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Per Un Pugno Di Dollari (A Fistful Of Dollars) - Ennio Morricone - Soundtrack

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Genre: Soundtrack / Artist: Ennio Morricone / Import / Audio CD released 2006-03-13 at Gdm

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      13.08.2007 21:25
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      OOO-OOO-ooo-OOO-AAA! AAA-AAA-a-oo-oo-OOO-OOO-OO-O-AAA!

      When thinking of great director-composer relationships, the ones that instantly jump to mind are the likes of Steven Spielberg/John Williams, Tim Burton/Danny Elfman, Alfred Hitchcock/Bernard Herrmann, M. Night Shyamalan/James Newton Howard, Joe Dante/Jerry Goldsmith, and of course, Sergio Leone/Ennio Morricone. In all of these cases, the results have often witnessed some of the most inspired musical scores for each respective directors’ films to have come out from the close collaboration these two creative forces have shared. In the case of Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone, this collaboration has lived on an even greater pedestal than it has for just about any of the others I mentioned. Leone was a firm believer that sound constituted 40% of a film and in addition to sound design (which in Italian films was always post-synchronised), music also contributed to this philosophy in a major way. By 1964, Sergio Leone had only directed one full length film, the sword and sandal epic The Colossus of Rhodes of 1961 in the twilight of the genre’s popularity, but as the demand for epics decreased, Leone was quick to jump to the wagon of his favourite childhood genre: the western. At that time there had been only a handful of westerns produced in Italy and Spain, closely following the formula of their American examples, but Leone felt that the American western had become too sterile and too clean, lacking in realism and the things for which he had fallen in love with as a child in the 1930s. Thus, his low budget re-imagining of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo in a western setting was very different to the films that were being made by others. The result was a more gritty and violent western, where there were no directly identifiable heroes in the traditional sense, the whole of it seeming more like a rock-western, with Clint Eastwood’s silent opportunistic stranger becoming an iconic figure of a new hero in a genre that was to become referred to as the “spaghetti-western” and which spawned several formula rip-offs in the ensuing years.

      This film would also mark the first collaboration of Leone with the composer Ennio Morricone (appearing under the name of Dan Savio in the opening credits) and this collaboration would extend to the rest of Leone’s directorial output. Morricone had written by the time A Fistful of Dollars was made only 13 scores, among them a couple of other Italian westerns such as Duello nel Texas and very much following the general tone of their respective American counterparts as were the films. But with Fistful, Leone did not want a traditional symphonic score and ordered Morricone to write a score that would be more modern, yet retain an element of folk song simplicity that would fit in representing 19th Century Mexican vistas. Working in close relationship with the director, Morricone fashioned out a score that was quirky, modern and experimental with its incorporation of natural sounds such as whip cracks, bells, and whistling, while retaining an epic operatic style for the lengthy scenes sans dialogue. The results were something that worked beautifully in the finished film and spawned many imitations in its wake. As such the score does not rely on strong thematic identifiers and thus much of the music remains somewhat scene specific. The “Main Title (Titoli)” track presents the main source of motivation for the larger set piece moments in the rest of the score with its trademark electric guitar (played more like an acoustic instrument), whistiling and the male choir voices of the I Cantori Moderni grunting either “we can fight” or “we can weep”, all accentuated by the amplified natural sounds I mentioned above and, above all, the quick flute trill that acts as the true motif for Eastwood’s character. This music is reprised often during the rest of the score such as in the cues “Doppi Giochi,” where the theme is also given a rare turn on the flute, the more dramatically urgent “Cavalcata”, and of course in the short finale cue “Per un Pugno di Dollari (Finale),” always working for a heartracing moment of lyrical machoism.

      The secondary theme that provides contrast to the more masculine main title music takes the form of a Mexican funeral dirge and is often given its turn on the trumpet. This theme was inspired by Dmitri Tiomkin’s similar dirge for the film Alamo, which Leone wished to use but couldn’t due to copyright reasons. Thus Morricone wrote something very similar and at the same time created a basic Leone musical motif that would recur in his other westerns as well. The main presentation of the theme comes in the cue “Per un Pugno di Dollari,” again featuring a strumming guitar, softly rhythmic mariachi strings and an oboe, later to be replaced by the trumpet in a later track with the same name (also known as the “Theme from A Fistful of Dollars”). It is also this type of music that many Morricone imitators and hommage makers have particularly taken on as the defining sound of a Morricone western and have thus written music to suit the idea. A third, though a lesser, theme appears in the cue “Square Dance” that is a more how-down piece of Italian renaissance music with fiddles and a barn dance mood. Not a particular favourite of mine, but appears only once so no harm done. The rest of the music takes on the form of either more suspenseful moments or tumbling action moments. Of the former disposition are cues such as “Musica Sospesa,” “Consuelo Baxter,” “Scambio di Prigionieri,” the lengthy torture scene in “Tortura,” and “Senza Pieta” that don’t particularly offer that much interest outside of the scenes they are accompanying (though the end of “Senza Pieta” features another of those fantastic operatic moments of pure epicness). The latter moments are not as frequent, and even then they often take on a more epic quality than a pulse-pounding action feel, with the only real such moment coming in “L’inseguimento,” which even then finds resolution with the soaring male choir and the funeral dirge.

      As far as the albums are concerned, Morricone’s Leone westerns are probably some of the most convoluted. The original LP pressings usually paired the first two Dollars scores together for an A and B side and this essentially meant that both scores were very badly represented, both equalling about 15 minutes each. With the advancement of CDs, the situation was not much corrected and several reissues were made with identical content, enough so that anybody trying to figure them all out will just leave your head spinning. The newest “official” release (a 2004 pressing I believe) still offers the exact same 15 minutes of score as the 1965 LP release, with the addition of a further 15 minutes to its running time in the form of the “A Fistful of Dollars Suite,” that has to be one of the most useless additions ever. It is literally nothing more than a re-edit of the previous tracks with no sense of structure or amount of repetition, while offering not a shred of unreleased music. It is literally there to make the CD longer, and nothing else. However, in 2006 the Italian GDM label released a nearly complete edition, restoring most of the missing music as they had already done for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and, as far as possible, For a Few Dollars More. This release includes all original stereo LP tracks remastered for the best available sound and presenting a further ten unreleased tracks in mono with the approval of Morricone himself. Sound quality on both sections are fantastic, with the stereo mixes in nice bloom and the mono sections crisp, clear and distortion-free, giving no qualms to but the most hardened supporter of the DDD range (in which case old recordings like this don’t figure very highly to begin with). However, bare note that the expanded CD has been marked as a “Limited Edition”, though I have no idea exactly how limited it is. It is still in a very affordable price bracket at £12.49 at Amazon.uk and well available, therefore it is suggested that you better get this while you can (I mean you never know). The original release may just as well be forgotten as obsolete in the face of this more substantial issue of a score that is above all a classic Morricone effort and very enjoyable to boot. It is still quite experimental and not quite at the level of his later Leone scores, but stands high as a recommendation regardless. Now lets see which you are going to do: fight or weep!


      Original album
      1. A Fistful of Dollars (2:58)
      2. Almost Dead (1:42)
      3. Square Dance (1:36)
      4. The Chase (2:25)
      5. The Result (2:36)
      6. Without Pity (2:10)
      7. Theme from A Fistful of Dollars (1:49)
      8. A Fistful of Dollars Suite (13:40)

      Expanded 2006 album
      1. Titoli (2:58)
      2. Quasi Morto (1:40)
      3. Musica Sospesa* (1:02)
      4. Square Dance (1:36)
      5. Ramon* (1:05)
      6. Consuelo Baxter* (1:18)
      7. Doppi Giochi* (1:41)
      8. Per un Pugno di Dollari (#1)* (1:26)
      9. Scambio di Prigionieri* (0:55)
      10. Cavalcata* (3:29)
      11. L’Inseguimento (2:25)
      12. Tortura* (9:31)
      13. Alla Ricerca dell’Evaso* (1:22)
      14. Senza Pietà (2:08)
      15. La Reazione (2:36)
      16. Per un Pugno di Dollari (#2) (1:49)
      17. Per un Pugno di Dollari (Finale)* (1:09)

      * previously unreleased

      Music Composed, Orchestrated and Conducted by Ennio Morricone
      Chorus: I Cantori Moderni di Alessandroni
      Trumpet: Michele Lacerenza
      Harmonica: Franco de Gemini
      Guitar and Whistle: Alessandro Alessandroni
      Produced by Tom Berman / Gianni dell’Orso
      1964 / BMG, 2004 (LC 00316)
      GDM Music, 2006 (GDM 2066)

      © berlioz, 2007

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    • Product Details

      Disc #1 Tracklisting
      1 Titoli
      2 Quasi Morto
      3 Musica Sospesa
      4 Square Dance
      5 Ramon
      6 Consuelo Baxter
      7 Doppi Giochi
      8 Per un Pugno di Dollari
      9 Scambio di Prigionieri
      10 Cavalcata
      11 L'Inseguimento
      12 Tortura
      13 Alla Ricerca Dell'evaso
      14 Senza Pieta'
      15 Reazione
      16 Per un Pugno di Dollari, No. 2
      17 Per un Pugno di Dollari, Finale