Released in the early part of 1972, UOMO AVVISATO MEZZO AMMAZZATO-PAROLA DI SPIRITO SANTO aka- THEY CALL HIM HOLY GHOST, was an entertaining and at times gimmicky Italian western, directed by Giuliano Carmineo and starring Gianni Garko. The movie which was set in Mexico focused upon the revolution in that country, and involved the main protagonist of the movie giving revolutionaries assistance in return for gold against a tyrannical politician General Urbarte who has proclaimed him self El Presidente. Garko’s character SPIRITO SANTO owns a pet dove whom he christens HAWK, which at certain times during the movie makes an entrance prior to Garko’s character coming on screen striking fear into his enemies. The movie is an unlikely romp, with a few implausible scenarios thrown in along the way but at the same time it remains enjoyable, attention holding and amusing. In fact it is probably a movie that brings into the equation elements from the best of the Italian western, by this I mean it combines the drama and also the edge of the seat tension of the ZAPATA western sub genre with that of the comedy/drama western such as THEY STILL CALL ME TRINITY etc. The musical score is by the great film music Maestro Bruno Nicolai, who produced a magnificent soundtrack that is filled with excitement, drama and also comedic musical passages and overflows with infectious and haunting themes. In fact the score is built upon a trio of central themes, with the composer utilising many of the now well known stock sounds and instrumentation from the spaghetti western genre. The opening track is a robust and some what rousing vocal performed by IL CANTORI MODERNI which has lyrics credited on the release to Giulia de Mutiis which I am 99 percent sure is an alias that Allessandro Alessandroni used on many occasions. LIBERTAD is in many ways similar to Morricone and Nicolai’s PACO theme from A PROFFESSIONAL GUN or even Cipriani’s music for THEY CALL ME ALLELUJAH and Waldo De Los Rios music for SAVAGE PAMPAS, sung in Spanish and oozing patriotism and also having to it a rawness and vitality that carries the cue along at pace, altering sound and direction midway when the composer introduces male voices that more or less bark or grunt to accentuate the racing composition. The theme is heard four times on the compact disc each time the composer bringing something new to the piece via clever orchestration or arranging.
The second cue on the disc, opens with a flute warble that has certain affiliations with the short flute trill that accompanies Clint Eastwood’s character in A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, this is followed by a short burst from a low key electric guitar that parodies Morricone’s familiar guitar death rift from FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, but after this the similarities between Morricone and Nicolai cease with the cue assuming a musical identity that is unmistakably Nicolai, organ, underlying strings and strumming guitar act as a background to the distinct whistle of Alessandroni, that is further enhanced and punctuated by little organ nuances. It is a somewhat laid back affair that has to it an underlying atmosphere of darkness and apprehension. I suppose comparisons can be drawn this time between this piece and the composers score for DEAD MEN RIDE another western which was released in the same period or near enough. The score for THEY CALL HIM HOLY GHOST is probably one of Nicolai’s best for a western, an accomplished work that should be savoured by Italian western fans old and new. The CD is presented very well, with colourful art work and numerous stills from the movie inside the CD booklet, which contains informative notes written in Italian and English by BEAT records Executive Daniele De Gemini. Well worth adding to your collection.
I was prompted to write a review of this score because the movie was screened on the BBC this week, the sprawling epic about the monumental battle that took place between the British forces under the command of Wellington and the French under the leadership of their Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte did come in for some criticism at the time of its release but has since become an epic film in every sense of the word. Filmmaker Dino de Laurentiis assembled an all star cast which was headlined by Rod Steiger as Napoleon and Christopher Plummer as a rather pompous but at the same time caring Wellington both actors produced believable performances and for me personally it was Plummer who stole the movie in his portrayal of the iconic British commander. The cast which was a truly international one also included a number of well know actors Orson Welles for example played Louis Xvlll, whilst Virginia McKenna, Ian Ogilvy, Jack Hawkins, Rupert Davies, Michael Wilding, Gianni Garko, Ivo Garrani, Andrea Checchi, Dan O Herlihy and Oleg Vidov all put in credible performances. The battle scenes were spectacular with Director Sergei Bondarchuk utilising a number of Russian army divisions as extras. The musical score was the work of Italian Maestro Nino Rota, who was no stranger to scoring a Napoleonic war drama as he worked on WAR AND PEACE some years earlier in fact the composer utilised and reworked some thematic material from his WAR AND PEACE score and wove it into the fabric of the score for WATERLOO, this being transformed into THE WATERLOO WALTZ, which is heard before the mayhem begins. Rota’s music was a crucial and also an important component of the movie, the opening in particular is highly dramatic with brass and strings giving it an urgent and imposing feel setting the scene for much of what is to follow. Rota’s music is highly effective within the battle scenes his score underlining, heightening and supporting the aggressive action that is taking place on screen.
The score accompanying the somewhat jolly and ram shackle British, Scottish and Irish and giving even more pomp and majesty to the opposing French forces, his score also purveys a sense of futility and creates an atmosphere that seems to shout why do wars and battles such as this have to be fought? The music that Rota composed to accompany the SCOTS GREYS as they charge headlong towards the French lines is masterful, it conjures up the adrenaline rush that the troopers must be feeling as they hurtle towards an unknown fate, but then as the film goes into a slow motion sequence Rota too slows the music and underlines the impressive sequence with an almost celestial and romantic piece performed on organ and strings that momentarily create a mood that is calm and serene.
The remainder of the charge is not scored the SCOTS GREYS being countered by the infamous French lancers who despatch most of the British as they become bogged down in heavy muddy ground.
The battle scene where we see an Ariel view of a number of British squares being attacked by French cavalry is impressive enough but the drama and sheer senselessness of the action by the French is heightened by Rota’s aggressive, sharp and jagged sounding soundtrack, where the composer utilises brass and percussion aided by strings to create a highly agitated and chaotic atmosphere as we see the British unleashing hails of bullets against a cavalry that has no infantry or cannon to support it, the French sustain heavy losses and as the scene comes to its conclusion Rota returns to an arrangement of the central theme that is performed on solo violin depicting again the waste and the senseless act of war and the madness and carnage of battle. The final battle scene is scored in three sections, it begins with the proud and bombastic march that accompanies THE OLD GUARD (LA VIELLE GARDE) as they go in to finish off the British, the strident drums the piccolos and the brass convince us that yes the French have beaten Wellington, in fact the British too are resigned to the fact that all is lost, until a rider informs Napoleon that the Prussians are in the woods,(I PRUSSIANI) the mood suddenly alters as we hear the strains of the Prussian theme the commander telling his children “To fly the black flags high and show no mercy”.
The music also conveys Napoleons despair and disbelief that victory has been taken from him, then the music slips into the theme for the British forces (WELLINGTON-NOW ITS YOUR TIME!) as they take advantage of the support from the Prussians and advance towards the oncoming French. Napoleon is man handled away from his troops as the battle reaches its climax and the French are beaten, surrounded by the British and the Prussians the French are given the option of surrender but refuse this and are finished off by cannon. IL CAMPO DI MORTI is a sombre and low key piece that is played as Wellington peruses the field of the dead, it gradually builds from its low and sombre beginnings and the composer transforms into an ominous sounding version of the scores central theme. This is truly an epic score, my only reservation about this particular release is the sound quality, released on LEGEND records(Italy) it consists of the same track listing as the original CAM and Paramount long playing records, and I cannot be sure but am pretty certain that no restoration or re-mastering took place for this edition, I just hope that one day soon a re-mastered version will make it to compact disc, so that we may sample the delights of this magnificent score without the distortion and sound fluctuation and also some of the additional music that was provided by Wilfred Josephs, the score is conducted by Italian maestro Bruno Nicolai.
Released in 1995, the first DRG compilation was something of a groundbreaking release as it contained a number of cues from Italian western soundtracks that had at that time not been released; of course now the titles included have all seen compact disc releases as soundtracks in their own right. This compilation or series of compilations as there are more than just the one, are still important and entertaining releases and can also be a rich source of reference material for collectors etc, that is why I decided to review them, they do occasionally come up on a number of internet shopping sites but can reach quite lofty heights in the price tag department. DRG released four compilations in the series, volume one (1995) was a two disc set showcasing music from the Cinevox records catalogue, volume two (1995) another double CD release highlighted General Music’s western scores, Volume three (1996) a single disc release also included the catalogue of General Music and the fourth instalment (1997) which was back to a double disc set was made up of cues from the vaults of the BEAT record company. So we were treated to the Good, The Bad and some of the Ugly music that was inspired by the quirky and contagious Spaghetti western genre and brought recognition to composers such as Morricone, De Masi, Cipriani, Baclov, Nicolai, Savina, De Sica, Piccioni, De Angelis, Lavagnino, Tempara, Gigante, Umiliani, Martelli, Di Stefano Trovaioli, Frizzi, Ferrio, Ortolani, Rustichelli, Poitevin, Pregadio,Bixio, Donaggio, Simonetti, Alessandroni, De Gemini Edda Dell Orso and many many more including the vocalists and soloists that frequented Italian western soundtracks.
The first volume opens with the imposing and infectious music of Gianfranco Di Stefano from the soundtrack of the 1970 movie SHANGO (the invincible gun) solo guitar introduces the track JEFF BLOOM with the light touch of harpsichord acting as a subdued background, the composer underlining the proceedings with strings and also introducing solo trumpet punctuated by bass guitar. The second track representing Di Stefano’s score is a Mexican flavoured theme FIESTA FIEASTA, again relies upon solo guitar and has a background supplied by upbeat tambourine that shakes and creates a contagious support for the guitar and is joined by strumming guitar giving it more depth and a greater atmospheric effect. The third and final selection from SHANGO is PISTOLA CHE SCOTTANO where again trumpet and guitar are the mainstay of the piece with brass acting as the musical commas with strings enhancing the proceedings. At the time of the release of this compilation the soundtrack to SHANGO was not available and this was the first time Di Stefano’s music had been released on compact disc, since then of course we have been treated to the full score release on the Cinevox label.A critic once remarked that it was better to buy compilations of Italian westerns soundtracks because invariably the full soundtrack was not that good and it was normally the theme song or main title music that was the most attractive thing about the score. I have to disagree, and with the DRG compilations we as collectors were not only served up the title song and instrumental central theme in some case but also were given a rare chance to hear other sections of each score, of course THE SPAGHETTI WESTERN ENCYCLOPEDIA on King Records Japan had been previously released and this is I think the music bible as far as collectors of Italian western music is concerned, but what the difference was between the King records series and the DRG compilations was that DRG included a handful of cues from each soundtrack that they included in some cases two cues in others there were more and yes the King records series did have a few sections that included more than one track from certain scores but not to the same degree as DRG.
I am not saying that either series of compilations is better than the other because although the music included on both is from the same genre and does in fact include some of the same tracks each series is very different. Track number 4 on volume one is the work of stalwart Italian Maestro Francesco De Masi, taken from the 1968 production QUANTO COSTA MORIRE again at the time of the compilations release the soundtrack had only been released on a Long Playing record, and this was the first time collectors got to hear this music on compact disc, three tracks represent the score with a rousing song starting off proceedings plus an instrumental version of the song then a particularly plaintive and romantically laced cue C’E SEMPRE UNA VITA, which has a lovely classical guitar solo underlined and supported by subdued strings, which has more or less the same sound as THE TWO ELISA’S from Bruno Nicolai’s LANDRAIDERS score and also I did detect a certain phrase that can also be compared with Nicolai’s IL TRONO DI FUOCO but as the De Masi score was written first I think that maybe Nicolai received inspiration from this rather than the other way around. The style employed by De Masi when scoring westerns was a fusion of styles, by this I mean the composer used a romantic and dramatic theme that was normally purveyed by strings or brass in a very similar fashion to that of composers such as Dimitri Tiomkin in Hollywood westerns, but De Masi also managed to create a western sound that was akin to the Italian western genre but this too was tinged with an atmosphere of originality which was all his own. For the next section we jump forward a decade to 1978, the composer is Pino Donaggio and the movie is AMORE PIOMBO E FURORE, (CHINA 9, LIBERTY 37) two cues represent Donaggio’s score and the harmonica plays a major role in both of these tracks. TEMA DI CLAYTON is the central theme from the score with a wailing but at the same time tuneful harmonica solo opening the composition, this is soon accompanied by solo guitar and the harmonica solo mellows to produce a melodic and quite romantic sounding piece. The next cue from the score is basically a more romantic and developed version of the central theme with strings and soft guitar being given support by harmonica which introduces the cue and reappears at the tracks conclusion. Donaggio had at the time been known mainly for his music to the horror movie DON’T LOOK NOW and the atmospheric score for CARRIE he also scored Joe Dante’s PIRAHNA in the same year as AMORE PIOMBO E FURORE and there are hints of the low key theme he penned depicting the river for PIRAHNA within this western soundtrack. Tracks 9 and 10 are taken from the 1971 production ED ORA RACCOMANDA L’ANIMA A DIO (AND NOW RECOMMEND YOUR SOUL TO GOD). The music is by Franco Bixio who worked on numerous westerns which can be categorised within the comedy western genre, this is a sub genre of the spaghetti western that either worked wonderfully as in the TRINITY series or failed miserably in lesser known low budget examples but saying this Bixio who at times teamed up with Vince Tempera produced a number of very good scores, this being one such example, the title song JUST A COWARD is represented here in both vocal and instrumental versions, with Mary Usuah providing the distinct vocals underlined by a jaunty almost jolly sounding guitar and the instrumental version being much the same but slightly darker in places.
The next section is taken from the 1966 movie WANTED JOHNNY TEXAS, the score being the work of three composers Marcello Gigante, Alessandro Nadin and Aristide Bascerano the lions share of the work probably being done by Gigante, three cues represent this infectious score, MAIN TITLE, M 22, and FINALE.
All three tracks are basically varying arrangements of the central theme with the second track being a more Mexican flavoured version, this too has since the release of this compilation seen a full soundtrack release and it is a lesser known film and score that should be investigated and certainly added to your collection if you have not already acquired it. It has many of the now accepted musical trademarks of the Italian western score, such as solo trumpet, racing snare drums, female voice tolling bells etc and I would say is one of the most interesting and appealing sections within the compilation.
QUEI DISPERATI CHE PUZZANO DI SUDORE E DI MORTE (LOS DESPERADOS) is up next with music coming from the great Gianni Ferrio who worked extensively within the genre of the spaghetti western, what I think was most appealing about Maestro Ferrio’s music for the western was that like De Masi he fused the established style of the Hollywood western with the new and fresh sound that was becoming associated with the Italian western the end result n most cases was a stunning and highly original end product, that was laced with contagious and rhythmic themes and highly dramatic and romantic sounding phrases. Ferrio would also at times included a kind of jazz vibe within his western scores that gave them a more contemporary and bluesy feel which although I know sounds implausible actually worked making the music more attractive. For LOS DESPERADOS the composer created a favourably dramatic and at times lush sounding score which also included an energetic comic sounding march of sorts. Track number 18 is the opening theme or BLACK JACK from KID IL MONELLO DEL WEST, which was composed by Enrico Simonetti in 1974, originally released just as a 45 rpm single on vinyl, it was not until a few years ago we got to savour the entire score on a Digit Movies compact disc, I have to say however that this is one of those scores that you would be better of just having this one track and maybe the flip side cue from the 45 rpm which was the opening theme sung by children’s choir. For track number 19 and 20 we are back with composer Franco Bixio who on this occasion collaborates with Roberto Pregadio on the music for the 1970 release DESERTO DI FUOCO. The main titles theme is a haunting piece written for strings and a slightly upbeat background over which we hear the exquisite voice of Edda Dell Orso that is a first performed in unison with strings to create a unique and haunting sound the strings then take the theme on board and give it a fuller working before returning to the wonderful aural performance of Dell Orso. This is an excellent example of the genres music, with Pregadio’s influences being heard throughout and I am guessing that this score was more Pregadio than Bixio, as we can hear in the second selection from the score OMBRE SULA SABBIA which again is upbeat and contagious with horns performing the vocal parts of the composition in this arrangement, the FINALE from the score is also included which is a slightly extended version of the main titles theme with strings on this occasion carrying the haunting theme. The next two sections are also courtesy of composer Franco Bixio, tracks 22 through to 24 being taken from the 1974 movie CARAMBOLA with composers Fabio Frizzi and Vince Tempera adding their considerable skills to that of Bixio’s. Then tracks 25 to 26 are taken from the 1975 sequel to CARAMBOLA, CARAMBOLA FILOTTO TUTTI IN BUCA which was created by the collaborative talents of Messrs Bixio, Frizzi and Tempera. Both sections are very good indeed with the original score opening with TEMA PRINCIPALE that has a trumpet solo performance played over a fairly slow background of strumming guitar in a similar fashion to THE MAN WITH NO NAME from Morricones A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, also included is a comedy slanted almost mariachi sounding track entitled MEXICAN CANTINA that is pleasant enough listening.
The FINALE is also included as is a guitar version of the opening theme. The music for the sequel is much lighter and also more in a comedic vein with a bluesy almost country sounding opening theme performed on banjo with an upbeat percussive background aided by bass and strumming guitars that create a sort of bustling atmosphere which is busy but very easily forgotten. Which can also be said for track number 26 FUNNY TOWN the title I suppose giving it away, fiddle, guitar and banjo combining with clumsy sounding brass to purvey an air of comedy which really does not hold a lot of interest and is thankfully short lived. Gianni Ferrio returns for the next selection of themes, from the 1973 movie AMICO STAMMI LONTANO ALMENO UN PALMO (the ballad of Ben and Charlie). Originally released on a Cinevox long playing record the score saw an expanded edition release on Digit movies a few years back, this in my opinion is one of the composers best western scores with a great title song LET IT RAIN LET IT POUR the melody of which can be heard throughout Ferrio’s score in various arrangements, this is a dramatic and also a bluesy sounding soundtrack that is appealing and memorable. We are treated to six cues from the score within this compilation. The final track on disc number one is from Sergio Leone’s DUCK YOU SUCKER, GIU’ LA TESTA, A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE etc, released in 1971 this was to be Leone’s final western as a director with a theme laden score by his long time friend and collaborator Ennio Morricone. The main title theme is included here which is a tour de force of everything that is good about Morricone, exquisite theme wonderful performances by Alessandroni, il Cantori Moderni and the first lady of Italian film music Edda Dell Orso.
Disc two opens with UNO STRANIERO A PASO BRAVO (1967) by the great Angelo Francesco Lavagnino, who contributed so much to Italian cinema as a whole, his western scores were often overlooked by collectors many thinking they were no true spaghetti western scores but they are some of the most original and memorable works within the genre, again I have to say that this composer created a western sound that was all of his own, with a fusion of both Hollywood based styles and upbeat more contemporary sounds which were being employed within the Italian western. UNO STRANIERO A PASO BRAVO is one such example it contains a good solid western or cowboy theme but to this the composer adds solo trumpet, organ and electric guitar and a soaring title song performed in Italian by an energetic sounding Vittoria Brezzi, great stuff. Lavagnino is represented on a further two occasions on disc number two, tracks 13 to 16 are taken from REQUIEM PER UNO GRINGO (1967) tracks 19 to 22 are taken from his score for JOHNNY WEST IL MANCINO (1966). Both scores are vibrant, original and filled with outstanding themes and although the latter example does have within it some clumsy sounding comic orientated music it still remains entertaining. It is no wonder that Lavagnino was Leone’s initial choice to score A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. The remainder of the second disc reads like a who’s who in Italian western scoring, with titles such as PRAY TO GOD AND DIG YOUR GRAVE, OCCHIO ALLA PENNA, VADO VEDO E SPARO, LA NOTTE DEI SERPENTE, ROY COLT AND WINCHESTER JACK, REVENGE AT EL PASO, BOOT HILL etc etc, with composers such as Gigante, Ortolani, Rustichelli, Umiliani, Morricone, Bixio, Martelli, Plenzio and Pregadio being represented. Volume one of this DRG compilation is certainly an entertaining 2 hours plus of music taken from the Cinevox vaults, which contains something for everyone.
Volume two is a selection of music that has been gathered from the archives of EMI General Music which was another label that was particularly active in the release of soundtracks from the late 1960,s through to the early 1980,s. The first disc opens with Bruno Nicolai,s stirring score for 100,OOO DOLLARI PER RINGO which was released in 1965, the score is represented here by a suite of the soundtracks principal themes including the title song RINGO DOVE VAI performed by Bobby Solo with the English language version also being included within the suite. Nicolai’s score is a highly dramatic one with choir, strings and driving percussion and although it was a true Italian western the music still contained influences from the old west as in the Hollywood western score. The composer employing quite grand and forceful sounding brass based themes underlined by at times chaotic percussion to relay adventure, excitement and action, in fact at times the music sounded more like it was from an American made B western movie rather than a spaghetti but nonetheless an impressive work. Section two tracks 2 through to 4 are taken from the comedy western I DUE GRINGOS DEL TEXAS, now you remember I said that this sub genre of the spaghetti western either worked or fell flat on its face, well this I suppose can be said for the music for these productions, on this occasion the music is by Carlo Savina, and in my humble opinion it is probably not one of the composers best efforts for the genre. Three tracks are included two of which are thankfully very brief. Again another candidate for having just a few tracks from a score rather than the entire soundtrack on CD, surprisingly the entire score was issued a couple of years back now, but its not one that collectors were exactly clambering for. Moving swiftly on to 1967 and tracks 5 to 8 DJANGO L’ULTIMO KILLER is the work of Roberto Pregadio and Walter Rizzati and this is completely the opposite from the previous section, it contains a slowly building but strong and memorable theme with solo trumpet, strumming guitars and strings being at the forefront of proceedings with the remainder of the music being in the same style. Tracks 9 through to 11 are taken from SIPUO FARE…AMIGO (The Big and The Bad) music is by Luis Bacalov and this is the first of many sections where Bacalov is represented, track number 9 is the title song from the movie CAN BE DONE which is performed by Rocky Roberts with a little help from a children’s choir.
Bacalov of course is better known for his score to DJANGO the vocal theme of which is also included on this compilation (disc two track number 30) performed by Roberto Fia.
Other Bacalov scores represented include the excellent L’ORO DEI BRAVADOS (Gold for the Bravados), IL GRAND DUELLO (1969), QUIEN SABE (A Bullet for the General)-(1966), LO CHIAMAVANO KING (1971), SUGAR COLT (1966), A MAN CALLED NOON (1973) etc etc, in fact disc two could easily be re-titled THE BEST OF LUIS BACALOV WESTERN THEMES, with a handful of sections such as UN BUCO FRONTE (1968), TEXAS ADDIO (1966), PROFFESSIONAL KILLERS, (1967), A GUN IN THE HAND OF THE DEVIL (1972), SEVEN GUNS FOR KILLING (1967) and THEY CALL ME NOBODY (1973) having music by Roberto Pregadio, Anton Garcia Abril, Carlo Pes, Piero Piccioni, Francesco De Masi and Ennio Morricone respectively. This I think is the only negative about this particular volume within the compilation, too much Bacalov cant be a bad thing I hear you say, well at times the originality of his music does wear a little thin and if one listens to his western scores in particular the composer does shall we say re-cycle certain cues within various projects and cues from DJANGO turn up in QUIEN SABE etc. But then we have the highly original and stirring themes from IL GRANDE DUELLO, L’ORO DEI BRAVADOS and A MAN CALLED NOON to compensate for this.
Volume three in this series also includes tracks from the archive of EMI GENERAL MUSIC. A number of films that are represented on volume two also make an appearance here as well, but the music selected is different and at times the running order includes a suite from a score for example track number 10 is a five minute suite from SUGAR COLT, where as on volume two just the main title made an appearance, Bacalov is also represented by more tracks from GOLD OF THE BRAVADOS and a seven minute suite from A MAN CALLED NOON, I think that by the time DRG had reached volume three in the series they might have been lacking in ideas but they have included a number of Morricone tracks ie; GUNFIGHT AT RED SANDS, A PISTOL FOR RINGO, SEVEN GUNS FOR THE McGREGORS, THE RETURN OF RINGO, DEATH RIDES A HORSE,TEPEPA, A PROFESSIONAL GUN, FACE TO FACE, COMPANEROS(which is an alternative version of the main title) ,LIFE IS TOUGH, E THAT’S PROVIDENCE and an alternative version of THEY CALL ME NOBODY main title, admittedly all great cues but like volume two had a little too much Bacalov maybe volume three has a few Morricone too many. Might have served the continuity and listening experience better if DRG had mixed it up a little and taken some Bacalov off two and put it on three and then the Morricone from three and put on two, if you see what I mean? Really volume three is a little ordinary as most of the tracks on this compact disc have already been within other compilations etc. Also included is a suite from SEVEN GUNS FOR A KILLING with a vocal by Raoul( different cues from the score were on volume two), a great solo trumpet track from THE TWO RINGOS FROM TEXAS ( music from this was also on volume two), but we do have a couple of Nicolai pieces to prop up the proceedings, namely DEPARTURE which is taken from THEY CALL ME SHANGHAI JOE and FINALE from THE DAYS OF VIOLENCE.
Plus a short cue from I DON’T FORGET I KILL by Piero Piccioni, which is a pleasant surprise and also a welcome one? The sound quality on the compact disc is very good apart from a couple of tracks one of which sadly is probably one of the best on compact disc A PROFESSIONAL GUN suffers from very bad distortion during the solo trumpet interlude and it is not entirely crystal clear from that moment onwards, so production issues on this track that I think could have been remedied, it is strange because the version of the score released on GDM had very good sound quality and I have not heard any really bad production on any of the other releases compilations or full soundtrack issues. Also SHANGHAI JOE is distorted not as bad as A PROFESSIONAL GUN but never the less the distortion is there and is somewhat grating and does spoil the overall effect of Nicolai’s music.
Volume four is a two disc set and brings to us the music from the archives of BEAT records, like Cinevox and also General music and CAM. The BEAT record company was and still is one of the busiest recording labels in Italy and it was along with the aforementioned labels one of the first soundtrack specialist labels to go into business. Volume four opens with a selection of cues from the 1963 production THE SIGN OF THE COYOTE music is by Francesco De Masi but because this movie was released before the spaghetti western had established itself the music is very different from later De Masi scores after the advent of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and after Morricone and Leone had changed the western forever. De Masi’s score for COYOTE is rather typical of what was being written for American productions at the time, there is not even a hint of the spaghetti western score musical trademarks, and this can also be said for the next section which is again De Masi scoring the 1964 release A MAN IN THE VALLEY OF THE DAMNED.
In fact we do not hear any hints of what was to come from De Masi until Track number five of this compilation which is from the 1965 movie RANCH OF THE RUTHLESS, the style of De Masi I would not say changed it merely altered and developed into the sound that we now associate with the composer, tracks seven and eight are taken from A COFFIN FOR THE SHERIFF (1965), which includes a great song with vocals by Peter Tevis.
De Masi more than most composers I think seemed to like to have a title song and a vocalist he worked with many times was Raoul, who’s distinct and powerful vocals graced many a De Masi soundtrack. AND THEN A TIME FOR KILLING or TEQUILA JOE was released in 1968 and we are treated to two cues from the soundtrack here one being a glorious Raoul vocal performance. De Masi is well represented within this compilation and no I am not complaining as his music is always exquisite and entertaining and never repetitive. Disc one for example also includes FOR A FEW BULLETS MORE, KILL THEM ALL AND COME BACK ALONE, RINGO THE LONE RIDER and SARTANA DOES NOT FORGIVE. All of which are excellent and significant and important contributions to the genre of the spaghetti western, Disc two also has its fair share of De Masi musical gems, I,M SARTANA -TRADE YOUR PISTOL FOR A COFFIN and CHALLENGE FOR THE McKENNAS, The compilation also has within its running time THE FIVE MAN ARMY, GRAND SILENCE by Ennio Morricone. HAVE A GOOD FUNERAL SARTANA WILL PAY, THE MAN CALLED APOCALYPSE JOE, BULLET FOR A STRANGER and LO CHIAMAVANO TRESETTE,GIOCAVA SEMPRE COL MORTO by Bruno Nicolai. BUKAROO by Lallo Gori, NO ROOM TO DIE by Vasco Vassil Koyucharov, THE SPECIALIST by Lavagnino, AND GOD SAID TO CAIN by Savina, PRAY TO KILL AND RETURN ALIVE by Mario Migliardi, THE THREE MUSKETEERS OF THE WEST by Rustichelli, MY NAME IS TRUTH by De Sica and THE DAY OF FIRE and WACH OUT GRINGO, SABATA WILL RETURN by Piccioni and all these great scores and this wonderful music from one label BEAT. The series of compact discs from DRG are accompanied by eye catching art work and informative notes volumes 1 and 2 have notes by Didier c Duetsch and volumes 3 and 4 contain essays and info penned by John Bender. Maybe not the definitive collection or indeed as iconic as the SPAGHETTI WESTERN ENCYCLOPEDIA released on King records but still invaluable and a great source of information for anyone wishing to discover the music of the Spaghetti western.
A great release from the ever popular Digit movies label, this 1972 movie which is referred to as being part of the DEMAEROTICO genre of films which were produced in their abundance during the 1970,s. The production Stars the stunningly attractive actress Edwige Fenech and popular Italian comic Pippo Franco. The story is set in the medieval period where knights were bold in more ways than one and the ladies wore exquisite gowns (most of the time any way). An entertaining romp which is a saucy little comedy. Which I suppose is akin to the British CARRY ON,s, but more revealing, and probably a lot funnier. The score by Maestro Bruno Nicolai, is fairly typical of what the composer was producing during this period, and in a number of ways is similar to Ennio Morricone’s WHEN WOMEN HAD TAILS and Nicolai,s own WHEN WOMEN LOST THEIR TAILS, it has that same energy and light but bubbly persona. The score opens with a fanfare of sorts, which one just knows cannot be taken seriously, as the composer utilizes muted trumpet which is slightly off key supported by rolling timpani, this is short lived and gives way to a comical sounding and catchy sounding theme, that in the movie introduces Pippo Franco,s character, who is a Knight returning from the wars. This theme is given several airings throughout the score in numerous arrangements, one of the most memorable being on track number 6 where the theme is performed on a music box type instrument. Even though the theme does reprise a number of times one never tires of hearing it. The other central theme is for Edwige Fenech’s character UBALDA, and is a particularly haunting and beautiful composition that is first heard on track number 7, Nicolai has penned a pleasing and light sounding composition, which again is reprised on a few of the cues and even combined with the Knights theme on occasion as on track number 10. As you progresses through the soundtrack it is possible that you will draw a few comparisons between this and other Nicolai works, such as GIORNATA SPESE BENE, as there are little musical phrases and motifs present that the composer has utilized before, but this I think is the appeal of the work and also of Nicolai, the outstanding track for me is cue number 9 which is a full version of the Ubalda theme, performed on strings with harpsichord, plucked electric guitar, faraway sounding horns, choir and solo female voice adding to its content, the only way I can describe it is to say think of the theme for THE RED TENT or even AROUND THE WORLD WITH THE LOVERS OF PEYNET, it is delicate and superb. So this is another triumph for Digit Movies, packaging is again up to the now expected high standard, and sound quality is excellent.
Notes intended for the Hillside release of SHANGHAI JOE (march 2014). Unused due to scheduling.
MY NAME IS SHANGHAI JOEor THE FIGHTING FISTS OF SHANGHAIJOE was released in the latter part of 1972, the movie which is sadly an easily forgettable addition to the genre of the Italian Western, has two saving graces which are firstly the performance of Klaus Kinski in the role of the villain of the piece and secondly the musical score by Maestro Bruno Nicolai. The central character JOE portrayed by Chen Lee, is somewhat a non descript character and the actors performance is less than convincing, combine this with even more lack lustre direction by Mario Caiano and we have the recipe for a movie that is attempting to cash in on the success of past Spaghetti westerns and also combine this with another successful genre (kung fu movies) but loosing its way a little and eventually one finds it difficult to put the film into any category. Released under a number of titles in the United States which included THE DRAGON STRIKES BACK and TO KILL OR DIE. The film also attempted to convey a message about racism, one line from the script being “We finally got rid of the Indians, now we’re up to our ears in Chinks” The music by Nicolai, is too not that original most of it being recycled from previous scores LANDRAIDERS and also HAVE A GOOD FUNERAL MY FRIEND….SARTANA WILL PAY, being the most prominent, but saying this the composer did produce a handful of original and infectious sounding themes for the picture, which contained many of the stock sounds and features that we associate with the genre of the spaghetti western but these were enhanced and embellished with interesting and quirky nuances that had an oriental flavour to them creating a score that not only served the movie well but also stood on their own as entertaining pieces of music. Re-using music in scores from other soundtracks was something that we can see in Nicolai’s work for the cinema and Television, the guitar rift in SHANGHAI JOE being one example, the composer utilized this in INDIO BLACK and also LANDRAIDERS to great effect, on each outing varying it in its arrangement but when you are a busy composer writing scores for numerous movies as well as conducting soundtracks for Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota, Carlo Rustichelli and their like, plus performing on certain scores playing organ etc it is hardly surprising that Maestro Nicolai opted for the simple solution on certain occasions. Bruno Nicolai was born in Rome in 1926, He studied with Aldo Manitia for piano and Antonio Fernandi and Godfreddo Petrassi for composition. It is important to note that Petrassi was also responsible for schooling Ennio Morricone in composition and this is probably why both Nicolai and Morricone at times sounded very similar when composing and orchestrating, Nicolai also studied organ with Ferruccio Viganelli. Nicolai entered the film music composer arena in 1963 when he scored HEAD OF THE FAMILY then in the early part of 1964 he collaborated on the score for MONDO CANE 2, this was as a conductor and arranger.
His major break into film music came in 1965 when Ennio Morricone asked him to conduct the score to Sergio Leone’s second Dollar movie FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, after this milestone assignment Nicolai became Morricones regular conductor and also at times co-composed scores with him, which included OPERATION KID BROTHER and A PROFFESSIONAL GUN. In 1966 Nicolai conducted Morricones classic soundtrack to THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY and after this began to conduct scores for numerous other Italian composers as well as writing his own film scores and working with Directors such as Jesus Franco which was a fruitful collaboration the composer creating memorable soundtracks for films such as IL CONTE DRACULA and THRONE OF FIRE. Nicolai also had a keen interest in classical music and continually studied the works of Beethoven and Mozart. When working on westerns in particular, the composer produced a sound that was a fusion of the quirky upbeat and at times experimental spaghetti sound and the grandiose thematic material of the Hollywood produced western thus creating an original sound that was all his own. He died on August 16th 1991, sadly his death was not widely reported and collectors did not find out about his passing until nearly two months later. His untimely death left a void within the Italian film music fraternity; a void that many still say has never been filled.
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