Probably the most prolific, highest profile and best respected film composer of the past sixty years, is Ennio Morricone. He has written over five-hundred soundtracks. These soundtracks cover every possible genre of film. Mention his name to many people, and they’ll associate Ennio Morricone with the soundtracks he scored for Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns. The quartet of 1964s A Fistful of Dollars, 1965s For A Few Dollars More, 1966s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and 1968s Once Upon A Time In the West made Ennio Morricone a household name. However, there’s much, much more to the eighty-four year old, Italian composer’s career than just four Spaghetti Westerns. Indeed, the man dubbed The Maestro’s carer started with 1959s The Death of A Friend and spanned a further six decades. The Maestro has never shirked a challenge, scoring films from everything from everything from big-budget blockbusters like Bugsy, In the Line of Fire and Mission To Mars through art-house films. His soundtracks have sold over fifty-million copies and he’s won awards worldwide, including an Academy Award for the soundtrack to The Days of Heaven. Whether Ennio Morricone would have won further Academy Awards and even that elusive Oscar if he written scores for more blockbuster films or more populist films, we can only speculate. What can be said, is Ennio Morricone’s soundtracks are truly eclectic. A recent box set Morricone In Colour, released by Bella Casta, demonstrates the sheer eclectic nature of Ennio Morricone’s work. As you’ll see, it’s a snapshot of Ennio Morricone’s work during two of the most productive decades of his career.

Morricone In Colour, is a four-disc box set, which features eight film scores, written by Ennio Morricone during a ten-year period between 1969 and 1979. In addition the eight original film scores, are a number of bonus tracks. These eight scores encapsulate everything about Ennio Morricone’s work. Eclectic. That’s how best to describe The Maestro’s music. Not only does it encapsulate his unique sound, but reflects the era’s musical diversity. There’s everything from a quintessentially sixties sound, an arty-erotica and sensuousness, right through to a cocktail-cool, jazz-tinged sound. Add to this a twist of Latin music, a plenty of drama and not forgetting humor. It’s everywhere, especially when The Maestro cocks a snook at the perceived pretentiousness of prog rock. Essentially, Morricone In Colour is a snapshot at The Maestro’s work during one of the most prolific periods of his career, starting in 1969.


This four-disc, eight score epic that is Morricone In Colour, begins in 1969. The first of the two scores on Disc One is Metti, Una Sera A Cena  (Love Circle,) an Italian drama directed by Giuseppe Patroni Griffi, which starred Jean-Louis Trintignant. Metti, Una Sera A Cena was an entrant in the 1969 Cannes Film Festival. Conducting the orchestra is Bruno Nicolai, who worked extensively with Ennio Morricone. For me, much of the soundtrack has a quintessentially sixties sound, especially Alla Luce Del Giorno and the Eastern sound of Ric Happening. Other tracks range from melodramatic, broody and understated. Of the eight soundtracks, this has to be my favorite. Given it’s rarity, buying Morricone In Colour for this soundtrack alone makes commercial sense.


Forza G (Winged Angels) is the second soundtrack on Disc One. Released in 1971, and directed by Duccio Tessari Forza G starred Riccardo Salvino and features an orchestra conducted by Bruno Nicolai. This is a real gem of a soundtrack, one that’s beautiful, melancholy and wistful. There’s an understated sound that you lose yourself in. An example of this Ripresa Prima and Ripresa Terza. Granted, the tempo sometimes increases, with a jaunty jazzy sound revealing itself. Mostly, it’s just a quite beautiful, pensive soundscape whose charms, subtleties and secrets are guaranteed to win you over.


Disc Two sees a return to 1969, and the drama of L’Assoluto Naturale (He and She). This is perceived as a classic of sixties Italian cinematography. Directed by Mauro Bolognini, starring Laurence Harvey and featuring an orchestra directed again, by Bruno Nicolai. Just a small cast featured on this classic film, which was matched by a minor classic of a soundtrack. The songs change like the seasons, provoking a variety of emotions and thoughts. As usual, The Maestro paints pictures with music especially on tracks like the pensive, thoughtful L’Assoluto Naturale, the growing drama of E-Facile or the haunting, broody Studio De Colore. For The Maestro’s fans, this thirteen-track is well worth hearing and like the other soundtrack from 1969, is one of the real highlights of Morricone In Colour.


The second score on Disc Two of Morricone In Colour is Anche Se Volessi Lavorare Che Faccio? (Even If I Wanted To Work What Could I Do?) This film was released in 1972, directed by Flavio Mogherini and starred Enzo Cerisico. It’s best described as eclectic in sound and the musical genres it references. Jazz, funk, classical music, Euro Pop and Italian music in Per La Strada, it’s all there. Ennio throws this into his musical melting pot and stirred. Sometimes, genres melt into one. Ora A Te, Poi A Me is a case in point. Funk, jazz, classical and opera rolled into one. Tramonto with its melancholy, emotive sound has The Maestro’s name all over it and is quite simply, the highlight of the score.


One of the best known films to feature on Morricone In Colour, is The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, or to give it its correct title, Uccello Dalle Plime Di Cristaldo. The film is loosely based on Frederic Brown’s novel The Screaming Mimi. Directed by Dario Argento, who was making his directorial debut, the film was released in 1970 and featured Tony Musante and Suzy Kendall. On its release, it was nominated for the 1970 Edgar Allan Poe Award and since then, has becoming a compelling, cult-classic. Sometimes, Ennio’s music has a jazz-tinged, experimental sound, especially on tracks like Corsa Sui Tetti, where The Maestro toy with tonality. Chilling, spine-tingling and hugely dramatic describes Svolta Drammatica. La Citta Si Risveglia sees drama, tonality and subtlety fused over three mesmeric minutes from The Maestro. For anyone yet to discover the sights and sounds of The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, then this is well worth seeking out, and persevering with.


Quattro Mosche Di Velluto Grigio, or Four Flies On Grey Velvet was released in 1971. Again, the film is directed by Dario Argento and stars Michael Brandon. During the score, Ennio is an innovator, fusing atonality and humor. The humour comes when he sends up the perceived pomposity and pretentiousness of prog rock. This he does over seven tracks, adding to this a healthy sprinkling of jazz. From the opening bars of the opening track, Quattro Mosche Di Velluto Grigio (Titoli) a classic European sixties soundtrack sound meets prog rock. It’s a compelling combination. A Hammond organ provides an unmistakable sixties sound. Meanwhile, searing guitars, dramatic drum fills and rolls, searing, screeching guitars and melodramatic vocals add prog rock influence. Later, on track fifteen, Ennio gives a brief glimpse of the overblown sound Queen would make a career of, before taking the track in the direction of jazz. Looking back at the seventies and prog rock, it seems Ennio saw through its pretentiousness sound and decided to burst its bubble. However, he didn’t manage to do so, and despite his efforts, it’s still a popular musical genre.


On Disc Four of Morricone In Colour, it’s a case of fast forwarding through half a decade. 1977 saw the release of Il Gatto, (The Cat), directed by Luigi Comencini and starring Uno Tognazzi. The music veers between classical influenced opening track Il Gatto to the cocktail jazz of L’attico Illumanato and Terrazza. Then there’s the contrast between the sheer sensuousness of Marriangela E La Seduzione and the jaunty Latin sound of Samba In Tribunale. Over the thirteen-tracks that comprise Il Gatto, The Maestro showcases the sheer eclecticism of his music, which even thirty-five years later, is blessed with a timeless, contemporary sound.


Il Giocattolo is the last of the eight soundtracks that comprise Morricone In Colour. Quite fittingly, this was a year before Ennio decided to cut down on his film work, to concentrate on his concerts. Directed and co-written by Giuliano Montaldo and starring Nino Manfredi, Il Giocattolo was released as music changed drastically. Disco was no longer as popular, punk became post-punk and aging rock stars decided it was safe to make a return. They hadn’t been consigned to the dustbin of history as the faux-revolutionaries of punk forecast. Despite this, The Maestro continued to innovate and reinvent his music. 

Indeed, during Il Giocattolo he revisits a sixties sound on Una Gita Mancata and unleashes the chilling suspense of Telefonata Minacciosa. Although less than two-minutes long, it’s two of The Maestro’s most intense and compelling minutes. You’re almost scared to look behind the sofa. From there drama, suspense and space are three features of the mesmeric Mirraggio E Agguato, which is akin to something Hitchcock could conjur up in his prime. In many ways Il Giocattolo is a compelling, enthralling and spine-tingling close to Morricone In Colour. He toys and tantalizes your subconscious, changing your mood and messes with your emotions, just as a master storyteller or filmmaker would. The only difference is The Maestro does so with music.

The best way of describing Morricone In Colour, is a snapshot in time, from one of the most innovative, eclectic composer of soundtracks. Morricone In Colour covers a ten year period between 1969 and 1979, where he collaborate with some of the best Italian directors of this era. Like his music, these films were cutting-edge, pushing the boundaries of cinematography. For anyone whose yet to discover Ennio Morricone’s music, then Morricone In Colour is a good introduction. It allows them to discover the many sides to his music. There’s everything from cocktail jazz, arty-erotica, drama, suspense, humor and some sixties sounds. Unlike other recent compilations of Ennio Morricone’s music, these are original recordings. All too often, box sets of Ennio Morricone’s music fails to do justice to The Maestro’s music. Not Morricone In Colour. Indeed, Morricone In Colour, this four-disc, eight soundtrack collection which was recently released by Bella Casta will delight connoisseurs of Ennio Morricone’s music. Similarly, newcomers to The Maestro’s career, will hungrily devour the delights of the eight soundtracks and the additional bonus tracks. I’m sure after just one listen to the eight soundtracks that comprise Morricone In Colour, will become devoted followers of the man they call The Maestro’s music.


1 Comment

  1. MorriconeFreak

    Thanks for this great article. @MorriconesPiano

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