Best Of The West 2012: Spaghetti Westerns Remixed On 'Rome'
Italian composer Daniele Luppi and American producer Danger Mouse took inspiration from Ennio Morricone to create a masterpiece of an album.
Danger Mouse, Norah Jones, Daniele Luppi and Jack White.
Photography: Frank W. Ockenfels 3/Courtesy EMI Records
Three bounty hunters encircle a bandit on the run. The Man with No Name appears and challenges the gunslingers to a draw. Three shots — each hunter falls. The dark figure is left standing.
AaaaaeeeeyeeAaaaaeeeyeeeAaaay Wah Wah Waaah.
The notes ring out like a primal scream, a theme ranking among the most iconic in cinematic history. The song immediately takes you to a world where justice is decided by the quickest hand and your life is worth as much as the wanted poster decrees.
The spaghetti westerns of the 1960s infused the genre with an artistic darkness and depth not contemplated by decades of pulp predecessors. Sergio Leone blazed a new trail with films like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, A Fistful of Dollars, and Once Upon a Time in the West.
But the scores of these westerns have had an even greater effect on their medium. Leone enlisted a former classmate to compose the music that was interwoven masterfully into the cinematography of his films. Ennio Morricone was given a low budget, little time, and few musicians to work with and was asked to create epic, chilling compositions that would serve as the driving soul of each movie.
These short stints in the studio provided for some of the most influential musical innovations of the last century. Morricone blended classical music elements with electric guitars, screams, gunshots, whips, whistles, ocarinas, and trumpets, blending Old World with New World with another realm, timeless and savage.
Forty years after Leone and Morricone first collaborated on A Fistful of Dollars, another historic duo met for the first time. Italian music composer Daniele Luppi and American artist-producer Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) began working together in 2004 while recording the Gnarls Barkley album St. Elsewhere. The first single, “Crazy,” broke download records around the world. The two musicians bonded over a love of music and, more specifically, classic Italian scores. They decided to work together on an ode to the composer who had such a strong impact on their own music.
Over the next five years they met periodically in Rome in a studio that Morricone recorded in, surrounded by his original session musicians and the same equipment he used. They eventually brought in Jack White (rock ’n’ roll visionary from The White Stripes) and Norah Jones (jazz revivalist and sultry soloist) to give the retro tunes a contemporary pulse.
The result is one of the greatest albums of the decade. The instrumentation is as sweeping and groundbreaking as a Leone film; the vocals are as haunting as a dark, nameless bounty hunter; and the lyrics are as cold and fatal as a bullet in a six-shooter. www.romealbum.com