Category Archives: Sleeve Notes.

DRAMMI GOTICI (GOTHIC DRAMAS).

Notes for the DRG release.   The CD  was released in 1999.

These were my first ever sleeve notes, I have edited them slightly to omit info that is now known by many.

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Composer Ennio Morricone began his film music career back in the 1960’s. Scoring movies in those days as life itself was in my opinion much simpler and straightforward. Even now many years after he scored his first movie it is probably the music from the decade of the 1960’s that most people associate with the Maestro. It was after all a period of intense creative out for the composer, who was fashioning innovative and highly original pieces it seemed every day. The composer these days does not apparently like to talk of the early days of his career when he was writing scores to Spaghetti westerns. Morricone was responsible for penning the scores for approximately twenty westerns from 1961 through to 1969. The landmark scores being Sergio Leones DOLLAR trilogy A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY. The latter gaining international acclaim and popularity via the many cover versions that were recorded. As the decade of the 1970’s dawned the appeal and attraction of the Western all’a Italiana seemed to take something of a dip and made way for the likes of Sci Fi movies, Spy thrillers and such like. Directors who had been involved with the Italian made western were moving on and branching out into genres such as Horror, Giallo and Romance. Movies about organised crime, the Mafia, gangsters etc were now becoming much in demand and as always Italian film makers stepped up to deliver movies with outrageous but entertaining plots and somewhat quirky storylines. Morricone contributed to many of these productions, it it true to say that the composers output during the decades of the 60’s and 70’s verged upon the unbelievable, it seemed that his name was every where and a new movie was in the cinemas on a daily basis Films such as THE SICILIAN CLAN, CITTA VIOLENTA, METTI UNA CERA A SENA, LA CASSE, A MAN TO RESPECT the list is endless. It was also at this time that Morricone collaborated with film maker Dario Argento, the composers unique style and creativity being well suited to the fraught and at times perversely tense movies that came from the mind of the Master of the Macabre.

 

IL GATTO NOVA CODA and 4 MOSCHE DI VELLUTO GRIGO being just two examples. It is true to state that Argento changed the way in which horror movies were made, and Morricone also influenced a generation or two of composers who still today practice what Morricone began.

 

 

 

The music on this compact disc, is taken from a television series entitled GOTHIC DRAMAS, this was a series that was produced in 1977, and directed by Georgio Bandini, the series was aired by RAI UNO and achieved mild success at the time of its screening. Morricone had worked in TV before GOTHIC DRAMAS, but the Maestro was essentially involved in music for the big screen as opposed to writing for the television. However, during the 1970’s he was responsible for writing the end titles music for the American TV western THE VIRGINIAN which had undergone something of a facelift and was re-titled THE MEN FROM SHILO. The composer also scored the mini series MOSES THE LAWGIVER in 1975, which became essential viewing throughout Europe. The production was quite lavish for television, with companies from England and Italy collaborating to bring it fruition, Burt Lancaster starred in the title role.

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Morricone also worked on LA MANI SPORCHE (DIRTY HANDS) for TV, which was directed by Elio Petri, who Morricone had worked with before, most notably on INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION in 1970, and continued to write for the small screen with the score for BLOODLINE, which was an adaptation of the novel by Sidney Sheldon, it boasted an international all-star cast, which included James Mason and Audrey Hepburn, and THE PRINCE OF THE DESERT, which included cues that were originally destined for John Huston’s THE BIBLE which Morricone was asked to score, his music never being used. Although Morricone was just as busy during the 1970’s as he was in the previous decade, the movies he worked on were not as memorable apart from the obvious titles, such as DUCK YOU SUCKER, NOVECENTE and TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA. The composer scored mainly French and Italian movies during this period, but occasionally ventured into writing the soundtracks for American productions such as DAYS OF HEAVEN, THE EXCORCIST ll-THE HERETIC and ORCA KILLER WHALE.

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These however were not huge box office attraction and have only in recent years been appreciated for their attributes, good or bad. Many of the films that Morricone worked on were not shown outside of Italy, but the soundtrack albums still sold well, with collectors purchasing them simply because the music was by Ennio Morricone and not because they had even heard the music and liked it. GOTHIC DRAMAS was split into four episodes, these went under the titles of KAISERSTRASSE, which was based on stories by Hans H Ewers. MA NON E! UN VAMPIRO? (BUT IS SHE A VAMPIRE) Which was constructed around a Sicilian fable written by Luigi Capuana; LA CASSE DELLA STREGHE (THE HOUSE OF WITCHES) based upon three works by H.P LOVECRAFT and DIARIO DI UN PAZZO (DIARY OF A MADMAN) which was an adaptation from the works of Gogol.

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The scores that Morricone created for the series cannot really be described as being rich in thematic content or filled with lush musical passages, on the contrary the Maestro wrote a largely atonal score for each episode, it also took on the guise of a somewhat modernist and slightly Avant Garde sound and style, which can be heard in the concert music of the Maestro. Morricone produced an interesting and original set of soundtracks for the series, each one different, but at the same time containing a sound and distinct musical persona that we associate with the composer. The music was as complex and perplexing as the scenes and stories being acted out on screen, underlining and punctuating each sinister and heart stopping moment. But as always there are a handful of less fraught pieces, which act as a calming interlude in a plethora of malevolent cues. These include Track number 2, LA STRADA DELLA FOLLIA, a track from KAISERSTRASSE, the part of the score opens with an enchanting and mesmerising choir, which has a childlike sound to it, the voices being complimented and augmented by the subtle use of harp that is plucked delicately sensually, creating an atmosphere that is warm and safe. The voices soften and eventually melt away, leaving the harp to perform solo the central theme that the choir began. Morricone is a master at his craft and is known for scoring moments in a movie that can be disturbing or violent with a light almost delicate touch, thus allowing the audience to have no warning of what is about to happen until the images show this, it then being too late and the audience having been drawn in and given a false sense of security by the music are shocked even more, giving the scene maximum impact and effect.
Also, within the score for KAISERSTRASSE the composer utilises a music box effect, FUORI DALLA REALTA, this is a simple melody, that is embellished by the use of voices, together the two elements are angelic in their initial sound, but at the same time the simplicity and subtlety conjure up a sense of unease. KAISERSTRASSE also includes a barrel organ effect, or maybe a hurdy-gurdy sound, which if I am correct most would associate with a circus or fun fair, but in the hands of Morricone it takes on a more sinister and evil persona, suggesting to anyone listening to the recording that all is probably not well, or as it should be. The effect is recorded with an echo, so it becomes even more of a threatening and foreboding sound, Morricone again is a master at this type of scoring. ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST for example, the harmonica was up until the release of Leone’s masterpiece considered as being a happy and jaunty sounding instrument played around campfires where cowboys told stories and thought of a home on the range. But, again in the hands of Morricone, it is a pre cursor of a gunfight, an announcement of death a shady and frightening sound.

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Track number 5, on KAISERSTRASSE is harrowing and icy sounding piece, PIOGGIA being performed by harpsichord which undulates in and out of the composition, creating a spidery and otherworldly effect, this is underlined and laced with short sharp stabs and fleeting notations performed by woodwind and strings that are fused with a chiming effect, together they create an eerie sound that is not only un-nerving but one that evokes a mood of desperation and apprehension. The second score that is represented on the recording is from MA NON E! UN VAMPIRO?, this section opens with a theme that I am told opened each of the episodes, this instalment is the only one out of the four that has any background information available, so maybe this was the most popular of the quartet? A gentleman, Giorgio, marries a widow and everything as they say is as it should be, the couple have a child, but the boy becomes ill wasting away as if drained of life itself, then the widows dead husband returns from the grave, and it is clear he is the cause of the child’s illness. Giorgio sends for a friend Mongeri who is a scientist that dabbles in vampire hunting! Mongeri dispatches the dead husband by burning him and everything returns to normal, then Mongeri meets a widow and marries and the scenario begins again. The music for this episode is a mixture of styles that include chaotic string performances, choral work and atonal sounds and stabs, but there is also some fragile and beautifully crafted cues for solo violin, violin that is flawlessly performed by Dino Asciolla, who Morricone had turned to before and also continued to work with, Asciolla performed the stunning violin solos for the score to the RED TENT in 1969. The performer is also featured in the third score HOUSE OF WITCHES, his performances being fused with chimes, plucked harp, driving tense strings and choir, that are in turn further embellished by harpsichord, solo voice and the sound od a female soprano gently exhaling combined with a tinkling effect that makes the listener literally shudder.

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The fourth score, DIARIO DI UN PAZZO (DIARY OF A MADMAN) is as the title suggests madness in music form, or at least in the sounds and music that is utilised. Manic shrieks, tortured voices, laughs, half heard whispers, piercing screams and hysterical crying all come together in a chaotic and mind-bending piece which runs for some 12 minutes, I would not recommend listening to this is a darkened room or alone as it would probably spook you severely. GOTHIC DRAMAS is a look into the highly original and innovative musical style of Ennio Morricone, who we all know is a composer that is not afraid to experiment and push the musical boundaries to the limit, and when he does he creates yet another style and musical genre.
John mansell 1999.

 

 

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VIKING.

AVAILABLE SOON ON KRONOS RECORDS.

VIKING

 

The world and ways of The Viking have it seems been well documented by the likes of movie makers all over the world. Years ago, Hollywood took a hand in creating an image of these fearsome Norseman who seemed to always be drunk and do nothing but pillage, Rape and take what they wanted by the sword. Films such as THE VIKINGS, THE LONG SHIPS and more recently THE 13TH WARRIOR, showed the Vikings as a war like race, which of course they were as history also tells us, they also showed them as fearless explorers, not afraid to cross tempestuous seas to unknown lands. But, the Hollywood productions did tend to glam things up somewhat. VIKING which was released in 2017, is a Russian production, that pulls no punches and does not in any way glamourize the lives and ways of The Vikings. This is a gritty and more down to earth telling of a story, that is filled with adventure, violence and romance. The movie is loosely based on true events which were told in historical accounts such as The Icelandic Kings Sagas and The Primary Chronicle of the 10th Century. After the death of his Father Svyatoslav who was the ruler of, Keiv Rus, Prince Vladimir the rightful Heir to the throne is forced to retreat into exile to escape his treacherous half Brother Yaropolk, who has already killed his other Brother Oleg. Vladimir crosses the hazardous and icy seas to Sweden, where an old warrior faithful to his Father convinces the Prince to assemble a fighting force to take back his Kingdom, this force is made up of Viking Mercenaries who are led by a fearsome Swedish Chieftain. The picture is a times savage and brutal, but also is filled with stylish cinematography and stunning battle scenes. The musical score for the film was originally written by Russian composer Igor Matvienko who took two years to prepare his score, carrying out exhaustive studies on music and instruments that would have been used in the 9th and 10th Century, this extensive research added authenticity and depth to the motion picture. The trailers for the movie were scored by Irish composer Dean Valentine, who also provided music for parts of the movie itself. Valentine has become a respected and sought-after composer via his work on trailers for blockbuster’s such as CAPTAIN AMERICA-CIVIL WAR, INTERSTELLAR and AMERICAN SNIPER. But he has also worked on films and documentaries such as TIGER RAID and CLOSE TO EVIL. The soundtrack for VIKING by Matvienko received a release in Russia, but Valentines score did not appear on that release. Therefore, this is the first time the composer’s themes have been made available to collectors on the Compact Disc format.

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The score is brooding and somewhat low key in places, the composer fusing the symphonic with the synthetic to achieve a wonderfully atmospheric soundtrack, that has to it a commanding and formidable musical heart. Many of the cues are what you might refer to as slow burners, the composer gradually building the tension and employing a style that is not dissimilar to that of Hans Zimmer at times, utilising underlying strings and powerful percussive elements. The CD also contains the music from all three of the trailers that were used to publicise the movie as well as music for the trailer of Ridley Scott’s, THE MARTIAN. VIKING the score is I have to say a million miles away from the themes from Hollywood movies, but this is not in anyway a disparaging or critical observation, as the movie too, has a very different style and appearance to the Viking romps that were filmed by Hollywood many years ago. Valentines score is highly charged and dramatic, and is a mix of both music and soundscape, that are affecting and supportive within the context of the movie, underlining and punctuating the many action scenes and stunning photography. Away from the images it remains just as interesting, entertaining, potent and powerful.

John Mansell. © 2018. Movie Music International.

RAUL-DIRETTO DI UCCIDERE.

Available soon from KRONOS RECORDS.

RAUL

 

 

Composer Andrea Morricone, is in my very humble opinion probably one of the worlds most undervalued composers of music for film. Of course, when one has such a high-profile Father who is also a composer it must be difficult to gain respect and establish one’s self and style of composition. Andrea Morricone however, has managed to do this and has written numerous film scores in his own right as a film music Maestro. At times there are certain similarities between his style and sound and his Fathers, but when your Father is Ennio Morricone it must be difficult for certain composing, arranging and orchestration quirks not to influence or rub off on you. The score for RAUL DIRETTO DI UCCIDERE, is for me a delight and joy to listen to, it not only evokes memories of Italian film music of the 1960’s and 1970’s but also has to it an originality and sound that is contemporary, vibrant and innovative. The score for the 2005 thriller, is filled with dark and apprehensive passages, the composer utilising brass, woodwind, low strings and scatterings of percussion throughout to fashion a sense of foreboding and uneasy atmospheres. There is an underlying sombre sound to the score, but the composer does on occasion lighten this with the introduction of haunting and gracious sounding themes, the majority of the work is symphonic, the composer introducing electronic support at key points within the work to create the correct ambience. The score opens with the captivating piece entitled UN AMORE ETERNO, performed in the main by woodwind and strings, the theme can be at times likened to LA CALIFFA or PER AMORE which were popular scores during the 1970’s for Ennio Morricone, the composer also utilises solo piano and clarinet which are both enhanced by the use of warm and inviting strings, it is hard at times not to compare the work of Andrea with that of his Father, but although the score does contain certain stylistic similarities the style and individual sound of Andrea does shine through. The second cue DIRETTO DI UCCIDERE, which is the theme for the movie, is very different from its predecessor, it has a forceful but somewhat awkward sound initially, but soon moves into a forthright and dramatic piece, again with the string section being utilised and supported by brass and percussion which are both punctuated and underlined further by synthetics, these electronic sounds create an atmosphere that is filled with menace and fearfulness. This mood is carried over into track number three, PER NON LACIAR SOSPETTI, further establishing itself, and becoming more malevolent in its sound and stature. In cue number four, AMORE E MORTE we have the return of a more romantic style, although this is still edged and tinged throughout with an atmosphere that is uncertain and apprehensive.

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The movie RAUL-DIRETTO DI UCCIDERE, was released in 2005, directed by Andrea Bolognini, it soon gained much critical acclaim and was awarded the prize for best film at the BAFF film festival. Andrea Morricone’s atmospheric score, also attracted much attention and was nominated for the Italian equivalent of the Golden Globes. Andrea Morricone was born on October 10th, 1964. At the age of 14, Andrea had made up his mind that it was music he wanted to make a career out of, following in the footsteps of his Father Ennio. He studied at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome and graduated with a diploma in composition, at the age of 30. He then continued to study and in 1996 was successful in earning a master’s Degree in orchestral conducting. After this he continued to study and spent the next 2 years or so at THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF ST. CECILIA in Rome, where he was guided by Franco Donatoni and Azio Corghi and graduated with a master’s degree in composition. Andrea also studied under, Ivan Fedele, Ada Gentile and Irma Ravinale. Morricone, has written the scores for numerous movies and TV projects, he has also conducted some of the worlds most respected orchestras. His composing skills are not however confined to the world of cinema and television, he is a talented and innovative classical music composer, writing for chamber and orchestral ensembles. His music for film has touched many, and it is true to say that his lilting and haunting theme for CINEMA PARADISO is still his most well-known piece and one for which he and his Father received the BAFTA award for best original score, he also won a Golden Globe in 2012 for his work on L’INDUSTRIALE.

John Mansell© 2018. Movie Music International.

THE QUEENS MESSENGER. (sleeve notes for the KRONOS RECORDS release)

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Released in 2001. QUEENS MESSENGER, stars, Gary Daniels as Captain Strong, who is a member of the SAS on loan as it were to the Secret Service, who put him to work as a messenger. Strong is a seasoned and highly thought of officer who has the trust of his government. He is a given a highly volatile assignment which involves the perilous task of delivering an important message to the British Consul in Kazakhstan. He must guard the message with his life, as it contains the details of a number of secret agreements that have been made by a handful of heads of state regarding the control of the country’s oil resources. Strong must keep his wits about as there are many who would like to relieve him of this important document. Ben Samm, is one such person, he is the leader of rebels who most certainly benefit from gaining control of the regions oil exploration right. Whilst travelling to Kazakhstan, Strong meets and teams up with American news reporter Alexi Jones played by Teresa Sherrer, who has heard rumours surrounding the Country’s oil resources and is investigating these, but also becomes curious about Captain Strong’s part in it all. Both the reporter and Strong are captured by the rebels, who have also kidnapped the British Ambassador, and are holding him hostage. Strong decides he must attempt to escape and lead his fellow prisoners to safety. Directed by Mark Roper, QUEENS MESSENGER, is an enjoyabl thriller, that contains more action than storyline, the movies central character becoming involved in an overabundance of chases, shoot outs, and fast paced hand to hand fighting, which take up approximately 90 percent of the films duration. The Bulgarian/Canadian and British co-production, was made on a low budget and sadly at certain points within the movie this does show, but saying this it still manages to entertain without the audience having to think to much about the plot. The musical score for QUEENS MESSENGER is the work of Italian Maestro, Stelvio Cipriani, who came to the notice of the cinema going public back in the 1960, s via his, inventive, haunting and infectious soundtracks to Italian produced westerns, such as A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN, THE BOUNTY KILLER and THEY CALL ME ALLELUJAH to name but three. His theme for A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN became a worldwide hit with artists such as LeRoy Holmes and Henry Mancini including arrangements of it on their albums. Cipriani also became known for his highly emotive and theme laden score to THE ANONYMOUS VENITIAN. The music for QUEENS MESSENGER is in the main action driven, with up-tempo themes and near martial sounding cues dominating the work. But the composer also manages to include a lush and romantic sounding side to the soundtrack, in the tracks, BACK TO LIFE and ALEXI’S THEME with strings that swell and rise and solo piano that is delicate and alluring, which adds a degree of fragility to the proceedings. Its sound not being a million miles away from the composer’s music for THE ANONYMOUS VENETIAN.

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Cipriani does have a distinct and recognisable sound, but for QUEENS MESSENGER, the composer employed a more conventional approach, relying upon strong performances from, brass. percussion and strings, with Female solo voice making a subtle appearance from time to time, giving the score a touch of ethnic authenticity. He also bolsters and supports the conventional orchestra with a handful of electronic and synthetic additions which combine with the symphonic seamlessly. Thanks to Kronos records we can hear one of the composer’s lesser known works for the silver screen.

SALVATORE. (sleeve notes for the Kronos release)

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Composer Paolo Vivaldi has written the music for over 70 motion pictures and television projects, most of his works being for the small screen the composer writing for television mini-series or TV movies, such as ADRIANO OLIVETTI-LA FORZA DI UN SOGNO, VISO D; ANGELO, THE TEACHER and I CERCHI NELL’ACQUA. Born in Rome on January 20th, 1964, the composer has put his musical stamp upon drama’s, romantic tales, thrillers, and so many other genres. He has also written haunting and appealing musical soundtracks for documentaries including, THE SUN IS DARK and METAMORFOSI. It is somewhat difficult to comprehend why such a talented and versatile composer such as Vivaldi has not enjoyed more success as in being better known amongst the film music collecting fraternity. In 2006 the composer worked on SALVATORE-QUESTA E LA VITA, which was a movie produced by Disney. The film sadly did not receive many positive reviews and was ignored or overlooked by critics and audiences alike when it was released, which is surprising as the subject matter is something that Disney normally excels at. Vivaldi’s score for the picture is symphonic with a minimal amount of synthetic support and enhancement and is written predominantly for strings, piano and woods, these elements acting as a foundation on which he builds the remainder of the thematic material. The composer underlining and enhancing the movies, dramatic, comedic and at times heartrending moments superbly. Vivaldi, utilizes solo piano within the soundtrack to purvey delicate and fragile atmospheres, creating emotive and haunting musical nuances and interludes. The composer also employs a beguiling Female wordless voice at certain stages of the score which is underlined by cello and further embellished by subtle piano, a combination that is not only affecting but highly effective. The score is not only melodic and alluring, but also contains a richness and has a luxurious musical persona, Vivaldi, shaping, adapting and tailoring his already emotive and melancholy sounding music to suit every scenario that we encounter within the picture. There is also a more rustic side to the work, which comes in the form traditional sounding Sicilian flavoured pieces, which personally evoked memories of Luis Baclov’s soundtrack for IL POSTINO. But, it is the delicate and more melodic thematic material that attracts one to the score, and within the movie the composer does manage to get the correct balance and enhance rather than overpower with his subtle nuances and lingering tone poems, plus creating a rich and attractive work. The score has been issued digitally, but this is the first time it has received a compact disc release.

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After the sudden death of both his Mother and Father, a young boy Salvatore, (Allesandro Mallia), is gripped by anger over his catastrophic loss, but his anger and frustration turns to determination as he decides that he must now become the man of the family carry on the family business stepping into his Fathers shoes. He does this so that he can support both his younger Sister and elderly Grandmother. The 12-year-old continues running the fishing boat that his Father worked and becomes a farmer, cultivating a crop of tomatoes. But because of his determination to carry on working he neglects his education and decides that he will leave school. Social services are made aware of the situation by the education department and become involved, which could mean that Salvatore may be separated from his family and placed into care at an orphanage. However, a young Teacher (Enrico lo Verso) discovers what Salvatore is trying to do, and sets out to help the youngster with his school work, going to Salvatore’s home every day after he has finished teaching to tutor him one to one, he also helps the boy fishing and working in the greenhouse where Salvatore has kept the family business going. Although this is a film that has a predictable plot, and is somewhat sugary in areas, it is still a movie that will be enjoyed by children and adults alike, and is a tale of determination in the face of adversity, friendship and family.