Tag Archives: Spaghetti Western

SCREAMING THEMES, SHOOTOUTS AND STARED ARIAS.

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The Italian or spaghetti western has whether we like it or not had a profound influence upon cinema as a whole. Many contemporary movies have taken the key stock attributes of the Spaghetti western genre and converted them to fit the scenarios of thrillers, horror movies and even sci fi and adventure films. It is a genre of film that although not loved by all has a style and a presentation that is recognised instantly even if it is disguised in a movie or TV drama in other genres. The music for the Italian produced western played a major role in the development and the structure of the movies within the genre, and although it was Ennio Morricone who along with film maker Sergio Leone created what we now know as the spaghetti western sound, there were numerous other composers and performers that also contributed to the ongoing fashioning and development of the original sound that Maestro Morricone put in place on the soundtrack of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. I thought it would be an idea to look at the key musical works within the spaghetti western genre. This will not be all Morricone, far from it as I am of the opinion that many of the scores by other composers although inspired by Morricone are at times more inventive, because of the budgets involved and also because of the quality of the music that was produced at times for movies that were less than memorable some examples of soundtracks I will look at are I admit rather lacking and there are also others that one often thinks of as a little ridiculous in their style and overall sound, nevertheless they all contributed to the sound and style of music that we associate with the genre and were examples of film scoring that we had never been heard before, and also a sound that is still today instantly recognisable and in use as in mimicked within many types of films. I am not going to go into lengthy explanations of how the genre came into being, or indeed focus for any time on the plots stars or directors, this is a subject that we have already covered here at MMI, no it’s the soundtracks which were often Good, sometimes Bad and could be Ugly that we will discuss and maybe you as collectors might not have been aware of them and seek them out if they are available.

KEOA

So, I think the most unusual approach to scoring a western might have been undertaken by Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, when they scored KEOMA, a violent western that starred Franco Nero, the movie was overall a good western, but the quirkiness of the score in my opinion was verging upon the unlistenable. The composers decided to make use of vocals on the score, but the vocals were off beat and slightly eccentric. In the hands of another composer the score for KEOMA would have probably taken on a more conventional sound if there is such a thing as a conventional sounding Italian western score. With the De Angelis brothers however, it broke new musical ground, but was not popular with all who heard it. I think it is probably my least favourite Italian western score, simply because of the songs, or at least the style of the performance of the songs. One critic described the vocals as grating, while another likened the female vocals to something like Buffy Saint Marie on acid. The vocal performances were courtesy of Sybil and Guy and the descriptions by the critics of their vocalising is a pretty fair one.

 

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The music for KEOMA was a far cry from De Angelis score for the 1971 movie THEY STILL CALL ME TRINITY, a comedy western which was released some five years previous. KEOMA was savage, angry, and unforgiving, which matched the mood of the central character, but still became off putting when watching the movie, because the audience was trying to catch what the vocalists were saying. The musical output of Guido and Maurizio De Angelis was filled with a quirky sound which was effective within the films they worked on and for most of the time was an entertaining listening experience away from the movie. KEOMA however was for me not a great experience, with the score I think being the last on my list of spaghetti western soundtracks to be played. It is shall we say an acquired taste, and leave it there. It was not just Guido and Maurizio De Angelis that had a strange way of approaching and scoring westerns, Carlo Rustichelli for example, had a habit of including circus music in a number of his western scores, which was also at times a little puzzling. And although a great many of the composers scores were epic in their sound, he produced a handful that if you listened to them without being told they were western scores would assume they were from comedies of movies involving clowns and trapeze acts.

But to something positive in the genre, and to composer Gianni Ferrio, SENTENCE OF DEATH, again not the most conventional of scores even for a spaghetti western, the composer employing jazz influences throughout alongside percussive elements and Mexican sounding guitar solos to create a good score, but a slightly confusing one for any listener who had not seen the movie. Breathy woods accompany steamy sounding saxophone and double bass in sleazy sounding cues, that would not be out of place in any Giallo or cop picture. The song THE LAST GAME performed by Neville Cameron, is odd in itself, the intro spoken rather than sung, with Ferrio underlining and punctuating with a laid back jazz backing, and gradually building to a crescendo of sorts with the vocalist hitting the top notes and solo trumpet combining with organ and percussion to create an interesting combination and sound. One could never accuse Ferrio of being part of what was to be known as the school of Italian film music, he very rarely utilised a whistler, and his style was unique and I think because of this he stood out even more. I have to admit buying the soundtrack to SENTENCE OF DEATH because it had such a cool cover, but after a few listens I began to appreciate the soundtrack and also to engage with the style of the composer, which made me want to hear more of the same. Probably not the best example of the spaghetti western sound, but a worthy addition to any collection.

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Another Spaghetti western score which I think can referred to as a classic example of Italian film scoring is SPARA GRINGO SPARA, The music is by the seasoned composer Sante Maria Romitelli, who provided us with a score that just bursts with energy and vibrant original musical content. It boasts a number of up tempo almost beat/pop tracks which are entertaining, foot tapping stuff. The score also includes a number of tracks that can be categorised as dramatic, symphonic and near operatic, like many scores for westerns which were produced in Italy during the 1960s and 1970s the soundtrack features performances on electric guitar, harpsichord, trumpet and organ, which are either as solo instruments or as a combination of all of these. SPARA GRINGO SPARA is a soundtrack that is made up of themes for the films principal characters.

SPARA

For example TEMA DI STARK (track number 7) is a powerhouse of a cue, it begins with an organ motif which is joined and eventually overwhelmed by strings and brass, this then leads into an electric guitar solo, backed up by organ and vibes, the track develops into a full blown version of the theme for Stark, which is carried along by the string section with organ and guitar making entrances along the way, certainly stirring and inspiring stuff. There are also a handful of compositions on the soundtrack that can be described as suspense cues, not musical or thematic, but nevertheless go to make up an interesting part of this score.

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Released in 1967, BANDIDOS is a good Italian western, it holds one’s attention via its original storyline but like most Italian produced westerns does have its lulls and lows as far as the story is concerned. One of the film’s most appealing attributes has to be the musical score by composer Egisto Macchi who fashioned a haunting and theme laden soundtrack, the stock instrumentation and sounds of the spaghetti western are present throughout, the composer relying upon solo trumpet performances, choral support, female voice, harpsichord, organ, jaws harp, bass guitar, percussion, dramatic strings, electric guitar, harmonica, sporadic trills from the woodwind section, racing snare drums that are punctuated by manic sounding brass stabs and vocals courtesy of Nico Fidenco, who I personally think had an input into the score as well as performing the songs, I say this because there are certain sounds or quirks of orchestration within the soundtrack that are distinctively Fidenco, the use of timpani, woodwind, choir and also soaring trumpet solos are stunning and at times rival the work of Lacarenza and Morricone, the overall combination of instrumentation however have to them a sound and style that just says to me Fidenco. Macchi was born in Grosseto Italy on August 4th 1928 he worked in many areas and genres of music, these included, film scores, classical, avant-garde, musique concrete and he contributed many compositions to music libraries. He began composing in 1953 and was not only a gifted composer but a proficient conductor/arranger plus he played violin and piano. After creating and founding The Musical Theatre of Rome with Domenico Guaccero, Macchi established Studio R7 in 1967, which was an experimental electronic music laboratory. In the same year the composer joined Gruppo di improvvisazione di nuova consonantal, which was an avant-garde improvisation group to which he recruited composer Ennio Morricone who was a long-time friend of his. During his career the composer worked on approx: 20 motion pictures, he passed away on August 8th 1992 aged 64.

 

RINGO TEX

It is unbelievable just how many Spaghetti western scores have been released in recent years thanks to labels such as HILLSIDE,GDM,DIGIT MOVIES etc etc. Hillside seem to have slowed in their release programme but I am sure that Mr Woodman and Professor Roberto Zamori will be back with something that is very special, meanwhile lets look back to 2008 when GDM/Hillside released the Nico Fidenco soundtrack for the 1966 production RINGO IL TEXANO or THE TEXICAN as it was re-titled for releases outside of Italy. The movie was a fair example of the Euro western because it was filmed in Spain and I suppose really was a combination of the style of the Italian or Euro western and also the more traditional Hollywood or American made B western movie.
Director Lesley Selendar an American was credited as being one of the most prolific western feature makers with 107 titles accredited to his name, he worked on TV shows also including the popular LARAMIE (43 Episodes), THE TALL MAN and DANIEL BOONE and feature films such as ARIZONA BUSHWHAKERS, FORT UTAH, THE LONE RANGER AND THE CITY OF GOLD and TOMAHAWK TRAIL to name but a few. The star of the movie Audie Murphy was I must admit a little out of place as the central character Jess Carlin, the actor seeming awkward in certain scenes but saying this Murphy was a veteran of Hollywood sage brush tales and was in the end an asset to the production attracting many of his fans to the movie. The villain of the piece Luke Starr was played by another American actor Broderick Crawford with Diana Lorys as Kit o Neal the love interest and two genre favourites Aldo Sambrell and Antonio Casas in tow. Murphy’s character has decided to hang up his guns and settle down in Mexico but after receiving news that his Brother who is a newspaper owner has been murdered he decides its time to strap his pistols back on and head back into the States to find the killer. The soundtrack was originally released on the RCA label on a long playing record, paired with another score by composer Nico Fidenco IN THE SHADOW OF THE COLT which itself was given a full score release in 2007 by GDM. Fidenco was a composer that simply shone when scoring westerns, his style just seemed to lend itself to these quirky and entertaining pieces of cinema. The composer very often providing a soundtrack that combined dramatic elements with catchy pop orientated material, he would create haunting and stirring themes that never failed to grab the attention of the watching audience and thus also attracting the attention of film music connoisseurs at the same time. How the collaboration between the director and composer came about I am not entirely sure, but I am glad it happened.

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Fidenco created an upbeat and tuneful soundtrack for the movie and as per usual enlisted the assistance of Alessandroni and his excellent Il Cantori Moderni as well as providing the vocals himself for the film’s title song. Fidenco wrote a haunting opening theme for the film which is heard as a vocal and later in the proceedings is given quite a meaty sounding orchestral work out complete with bold sounding horns, brass flourishes and upbeat percussion that are all brought together by choir and strings. The CD contains 11 tracks which are taken from the original LP release which are stereo mixes. Then there are a further 21 cues taken from the actual film score which are in mono. This for me ranks alongside other Fidenco scores such as ONE MORE FOR HELL, TO THE LAST DROP OF BLOOD, LO VOGLIO MORTE and JOHN IL BASTARDO all of which are excellent examples of scoring.

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Talking of excellent examples of Italian western scores how about a classic one. Originally released in 1967 on a CAM LP record which also included tracks on the B side from THE BELLE STARR STORY with music by Charles Dumont, this Cipriani spaghetti western score has to be one of the most popular and well known non-Morricone western scores from the 1960s. The theme was covered by numerous artists worldwide including the likes of LeRoy Holmes, Geoff Love and Henry Mancini – the latter held Cipriani’s composition in high esteem and was a composer who Cipriani said was an inspiration to him. A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN was also one of the first soundtracks to be re-issued by CAM as part of their Soundtrack Encyclopaedia series (CSE 102). But sadly, the recording was slightly flawed and was of a very short running duration; the original CD release running for just 23 mins 40 seconds. CAM did re-issue the score again with a few extra tracks and included it on a disc with tracks from two other westerns scored by Cipriani, THE BOUNTY KILLER and NEVADA. So it has been available before but not in such a complete version. This latest edition is, as far as we are aware, the entire score which was originally a project that CAM were contemplating at the time of the film’s release and is made up of tracks from a mock-up LP as well as cues from the film’s soundtrack. It contains 11 previously released cues and a further 11 released for the first time, billed as bonus tracks – although, in saying this, the central theme from the score is repeated a few times but in differing arrangements. The sound achieved by Hillside/GDM is amazing and all tracks are in full stereo apart from track 22, which is a mono mix of an alternate version of the central theme. Presentation is also very well done, with the original LP cover being utilized and a number of attractive and colourful stills and publicity posters from the film decorating the disc booklet. The score by Cipriani is, in every sense of the word, a “CLASSIC” and it is this soundtrack along with examples from the same period by Ennio Morricone, Gianni Ferrio, Bruno Nicolai, Francesco De Masi and Nico Fidenco that set the standard and also created the precedence and style that was to become the iconic spaghetti western “SOUND”.

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The CD opens with the now familiar and dare I say famous theme, “Un Uomo un Cavallo una Pistola”. Spanish guitar punctuated by subdued bass electric guitar open the cue and usher in shrill but melodic woodwind, establishing the main body of the theme. Strident, forceful strings add momentum and increase the composition’s tempi. The strings are then joined by racing snares, bells and eventually an electric guitar which takes on the role established by the woods and continues to pick out Cipriani’s infectious theme. Trumpet is added to create a wonderful rich and exuberant sound depicting the man and the horse riding at speed. The tempo then alters drastically as the composer introduces a slower and more romantic arrangement of the central theme. Woodwind again with low brass and strings are combined with a laid-back percussion supporting them. Again, the tempi changes and becomes fast paced but only very briefly, bringing the cue to its conclusion as it fades.
Track 2, “Una Canzone per la Luna”, is the secondary theme for the score, and in many ways evokes memories of Morricone’s “Goodbye Colonel” cue from A FEW DOLLARS MORE. Subdued percussion, bells and martial timpani are interspersed with electric bass and piano creating an almost bolero sound, which has the central phrasing of the theme performed by woodwind and also at times passed to solo trumpet which is slow and mournful in its overall sound, supported by sparse use of electric organ. Track 3, “Faccia a Terra”, is one of the highlights of the score; driving percussion, punctuated by whip sounds act as background to a striking and memorable trumpet solo which itself is embellished by the use of a rasping voice which creates a stunning and highly original effect. I am also glad to say that, on this version of the score, the re-mastering has been done wonderfully because on the original CD release there was a slight imperfection that was very noticeable on this particular track, which has now been remedied. Overall, this soundtrack is a rewarding listen and one of the Italian western genres greatest non-Morricone scores.

 

Black Killer
Black Killer

The first Italian western score I ever heard by composer Daniele Patucchi was DEAF SMITH AND JOHNNY EARS or LOS AMIGOS as it was called in Italy. I remember thinking that the music was not pure Spaghetti in its style and overall sound but was a fusion of that type of scoring together with a more conventional approach which harkened back to the days of the traditional western according to Hollywood. BLACK KILLER was released in 1971, two years before LOS AMIGOS and although the master tapes of the score were the property of CAM Dischi in Rome, the soundtrack never got a release on LP records at the time of the film’s release – which is surprising because the composer’s DEAF SMITH AND JOHNNY EARS did and was even issued in the UK on EMI records. This had to be something to do with Anthony Quinn and Franco Nero being in the aforementioned movie and BLACK KILLER starring Klaus Kinski who was little known in the UK at that time.

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Patucchi’s score for BLACK KILLER was a little more spaghetti sounding than LOS AMIGOS as it contained a number of references to the then already established sound of the Italian produced western; the composer utilizing a rasping electronic sound and instrumentation which clearly had connections with scores by other composers from the genre, i.e. banjo played in unison with a saloon type piano, fiddle (which is reminiscent of Morricone’s FIVE MAN ARMY), Spanish guitar solos and a fairly light and up-tempo central theme which again is reminiscent of the style employed by Morricone in films such as BANDA J AND S.

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There are several darker and sinister, dramatic interludes within the score, where Patucchi calls upon electric bass guitar, percussion and tense sounding woods to create a taught and edgy atmosphere. Plus, we hear cues that are variations on the core theme; the composer orchestrating and arranging these so that they remain fresh and vibrant on each outing. Harpsichord, guitar and Celeste are utilised throughout to create some nice low-key moments which can be considered romantic in their overall sound. This is demonstrated in track seven, which includes all of the instrumentation I have already mentioned plus lush strings. In track nine, percussion together with bass guitar, underlined with woodwind provide a tense mood; the tension building further with the introduction of electric guitar stabs and noises which – whilst not exactly musical – add much to the composition. A score that grows on you and one that is sadly overlooked.

 

Quella sporca storia nel west
Quella sporca storia nel west

Next we have a gem of a score from the genre of the Spaghetti western. QUELLA SPORCA STORIA NEL WEST, features a great title song performed by Maurizio Graf, the artistry of Alessandro Alessandroni as a choral director co-composer and guitarist, the distinct sound of il Cantori Moderni, the unmistakable talent of Franco D Gemini and of course the originality and the musical prowess of Maestro Francesco De Masi. Released in 1968 this is one of the many spaghetti westerns which were popular with audiences around the world during the 1960s through to the mid to late 1980s. Francesco De Masi had a unique style and sound when working on any type of movie but for me it was the western genre in particular where the composer excelled. His scores for westerns such as ARIZONA COLT, 7 DOLLARI SUL ROSSO, KILL THEM ALL AND COME BACK ALONE, and SARTANA NON PERDONA, to name but a few, all contain musical elements which are essentially akin to the Italian western sound but alongside them and fused within them have a style that evokes the Hollywood produced western scores such as HIGH NOON, THE BRAVADOS, THE TIN STAR etc., etc. De Masi not only utilized the typical expansive Americana sound of the western as envisaged by composers such as Tiomkin, Newman and Bernstein but he also stamped upon each project the inimitable sound of the Spaghetti western and further embellished this sound with a style and inventiveness that was all his own. The CD opens with “Find a Man” (Tema di Johnny) performed by vocalist Maurizio Graf. This performer’s distinct vocalising was utilized by many composers in Italy and he worked on numerous western soundtracks.

 

Maybe I am being a little over the top here, when I say I think that this is possibly the best song written for an Italian western, as it not only has great lyrics by Audrey Stanton and A. Alessandroni and an outstanding performance by Graf, but it also contains a fantastic jangling guitar riff courtesy of Alessandroni and a melodic and infectious musical backing consisting of organ, percussion, piano and lavish sounding strings;

“Find a Man Who Never Killed Not Even For the Love of Gold,
Find a Man Who Never Lied and Offer Him Your Soul,
Find a Man Who Never Stole From Any Man a Woman’s Love,
Find a Man Who Never Lied and Never Let Him Go”.

How can this not be a winning formula for a western song.
More than any other De Masi western score this includes some wonderful choral work which can be heard in cues such as “In Memoria” (track 3) and “Johnny Sulla Croce (track 16). It’s also a score that has a number of standout tracks – the composer creating secondary themes which because of their strength and quality could easily act as main titles for other assignments. For example, track 11 “Il Villaggio di Santana” is a great action piece containing driving percussion, uplifting and forthright Mexican flavoured strings, strumming guitars, proud sounding horns, whips and xylophone. All of these elements combine to create something anthem like and stirring in its overall sound. The composer fuses both Italian styles with that of a more conventional western sound and the end result is not only original but pleasing and rewarding for the listener. The soundtrack was issued previously on a CAM LP back in 1968. CAM re-issued the score in 1995 paired it with 7 DOLLARI SUL ROSSO but there were no extra cues included and it was a re-issue of the LP tracks. This edition contains all of those tracks 1-19 on the disc, plus we are treated to a further 8 cues, which are alternate takes on a handful of the previous tracks. Sound quality is outstanding, and the presentation is handled nicely with many stills from the movie and informative notes by Filippo De Masi the composer’s son. This was the seventh CD to be issued by BEAT records in the Francesco de Masi western score series.

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The Italian made western was a popular genre with cinema goers, and in the UK I know that many examples of these movies were often shown as B features alongside movies that were produced in the UK and the U.S. THE BIG GUNDOWN for example was the support feature to THE WRECKING CREW and A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL was shown as the second feature to a variety of main programmes. In the 1970,s both A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE were shown on the same programme, and DEATH RIDES A HORSE was shown prior to the main feature in many picture houses, cinema audiences whether they liked it or not were always able to get an ample fix of spaghetti.

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In 1969, a movie that was shown as a B feature was GOLD OF THE BRAVADOS, a movie which had a limited distribution and also a very short run at cinemas, the production was scored by Luis Bacalov. For some reason this is a soundtrack that is rarely spoken of, I don’t understand why as I count it as one of the composers better scores for the western genre as in it does not re-use any themes from the composers other soundtracks, many collectors had in fact encountered music from the movie without knowing it on Bacalov’s compilation album PAESAGGI which had been released on General music in 1972, the compilation featuring the central theme form the score, the actual soundtrack for GOLD OF THE BRAVADOS did not receive a release until 1995, when it was featured alongside another Bacalov western score for the comedy LA PIU’ GRANDE RAPINA DEL WEST, on a GDM compact disc, this was a very limited edition that had been produced by Hillside CD production and distributed by GDM with each release individually numbered.

BRAVADOS GOLD

The track that was a familiar one to collectors was ADIOS TIERRA MIA, which opens the score it is a typical sounding Bacalov composition, purveyed wonderfully by woods, whistler, solo trumpet, strings and harpsichord, it is in my opinion one of the composers most accomplished themes for a western at least, and rivals the grandeur and the melodic content of IL GRANDE DUELLO (1972). It is certainly a case of the music being far superior to the film it was written for in the case of GOLD OF THE BRAVADOS, the score has an almost epic sound at times and oozes Hispanic and South American colours, which is something that Bacalov also achieved on his soundtrack for A MAN CALLED NOON.

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One of the most entertaining Spaghetti western scores in my opinion is Marcello Giombini’s SABATA which was released in 1969, the soundtrack is filled with vibrant themes and has to it an abundance of energy that underlines the action and also acts as musical punchlines to many of the scenarios in the movie. The score is essentially made up of a handful of principal themes, some of which are integral to the films storyline and are identifiable with the films central characters, the most prominent and noticeable being the theme for BANJO, the composer taking the opportunity to interweave his theme for the character into key scenes which he is featured in, thus the audience become accustomed to hearing the theme either on the score or in the context of a scene where the character Banjo is playing the instrument.

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The soundtrack also featured the bouncy and infectious theme for SABATA and themes for the villains. It is in a word STUNNING and also a wonderful and masterful piece of scoring by Giombini. The soundtrack LP was issued in the 1970’s on a Japanese import, which was on the U.A. label, there was also a single released in the UK and Italy which featured SABATA theme on the A side and BANJO on the B side. Again, released on U.A. records.

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The soundtrack was issued onto CD by Hillside CD productions and GDM in 2001 paired with RETURN OF SABATA, again scored by Giombini in 1971, the sequel was not such an entertaining movie and the score too lacked the stature and inventiveness of the original, but it was a bonus to have both scores on one Compact Disc. The soundtracks have been re-issued separately onto compact disc in recent years, but my opinion is that the original GDM/Hillside release is still the one to have.

 

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Staying with the SABATA series, and to the second movie in the trilogy, ADIOS SABATA, THE BOUNTY HUNTERS or INDIO BLACK. Was released in 1970, and because Lee Van Cleef was not available to take on the role he was substituted with Yul Brynner who’s interpretation of the SABATA character was the opposite of Van Cleef. The movie although enjoyable was mainly played for laughs and gimmicky stunts which worked well or in most cases fell a little flat. The score was by Bruno Nicolai, who many had heard of via his associating with Ennio Morricone when he acted as the composer’s musical director on numerous scores. Nicolai had written the music for a number of westerns, but ADIOS SABATA is one of his best, although at times it does verge upon being a direct imitation of the work of Morricone, with strange noises, grunts, chants and whistles being utilised throughout. The score was released for the first time onto compact disc by Hillside cd production in 2001, the release being distributed by GDM. Again, the score received a re-issue a few years later, but again like the other SABATA scores the Hillside/GDM release has the edge over the others.

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Finally, I going to head for an unreleased score, well when I say unreleased it has not received an expanded Compact disc release, it was however released onto LP by CAM records and also on a single on the same label and is a title I mentioned earlier in this article. THE BELLE STARR STORY was a double soundtrack release it being the A side to A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN, the film which was released in 1968, was met with mixed reactions, but all in all was a good movie and probably the pre-cursor for films such as HANNIE CAULDER.

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The score is by French composer Charles Dumont, the soundtrack LP opens with a fanfare of sorts that introduces a vocal entitled NO TIME FOR LOVE, which is something the main character of the movie identifies with. The vocal is performed by the movies star Elsa Martinelli, who delivers a suitably sultry and sensual vocal. Dumont penned the music for the song as well as the score and the lyrics were provided by Andre Salvat and Norman Newell. The music for the song is sparse whilst the vocals are being performed, and comprises of woods, bass guitar and a subtle Spanish guitar, until the vocal or first part of it at least comes to an end, and then Dumont enters the fray with a galloping and quick paced piece that is performed by timpani, percussion and horns with strings supporting. This comes to an abrupt end as the vocal is again re-introduced this time with a more elaborate support of strings giving it a more romantic feel and atmosphere. Track two, is an instrumental version of the song and the composer employs dramatic strings to open the cue, but these are then tailed off and amore lush and sumptuous rendition of the song is performed by soaring strings which themselves fade and lead into a delicate and quiet guitar solo. Track three is WESTERN CASINO, which is self-explanatory, and this is where the saloon piano piece comes into the work, Dumont providing a jaunty, honky-tonk saloon sound via the at times off kilter piano that is backed and punctuated by strummed banjo. THRILLING PER UNA STELLA is the title of track number four, Dumont, switching to a more dramatic musical style, with electric bass, percussion, brass and bongos, combining to create a taught and apprehensive sound, that is quite reminiscent of Cipriani’s A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN, the track builds with the composer adding strings that seem to envelope and carry the remainder of the instrumentation, bringing the track to a close. Track five, is a guitar version of the central theme and is entitled BELLE STARR GUITAR. Which is brief but effective, the final track is BELLE STARR, in which Dumont creates a suitably western sounding riding cue, with brass, strumming guitars, electric bass punctuations and rumbling percussion. A short but interesting and entertaining soundtrack, that sadly was at the time of its release ignored by many.

THE HATEFUL EIGHT.

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Like so many of the more substantial budget movies these days THE HATEFUL EIGHT received its fair share of publicity and hype, the various medias being fed teasers and tasters by the press office for the production who themselves were going out of their way to alert the cinema going public to just how good the movie is, or at least in their opinion how good it is. THE HATEFUL EIGHT is the second western to be directed by the somewhat controversial and off beat filmmaker Quentin Tarantino (the first being DJANGO UNCHAINED) of course film music collectors are aware of the normal soundtrack process on a Tarantino movie, it rarely has what is referred to an original score. Many of the cues being selected by Tarantino himself and normally taken from a collection of Italian soundtracks or including popular songs which at times bare little or no association with the scenes they underlined and supported (that’s a personal opinion, by the way) THE HATEFUL EIGHT however is something of a departure for the director at least within the area of music. At long last Tarantino handed the musical reins for his production to composer Ennio Morricone who’s music had in the past featured on many Tarantino movies. As soon as Morricone was announced as the composer for the score the hype machine went into overdrive, some articles saying it was his first Spaghetti western score since Sergio Leones THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, well actually not true, I think I am right when I say OCCHIO ALLA PENA directed by Michel Lupo was his last Spaghetti or European western score which was during the early 1970’s, plus THE HATEFUL EIGHT is not a spaghetti western it’s a Hollywood western, yes ok it maybe influenced by Italian westerns but its certainly not Leone. So it’s a Hollywood western that has input from the spaghetti western genre or at least images and scenes that Tarantino probably recalled from watching spaghetti westerns and then given these his own take. The trailers of THE HATEFUL EIGHT for me personally just shout GRAND SILENCE, with snow covered landscapes and there almost serene and clinical clean appearance, Tarantino‘s snow covered sets however do not stay that way with the pure snow being spattered by the crimson of blood from the many violent encounters within his storyline, these being reflected in the title of one of the compositions from the score SANGUE E NEVE. Morricone himself was said to have stated that he was surprised at the amount of violence within the movie, but its Tarantino!!! DUSK TO DAWN, RESEVOIR DOGS, KILL BILL etc etc etc. Tarantino without violence, controversy, foul language or just over the top everything, I don’t think so somehow.

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The score itself is certainly Morricone through and through, with elements of the Maestro’s unused music for THE THING and THE EXCORSIST ll THE HERETIC soundtracks being utilised within it, in fact I would go as far as to say that his music for THE THING acts as a foundation and inspiration for much of the original material that the composer has provided for the movie, is this a bad thing? Well not necessarily as it actually works, the low woodwind i.e. Oboe, acting as an ominous background that creates a dark and near guttural sound which conjures up an atmosphere and feeling of uneasiness. Which is something that I always seem to feel as I watch any Tarantino movie, not knowing what is going to happen or indeed as to what degree of violence will be occurring. Is it uneasiness or maybe its anticipation and excitement? In some ways there are a number of similarities between the central theme for THE HATEFUL 8 and Morricone’s underlying or background composition on the secondary theme for the TV movie/series, NOSTROMO the low woodwind being the most prominent feature and also an element that becomes influential upon the entire score, the use of woodwind within the score is also akin to the style employed by composer Woljeich Kilar in his DRACULA score. I would like to say that this is a wonderfully theme laden Spaghetti score or at least a soundtrack that has nuances and hints of past Morricone sagebrush saga works, however it is a somewhat one theme low key affair that in all honesty sounds more like a horror score than a western, every cue includes or has at its core the central theme so it is rather repetitive and by the end of the compact disc does tend to become tiring and monotonous. Although the composer does vary his approach to the theme slightly in the track, SEI CAVALLI which is a highly dramatic piece for percussion and brass with woodwind punctuating these and almost hissing strings creating a tense and powerful atmosphere. Maybe its just me but I was rather annoyed by the dialogue that was included, this is a step back in time I think returning to the days when soundtrack LP,s included dialogue excerpts as in ZORBA THE GREEK, CROMWELL and others when there was not enough music available to fill an album. For me the dialogue interrupts the flow of Morricone’s score, plus we have the inclusion of a few songs, which I have to admit I skipped over after the initial listen plus Tarantino’s use of the N***** word so freely is slightly disconcerting.

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The track LA LETTRE DI LINCOLN is in my opinion one of the more tuneful contributions to the score, Morricone utilising a martial sounding trumpet solo which echoes the composers work on THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY in the cue THE CARRIAGE OF SPIRITS. The opening theme L’ULTIMA DILIGENZA DI RED ROCK is a slow burner, starting quietly and gradually building with woodwind and strings combining to create a sense of real fear and apprehension, brass joins the proceedings as does a male choral shout that intersperses the brass and string flourishes, it is a dramatic and also a very powerful piece that can only be described as Classic Morricone, and if you listen very closely and in your mind bring the tempo up there it is the CITTA VIOLENTA theme. The aforementioned SANGUE E NEVE too is a slightly less stress filled cue at the offset, with a chiming motif similar to FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, being underlined by those instantly recognisable sliding strings of Morricone, which together create an almost romantic sound until the string section take hold of the cue with brass in tow and begin to elevate the tension once again. This is in no way a negative review, it is just an honest one and one based upon my personal observations. I have been collection Ennio Morricone since 1967 and I am not boasting when I say I must have every Morricone soundtrack that has been released (and a few that have not), so like many other collectors out there I notice music from other scores or maybe different arrangements of tracks from other scores when he recycles them. THE HATEFUL 8, is a score I am glad he created because at the age of nearly 90 it displays this magnificent music smiths ability and talent when it comes to writing film music.

CONTINUAVANO A CHIAMARLO TRINITA, (THEY STILL CALL ME TRINITY).

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The Italian western was and still is a popular genre of film, my own personal theory of the Italian westerns success is that the movies worked on more than one level, by this I mean they entertained via their quirky and gimmicky plots and also attracted because of their inventive story lines and scenarios that unfolded within each individual movie. Then there was the appeal of the actors involved, i.e. Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach, Franco Nero, Bud Spencer and Terence Hill plus there were some appearances by actors which were surprising in roles that one would never have thought of them undertaking and of course bit parts taken on by Hollywood actors who had been associated with American film makers versions of westerns. Then we have the appearance of the movies the camera shots and angles etc etc. But of course one of the most prominent and popular components associated with the Spaghetti Western was the musical score or soundtracks. These were as original, quirky and inventive as the movies that they were composed for and in fact many of these soundtracks have outlived and outshone the movies that they were intended to support and enhance. There were many composers associated with the Italian western genre, but the most prominent of course has to be Ennio Morricone, this gifted and versatile composer who came from the Italian popular music scene and worked originally as an arranger is credited with inventing the SOUND that is the Italian western, mainly because of his scores for the Italian director Sergio Leone, but we have to look at the bigger picture with the Spaghetti score, and I am of the opinion that “yes” Morricone was responsible for creating the benchmark on which all subsequent works for the genre took their lead from, but we have to acknowledge that other composers who worked within the genre should be credited for at times building on this Morricone musical blue print and expanding it and on occasion even improving on it, and although this does not necessarily apply to the composing duo of Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, this partnership of sibling music smith’s were responsible for assisting in the establishment of what is now referred to as THE ITALIAN WESTERN SOUND. THEY STILL CALL ME TRINITY (1971) is probably of the best examples of a western score from the Brothers De Angelis, and surprisingly enough it was their very first film score, it contains so many infectious themes and compositions, plus it has a great opening theme song, TRINITY STAND TALL and an even more attractive second vocal cue within the score in the form of REMEMBER. Guido and Maurizio De Angelis have what I call a sound that I suppose appeals to an acquired taste, a little bit like Marmite you either love it or loath it.

Their style which is highly original can I suppose be described as a fusion of symphonic and  a pop orientated folksy sound with a lazy country vibe giving it a slightly intimate, laid back and warm atmosphere. It’s a haunting and interesting concoction which at times can be bluesy but also has a grand and imposing resonance, the combination of these very different styles actually works in 99 percent of cases, although there are a few scores by the Brothers where one finds yourself thinking “WHY”. This I think can be applied to the songs in KEOMA, because although the actual music works well, the songs at times distract the audience from what is happening on screen, but this I think is because of the performance of them rather than the actual composition. I was pleased when Digit Movies announced the release of  THEY STILL CALL ME TRINITY on compact disc for the first time, as I have hinted this is one of the better scores by De Angelis, and ranks alongside numerous other Italian western scores as being a classic work from the genre. The music was issued at the time of the films release on a long playing record on RCA, but like so many releases at this time it was only a representation of the score containing a selection of tracks from the soundtrack a number of cues were missing from the recording simply because they would not fit onto one album, this has at last been rectified with this outstanding edition of the score, which is not only expanded and sequenced so the music plays as it runs in the movie, but it also has wonderful clear sound quality and great art work, the cover being the original art from the album release. Lovingly restored and released by those lovely people at Digit movies who are more than just another soundtrack label, they are passionate about their releases and this is reflected in the quality and also the titles that they choose to release., this must be one of the best releases of the year for fans of the genre and aficionados of the music from that genre. The CD opens with a previously unreleased cue, that although is short lived (0:30 secs) conjures up an atmosphere of tension, performed by strings it is basically one note that is held for half a minute, this leads nicely into track number two which is the theme song for the movie TRINITY STAND TALL. “Again we must travel onto nowhere, even when we were kids we stood alone, all the things that we tried just never mattered, they all shattered, so we packed up and moved on“. are the now familiar opening lines of this infectious vocal, which is performed by Gene Roman, supported by guitar, subdued percussion, pleasant and melodic sounding strings and the distinctive 4+4 Coro of Nora Orlandi.

I think along with FIND A MAN from Quella Sporca Storia Nell West, DJANGO and RUN MAN RUN from The Big Gundown, this vocal has stood the test of time and is probably one of the iconic vocal performances from the western all’Italiana genre (that’s a personal opinion). Track number three, TRINITY E BAMBINO A SAN JOSE, is another short but affecting cue, soft guitar picks out the TRINITY STAND TALL theme, giving it a brief but pleasant variation. Track number four, ASSALTO ALLA DILIGENZA, is the first time we hear guitar and harmonica combined on the score, again a short cue at just 33 secs it is over far too soon not really being given adequate time to develop, but the combination of that almost bluesy sounding harmonica and bluegrass influenced guitar is a real treat. Track number five, RANCH DI PARKER, is performed by low key guitar that is laid back and easy on the ear. Track number six, TRINITY E BAMBINO A SAN JOSE is an expanded version of track number three, the composing duo adding piano, which reminded me of the style employed Roy Budd in movies such as SOLDIER BLUE etc, they add to this smooth underlying string layers that introduce us to the secondary central theme from the score which is an instrumental version of the song REMEMBER which makes a brief appearance performed on subtle woods supported by solo guitar, but this is soon upstaged by a jaunty sounding guitar solo, that takes the cue to its conclusion. Tracks seven and also eight are entitled TRINITY E BAMBINO IN CITTA, again we are treated to yet another theme to represent the two central characters of the movie, brass is on this occasion added to the mix with slightly upbeat percussion and little choral nuances backed by harmonica and guitar with elusive and easy going flute work. Both tracks give this theme a work out but each track is different the composers employing different instrumentation to a degree in track number eight, choir being omitted in favour of guitar and brass being given a more prominent part to play, piano which has a jazz sound to it is also utilised again evoking memories of Roy Budd, and it is the piano supported by lightly played guitar and brass punctuation that becomes the main component of the cue as it progresses. The theme is also utilised in track number nine, TRINITY E BAMBINO AL RISTORANTE, which if my memory serves me correctly is an hilarious scene from the movie. Track number ten, is an up-tempo variation of the TRINITY STAND TALL theme, performed on just guitar which again is just a fleeting piece at 40 seconds. The compact disc contains a number of cues which are at first given a short work out but later are expanded upon and fleshed out by the composers.

One of the highlights of the score for me is track number twelve IL CARRO AL FIUME, which was track number two on the original album, it begins with a lazy bluesy sounding guitar which is supported by strumming from a second guitar, the lead guitar performs a version of the TRINITY STAND TALL theme, which segues into a beautiful rendition of the theme performed on strings which act as support to a faraway sounding horn and choral flourishes that together conjure up visions of a vastness of the old west. Track number thirteen is a fuller arrangement of REMEMBER again instrumental, performed by a small string section that is embellished by guitar and plaintive sounding woods. The vocal REMEMBER does not appear in the running order until track number, nineteen, but this is shortened version of the song, the original and unedited version of the vocal making an appearance at the end of the disc, but its worth waiting for. Performed by Gene Roman and also an un-credited female vocalist, the composition and lyrics are mesmerizing. “ I want to loose myself and free my mind again as fading leaves fall to the ground,(remember in lonely times the love we had found). Young woman tell me if you can what makes you fight to tame this wonder-lust in me, to calm a sea even when you know the ships could never sail. Though it may be right it somehow it just don’t work though it may be right”. So not your typical spaghetti western lyrics but still stunning, with effective support from, strings, guitar and woods, giving it a tinge of melancholy and adding a highly emotive dimension to it. This is a brilliant score, an iconic work within a collection of scores from a genre that was and still is original, popular and at times a little manic. It contains excellent solo performances on guitar, harmonica and woodwind, with haunting vocals and infectious sounding melodies that are enhanced by contagious sounding choral work. Well worth adding to your collection, highly recommended. Great production values from Digit Movies on this one and wonderful art work too.

VIOLENT IMAGE, SAVAGE SOUNDTRACK, ITALIAN WESTERN, BEFORE AND BEYOND.

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If I were to say that the Italian or Spaghetti western came into being because of the Hollywood Biblical epic, people would probably laugh at me or at least raise an eyebrow. But the Italian or Spaghetti western as it was so cruelly nicknamed did begin its life because of events that stemmed directly from the demise of the epic film as produced by Hollywood. For a number of years Hollywood filmmakers had been travelling to the famed Cinecitta studios and utilising the facilities, plus employing literally thousands of extras for the mammoth productions which also gave employment to hundreds of camera crews and a number of second unit directors. As the 1960,s dawned, the cinema going publics taste for these biblical slanted tales began to curtail somewhat, and people looked for something that was different and more exciting. Because of this Hollywood moguls decided that it was time to quit Cinecitta, and by pulling out of Rome they created mass unemployment within the Italian film industry. Italian filmmakers were at first furious and concerned about the future, but decided that they had to think of ways that they could save their ailing film industry, or it could be disastrous for the countries already frail economy. Producers in Italy had begun to notice that a handful of German filmmakers were having some mild success’s with westerns, the sauerkraut western as it was labelled had become fairly popular within the borders of western Europe. If one takes a closer look at these productions one would soon realise that they were basically a clone of the American made B western film. German westerns were very much black and white in their storylines and scenarios, by this I mean the good guys wore white and the bad guys were unshaven and wearing black, and this was quite literally at times.

The plots for these were also very predictable and somewhat clichéd, containing more than their fair share of the Hollywood westerns established format.

R-150-997992-1182357759So a few adventurous Italian filmmakers decided to attempt making westerns, they at first took the lead from the Germans, and infused a touch of Americana in their first forays into John Ford,s domain, thus creating nothing more than imitations of the German movies, which as I have already stated were themselves clones of American films. Early examples of Italian made westerns included, UN DOLLARO DI FIFA (1960) which was directed by Giorgio C. Simonelli and starred Ugo Tognazzi and Walter Chiari, which was a comedy western that had a musical score by composer Gianni Ferrio. Then came another vehicle for actor Tognazzi in the form of another comedy, I MAGNIFICI TRE (1961), again directed by Simonelli and scored by Ferrio,it was Ferrio who also wrote the music for a third addition in the western all,italano catalogue in 1963 which was another comedy entitled GLI EROI DEL WEST. DUELLO NEL TEXAS followed again in 1963 and although this is not considered as a true Spaghetti western it is an example of film that hinted of things to come, the score was by Ennio Morricone but again did not include anything that could be considered as being original. 1964, brought a handful of key additions to the genre, MASSACRO AL GRANDE CANYON,(which was Sergio Corbucci,s first western) LE PISTOLE NON DISCUTONO (directed by Caianol), BUFFALO BILL,(dir;Mario Costa) MINNESOTA CLAY(dir: Corbucci) and A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (Directed by Sergio Leone). The formula that Italian film makers had attempted to use on their western productions was not that successful or original and it was not until Sergio Leone stepped into the western arena that things began to change and become a little more interesting. Leone,s style of direction and his story telling abilities were to alter the way in which westerns were made in the future and also his vision of western movies would not only pave the way for hundreds of other Italian made westerns, but also would in time also influence non Italian made westerns that would follow, such as THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, BIG JAKE, 100 RIFLES, THE HUNTING PARTY, HANNIE CAULDER and to a degree THE WILD BUNCH. The Italian western also included a number of examples that were politically slanted and a handful of these stand out as some of the best examples of the genre. When I say politically slanted, they were invariably set in the period of the Mexican revolution, these “Zapata” westerns as they were dubbed were part of a sub genre that sprang up within the spaghetti western genre and were successful because of the popularity of the Italian made western, this collective of films would often introduce audiences to another kind of anti hero or central character who was in essence a Mercenary. But was never seen as the bad guy.

Alla_conquista_CDCR94Mexico was a very explosive and dangerous place to be during the days of revolution, many of the movies would reflect this atmosphere and also include villains that were more often than not from foreign lands, Austrians, French or German, the scenario for many of these political westerns was very often that a corrupt Mexican government would be supported by an even more greed driven and corrupt foreign power, who assisted the corrupt government with arms , troops and money, to assist in the intimidation and persecution of the ordinary people, this Foreign power would also take great delight in systematically annihilating the majority of the peasant population. Enter then the Mercenary figure, who would themselves be of either European or American extraction. This character would then befriend one of the peasants who would normally be a ruffian or bandit, the foreigner then schools the peasant in the art of warfare, revolution and sabotage and after a few minor success against government forces this peasant then takes on the status of a Simon Bolivar or Pancho Villa figure amongst his fellow Mexicans and they look to him for leadership. So a Mexican peasant or bandit has been elevated to the status of a freedom fighter and a saviour of the people. Instead of robbing banks to line his own pockets he robs the banks to give to the poor, in the same way we are told Robin Hood did in England centuries before. The foreigner or soldier of fortune to label him correctly has then been successful as he has gained out of his training because he has been paid for his services and his knowledge out of the money from the banks. But in effect the Mercenary has become the bandit because he takes the money and invariably wants more and more as the story progresses. This scenario is best seen in Sergio Corbucci’s, A PROFFESIONAL GUN, but it also present in A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL, COMPANEROS and DUCK YOU SUCKER. Maybe it is a little different in DUCK YOU SUCKER and BULLET FOR THE GENERAL, as in these two films the foreigner does not exploit the Mexican for gold or payment as much, but instead use him to get closer to their own personal goal, for example in BULLET FOR THE GENERAL, Ninio (LOU CASTELL), uses Chuncho (GIAN MARIA VOLONTE) to get close to the General of the revolutionary forces so that he can assassinate him and in DUCK YOU SUCKER the Irish rebel and explosives expert played by James Coburn befriends the Mexican bandit played by Rod Steiger to free prisoners from the vaults of a bank, Steiger and his gang think that the vaults are filled with gold but instead find hundreds of imprisoned revolutionaries. After this escapade the Steiger character is hailed a hero of the revolution, at first he is an unwilling candidate but soon he warms to the idea.

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This type of scenario or partnership is also seen within other examples of the spaghetti western genre, DAY OF ANGER being one of them, Frank Talby played by Lee Van Cleef takes the town down and out under his wing teaching him the ways of the gunfighter, but this backfires on Talby when the town idiot played by Giuliano Gemma, becomes better than his teacher. Sergio Sollima believed that his Cucillo character in THE BIG GUNDOWN and CORRI UOMO CORRI was representative of the third world, eventually Cucillo rebels against his so called masters, ie Walter Barnes in THE BIG GUNDOWN, the Barnes character representing the capitalistic west, Sollima believed very strongly that the third world would one day rise up against the rich countries of the west and he put this notion into the scenarios of some of his movies, but presented them in the guise of a blood spattered and all action western.

 

 

 

 

THE BEGINNINGS OF THE GENRE AND MUSICAL CHANGES.

A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS was a Franco/Spanish /Italian co production, it starred a little known American actor in the principal role. Clint Eastwood, who’s claim to fame had been up until then bit parts in Universal movies and a role on an American TV western show called RAWHIDE, took on the persona of the man with no name, a soldier of fortune, an anti hero and a character who the audience could not really identify as a good guy or a bad guy. He offered his services to the highest bidder, and was a servant to two masters or more at times. Sergio Leone had originally wanted American actor James Coburn to play the Man with No Name, as he had been successful in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, but Coburn proved to be to expensive for Leone’s meagre budget, so Eastwood was given the role. Leone cast Gian Marie Volonte in the role of the head villain and dubbed the actor Jon Wells and also changed his name to Bob Robertson, this was something that Italian film makers did at times, thinking it would make the film more acceptable to American audiences and even composer Ennio Morricone went under the name of Dan Savio.

morriThe film proved to be a breath of fresh air for cinema goers, and one which soon became popular, leaving audiences wanting more of the same. Leone returned as did Eastwood with FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, this time the cast was beefed up with Hollywood bad guy Lee Van Cleef, who played an unlikely ally to Eastwood in the role of Colonel Douglas Mortimer, Leone also recruited the brilliant Klaus Kinski and again cast Gian Marie Volonte as the villain of the piece, or at least the character who was the most evil, on this occasion Volonte was not asked to alter his name. The movie was a little more ambitious than its predecessor and because of the success of FISTFUL OF DOLLARS it had the advantage of a slightly bigger budget. As with any successful genre, imitations soon began to appear or at least movies in the same style of the dollar films. Italian producers and directors were quick to realise that this formula was working and fast becoming popular. But it was not just the films that were being noticed, the music from them was also starting to gain recognition, at first it was Ennio Morricone’s music for A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS that turned audiences heads, and then his theme and chiming watch theme from FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE.

But undoubtedly, the sounds most associated with the genre of the Spaghetti western was to be the cries and shrieks heard over the credits of Leone’s third Dollar movie, THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, I remember hearing this original theme and being just amazed , but then I heard the cover version by Hugo Montenegro being played on the radio and thinking what is that, of course Montenegro’s version got to number 1 in the chart in the UK and I think it also reached the top of the pile in the USA, so maybe it did do Morricone some good, because if it had not been for Montenegro covering the theme, maybe Morricone’s music would not have reached so many people, In fact a number of people are still under the impression that Montenegro wrote the theme. As with popular genres of film etc, popular music too had its imitators, some good, some bad and some really ugly. A cover of FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE courtesy of Leroy Holmes, appeared and this was not just the theme but the entire score, or at least certain themes from the score,which to be honest sounded nothing like the originals, but again maybe this did gain more recognition for Morricone an also placed Italian western music into the public eye. Holmes also released versions of the themes from A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, THE BIG GUNDOWN and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST all of which were included on compilations by the musician on the United Artists label. Holmes and also orchestra leaders such as Geoff Love in the UK, recorded albums of western themes and included were versions of Italian examples.
ARIZONA COLT for instance was covered by Holmes, and to be fair it was a fairly good version as was his version of DAY OF ANGER composed by Riz Ortolani, Geoff Love did a great arrangenet of Marcello Giombini,s SABATA and Hank Mancini got in on the act with A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN from the movie THE STRANGER RETURNS by Stelvio Cipriani. But what we have to take into account is that at this time during the infancy of the Spaghetti western soundtrack, collectors were glad of what they could get hold of.
It was probably because companies such as UA began to notice collectors buying these cover versions that Italian/Euro soundtracks started to get UK issues, THE SICILIAN CLAN for example was issued on STATESIDE records in the UK, items such as THE BIG GUNDOWN were given a release on UA as was a collection entitled THE BEST OF ENNIO MORRICONE, which included selections from NAVAJO JOE, THE BIG GUNDOWN, DEATH RIDES A HORSE and THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, If they knew then what we know now, I don’t think they would have called it the best of Morricone. Then came GREAT WESTERN FILM THEMES VOL 2, now this just highlighted how popular and influential the Italian western and its music had become. It included THE HILLS RUN RED, FACE TO FACE and NAVAJO JOE and the subsequent VOL 3 in the series, showcased the infectious theme INDIO BLACK from THE BOUNTY HUNTERS by Bruno Nicolai. I always thought even back then, well if they have got one cue from the score they must have the complete score, so why don’t they release it. I even wrote to Alan Warner who was at UA records at the time asking this question, I got a short reply back, remember this was in the days when people actually wrote letters,

Mr Warner told me “It is not as easy as you may think to issue a score or soundtrack on a recording, costs and also copyright issues are very difficult to negotiate, especially with foreign movies”.

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During the 1970,s Michael Jones appeared on the soundtrack scene in London, and was responsible for the stock at SOUNDTRACK, this was situated in the foyer of the Arts Theatre Club in Soho and later moved to 58 DEAN STREET in London. It was here that many soundtracks from Italy began to filter through, CORRI UOMO CORRI, LANDRAIDERS, QUIEMADA, FIND A PLACE TO DIE, QUELLA SPORCA STORIA NEL WEST, A PROFFESSIONAL GUN, THE FIVE MAN ARMY, THE GREAT SILENCE, JOHN IL BASTARDO, THE BOUNTY KILLER etc etc and composers such as DE MASI, FERRIO, FIDENCO,CIPRIANI and NICOLAI also began to become known to collectors in the UK.

Jones I think was responsible for establishing what is now referred to as a specialist soundtrack outlet, his was the first and soon others followed in the guise of Harlequin records, who dedicated near entire shop space to the soundtrack section. Michael Jones brought in the first Japanese releases on LP, these included SABATA. He also promoted composers such as Bacalov, Romitelli, Calvi, Rustichelli, Micalizzi, and De Angelis. It was also around about this time that record producer Lionel Woodman began his mail order business selling Italian long playing records and various other outlets popped up here and there and in Italy we had Consorti Roma in the Italian Capital and Bongiovanni records in the industrial town of Bologna. But now some 50 years on, we collectors are still waiting for certain scores, and as RCA in Italy are rumoured to be preparing to trash or destroy all their master tapes of soundtracks (so we are told), collectors can but dream and hope that their holy grails are not thrown out and maybe someone somewhere will step in and rescue them all. I think it was during the late 1970,s that I decided, I wanted to find out more about Italian film music, Italian movies and also the composers, directors, producers and actors that had brought these magnificent examples of cinema to life. I wanted to know what made them tick basically, what was their inspiration, their drive and their vision, so that’s why I started to interview the composers.

I was amazed that so little was known about Italian composers of film music. There was a short section on a handful of composers in Laurence Staig’s excellent book ITALIAN WESTERN- OPERA OF VIOLENCE, but this was short and sweet with most of the section being given over to Morricone, this is in no way a criticism of the book as it is a Bible as far as I am concerned when it comes to the Italian western, because at the time information was sparse and hard to come by, remember this was pre-internet days, but Staig unearthed information that delighted collectors, and is still in use, referred to and quoted from today. OPERA OF VIOLENCE is a perfect description of the Italian western, and also a gentle poke at a remark that was made by one film critic about Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, the critic saying that it was a western that contained operatic like scenarios but the arias were stared and not sung. Within Staig’s book there are many explanations and theories explored and explained giving a unique insight into the world of the western All’Italiano. Music in Italian westerns as we have already established was different from anything that had gone before within the genre of the western film as a whole, whether it was a Hollywood production or a European movie there had never been anything like this.

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The new approach to scoring and the originality of this scoring played a major role within the movies themselves and it is fair to state that music in an Italian western was not just background to the action but an integral and important component of the film and the movies storyline. There are a number of examples of Italian western scores that take this integration to another level, by this I mean that there are more than a handful of examples within the genre where there is a musical instrument utilized within the story and obviously the composer has been able to use these and integrate his score further with the action of the movie, prime examples are of course Leone’s FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, where the pleasant sounding chiming of a watch penned by Maestro Morricone becomes more of a sinister and foreboding sound because it is used by one of the movies main protagonists to begin a gunfight and also it is utilized to mark the time when each party in this gunfight must draw their weapon and shoot as it winds down and eventually stops. Probably the best known use of an instrument within an Italian made western is from ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, Leone and Morricone again, this time the instrument being a Harmonica, which in the hands of the films central mysterious figure, who has taken his name from the instrument takes on an ominous and fearful persona.
Then we have SABATA scored by Marcello Giombini, and directed by Frank Kramer, now in this example there are a number of instances where the score becomes integral to the action because of the instrument used by one of the main characters, Banjo played by William Berger, walks around town plucking out a lovely little tune on his ukulele and even plays his adversaries a tune before gunning them down in the street or where ever they might be. The instrument has a sawn off rifle concealed inside it and when Banjo has finished entertaining his opponent he uses the instrument to dispatch them. Giombini even incorporated the use of sleigh bells within his score because the character Banjo wore bells on his trouser legs and jingled as he walked. Also Banjo played music to another of his victims in SABATA this time on a church organ, Giombini also made good use of this within his score and not just within that scene. In fact music for gunfights were the pinnacle of any Italian western score, and were often magnificent set pieces filled to brimming with soaring trumpets solos, aggressive sounding guitars, choir and bells and chimes. It is hard to actually describe just how much impact the Italian western score has made upon film scoring in general, even today in adverts and television programmes and motion pictures when a confrontation between individuals or parties of people is being acted out on screen, invariably music either from an Italian western or written in the same style as an Italian western is utilized, and people watching “get it” they understand the concept and the connection . They realize either consciously or sub-consciously where the idea comes from and where the music has originated from, so the impact and influence of the spaghetti western score has lasted and is still popular and recognized now some three decades on. The most recent examples of Italian western style music being utilized in a movie have been in one of the latest PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies and also the same composer worked in a spaghetti sounding theme into his scores for the Guy Ritchie directed SHERLOCK HOLMES capers. So although many of the Italian Maestro’s who wrote these atmospheric, original, quirky and attractive western scores have passed away they left the world a rich and full musical heritage to draw upon, listen to savour and enjoy.

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 My quest to find composers to interview was not an easy one, I began before I had internet or even a fax machine, so I had to write letter after letter, in fact my first interview with Alessandro Alessandroni was carried out via letter, only meeting him some 4 months later in London. My interviews with Piero Piccioni, Nico Fidenco, Franco Micalizzi, Francesco De Masi, Stelvio Cipriani and singer Peter Boom were also carried out via letter, only meeting Micalizzi later in Rome and also meeting with Piccioni’s son Jason when he was in London. But all of the Maestro,s were very helpful as was BEAT records who put me in contact with these composers and artists. Let us not forget that Italian cinema did not consist solely of western movies, as we all know genres come and go, audiences tire of certain types of movie and want something different and I think more than any one else Italian filmmakers were able to gauge this shift in taste and also were able to adapt to it, especially after they had been nearly ruined by Hollywood’s film companies exodus from their shores years before. Cinecitta produced, many types of films, sex movies, romances, crime capers, giallo’s, comedies, period dramas, historical pieces, political slanted pictures, horrors, war films etc and excelled at all of them and accompanying all these movies were infectious and original musical scores, written arranged and conducted by numerous Maestro,s, some of which are interviewed on this blog.

AMICO STAMMI LONTANO ALMENO UN PALMO…..(la ballata di ben and charlie)

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Digitmovies is certainly one of those labels that is unswerving with it’s releases, this particular score was issued a while back, but for some reason I omitted to review it, maybe because I thought it was a score that had been in my collection for years on record, and selfishly thought that everyone had heard it or was familiar with it, sadly or at least to my surprise I was told by many collectors that they were not familiar with the title at all. So I thought I would try and make amends now by writing this review. Originally issued back in 1972 on the Cinevox label (lp mdf 33/52), this spaghetti western directed by Michele Lupo, starred Giuliano Gemma and George Eastman. The film was originally destined to be scored by Francesco De Masi, but for some reason he did not complete the assignment, some of the music however that De Masi wrote still survives on a BEAT records compact disc of his western scores. Ferrio’s score is a well written and intelligently orchestrated work, which relies upon the use of the title theme throughout as its core, from this Ferrio builds an original sounding spaghetti western score, which is at times influenced with jazz colours. The central theme is heard at first in the form of a song, LET IT RAIN, LET IT POUR, is performed by Stefan Grossman who also provided the lyrics. This returns in various manifestations within the running duration of the soundtrack, and there is a particularly attractive version of it in track number 5, UN PASSAGGIO PER RED ROCK, where the composer utilizes guitar, strings and harpsichord to create an almost easy going version of the theme, this builds slowly into a fuller version of the composition the strings swelling into a romantic sounding crescendo of sorts bringing the cue to its end where Ferrio adds a saloon piano for effect. As with many of Ferrio,s other western scores, this certainly cannot be pigeon holed or categorized in with spaghetti scores that contain the stock sounds of the genre, there is no whistling, shrieks or soaring wordless female vocals, but say that it still is in my opinion a good candidate for being put into my top ten spaghetti scores. The CD contains 18 cues which are taken from the original LP release, and Digitmovies have added a further 5 bonus tracks, which had been omitted from the LP release. There is some nice choral work on the score from, THE CHILDRENS CHOIR OF RENATO CORTIGLIANI and some amazing guitar playing from Angelo Baroncini. A release well worth purchasing, a must have score.