A company that specializes in everything to do with Italian film music, Hillside is helmed by Lionel Woodman,who himself is a collector of Italian film music. Originally Hillside was called Soundtrack Deletions and was a mail order company that imported many soundtracks from Italy to the UK, in recent years Lionel has begun to release soundtracks on his own label,this is the Hillside series on GDM records, he also has strong links with Hexachord, Roberto Zamori and Alessandro Alessandroni, The label has been particularly active in the release of Italian western scores and has been instrumental in the preservation of many soundtracks to compact disc that would probably have been left to lay in dusty archives for ever.






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Originally released in Italy during the summer of 1969, Sabata did not materialise in UK cinemas until 1971 and when it did finally get a release it was cut by more than 15 minutes. The score for this gimmicky and quirky addition to the spaghetti western genre was the handiwork of Italian maestro Marcello Giombini. At the time of scoring the movie Giombini was relatively unknown and unfortunately was to remain amongst the ranks of so many of the unnoticed and ignored composers that work within the cinema. The score for Sabatahas for many years now been on a number of collectors wish lists to receive a release on CD. The soundtrack was issued originally on vinyl as a single in Italy and Gt. Britain, with an LP being released on a Japanese label in 1972. This pressing also received a re-release a few years later with a slightly different colour scheme, and also an American address on the cover, even though it was actually a Japanese release.
The score is a collection of themes for the films principal characters, and is dominated by the theme for Sabata (Lee Van Cleef), which utilises a jangely electric guitar which is supported by strumming guitar and percussion, which is sprinkled with a Morricone like choir, who every so often half shout half sing,” E Amico Che Saba Ta “. The theme is then taken on by trumpet and embellished with flourishes of harpsichord, guitar and choir. This theme is repeated throughout the work and is heard in varying arrangements and orchestrated for larger orchestra on occasion giving it a more grandiose and dramatic presence. ‘Banjo’ is the theme for one of the storylines other main players, it consists of solo ukulele which fronts the composition and introduces the theme, it then builds into a quite lush and pleasant string orientated theme that could be a love theme rather than a theme for a gunfighter, the composer incorporates a sleigh bell effect into the theme at times, because the character wears bells around his trouser bottoms. The ‘Banjo’ theme is a integral part of the film, as the character which it represents (William Berger) plays his adversaries a tune on his banjo before he proceeds to gun them down, with a cut down rifle that is hidden inside of the banjo. This is yet another example of music playing a major part in the storyline of an Italian western, the integration of the instrument making the score for the film more than just background to the action, but an important and comprehensive part of the movies plot. This practise was exploited more fully in the movies directed by Leone and scored by Morricone, i.e., the chiming watch in For A Few Dollars More and the harmonica in Once Upon A Time In The West. Giombini touches on this in Sabata but maybe not to the degree as exploited by Morricone, although Giombini does manage to achieve the desired effect, creating some interesting moments where film and music work extremely well together. The other main theme in the score is a highly dramatic trumpet led piece written in the style of a slow almost deguello like composition, that is driven by ominous sounding swirling and dramatic strings and slightly subdued percussion that act a foreboding and effective background to the highly charged trumpet solo. The cue ‘Nel Covo Di Stengal’ is a masterful piece of scoring that is synonymous to the style that was employed on the Italian western genre. The remainder of Giombini’s score contains a powdering of saloon piano pieces, which are entertaining and short lived, and a tense and exciting piece which is very similar to ‘Toccata And Fugue’ in its construction and sound.
This release also boasts a vocal version of the Sabata theme, sung in German by, if I am not mistaken, popular vocalist at that time, Peter Boom, the reason that this was included was apparently Sabata was extremely popular in Germany when it was initially released, and the track was discovered in the vaults at GDM. Also included on the disc is the score from The Return Of Sabata, again by Marcello Giombini, this score is slightly more pop orientated, with a title song that is at times not unlike the theme song for another Lee Van Cleef western Captain Apache. Giombini,s efforts on this soundtrack were probably not as inspired or as original as on Sabata but nevertheless The Return Of Sabata does boast an entertaining sounding work by the composer.
The art work for the CD is very eye catching, and utilizes the original poster for Sabata, plus a number of stills are included within the CDs booklet. This is a compact disc that I would recommend to any film music enthusiast, as it evokes memories of an age of film making and film scoring that sadly will never return. Connoisseurs of the western, Italiana, and spaghetti western soundtrack will adore it and return to it many times. Available via Hillside CD Productions in Strood, Rochester Kent.