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Navajo Joe - Ennio Morricone - Soundtrack

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Genre: Soundtrack / Artist: Ennio Morricone / Soundtrack / Audio CD released 1995-11-20 at Legend

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      22.12.2007 13:08
      Very helpful



      Navajo Joe, Navajo Joe! Never so bold, never so bold!

      It would seem almost a ludicrous thing to claim that of all the outlandish scores Ennio Morricone wrote during the 1960s and '70s, that one of them would be totally insane. Yet here I am about to claim exactly something like that when it comes to his score for the 1966 film Navajo Joe, which he composed under the pseudonym of Leo Nichols. Coming just a few months before his groundbreaking The Good, the Bad and the Ugly score, and accompanied by such other legendary titles as La Resa dei Conti and El Greco, Navajo Joe saw Morricone flex way beyond anything he had written before for Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns up until that point. Navajo Joe was a film by Sergio Corbucci, a vicious tale of a band of renegades, headed by a man named Duncan (Aldo Sambrell), who cause death and havoc across the wide open plains of America (Spain). Duncan is basically driven forward by his hatred of both whites and reds due to his half-breed status and, after getting a bounty put up for his head (after doing some government-sanctioned purgings of native Americans), goes on a rampage of revenge towards any which people who come his way. Coming to the aid of the townsfolk of Esperanza, who are facing the danger of Duncan and his attempt at stealing the money train headed for the town, is Navajo Joe (Burt Reynolds in a very early role). He sets up a deal with the (reluctant) people to protect them with a charge of "un dollaro a testa" (a dollar per head) from each of the inhabitants for every bandit killed. What follows is a bloody and rip-roaring adventure story during which Joe gets to fall in love, gets to kill a whole bunch of people, and receives an ambiguous ending worthy of a legend. As a film, Navajo Joe is already pretty well forgotten outside of spaghetti western fans and, in fact, there has never even been an officially released DVD of the film. But if there is one thing that kept the memory of the film alive, it has been Morricone's music.

      Like I said at the start of this review, there is something in this score that just sends it to a whole different plane of outrageousness as practically any of Morricone's other scores for this genre of film, and when considering the almost wild abandon of his music for say Leone's Dollars trilogy, it is indeed hard to claim that one of these scores is quite simply insane in execution. Setting up his credentials at the very start by the rough and harsh native wailing of the ever familiar I Cantori Moderni di Alessandroni, the "Main Title (Navajo Joe)" presents the major themes you will get to hear throughout the score's duration. These wails immediately make you sit up and take notice, so brutal and primitive are they to make even an experienced veteran like me to begin wondering as to what exactly is happening here. After this striking opening we are presented to the twangy electric guitar licks that I most readily associate with Duncan, presenting by far one of the coolest themes I have ever heard (one which always makes me swagger with the utmost coolness when ever it strikes out of my iPod), and it is immediately followed by the direct identifier of Joe by having the chorus chant in their wisdom with no uncertainty stuff like "Navajo Joe, Navajo Joe, Never so bold, Never so bold" and so forth over some extremely rhythmic native drums. From here on end the music continues in pretty much the same way. The guitar theme is reprised often throughout the score (most notably in "Duncan's Wild Bunch" and "The Confrontation/The Return of Joe"), but manifests most often in the more menacing low piano as in the cues "A Silhouette of Doom", "Wiping Out the Town", "Train Massacre", etc. where the music is punctuated by this five note motif and is usually surrounded with some more dissonantly harsh material, creating an air of malevolence that is almost frightening.

      Joe's theme on the other hand provides for most of the thrills in the music with its incredibly forward-thrusting rhythmic style and choral chants that make cues such as "The Road to Esperanza", "Joe's Departure", and most notably "From Esperanza" truly make you want to chant along with the chorus while jumping around the room. A third theme is also provided, titled as the "Sadness Theme", which is a very lovely, lyrical melody with guitar elaborations over a sweet oboe dirge, appearing in cues like "A Bad Childhood", "The Demise of Father Rattigan" and "After the End" and is always tinged with melancholy. Though not used that often, it remains one of the most beautiful of Morricone's western melodies he ever created. One of the most notable aspects about this score is Morricone's employment of the vocal talents of Gianna Spagnulo, instead of his usual soprano Edda dell'Orso. Spagnulo has appeared in only a handful of Morricone westerns, but her powerful and somewhat more harsh vocalise performances in cues such as the supernatural sounding "An Indian Story" and the passionate "After the End" create an almost primal sense of epicness when ever her vocals appear, making a particularly strong impression during the "Main Title". Further cues of interest also come with the suspensefully surrealist percussion-based cue of "Fear and Silence", the style of which would serve Morricone in many of his other projects as well; the wonderfully restrained performance of Joe's theme in "A Dollar a Head"; the almost unbearably tense "But Joe Say No"; the equally tense and dark "Torture"; and the two lovely "Navajo Harmonica" source cues. And, as was the custom of the spaghetti westerns, there has to be a saloon source piece included and this comes in the cue "The Peyote Saloon", a piece that, as always, is a bit on the silly side.

      For such an obscure film, it is quite interesting to note exactly how much the music has stayed on top in the most unexpected of places. The music first saw the light of day as an 45rpm EP that contained three stereo cues ("Main Title (Navajo Joe)", "An Indian Story" and "After the End") that was eventually expanded into 13 tracks for the official LP release that came out in 1974. It was not until 1995 that the score was finally issued on CD, though the sound was truly awful and clearly mastered from the original vinyl pressings, leaving many fans of the music bewildered at the poor quality. Funnily enough the music from the film actually did make a few notable appearances in two other, very different films, namely the Reese Witherspoon vehicle Election in 1999, and even more notably in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol.2 of 2004, the music of Navajo Joe appearing in key junctures of the film, mainly "The Silhouette of Doom" in the opening monologue (and one other place as well) and "The Return of Joe" in the final moment of Bill's death, making the music widely known, though perhaps not widely recognised. But it has taken all of 41 years to finally get a release of the score that does justice to this marvelous Morricone classic. The specialist Film Score Monthly label took it upon themselves to put out a definitive, complete release, utilising the best sources they could find and cleaning them up considerably. The score is largely in mono apart from the three stereo tracks mixed for the EP back in 1967 and contains every bit of the score in chronological order and with pristine sound (even going so far as including the nine second "The Engineer's Harmonica"). All of this is capped off with a few bonus tracks that include the film version of the "Main Title" that restores all the native screams at the beginning (which on the EP mix were pruned to only three), making for a truly scary listen, a couple of alternate cues and some unused music. Complete all of this with extensive liner notes on the film and music by John Bender, Jim Wynorski and Lukas Kendall, and you have on your hands a release to savor. Though bare in mind, the FSM release (as always) is limited to only 3000 units, so better act fast if you want to be sure to get it (it's available from any speciality outlet such as Screen Archives for $19.95 or Chris' Soundtrack Corner for Euro19.95). The older Legend CD, on the other hand, can still be found used from places like Amazon or eBay.

      So, to cap off, Ennio Morricone's Navajo Joe is an absolute delight, catchy and infectuous, leaving the music playing in your head for a long time after ending. The only real thing that leaves me not giving this the highest rate possible is that it is slightly repetitive and doesn't vary its material that much, but this is a very small consideration. I would warmly recommend people getting this score if only for having one of the coolest film scores ever written and showing what innovation in music is really all about. Oh, do say YES, Joe!

      Tracklist for complete 2007 FSM release

      1. Main Title (Navajo Joe) (2:50)
      2. A Silhouette of Doom (2:54)
      3. Duncan's Plan (0:31)
      4. The Peyote Saloon (2:32)
      5. Wiping Out the Town (0:41)
      6. The Road to Esperanza (Main Title - Navajo Joe) (1:54)
      7. The Engineer's Harmonica (0:09)
      8. Duncan's Wild Bunch (Goodbye to Brother Jeffrey) (0:27)
      9. Train Massacre (0:42)
      10. Fear and Silence (1:49)
      11. A Dollar a Head (2:20)
      12. Joe's Departure (End Title - Navajo Joe) (2:14)
      13. An Indian Story (Healing the Wound) (2:01)
      14. Ride into Town (1:49)
      15. But Joe Say No (1:20)
      16. To Intermission (0:38)
      17. Torture (The Bandit Gets the Train) (2:01)
      18. Navajo Harmonica Pt.1 (0:40)
      19. Navajo Harmonica Pt.2 (0:48)
      20. The Navajo Escapes (1:38)
      21. A Bad Childhood (0:26)
      22. Joe and His Woman (1:07)
      23. The Horses Set Free (0:48)
      24. The Demise of Father Rattigan (The Demise of Barbara) (2:56)
      25. From Esperanza (To Esperanza) (1:47)
      26. Over the Mountain (1:13)
      27. The Search for Joe (1:05)
      28. The Confrontation/The Return of Joe (1:53)
      29. After the End (2:16)

      Bonus tracks
      30. Main Title (film version) (3:01)
      31. Raw Hides and Dead Hides (1:20)
      32. Fear and Silence (album version) (1:49)
      33. The Navajo's a Prisoner (1:40)
      34. Navajo Joe Medley (2:06)
      35. Sadness (0:33)

      Music Composed and Orchestrated by Ennio Morricone
      Conducted by Ennio Morricone & Bruno Nicolai
      Chorus: I Cantori Moderni di Alessandroni
      Vocals: Gianna Spagnulo
      Harmonica: Franco de Gemini
      1966 / Legend, 1995 (CD 21)
      Film Score Monthly, 2007 (FSM Vol.10 No.14)

      © berlioz, 2007


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    • Product Details

      Disc #1 Tracklisting
      1 Titoli Di Testa-Navajo Joe (Main Title)
      2 Pelli Conciate E Pelli Morte [Raw Hides and Dead Hides]
      3 Profilo del Destino [A Silhouette of Doom]
      4 Saloon Pyote [The Pyote Saloon]
      5 Storia Indiana [An Indian Story]
      6 Verso Esperanza [To Esperanza]
      7 Bandito Prende Il Treno [The Bandit Gests the Train]
      8 Ma Joe Dice No [But Joe Says No]
      9 Fine Di Barbara, E Il Ritornio Di Joe [The DeMise of Barbara, The ...]
      10 Paura E Silenzio [Fear and Silence]
      11 Navajo E Prigioniero [The Navajo's a Prisoner]
      12 Guarendo le Ferite [Healing the Wound]
      13 Addio a Fratello Jeffrey [Goodbye to Brother Jeffrey]
      14 Navajo Joe
      15 Dopo la Fine [After the End]
      16 Titoli Di Coda (End Title) [Navajo Joe]

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