Why I LOVE Spaghetti Vol. 1: Musical Tales of the West that NEVER Was

This week Naxos of America’s Collin Rae weights in on Italian movie soundtrack music of the 1960s and 1970s:

So much has already been written about Italian movie soundtrack music of the 1960’s and 70’s that I certainly won’t shed any new light on this subject, instead I will simply highlight some of the wonderful treasure from this era through a series of posts that will highlight different film genres. Where to start? Well perhaps the most well known music of this period is the stuff written for the Spaghetti Westerns. Most everyone knows the BIG 4 (all composed by Ennio Morricone) The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and Once Upon a Time in the West. These four films are to this day considered to be some of the BEST westerns ever produced however there were dozens upon dozens of other Italian westerns not so well know but with equally as wonderful scores. Here are a few of those:

Morricone has so many AMAZING soundtracks in which to draw from, a few of my other favorite western titles are:

Il Grande Silnezio (The Great Silence): a brutal and dark film with an unexpectedly Somber and BEAUTIFUL soundtrack. The main theme to this film is perhaps one of my favorite Morricone musical moments.

I Crudeli (known as The Hellbenders in the US): When I first watched this film and heard the soundtrack I was pretty so so about it…until the final scene when an aging and defeated Joseph Cotton realizes that everything has gone terribly wrong and he simply gives up and slides large dirt mound. That THEME made me rethink and rehear the entire soundtrack.

Le Resa Die Conti (The Big Gundown): Not only does Morricone draw upon the theme from Beethoven’s Fur Elise (but with a Spanish guitar twist!), but he also includes one of the most driving and harsh guitar pieces in western cinema history.

One of Morricone’s few and true equals (and also a good friend) was composer Bruno Nicolai, he and composer Marcello Giombini scored a series of films know in the US as the Sabata trilogy. In this case I can say that the scores are far superior to the films themselves (this is not uncommon for this period). Nicolai also conducted many of Morricone’s scores.

Perhaps the GROOVIEST of all of the composers of this period was Piero Piccioni. What he brought to the genre was a real zest for funk and pure acid. His scores still sound as modern and fierce as the day they were recorded.

Definitely one of my favorite soundtracks of all time is Riz Ortalani’s score to the film “Day of Anger”. It’s a perfect combo of Morricone like orchestration with BOMBASTIC John Barry-like strings and that same amazing and harsh western surf guitar. A TRUE Masterwork.

So what is it exactly that makes this music so special? Well perhaps it’s the truly unique / postmodern approach to the compositions, the combinations of Spanish / Mexican Trumpet, gritty surf-like guitar, the lonesome whistle, the angelic choruses and ethereal voices, the almost pop melodies. All of these elements combine to make a kind of music never before heard and impossible to repeat.

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