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Él is Flying High with Ennio Morricone and Joao Donato

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Ennio Morricone - PopsCherry Red’s Él Records label is going ‘round the world with a pair of recent releases.  Morricone Pops focuses on an oft-overlooked part of Italian composer Ennio Morricone’s ouevre:  that of his early sixties arrangements not just for film, but also for pop singers.  Él also turns its attention to a favorite country, Brazil, for Sambou, Sambou, a collection of two albums of tunes by composer-pianist Joao Donato.

With a staggering body of work including more than 500 films and television shows, 84 year old Ennio Morricone has deservedly earned a reputation as one of the greatest of all movie composers.  Yet before he teamed with Sergio Leone to define the sound of the spaghetti western with scores for films like The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Morricone was finding steady employment as an arranger in the Italian music scene.  He arranged and even ghost-wrote hundreds of songs in the 1950s and 1960s, working for the Italian RCA label, among others.  One such song – an arrangement of Woody Guthrie’s “Pastures of Plenty” as sung by American vocalist Peter Tevis – attracted the attention of director Leone, an old schoolmate of Morricone’s.  Leone hired Morricone to write the score for 1964’s A Fistful of Dollars, and well, the rest is cinema and music history.

Fistful wasn’t Morricone’s first motion picture; that honor went to 1961’s Il Federale.  But it was his breakthrough.  “Pastures” is just one of the 29 tracks on Morricone Pops.  Among the other notable songs here are Gianni Morandi’s 1962 “Go-Kart Twist,” Jimmy Fontana‘s “Twist No. 9” and “Nicole,” and Luigi Tenco’s “Quello Che Conta” and “Tra Tanta Gente.”  American jazz vocalist Helen Merrill’s RCA EP Sings Italian Songs (1960) is included, too,   with four choice Morricone arrangements.  Pops also includes highlights from early Morricone film arranging credits such as Il Rosetto (1960) and I Generale ½ (1961).  The CD stops short of including Morricone’s “Ogni Volta (Every Time),” the 1964 San Remo Music Festival entry sung by Paul Anka, but touches on the highlights of the early part of a legendary career.  As such, it’s sure to fascinate those only familiar with later, more mature works like Days of Heaven, Once Upon a Time in America, and The Mission – not to mention The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

After the jump, you’ll find details on Joao Donato’s Sambou, Sambou, plus order links and track listings for both titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 27, 2013 at 13:11