Another release in the ever expanding catalogue of the renowned record label KRONOS, is THE BOY AND THE LION a television mini series that was released in 2013 but although it is a relatively recent release there is very little information about the production. The score by composer Stelvio Cipriani has been available as a download for a while but at last Godwin Borg has given it a compact disc release which is most welcome. The score is in many ways similar in style to the sound achieved by French composers Francis Lai, Michel Magne and to a degree Francois de Roubauix and has hints of Michel Legrand. To say that Stelvio Cipriani belongs to the higher archy of the iconic school of Italian film music composers is certainly and understatement. His music has enthralled, delighted and also intrigued many collectors and fellow composers of music for television and film. It is at times quite mind numbing to think that this film music Maestro has written the scores to over 200 movies and his music has not only supported but ingratiated all of these giving them a greater impact and a heightened dramatic elevation. He is a composer that began scoring pictures in the early 1960, s in his native Italy and like so many other composers who were working in film at that time began with a Spaghetti western soundtrack entitled THE BOUNTY KILLER. During this period when the Italian western was beginning to gain momentum and attract attention from audiences and critics alike it was quite easy to label Cipriani as a composer that was like others at this time mimicking the style and sound that had been created and achieved by Maestro Ennio Morricone, but this would be unfair as there is far more to Cipriani’s music than just the quirky sounds and instrumentation that is associated with the genre of the Italian produced western. He has during his career created highly volatile themes for war movies, lilting and affecting tone poems for romantic films and also turned his hand to scoring some of Cinecitta’s most notoriously scary and gruesome horror pictures as well as providing the musical accompaniment to the aforementioned western genre and fashioning atmospheric scores for numerous Giallo films, soft porn escapades, comedic adventures and police capers. So he is a composer that is well suited to the terminology of being CHAMELEON like as he can easily adapt his style and sound to each and every project he is involved with. In recent years the composer has become increasingly involved in the writing of religious music for the Vatican but has never turned his back on film scoring or indeed his love of jazz and the piano. THE BOY AND THE LION is a movie that in many ways is obscure to a great many collectors and cinema goers and I have to admit that it is a score that I was unaware of as being within Cipriani’s filmography, indeed it is not listed within his list of credits, or if it is it is listed under another title that is totally different from this one.
The soundtrack is a pleasant enough work, the composer relying predominantly upon a central theme on which he builds the remainder of his score. In fact, the majority of the music for the movie is variations upon the core theme, the composer arranging and orchestrating the main thematic property and repeating it in various guises throughout. However, the composer does this in such a way that it remains fresh and entertaining upon each outing.
The style that Cipriani employs here is one of a light and melodic fashion which utilises Piano, harpsichord and strings which become the mainstay of the work with synthesiser acting as support, the composer treats us to a romantic and rich sounding theme with piano taking the lead in many instances, and later embellishes the instrument with the use of a light and meandering harpsichord that is supported and further enhanced by subtle strings the composer at times adding an emotive sounding electronic background which seems to give the conventional instrumentation more power and grace. The central theme contains fragments of music that evoke the composers wonderfully romantic ANONYMOUS VENETIAN theme and also there are shades of his PIRAHNA 2 score which occasionally make an appearance, it is not only an effective work but has the ability to linger within ones sub-conscious long after one has finished playing it. The score also contains a number of synthetic attributes which complement and fuse seamlessly with the symphonic instrumentation and at times take the lead in certain areas of the work, but more often than not the composer binds the two mediums together to create a rewarding and pleasant listening experience.
When listening to THE BOY AND THE LION one cannot help but be reminded of the composers past triumphs and draw comparisons with his other cinematic soundtracks. Percussive elements are present throughout creating a subtle but noticeable pulsating background which acts as a foundation to the central musical content and also purveys an African sounding beat giving the work more ethnic textures and colours. Also present are a handful of cues that contain a style that is apprehensive and dramatic FEAR IN THE JUNGLE, HIDING IN THE JUNGLE and THREAT IN THE JUNGLE rely upon the use of electronic sounds and synthetically generated rhythms to create a sense of danger, fear and foreboding. Although this is a score that is not one of the composer’s high profile credits it is one that will delight followers of Cipriani and maybe attract attention from others. I do hope that Kronos Records will continue to release more of his work in the future.
There have been a number of cinematic versions of the classic H.Rider Haggard tale of adventure, mystery and romance SHE. This particular incarnation of the story was released in 2001, Directed by Canadian born Timothy Bond who has mostly worked in television contributing to series such as MUTANT X, GOOSEBUMPS, HERCULES-THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS, FOREVER KNIGHT and ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS among others. This particular re-working of SHE tells the tale of Leo Vincey (Ian Duncan) who has received a map from his late Father, the map shows the whereabouts of the legendary lost city of Kor. Vincey accompanied by his partner Roxanne (Marie Baumer) sets out to not only find the City but also to find out the mystery that surrounds his own ancestry. After a while it transpires that Vincey is a direct descendant of an Egyptian priest who dared to fall in love with a Princess and for his crime was executed. On finding the lost city Vincey discovers that the ruling Queen is in fact that same Princess, AYESHA-SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED (Ophelie Winter) who has somehow via magic remained youthful throughout all of the centuries that have passed. When Vincey is presented to the Queen she becomes convinced that he is the reincarnation of her dead lover who has returned to be with her but is enraged and becomes intent on killing him. H. Rider Haggard’s inventive and exciting story has transferred to film well on more than one occasion, in fact one of the first cinematic presentations of the story was in 1925, it was then filmed again in 1935 which is the version that many say is probably the best.
Hammer films in the U.K. also made a version of the story and cast Ursula Andress in the title role who was supported by Hammer stalwart Peter Cushing and John Richardson, the movie was such a success it spawned a sequel THE VENGEANCE OF SHE which sadly was not as lucrative for the house of horror. The story of SHE is one that is filled with romantic and dramatic scenarios, it is steeped in mystery and also has to it an aura that is magical and compelling. The musical score for SHE (2001) was composed and conducted by Italian Maestro Stelvio Cipriani, the Maestro was no stranger to scoring movies which contained such a plethora of action and excitement, after all his career in scoring movies began back in the early 1960,s and has continued to flourish and grow with the composer still active in the film scoring arena today. Cipriani was born in Rome in 1937 and after leaving school decided to train as an accountant, eventually however he decided that it was music that he would follow as a career. He was particularly active during the 1960,s through to the mid 1980,s scoring numerous Italian made westerns and penning one of the most famous themes from that genre A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN which was written for the movie THE STRANGER RETURNS in 1967.
Cipriani excelled when it came to creating infectious and haunting themes for motion pictures his most famous or notable non western score being for the award winning movie THE ANONYMOUS VENETIAN in 1970, a soundtrack which is still today held in high regard by many and remains available as a recording after numerous re-issues etc. The composer is also able to create spine chilling and fearsome musical cues for the horror genre working on movies such as BAY OF BLOOD and BARON BLOOD. Cipriani,s score for SHE is a powerful one, filled with lush and rich sounding thematic material that would not be out of place in one of the many epics as produced by Hollywood during the Golden Age of cinema or even because of its appealing and alluring melodious persona might be mistaken for any of the works of Angelo Lavagnino, Carlo Savina or Carlo Rustichelli when either of the three Maestros worked on Italian made sword and sandal sagas. Mysterious, romantic and filled with drama and apprehension.
It also contains a slightly more contemporary feel in parts with the composer adding at times a modern or upbeat style to the proceedings, the inclusion of which maintains an air of freshness and vitality throughout the work. The composer has over 250 film scores to his credit and his music has been heard more recently on films such as THE MAN FROM UNCLE, DEATH PROOF and GRINDHOUSE.
SLEEVE NOTES FOR THE KRONOS RECORDS RELEASE, 2016.
Composer Stelvio Cipriani, has worked in almost every genre of film. His music punctuating and enhancing a multitude of scenarios and situations. His film scoring career began in 1966 when he wrote the music for the Spaghetti western THE BOUNTY KILLER, but he had previously been a pianist in a small band which would perform on cruise ships and also play in many of the dance halls that had opened and become very popular in Italy during the late 1950,s and into the early 1960,s. After doing a number of cruises the composer returned to Italy where he became pianist to the now well known Italian singer Rita Pavone who had just begun her career in show business. The composer put his success in the writing of music for the cinema down to the various experiences that he had encountered whilst playing in a band and also acting as accompanist to Pavone. He felt that working in an environment where you had to arrange or be able to play a piece at a minutes notice was at times invaluable when it came to delivering a film score on time or at very short notice, which is often the case in the world of the film music composer. He also felt that orchestration was an important part of the composing process and carried out the orchestrating duties on 99 percent of his film scores. His most popular film score within the Spaghetti western genre has to be A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN, the theme that the composer penned for this spaghetti sage brush saga has endured throughout the years and is still looked upon by many collectors and aficionados as an iconic piece of music and one that has gone down in Italian cinema history, being covered by numerous artists Henry Mancini, Geoff Love and LeRoy Holmes among them. He is also revered for his work on THE ANONYMOUS VENETIAN which contained a lush and romantically laced soundtrack. Cipriani is probably one of the most well known composers who worked in film in Italy alongside the likes of Ennio Morricone, Bruno Nicolai and others such as Gianni Ferrio and Francesco de Masi, his music being most prominent during the mid to late 1960,s through to the end of the 1980,s working on movies such as BLINDMAN, FEMINA RIDENS, MARK IL POLIZIOTTO,TENTICOLI,A BAY OF BLOOD, PIRANHA ll, THE GREAT ALLIGATOR, THE BLOODSTAINED SHADOW, RABID DOGS, BARON BLOOD, COME TOGETHER, THE IGUANA WITH THE TONGUE OF FIRE, THE SILENT STRANGER, HEADS YOU DIE TAILS I KILL YOU, RETURN OF ALLELUJAH and many more. Born on August 20th 1937 in Rome, Cipriani came from a non musical family and according to the composer he became involved in music by chance.
He initially trained as an accountant and after qualifying he worked for a year in that job, but whilst doing so also enrolled at a music conservatory to study. His first music lesson were when he was a small child and was given guidance by a Priest at the church he attended, as a youngster Cipriani was fascinated by the organ and the Priest noticed the young boys aptitude for music and alerted his Grandfather to this. Cipriani marks composers such as Henry Mancini and Nino Rota as his influences, “I would have to say that the great Nino Rota is at the top of my list of influences, his music for the films of Fellini especially had a great effect upon me, he was I think a complete musician”. The composer also worked with Dave Brubeck and scored movies for Mario Bava. “My collaboration with Mario Bava was always very good, he was shall I say a careful and meticulous director. He took great care when film making and was always interested in how the music would work within his films, he always found time to attend the recording sessions”.
This latest release from Kronos records is something of a rarity and will be a treat for all collectors of Italian film music the world over. THE BLACK SPIDER has music by Italian Maestro Stelvio Cipriani and is a multi themed work which is filled with a veritable smorgasbord of musical colours and textures. At times the score leans towards the more easy listening or lounge genre of music that is associated with numerous Italian movie soundtracks but also it does occasionally contain a deep and dark sound within its perimeters that becomes unsettling and sinister. We can hear within the work influences from previous Cipriani scores such as the aforementioned THE ANONYMOUS VENETIAN, with lavish sounding strings, harpsichord and piano combining to create light but at the same time substantial tone poems that linger long after one has ceased to listen to the compact disc. The composer utilises to great effect this combination of instrumentation to achieve an overall sound that is inventive and supremely entertaining. Each cue is wonderfully written and cleverly orchestrated by the composer, the piano solos in particular verge on concerto like performances which are full of melody and hauntingly attractive. To support the more traditional instruments the composer also employs synthetic sounds and electronic embellishment which fuse seamlessly into the proceedings giving the score greater depth and a higher level of atmospheric impact. There are also a number of cues that include organ and guitar solo performances, these evoke the sound of Morricone, Trovaioli and Nicolai during the 1960,s. This is a score that will be returned to many times and one that will be a worthy addition to any film music collection.
Released in the December of 1969, IL DIAVALO DELLA GUERRA or THE WAR DEVILS is one of the better movies produced by Italy during the 1960,s that has its storyline set during WWll. It has a strong cast in the form of leading actors Guy Madison, Anthony Steel and Venantino Venantini and support from a whole load of familiar Italian movie stalwarts, with a short appearance at the films outset by John Ireland as an American officer, but don’t blink or you will most definitely miss him, but for me personally it is Venantini that steals the show as he portrays so convincingly a German officer, but saying this Madison too puts in a very good performance. The movie begins in 1943 in the desert campaign of North Africa, with a German security unit in pursuit of an American commando outfit under the command of Guy Madison. After a long pursuit the two units end up joining forces in an uneasy alliance in order to survive the crossing of the blistering desert. Because the German unit is better equipped and larger they in effect are holding the Americans prisoner but as they exit the desert the German commander decides to release his captives, but tells them in no uncertain terms that if he meets them again in combat he will kill them. A year later the American Captain is sent on a mission to rescue a British intelligence officer (Anthony Steel) who has been captured by the Germans and is being held captive by them in a fortified base and guess who is in command of this base? Yes you guessed it the same German commander who released Madison but vowed to kill him the next time he set eyes on him. An interesting plot and one that contains a few surprises and twists along the way, in essence we have here a movie that contains not one but two war stories, filled with action and also having a little romance on the side. Directed by Bitto Albertini WAR DEVILS is an entertaining movie that contains some convincing battle scenes especially the final shootout which is very much akin to the final battle from THE DIRTY DOZEN and also has certain affiliations to FIVE FROM HELL. The music for the picture is the work of Italian composer Stelvio Cipriani who came to prominence in film scoring via his Spaghetti western scores such as THE BOUNTY KILLER, A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN and music for the ALLELUJAH series of westerns. For this movie however the composer employs a sound and style that is very different from his forays into the western genre and includes striking use of brass to purvey an atmosphere of drama and martial sounding timpani that has to it a machine gun like sound in certain passages. I at first thought the style achieved here was very much like the music of fellow Italian Maestro Francesco De Masi, when he worked on films such as LA BATTAGLIA D’INGHILTERRA and the original INGLORIOUS BASTARDS (1978).
Cipriani utilises a grand sound that is perfectly suited to the battle scenes and the wonderful cinematography of the movie, it is expansive and highly expressive in its make up and underlines not only the action but is also extremely supportive during the films quieter and more suspenseful moments, plus the composer also provides the film with a romantic sound that is reminiscent of the golden days of Hollywood with surging strings and highly emotive melodies in fact I suppose the composer has created a score that in the main hails from the Italian school of film music through and through, but at the same times contains attributes that are uninfluenced by the more traditional war movie scoring styles as employed by Hollywood. This is yet another musical gem from Italian cinema and also an interesting and alluring addition to Kronos records growing Gold Series that has preserved some of Italian film music’s lesser known but fine works, which I am sure would have been lost forever or left to languish in dusty vaults forever. Presented well with striking art work and informative notes. Another for your collection, available for pre order now.
Released in 1995, the first DRG compilation was something of a groundbreaking release as it contained a number of cues from Italian western soundtracks that had at that time not been released; of course now the titles included have all seen compact disc releases as soundtracks in their own right. This compilation or series of compilations as there are more than just the one, are still important and entertaining releases and can also be a rich source of reference material for collectors etc, that is why I decided to review them, they do occasionally come up on a number of internet shopping sites but can reach quite lofty heights in the price tag department. DRG released four compilations in the series, volume one (1995) was a two disc set showcasing music from the Cinevox records catalogue, volume two (1995) another double CD release highlighted General Music’s western scores, Volume three (1996) a single disc release also included the catalogue of General Music and the fourth instalment (1997) which was back to a double disc set was made up of cues from the vaults of the BEAT record company. So we were treated to the Good, The Bad and some of the Ugly music that was inspired by the quirky and contagious Spaghetti western genre and brought recognition to composers such as Morricone, De Masi, Cipriani, Baclov, Nicolai, Savina, De Sica, Piccioni, De Angelis, Lavagnino, Tempara, Gigante, Umiliani, Martelli, Di Stefano Trovaioli, Frizzi, Ferrio, Ortolani, Rustichelli, Poitevin, Pregadio,Bixio, Donaggio, Simonetti, Alessandroni, De Gemini Edda Dell Orso and many many more including the vocalists and soloists that frequented Italian western soundtracks.
The first volume opens with the imposing and infectious music of Gianfranco Di Stefano from the soundtrack of the 1970 movie SHANGO (the invincible gun) solo guitar introduces the track JEFF BLOOM with the light touch of harpsichord acting as a subdued background, the composer underlining the proceedings with strings and also introducing solo trumpet punctuated by bass guitar. The second track representing Di Stefano’s score is a Mexican flavoured theme FIESTA FIEASTA, again relies upon solo guitar and has a background supplied by upbeat tambourine that shakes and creates a contagious support for the guitar and is joined by strumming guitar giving it more depth and a greater atmospheric effect. The third and final selection from SHANGO is PISTOLA CHE SCOTTANO where again trumpet and guitar are the mainstay of the piece with brass acting as the musical commas with strings enhancing the proceedings. At the time of the release of this compilation the soundtrack to SHANGO was not available and this was the first time Di Stefano’s music had been released on compact disc, since then of course we have been treated to the full score release on the Cinevox label.A critic once remarked that it was better to buy compilations of Italian westerns soundtracks because invariably the full soundtrack was not that good and it was normally the theme song or main title music that was the most attractive thing about the score. I have to disagree, and with the DRG compilations we as collectors were not only served up the title song and instrumental central theme in some case but also were given a rare chance to hear other sections of each score, of course THE SPAGHETTI WESTERN ENCYCLOPEDIA on King Records Japan had been previously released and this is I think the music bible as far as collectors of Italian western music is concerned, but what the difference was between the King records series and the DRG compilations was that DRG included a handful of cues from each soundtrack that they included in some cases two cues in others there were more and yes the King records series did have a few sections that included more than one track from certain scores but not to the same degree as DRG.
I am not saying that either series of compilations is better than the other because although the music included on both is from the same genre and does in fact include some of the same tracks each series is very different. Track number 4 on volume one is the work of stalwart Italian Maestro Francesco De Masi, taken from the 1968 production QUANTO COSTA MORIRE again at the time of the compilations release the soundtrack had only been released on a Long Playing record, and this was the first time collectors got to hear this music on compact disc, three tracks represent the score with a rousing song starting off proceedings plus an instrumental version of the song then a particularly plaintive and romantically laced cue C’E SEMPRE UNA VITA, which has a lovely classical guitar solo underlined and supported by subdued strings, which has more or less the same sound as THE TWO ELISA’S from Bruno Nicolai’s LANDRAIDERS score and also I did detect a certain phrase that can also be compared with Nicolai’s IL TRONO DI FUOCO but as the De Masi score was written first I think that maybe Nicolai received inspiration from this rather than the other way around. The style employed by De Masi when scoring westerns was a fusion of styles, by this I mean the composer used a romantic and dramatic theme that was normally purveyed by strings or brass in a very similar fashion to that of composers such as Dimitri Tiomkin in Hollywood westerns, but De Masi also managed to create a western sound that was akin to the Italian western genre but this too was tinged with an atmosphere of originality which was all his own. For the next section we jump forward a decade to 1978, the composer is Pino Donaggio and the movie is AMORE PIOMBO E FURORE, (CHINA 9, LIBERTY 37) two cues represent Donaggio’s score and the harmonica plays a major role in both of these tracks. TEMA DI CLAYTON is the central theme from the score with a wailing but at the same time tuneful harmonica solo opening the composition, this is soon accompanied by solo guitar and the harmonica solo mellows to produce a melodic and quite romantic sounding piece. The next cue from the score is basically a more romantic and developed version of the central theme with strings and soft guitar being given support by harmonica which introduces the cue and reappears at the tracks conclusion. Donaggio had at the time been known mainly for his music to the horror movie DON’T LOOK NOW and the atmospheric score for CARRIE he also scored Joe Dante’s PIRAHNA in the same year as AMORE PIOMBO E FURORE and there are hints of the low key theme he penned depicting the river for PIRAHNA within this western soundtrack. Tracks 9 and 10 are taken from the 1971 production ED ORA RACCOMANDA L’ANIMA A DIO (AND NOW RECOMMEND YOUR SOUL TO GOD). The music is by Franco Bixio who worked on numerous westerns which can be categorised within the comedy western genre, this is a sub genre of the spaghetti western that either worked wonderfully as in the TRINITY series or failed miserably in lesser known low budget examples but saying this Bixio who at times teamed up with Vince Tempera produced a number of very good scores, this being one such example, the title song JUST A COWARD is represented here in both vocal and instrumental versions, with Mary Usuah providing the distinct vocals underlined by a jaunty almost jolly sounding guitar and the instrumental version being much the same but slightly darker in places.
The next section is taken from the 1966 movie WANTED JOHNNY TEXAS, the score being the work of three composers Marcello Gigante, Alessandro Nadin and Aristide Bascerano the lions share of the work probably being done by Gigante, three cues represent this infectious score, MAIN TITLE, M 22, and FINALE.
All three tracks are basically varying arrangements of the central theme with the second track being a more Mexican flavoured version, this too has since the release of this compilation seen a full soundtrack release and it is a lesser known film and score that should be investigated and certainly added to your collection if you have not already acquired it. It has many of the now accepted musical trademarks of the Italian western score, such as solo trumpet, racing snare drums, female voice tolling bells etc and I would say is one of the most interesting and appealing sections within the compilation.
QUEI DISPERATI CHE PUZZANO DI SUDORE E DI MORTE (LOS DESPERADOS) is up next with music coming from the great Gianni Ferrio who worked extensively within the genre of the spaghetti western, what I think was most appealing about Maestro Ferrio’s music for the western was that like De Masi he fused the established style of the Hollywood western with the new and fresh sound that was becoming associated with the Italian western the end result n most cases was a stunning and highly original end product, that was laced with contagious and rhythmic themes and highly dramatic and romantic sounding phrases. Ferrio would also at times included a kind of jazz vibe within his western scores that gave them a more contemporary and bluesy feel which although I know sounds implausible actually worked making the music more attractive. For LOS DESPERADOS the composer created a favourably dramatic and at times lush sounding score which also included an energetic comic sounding march of sorts. Track number 18 is the opening theme or BLACK JACK from KID IL MONELLO DEL WEST, which was composed by Enrico Simonetti in 1974, originally released just as a 45 rpm single on vinyl, it was not until a few years ago we got to savour the entire score on a Digit Movies compact disc, I have to say however that this is one of those scores that you would be better of just having this one track and maybe the flip side cue from the 45 rpm which was the opening theme sung by children’s choir. For track number 19 and 20 we are back with composer Franco Bixio who on this occasion collaborates with Roberto Pregadio on the music for the 1970 release DESERTO DI FUOCO. The main titles theme is a haunting piece written for strings and a slightly upbeat background over which we hear the exquisite voice of Edda Dell Orso that is a first performed in unison with strings to create a unique and haunting sound the strings then take the theme on board and give it a fuller working before returning to the wonderful aural performance of Dell Orso. This is an excellent example of the genres music, with Pregadio’s influences being heard throughout and I am guessing that this score was more Pregadio than Bixio, as we can hear in the second selection from the score OMBRE SULA SABBIA which again is upbeat and contagious with horns performing the vocal parts of the composition in this arrangement, the FINALE from the score is also included which is a slightly extended version of the main titles theme with strings on this occasion carrying the haunting theme. The next two sections are also courtesy of composer Franco Bixio, tracks 22 through to 24 being taken from the 1974 movie CARAMBOLA with composers Fabio Frizzi and Vince Tempera adding their considerable skills to that of Bixio’s. Then tracks 25 to 26 are taken from the 1975 sequel to CARAMBOLA, CARAMBOLA FILOTTO TUTTI IN BUCA which was created by the collaborative talents of Messrs Bixio, Frizzi and Tempera. Both sections are very good indeed with the original score opening with TEMA PRINCIPALE that has a trumpet solo performance played over a fairly slow background of strumming guitar in a similar fashion to THE MAN WITH NO NAME from Morricones A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, also included is a comedy slanted almost mariachi sounding track entitled MEXICAN CANTINA that is pleasant enough listening.
The FINALE is also included as is a guitar version of the opening theme. The music for the sequel is much lighter and also more in a comedic vein with a bluesy almost country sounding opening theme performed on banjo with an upbeat percussive background aided by bass and strumming guitars that create a sort of bustling atmosphere which is busy but very easily forgotten. Which can also be said for track number 26 FUNNY TOWN the title I suppose giving it away, fiddle, guitar and banjo combining with clumsy sounding brass to purvey an air of comedy which really does not hold a lot of interest and is thankfully short lived. Gianni Ferrio returns for the next selection of themes, from the 1973 movie AMICO STAMMI LONTANO ALMENO UN PALMO (the ballad of Ben and Charlie). Originally released on a Cinevox long playing record the score saw an expanded edition release on Digit movies a few years back, this in my opinion is one of the composers best western scores with a great title song LET IT RAIN LET IT POUR the melody of which can be heard throughout Ferrio’s score in various arrangements, this is a dramatic and also a bluesy sounding soundtrack that is appealing and memorable. We are treated to six cues from the score within this compilation. The final track on disc number one is from Sergio Leone’s DUCK YOU SUCKER, GIU’ LA TESTA, A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE etc, released in 1971 this was to be Leone’s final western as a director with a theme laden score by his long time friend and collaborator Ennio Morricone. The main title theme is included here which is a tour de force of everything that is good about Morricone, exquisite theme wonderful performances by Alessandroni, il Cantori Moderni and the first lady of Italian film music Edda Dell Orso.
Disc two opens with UNO STRANIERO A PASO BRAVO (1967) by the great Angelo Francesco Lavagnino, who contributed so much to Italian cinema as a whole, his western scores were often overlooked by collectors many thinking they were no true spaghetti western scores but they are some of the most original and memorable works within the genre, again I have to say that this composer created a western sound that was all of his own, with a fusion of both Hollywood based styles and upbeat more contemporary sounds which were being employed within the Italian western. UNO STRANIERO A PASO BRAVO is one such example it contains a good solid western or cowboy theme but to this the composer adds solo trumpet, organ and electric guitar and a soaring title song performed in Italian by an energetic sounding Vittoria Brezzi, great stuff. Lavagnino is represented on a further two occasions on disc number two, tracks 13 to 16 are taken from REQUIEM PER UNO GRINGO (1967) tracks 19 to 22 are taken from his score for JOHNNY WEST IL MANCINO (1966). Both scores are vibrant, original and filled with outstanding themes and although the latter example does have within it some clumsy sounding comic orientated music it still remains entertaining. It is no wonder that Lavagnino was Leone’s initial choice to score A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. The remainder of the second disc reads like a who’s who in Italian western scoring, with titles such as PRAY TO GOD AND DIG YOUR GRAVE, OCCHIO ALLA PENNA, VADO VEDO E SPARO, LA NOTTE DEI SERPENTE, ROY COLT AND WINCHESTER JACK, REVENGE AT EL PASO, BOOT HILL etc etc, with composers such as Gigante, Ortolani, Rustichelli, Umiliani, Morricone, Bixio, Martelli, Plenzio and Pregadio being represented. Volume one of this DRG compilation is certainly an entertaining 2 hours plus of music taken from the Cinevox vaults, which contains something for everyone.
Volume two is a selection of music that has been gathered from the archives of EMI General Music which was another label that was particularly active in the release of soundtracks from the late 1960,s through to the early 1980,s. The first disc opens with Bruno Nicolai,s stirring score for 100,OOO DOLLARI PER RINGO which was released in 1965, the score is represented here by a suite of the soundtracks principal themes including the title song RINGO DOVE VAI performed by Bobby Solo with the English language version also being included within the suite. Nicolai’s score is a highly dramatic one with choir, strings and driving percussion and although it was a true Italian western the music still contained influences from the old west as in the Hollywood western score. The composer employing quite grand and forceful sounding brass based themes underlined by at times chaotic percussion to relay adventure, excitement and action, in fact at times the music sounded more like it was from an American made B western movie rather than a spaghetti but nonetheless an impressive work. Section two tracks 2 through to 4 are taken from the comedy western I DUE GRINGOS DEL TEXAS, now you remember I said that this sub genre of the spaghetti western either worked or fell flat on its face, well this I suppose can be said for the music for these productions, on this occasion the music is by Carlo Savina, and in my humble opinion it is probably not one of the composers best efforts for the genre. Three tracks are included two of which are thankfully very brief. Again another candidate for having just a few tracks from a score rather than the entire soundtrack on CD, surprisingly the entire score was issued a couple of years back now, but its not one that collectors were exactly clambering for. Moving swiftly on to 1967 and tracks 5 to 8 DJANGO L’ULTIMO KILLER is the work of Roberto Pregadio and Walter Rizzati and this is completely the opposite from the previous section, it contains a slowly building but strong and memorable theme with solo trumpet, strumming guitars and strings being at the forefront of proceedings with the remainder of the music being in the same style. Tracks 9 through to 11 are taken from SIPUO FARE…AMIGO (The Big and The Bad) music is by Luis Bacalov and this is the first of many sections where Bacalov is represented, track number 9 is the title song from the movie CAN BE DONE which is performed by Rocky Roberts with a little help from a children’s choir.
Bacalov of course is better known for his score to DJANGO the vocal theme of which is also included on this compilation (disc two track number 30) performed by Roberto Fia.
Other Bacalov scores represented include the excellent L’ORO DEI BRAVADOS (Gold for the Bravados), IL GRAND DUELLO (1969), QUIEN SABE (A Bullet for the General)-(1966), LO CHIAMAVANO KING (1971), SUGAR COLT (1966), A MAN CALLED NOON (1973) etc etc, in fact disc two could easily be re-titled THE BEST OF LUIS BACALOV WESTERN THEMES, with a handful of sections such as UN BUCO FRONTE (1968), TEXAS ADDIO (1966), PROFFESSIONAL KILLERS, (1967), A GUN IN THE HAND OF THE DEVIL (1972), SEVEN GUNS FOR KILLING (1967) and THEY CALL ME NOBODY (1973) having music by Roberto Pregadio, Anton Garcia Abril, Carlo Pes, Piero Piccioni, Francesco De Masi and Ennio Morricone respectively. This I think is the only negative about this particular volume within the compilation, too much Bacalov cant be a bad thing I hear you say, well at times the originality of his music does wear a little thin and if one listens to his western scores in particular the composer does shall we say re-cycle certain cues within various projects and cues from DJANGO turn up in QUIEN SABE etc. But then we have the highly original and stirring themes from IL GRANDE DUELLO, L’ORO DEI BRAVADOS and A MAN CALLED NOON to compensate for this.
Volume three in this series also includes tracks from the archive of EMI GENERAL MUSIC. A number of films that are represented on volume two also make an appearance here as well, but the music selected is different and at times the running order includes a suite from a score for example track number 10 is a five minute suite from SUGAR COLT, where as on volume two just the main title made an appearance, Bacalov is also represented by more tracks from GOLD OF THE BRAVADOS and a seven minute suite from A MAN CALLED NOON, I think that by the time DRG had reached volume three in the series they might have been lacking in ideas but they have included a number of Morricone tracks ie; GUNFIGHT AT RED SANDS, A PISTOL FOR RINGO, SEVEN GUNS FOR THE McGREGORS, THE RETURN OF RINGO, DEATH RIDES A HORSE,TEPEPA, A PROFESSIONAL GUN, FACE TO FACE, COMPANEROS(which is an alternative version of the main title) ,LIFE IS TOUGH, E THAT’S PROVIDENCE and an alternative version of THEY CALL ME NOBODY main title, admittedly all great cues but like volume two had a little too much Bacalov maybe volume three has a few Morricone too many. Might have served the continuity and listening experience better if DRG had mixed it up a little and taken some Bacalov off two and put it on three and then the Morricone from three and put on two, if you see what I mean? Really volume three is a little ordinary as most of the tracks on this compact disc have already been within other compilations etc. Also included is a suite from SEVEN GUNS FOR A KILLING with a vocal by Raoul( different cues from the score were on volume two), a great solo trumpet track from THE TWO RINGOS FROM TEXAS ( music from this was also on volume two), but we do have a couple of Nicolai pieces to prop up the proceedings, namely DEPARTURE which is taken from THEY CALL ME SHANGHAI JOE and FINALE from THE DAYS OF VIOLENCE.
Plus a short cue from I DON’T FORGET I KILL by Piero Piccioni, which is a pleasant surprise and also a welcome one? The sound quality on the compact disc is very good apart from a couple of tracks one of which sadly is probably one of the best on compact disc A PROFESSIONAL GUN suffers from very bad distortion during the solo trumpet interlude and it is not entirely crystal clear from that moment onwards, so production issues on this track that I think could have been remedied, it is strange because the version of the score released on GDM had very good sound quality and I have not heard any really bad production on any of the other releases compilations or full soundtrack issues. Also SHANGHAI JOE is distorted not as bad as A PROFESSIONAL GUN but never the less the distortion is there and is somewhat grating and does spoil the overall effect of Nicolai’s music.
Volume four is a two disc set and brings to us the music from the archives of BEAT records, like Cinevox and also General music and CAM. The BEAT record company was and still is one of the busiest recording labels in Italy and it was along with the aforementioned labels one of the first soundtrack specialist labels to go into business. Volume four opens with a selection of cues from the 1963 production THE SIGN OF THE COYOTE music is by Francesco De Masi but because this movie was released before the spaghetti western had established itself the music is very different from later De Masi scores after the advent of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and after Morricone and Leone had changed the western forever. De Masi’s score for COYOTE is rather typical of what was being written for American productions at the time, there is not even a hint of the spaghetti western score musical trademarks, and this can also be said for the next section which is again De Masi scoring the 1964 release A MAN IN THE VALLEY OF THE DAMNED.
In fact we do not hear any hints of what was to come from De Masi until Track number five of this compilation which is from the 1965 movie RANCH OF THE RUTHLESS, the style of De Masi I would not say changed it merely altered and developed into the sound that we now associate with the composer, tracks seven and eight are taken from A COFFIN FOR THE SHERIFF (1965), which includes a great song with vocals by Peter Tevis.
De Masi more than most composers I think seemed to like to have a title song and a vocalist he worked with many times was Raoul, who’s distinct and powerful vocals graced many a De Masi soundtrack. AND THEN A TIME FOR KILLING or TEQUILA JOE was released in 1968 and we are treated to two cues from the soundtrack here one being a glorious Raoul vocal performance. De Masi is well represented within this compilation and no I am not complaining as his music is always exquisite and entertaining and never repetitive. Disc one for example also includes FOR A FEW BULLETS MORE, KILL THEM ALL AND COME BACK ALONE, RINGO THE LONE RIDER and SARTANA DOES NOT FORGIVE. All of which are excellent and significant and important contributions to the genre of the spaghetti western, Disc two also has its fair share of De Masi musical gems, I,M SARTANA -TRADE YOUR PISTOL FOR A COFFIN and CHALLENGE FOR THE McKENNAS, The compilation also has within its running time THE FIVE MAN ARMY, GRAND SILENCE by Ennio Morricone. HAVE A GOOD FUNERAL SARTANA WILL PAY, THE MAN CALLED APOCALYPSE JOE, BULLET FOR A STRANGER and LO CHIAMAVANO TRESETTE,GIOCAVA SEMPRE COL MORTO by Bruno Nicolai. BUKAROO by Lallo Gori, NO ROOM TO DIE by Vasco Vassil Koyucharov, THE SPECIALIST by Lavagnino, AND GOD SAID TO CAIN by Savina, PRAY TO KILL AND RETURN ALIVE by Mario Migliardi, THE THREE MUSKETEERS OF THE WEST by Rustichelli, MY NAME IS TRUTH by De Sica and THE DAY OF FIRE and WACH OUT GRINGO, SABATA WILL RETURN by Piccioni and all these great scores and this wonderful music from one label BEAT. The series of compact discs from DRG are accompanied by eye catching art work and informative notes volumes 1 and 2 have notes by Didier c Duetsch and volumes 3 and 4 contain essays and info penned by John Bender. Maybe not the definitive collection or indeed as iconic as the SPAGHETTI WESTERN ENCYCLOPEDIA released on King records but still invaluable and a great source of information for anyone wishing to discover the music of the Spaghetti western.
FILM AND TELEVISION MUSIC FROM AROUND THE WORLD AND MOVIE REVIEWS AND NEWS.