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THE HISTORY OF BEAT ON CD: THE CLASSIC RELEASES (Part Two) - John Bender (english)

02/06/2009

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THE HISTORY OF BEAT ON CD: THE CLASSIC RELEASES (Part Two) - John Bender (english)
THE HISTORY OF BEAT ON CD: THE CLASSIC RELEASES (Part Two) - John Bender (english)

THE HISTORY OF BEAT ON CD: THE CLASSIC RELEASES (Part Two) – John Bender

BEAT has released not only some of the more obscure, and likely to be overlooked spaghetti western soundtracks, but also some of the most important and these by the most talented and famous composers. My vote for the most prestigious of all the BEAT spaghetti CD productions must go to the two late 90s double-score releases: BUON FUNERALE AMIGOS PAGA SARTANA / GLI FUMAVANO LE COLT LO CHIAMAVANO CAMPOSANTO (CDCR 39), and UN UOMO CHIAMATO APOCALISSE JOE / LO CHIAMAVANO TRESETTE GIOCAVA SEMPRE COL MORTO (CDCR 45) – both featuring magnificent work by Bruno Nicolai.
It has been my observation that other Nicolai spaghetti’s get more word-of-mouth than the above four titles, such as INDIO BLACK, but the fans are wrong! The above scores (three of them) are superior to any of the Maestro’s other western work – and it is possible to now hear all of his spaghetti efforts since all of his writing within the genre is now available on CD (an amazing thing).
Three of the four feature truly wonderful spaghetti scoring, including grandiose main themes and thrilling heroicas, plus captivating (not boring) suspense cues, love themes, and some exotic character motives that rival Morricone’s most exotic western writing. Since these scores were not archived with cue titles one is mildly hampered in a discussion of individual tracks, but suffice to say that BUON FUNERALE AMIGOS PAGA SARTANA has a sublime Romance for orchestra that conjures up achingly authentic nostalgia for the mythical Old West, and also a breathtaking “stampede” for brass, guitar, chorus and orchestra that kicks up dust and shakes the Earth with the thundering of hooves and flaming gouts of gunfire. The main theme / opening titles cut is pure genius: a bizarre, fascinating cascade of percussion and staccato chords from the piano that generates an unearthly sense of dread – presumably at the coming of the supernaturally skilled gunfighter SARTANA. The full SARTANA theme then explodes with raw waves of masculine courage and mystique – Italian western scoring par-excellence! There is also music here, as with a number of other Nicolai western outings, that has threads leading directly to his fine score for SHANGAI JOE. At least with Nicolai’s SARTANA this only makes sense because of the presence of the pivotal George Wang character of Lee Tse Tung.
If at all possible the main theme for GLI FUMAVANO LE COLT LO CHIAMAVANO CAMPOSANTO is even more muscular and potent than the core idea for SARTANA! This piece, with a (seemingly) huge orchestra, angry chorus, bells and burning guitar chords, rides not behind, but proudly and directly alongside Ennio’s THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY or any other high-water mark of Italian western main title bravura. Even as I sit here now writing these words and listening to the GLI FUMAVANO title cut I have chills running down my spine – I am thrilled to the core by Nicolai’s cutting and Herculean evocation of the constant call to adventure that haunts most men’s souls! (I can only sadly think that there will never be music like this again.) And this composition features one of the most effective usages; one could say it is “irrefutable”, of the whistle in any spaghetti anthem (I assume it is Alessandroni). Track 14 is a painfully moving and poetic pastel canvas depicting all the bittersweet aspects of the human condition – play this for any non-soundtrack music lover and they might be fooled into thinking it is something from the concert hall – it’s that beautiful and exquisite. Track 15 rivals track 14 for sheer sophistication and evocative force, but it is a subdued recapitulation of the main title cut. This score, a masterpiece, is rich with just such warm and satisfying expressions of sentiment, and wordless sensations evocative of legendary times, participants, and events. A final note about this score, the sound engineering is quite special. Obviously Nicolai made sure that the entire soundtrack was imbued with a noticeable and extraordinary sense of space and scale, as if recorded in some grand cathedral.
CDCR 45 gives us Nicolai’s UN UOMO CHIAMATO APOCALISSE JOE, another score with certain elements reflective of SHANGAI JOE. Also, the main themes of this and the above two works exist as variations of a central or core diagram that Nicolai realized had much potential: an idea with the strength, thru alteration, to carry several full-bodied scores. Track 3 of APOCALISSE JOE is a classic piece of unforgettable Italian western-scoring coloratura: an Oriental-flavored major film cue that features some amazingly complex orchestrations (listen closely and you will hear some very surprising things going on). The theme illustrates a strange, mirage-like vision of an exotic people (from the Far East) navigating the spaghetti universe – this is perfumed and exotically textured writing that rivals the impressionism of Debussy or Ravel. Tracks 5 and 11 are perhaps the highlights of the score: formed of a lovely, almost fragile evocation of medieval Europe (and more sublime than most such writing by other musicians for historical dramas set to this actual period). It must be said that any fan of Italian scoring, spaghetti western soundtracks, or Bruno Nicolai, would have to be a fool to ignore the two CDs carrying these three scores. If you do not have them, get them into your home – now! I would be a villain to neglect advising you thusly.
The score that shares digital space with APOCALISSE JOE, called LO CHIAMAVANO TRESETTE GIOCAVA SEMPRE COL MORTO, is not quite on par with the other three works, but only because it was of necessity constructed to advance the personality of a narrative with a much lighter tone. The movie LO CHIAMAVANO is similar in temperament and bearing to the TRINITY films or MY NAME IS NOBODY, and Nicolai’s top-notch score is as good as the fine scores written for those other films by the likes of Franco Micalizzi, Morricone, and the DeAngelis brothers.
Ennio Morricone’s score for IL GRANDE SILENZIO is (CDCR 27), without question, one of the most beautiful scores to come out of the entire Italian western filmography – maybe the most beautiful (this score’s stiffest competition in this particular regard may very well be in the music by Bruno Nicolai described above). The main theme, known as Restless, is sublime. A sparkling thing of transcendent beauty and allure, I am sure Morricone texturally formulated it to expressionistically reflect the visual radiance of sunlight glistening off of fresh snow. The melody of Restless is pure lyricism of the soul, an enduring classic that no one, of sound mind and benign of heart, has heard and not been deeply moved by. The suspense cue Passaggi Nel Tempo has been orchestrated so as to have a delicate, almost “bone-like” brittleness, and thus keeping it in poetic alignment with the white and crisp nature of Restless. It occurs to me that, apart from its chorus, Passaggi Nel Tempo is reminiscent of the gestalt of John Barry’s masterwork of nihilistic ambiance, BOOM! Track 8, Voci Nel Deserto, is practically a viable work of ecclesiastical devotion, and as such evokes unearthly notions of the Divine. Many other cues are very cultivated and elegant – obviously just from these descriptions it is clear that this is an utterly singular work and one of the major treasures of the BEAT catalogue. IL GRANDE SILENZIO is appropriately coupled on CD with the equally fine-spun UN BELLISSIMO NOVEMBRE.
Just as much of a premium jewel of BEAT’s library of holdings is Ennio Morricone’s paradigm of his own spaghetti western template – UN ESERCITO DI 5 UOMINI (FIVE MAN ARMY). This score resides at a midway point in the composer’s own evolution upon his initial precept first developed and employed for Sergio Leone’s Dollar’s Trilogy. The structures and evocative inflections are of the same stripe as the original Dollars designs, but here he has begun to exaggerate and accentuate the more salient aspects of his “spaghetti palette” (and this process would continue on into the 70s and beyond). There are surprises: the piece called Una Corsa Disperata, an all-out battle cue, is magnificent – worthy to be accepted as a piece of serious, stand-alone music (contemporary classical). A non-stop symphonic thrill-ride that always threatens to viciously tear through into the darker realm of atonal music (but never does), it benefits from the composer’s skill with jazz – although the work evidences no overt jazz elements. Suitably Morricone provided this “movement of an imaginary concerto” with a formal denouement. It doesn’t just stop or fade out; it finishes with a majestic and indisputable coda – one of the great tracks of the entire spaghetti pantheon. Track 5 of the BEAT release of FIVE MAN ARMY, Muerte Donde Vas? is a heart wrenching, almost politically invigorating call-to-arms; a fervent ovation for soldiers of honor intrepidly facing, or about to face, deadly odds. This is an essential score for all solid collections. For the future, is an extended release possible - beyond the 8 cues so far available? Only time will tell. (FIVE MAN ARMY is coupled by BEAT with Ennio’s excellent score for the metaphysical thriller EXTRASENSORIAL aka THE LINK.)
BEAT CDCR 31, 1996 (and re-released in 2005) delivers to grateful fans two rare western scores by Maestro Piero Piccioni: QUEL CALDO MALEDETTO GIORNO DI FUOCO and ATTENTO GRINGO E TORNATO SABATA. Piccioni’s compositional bearing was both wonderful and inimitable. His forte was orchestral jazz-like structures of an erotic and/or modern, exotic flair. This also made his western scores refreshingly eccentric, and these are prime examples of this very special Piccioni “western panache”. Both scores here share the same basic swaggering main title cut (at the insistence of director Al Bagran); an arrogant fanfare for orchestra and organ (or harmonica) that, along with an appropriate sense of bravura for the requisite spaghetti death-dealers, also possess a more contemporary and one might say “hip” aura of fun (calling to mind the dapper television adventures of Jim West and Artemis Gordon). The two Piccioni scores and the Manuel DeSica work that accompanies them, LO CHIAMAVANO VERITA, fall into the category of original soundtrack recordings that we are grateful to BEAT for releasing – especially considering they are less famous titles and could have so easily been neglected.

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