I was excited to get this new CD compilation featuring electronic reworkings/remixes of the work of Ennio Morricone. Morricone has continued to dominate my listening in the last five years, in spite of the hundreds of other things I've been getting into.
That said, I actually don't own much of his original soundtrack work on vinyl, due to the scarcity of the records, my own laziness, and most importantly, the outstanding quality of the CD compilations out there. 'Mondo Morricone', 'More Mondo Morricone', and 'Canto Morricone' (esp vols 1 and 3) are cornerstones of my collection, and so any new Morricone project was always going to interest me.
At the same time, I'm not the biggest dance music fan, and have been known to be disparaging about lazy electronic artists who borrow loops and then repeat them for 8 or 9 minutes per song, with little or no regard to harmonic interest or structure.
Anyway, I'd say this compilation both disappoints and excites in equal portions. Many of the tracks remixed are from Morricone's Spaghetti Western work, which in fact is less familiar to me than the more obscure B-movie material compiled on the 'Mondo Morricone' discs (I always get into things in a funny order…).
The first track is definitely a highlight: Apollo Four Forty's excellently executed remix of 'the man with the harmonica'. It maintains the doomy force of the original and updates it quite tastefully and cohesively, unlike Terranova, whose 'for a few dollars more' sounds like a terrible mess to me. I feel as if this is one of many tracks on the album which would probably sound great to fans of the remixers involved, but which is really not to my taste. Another example of this is the the spikey drum'n'bass and vocals combination on Copasetic Con Vivi e selda's version of 'Here's to you'.
I have mixed feelings about Fantastic Plastic Machine's remix of 'Belinda May', one of the tracks I was most looking forward to hearing. Like the remixer, I love Morricone, and this is possibly my favorite track ever by him. So not surprisingly, the addition of a high NRG beat to this track doesn't exactly thrill me. That said, he maintains all of the original song, and adds some interesting brasilian beats and sounds. I guess that since I know every sound in the original recording, even a DJ of such prodigious talent as Tomoyuki Tanaka was never going to be able to make this one seamless for me.
Other tracks I enjoyed included the spooky beats of Bigga Bush from rockers hi-fi (er, I've never heard of them, incidentally), and Thievery Corporation's pleasant if not desperately exciting 'il grande silencio'. Tommy Hools's 'doricamente' is also pretty cool, smooth and rather groovy at the same time as being haunting, and he adds some clever chord changes and twangy guitar to spice it up. De Phazz's 'La Lucertola' is quite good. I have a couple of their records, and for me, they're very hit and miss - they can do something really beautiful, and then suddenly lapse into something completely tasteless. This track is actually very nicely done. My only complaint that I consider 'La Lucertola' to be a work of such genius that is seems ridiculous to omit any of its musical parts. While this isn't as repetitive as some of the tracks here, it misses some crucial elements of the piece, such as the killer hook in the middle with wordless vocals, which is cut out altogether. It's a track which I imagine those who had never heard the original might like, but unfortunately it takes away as much as it adds. Some tracks, while pleasant, chop the originals up too much - e.g. Groove Corporation's 'giocoso, giocoso' has some cool sounds in it, but I need more harmonic variation in my music, man....
I think the highlight for me is Ali N. Askin's version of 'Il bacio', just about the only track on here which is as beautiful as the original. The remix approach employed here is different from most on this album - along with the samples and beats, the remixer adds a new vocalist who plays around with the melody rather charmingly, if not quite as exquisitely as Edda Dell'Orso.
Anyway, I'm very glad I bought this, but I’m also glad I didn't pay full price. I would love to see a 'funky morricone instrumental covers' CD compilation. I’m thinking of tracks like the great Al Caiola version of ‘For a Few Dollars More’, or the bouncy ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ from 1996’s ‘Stereo Cocktail’ compilation. If I can get enough tracks together, I’ll compile one.