Every profession seems to have its something’s something. By which I mean, for instance, a lawyer’s lawyer—a lawyer to represent all lawyers. Articles and discussions in entertainment and pop culture circles are full of this kind of praise. We’ve all talked about a writer’s writer, a songwriter’s songwriter, a film director’s film director, a painter’s painter, and so on. Ennio Morricone has spent 60 years sculpting a career as a film scorer’s film scorer. If the name alone doesn’t stir around any recognition in your brain, then the things he has touched with his artistic hand certain will. A short list of his credits include The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, For a Few Dollars More, Cinema Paradiso, The Untouchables, and his recent Academy Award-winning work for The Hateful Eight. Anyone with more than just a passing familiarity with classic film should be able to nod in recognition while slowing saying “That guy!” The lonely two-note cry sounding over an arid desert shortly followed by a galloping percussion that introduces the unmistakable electric guitar theme to “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”—Morricone is that guy. He achieved iconic status years ago.
Morricone 60 is the sound of the composer taking a brief pause to look into his rearview mirror before continuing into the future. Ennio Morricone has been professionally scoring movies for 60 years now, an occasion that he and Decca have decided to commemorate with a collection where the composer conducts the Czech National Symphony through 23 career highlights. So Morricone 60 is a bit of a rerecorded “greatest hits” compilation, one that will never be accused of “messing with the gospel”, so to speak. Only the non-chronological track sequencing may throw off only the most unforgiving film buff. Apart from that, listening to Morricone 60 is like sitting in an opulent theater, listening to one of the world’s top symphonies giving a 73-minute program in tribute to one of the greats in cinematic music.
The CD starts with three cuts from Morricone’s lush and bountiful score for The Mission, followed by a jumbled order of various spaghetti western themes from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West, and A Fistful of Dynamite. “On Earth As It Is in Heaven” proves that you don’t have to pilfer Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” in order to summon a powerful chorus score (I’m looking at you, nearly every current film scorer in Hollywood). The charming late ‘90s Italian film Cinema Paradiso is, rather unfortunately, represented by only five minutes of music. Meanwhile, Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, the recent toast of Morricone’s career, lays claim to Morricone 60‘s longest track with the nail-biting “Stage Coach to Red Rock”. Though I have not seen The Hateful Eight, this seven-minute piece of music suggests that something bad is about to happen, a long-burning wick that never actually reaches the dynamite.
If Ennio Morricone would have stopped composing after The Mission, he would have achieved a career goal that few of us can even imagine obtaining. Instead, he continued to move ahead. As of this writing, it is reported that Morricone and Tarantino will be teaming up yet again in the near future, making Morricone 60 just a blip in time rather than a career summation. It’s not as if we would have expected otherwise.
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