Sunday, 8 January 2017

WTF (Weird tho' fabulous): part 2

Title: La più bella serata della mia vita (The most wonderful evening of my life)
Year: 1972
Composer: Armando Trovajoli

This review involves three short scores released on a single Beat Records CD in 1997. The composer of all these scores is Armando Trovajoli (sometimes written Trovaioli) who had a long career in film and stage music, and was mostly known for his scores to Italian comedies. These films are classified as comedies as well, though they all contain elements from other genres, hence my classification under the WTF category.

The first score is called La più bella serata della mia vita and the short description says that it tells a story of a man getting a trial for murder. The clips from the film I managed to find showed scenes featuring psychedelic and surreal images and the music possibly accompanies them perfectly. The opening is already a mishmash of contrasting styles beginning with an electronic bass beat not that far from Vangelis’ compositions. Then the cheerful main theme is introduced in a series of tinkling synthesizer notes before it turns into a classical piano melody on top of the electronic base. The combination sounds strange but somehow it works. The following two La castellana pieces develop the material further. The first one begins with a love theme for a woman’s voice singing in pseudo-German. The voice has been tampered with synthesizers so that you can’t really tell what is being sung. The classical melody is then reprised with the vocal effects and in the following track with a classical chamber ensemble, an electric organ and drum set suitable for a futuristic dinner sequence.

The things turn darker in Verso il castello even though it begins with a beautiful version of the love theme including a music box. The electronic beat then returns with the cheerful main theme that is combined to the love theme once again sung in incomprehensible vocal effects. After those the beat changes and we get a full choir singing the doomsday hymn Dies irae over the bassline which creates a moment of fleeting uneasiness. The changed beat continues in Fine di una sogna creating almost a feeling of electronic chase music. However the love theme soon returns with a smooth synthesizer and vocal line over a sweet string backing that makes way to the classical melody juggling between the synthesizers and the full string section. The dinner party -like version of the love theme is reprised in Pranzo il gala with beautiful classically inspired flourishes that are though performed with an electric piano. The reprise of La motociclista isn’t anything like the opening track but a piano version of the love theme with some hints to the Dies irae melody from the dramatic choir. The classical melody gets its best version in the last track Gavotta al castello with very dated synthesizer sounds that end the score in a cheerful fashion.

The score is clearly very unique with its combination of classically inspired melodies to futuristic electronic effects. Most of the times the combinations work but at times the sounds are a bit too dated. In addition the tracks do get quite repetitive and the original effectiveness can get buried under the repetition of melodies and moods. It’s an enjoyable little score nevertheless and the best one on the CD.

Rating: ****

Title: Straziami, ma di baci saziami (Torture me but kill me with kisses)
Year: 1968
Composer: Armando Trovajoli

The next one Straziami, ma di baci saziami is a romantic comedy film that has homicidal undertones. There is a catchy and cheerful main theme called Straziami theme which is clearly ‘Italian’ in nature with its chord progressions and the instrumental choice of a mandolin as a primary instrument. There’s also a long-lined love theme again featuring the mandolin called Romantic country. This melody is so stereotypically ‘Italian’ that you can almost imagine Venetian gondolas floating by while listening to it. Most of the score is built around these themes in different disguises. For instance The deaf tailor combines the main theme to comical chase music for the strings. In the following track it’s transformed into a samba carnival cue with choral singing. The reprise of the love theme ends with an orchestral crescendo that leads to a funeral march Tailor’s funeral before a cabaret like variation in Looking for her. There are also two thematically independent cues, a moonlight dance track for a solo guitar and buzzing electric organ called Moonkiss and a following party shake Beat trombone that both are good additions for breaking the monotony. The score ends with two reprises of the main theme, the first one for solo violin and accordion followed by a lazily played tango version.

There really is nothing that memorable or obnoxious about this little score and thus the overall effect is rather anonymous. It’s a good filler score on the album but I probably wouldn’t listen to it on its own and it pales in comparison to the other two scores.

Rating: ***

Title: Dimmi che fai tutto per me
Year: 1976
Composer: Armando Trovajoli

The last score is a romantic heist film that includes the most comedic score of the three. It begins with a cheesy, bubbly synthesizer melody over a Latin inspired rhythm which is a quite charming opener to be honest, though nothing special. Grand-dad’s girl begins with mournful floating synthesizer notes before turning into a 70s pop music inspired flute melody. The popular music aspect develops further in the groovy basslines of the two Planning the snatch cues and The fat son that also has weird floating glass-like elements. There’s also a piece of brilliantly entertaining, genuine jazz piano playing in Armando’s blues that is probably performed by the composer himself. Another highlight is Dancing for you that is a sitar melody that is so unexpected that it’s just a blast to listen to. The album ends with a song Gotta get rich quick that is first introduced in track 25 with a honky-tonk like arrangement. The English lyrics are about getting rich as the title suggests but unfortunately the song gets quite redundant after the chorus.

The score is the most versatile of the three and it even surprised me a couple of times. However the lack of a main theme lowers my rating and the extreme cheesiness might be too much to handle for some listeners. Overall the album really shows off Trovajoli’s abilities of creating catchy melodies and different styles of music even though these aren’t the scores I would necessarily recommend to purchase immediately.

Rating: ***1/2

“La più bella serata della mia vita”
1. La motociclista (03:38) ****
2. La castellana (03:22) *****
3. La castellana (03:30) ***
4. Verso il castello (04:29) *****
5. Fine di un sogna (06:02) ****
6. Pranzo di gala (02:41) ****
7. La motociclista (02:32) ****
8. Gavotta al castello (03:32) ***

”Straziami, ma di baci saziami”
9. Straziami theme (02:00) ***
10. Romantic country (02:34) ***
11. The deaf tailor (01:17) ****
12. Straziami theme (01:24) ****
13. Romantic country (02:10) ****
14. Tailor's funeral (00:57) **
15. Looking for her (01:31) **
16. Heartbreak (03:01) ***
17. Moonkiss (02:42) ****
18. Beat trombone (01:30) ***
19. Straziami violin (01:36) ***
20. Straziami tango (03:30) ***

“Dimmi che fai tutto per me”
21. Golden dream (02:32) ****
22. Grand-dad's girl (01:56) ****
23. Planning the snatch (01:02) ***
24. Armando's blues (02:36) ****
25. Gotta get rich quick (instrumental) (01:32) ****
26. Planning the snatch (01:53) ***
27. The fat son (01:04) ****
28. Dancing for you (01:58) ****
29. Golden dream (00:33) ***
30. Gotta get rich quick (03:58) ***

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