DAY OF ANGER was released in 1967, it starred the inimitable Lee Van Cleef and when watching the movie it becomes evident to all just why he was the main man when it came to the spaghetti westerns. Van Cleef portrays ageing gunfighter Frank Talby who decides that he must re-establish himself as a force to be reckoned with so guns down a local town Sheriff. The movie also stars another genre stalwart Giuliano Gemma as Scott Mary a downtrodden individual who was friends with the Sheriff, Talby takes Scott Mary under his wing and teaches him how to use a gun, after a while however the protégé becomes a threat and at the movies climax the teacher must face the pupil in a deadly showdown. Directed by Tonino Valerii who worked as an assistant to Sergio Leone and went on to direct THEY CALL ME NOBODY, DAY OF ANGER was certainly one of the genre s more high profile movies and contained a surprisingly savage sounding score by composer Riz Ortolani. The soundtrack was originally released back in the late 1960,s on an RCA long playing record.
Ortolani is a composer that has written his fair share of western scores both for Italian and American productions, but when working within the genre of the spaghetti western the composer never seemed to quite get the chemistry right, many of his scores sounding as if they were just tracked with his music rather than it being specifically scored, but with DAY OF ANGER the composer created a sound that was not just melodic but was also suitably savage, brutal and powerful like many of the works fashioned by his peers such as Morricone, De Masi, Nicolai and Fidenco etc. The soundtrack was re-issued on the RCA label on compact disc in 1991 but this was just a straight recording of the LP release paired with selections from Ortolani’s score for BEYOND THE LAW (another Van Cleef movie). In 2006 Hillside CD productions and GDM released a compact disc that not only contained the Long Playing records content but also a further sixteen cues taken from the actual film score in full stereo. The result is a stunning release that is brimming with numerous themes and overflowing with Ortolani’s exhilarating and infectious soundtrack. The CD sold so well that Hillside had to re-press the soundtrack and re-issued it with the same art work but a different background colour. Certainly a score worth having and one that will keep any fan of Italian western scores entertained for hours on end. I live in hope that Ortolani’s excellent score for THE HUNTING PARTY will one day see the light of day. Now that’s a savage soundtrack.
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.
These were the original notes for Hillside CD productions release of SABATA AND THE RETURN OF SABABTA from June 2001, the notes that appeared in the CD release, were EDITED badly….in Italy, so they did not read well, I hope this original version makes better reading.
SABATA /RETURN OF SABATA. GDM 2024.
Released in 1969 SABATA was the first in a trilogy of sagebrush sagas that were directed by Italian filmmaker Gianfranco Parolini under the alias of Frank Kramer. The movie enjoyed moderated success at the box office both in Italy and outside of its country of origin. Although the movie did not see the light of day until 1971 in the United Kingdom and arguably not in the same league as Sergio Leone’s DOLLAR TRILOGY or even achieving the popularity of the western movies of Corbucci and Sollima, it still nevertheless was an original and entertaining entry to the then growing catalogue of Italian or Spaghetti westerns. Photographed cleverly by Alessandro Mancori and with a hectic, diverse and at times chaotic storyline the movie took us on a veritable rollercoaster ride that involved ingeniously devised bank robberies, frantic chases, double dealing antics between the main protagonists and their allies, plus plots and counterplots that are laced with numerous gunfights and smartly staged showdowns. SABATA and its subsequent sequels managed to capture the attention of cinema goers during the early 1970’s when Spaghetti Western fever was running high, SABATA in-particular was filled with gimmicky little quirks that made the storyline highly implausible but at the same time were massively entertaining.
The film also contained many of the trademarks that we now so readily associate with the genre of the Italian western and also created a few that were to imitated by many other directors who were involved in the making of westerns at Cinecitta. The musical score for SABABTA was the work of Italian Maestro, Marcello Giombini, the composer who was at the time of the films release comparatively unknown outside of his native Italy, provided the movie with a score that was in effect a collection of themes which were written for the central characters of the story. The themes were heard throughout the film either as a character was about to enter the screen or was the centre of attraction on the screen. The composer utilised these musical motifs in a highly original and effective fashion and arranged and orchestrated them in varying ways throughout the proceedings to keep them fresh and vibrant. Because of the composers approach to scoring SABATA it was at times possible not to have to look at the movie to see which of the main characters was on screen as Giombini’s excellent and infectious music would tell you this.
The villain of the piece,(if there are villains and heroes in Italian westerns) Stengal is portrayed convincingly by actor Franco Ressel is often accompanied by a slow and powerful composition that has a slow and deliberate sounding tempo, the trumpet led piece is supported throughout by dramatic and swirling strings that are underlined by percussion. The cue NEL COVO DEL STENGAL is the most prominent use of the composition or at least it is the cue where the composer gives the theme its most fluent and expressive rendition and is heard when SABATA (Lee Van Cleef) and the villain meet for the first time in Stengal’s dining hall. The film itself also integrated the use of musical instruments into the storyline, one of the central characters BANJO (William Berger) is certainly very musical as he is seen performing on a banjo as he walks down the towns main street to face his opponents in a gunfight, as he approaches he plays a jaunty little tune before dropping to the ground to despatch his enemies with a sawn off rifle that is hidden inside the instrument. Then in a different scene he is perfectly at home and proficient playing a church organ. Giombini’s music played an important role as it was not simply a background to the action; it was part of the action and a vital component to the films storyline assisting in its flow and construction. The composer and director were said to have had lengthy discussions about the role of music in the film, these obviously paid off because the score worked wonderfully within the film and also as part of the film and can possibly be compared with Leone and Morricone’s collaboration on the Dollar movies when it comes to the integration of music and the use of musical instruments within a storyline. As in the chiming watch in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and the harmonica in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, the instruments being used in the same way. Banjo for instance wears bells on his trousers which can be heard as he walks, Giombini made use of almost sleigh like bells in the full working of Banjo’s theme which were highly effective. The central theme for the score, which I suppose we can refer to as SABATA’S theme accompanies the films main character, this particular theme is the most prominent musical statement on the score, a rather buoyant sounding guitar piece is employed by the composer that is interspersed by a playful sounding muted trumpet solo and occasional light hearted harpsichord flourishes which are all punctuated by a choir and shouts of “EHI AMICO C’E’ SABATA HAI CHIUSOI”. Percussion carry the composition along at pace and provide the films anti hero with a musical accompaniment that is par excellence. The theme returns at various stages of the story, and creates a musical continuity that the audience can easily identify.
The soundtrack also contained a fair dusting of the obligatory saloon piano compositions, but even these are not quite as annoying as they are in other Italian western scores. The composer also provided some slower more romantic and heartfelt pieces that were performed on solo violin and a dramatic piece for organ that has more than a fleeting resemblance to TOCCATA AND FUGUE, the organ piece is heard during an action scene and also is utilised in a scene where Banjo is in a church playing the organ after Sabata has shot dead one of Stengal’s henchman who has been masquerading as a priest. The soundtrack at the time of the films release was requested by many collectors and was eventually issued in Japan plus united artists records released the main theme and also the track BANJO on a 45rpm single. The success and popularity of this movie was clearly evident and the sequels RETURN OF SABATA and THE BOUNTY HUNTERS were released in 1972 and 1973 respectively, the latter having actor Yul Brynner taking on the persona of Sabata, Brynner adding his own personal touch to role. Ironically the reason Brynner was hired was because Lee Van Cleef was unavailable and was busy filming one of the many sequels that was spawned by THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, taking the part of Chris who of course was originally portrayed by Yul Brynner in the original movie.
This compact disc not only contains the score for SABATA but also has the complete recording of THE RETURN OF SABATA, which is equally as entertaining as its predecessor. Giombini on this occasion taking a lighter and at times a more comedic and at times pop influenced approach and including some outstanding choral work by the distinguished IL CANTORI MODERNI and Alessandro Alessandroni, which included gasps, neo classical performances which were underlined by fuzzy sounding electric guitar and jews harp and an array of percussive elements. Giombini’s flair for originality and experimentation with orchestration is certainly suited to the compulsive, unconventional and quirky characteristics of the genre that was cruelly nick named the Spaghetti Western and here we have two fine examples to savour and treasure thanks to Hillside CD production. The score for SABABTA is a reminder of this genre and also stands as testimony to talents of composer Marcello Giombini.
Hillside are one of the most industrious and well thought of independent soundtrack labels around that concentrate solely on Italian or European film music. They are responsible for some groundbreaking releases and certainly are one of the main labels when it comes to taking risks and issuing long out of print or never before released soundtracks from Italian productions. One of their releases DEATH RIDES A HORSE,(GDM 4130) is actually a re-issue of a former Hillside/GDM release, but its not just a straight repress as Hillside have included half a dozen or so tracks in stereo that were not included on the original release. Yes, it’s a classic Morricone western score from the composers most productive and interesting period, but one has to ask the question does it warrant a re-issue so close to the actual release of the original compact disc ? Well as a Morricone devotee I will have to say yes, but maybe the time period between the two releases should have been a little longer in duration, after all we are at the moment being bombarded with numerous so called special editions or definitive releases of scores that we all own and love dearly, and for the sake of 6 tracks which granted are in stereo, I would have rather another score be issued which has not yet seen the light of day. Apparently the vaults at CAM,BEAT,GDM,CINEVOX etc etc are still relatively full of soundtracks that have never been issued, this to me is a staggering statement taking into account the amount of material that has been released over the past four years or so. So why DEATH RIDES A HORSE again ? I think Cinevox had the right way of thinking when they did a re-issue of a Morricone western score, DUCK YOU SUCKER was in everyway deluxe as it was advertised as, two discs superb packaging etc, that was a worthwhile re-issue, not being in anyway derogatory towards Hillside but maybe DEATH RIDES A HORSE, should have been left a little longer in the pasture? Saying that however I must commend Hillside for the production standards on this disc as the sound is far better than any other disc of this particular score that has been issued and the stereo tracks although repeated on the release in mono are standout affairs. The art work too is eye arresting and the stills inside the cover are of interest, devoid of notes though, maybe the Hillside series would benefit from some form of liner notes. So in short, a classic score from the Maestro, but one that could have waited.
The first time I heard any music from this movie was when I purchased the CAM LP entitled, THE WEST 1, the song THEY CALLED HIM DJANGO by John Balfour was a featured track on the compilation alongside a number of rare Spaghetti musical gems, like THE PRICE OF GOLD by Don Powell. I always wondered why the full score had not been issued and after seeing the movie itself on cable about a year ago I was even more astounded that this one had not been picked up for release by the likes of Digit movies and Hillside. Well my prayers have been answered and here it is in full stereo courtesy of Hillside. This is a great score by Maestro Umiliani, it contains all of those wonderful musical fingerprints that we associate with the Italian western. Racing percussion, electric guitars, strummed Spanish guitars, deep and echoing bass, castanets, soaring trumpet solos, choir, the obligatory saloon track a strong and haunting theme and a catchy title song, but also present is the inimitable stylization of Piero Umiliani. I wont bore you with individual track analysis but will make a selection of a handful that are deserving of special mention, Track 6, LIBERO E SELVAGGIO, is a delight, an easy going work for guitar which is punctuated by bass, the opening leads into a low key almost downbeat version of the scores central theme, but livens up and from nowhere bursts into a great little guitar piece with a riff that is as memorable as Giombini’s quirky SABATA theme and rivals Nicolai,s INDIO BLACK guitar theme. Track 7 is the song from the movie, performed by John Balfour, it is a laid back vocal, but a solid one with lyrics that make sense, which is sometimes not always the case with songs from Italian produced westerns, however this edit is slightly different from the version I heard many years ago, but that recording of the vocal is repeated at the end of the disc. Track 20 CAVALCATA also has similarities to Giombini,s SABATA as it begins in a very similar way to his second version of the theme from that score, but this soon melts away and is overtaken by a crazy sounding pair of trumpets that mirror each other in a jazzy sounding upbeat composition exhilarating stuff. All I can really say about this score is that I know it will be an instant hit with collectors, and also a compact disc that will be given regular plays. It is presented well with striking art work on both front and back covers, plus a nice touch inside with a picture of the CAM West 1 compilation LP cover, and a number of stills from the movie. The sound on this one is just perfect I cannot fault the work that has gone into re-mastering this as it is as clear as crystal. I love the style and the look of the Hillside productions, they always have eye arresting covers and are wonderfully illustrated within, the work carried out is obviously that of a fellow enthusiast and collector, the care and attention on each new release certainly shows. For this we have Claudio Fuiano to thank, as we all know Claudio has more or less devoted his life to being involved with the release of rare and sought after Italian film music, and for this we must say a big thank you. Another highly recommended Hillside production.
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