Saturday, 21 April 2018

WTF (part 7) and Giallo fever (part 11)

Title: L’ingenua (The naive)
Year: 1975
Composer: Carlo Savina

Sexy comedies with some softcore nudity were their own genre in Italy in the 70s, including L’ingenua from 1975. There is a plot about conmen trying to sell a villa but the real reason for the film were the views, both the beautiful scenery but mostly the nudity of one Ilona Staller, aka Cicciolina, a famous Italian sex-object. Strangely a film like this also got an original score which was made by none-other than Carlo Savina, already a prolific film composer at the time. And the result is actually a pleasant surprise, not just some background porn music.

Because the score is so short, around just 25 minutes, Savina made a clever choice to build it around one unifying theme heard in Seq. 1. It opens however with a sighing female voice, which is a corny touch and sadly disappears for the rest of the score. The theme is then heard in waltz meter on the Mediterranean accordion and whistling which gives it the comedic edge before modulating into a wondrous little crescendo. Lovely stuff indeed. It is followed by straight-up comedy honky-tonk which after a pause turns into a fine version of the main theme never straying far from the comedy. A more laid-back poolside source version is heard in Seq. 3 but Seq. 4 returns to the comedy with music suitable for a funny chase sequence and later more anonymous background music. Seq. 6 and 11 include folk-music like accordion waltz which isn’t terribly original but does it job. Bluesy radio source with walking bass is featured in Seq. 7 preceding a cheeky main theme statement of Seq. 8 which has slight hints of doubt with the underlying orchestrations.

A beautiful saxophone solo opens Seq. 10 before the comedy motif of Seq. 2 returns somewhat ruining the otherwise fine atmosphere. The most ‘suspenseful’ moment of the score is heard in Seq. 12’s beginning but then it dissolves into a mixture of both the main theme and an actually interesting variation of the comedy motif with odd tinkling sound-effects and organ bleeps. The last cue returns to the lovely wonder of the opening with sweet orchestrations and floating accordion solo.

The score for the film is a very light one and doesn’t feature any real drama. If you’re looking for an easy-listening to play in the background, this certainly does the job but never reaches the heights Savina is capable off. But on the whole we have to be glad that this project even exists and we are able to hear it after over 4 decades.

Rating: ***

Title: L’osceno desiderio (Obscene desire)
Year: 1978
Composer: Carlo Savina

As an odd choice, the second feature on this album is actually from a giallo/horror film about an American tourist who gets impregnated while on a holiday. Inspired clearly by The omen and Rosemary’s baby, the child is actually the antichrist. Savina’s score is actually similar to one featured in those films, since it includes both beautiful passages that lull you into a fall sense of security and then releases frightening scenarios in the tension-filled cues.

The film’s sad main theme opens Seq. 1 with a plain piano solo which later expands to woodwinds and solo viola. Savina’s scores generally are more built around motifs than long-lined themes. However this time the melody is really developed and tear-jerkingly beautiful, and perhaps one of the composer’s very finest. The orchestration for this score is quite sparse which makes all the instruments pop out thus making the listener feel each performer’s unique way of playing. The first few reprises are full of hope and filled with the bliss of a tragic romance. Both Seq. 3 and 4 include passages in major key and variate the melody into clever chord progressions that change the overall mood momentarily into a light autumn breeze. The last shades of almost childlike innocence are heard in Seq. 6 which once again continues to the tragic pattern that is incredibly beautiful with its sadness. From thereon the theme continues to get shades of darkness with every reprise. Seq. 8 combines it with clashing pianos, keyboards and even snippets of the devil’s viola, and the style gets even more broken and crooked in the following cue. After many horrific cues there is a surprising sequence, Seq. 17, which is a romantic new theme that has dramatic piano flourishes and even major key sections. That new melody is also heard in the finale cue which isn’t the romantic conclusion I was hoping for because there are still shades of darkness left, perhaps signaling that the evil wasn’t defeated.

The horror begins already in Seq. 2 with devilish viola solo, another classic way to resemble the devil through Western classical music. The base is reprised without the viola in Seq 7. The mood of these cues is later developed into an actual horror motif which is the score’s secondary theme. Seq. 10 has interesting keyboard effects that are actually quite fun in a twisted way. The first version of that secondary theme is also heard during its final moments. Seq. 11 has music that sounds like someone creeping around empty rooms at night. Seq. 12 begins with terrifying variations of the main theme which make way to another sparse creeping around cue that is actually quite frightening to listen to by yourself. Seq. 13 is the first cue built entirely around the secondary theme. It isn’t as effective as the previous horror music but functional for sure and it even includes some humming choral voices that create a ghostly atmosphere. There are also otherworldly electronic enhancements in the following cue which are actually quite unsettling. The closest the music comes to releasing the tension is at the end of Seq. 18 where the music speeds up and swells into its climax.

L’osceno desiderio has beautiful, exquisitely orchestrated music during its first half which then turns into sour, slow-burning tension during the second half that barely lets the listener have a moment to breathe. Unfortunately the beginning is so strong that the suspense music, which is built around repeating loops and short phrases, just falls flat at certain points. At times though it manages to get under my skin and makes me check over the shoulder for intruders. Nevertheless it’s clearly the better score of the album and just barely misses a perfect rating.

Rating: ****1/2

1. L'ingenua (Seq. 1) (02:10) *****
2. L'ingenua (Seq. 2) (02:24) ****
3. L'ingenua (Seq. 3) (01:37) ****
4. L'ingenua (Seq. 4) (02:06) ***
5. L'ingenua (Seq. 5) (01:22) ***
6. L'ingenua (Seq. 6) (01:39) ***
7. L'ingenua (Seq. 7) (01:17) ***
8. L'ingenua (Seq. 8) (01:48) ****
9. L'ingenua (Seq. 9) (01:58) ***
10. L'ingenua (Seq. 10) (02:04) ***
11. L'ingenua (Seq. 11) (01:48) ***
12. L'ingenua (Seq. 12) (02:32) ****
13. L'ingenua (Seq. 13) (01:11) *****
14. L'osceno desiderio (Seq. 1) (01:52) *****
15. L'osceno desiderio (Seq. 2) (01:26) *****
16. L'osceno desiderio (Seq. 3) (02:24) *****
17. L'osceno desiderio (Seq. 4) (02:56) *****
18. L'osceno desiderio (Seq. 5) (01:19) *****
19. L'osceno desiderio (Seq. 6) (02:06) *****
20. L'osceno desiderio (Seq. 7) (01:26) ***
21. L'osceno desiderio (Seq. 8) (02:31) *****
22. L'osceno desiderio (Seq. 9) (01:49) *****
23. L'osceno desiderio (Seq. 10) (02:28) ****
24. L'osceno desiderio (Seq. 11) (01:37) ****
25. L'osceno desiderio (Seq. 12) (03:00) *****
26. L'osceno desiderio (Seq. 13) (02:00) *****
27. L'osceno desiderio (Seq. 14) (03:24) ***
28. L'osceno desiderio (Seq. 15) (02:26) ****
29. L'osceno desiderio (Seq. 16) (02:01) ***
30. L'osceno desiderio (Seq. 17) (03:42) *****
31. L'osceno desiderio (Seq. 18) (01:53) ****
32. L'osceno desiderio (Seq. 19) (02:30) *****

Friday, 20 April 2018

Love and other drugs: part 3

Title: L’attico (The attic)
Year: 1962
Composer: Piero Piccioni

L’attico is a story about a naïve girl who wants to make it big in the city working as a model and living in a penthouse facing the Colosseum. While fulfilling her dream she also dates several suitors. Piero Piccioni’s score is almost pure jazz, based around two alternating main themes which are the building blocks to almost every single cue on this 70-minute album.

And luckily Piccioni really delivers a home run with the opening theme, which is the most prevalent melody heard throughout the score. L’attico is a lively piece of smooth, falling-rising lines which move from solo instrument to another and allow the performers’ improvisational skills shine. The orchestration here also differs from standard jazz band ensembles, including for instance a vibraphone and harpsichord which give the music otherworldly, slightly off-kilter edge. Usually Piccioni’s melodies tend to take their time to arouse the listener’s interest. In the case of L’attico I was hooked from the first note and I must admit that this might be my all-time favourite Piero Piccioni tune. Fortunately for me (and hopefully other listeners too) the score is basically a theme-and-variations type of score, like e.g. Maestro Morricone’s La cosa buffa, both of which twist and turn their core material into all the possible shapes.

Attico per organo changes the melody into an improvisatory keyboard solo in a slower pace which is just lovely yet simultaneously odd. A nightly, slow jazz orchestra version of track 11 is not as engaging as the faster versions but beautiful nevertheless. After a straightforward reprise, track 13 turns into a hallucinatory duet for abstract organ chords and solo vibraphone. Next reprises are dominated by sultry saxophones before a straightforward church organ version appears in track 20 representing the other end of the spectrum of uses Piccioni has for the melody. It’s followed by a dramatic, Baroque-inspired harpsichord variation of the melody that is just another stroke of brilliance. Track 29 combines the harpsichord and organ into a duet of nearly religious proportions that is ruined when a more mischievous variation appears after a dissonant surge.

The second melody, called simply Ancora is a more mournful tune, whose long lines allow usually a passionate solo instrument to take the centre stage over more laid-back accompaniment. This melody clearly represents the nocturnal, lonely city streets and perhaps also the hardships our protagonist might encounter in the city. In its first incarnation the melody is played first by a trumpet and then saxophone, while in track 9 the roles are switched. The trailer version of track 14 features the melody on flutes and keyboards while the beat is more danceable than previously.

To add some variety, Piccioni wrote also some other pieces of music to expand the musical universe of the film. Afro starts with slow Latin rhythms which are then joined by playful woodwinds and organ notes, but in its 1st reprise we only get some odd percussion effects and someone blowing into a glass bottle. Afrodite is a poolside source cue for flute soloist and light percussion, whereas Chicago style is a fun, but all-too-brief nightclub ragtime number for tinkling piano and percussion work resembling tap dancing. Its reprise sounds like the saloon piano playing the tune has been detuned and slightly broken. Track 12 includes fast, big city jazz that might have something to do with the main theme but at the level that escapes this listener. A change in pace is also Marcetta which is a comedic march tune interrupted by constant, dream-like space-effects in the background. Lastly there is Piano source, a sad minor-key tune for solo piano written in the best romantic music traditions but strangely it ends with a thump representing the pianist’s frustration.

The listener’s enjoyment of the score depends largely on whether or not he likes the main theme, because that theme is nearly everywhere. I happen to love that melody and hence giving a rating for the score is relatively easy. After a trim, there is nevertheless a large amount of well-composed, jazzy film music for others. The warmth of the music is exceptional and I really can’t remember another Piccioni score that has given me an emotional rollercoaster ride like this one.

Rating: *****

1. L'attico (02:16) *****
2. Afro (03:11) *****
3. Afrodite (02:08) ****
4. Ancora (03:14) *****
5. Attico per organo (02:18) *****
6. Chicago style (01:01) *****
7. L'attico (01:58) *****
8. Afro (02:41) **
9. Ancora (03:10) *****
10. Chicago style (01:30) ****
11. L'attico (grand orchestra) (02:37) ****
12. L'attico (02:04) ****
13. L'attico (01:56) *****
14. Ancora (trailer) (03:01) ****
15. Attico per organo (01:58) ***
16. L'attico (01:17) *****
17. L'attico (marcetta) (01:36) ***
18. L'attico (02:04) *****
19. Ancora (01:54) ****
20. Attico per organo (01:32) *****
21. L'attico (02:03) *****
22. Attico per organo (01:20) *****
23. Ancora (02:56) *****
24. Afro (01:11) ****
25. L'attico (02:02) *****
26. Chicago style (fast) (01:56) *****
27. L'attico (piano source) (01:31) *****
28. L'attico (01:11) ****
29. L'attico (01:34) *****
30. Ancora (trailer take 2) (02:21) *****
31. Attico per organo (01:28) *****
32. L'attico (01:09) ****
33. L'attico (01:17) ****
34. L'attico (01:47) *****
35. L'attico (grand orchestra) (02:50) ****

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Spaghetti and cowboys: part 6

Title: È tornato Sabata… hai chiuso un’altra volta (Return of Sabata)
Year: 1971
Composer: Marcello Giombini

For the last film in the Sabata trilogy, the actor playing the main character made his return along with the first film’s composer, Marcello Giombini. He didn’t reprise any of the thematic material of the first, rather than crafted a whole new score that was clearly more tongue-in-cheek and self-aware.

The more light-hearted tone is prevalent right from the opening theme song with hilarious scat ‘pom-pom’ censorship in its lyrics. Also the hand-claps and the macho delivery of the vocals combined to the powerful choral harmonies are a recipe for a fun cue. This theme song is the backbone once again for the rest of the score. It’s heard in the following Seq. 2 after a brief fast-paced action moment, played by a harpsichord and marimba in a comedic way. A jazzy flute, surf guitar and choir variate the melody in Seq.6 and 11 whereas Seq. 9 is just the rhythmic section playing the ‘pom-pom’ rhythm followed by a solo voice of Alessandro Alessandroni reciting the song lyrics. Finale is the reprise of the theme song strangely played twice in a row without noticeable variation, which is a slightly disappointing end to the score.

Giombini’s music explores many different genres throughout its duration and jumps between moods constantly. However the music never gets distracting since everything seems to be a part of a larger painting. The saloon piano returns of course in a cheery way in Seq. 3, 16, and in Seq. 13 it plays one of the film’s secondary themes. That love theme is heard fully in Seq.5 which is a violin-banjo duet in waltz tempo, a pretty little tune. The choral voices are utilized better here than in the preceding scores, for instance Seq. 4 has hissing and whispering voices shouting the name “Sabata”, and in Seq. 14 they offer a short snippet of church choir realness. The Gothic organ returns in Seq. 7 and it’s even more furious and judgmental than in the first film. In the following cue the organ is combined to tribal drum rhythms and shouting choral voices in an entertaining, over-the-top manner.

The suspenseful aspects of the story are introduced in Seq. 10 with echoing flute effects which resolve to bass clarinets and tremolo strings. In the middle of Seq. 11 a secondary, cool, jazzy electric guitar theme is heard for the first time and after a banjo interlude it returns in a full, menacing fashion combined to choral voices. The fullest statement of this idea is Seq. 12 which starts with marimbas, then introduces the melody with strings and keyboards and later turns into a psychedelic moment of terror for jazz flute, choir and the guitar. It’s probably my favourite cue in the whole score. Variations of the guitar theme are combined to tribal ‘pom-pom’ rhythms, comedic main theme statements and abstract bass clarinet tunes in Seq. 15. The score concludes to Seq. 17 which starts with a pastiche of Händel’s Hallelujah-choir before some suspense moments for percussion and Jew’s harp, and finally some jazzy reprises of the guitar theme.

The score for the last film may not be as polished as the one by Nicolai but I had the most fun with this one compared to all the others. It is cheesy for sure, but made me crack a smile several times during the album so it has to be doing something right. The constant surprises of different styles and inventive orchestrations combined to a killer secondary theme make this my favourite of the three Sabata scores.

Rating: ****

1. È tornato Sabata... hai chiuso un'altra volta (Titoli - Seq. 1) (02:12) *****
2. È tornato Sabata... hai chiuso un'altra volta (Seq. 2) (02:10) ****
3. È tornato Sabata... hai chiuso un'altra volta (Seq. 3) (01:22) ****
4. È tornato Sabata... hai chiuso un'altra volta (Seq. 4) (01:25) *****
5. È tornato Sabata... hai chiuso un'altra volta (Seq. 5) (02:37) ****
6. È tornato Sabata... hai chiuso un'altra volta (Seq. 6) (01:25) ****
7. È tornato Sabata... hai chiuso un'altra volta (Seq. 7) (02:14) *****
8. È tornato Sabata... hai chiuso un'altra volta (Seq. 8) (01:12) *****
9. È tornato Sabata... hai chiuso un'altra volta (Seq. 9) (01:59) ****
10. È tornato Sabata... hai chiuso un'altra volta (Seq. 10) (01:29) ****
11. È tornato Sabata... hai chiuso un'altra volta (Seq. 11) (03:50) ****
12. È tornato Sabata... hai chiuso un'altra volta (Seq. 12) (02:44) *****
13. È tornato Sabata... hai chiuso un'altra volta (Seq. 13) (02:36) *****
14. È tornato Sabata... hai chiuso un'altra volta (Seq. 14) (00:54) ****
15. È tornato Sabata... hai chiuso un'altra volta (Seq. 15) (02:06) *****
16. È tornato Sabata... hai chiuso un'altra volta (Seq. 16) (02:26) ****
17. È tornato Sabata... hai chiuso un'altra volta (Seq. 17) (03:59) *****
18. È tornato Sabata... hai chiuso un'altra volta (Finale - Seq. 18) (04:23) ****

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Spaghetti and cowboys: part 5

Title: Adiós, Sabata (Indio Black)
Year: 1970
Composer: Bruno Nicolai

The sequel to Sabata started out as a solo film for another character called Indio Black. However during production the success of Sabata made the producers change the film into a sequel. The composer for the film was also different, namely Bruno Nicolai who also had several Spaghetti Western films under his name. His scores for the genre tended to be a bit hit-or-miss for me, usually boasting awesome themes but unable to keep the interest up for the whole score. I can happily say that fortunately Adiós, Sabata belongs into the ‘hit’ category.

Even more so compared to the first film, this one is dominated by one single theme. However this time there are more distinctive moments of non-main-theme-based material. The main theme heard in the opening track is a sorrowful tune with some hints to victorious Morriconean Spaghetti Western chords. The melody is heard first by a classic solo whistling before it turns into a full gallop for the whole orchestra and choir. Within the first cue it never gets into full flight though but quiets down to solo recorder effects followed by a sudden joyous fiddle surge. Most of the theme’s latter reprises are written for solo woodwinds, especially bassoon or whistling and they’re surprisingly introverted rather than flashy. The happier B section of the melody is heard in track 3 but it cools down before getting really going. Main theme #5 is the fullest version thus far, including the choir’s spoken word of “Indio Black” and rises up to another glorious orchestral statement. Version #6 starts straight from the driving B section followed by a sublime action version of the theme. The ending two single versions are a look into the whole score, first one a full theme statement, the latter reprising the Mexican mariachi music and the electric guitar waltz heard in track 12.

Besides the main theme the album has plenty of action and suspense material. The big fight is the first one and it balances between massive orchestral heroics and suspense writing with martial undertones eventually leading into a dramatic military march. More furious action follows in Action sequence which once again bounces between lighter suspense and large-scale bursts of power. Even hints of the previous march are added for some extra colour among high horror music strings. A suspense motif of descending low piano rumbles is also introduced. Nicolai’s suspense scoring here is far more effective compared to its predecessor, for instance Suspense sequence is so descriptive with its palpable sense of tension before changing into a fine main theme reprise. Suspense sequence #3 in particular allows the music to take its time and venture through empty Western town streets. Eventually there is a swaying new electric guitar tune with colourful, birdlike flutes and even a full version of the main theme.

The album consists mostly of dramatic moments like this but there are some breathers sprinkled in between. Stompede begins with tuneful saloon piano and then moves into a short elegy for solo guitar and light strings which is actually the main theme in disguise. Similar instrumentation returns in Deguello but the melody is a new one. After the main theme, a lullaby for the solo bassoon leads the listener into an unexpected music box tinkling the main theme. The lullaby returns beautifully in Pastorale after a mix of the suspense motif and main theme. The most surprising combination has to be Theme –piano version which is a full version of the main theme for a saloon piano which blurs the line between source music and regular film scoring. This cue is easily one of the album’s finest. Another surprise appears in Mariachi, a jubilant Mexican source cue for the full orchestra followed by Mexican choir, a two-voice acapella source.

Nicolai’s score is clearly more constant with its quality but overall the highlights aren’t as special as in the first score. Also this time there is only one single theme and if you don’t enjoy it, you’re going to have a tedious time with this album. Luckily the best score of the trilogy is still left and you don’t have to choose between these two for the best Sabata score.

Rating: ****

1. Indio Black (Main theme) (03:07) ****
2. Indio Black (The big fight) (03:43) ****
3. Indio Black (Main theme #2) (01:57) *****
4. Indio Black (Action sequence) (05:18) ****
5. Indio Black (Main theme #3) (01:27) ****
6. Indio Black (Suspence sequence) (01:38) ****
7. Indio Black (Main theme #4) (01:45) ****
8. Indio Black (Stompede) (01:43) *****
9. Indio Black (Main theme #5) (02:13) *****
10. Indio Black (Suspence sequence #2) (01:29) ***
11. Indio Black (Main theme #6) (02:16) *****
12. Indio Black (Suspence sequence #3) (05:06) *****
13. Indio Black (Main theme #7) (01:04) ****
14. Indio Black (Deguello) (03:35) *****
15. Indio Black (Pastorale) (02:04) *****
16. Indio Black (Suspence sequence #4) (04:41) ****
17. Indio Black (Action sequence #2) (02:12) ****
18. Indio Black (End theme) (01:36) ****
19. Indio Black (Theme - piano version) (02:31) *****
20. Indio Black (Mariachi) (01:22) ****
21. Indio Black (Mexican choir) (01:35) ***
22. Indio Black (Mariachi 2) (01:17) ***
23. Indio Black (Side A) (02:12) *****
24. Indio Black (Side B) (02:48) ****

Spaghetti and cowboys: part 4

Title: Ehi amico… c’è Sabata, hai chiuso! (Sabata)
Year: 1969
Composer: Marcello Giombini

Along with The man with no name, Django, Ringo etc there was another lone gunman appearing in Spaghetti Western films at the turn of 1960s-70s, Sabata. This antihero was portrayed by two different actors in the three films he appeared and originally had another name in the ‘sequel’ before it turned into a Sabata picture during production. Quartet records released all the scores together on a 3 CD box set.

The first score is by Marcello Giombini who was a prevalent composer of especially Spaghetti Western films but sometimes ventured to other genres as well. His work for Sabata is probably his most well-known work and no wonder: the main theme is very catchy and sticks with you after just a few listens. The opening Titoli opens with the swirling strings associated with the film’s antagonist before the main theme appears first played by an electric guitar and then a forceful brass section. The descending tune has some mariachi qualities to it and a riding gallop beat underneath. The first reprise arrives in Verso Los Saloe and eventually it variates into a major key version of the tune. Vocal includes spoken word by Alessandro Alessandroni and his choir members repeating the film’s title. Though cheesy, you can’t deny its entertainment value. The album ends with a few full reprises of the tune which unfortunately get too repetitive after hearing the melody already throughout the whole score. The last cue however is a surprising one, the theme sung fully in German meant for the international distribution of the film.

The antagonist of the story is called Stengel and his theme is heard in a brilliant way in track 3. Its foundation is built around swirling strings and victorious chord progressions. The melody itself probably the best one within the score and resembles those glorious solo trumpet moments from Morricone’s Western scores. For the sidekick Banjo, the main instrument is clear. The banjos are however more in the background in track 7 and the actual melody is played by woodwinds and strings with a slight nautical feel for some odd reason. Auira Banjo mixes his theme for a solo banjo with hints to the Stengel material but finally turns them into emotional orchestral glory. The theme had also a single version, track 18 which combines strangely material from tracks 7, 13 and 10.

For moments that don’t play around the main themes, Giombini provided an array of moods. L’attesa is a slow funeral elegy which isn’t terribly interesting unfortunately while Saloon is a source piano piece. Morte di Stengel opens with effective, quiet suspense material for inventive orchestrations eventually reprising the main theme in disguise. L’agguato is a tense orchestral stinger which doesn’t offer anything new but is a fine composition nonetheless. It however isn’t anything compared to the most over-the-top drama moment of the score, La vendetta for a thunderous, Gothic church organ playing in Baroque fashion backed by the orchestra.

The score concludes with three nicely assembled suites, first of which begins with tense Stengel material and changes into a more action orientated variation of his theme and then into a suspense variation. Later the melody is mixed together with several major key versions of the main theme that are the foundation for the rest of the suite. Suite 2 opens with all the three main identities before a short yet beautiful love theme for solo viola is heard, which then moves to new main theme variations for varying orchestration. The last suite is once again all about the main theme: first harpsichord playing it with a slightly comedic edge, then some alto flute, marimbas and eventually back to soothing harpsichord notes.

The main theme, no matter how catchy, is perhaps too plentiful and that is the biggest complaint I have with Sabata. Luckily the orchestration varies and almost none of the reprises sound the same. I would have loved to have more of the other themes which now get buried under the excessive main theme statements. Nevertheless it’s a fine Spaghetti Western score and will surely please the fans of the genre.

Rating: ****

1. Ehi amico... c’e’ Sabata, hai chiuso! (Titoli) (01:52) *****
2. Ehi amico... c’e’ Sabata, hai chiuso! (L’attesa) (02:00) ***
3. Ehi amico... c’e’ Sabata, hai chiuso! (Nel covo di Sengel) (03:08) *****
4. Ehi amico... c’e’ Sabata, hai chiuso! (Verso Los Saloe) (01:37) ****
5. Ehi amico... c’e’ Sabata, hai chiuso! (Saloon) (01:42) ***
6. Ehi amico... c’e’ Sabata, hai chiuso! (Desolazione) (01:17) **
7. Ehi amico... c’e’ Sabata, hai chiuso! (Banjo) (01:09) *****
8. Ehi amico... c’e’ Sabata, hai chiuso! (Vocal) (02:43) ****
9. Ehi amico... c’e’ Sabata, hai chiuso! (Morte di Stengel) (02:42) ****
10. Ehi amico... c’e’ Sabata, hai chiuso! (Auira Banjo) (02:37) *****
11. Ehi amico... c’e’ Sabata, hai chiuso! (L’agguato) (01:05) ****
12. Ehi amico... c’e’ Sabata, hai chiuso! (Saloon 2) (01:55) ***
13. Ehi amico... c’e’ Sabata, hai chiuso! (La vendetta) (02:43) *****
14. Ehi amico... c’e’ Sabata, hai chiuso! (Suite 1) (07:26) ****
15. Ehi amico... c’e’ Sabata, hai chiuso! (Suite 2) (04:02) ****
16. Ehi amico... c’e’ Sabata, hai chiuso! (Suite 3) (04:53) ****
17. Ehi amico... c’e’ Sabata, hai chiuso! (Banjo - single version) (02:30) ****
18. Ehi amico... c’e’ Sabata, hai chiuso! (Alternate take 1) (01:50) ****
19. Ehi amico... c’e’ Sabata, hai chiuso! (Alternate take 2) (02:38) ***
20. Ehi amico... c’e’ Sabata, hai chiuso! (Alternate take 3) (01:51) ****
21. Ehi amico... c’e’ Sabata, hai chiuso! (Vocal - in tedesco) (02:36) ****

Monday, 26 February 2018

Exotic flavours: part 6

Title: Ming, ragazzi! (Mr. Hercules against karate)
Year: 1973
Composer: Carlo Savina

In the 70s a number of comedy-crossover films were made also in Italy. Ming, ragazzi! belongs into this category. The story takes a Bud Spencer-Terence Hill -like duo to Hong Kong where they have to rescue a son of a Chinese restaurant owner held hostage by a local karate school. The composer for the project was a bit unexpected, Carlo Savina, who I associate more with dramas or historical epics for which he offered soundscapes more suitable for a concert hall than film score. This is easily one of the lightest and most ‘easy-listening’ his work ever got but still provides some interesting textures and musical devices.

In a typical Savina fashion, the score is pretty monothematic. The main theme heard in Titoli is a longlined tune with that 70s glitz but with some hints to the oriental melodies in its opening phrase. The theme goes through the full orchestral glamour phase and then moves to a more comedic section with car honks. Seq. 3 is a longer reprise of the theme’s different sections which are all over the place, sometimes comedic marches, sometimes sentimental elegies and finally more in the style of 70s ‘travel music’ with glorious string flourishes. A fun, fast beat style version of Seq. 4 is perfect for a comedic fight sequence and it even ends with some oriental terror. Full ballroom muzak version Seq. 5 is a complete departure from the comedy and surprisingly well-composed for such a silly comedy film. More straightforward comedy returns in Seq. 14 after a musical saw and organ glissandi. Finale is another collage of styles from restaurant tunes to menace eventually growing into a joyous, orchestral crescendo.

The oriental aspects of the score are quite stereotypical. They start to appear prominently from Seq.6 onwards with pizzicato strings accompanying the main theme. Seq. 7 has woodwind and organ effects with pentatonic progressions over a steady, menacing bassline. Slower, sinister progression opens Seq. 9 which then turns into the score’s biggest action cue with stabbing, irregular string rhythms reminiscent of Stravinsky’s Rite of spring. The ominous harpsichord and gong are bouncing between twisted and comedic main theme variations in Seq. 12 offering a fine contrast between the two styles but perhaps being slightly too distracting.

Besides these two, there are other kinds of musical styles presented as well. Seq. 2 is a laid-back beat tune that ends with organ effects straight from a Savina horror project. There are also some muzak tunes for lobbies or a restaurant setting. Seq. 8 is an instrumental for a solo clarinet but there are also two vocal cues sung in English. The first one, Seq. 10, is a cheesy love song for an unnamed male voice for a background listening but midway it changes into a fast-paced samba before reprising the previous styles in an instrumental version. The better song for a female voice (again unnamed) of Seq. 12 begins with a long instrumental introduction that then abruptly turns into a breezy bossa arrangement for the vocals.

Ming, ragazzi! is perhaps the most easily accessible Carlo Savina score I’ve heard but its ever-changing, ‘mickey-mousing’ nature prevents me from fully embracing it. It perhaps diverts too far from the composer’s usual unique style and hence becomes more anonymous and plain in comparison to his other work.

Rating: ***1/2

1. Ming, ragazzi! (Seq. 1 - Titoli) (02:25) ****
2. Ming, ragazzi! (Seq. 2) (01:35) ***
3. Ming, ragazzi! (Seq. 3) (04:52) ****
4. Ming, ragazzi! (Seq. 4) (02:39) ****
5. Ming, ragazzi! (Seq. 5) (02:38) *****
6. Ming, ragazzi! (Seq. 6) (01:28) ****
7. Ming, ragazzi! (Seq. 7) (01:56) ***
8. Ming, ragazzi! (Seq. 8) (02:15) ***
9. Ming, ragazzi! (Seq. 9) (03:23) ****
10. Ming, ragazzi! (Seq. 10) (05:50) ***
11. Ming, ragazzi! (Seq. 11) (01:41) ****
12. Ming, ragazzi! (Seq. 12) (04:54) ****
13. Ming, ragazzi! (Seq. 13) (04:57) ****
14. Ming, ragazzi! (Seq. 14) (01:16) ***
15. Ming, ragazzi! (Seq. 15) (01:33) ***
16. Ming, ragazzi! (Seq. 16 - Finale) (02:12) ****

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Exotic flavours: part 5

Title: The boy & the lion
Year: 2013
Composer: Stelvio Cipriani

Another Italian film music maestro still working today is Stelvio Cipriani. Unfortunately his current projects are very hard to find any information about, including the score we’re listening today: The boy & the lion from 2013. Apparently it is a TV production, and based on the track titles it tells a story about a friendship between a lion and a child. The music really doesn’t represent the wide fields of Africa but rather offers romantic fluff typical for the composer. The instrumentation includes an array of 90s synth elements including percussion, guitars and panpipes which hark back to a long gone nostalgic era. A small string section is also included which provides perhaps the most emotionally moving performances on the album.

The weirdly arranged album begins with 14 variations of the main theme. Usually this would be a tiresome way to start off but luckily the varied arrangements are quite lovely. The theme itself follows basic Cipriani harmonic structure but in the age of lackluster modern film music it is a true delight to hear. Some of the arrangements stand out more than others. The opening moves the melody nicely from instrument to instrument: panpipes to strings, synth oboe to tinkling harpsichord and so on while a cheesy drum beat rolls on underneath. Version 3 includes staccato lines from the strings which flourish along with a sweet solo piano while Version 6 is a more straightforward romantic string and piano duet with beautiful underlying harpsichord ostinato. Version 8 includes a new emotional prelude which then leads to a full, mournful performance of the theme. The problem I have with the string versions is that they sound just like demo recordings of the string sections used in the preceding cues and hence don’t work as well on their own because you’ve already heard how the experience is heightened with the use of solo instruments.

The main theme doesn’t fully disappear after those 14 cues but is featured later in Innocent joy which is a more mature version of Version 8 because the main theme sounds much older here when played by the low strings. Goodbye my friend is a full version of the main theme prelude with tinkling, warm synth textures which later reprise the theme as well as the ostinato. The beginning of the finale Across the land sounds pretty dated with its pop-sensibilities. However a surprise addition of a solo (non-synthetic!) saxophone appears out of nowhere and turns the track into something similar of Jerry Goldsmith’s The Russia house. While not as great as that score, it is certainly a powerful yet cheesy end to the album.

The second theme is called Lion’s waltz, a major key melody which is quite childlike and innocent with its cute synth elements. It’s a charming little tune but not as successful as the main theme. The same melody is turned into Animal’s march which is probably the most cheap-sounding cue of the score with horrendous synth drumkit and keyboard sounds straight out of a 90s children’s TV show. Running is one of the more serious cues on the album starting with the main theme ostinato but then developing into a nostalgic new tune based on the chord structures of both the previous themes. The end of the cue continues straight to Playing in the sun which is another innocent, summery waltz track. The two Jungle life cues are first real attempts of something exotic and wild with groovy basslines, tribal yet synthetic percussion and ghostly panpipes in the first version. The second one has only the percussion track and some soft synth pads which carry on tediously for 5 straight minutes. Eventually there are also some suspense cues like Fear in the jungle which quotes the main theme briefly but then turns into a synth pad stinger and Hiding in the jungle with more tribal percussion.

The boy & the lion is a nostalgic trip through 70s melodies and 90s TV score arrangements, an obscure combination with little to no relevance to the assumed subject matter. Nevertheless I hope Cipriani keeps making this kind of music since his own unique voice still shines through after decades of marvellous scores. For a better listening experience I would rearrange the cues and perhaps cut some of the purely string versions which aren’t as good as the ones with finalized orchestrations.

Rating: ****

1. The boy & the lion (02:58) ****
2. The boy & the lion (Alternative version 1) (01:19) ****
3. The boy & the lion (Alternative version 2) (01:19) ***
4. The boy & the lion (Alternative version 3) (01:08) *****
5. The boy & the lion (Alternative version 4) (01:09) *****
6. The boy & the lion (Alternative version 5) (01:37) ***
7. The boy & the lion (Alternative version 6) (01:20) *****
8. The boy & the lion (Alternative version 7) (01:20) ****
9. The boy & the lion (Alternative version 8) (02:51) *****
10. The boy & the lion (Strings version 1) (01:08) ****
11. The boy & the lion (Strings version 2) (01:20) ****
12. The boy & the lion (Strings version 3) (02:55) ****
13. The boy & the lion (Strings version 4) (02:51) ***
14. The boy & the lion (Piano version) (01:19) ****
15. Lion's waltz (01:43) ****
16. Lion's waltz (Alternative version 1) (00:44) ***
17. Lion's waltz (Alternative version 2) (00:44) ****
18. Lion's waltz (Strings version) (01:43) ****
19. Running (02:04) *****
20. Running (Alternative version) (02:03) ****
21. Playing in the sun (01:11) ****
22. Playing in the sun (Alternative version) (01:10)  ***
23. Jungle life (05:03) ****
24. Jungle life (Alternative version) (05:02) **
25. Animal's march (01:38) ***
26. Animal's march (Alternative version) (01:38) ***
27. Innocent joy (02:54) ****
28. Fear in the jungle (01:23) ****
29. Hiding in the jungle (01:29) ***
30. Threat in the jungle (01:26) **
31. Goodbye my friend (02:05) ****
32. Across the land (03:06) *****