Silva Screen Records, Ltd. (SILCD 2003)
Release Date: 2006
Conducted by Paul Bateman / Derek Wadsworth / Nic Raine / James Fitzpatrick
The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
Best of 2006: Best Re-Recording
|1.||The Man With the Harmonica||3:54|
|2.||The Untouchables Main Theme||2:22|
|3.||A Fistful of Dollars Main Theme||3:31|
|4.||For a Few Dollars More Main Theme||3:24|
|5.||The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Main Theme||2:51|
|6.||Duck, You Sucker!||4:09|
|8.||The Five Man Army Main Theme||2:49|
|10.||The Sicilian Clan Main Theme||4:07|
|14.||On Earth as It Is in Heaven||3:35|
|Total Album Time:||53:26|
|by Rafael Ruiz
on June 23rd, 2006
Those Europeans - they sure like their Ennio Morricone. They hold onto him as one of their own, a famous film composer unspoiled by Hollywood though he often works there. From the moment you hear the first track, you'll know a lot of love went into this compilation album. If you are a Morricone fan, there won't be much of a surprise with what they choose. The one difference is that this album stretches through his career picking out some of his best latter day works (The Mission, Cinema Paradiso, etc).
The Prague Philharmonic Orchestra has always been a secret weapon that can be pulled out to deliver orchestral power. Their brass section in particular has the romantic heft to pull off Morricone's operatic moments (listen to the outstanding trumpet solo on A Fistful of Dollars). And even while they record these pieces clean, the tracks retain the flavor of their periods. Duck You Sucker! keeps its distinctive late 60's vocal chiming and "Chi Mai" (from Maddalena) is unashamed to use a 70's drum machine. Excluding the awkward solos on the first track, the western instrumentation is fantastic on the rest of the album (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly sounds wonderful, as does The Five Arm Band). Morricone's trademark female choral pieces ("Jill's Theme", "Deborah's Theme," "Regan's Theme") are all appropriately haunting with soloists who know how to the handle dips and curves of his music.
To show their good taste, they start the album with my favorite Morricone theme of all time "The Man with the Harmonica." In one of the album's few missteps, neither the harmonica solo nor the guitar counterpoint is as strong as the string section around them. Prague doesn't seem like the type of place to have a lot of harmonica players. All joshing aside, it's still a good piece. Next up is the best rendition of The Untouchables I've ever heard, I kid you not. I've always liked this score, but it felt a little "tinny" in the soundtrack recordings. Here the music is epic, full of rousing Aaron Copland lyricism. Interestingly the piece was arranged and orchestrated by Henry Mancini, along with about a third of pieces. I want the whole score re-orchestrated this way.
The whole album exudes this type of professionalism. Many pieces have been slightly tweaked, but the results are fresh. In both the Dollars pieces, the main theme doesn't emerge until a minute or two in, instead starting us with an intro from the emotional part of the score. The Mission piece that ends the album (a rearrangement of "On Earth As It Is in Heaven") emphasizes the tribal drum rhythms more while retraining the strength of the chorus synergizing the two elements. To complain very... slightly, Cinema Paradiso could have been improved by combining the Alfredo and Toto theme with the Elena love theme. But that is an issue of arrangement and not performance, which is as tear jerking as ever.
I can comfortably say this is the best Ennio Morricone compilation album I've heard. It is the type of release that can invigorate interest in a composer. If you haven't jumped on the Morricone band wagon, then here is the place to start.
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