ENNIO MORRICONE THEMES: WESTERN / COMPOSER: ENNIO MORRICONE / LABEL: MUSIC ON VINYL / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 6TH
To kick off their five-volume series of collected themes by legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone, Music On Vinyl's At the Movies imprint has to first slay the dragon by beginning with the maestro's music for Westerns. Simply entitled Ennio Morricone Themes: Western, this double vinyl LP collection looks to kick off what the label describes as ‘a wonderful and unique collection of the greatest music 'the Maestro' composed for movies over the past 70 years’, and they've definitely hit the mark when it comes to ‘wonderful’, but especially ‘unique’.
This isn't the first time Music On Vinyl has tackled a Morricone collection. Their 2014 release Ennio Morricone Collected was a double LP that looked to provide an overview of the composer's music, from his first work for Luciano Salce's 1961 film The Fascist, all the way through his most recent composition at the time, Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. While it definitely leaned heavily into the Western themes for which Morricone is best known, there was quite a bit of gangster and drama pictures on the set's final side, with music from Cinema Paradiso and The Untouchables, along with Once Upon A Time in America.
The question is: how does one sum up a career such as Morricone's, even when dividing it into five categories and devoting two LPs to each segment? Based on this first instalment, it appears that the label's opting to lean toward a mixture of the known and the obscure, with an eye toward a complete overview.
An interesting case in point is that on Western, there are two cuts - Marcia dei MacGregor and Santa Fe Express - from 1966's Sette Pistole Per I MacGregor, directed by Franco Giraldi, a mostly-forgotten film, although one that was enough of a success at the time to warrant a sequel the following year. There are also cuts from La vita a volte è molto dura, vero Provvidenza? and its sequel, Ci risiamo, vero Provvidenza?, both of which are pop western tracks which vocals by I Cantori Moderni, the vocal octet organised by Morricone's fellow composer, Alessandro Alessandroni.
Yet, there's nothing from Two Mules for Sister Sara, nor A Fistful of Dynamite (also known as Duck, You Sucker!). While the former was omitted from the first Music On Vinyl Collected release, the latter's title theme was included, and justly so - it's absolutely rollicking and exultant. Granted, all the big names are represented - The Man with No Name trilogy and all of the instantly-recognisable themes attached to them are included, as one would readily expect - so this works effectively as a fully-rounded look at the well-known and the unknown, but the missing middle ground of cult favorites is an unfortunate oversight.
The vinyl pressing is a little hot, with Alessandroni's whistling and the low end really going into the red, making for some fuzzy listening, which is a shame, because the rest of the instrumentation comes through clean and clear. The jaw harp on For A Few Dollars More sounds especially nice in the mix, as do the various guttural chants. Vocals on tracks like The Return of Ringo sound amazing, as well, making the unpleasant dominance of the high and low ends an unfortunate distraction on such an iconic cut as Ecstasy of Gold.
Thankfully, the packaging is absolutely aces. The silver spot varnish for the pistol and bullet on the front cover really pops, and the inner gatefold spread of original film posters is a really glorious array of imagery. Claudio Fuiano's liner notes make a definitive case as to why these tracks were chosen, as well. The smokey vinyl looks amazing, even if the pressing itself is so-so.