With every further reissue of Bruno Nicolai’s music, more and more listeners are beginning to get a sense of the man as more than just the conductor and orchestrator of Ennio Morricone’s works. Nicolai, to film score fans, is quite deservedly hailed as a brilliant musical mind, but given the fact that so many of the films on which he worked were rather more obscure than Morricone’s more popular Dollars trilogy for Sergio Leone.
All that’s a roundabout way to say that Nicolai’s scores have required a lot of work to get one’s hands on them up until the last five years or so. No longer are imports and crate digging required to acquire these fascinating pieces of music, however - and, actually, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail would’ve eluded even the most devoted flipper of bins, as Death Waltz’s double LP is the debut of the score on vinyl.
What a debut it is, too: Nicolai’s score is pressed on split-colour vinyl, with the first disc on half black, half transparent yellow and the second on half black, half transparent red. They look and sound delightful, which is a pleasant surprise, given the fact that split colour vinyl - especially between classic black and a translucent colour - has a tendency to have the ever-so-slightest hint of a skip or pop, and there’s nary either to be found here. These LPs are clean. The gatefold packaging has gorgeous artwork, as well, and the addition of a reproduction film poster is icing on the cake.
The music is peak giallo, loaded with an ominous, bass-heavy theme which winds itself through multiple variations over the course of the two discs. The bass is also notable, although far less prominent in the oft-repeated “Foglie Rosse,” which is replete with verdant strings, and “Veno d’Autunno,” which manages to combine the two previous themes into something which is both lovely and menacing at the same time. The final track, “Shadows,” is the epitome of closing credits songs, with its crooned vocals and cocktail jazz feel. It’s very much in the vein of latter-era Sinatra, in that sad but slightly morose take which enveloped the likes of “My Way.”
All in all, Bruno Nicolai’s score for The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail is by turns resolutely lush and menacing, and Death Waltz Recording Co.’s vinyl reissue is just the way to listen to it. Regardless of one’s familiarity with the Sergio Martino film, the score is just the thing to put on the hi-fi at any time there’s a need for some definitive setting of mood.
THE CASE OF THE SCORPION’S TALE (1971) / COMPOSER: BRUNO NICOLAI / LABEL: DEATH WALTZ RECORDING CO. / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW