Three releases coming from Movie Score Media, and all very different. Each score has its own sound, style and individuality, which in the world of contemporary movie music is a good thing, with so many scores sounding similar to one another at times and soundscape stepping in for melodies on so many occasions. Listening to these latest releases makes one realize the unfaltering dedication of labels such as MSM to bring to the soundtrack fan a diversity of musical wares. First up is the latest score from composer Tim Wyn, who may recall worked on Freaks, Total War game videos, and the televisions series Mech X4 and Supernatural. One of the composers more recent scores is The Legend of La Llorona, his music for this horror shocker is atmospheric and affecting, the composer creating a dark, sinister, and foreboding work, that is a disturbing and effective listen, that along the way also contains hints of less fearsome themes and a handful of nuances and passages that are not quite as chilling, having to them a romantic otherworldly air. Right from the opening one is aware via the apprehensive tone of the music that this movie is not for the feint hearted, the composer fashioning and establishing an uneasy and unsettling mood, via sinewy strings and echoing percussive elements that act as a background to a macabre sounding melody of sorts, the atmosphere created in the opening few minutes of the score sets the scene perfectly for much of what is to follow.
The second cue The Weeping Woman is more of a comfortable listen with soft classical guitar performing a beautiful and lilting theme that is underlined by strings and then later is joined by solo female voice adding to the proceedings a ghostly yet soothing persona to the piece. This is a small island of tranquillity within what is a sea of dark and at times urgent sounds that weave a musical web that is dramatic, chaotic and above all edgy. It’s a score that you must take a listen to, as it is innovative and inventive, the composer realising beautiful but at the same time fear-provoking moments. Check it out available on digital platforms on July 8th.
Sinjar is the next score and is the work of composer Gerard Pastor. Born in Barcelona in 1984, Gerard Pastor began his musical training at the age of 4. He studied piano at the Sabadell Conservatoire under Monica Buxo; (piano) and Miquel Pardo (composition) where he was awarded the Premio de Honor for Piano. In 2007 he obtained the higher diploma in piano from the Escola Superior de Musica de Catalunya, where he studied under Maria Jesus Crespo. Since then, he has continued his piano studies at Musikeon under Luca Chiantore and studied orchestral conducting under Jordi Mora.
In addition to his regular studies, he has also participated in various master classes in Spain under teachers including Jose; Vicente, Ignasi Terraza, Iramar Rodriguez, Kenny Werner, Chick Corea, Eric Heidsieck and Luca Chiantore. He was the winner of the 11th Fundacion Arjau Competition (Barcelona, 2006) and his compositions have been performed by major orchestras both in Spain and abroad. Sinjar is a 2022 drama that focuses upon the real-life stories of three women living under ISIS and their horrific consequences. Directed by Anna Bofarull, it is a harrowing, emotive, and compelling story. The music will be released on digital platforms via Movie Score Media on July 1st. The score is realised by mainly electronic instrumentation, but it has depth and real soul to it, the tantalising compositions are well structured and add much to the drama. Although not an expansive or over thematic work it is still an enjoyable and an affecting one.
Phoenix is the third release coming from MSM in July, and I think it is probably my favourite of the trio in this review, its an understated score, delicate and at times filled with fragility, the composer creating hints of themes, and traces of light but affecting nuances, which keep the listener interested and focused. Music is by Patrik Andren who worked on the TV mini-series Tsunami and the TV series The Bridge in 2020 and 2018 respectively. This is a beautifully written score that is mesmerising and haunting, the composer balances both light and dark colours and textures wonderfully and it has to it varying layers of music which interweave and intertwine to realise a stunning yet simple musical presence. The score also includes some really great jazz tracks, which are an unexpected and entertaining bonus. Available soon on digital platforms from the ever-industrious Movie Score Media.
The series on Disney + Obi Wan Kenobi has now finished but there is talk of a season two, which I look forward to. The soundtrack for the series was released on digital platforms this week, and it is probably one of the best scores for a TV series that I have heard in a while, with composers such as John Willliams, William Ross and Natalie Holt involved how can it be anything but excellent. Disney Plus have aired so many great shows in the past few years, Moon Knight, The Book of Boba Fett, Just Beyond, Wanda Vision, and so many more, and what has been impressive is not just the series themselves but the quality of the musical scores, with big name composers stepping up to create so many wonderful soundtracks. Gone are the days when music for TV series were looked down upon by film music collectors, its no longer a second-class form of the art of composing for the moving image.
Obi Wan Kenobi, is a truly great series and the music by all three composers involved adds so much to the action and storyline unfolding on screen. John Williams majestic and romantically laced theme for the series evokes the sound that he created for the original Star Wars movies back in the 1970’s and 1980’s,
Natalie Holt who is I suppose a relative newcomer compared with both Williams and Ross, provides the series with a tantalizing and powerful score that underlines, punctuates and drives the storyline and enhances the many characters that we are introduced to. Her contribution to the series is wonderfully effective and it is her who also provides the lions share of the music for the production.
Her music echoes the Williams scores from back in the day plus she adds her own individual style and sound to the proceedings, purveying dark and fearsome colours but also at the same time creating emotive, haunting, and romantic moods throughout, as in Inquisitors Hunt, Young Leia, Days of Alderaan the latter cue being affecting and deeply melodious. with the composer utilising the theme in the track Nari’s Shadow.
William Ross is a seasoned composer and conductor and has contributed a handful of cues for the series, The Journey Begins, First Rescue, Some things cant be Forgotten, Saying Goodbye and End Titles among these. I was surprised at the richness and the continuity of the music in the score, three composers but the sound achieved being in tune with each one’s ideas and thematic sound.
This is a triumph of a score, a commanding and emotional soundtrack, and one that I know you will love as soon as you hear it.
I am thrilled that at last an expanded edition of James Horner’s magnificent score for the movie Willow has at last been released, and just want to say thank you Intrada. Released in 1988 the movie was produced by George Lucas and directed by Ron Howard, it’s a rip roaring, swashbuckling fantasy adventure, that I adored when I first saw it. I am not however saying it’s the best of George Lucas or indeed Ron Howard, but it’s an entertaining romp for kids of all ages, that is exciting, action packed and also has numerous emotional interludes, filled with mystical and magical moments it was and still is a movie that many count as one of their favourites. And from a film music fans point of view it has one of the most powerful and thematic scores that was penned in the 1980’s. I think alongside Horner’s Krull it is one of my most listened to Horner soundtracks.
Released on Virgin Music on LP originally then released later onto compact disc this is a score that has for many years been crying out for a re-issue in an expanded form. For me this is probably the best of James Horner, although saying that I don’t think anyone could say that the composer ever penned a bad score. On listening to this latest incarnation of Horner’s classic soundtrack I felt quite emotional, the opening flourishes of the first cue on disc 1 EloraDanan straight away taking me back to the late 1980’s. It is a magnificent and enthralling track which has a running time of nearly ten minutes, and it is this cue in which we hear many of Horner’s luxurious and action led central themes for the score, I suppose one could say that this is similar to an Overture as it successfully sets the scene for an array of musical delights that are waiting to be discovered as we the listener progresses through the score. I was at the time of first hearing the score struck but the sheer scale of the music, with the mighty London Symphony Orchestra and choir working their magic and performing Horner’s excellent musical compositions to perfection.
I also loved the way in which the composer utilised pan pipes and other woods within the score, at times they were lilting and effecting but also had the capacity to generate shrill terrifying moments and dramatic otherworldly sounds. But I think it was the central theme that I was affected by more than any other, like with most Horner scores there seems to be a warmth and even a familiarity to this glorious theme and one that not only mesmerises but totally captivates any listener. The composer utilising strings and pan pipes to purvey a mysterious yet romantic and melancholy persona. In many ways, (and this is just a personal opinion )I felt that Horner’s music was superior to the movie itself, the score purveying an epic feel and also having to it an affecting and haunting aura. I do not think that a track-by-track analysis is really necessary for this score as the majority of film music fans will already be familiar with it, and Horner fans will certainly be.
It is I think sufficient to say that this is classic movie music and an iconic work by the late James Horner. It is a grandiose and all-consuming work written in the same year as Red Heat, Vibes, Cocoon The Return and The Land Before Time, and it as do these other scores show the versatility and wonderful talent of the composer who is so sorely missed in film scoring today. The grandiose and powerful sound and style of Willow also reflects many of Horner’s other cinematic works as heard in Krull, Star Trek ll The Wrath of Khan, Aliens, etc and was a pre-cursor to the delights and commanding energy that he purveyedin laterscores such as Glory, The Rocketeer, The Pagemaster, Braveheart and Apollo 13 to name but a handful, the list is literally endless. Intrada have done a marvellous job on this expanded 2 disc set release, which is not surprising as their standards are very high and encompass both quantity and quality.
Extra cues (the original CD release contained 8 tracks, this double CD release boasts 18) and eye-catching artwork are accompanied by informative notes, and wonderfully clear and pristine sound, it is soundtrack connoisseur’s heaven and hopefully the Horner re-issue program will not stop here. Highly recommended.
An evil Queen Bavmorda portrayed by British actress Jean Marsh uses black magic to conquer and dominate the land and holds in her power its people who become like slaves to her evil commands. She dreads the birth of a child with an unusual birthmark a prophesies foretell that the child will bring about her downfall. Bavmorda imprisons all the pregnant women in the land and the child of the prophecy is born. But before Bavmorda has a chance to kill the baby a midwife makes her escape with her. She sends the baby downstream on a raft in very much the way Moses was placed in the river because Bavmorda’s henchmen are nearly upon them.
The child washes up near a village inhabited by a race of dwarf-like people called Nelwyns. Willow Ufgood played by Warrick Davies, is a farmer and amateur magician finds the baby and is subsequently chosen by the town council to return the child to the world of the “large people,” or Daikini as they are known to the Nelwyns. Against their better judgment,
Willow and his friend Meegosh entrust the baby to the first Daikini they meet, a renegade warrior named Madmartigan played by Val Kilmer. On their way home, Willow and Meegosh are attacked by a clan of Brownies who even smaller than the Nelwyns, who have stolen the baby from Madmartigan.
The Brownie fairy queen of the forest, Cherlindrea, tells Willow that he has been chosen to protect the baby, whose name is Elora Danan. Cherlindrea gives Willow a magic wand and directs him to ask the sorceress Fin Raziel (Patricia Hayes) for assistance.
Cherlindrea sends along two brownies as guides, Willow’s party on their journey again encounters Madmartigan, who helps them to escape the clutches of Sorsha portrayed by Joanne Whalley who is Bavmorda’s daughter. Willow and the rest of the group finally meet Fin Raziel, only to find that the sorceress has been turned into a rodent by Bavmorda. Sorsha captures Willow and his party and they start a long trek to Nockmaar castle, Bavmorda’s stronghold. Willow attempts to use magic to return Fin Raziel to her human form but fails. Meanwhile,
Madmartigan and the Brownies manage to escape, while Madmartigan, under the influence of the Brownies’ love potion, becomes temporarily infatuated with Sorsha. Willow and the group escape from Sorsha’s control and make a hasty retreat with stolen horses. The group eventually finds the castle of Tir Asleen, where Cherlindrea told them they would find protection from Bavmorda, but the castle is under Bavmorda’s spell; all its inhabitants are frozen in ice. Madmartigan, refusing to give up hope, prepares for Sorsha’s attack while Willow once again fails to transform Raziel into human form.
Sorsha and her army arrive, but so does the Army of Galladoorn, led by Madmartigan’s old friend Airk Thaughbaer. During the ensuing battle, Sorsha falls in love with Madmartigan and changes sides. Nockmaar’s General Kael played by Pat Roach captures Elora and takes her to Nockmaar. Willow, Madmartigan, Sorsha, the Brownies, the sorceress Fin Raziel (now in the shape of a goat), and what is left of Airk’s army set up camp, preparing to storm Nockmaar castle to rescue Elora. Willow finally returns Raziel to her true form, and the sorceress puts a spell on the camp to protect them from Bavmorda’s magic.
The battle at Nockmaar begins the next day. Willow manages to save Elora at the last moment from Bavmorda’s murderous ritual, and Bavmorda is destroyed, in part by her own magic. He leaves the baby in the caring arms of Madmartigan and Sorsha. Willow returns happily to his village and his family with a gift from Raziel: a book of magic to study. It is an action-packed adventure with many twists, turns, chases, and fights. And is a movie that you should see, also watch out for Willow the series coming to Disney + soon.
Walt Disney Records has released the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack from Rise, which features a multi textured and emotionally stirring score composed by Re Olunuga. The movie RISEis based on the compelling and uplifting real-life story about the remarkable family that gave the world the first trio of brothers to become NBA champions in the history of the league. Giannis and Thanasis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Laker’s Kostas Antetokounmpo, along with their younger brother Alex. The film premieres on Disney + on June 24th,
Ré Olunuga is a Nigerian composer who experiments with orchestral and synthetic sounds to create multi layered and enticing musical pieces. His unique approach to orchestration and in the way he tackles scoring movies and TV projects is refreshing to say the least. The composer has in a very short space of time established himself as a composer that is inventive and highly original. The composer not only writes for cinema and TV but has also collaborated with several artists to release various commercial recordings. His music for film not only supports and underlines the emotions and actions on screen, but acts as an extension to the storyline, creating an ambience and atmosphere that at times can be looked upon as being an unseen actor within the various scenes he has scored.
The soundtrack for Rise is a rich and colourful one, that contains beautifully crafted melodies and at times complex and dramatic interludes. His music within the movie is I suppose the punctuation to the events unfolding on screen and adds a deeper and more emotional ambience to the proceedings. It is a score that contains so many emotional levels and is also a rewarding listen away from the movie it was written for.
The music having to it a traditional symphonic sound which is fused with a handful of more non-conventional musical sounds and styles. It is a wonderfully melodic work that you should check out, available on digital platforms now. The composer also worked on the BBC movie Girl this year, and the intimate score will hopefully be available to hear soon.
Staying with Disney + and to a score that I enjoyed so much Ms Marvel, which is the work of composer Laura Karpman, in which she fuses the more traditional sounds of Hollywood superheroes as we know them with a Bollywood or Bhangra sound. The composer combining rich thematic material with fast relentless action cues with Indian beats and rhythms. An odd combination you may think but it works and works incredibly well too. It’s a score I think you will all love and return to many times after your initial listen. There is just so much crammed into this score its hard to take it all in on the first few listens, and this is just Vol 1, above all it is entertaining and not only performs well within the series and seems to develop and grow even more as the series progresses.
The three-note motif that acts like a fanfare throughout becoming familiar and anthem like and a trio of notes that accompany and herald the appearance of Ms Marvel. This is a compulsive and entertaining listen as just music and is just as affecting away from the images it was composed to enhance and support. Well worth checking out. The series began its six-episode run on June 8th, on Disney +. The series central character Kamala Khan is a superhero fan with a runaway imagination, particularly when it comes to the likes of Captain Marvel. Kamala feels that she doesn’t fit in at school and sometimes even feels out of place at home, that is until she gets superpowers like all the heroes she has looked up to.
Starz, new series Becoming Elizabeth, begins when King Henry VIII has died leaving England to pass into the hands of his son, Edward (Oliver Zetterstrom). As Edward learns how to rule a country, he is torn by his older sister Mary’s (Romola Garai) desire to keep her Catholic faith. Trapped in the middle is the teenage Elizabeth (Alicia von Rittberg), sister to them both and, as history tells us, the future Queen of England. Its an interesting take on the way in which Elizabeth grew from a young girl into a powerful and feared Monarch.
The music is a little different from what one might expect for a period drama, and at times has to it a contemporary and upbeat style, the score is the work of composer Tim Phillips, who has also recently written the music for another TV series entitled Shining Vale which is just as inventive and innovative as Becoming Elizabeth, the score for Becoming Elizabeth is one that keeps one interested, I found myself thinking what is the composer going to serve up in the next cue, it is a score that is filled with interesting surprises stylistically, and also one that I think film music fans will be tantalised by. Check out both Becoming Elizabeth and Shining Vale on digital platforms.
To the big screen now and to Mark Korven’s highly atmospheric and slightly disturbing score for The Black Phone. Korven of course has a great track record when it comes to music for sinister and chilling movies, just take a listen to his excellent soundtrack for The Witch and you will understand what I mean. The Black Phone is in my opinion on a par with The Witch, in fact its even more jumpy and unsettling with various uneasy sounds and unnerving passages of music and sounds that combine to create an atmosphere that is highly charged and totally affecting.
I won’t say to you this is a great listen away from the movie because its music for a horror movie which does what it is supposed to and makes that movie even more edgy and effective. So, no it’s not a great listen but it’s a great score and when you do listen to it away from the images it still remains disturbing. Available on digital platforms.
Eleusis, is a short horror movie from 2021, which was directed by Andzej Gavriss, it contains an impressive score witch is the work of composer Phar (Raphaël Dargent). The soundtrack utilises effective use of voices as in collectively or as solo performances, the Soprana performance by Baraka May is particularly compelling and haunting throughout with the composer adding depth and support to these via strings and bringing into the equation various percussive elements and sounds that successfully fashion an otherworldly aura.
The films storyline focuses upon a musician who is experiencing a deep state of a creative and is signed to a rehab program at the highly protected, isolated sanatorium that promises a lifetime warranty for endless inspiration.
A bourgeois setting with welcoming stuff slowly creeps into a violent cult that tortures artists in the name of inspiration. With the musician’s greatest hit becoming his darkest nightmare. The score works on so many levels and has to it at times a spiritual and celestial persona, available on digital platforms from Movie Score Media. Also now available on digital platforms are the composers scores for Team Maryland, and Winter of 79. Recommended.
There are many new releases of soundtracks every month, I think now with the various streaming services more than ever, and of course there are also so many re-issues, some with extra music others just straight re-releases of what was available before. Gone are the days of seeking out the various soundtracks on CD in the many record and CD shops instead its easier to just type and click the details into ones PC and up they all pop. Which made me think about soundtracks that newer collectors might had missed out on, which may not have made it to the likes of Spotify or Apple Music and the quality and wealth of music that comes from the Italian produced western.
Its surprising that some of the younger recruits to the ranks of movie music collecting might not have experienced the spaghetti western score, yes of course almost everyone is aware of the music of the great Ennio Morricone when it comes to Italian westerns, but what of other composers who were also active within the genre and were equally responsible for establishing and developing the sound of that genre and created a whole new way of scoring westerns.
Many of the scores from Italian productions have eventually in one form or another made it to CD during the past three decades, and some titles proved very popular especially if they were the work of known composers such as Morricone, Bruno Nicolai etc.
In this article/review I will list a few of these and try to persuade newer collectors of film music to savour them you never know they might for a few minutes stop applauding Hans Zimmer, and move away from the soundscapes and drone like hums and crashes, but I doubt it. I suppose the best place to start is with the CD releases on the iconic soundtrack label C.A.M. and those that were issued as part of CAM’s Soundtrack Encyclopaedia, which initially included one hundred titles.
One of the titles was Los Amigos (1973) or Deaf Smith and Johnny Ears, as it was entitled outside of Italy, the movie starred Anthony Quinn and Franco Nero and was a really good movie which had a robust and interesting score by composer Daniele Patucchi, now although this is a Spaghetti western it was a little different when it came to the music, there were no real stock sounds from the genre included in the score and it is more or less a Hollywood sounding soundtrack, with the composer opting to use brass, percussion and strings in the main, the score did however include two good songs, the title track The Ballad of Deaf and Ears and also Even if you’re not the First one, both of which had lyrics and were performed by Anne Collin with music provided by Patucchi. The score included instrumental versions of these also and a scattering of dramatic and quite bombastic sounding cues.
With the music sounding more like Bernstein and Goldsmith in places, this was a straight LP (issued in 1973) track to CD release containing no extras for the compact disc which was issued in 1991, and was like so many of the CAM first CD releases notoriously short in its running duration which was just over thirty minutes, but the music is worth adding to your collection.
It was one of very few spaghetti westerns that had an LP release outside of Italy with the soundtrack appearing on EMI in the UK. Patucchi also scored movies such as Black Killer and Death Played the Flute both released onto CD by Hillside/GDM.
Another, release from CAM was one that carried on the practise that CAM had begun back in the 1960’s of releasing two scores on one LP which was good news for collectors, the CD release contained AdiosGringo (1965) and Un Dollaro Tra I Denti (For a Dollar in the Teeth) (1967) aka-Stranger in Town, the latter being the first in the trilogy of movies in the stranger series of movies that starred Tony Anthony.
Both scores were the work of composer Benedetto Ghiglia, who also created the music for El Rojo, and Four Dollars for Vengeance, and were not what we know as traditional Spaghetti western scores, if traditional is a word in the vocabulary of the Italian western soundtrack. Ghiglia who was an already established composer of film scores was known for experimenting with percussive sounds within his soundtracks, and in a way, he successfully invented his own unique sound to accompany the very few westerns he scored.
The CD for Adios Gringo and For a Dollar in the Teeth was released in 1996 and had a running time of nearly an hour, it again is certainly well worth listening to as both scores are inventive and innovative and a look into the musical world of the Italian western before the sound that we are now familiar with established itself.
Another movie in the stranger series was A Man, A Horse, and A Gun, Shoot First Laugh Last or The Stranger Returns. The now iconic soundtrack was written by Stelvio Cipriani. I say iconic mainly because of the score’s central theme, which was covered by so many artists throughout the world including Henry Mancini and LeRoy Holmes. The theme being quite simple and sparse sounding but straight away conjuring up the feel and atmosphere of a western. The soundtrack was issued on a CAM LP originally as the B side to Charles Dumont’s score for another Italian western The Belle Starr Story which sadly has never been released onto CD.
The premiere CD release of Cipriani’s score came as part of the first batch of the Cam Encyclopaedia and is now long out of print and rare, but it was then re-issued by CAM as a three score CD which also included selections from the Cipriani’s first western score The Bounty Killer, as well as a few tracks from Nevada, a lesser known western from Italy, again released in the Cam Encyclopaedia series but in a later set of discs.
I think the reason for a re-issue quickly was that CAM had received so many complaints about the short running time of the score which was under thirty minutes and there were so issues on the sound on a couple of the tracks. The three-score compact disc is worth having to appreciate the talent of Cipriani, but if it is a fuller version of A Man A Horse and a Gun you are wanting then the definitive edition must be the Hillside/GDM release. Which contains the long version of the theme which was for some reason missing from both CAM CD releases, even though it was featured on the original LP. The Hillside release also features the original artwork from the LP release which is stunning.
Stelvio Cipriani wrote numerous inventive scores for westerns and his music for the movie Blindman is certainly one for your collection, as is his music from They Call Me Hallelujah both of which are on a par with the quality of A Man A Horse and a Gun.
Other titles in the first batch of C.A.M releases included in the CAM Encyclopaedia came in the form of Corri Uomo Corri by Bruno Nicolai, and The Price of Power by Luis Bacalov, two names who were thought to be pseudonyms for Morricone at one point.
But of course, we know that is not the case as both were talented Maestro’s in their own right and have since the early days produced many original sounding works, Baclov also being responsible for the music to Django, A Man Called Noon, Bullet for the General, Gold for The Bravados, The Grand Duel, Sugar Colt and many others.
With Nicolai creating scores for movies such as The Bounty Hunters,Django Shoots First, Dead Men Ride, Gentleman Jo Uccidi, 100,000 Dollari Per Ringo, Landraiders, (not an Italian Western), El Cisco, Shanghai Joe, and others.
Another soundtrack in the famed CAM series was Man Pride and Vengeance, which was sold as a western when it was issued on LP but in fact is a movie about a bullfighter and is a dramatic romance set in Spain, which had a score by Carlo Rustichelli, who contributed many scores to the western genre, such as Revenge at El Paso, Un Treno Per Durango, Dio Perdona io No!, Buffalo Bill L’Eroe Del Far West, and The Ruthless Four.
I am sure if CAM had concentrated upon releasing just westerns in the series in the initial batch it would have been more lucrative for them, instead they focused more upon the music of Nino Rota which although were all classic scores did not seem to attract the attention of as many collectors that the thought it would at the time which was in the early 1990’s. Since those early days of CDS there have been so many re-issues and definitive edition releases it is hard at times to keep track, and with Sugar music now reissuing so many titles out of the CAM catalogue, I am sure it will become even more confusing.
So that is why I am focusing on westerns at this time, and some of the titles I will mention are available at Hillside CD production, which has always been a forerunner in stocking Italian movie scores especially westerns. Ballata Per Un Pistolero, is a great western score penned by Marcello Giombini, and probably one of the less known titles. The score is fast paced and filled with so many of those sounds that we readily associate with the spaghetti western genre, racing timpani, trumpet solo’s, guitar riffs and strings driving all these elements forward, the composer also employing organ to great effect and adding little nuances and quirks of orchestration that could only come from an Italian western.
As well as these familiar sounds there are also flourishes of symphonic themes that evoke the style of Tiomkin, and Newman, but it is essentially a spaghetti score that is overflowing with themes and inventive compositions. This was released onto CD by Hillside GDM and is deleted but can be heard on digital platforms, In, my opinion it stands alongside Giombini’s Sabata, scores in the entertainment department and is more dramatic and has to it a rawer sound.
Scores by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino for the western genre, were always entertaining, even if they were not pure spaghetti sound as invented by Morricone and Leone, but they had to them solid and haunting themes and the composer was very inventive in utilising strange sounds and introducing quirky orchestration on certain projects, these included titles such as The Specialist, The Man With the Golden Pistol-aka-The Man Who Came to Kill, Kill the Wicked, Vendetta Per Vendetta, and Trusting is Good, Shooting is Better.
All of which contained strong scores, he also scored movies such as Requiem for a Gringo, Sfida a Rio Grande, Today, it’s you Tomorrow Me, and Sapevano Solo Uccidere. His style was at times more Hollywood than Cinecitta his scores containing a grandiose sound that evoked the style of American western soundtracks at times.
Gianni Ferrio has been represented well on CD and is a composer who like Benedetto Ghiglia invented his own brand and style when it came to scoring westerns. Ferrio mixed jazz influences with symphonic atmospheres to create a sound that was to become popular with fans and critics alike. His score for Quei Disperati Che Puzzano di Sudore e di Morte is not only atmospheric but contains driving and intense pieces throughout, the composer employing Spanish guitar, organ, harpsichord, strings, percussion, and brass to purvey a sense of high drama.
The composer also integrated Mexican mariachi sounds into the work which were affecting and atmospheric. The score was originally released by Cinevox on LP record who later re-issued the score onto CD. And more recently have issued an expanded edition of the soundtrack containing much more music. Ferrio also worked on films such as Djurado, A Few Bullets More, Heroes of the West and Fast Hand which contained the song That Man, all are well worth a listening to see the extent of his influence within the spaghetti western genre.
Other interesting scores by Ferrio as in westerns, include the superb Find a Place to Die, Sentenza Di Morte with its unusual but effective title song The Last Game,El Desperado, and Amico Stammi Lontano Almeno Un Palmo, which also had a serviceable title song Let it Rain Let it Pour, Fort Yuma Gold, and California. All of which were made available on compact disc.
The musical world of Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, is at times an acquired taste, but mostly a rewarding listen, the composers fusing a folk like sound with symphonic passages and adding guitar and vocal performances, we all now They Still Call me Trinity, The Man From The East and scores such as Valdez Horses and the infamous score for Keoma the Violent Breed.
But let us not forget the entertaining music for Tedeum, Mannaja, and Zorro which I still count as a western.
Talking of Zorro there was another version of the story which was filmed about the same time as the version scored by De Angelis, this outing for the masked avenger was scored by Gianni Marchetti, who worked on a handful of Italian made westerns, and produced an adventurous and melodious score for the movie, which was released on a CD that contained excerpts from two other soundtracks that were composed by Marchetti. Going off topic just for a sentence or two,
I also recommend Marchetti’s One Step to Hell which although not a western but set in Africa contained a score with so many western references it is a must have for any Italian film music fan it was issued by Hillside CD production and GDM.
His score for Seven Red Berets too is a must have and released on CD by Kronos records. The score for this was originally released on a CAM double soundtrack LP the other score being Cowards Don’t Pray or Taste of Vengeance, a western which was also scored by Marchetti. This was also re-issued in expanded form onto compact disc on the GDM label in 2006.
Michele Lacerenza is well known as an accomplished trumpet player, it is his performance we hear on scores such as A Fistful of Dollars and Il Malamondo by Morricone for example.
But Lacerenza was also an accomplished composer and worked on a handful of westerns in the 1960’s, most notably L’Ira di Dio, 100 Dollari Sul Nero and 20,000 Dollari Sporchi Di Sangue, all three scores are iconic and were all produced and released by Hillside CD production and GDM with re mastering by Roberto Zamori. Lacerenza’s superb trumpet performance on Johnny’s Theme from 1000 Dollari Sul Nero becoming a part of the history that has built up around the Italian western score and synonymous with the genre.
The soundtrack also contained the song Necklace of Pearls performed by the late Peter Boom who also performed the song for Corri Uomo Corri and told me in interview that Morricone conducted the score for Nicolai.
It was also Lacerenza who performed the trumpet solo for Nora Orlandi when she scored Ten Thousand Dollars for a Massacre, an excellent score, which was released by CAM and is now available on digital platforms, as is her score from Johnny Yuma.
Carlo Savina too has produced some wonderful scores for westerns as in Comin at Ya,(A 3D Western), Joko Invoca Dio E, Muori-aka Vengeance, and Ringo and his Golden Pistol all of which were released onto CD.
Angelo Gioachino is a composer who scored early Italian westerns, and these included Three Dollars of Lead and The Damned Pistols of Dallas both of which were originally CAM LP releases, both soundtracks have been re-issued onto CD and have become quite hard to get in recent years. Although the sound realised for both movies lean’s more towards an American sound rather than a European one.
However, they are still interesting examples of western scores from Italy and for fans and collectors of everything Spaghetti are must have items. Robby Poitevin is another composer that worked on spaghetti westerns, with scores for movies such as A Name Cried Vengeance, Killer Calibro 32, Odia Il Prossimo Tuo, and Little Rita of the West standing out.
If I were to be asked to pick a theme that epitomised the Italian western score, I think I would have to say it would be Gunmen of the Ave Maria, which had a score composed by Roberto Pregadio, and Franco Micalizzi, it is a theme that is literally crammed full of all the stock sounds of the Italian western score, whistling by Alessandroni, choir courtesy of Il Cantori Moderni, electric guitar solo, and a soaring trumpet performance by Lacerenza,
Its all there and it’s a score that if you do not have you should get asap. The score was originally released on Hillside/GDM, again re-mastered by Roberto Zamori and produced by Lionel G Woodman. And was paired with They Call Me Trinity also by Micalizzi and Pregadio and featuring the now famous song as performed by Annibale. Both scores have since been re-issued in expanded editions. And other scores by Pregadio such as Four Pistols for Trinity, L’Ultimo Killer, Un Buco In Fronte, and Micalizzi’s Sacremento were also made available on compact disc.
Nico Fidenco I have to admit is one of my favourite composers when it comes to Italian westerns, To the Last Drop of Blood, One More For Hell and Bury Them Deep immediately come to mind as do The Texican, In the Shadow of the Colt, Dynamite Jim, A Taste of Killing, and John Il Bastardo, most of these were released on Hillside/GDM in wonderfully clear crisp sound.
John Il Bastardo I think stands out because of its style, a style that is maybe a watered down Morricone sound, with barking male choir and racing timpani electric guitars and trumpet solos, Fidenco, taking a more pop orientated approach to scoring westerns rather than operatic and grandiose as Morricone did. Let’s not forget in Italy during the 1960’s westerns were in production 24/7 and even though Morricone was a genius it would have been impossible for him to work on every single one of them, so directors and producers asked composers such as Fidenco to write in a style like that of Morricone.
Also worth a mention are the many western scores of Francesco De Masi, Quella Sporca Storia Nel West, Seven Dollars on the Red, Vado L’Ammazzo E Torno,Ringo Il Volto Della Vendetta, Arizona Colt and so many more. De Masi like the majority of Italian composers working in the western genre very often included a song within his scores,
Find a Man for example performed by Maurizio de Graf in Quella Sporca Storia Nel West and The Man from Nowhere from his classic score for Arizona Colt, De Masi also often utilised the artistry of Alessandro Alessandroni, on whistle and guitar and made effect use of Alessandroni’s choir Il Cantori Moderni.
I always felt that Francesco De Masi like many other composers who scored Italian westerns often fused styles and whilst one can hear that the music is from a spaghetti western it also retains much of the grandeur and the sweeping symphonic prowess of movies such as High Noon and The Bravados.
Composer Nino Oliviero also penned the score to a western entitled Ringo Del Nebraska, Oliviero was the collaborator with Riz Ortolani on the score for Mondo Cane which included the international hit song More.
Then we have Lallo Gori, who wrote the music for westerns such as Buckaroo, Tequila, Black Jack, and Con Lui Cavalca La Morte. And another great Piero Piccioni, who like Ghighlia and Ferrio, did not conform to the stock sounds of the spaghetti western score, but instead fashioned his own unique style, that was at times jazz influenced, his scores for movies such as The Deserter, Minnesota Clay, In the Name of the Father the Son and the Colt, A Gun in the hand of the Devil, Sartana, and others are still to this day fresh and appealing.
As well as the few titles I have mentioned, I should also put into the equation the scores from Italian westerns or westerns scored by Italian composers that have still not received a release. Gods Gun by Sante Maria Romitelli, for example, the composer’s music for Spara Gringo Spara being an essential purchase for any film music connoisseur. Other unreleased scores include TheHunting Party and Ciakmull-Man of Vengeance by Ortolani, Seven Guns and Seven Brides for the McGregor’s by Morricone, El Puro by Alessandroni, The Stranger in Japan by Cipriani, Cemetery without Crosses by Hossein, The Belle Starr Story by Dumont, A Man Called Sledge by Ferrio, are just a handful of worthy titles that should be released onto compact disc if the tapes still exist that is.
And the scores of Felice De Stefano, which are classic in every sense of the word. Then there is the work of composer Vasili Kojucharov which are filled with so many of those familiar stock sounds of the Italian western score, such as God is My Colt 45. Pino Calvi’s incredible score for The Revengers, (which deserves a re mastered release) was his only western score as far as I can see, and he is not alone in the one western score club, Armando Trovajoli’s excellent The Long Days of Vengeance was that composers only excursion into scoring a sagebrush saga, Pippo Franco too scored just one Italian western L’odio E Il Mio Dio, and I am sure there are more examples, whilst composers such as Piero Umiliani, worked on a handful including The Son Of Django.
The titles included in this article just scratch the surface in the world of Italian western film music, as there are so many more that you could explore, some of the titles mentioned are still available in very limited quantities from outlets such as Hillside CD production who run an excellent mail order service.