Tag Archives: DIGIT MOVIES

MOVIE MUSIC ITALIANO UNO.

The first in a series of reviews and news old and new about music from Italian movies.

After so many years fans of Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, will be in raptures as BEAT records in Rome finally release the score for Banana Joe.

It’s been four decades since the movie first appeared in cinema’s and is a much-requested soundtrack amongst the fans of the composers and devotees of Italian film music. It has been something of a mystery as to why this score has never seen the light of day until now that is, and a title that is long overdue taking its place in the composer’s discography alongside so many other cherished works for TV and Cinema from the 1970’s and in this case the 1980’s. Thanks to locating  the original master tapes in Cabum archives, the label of the siblings it has been possible to prepare this deluxe CD with a 16 pages coloured booklet. It is a perfect gift for the festive season, and once heard is a score that will be returned to again and again.

This is however a ltd edition with BEAT releasing both LP (DDJLP15DLX), and CD (DDJ28DLX), with numbers restricted to seven hundred copies, so hurry and order it now. The booklet boasts liner notes by Daniele De Gemini of BEAT and is remastered by Enrico his brother. The artwork used is the original work of the great artist Renato Casaro. If you love Italian movie scores and are a follower of the sometimes-quirky style of De Angelis, and catchy vocals this is an essential purchase.

Staying with BEAT and the label have released for the first time onto compact disc the music from Commissariato Di Notturna, a 1973 comedy directed by Guido Leoni and starring Gastone Moschin, Rosanna Schiaffino, Maurice Ronet, Luciano Salce, Carlo Giuffré, Giorgio Ardisson, Antonio Casagrande, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Furia, and Gisela Hahn.  Plus, La Supplente a movie that successfully mixed both comedy and sex which was released two years later in 1975.  The film was directed by Guido Leoni and starred Carmen Villani, Eligio Zamara, Carlo Giuffré, Dayle Haddon, Alvaro Brunetti, Gisela Hahn, Gastone Pescucci, Giusi Raspani Dandolo, Giacomo Furia. For Commissariato di notturna  composer Renato Rascel wrote a score based on a central theme that he repeated throughout the movie in various arrangements and was performed by a variety of instrumentation, the theme which was pop orientated and upbeat at times  was performed by the choir of Nora Orlandi Coro 4+4, as well as being given a tango treatment and then delivered by a moog synth.

The score also contains an affecting and haunting love theme entitled Addio Sera, which is performed by solo guitar that is underlined by piano and supported by strings, and in one variation is performed with solo female voice. La Supplente, is a little different although just as rewarding and entertaining with the composer employing Latin rhythms that weave in and out of the proceedings purveying romantic interludes and joyous passages. The score too has its fair share of drama which is conveyed perfectly via the utilization of orchestral textures and colours that are enhanced by choral performances.

Another release from BEAT that will be available soon is the full score for The Tiffany Memorandum, which is the work of Riz Ortolani, the film is essentially a homage to the worlds of James Bond, Matt Helm and the Our Man Flint movies. This time around BEAT have included extra cues and improved sound quality, again another worthy addition to your Italian film music collection.   

Fellow Italian soundtrack label Digit-Movies have re-released Maestro Bruno Nicolai’s The case of the scorpion’s tail (Italian title; ‘La coda dello scorpione’), The case of the bloody iris (Italian title; Perché Quelle Strane Gocce di Sangue sul Corpo di Jennifer?), All the colours of the dark (Italian title; Tutti i Colori del Buio) and Your vice is a locked room and only I have the key (Italian Title; Il Tuo Vizio è Una Stanza Chiusa e Solo io ne ho la Chiave) on compact disc but this time in a very desirable box set.

The four thrilling and arguable most well-known soundtracks composed by the Maestro for Giallo movies are once again brought to life in this deluxe edition, many thought that these impressive works for the genre would never resurface but at last more collectors can now savour the enticing work of Nicolai. Who is a composer that was at times ignored and underrated.

The set comes with new artwork on the outer box that houses the four discs and new notes within a booklet of thirty-two pages. The set is also available as a four CD and two LP set with different artwork, the LP edition contains, double marbled yellow vinyl with a selection of the best themes of the four soundtracks, one for each side of the records.

Four CD’s containing the full scores, a thirty-two-page booklet and a poster. Certainly, a feast for fans well worth looking at if you did not get these releases first time around.

A box set of vinyl seven-inch singles that has been released by Four Flies Records in Italy is Alessandroni Proibito-Music from Red Light Films 1977 to 1980. The collection contains fourteen tracks from composer Alessandro Alessandroni, which are spread over five discs and show a very different side to the composer, because they display a more experimental and pop orientated style that maybe many have not heard from him in the past. We associate him with Morricone more than any other film composer, but Alessandroni was essentially the sound of the Italian western score, as a whistler, guitarist and choral director and performer for many other composer’s as well as Morricone, often he was overlooked and he himself once told me that he was “A Performer Not A Star”. Today his persistent presence and important role within Italian film music from the early 1960’s through to the 1990’s has been finally recognized by music professionals and enthusiasts alike, and quite rightly so he is also now considered the true father of Italian library music – a genre whose sound he shaped and was responsible for developing since 1968. Looking at the Four Flies website there is a treasure trove of Italian quality movie music there plus albums by composers who worked in both film and in the composition of library tracks and easy/lounge music.  Check it out I am sure you will find something.

This box set contains music from the four soft-core erotic films that included hard-core sequences and, therefore, fell somewhere in-between normal commercial distribution and the underground scene of adult movie theatres. Many being screened in what was referred to as specialty cinemas or art house picture houses. The films are Lulu La Sposa Erotica, La Parte Piu Appetitosa Del Maschio, Incontri Molto Ravvicinati…Del Quarto Tipo and Emanuelle a Thaiti. It’s an interesting collection, that contains compositions that are jazz influenced and purvey that steamy sound associated with many Italian movies of the 1970’s and 1980’s. But also at times resemble The William Tell Overture and even bare some resemblance to Hotel California by the Eagles without the vocals. It is a must have for fans of Italian movie scores and is also available on the likes of Spotify. The vinyl edition is wonderfully packaged and presented, and the music is something that you will return to and treasure forever.

MORTE SOSPETTA DI UNA MINORENNE.

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The releases from Italian record labels continues at pace and seems to gain momentum with each season whether or not these many soundtracks are indeed worth releasing or re-issuing is obviously down to each individual collectors opinion or taste in music and genre of film. Digit movies have over the years a number of soundtracks that in my humble opinion are very worthwhile, whether these be westerns, giallo,s, police dramas, comedies or horror etc, the label always seemed to come up with the goods and give us the film music collecting fraternity something that was enjoyable and entertaining. Alas things changed quite rapidly, and this is not the fault of the label, the producers or indeed the composers of the scores, but it is a case of a natural exhaustion of good scores that are available to release. Well I am pleased to say that recently the label released the score to MORTE SOSPETTA DI UNA MINORENNE or DEATH OF A MINOR which was composed by Italian Maestro Luciano Michelini, the score is certainly an original and interesting one and has within it a number of broad thematic compositions, the soundtrack seems to be one of many styles as in there are a number of sides to the work stylistically, firstly we are treated to a pop orientated style that is fused with a dramatic and slightly darker ambience, the composer utilising infectious rhythms and tracks that are frequented with organ which as it says in the info about the score are very reminiscent of the sound achieved by Italian group GOBLIN when they worked on movies such as PROFUNDO ROSSO. Then we have a more subtle and lighter side to the proceedings in which the composer creates a more carefree and slightly humorous or positive atmosphere within a number of cues, plus there are the many action pieces and chase sequence music tracks so it is a score of variation as well as being original. Released in 1975 the movie was directed by Sergio Martino, with the main roles being taken on by Claudio Cassinelli, Mel Ferrer and Lia Tanzi, Set in Milan is focuses upon the disappearance of a number of minors which seem to be baffling the police, Police commissioner Germi, decides to take the investigation to the streets of the city and poses as a thief snatching purses etc in the hope of tracking down the perpetrators. An entertaining movie which moves along briskly keeping the audience interested and absorbed with a soundtrack that is equally as entertaining. This is the first time that the score has been released onto compact disc and as always Digit movies have produced an attractive and well packaged item which has striking art work and very good sound quality. Michelini is in my opinion one of the many Italian composers who worked in film that is so sadly overlooked and at times forgotten. This is a score that I think you will return to many times and with each outing it will surrender up something fresh and new. Please Digit movies more like this,it is with all the releases from Italy very hard to get inspired or excited about anything that comes out these days as there is just so much, but this I Highly recommended.

BATTAGLIE DEL DESERTO.

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Yet another important and much requested soundtrack release from the now famed Digit movies label . This is the first ever compact disc release for Bruno Nicolai’s powerful soundtrack; the original vinyl release was on the Gemelli label, founded by the composer himself during the 1960’s. Long deleted, this latest version of the score not only includes the original LP cues but also has tracks from the films masters, all of which have been re-mastered to a high standard and sound excellent.

It’s all fairly typical of the style and sound of composer Nicolai, with a driving, forceful, martial-sounding theme featured throughout in various guises and arrangements. Upon closer examination, the central theme does have certain similarities to Morricone’s For a Few Dollars More, albeit with a slower tempo and performed on traditional instruments rather than whistled

However this observation does not in any way detract anything from Nicolai’s work, as it is without doubt one of the Maestro’s most accomplished soundtracks. Performed by full orchestra, it’s compelling and highly listen-able and is more than capable of standing on its own two feet as an entertaining and vibrant collection of themes away from the images that it was intended to enhance.

The score also contains a number of quieter and lighter moments as in track number nine, Nancy, which is a particularly melodic and charming Spanish guitar solo that wouldn’t be out of place on a Spaghetti western soundtrack. Track number seventeen, a jazzy, almost sleazy sounding version of Red Blues, features on the CD twice. Nicolai wrote a number of cues for the score which were utilised as source music, which are completely different from the style of his main score but – surprisingly – don‘t sound at all out of place. So another triumph for Digit Movies, and another great Italian film score saved from obscurity. Highly recommended.

CALIFORNIA/REVERENDO COLT.

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There have been many releases of Italian western scores over the years and there were so many that it got to the point where it was hard to keep up with the near tidal wave of issues, re-issues and re-releases. Which if you are a fan as I am of the genre and its music is a good thing. However, when it gets to the stage when releases are put out that are sub standard in sound quality I think its time to take a step back look again or even stop. The Digit movies release of CALIFORNIA by Italian Maestro Gianni Ferrio is certainly a contender in my opinion for being given an award for the worst sound quality on a soundtrack. I do realise that with a movie as old as this the tapes would probably be a little worse for wear, so my question is WHY release it in this condition, it is I think a little immoral of the producers or re-mastering people isn’t it ? Or maybe not as they obviously did not spend any time on the sound restoration or re mastering. This is a score that is essentially a good example of the Italian western score from the end of the genres popularity because audiences tastes were changing. I have to say it would probably have been better to leave it in the archives rather than release a score that has terrible sound quality as this does, there is distortion, hiss and all sorts of fluctuation in its duration and instead of being a tribute or a reminder of the genius of Ferrio it is an insult to his memory and also in this case an insult to the harmonica playing of Franco de Gemini. The sound is dull, muffled and resembles the sound one got out of an old LP record after it had been played and damaged by a worn stylus, in fact it sounds as if it is a cheap bootleg,(I said sounds like) the type we used to get many years ago, but wait even they sounded better than this. In fact by the time I got to track number 10, I had just about had enough, what should have been a welcome release turned out to be a pile of garbage in the sound department, this was not re-mastered, edited,digitally selected (what is that anyway-ah maybe they line the tracks up and let a digit select them) or restored by Claudio Fuiano as the credits say (its there in bold print people read it and weep) because nothing has been done or if it has then oh my God those tapes were really bad. Restored????(TO BRING BACK OR RE-ESTABLISH A PREVIOUS RIGHT PRACTISE OR SITUATION) that means to be made as new doesn’t it or restored as in made to sound or look as it did when it was new, it was simply plucked off the shelf and thrown onto a cdr then released on a legiimate disc, once again the collectors are the loosers because they have paid out for a compact disc that is almost useless, I do emphasis that the score is very good, inventive and in places very innovative as most Ferrio westerns are but the sound quality lets it down, I suppose what I am saying is don’t waste your dollars on this piece of un-listenable junk. The compact disc also contains another western score by Ferrio, REVERENDO COLT (1970) or at least selections from it, again the quality of the music compositions, orchestrations and the performances on whistle and guitar by Allessandro Alessandroni are good, as are the fluglehorn performances by Oscar Valdambrini. I have to say that REVERENDO COLT does fare a little better in the sound department but not a great deal, again what should be a joy for collectors is marred by inferior sound quality. I have a suggestion, lets wait for the inevitable re-issue with extra tracks and better re-mastering, there is bound to be one along any day now, but dont worry if we miss that one there is always the definitive edition or the super duper thirty extra track edition with gold lining and free marks and spencer vouchers.

Packaging is colourful and eye catching, but the notes are in two short words, A JOKE. Back to the drawing board Digit Movies, better still recall all the copies apologise profusely and give the collectors their cash back. Then gather all the copies up and dump them in a furnace. There is an old saying, there is no such thing as bad publicity, wanna bet………

DEFINITIVE OR EXPANDED, THAT IS THE QUESTION/ONE PEPLUM TO MANY.

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In these days of limited funds for just about anything and everything it is something of a surprise to me that record companies in Italy in particular seem to have embarked on a program of re-releasing soundtracks that have already been re-issued and this has been recently onto compact disc, some of these first generation re-releases being billed by record companies as definitive editions in other words complete editions of these scores, then lo and behold a few months later up pops the same soundtrack but this time it has a bonus track, umm sorry bonus track so surely the definitive edition was not definitive not complete or the full score, oh yes they found a track or maybe took elements of tracks from the already released soundtrack and mixed it in a computer generated cue that is now a bonus track? So this edition I suppose is the definitive, definitive, complete and full score with a bonus cue (running out of room on the front cover to fit this all in guys). Then here we go again up the score pops again, this time with an alternative cue (wow) and no, no please don’t tell me a bonus track ? No!!! oh its got improved sound and it’s a stereo mix. O I see well that makes all the difference, I will have four copies please because I see they are also limited editions. Ok that’s it then, ummm, no its not, ok here it is again released on a budget label but minus all the bonus definitive stuff and with not so good art work and no notes
(a blessing in some cases), in other words the same as the original LP then? (which is probably something we prefer). So does this mean we can start the definitive and complete circus all over again as the soundtrack has just been issued with the original tracks? Probably…………So watch your inbox for news of an expanded, then a definitive, then a definitive expanded complete full edition with alternative cues and bonus tracks and also maybe an edition approved by the composer with cues taken exclusively from their archive and new art work with liner notes that might state that the score was actually composed by someone else.

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Years ago in the days of places such as Soundtrack in the foyer of the arts theatre club, Harlequin records and Dean street records in London’s Soho, alongside the many second hand stores that were dotted around the area which was in the late 1960,s into the seventies, soundtrack collecting was a voyage of discovery. It was exciting and interesting, by interesting I mean that on each outing one would discover new composers, new films and new labels. On one trip to London one could pick up the LP releases of A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN, LANDRAIDERS and CORRI UOMO CORRI for Princely sum of just £3.15p each and whilst selecting your purchases earmark other releases that you might acquire on your next trip back there.

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With Italian releases I personally used to go by the art work on the cover, this was because at that time many of the films had not seen the light of day in the UK, or if they had I was not old enough to go and see them, so I suppose that is what made collecting in those days more exciting, you did not know what the music was like, there was no internet to hear samples on, in fact samples were things such as washing powder and breakfast cereal etc that you got posted through your door. So unless the shop actually played the albums for you, you were in the dark as to what the music sounded like. After a while however one got to know that certain composers were consistent and looked out for Stelvio Cipriani, Bruno Nicolai, Francesco de Masi, Gianni Marchetti, Gianni Ferrio, Nico Fidenco, Carlo Rustichelli and Ennio Morricone of course. One also got to know in which genre each composer seemed more at home in, westerns by Fidenco and Cipriani for example were always a sure fire winner. Crime capers from De Masi hit the spot as did his westerns and anything by Gianni Ferrio, Nicolai and Morricone was pretty much guaranteed. Another name I used to look out for was Alessandroni and his Il Cantori Moderni at least when he was involved one knew that the “Italian film music sound” would be present, then it was labels one looked out for CAM, RCA, ARIETE, BEAT, CAROSELLO, GEMELLI, CINEVOX and later GENERAL MUSIC and others. Amid all this I noticed one name on numerous CAM releases, G.Giacchi, later I found out he was Count Giuseppe Giacchi and he was responsible for sound engineering duties for this then prominent label. I say was because he was dismissed in later years by CAM and to be honest since he departed in my opinion the label went down hill, why ? I am not entirely sure but I think when Giacchi left CAM he took with him any passion or actual knowledge of the music and indeed the composers who wrote it. CAM although a great label during the 1960,s and 1970,s was somewhat removed from the music that their releases contained, by this I mean after a while CAM became not a recording label but a music publishing company that licensed music in their archive to other labels, which ended up in recent years has being sold to the SUGAR music group.

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In the 1990,s their soundtrack encyclopedia series was I thought a stroke of genius but many of the compact discs were simply carbon copies of the original LP releases and were less than 30 mins in duration and full priced so because the label released so many at a time (100) collectors could not afford them and had to be selective, thus the sets ended up being broken up and sold separately, but this did not stop CAM releasing a second 100 titles which were not as interesting as the previous set and these too ended up in bargain bins for less than a pound in many cases, so were CAM out of touch with collectors they obviously did not research or gauge the market correctly before embarking on a somewhat ambitious programme of releases. Which is something I thought they did because of the great scores that they had in their archives, if that was me I would be releasing as many as was possible without flooding the market and maybe at a lower price tag but surely it makes sense to maybe consult with collectors and take into account what they actually wanted, after all they are the people who will be purchasing the releases. This is a practise that could be put to good use nowadays, instead of record companies surging forward with low quality releases from inferior movies why not ask for requests from collectors, surely this would ensure sales? It would also allow labels to compile a kind of top twenty of requested scores and releases these in two’s or three’s.

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BEAT records too, are a much respected label and as with CAM it was always BEAT that seemed to have all the best scores, this label I think have done a sterling job with the preservation of great Italian film music, well up until about two years ago that is when the odd few non descript scores started to be issued, these became more and more common until a few months back I made the decision NO MORE and stopped buying them, I wont make one bit of difference to the sales(maybe because they not selling in the first place). But surely discerning collectors of film music out there must also be a little miffed at the low quality of the BEAT releases in the past say six months (maybe they are but wont say) who knows. Who cares, well I do actually.

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I have always championed Italian film music and always supported the labels etc when ever I can, I never had to give negative reviews because it was not appropriate to do so, but now I find myself listening to things or did until I stopped buying, that were not even worth a fleeting run through, so please BEAT release something that will fire us up and excite us like you used too.

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DIGIT MOVIES, good idea at first great start, but these too have gone the same way as BEAT releasing scores that really collectors don’t want, don’t need and don’t buy, So why release them, again I don’t know, ask them, UMMM I did but they never answered, not even a none of your business e mail.

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I thought that DIGIT MOVIES would continue on its way and get stronger and stronger,,,,,WRONG…….it kind of fizzled out a couple of years back, the label releasing again what they or the people that supposedly are advising them want to see (so a lot of stuff straight to the bargain bin).

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I know that the Italian film music archives are not endless, but there must be better material than this laying around somewhere, unless the rumours that were circulating a few years back about the RCA masters archive being destroyed were not rumours and were true, this is something that was denied aggressively by ROME record companies to the point of getting phone calls saying stop talking about this ( I did as I did not find the idea of sleeping with the fishes appealing, getting an offer I cant refuse was not really what I needed and what is a concrete overcoat anyway).

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Maybe I should leave it here, (I hear the strains of the GODFATHER in the background), but think on collectors, ask questions, e mail the record companies ask for specific titles and consider before you buy all these so called definitive editions, or expanded, super stereo, enhanced and improved issues and be very sceptical of bonus material (it could be a track that you already have but enhanced via a PC). Lets be discerning out there.

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