Ennio Morricone

TrackAlbum
Main ThemeA Fistful Of Dollars
The Ecstasy Of GoldThe Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Man With The HarmonicaOnce Upon A Time In The West
Once Upon A Time In The WestOnce Upon A Time in The West
On Earth As It Is In HeavenThe Mission
Gabriel's OboeThe Mission
RiverThe Mission
Giù La TestaA Fistful Of Dynamite
Cockeye'’s SongYo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone
Love ThemeCinema Paradiso

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Contributor: Roger Woods

It would be impossible to offer an appraisal of the whole of Ennio Morricone’s catalogue. He’s best known for film scores (over 500 to date) but he’s written classical pieces and worked with The Pet Shop Boys, Françoise Hardy and Joan Baez. He’s had worldwide chart success with two singles; Chi Mai reached the UK top spot in May 1981 and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly did the same for Hugo Montenegro’s cover in 1968. I know and love a fraction of his work but what I know, I’ve listened to as much as I’ve listened to any music. Most film music needs the film. Morricone, when working with Sergio Leone, composed the score and Leone shot the film to the completed score.

Most of Ennio’s work that I listen to was written as film music for the six classic Sergio Leone masterpieces. The twanging guitar of the first two ‘dollars’ films will be familiar to many. The whole world must know the main theme to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. The work of director Sergio Leone (released initially under the directorial alias ‘Bob Robertson’), these three films, A Fistful Of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, launched the film career of Clint Eastwood and introduced Ennio Morricone to a wider public. When Sergio first met with Ennio to explore commissioning him for the job of scoring A Fistful Of Dollars, Ennio pointed out that they’d attended the same primary school and showed him this class photo:

Ennio Morricone & Sergio Leone

Sergio commented subsequently that “This was a nice touch, but not quite enough to persuade me to employ him”.

Fortunately, Morricone got the gig. He’d been an obscure feature film composer until that point. The Dollar Trilogy launched his career just as it launched the career of Leone. It’s a source of continual regret that Leone only directed a few further films. Morricone scored a further 500.

In selecting just ten pieces I’ve surprised myself by including three from The Mission. Many think this to be Morricone’s masterpiece (I would choose Once Upon A Time In The West) and in 1987 he was nominated for an Oscar but lost out to Herbie Hancock’s score for Around Midnight. He’s been nominated several times but never won, although he received a Lifetime Achievement consolation Oscar in 2007.

For anyone new to such a massive volume of music the task of approaching it could be daunting. I’ve included in my list a track from an album by Yo-Yo Ma. Buying this album would simplify the task. For my money it’s the greatest intro to Morricone’s music and I’d take it to a desert island. I’ve given a selection of albums in the list but there are so many collections and box sets that the list will be duplicated on these. The original soundtracks of Once Upon A Time In The West, Once Upon A Time In America and The Mission are essential purchases.

Ennio Morricone will be 86 in November 2014 but he continues to perform concerts around the world. I was at a concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 10th November 2003 which was Ennio’s 75th birthday. As he came out for an encore the audience stood up and sang Happy Birthday To You! He’s in London and Birmingham in December 2014. There are still seats available!

 

Ennio Morricone official website

The Ennio Morricone Online Community

Ennio Morricone biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #290

7 Comments

  1. David Lewis
    Jun 1, 2014

    I agree ‘…West’ is his masterpiece. The use of mystique concrete is just superb and perfect for the bleak themes of the film.

  2. Peter Viney
    Jun 1, 2014

    Great choice, Roger! My son is a major Morricone collector with a shelf of albums. For years, The Mission was one of my favourite Sunday morning records, and when I saw Ennio Morricone at the top, before I started reading, I said “I hope Gabriel’s Oboe” is on there, and it is. I agree about Once Upon A Time too. Chi Mai is an odd record. When I started writing about Record Collecting, I discovered every charity shop and secondhand shop in the country has at least one copy of Chi Mai, always in pristine, mint condition. It’s still true five years on. It is without doubt the most common secondhand record in the UK. I suspect the BBC must have commissioned a huge later print run by mistake and distributed the lot to charity shops. They’re all in BBC company sleeves, though early charting copies had picture sleeves too.

  3. Peter Viney
    Jun 2, 2014

    The track played at my son’s wedding, his essential one is Il Tramamito from Il Mercenario. After much Morricone discussion last night, there has to be a “Wot no?” on the actual Good, Bad & The Ugly theme, one of the most recognizable and also great soundtrack themes.

  4. Roger Woods
    Jun 3, 2014

    Yes… The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. One of my favourite films but with only ten choices I decided everyone knew it well enough and chose ‘Ecstasy’ instead. I’m glad to hear Il Tramamito – I don’t know it well- but will listen carefully. David – do you know The Spaghetti Western Orchestra? An Australian outfit who do wonderful mimics of Morricone with very few instruments. They did a whole Prom Concert two or three years ago and went down a storm.

  5. Peter Viney
    Jun 3, 2014

    Great minds must think alike, Roger. I saw a brand new vinyl compilation of The Best of Ennio Morricone yesterday. “The Ecstasy of Gold” is the title. It also had “vol 5” in small letters, but that was the only LP in stock.

  6. Al Edge
    Jun 8, 2014

    Full marks for highlighting the genius of Morricone Rog. However – hmmph – a Morricone best of without a lavish sprinkling of OUATIA is like a BAND finest selection shorn of Dixie, IMND, The Weight, King Harvest and We Can Talk. OUATIA not only the finest movie of all time but the finest soundtrack. :-0)

  7. Roger Woods
    Jul 8, 2014

    Al – I agree about the prominence of Once Upon A Time In America. I’d been waiting for that film for years. We kept getting tantalising snippets of gossip about its pre-production progress – ‘Lee Marvin booked for next Leone gangster movie’ sort of thing. When it arrived I wasn’t disappointed. I saw it on its first outing in London and I’ll always remember that day. The screening had an intermission – a feature long lost in the cinema. It remains one of my all time favourites and a real topping out of Leone’s achievements. I was so disappointed when I read of his early death.
    And the music – a masterpiece. I could have devoted all ten tracks to OUATITW, The Mission and OUATIA (no – how could I leave out Fistful of Dynamite!) but I had to make choices and felt that Cockeye’s Theme from the Yo Yo album would just have to serve, token though it may be.

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