Author Topic: THE HISTORY OF BEAT ON CD: THE CLASSIC RELEASES (Part One)  (Read 2376 times)

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Offline John Bender

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« on: June 06, 2008, 03:37:36 am »
   BEAT Records has put out a lot of soundtrack CDs since the technology kicked-in, but with this column I’d like to focus attention on the historically more important of their productions – meaning those scores which, for various reasons, might be thought of as being superior, vital, or unexpected.
   To begin let us focus on score CDs that, while perhaps not featuring works by the “A-list” of familiar names, nonetheless have great value in that the discs preserve what would otherwise be lost treasures to the collector. BEAT has a very good track record in this regard.
   In no particular order let us start with the 1999 releases of five spaghetti western soundtracks by Lallo Gori (Coriolano Gori). As far as I know there have been no other CD productions of Gori scores beyond the CDs of his work that BEAT offered. Gori was a solid composer and his scores always present enjoyable listening experiences. He more than not adopted a post-“Dollars Trilogy” Italian western style (overt Spanish inflections), but while retaining his own distinctive sound, which involved more intimate, slightly less expansive arrangements – often reminding me of score for high-quality television productions. This makes his western work seem to be more in support of stories of real men, as opposed to the overtly mythical beings that populated many other spaghettis. However, when specifically called upon to do so he could deliver suitable musical background for a larger-than-life anti-hero, a perfect example of which would be his fun score for ERA SAM WALLASH...LO CHIAMAVANO COSI SIA! This soundtrack comes off much like a delightful fusion of the styles of Marcello Giombini (SABATA) and De Masi (ARIZONA COLT), and the pleasurable main title song makes the CD a must-have for any serious collector. SAM WALLASH was paired on CDCR 50 with TEQUILA! (again, a score handled in a colorful style not unlike Giombini’s for the two Van Cleef-as-Sabata films, but also with some tough “black-clad killer” moments such as on track 3). INGINOCCHIATI STRANIERO...I CADAVERI NON FANNO OMBRA (one of my favorite Gori scores, with a deep, heart-felt western atmosphere) is paired with CON LUI CAVALCA LA MORTE (a high-energy “big adventure” score) on CDCR 56, and BUCKAROO-IL WINCHESTER CHE NON PERDONA (Gori’s most famous spaghetti and rightly so) stands alone (20 tracks) on CDCR 42. It must be mentioned that BEAT, on CDCR 55, also released in the year 2000 two police thrillers by Gori; RITORNANO QUELLI DELLA CALIBRO and IL COMMISSARIO DI FERRO (the quieter moments are better than is typical for the genre, and this because of Gori’s very smooth hand with jazz), and in 2001 two Franco and Ciccio comedies, on CDCR 60, for which Gori did not just write silly slapstick music; 002 OPERAZIONE LUNA and IL CLAN DEI 2 BORSALINI (don’t be fooled – lots of very solid music on these that could easily be spliced into serious films).
   Next we come to two CDs featuring the fine western writing of Vasco Vassil Kojucharov and Elsio Mancuso. Again there have been no CD releases of soundtracks by either of these two artists beyond the valuable BEAT productions here highlighted. CDCR 53 (1999) carries three scores; TRE CROCI PER NON MORIRE, SE VUOI VIVERE...SPARA!, and AD UNO AD UNO SPIETATAMENTE. These are excellent scores, with many bold and complex compositions, and frequently showcasing highly evolved writing for solo trumpet. It would be a shame if such muscular and emphatic writing, richly melodic, were being ignored by collectors because the musicians are less well-known than the “giants” of Italian scoring. For instance, with SE VUOI VIVERE...SPARA! any who are fans of Francesco De Masi would immediately relate to the more masculine and courageous moments of the score.
   Probably the best main theme for a western by Kojucharov and Mancuso currently on CD is the one heard in UNA LUNGA FILA DI CROCI. After a suspenseful prologue the major track, “Crossing the Border”, finally bursts into a magnificent spaghetti anthem, as good as anything by Nicolai or De Masi! The composition is a classic of the Italian western genre and thrills with full orchestra, chorus, and lead guitar all galloping headlong into legend! Track 8, Maya, gives us the vocal version by Franco Morselli. The same CD carries Rustichelli’s TUTTI PER UNO, BOTTE PER TUTTI and Mario Migliardi’s PREGA IL MORTO E AMMAZZA IL VIVO. This latter title is of extreme importance in that Migliardi’s score is absolutely unique – unlike anything else in either the Italian or American western soundtrack morphology. The two vocals (performed by Ann Collin), “Who is That Man?” and “I’m Not Your Pony”, are eerie ballads, delivered slow and hallucinatory they are simultaneously relaxing and vaguely unsettling – a paradox! Once heard these are not to be forgotten! The rest of the score is also very subdued and haunting, with Franco De Gemini’s harmonica leading the way. All three scores are on BEAT CDCR 35 (1996).
   Next we discuss four BEAT CDs featuring unexpected releases of scores that each deserved digital restoration, some well-known, some more obscure. My personal favorite of the three is CDCR 52 (1999), which blessed us with three wonderful horror scores from Maestro Alessandro Alessandroni. SUOR OMICIDI is an unsettling film about a sexually active nun working in a hospital plagued by the mysterious deaths of patients. Alessandroni’s main title cut is undoubtedly influenced by Morricone’s IL SORRISO DEL GRANDE TENTATORE – a smart move on Alessandroni’s part! The “liturgical rock” hybrid sound used is unique to Italian cinema, and it is an atypically potent tool in the hands of a skilled composer. SUOR OMICIDI also benefits from a wide range of ideas, including track 4 which sounds a bit like the American South folk-guitar work Morricone used in AUTOSTOP ROSSO SANGUE, coupled with Alessandroni’s own electronic effects familiar to us from his THE DEVIL’S NIGHTMARE. All 10 tracks of this score deliver rich and engaging ideas, including an unnamed vocal ballad, with chorus, as the end credit cue – a real treat for all soundtrack lovers.
   The second score on CDCR 52 is LO STRANGOLATORE DI VIENNA, which has an entertaining “Third Man” style theme for orchestra and clavichord. Overall the score has a middle-European period affectation, except for some gripping suspense fragments and the last track, 17, which bears resemblance to darkly satirical 70s work by Morricone such as STARK SYSTEM.
   The third and final score of this CD was a true gift from BEAT to all genre horror fans, the score to the cult classic LADY FRANKENSTEIN – Mel Welles’ (Ernst Von Theumer) masterpiece of Euro-cult cinema. Alessandroni’s score is effectively grim and nightmarish (with frightening electronic drones and a moaning flute), but the musical core is his forlorn love theme. Obviously a paean to romance corrupted by the Frankenstein family curse of consumed genius, the composition still manages to flower with a sense of longing for the breathtaking Rosalba Neri – a beautiful theme, and I’ve always wanted it on CD. Thank you BEAT!
   Second of the three CDs is the 1997 release of CDCR 36, with two fine scores by Nicola Piovani; BERTOLDO BERTOLDINO E CACASENNO and IL PROFUMO DELLA SIGNORA IN NERO. The first score is an enjoyable medieval romp, and Piovani was obviously adept with the period format. The collector’s item here though is the second score, known in English as THE PERFUME OF THE WOMAN IN BLACK. Piovani’s music is eldritch but sublime, lyrical and refined it has all the charm of more elegantly cut independent music for the concert hall. It has been my observation that this is one of those scores that prompts most viewers to think of the music after leaving the theatre. I have never seen the film, but many over the years have bothered to mention the film’s score. Good of BEAT to provide us with a CD.
   The third disc is of Teo Usuelli’s classic of erotica ALLA RICERCA DEL PIACERE (aka AMOK / LEATHER AND WHIPS / IN SEARCH OF PLEASURE). The score had a reputation since the film premiered, but this was greatly amplified by the 90s retro-boom in recorded lounge/exotica, and the spill-over effect this had on the European club scene with DJs taking advantage of all the cool 60s and 70s Euro-cult film music becoming available on trend-setting compilations such as the 10-volume EASY TEMPO series and Crippled Dick’s BEAT AT CINECITTA (volume one of which featured all tracks culled from the BEAT archives). Usuelli’s AMOK became a mythical score among all collector’s of cool Euro-sounds, and finally BEAT “gave us our drug” of choice by 2007. The score is a masterwork of the exotica/erotica genre, comparable to Cipriani’s FEMINA RIDENS, Nicolai’s FEMMINE INSAZIABILI, or Morricone’s METTI UNA SERA A CENA. What sets it apart is the macabre “theme of lust”, an instrumental for voice, organ and synthesizer that reflects the malevolent compulsions of a sadist. However, the most famous cue is known as “Sexual” (the track actually has no official title), an intense jazz-influenced bolero of sensual heat and longing that rivals all other film cues drafted for lascivious cinema.
   Our final CD for discussion is Armando Trovaioli’s masterpiece of the romantic/erotic comedy genre, SESSO MATTO. It is appropriate to talk of this score immediately after illuminating on the history of Usuelli’s AMOK, and this because SESSO MATTO, like Usuelli’s score, took on a specific vitality and significance all it’s own based on particular cultural leanings and trends. It seems the Japanese became infatuated with Trovaioli’s score as a result of the King label’s 1990s digital (CD) re-release of the original BEAT LP. This phenomena was probably similar to what happened in Europe and the USA as regards the lounge/exotica fad, and I imagine that Japanese youth were communally enjoying Trovaioli’s score in dance clubs and other such night-spots throughout the 90s. BEAT eventually responded to this infatuation by working very hard at a faultless restoration of the complete score – a gift not only to the Japanese, but to all collectors of Euro-cult film music! Their 2006 CD of SESSO MATTO (CDCR 72) provides over 77 minutes of lively, enchanting score (41 tracks), and a large full-color booklet detailing the story of the film and it’s music. Such a prestige CD production goes beyond desirability for just fans; this disc would make a fine gift to any friend or family member with a love of good music.