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The Good, The Bad And The Ugly - Soundtrack

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Genre: Soundtrack / Artist: Various / Soundtrack / Audio CD released 2004-08-16 at EMI

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      02.03.2007 20:21
      Very helpful



      Morricone goes all out for an original Western sound

      The third in the trilogy of Sergio Leone's legendary spaghetti Westerns starring Clint Eastwood, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo) is arguably the best of the bunch, which also includes A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More. The story revolves around three renegade men after a buried Confederate cache of gold. Eastwood plays the dubious "good" of the title, while Lee Van Cleef is "the bad" and Eli Wallach is "the ugly". The three will do anything to get their hands on the gold, not unprepared to double cross each other at any point, and in the end ending up coming face to face with each other in a three-way Mexican stand-off. The film is a classic in the Western genre, with Leone providing a more dark and rough look at the cowboy scene that in American cinema was still much more aimed towards nostalgic hero-worshipping, where the good guys were always above-board decent with white hats, while the bad guys were always almost devoid of any redeeming qualities. With an almost three-hour running time, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a masterpiece of epic proportions and still stands as fresh as it did back in 1966. To provide the distinctive musical soundscape for Leone was again the legendary Italian film composer Ennio Morricone, who created one of his best, original and most well-known scores todate.

      The "Main Theme" in itself is already something completely offbeat and highly unique. It opens with a rhythmic thumping of a drum that is followed by the oft-parodied whistling motif on a soprano flute (representing “the good”), arghilophone (representing “the bad”) and human voices (representing “the ugly”). The second part of the theme (this one more forward thrusting than the first part) features an electric guitar and a male choir. From there on the music gets even more excited with a reprisal of the first part accenting the underlying rhythm and now presented by Morricone's experimental "native" human voices. This yields into a virtuostic dialogue with two trumpets and lightning like slashes of guitar (my favorite part I might add) after which the second part is reprised with even greater energy. After this the first part returns and is allowed to wind down to a conclusion. The reason why I have gone into such detail with this opening cue is because it is not easy for us today to really understand how new and strange this main title sounded like back in 1966. The sheer unusualness of the orchestrations, guitar, native voices, male choir, strings, trumpets, whistling, arghilophone, drums, all treated individually and uniquely within a three minute cue make for a very interesting listen. After being parodied so much in the past the overexposure of this music has lowered the sense of awe a little that it now sounds completely natural to our ears, but it still is fun to listen to despite being so popular and well-known. Likewise the fact that Morricone gave the same theme for all three men, but only assigned different sounds for them, makes for quite a unique way of using the leitmotif approach from the usual scoring practices.

      Of course there is much more to this score than just the main theme. The quirky orchestrations carry also to the rest of the music and waver between traditional Western music (like in "The Sundown" with its beautiful accoustical guitar work and "The Death of a Soldier" with choir and harmonica) to some more off-beat moments (like in "Il Ponte di Corde" and "Due Contro Cinque"). Apart from the main theme that crops up often during the score in different variations, depending on which of the three men is being depicted, there is also a world-weary, long-drawn melody for the armies engaged in the Civil War that is the very essence of resignation in Western music, appearing in cues like "La Missione San Antonio" and "The Death of a Soldier". It is also turned into a song in "The Story of a Soldier" for Tuco’s torture scene, sounding very much like something Henry Mancini would have written at the same time for films like Breakfast at Tiffany's and Days of Wine and Roses. In "The Strong" we can hear the fanfare-calls of the U.S. Cavalry under a noble trumpet elegy that again brings to mind a setting sun in the great open prairies, which can also be found from "The Carriage of the Spirits" and in a harmonica arrangement in "Marcia" as well as a few other places. Finally there is a rapid piano figure that permeats the entire score as a kind of signature motif of the film itself.

      A definite highlight is the cue "The Ecstasy of Gold," which accompanies Eli Wallach as he runs through the cemetery in search of the grave of gold. It opens with a lyrical oboe solo accompanied with the signature piano figurations, which is then taken over by a more pronouced marching rhythm and the voice of soprano Edda dell'Orso, another familiar Morricone-collaborator. These elements are combined with a male choir and strings that all subside for just a moment before the choir, the soprano and trumpets take over, rising in intensity and excitement with the inclusion of tingling guitar, cymbals and strings for the final discovery of the grave. The aural majesty of this single cue of about three-and-a-half minutes is one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard and the increasing layers of different elements from the simple oboe-led opening to the massed intensity of the conclusion is absolutely fantastic. The last cue, "The Trio", is the final stand-off between the three men and is a great way to end the album. There is much Mexican flavor in the trumpet fanfares of the big climaxes in this cue and the intensity of the stand-off are well conveyed in the expectantly hesitating movement of the music. It also works as a kind of summation of Leone’s Dollars trilogy with its inclusion of trademark signatures from all three scores (the Mariachi style trumpet of A Fistful of Dollars, the tingling time motif from A Few Dollars More, and the rapid piano figurations of this score). On the whole this is one of those scores that very much defines the movie it is accompanying, as the film is filled with lengthy, dialogue-free scenes that run on forever, basically including no other sound apart from the music (“The Desert,” “The Strong,” “Due Contro Cinque,” “The Ecstacy of Gold,” “The Trio,” etc.), making it impossible not to notice. Indeed, it is a bit of a shame that much of music in films today no longer bear as much of an importance in elevating a film into a working synthesis of sound and vision instead of remaining as a filler noise in the background. But Leone certainly understood how to do this effectively and that has resulted in some of the most iconic scores ever written for films.

      The original album ran for only 34 minutes which was pretty slim, but that resulted because of the original LP's shorter duration. In 2001, however, an expanded version of the score was released by the Italian GDM Records label that included most of the score (some minor and inconsequential bits remaining unreleased), and was again followed in 2004 by virtually the same thing in America, this time provided by Capitol Records. These expanded releases restored some 21 minutes of unreleased material to the original album offering, being a great improvement over the original. Now the two expanded releases, despite featuring the same amount of tracks, are not strictly identical though, and both feature their own pros and cons. The American version boasts far better sound quality for the entire album, that on the Italian version is a bit too cluttered with surface noise and the sound itself is a bit on the thin side. But whereas the Italian release loses somewhat with sound, it gains by giving a fuller representation of the score. Whereas the American version simply mixes the unreleased music with the already available original album tracks, the Italian version features a truer version of “The Story of a Soldier” cue (though it still isn’t exactly the same as heard in the film) and the bigger treat of the complete “The Trio” cue. The original album cut off about three minutes of music from the end of that track (most importantly omitting the reference to the time motif), and this slight has not been corrected in the 2004 American release, but on the Italian 2001 release the music is intact (and let me say, the missing material is so worth to hear). This raises the question why did the later American version not fix this error as the earlier Italian version shows that the music is still in excistence, thus making for a huge disadvantage to the American release.

      All things considered, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a true masterpiece in the large output of Ennio Morricone, and the most epic of the trilogy of Dollar films. As to which album should you get depends entirely on you. The American version is cheaper and has better sound, but the Italian version is more complete, though only marginally so. Which of these factors is more important to you remains your decision. Personally, my own compromise solution was to just take the two better tracks from the Italian version and the rest of the score from the American one for a CD of my own. Still, despite the more problematic album situation, Morricone’s achievement here is extremely enjoyable and interesting, making it a classic that has really defined the sound of the Italian spaghetti-Western and is well worth to be included among your CDs. Amazon prices the American version for £4.99, while the Italian is more expensive at £10.99.


      1. Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo / The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Main Title (2:43)
      2. Il Tramonto (The Sundown) (1:15)
      3. Sentenza* (1:42)
      4. Fuga a cavallo* (1:07)
      5. Il ponte di corde* (1:52)
      6. Il forte / The Strong (2:23)
      7. Inseguimento* (2:25)
      8. Il deserto / The Desert (5:17)
      9. La carrozza dei fantasmi / The Carriage of the Spirits (2:10)
      10. La mission San Antonio* (2:15)
      11. Padre Ramirez* (2:37)
      12. Marcetta / Marcia (2:53)
      13. La storia de un soldato / The Story of a Soldier** (3:54 / 5:30)
      14. Il treno militare* (1:25)
      15. Fine di una spia* (1:17)
      16. Il bandito Monco* (2:46)
      17. Due contro cinque* (3:46)
      18. Marcetta senza speranza / Marcia without Hope (1:41)
      19. Morte di un soldato / The Death of a Soldier (3:08)
      20. L'estasi dell'oro / The Ecstasy of Gold (3:23)
      21. Il triello / The Trio (Main Title)** (5:03 / 7:14)

      * Previously unreleased
      ** Different edits (American / Italian)

      Music Composed, Orchestrated and Conducted by Ennio Morricone
      Performed by The Orchestra U.M.R. Unione Musicisti di Roma
      Chorus: I Cantori Moderni
      Vocal Soloist: Edda dell’Orso
      Instrumental Soloists: Nicola Samale, Alessandro Alessandroni, Italo Cammarota, E. Wolf Ferrari, Francesco Catania, Michele Lacerenza, Bruno Battisti D’Amario, Franco De Gemini, Vincenzo Restuccia
      Engineered by Giuseppe Mastroianni
      Recorded at International Recording Studio
      1966 / EMI, 1985 (CDP 7-48408-2)
      GDM, 2001 (0156982)
      Capitol, 2004 (98621)

      © berlioz, 2005/2007


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    • Product Details

      Disc #1 Tracklisting
      1 Il Buono Il Brutto Il Cattivo (Titoli) The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (Main Title)
      2 Il Tramonto [The Sundown]
      3 Sentenza
      4 Fuga A Cavallo
      5 Il Ponte Di Corde
      6 Il Forte [The Strong]
      7 Inseguimento
      8 Il Deserto [The Desert]
      9 La Carrozza Dei Fantasmi [The Carriage Of The Spirits]
      10 La Missione San Antonio
      11 Padre Ramirez
      12 Marcetta [Marcia]
      13 La Storia Di Un Soldato [The Story Of A Soldier]
      14 Il Treno Militare
      15 Fine Di Una Spia
      16 Il Bandito Monco
      17 Due Contro Cinque
      18 Marcetta Senza Speranza [Marcia Without Hope]
      19 Morte Di Un Soldato [The Death Of A Soldier]
      20 L'estasi Dell'oro [The Ecstasy Of Gold]
      21 Il Triello [The Trio (Main Title)]

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