WIDERSTAND IM WESTEN . (Unknown heroes-resistance in the south west) is TV movie with the soundtrack just  announced to be issued on Movie Score Media, the score is an accomplished one, the composer fashioning at times disturbing and dark sounding themes, that are complimented by fragile and highly sensitive sections and interludes. I found the work to be a poignant and also an affecting one and at times becoming quite harrowing and darkly tense and foreboding, the music purveys so many colours, senses and emotions it is hard not to become caught up with it as it is beguiling and haunting. A full review will be posted in the coming days on the MMI site, but until then I wanted to make you aware of this score, again available digitally, and certainly worth a listen.