For this article I am taking you back to 1993, and to a release that I feel was an important one for collectors of Italian film music. It was also a landmark release for a new label as it was their first time in the production market. The CD release was The Adventure Film World of Guido and Maurizio De Angelis and the label was what we now know as Hillside, this release being issued under Soundtrack Deletions, which was Lionel G Woodman and Hexachord records which was the label of Roberto Zamori. It was an important release because the music for Keoma-The Violent Breed which is basically the headline act on the CD had never been released before. And at this time the thirst for spaghetti western soundtracks was still rife, I think it still is but there again has the interest and the popularity of the genre and its music ever faltered, No. When the CD was released I had already experienced a number of the De Angelis brothers soundtracks, the majority of which were very different from what also had come out of Italy as in film music.
They invented their own unique musical sound for all types of movies and the western with the soundtracks for They Still Call Me Trinity, Mannaja, Valdez Horses, Man from the East etc, and also excelled in writing quirky compositions for the comedy films that featured Bud Spencer and Terence Hill, I also had savoured their music in other genres of movies like Afyon Oppio, Torso, Violent Rome, The Violent Professionals, and so many others. I think it is They Still Call Me Trinity that I remember the best, but their Keoma score stuck with me for many a year and I think this was due mainly to the unique vocals on the score.
So, to have the music on CD at last was a gift a treasure and as well as Keoma the CD contained music from three other movies that De Angelis had scored, none of which had been released at that time, I am sure. The remastering of all four soundtracks was the work of Professor Roberto Zamori, a giant in Italian film music and a man whose passion for music drove him to preserve and keep safe the wonderful film score heritage of Italy, never once allowing himself to take priority over the music and also never taking credit for what he was doing. A humble man and an accomplished professor of music Roberto was a driving force in Italy concerning film music,
I say was because we sadly lost him earlier this year. He will be forever missed by all who knew him personally and professionally. His passing has left a void in the music business as there is literally nobody to step into his shoes, although there are a few who think they can, but let us make it quite clear Roberto was a one off, his work being polished and flawless, and cannot in any way be compared with the pretenders of today who give themselves fancy titles for doing nothing.
The CD contained 25 tracks, 9 of which came from Keoma, and included two vocal performances In Front of my Desperation sung by Guy, and the title song Keoma performed by Sybil and Guy, the latter being an alias for Guido De Angelis. The music was by De Angelis with the lyrics penned by Susan Duncan Smith and Cesare De Natale, in the movie the songs and their innovative performances played a large part of the story telling with the performances acting like a Greek tragedy telling the story as it unfolds.
The remainder of the tracks were made up of instrumental versions of both vocals and a saloon sounding cue Piano and Bier, plus a particularly catchy piece Dusty Banjo. Like so many of the composing duo’s scores for westerns Keoma contained a folk like style which they enhanced and bolstered with symphonic flourishes and their own brand of country and western. The movie itself was met with mixed reviews but overall true fans of the genre saw it as a worthy addition to the collection. It is probably one of the most absorbing spaghetti westerns ever produced. Directed by Enzo G Castellari and starred Franco Nero. It is a movie that deals with many issues, civil rights for example, racism, a ranting witch and inter family fighting which pits brother against brother. The director was known to be a fan of Sam Peckinpah and tried to emulate the filmmaker in his own directorial outings as is displayed in the likes of Keoma with the use of slow-motion sequences when gunfights take place.
There are also references to the bible with the hero portrayed as a Christ-like figure crucified on a wheel, and a symbolic conclusion which warns of fascism. So more than just a western but saying that most Italian westerns had an underlying message and referred to particular political leanings or beliefs of the director, which most audiences did not pick up on. The next section of the CD is dedicated to Il Cacciatore Di Squali (Shark Hunter), which opens with a gentle but upbeat vocal performance by Sharks, (which is a pseudonym for Guido and Maurizio). It’s a pleasant opening that take a while to get going but eventually does and is a rewarding listen, with a nice saxophone solo mid-way through, that the composers underline with a more pronounced percussive backing, that builds to create an infectious foot tapping cue. The remainder of the selection is typical sounding De Angelis, pop orientated and up tempo, which in some ways is like their work on the Dogtanian animated series and Around the World with Willy Fog, so light and melodic haunting and easy listening slanted.
There are 6 cues from the score included on the release and these purvey drama, romance, and have at times a Hispanic flavour to them. The movie was helmed by Castellari and released in 1979, again it starred Franco Nero, the movies focus is upon Mike (Nero) a shark hunter a mysterious man whose past nobody knows anything about, not even his woman Juanita. An expert diver named Acapulco arrives who immediately befriends him, but has an ulterior motif because Mike is the only one who knows the position of a plane that sank with a hundred million dollars and soon the hunt is on, but this time it is not sharks that will be hunted. A fairly run of the mill adventure with De Angelis music supporting and underlining the drama.
The next selection is 5 tracks from Arrivano I Vostri, which is a documentary about western movies directed by Isobel Bruno. The score is delightful and has so many themes as well as a great vocal America, performed by Guido and Maurizio.
The last section is 5 tracks from Il Grande Oceano di Captain Cook which was a 1987 movie directed by Gianfranco Bernabai, the music is varied and uplifting, and contains some emotive and poignant melodies, as well as two vocals performed by The Trappers. This is an interesting and also an important release, which is sadly now long out of print and rare indeed. Maybe a re-issue will come along soon, but if it does, please do not forget the sterling work that Roberto Zamori did for this wonderful collection of music from Guido and Maurizio De Angelis. And if it should say remastered by any one else, question it.