I have been collecting Italian soundtracks for what seems to be forever now, the Italian or spaghetti western being one of the main genres that I sought out on my regular trips to London and to see Michael Jones in various retail outlets. So as you can imagine I purchased many of the soundtracks on LP record all those years back and the majority of these recordings were on the CAM label, CAM was I think one of the first if not the very first film music speciality labels that concentrated 99 percent of its efforts into releasing film music. One its early releases was from the western ADIOS GRINGO, with an atmospheric and highly innovative score by composer Benedetto Ghiglia. Innovative because it seemed to be an original sounding work within a number of original sounding works, but it was just slightly different the soundtrack contained no strings, it relied heavily upon the utilisation of percussion or at least percussive elements which created a sound and a style which was all on its own.
The score was re-issued on the CAM label on CD which was a straight lifting of the sixteen tracks that were on the original album, this had a running time of around 30 mins or just over, but for this re-issue Digit movies uncovered the mono tapes which yielded a further 30 mins of music including the song GRINGO performed by Fred Bongusto, so in total the re-issue contains over an hour of music from the score and this includes two previously unreleased stereo mixes of one of which is the title song. The composers use of percussion, guitar, choir and castanets creates a driving and infectious sound and although it is from a spaghetti western it has very few musical connections with the rest of the scores from the genre from that period, the style employed is at times similar to that of Gianni Ferrio and to a degree does contain certain rhythms and quirks of orchestration that can be found within scores by Cipriani, but that is where the similarities end as Ghiglia is certainly inventive and original, this inventive use of instruments can also be found within his score for FOR A DOLLAR IN THE TEETH which appeared on the CAM CD.
Released in 1965, ADIOS GRINGO is a Giuliano Gemma western that was directed by Giorgio Stegani and although not one of the genres finest or glittering examples it still manages to hold ones attention throughout and entertain at the same time. Ghiglia’s score adds much to the impact of certain scenes within the film and also stands alone as a separate entity to be savoured and enjoyed as just music. There are no saloon cues here no tender little western ditties in fact Ghiglia’s score is quite harsh and brash in places, it oozes a rawness and also has a simplicity to it but it works both on screen and off. Another one for the collection.
Hillside are at it again, spaghetti westerns coming in three’s, this is in my opinion the weakest of the trio, but saying this it still gets a 4 out of five star rating, Benedetto Ghiglia was a much in demand composer during the 1960’s and his heavy and echoing percussive sound became one of the musical trademarks that we now so readily associate with the genre of the Italian western, QUATTRO DOLLARI A VENDETTA is slightly different from his other western works, as it contains whistling and also a theme song of sorts in the form of the track LET HIM GO, which is the scores opening track performed by Nora Orlandi’s coro 4 +4. This track was originally issued as a single on CAM then was part of the musical collection included on the CAM compilation LP THE WEST 1, so this release is certainly long overdue. The score is a good mixture of styles, dramatic, Mexican sounding passages plus all the Spaghetti sounds we know and love. The central theme LET HIM GO is also utilised throughout the work in various guises and arrangements and makes an appearance no less than eight times within the compact discs running, but even though it appears so many times this does not detract from the compositions quality and overall appeal. The composer does in fact make reference to one of his other Spaghetti western scores within this one as in the cue FUORILEGGE we can hear more than a fleeting slow tempi rendition of the composers theme for ADIOS GRINGO. This is another one of those lost gems from the genre of the Italian western, and its hats off to Hillside for finding it, restoring it and making it available. I was told that there is a little distortion on the opening cue, but I compared it with the LP track I have and the sound is the same, CAM recordings at times were distorted, it was something that seemed to do at times, why I am not sure. Other than this the sound on the CD is clear and quite striking for a soundtrack of this age (1966). I would urge any fan of the genre and its music to purchase this straight away, for one its good and also it’s a very limited edition, just 500. The art work is wonderful, a sure fire winner. Highly recommended.
Italian composer Benedetto Ghiglia was born on December 27, 1930 in Fiesole Italy. Information about this Italian Maestro has been very difficult to obtain as he has for most of his career avoided interviews and press releases. He came from a family that was very musically orientated, his Father was Oscar Ghiglia renowned and respected classical guitarist. Ghiglia began to score motion pictures during the early 1950,s his first soundtrack being for a documentary entitled DELTA PADANO. He then scored on another short documentary film entitled MADRIGALE D’ATTUNNO in 1954. The composers first foray into scoring an actual motion picture was in 1965 which was for the comedy LA BUGIARDA, directed by Luigi Comencini and starring Catherine Spaak.
During his career the composer has written scores for over thirty movies, these have been varied in genre but the Maestro has always produced original sounding works what ever the subject matter. Surprisingly he scored just five Euro/Italian westerns, but these were all key works within that genre. ADIOS GRINGO (1965),STARBLACK aka JOHNNY COLT and 4 DOLLARS OF REVENGE both in (1966) and A DOLLAR IN THE TEETH aka A STRANGER IN TOWN and EL ROJO both in (1967). Ghiglia had his own particular style when scoring westerns, the composer relied upon echoing and vibrant percussive elements within these scores and also created haunting and fairly simple themes which he fused together with Mexican sounding mariachis to create supportive scores that served the movies well and were also entertaining away from the images. The composer worked steadily throughout the 1960,s 70,s and 80,s working on spy thrillers, robbery capers and adventure tales and scored his last movie in 1997, which was the documentary,
GALEAZZO CIANO UNA TRAGEDIA FASCISTA. But as the 1970,s dawned the composer did slow down his involvement with scoring movies and began to concentrate on his own particular work. Benedetto Ghiglia passed away on July 4th 2012, aged 89