Cadabra Records is perhaps best-known for their adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft stories, but the recent move toward adapting some of Edgar Allen Poe's most notable stories and poems has resulted in some of their best work yet. Anthony D.P. Mann's reading of Poe's The Black Cat, with music by legendary genre composer Fabio Frizzi, is an excellent example of how the label has ably mixed music, literature, and storytelling into one perfect package.
In 1981, Lucio Fulci directed a very, very loose adaptation of the Poe story, and Frizzi was originally to be the composer. As Frizzi states in his essay for the liner notes, "we met and [Fulci] told me that the producer was linked to another composer. There were no negotiation margins".
Pino Donaggio was that other composer, and while Frizzi would go on to score two more Fulci films - The Beyond and Manhattan Baby - the composer seems to regret not having a chance to score The Black Cat, as he was "fascinated by the first images shot by Lucio".
However, now Frizzi says that "the enthusiasm, the magical flow of creativity is again with me!" and it really shines through in this Cadabra production. Mann's reading is as enthusiastic and manic as the story requires, yet restrained when necessary as well. Given that The Black Cat is told in the first person, the narrative really gives him a chance to shine as the titular cat begins to drive him mad.
And this LP sounds amazing: Frizzi's score nimbly moves in and around Mann's reading, and it almost feels as if the composer is playing there in the studio with the reader. It's a delight to listen to, and the vinyl on which it's pressed - natural with black swirl - looks like a bit of stone one might find in a basement, tying everything together.
Jeremy Hush's artwork is absolutely gorgeous. The cover image, representing the story's finale, is terrifying yet beautiful, and the massive poster included with the record looks like something straight out of the 1930s. It could easily be from a Universal Pictures adaptation which never saw the light of day, it's that perfect.
All told, this is a wonderful package. Holding it in one's hands, reading the gatefold essay by Fabio Capuzza, and looking at the art, one gets the impression that every aspect of The Black Cat was designed to complement, and it's a sheer joy to behold.
THE BLACK CAT / READ BY ANTHONY D.P. MANN / COMPOSER: FABIO FRIZZI / LABEL: CADABRA RECORDS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW