Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Love and other drugs: part 1

Title: Le altre
Year: 1969
Composer: Piero Piccioni

March 1st 2017 will be remembered as the day Finland finally married her first same sex couples. To honour this day of love I’m starting a new series concentrating on romantic films or at least scores that would fit into that kind of atmosphere. The film Le altre suits my reasons as well because it tells a story of a lesbian couple trying to find a man to have a child with and form a family. It’s completely forgotten now but possibly caused some controversy at the time of its release due to the subject matter. The score by Maestro Piccioni is a lengthy exercise in jazzy lounge moods that offer a mellow yet a bit anonymous listening experience perfect for a background listen to a romantic date.

The score is mostly written for a jazz ensemble with significant emphasis on the keyboards probably played by the composer himself. Some tracks feature choral voices of I Cantori Moderni but mostly it is an instrumental easy listening album with several impressive, improvisatory solos provided by the players. Strings are added only to one cue (Seq. 25) to offer some additional colour for a short fleeting moment.

There are several recurring motifs in the score. The most abundant one is reminiscent of Piccioni’s main theme from the film Giovinezza giovinezza which I reviewed a while ago. This time the rising-falling melody is used in a more upbeat manner and it has a bossa-flavoured groove to it that sounds to be somewhat offbeat in its introduction in Seq. 4 at least. The harmonies in that cue also have some odd qualities because of a plucked harpsichord like instrument that deviates from the usual jazz ensemble instrumentation. The melody gets a comical tango treatment in Seq. 8, whereas Seq. 14 treats it with an almost childlike naivety with a cheerful backing that just makes me smile. A downbeat choral version of Seq. 17 offers harmonies reminiscent of classic jazz vocal groups of the time. By far the most interesting variation is Seq. 23 where the melody is heard among atmospheric tinkling sounds and space-like organ effects.

A two-note motif in a minor key is heard in Titoli with sultry choral “hey-heys” and “hums”. At times the voices form bluesy harmonious chords on top of which the mad sax solo can improvise wildly. Much mellower version of this idea is heard in Seq. 24 but still with a groove that makes you sway. The second disc also closes beautifully with a slightly more optimistic version of the idea with bluesy piano and keyboard flourishes. The third theme is by far the most long-lined melody of the bunch and it’s first heard in Seq. 3 with a soft backing track and wordless choral voices singing the the bouncy melody, later reprised in an instrumental bossa cue in Seq. 19, 22 & 28 and finally in a weirdly amusing march-like setting in Seq. 30. A variation of those vocals is combined to a danceable garden party tune of Seq. 5 in Seq. 12 that also carries over to Seq. 6 transforming it into a dubious, unrecognizable electric organ solo.

There are a number of nonthematic source music cues on the album as well. The album begins with the loungy Prologo sequence, however the piano performance in the cue is rather restless and thus prevents it from becoming dull. Faster party cues are for instance Seq. 7 with a melodic base heavily rooted in blues and Seq. 18, 20 & 29 which are certainly more inspired by Latin America. There’s also music with a very fast drum beat and absolutely crazy guitar and keyboard performances that could fit into a modernistic chase sequence in Seq. 13 and Seq. 26, latter cue also having a strange droning noise underneath the chaotic yet extremely fun writing. There’s also a weird Middle-Eastern cue, Seq. 36 that appears straight out of nowhere and features a wandering sitar solo and a snake-charmer flute.

There’s nothing apparently wrong with the score. However there’s not enough variety or catchiness in the themes or performances to stop your mind from wandering off while listening to it. The duration of over 2 hours also doesn’t benefit anyone because everything worthwhile was already said on the first disc.

Rating: ***1/2

1. Le altre (Seq. 1 - Prologo) (03:10) ****
2. Le altre (Seq. 2 - Titoli) (05:00) *****
3. Le altre (Seq. 3) (03:14) *****
4. Le altre (Seq. 4) (04:30) ****
5. Le altre (Seq. 5) (04:00) ****
6. Le altre (Seq. 6) (03:09) ***
7. Le altre (Seq. 7) (03:08) ***
8. Le altre (Seq. 8) (02:33) ***
9. Le altre (Seq. 9) (04:24) ****
10. Le altre (Seq. 10) (02:58) ****
11. Le altre (Seq. 11 - Titoli alt. take 1) (05:14) ***
12. Le altre (Seq. 12) (03:15) ****
13. Le altre (Seq. 13) (02:20) *****
14. Le altre (Seq. 14) (03:05) *****
15. Le altre (Seq. 15) (01:54) ****
16. Le altre (Seq. 16) (02:13) ****
17. Le altre (Seq. 17) (03:36) ****
18. Le altre (Seq. 18) (04:49) ***

1. Le altre (Seq. 19) (02:48) ****
2. Le altre (Seq. 20) (02:56) ***
3. Le altre (Seq. 21) (04:01) ***
4. Le altre (Seq. 22) (03:14) ***
5. Le altre (Seq. 23) (02:35) ****
6. Le altre (Seq. 24) (04:28) ****
7. Le altre (Seq. 25) (01:04) ***
8. Le altre (Seq. 26) (03:13) *****
9. Le altre (Seq. 27) (03:37) ***
10. Le altre (Seq. 28) (02:07) ****
11. Le altre (Seq. 29 - Titoli alt. take 2) (02:55) *****
12. Le altre (Seq. 30) (02:34) ****
13. Le altre (Seq. 31) (04:29) ***
14. Le altre (Seq. 32) (01:03) ****
15. Le altre (Seq. 33) (03:16) ***
16. Le altre (Seq. 34) (05:13) ***
17. Le altre (Seq. 35) (02:13) ***
18. Le altre (Seq. 36) (02:27) ***
19. Le altre (Seq. 37 - Titoli alt. take 3) (03:30) *****

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