Tag Archives: rca

HENRY MANCINI.

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In the Aliquippa High School year book of 1942 there was an entry that spoke of one of the students that attended the school, it read:
“ A true music lover, collects records, and has also written a handful of beautiful themes and compositions. He wishes to continue his music studies and eventually to have his own orchestra”. The student that this refers to is the acclaimed but sadly late Henry Mancini who’s melodies, themes and songs have now become part of the musical establishment and are looked upon by many aspiring young composers as classics. Mancini was born in Little Italy, which was a neighbourhood located in Cleveland. The young Mancini was brought up in West Aliquippa near the steel town of Pittsburgh. His parents were immigrants and moved to the United States from the Abruzzo region of Italy. It was Mancini’s Father Quinto who was a steelworker that encouraged his son to become involved in music and also made him have Piccolo lessons from the age of just eight. From the age of twelve Mancini also began to take lessons for piano and after graduating from High School he attended the Juilliard School of Music in New York, these studies were cut short because Mancini was drafted into the army mid way through 1943 where he initially served as an infantryman, later in 1944 he transferred to the Army Band and was also present at the liberation of the Mauthausen Gusen concentration camp which was located in the south of Germany. After being demobbed Mancini returned to his music and became a pianist and arranger for the newly re-formed GLENN MILLER BAND.

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The rest as they say is history, Mancini went onto become one of the worlds most prolific and respected composers of music for film and television. Working on numerous box office hits during the late 1950,s through to the 1970,s. His career for film music composition however began in 1952 when he was signed up by Universal Pictures and contributed music for some of that studios movies that have since attained something of a cult or classic status. IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, TARANTULA, THIS ISLAND EARTH and THE GLENN MILLER STORY. After working for Universal Mancini decided to strike out on his own as an independent composer and soon penned a theme for a television series that endures to this day, PETER GUNN was the first time that the composer worked with filmmaker Blake Edwards and as we all are aware it was not the last time that this creative duo collaborated.

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They worked together for the following thirty five years and in that time Mancini scored thirty movies for the Producer/director, THE PINK PANTHER, THE GREAT RACE, 10, EXPERIMENT IN TERROR,THE PARTY, VICTOR VICTORIA and most notably BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S which included the evergreen classic song MOON RIVER and THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES which also included a haunting song and melancholy theme that began with a faraway sounding horn which for me established straight away a feeling or atmosphere of loneliness, which related to the movies main characters, lyrics of course were courtesy of Mancini’s long time collaborator and friend Johnny Mercer. The composer also collaborated with a number of A listed directors such as HOWARD HAWKS, STANLEY KRAMER, GEORGE ROY HILL, NORMAN JEWISON, MARTIN RITT, VITTORIO DE SICA and STANLEY DONEN to name but a handful.

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Sadly his music for Alfred Hitchcock’s FRENZY in 1972 was rejected by the director and replaced with a soundtrack written by British composer Ron Goodwin. Mancini was as busy working on projects for the small screen and was a master at creating highly infectious opening themes for TV productions establishing the theme in an instant or so it seemed. MR. LUCKY, THE THORN BIRDS, NBC MYSTERY MOVIE, WHATS HAPPENING, TIC TAC DOUGH, NEWHART, REMINGTON STEELE, HOTEL, CADES COUNTY and RIPLEYS BELIEVE IT OR NOT.

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Mancini also became particularly active in the genre of easy listening music and released over 60 albums on the RCA label which included big band sounds, standard instrumentals, Latin flavoured collections, film themes and arrangements of pop songs all of which were etched and infused with that unmistakeable Mancini touch. I remember buying a number of these compilations, LOVE STORY AND OTHER THEMES, for example which included the themes from movies written by Mancini and other composers such as Francis Lai, Stelvio Cipriani and Nino Rota. Although we associate Mancini with light and romantic or melancholy music for film, the composer also wrote his fair share of dramatic and powerful pieces for the cinema, these include CHARADE (which many consider to be a light sounding score, when in fact it is highly dramatic apart from its rather sugary sounding song),

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LIFEFORCE, WAIT UNTILL DARK, THE NIGHT VISITOR, the excellent THE MOLLY MAGUIRES and the equally as riveting THE HAWAIIANS (MASTER OF THE ISLANDS). One of my favourite scores by Henry Mancini is THE GREAT RACE as I think this showcases perfectly the versatility of the composer, he was able to adapt his style and composing skills to almost every situation and scenario and this was shown to the full in THE GREAT RACE.

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The score also produced another great Mancini/Mercer song THE SWEETHEART TREE, which when I saw the film in the cinema even encouraged the audience to sing along with the words displayed on screen, as well as madcap chase music, romantic themes and grand fanfares and regal and luxurious sounding waltzes.

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It’s a pity that a more fuller soundtrack album was not released, the score was initially issued on RCA VICTOR on a long playing record, then years later it received a CD release, and in 2001 as part of Mancini soundtracks collection was paired with THE PARTY another Blake Edwards movie on one compact disc. THE GREAT RACE is also one of my favourite movies, ok yes I know I am easy to please I hear you say, but it just appealed to my sense of humour and even now I find myself giggling when I think of the erroneous but hap- hazard and disaster laden Professor Fate played by Jack Lemmon with his much slapped and kicked assistant Max portrayed brilliantly by Peter Falk. Who’s chaotic slapstick was underlined by the masterful scoring of Henry Mancini as in PUSH THE BUTTON MAX. The Mancini soundtrack collection also included pairings of classics such as HATARI and HIGH TIME, CHARADE and EXPERIMENT IN TERROR and BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S and ARABESQUE.

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Mancini was also regarded as an easy listening artist, which was probably why he was so successful because his music from film crossed over to fans of this genre of music and vice versa, because film music collectors would very often go out and buy the latest Mancini album even if it was not film music related.
His music for SANTA CLAUS THE MOVIE was greeted with mixed feelings, but since its original release has become a must have Mancini score for collectors. Mancini passed away in LA on June 14th 1994 after suffering from pancreatic cancer, his music is played daily on TV radio stations and in homes all around the world and for me he is the ultimate composer, conductor, arranger and entertainer.
He is still sorely missed.

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will celebrate the musical legacy of songwriter Johnny Mercer with a gala centennial tribute featuring film clips of many of his timeless classics, and personal performances and appearances by friends and colleagues, on Thursday, November 5, at 8 p.m. at the AcademyÕs Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. Performances by program host Michael Feinstein and Monica Mancini (daughter of MercerÕs longtime friend, Henry Mancini) will bring some of MercerÕs most beloved songs to life on the AcademyÕs stage. This event is sold-out, but standby tickets may become available. Pictured: Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer at the 1962 (35th) Academy Awards ceremony.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will celebrate the musical legacy of songwriter Johnny Mercer with a gala centennial tribute featuring film clips of many of his timeless classics, and personal performances and appearances by friends and colleagues, on Thursday, November 5, at 8 p.m. at the AcademyÕs Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. Performances by program host Michael Feinstein and Monica Mancini (daughter of MercerÕs longtime friend, Henry Mancini) will bring some of MercerÕs most beloved songs to life on the AcademyÕs stage. This event is sold-out, but standby tickets may become available.
Pictured: Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer at the 1962 (35th) Academy Awards ceremony.

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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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DAY OF ANGER.

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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.

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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.