Ennio Morricone - Guardians Of The Clouds (2006)

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Ennio Morricone - Guardians Of The Clouds (2006)

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The artist

Morricone's work has often been cited for its wit, invention and quirkily experimental instrumentation. He combined electric guitars and harmonicas with orchestras long before such pairings became fashionable. Morricone has also favored unconventional percussion (e.g., church bells, bullwhips cracking and pistol shots) and vocalists that chant, whistle and/or hum.

The Leone-Morricone collaboration numbers among the closest and most significant in film history. One cannot imagine seeing Leone's Cinemascope closeups or landscapes without hearing Morricone's music that added layers of emotional meaning. The composer greatly enhanced the operatic feel of films by often providing memorable leitmotivs for Leone's pistol-packing trios, most famously in "Once Upon a Time in the West" (1969).

Morricone has also worked extensively with such notable Italian filmmakers as Bernardo Bertolucci ("1900" 1977), Pier Paolo Pasolini ("The Decameron" 1971), Gillo Pontecorvo ("Burn!" 1969) and Dario Argento ("Four Flies on Gray Velvet" 1971). He has also lent his formidable skills to a host of Hollywood and international productions. He garnered Oscar nominations for Best Original Score for Terrence Malick's "Days of Heaven" (1978), "The Mission", "The Untouchables" and Barry Levinson's "Bugsy" (1991).

A child prodigy, Morricone began composing music as a six-year-old. At age 12, his parents enrolled him in a four-year harmony program at Accademia di Santa Cecilia, a Roman music conservatory. A fast-learner, young Morricone finished the program in a mere two years (or an amazing six months if one believes some reports!) and graduated with honors while finding time to study the trumpet as well. (His father was a jazz trumpeter.) Morricone went on to perform as a trumpet player in Roman night clubs before composing and arranging scores for RAI television by the mid-1950s. Morricone also worked for RCA record company from the late 50s through mid- 1960s, arranging songs for the likes of Mario Lanza, Renato Rascel and Rita Pavone. In his spare moments, he managed to provide incidental music for a number of plays, contributed songs to a revue and scored a ballet. Morricone began composing film scores with 1961's "Il Federale/The Fascist". He also joined an experimental music group called Nuova Consonanza in 1965. Consequently Morricone had less time to devote to his compositions of chamber and orchestral music. In a 1985 European tour, he conducted concerts of his music.

Though he concedes that television isn't a medium that generally uses the dialogue-free moments of reflection for which film music is so perfectly suited, Morricone's sweeping melodies have been increasingly evident on American TV over the last two decades. Beginning with the miniseries "Moses–the Lawgiver" (CBS, 1975), he has gravitated toward large scale historical subjects, often of a Biblical nature, usually in the miniseries format. These credits include "Marco Polo" (NBC, 1982), "Abraham" (TNT, 1994), "Jacob" (TNT, 1994), "Joseph" (TNT, 1995) and "Moses" (TNT, 1996).

Morricone's American feature credits of the 1990s include Wolfgang Peterson's 1993 blockbuster "In the Line of Fire" (which reteamed him with Leone's spaghetti western star Clint Eastwood), Mike Nichols' "Wolf", "Love Affair" and "Disclosure" (all 1994). In true form, Morricone helped set the eerie tone for the unsettling 1997 releases "Lolita" and "U-Turn" as well as Dario Argento's irreverent 1998 remake "The Phantom of the Opera" (released in the USA in 1999). While Morricone has spoken out against pop songs as film scores in lieu of the more evocative but less radio friendly symphonic instrumental pieces, his music for Warren Beatty's "Bulworth" (1998) meshed well with the film's pivotal hip-hop soundtrack. 1998's fantastical period piece "The Legend of 1900/The Legend of the Pianist on the Ocean" (released in the USA in 1999) challenged Morricone to come up with fresh yet authentic jazz pieces for this tale of a ship-bound musical prodigy. Both academically and evocatively, the efforts were a success, allowing this classically-trained Italian musician to pay homage to his father as well as proving he could tackle the free form American style. 2000 saw the prolific and influential composer score Brian De Palma's flop "Mission to Mars" as well as frequent collaborator Roland Joffe's "Vatel" and Giuseppe Tornatore's "Malena", the latter garnering Morricone his fifth Oscar nomination.

Also Credited As: Dan Savio, Dansavio, Danzavio, Leo NicholsBorn: on 11/10/1928 in Trastevere, Rome, ItalyJob Titles: Composer, Music director, Arranger, Conductor, Trumpeter, Record producerFamily

Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Rome, Italy, harmony and trumpet, 1940 (date approximate)
1959 Worked for RCA record company through the mid-1960s arranged songs by the likes of Mario Lanza, Renato Rascel and Rita Pavone
1961 First film score, "Il Federale/The Fascist", an Italian feature
1964 First collaboration with Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci, "Before the Revolution"
1964 First collaboration with Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone, "A Fistful of Dollars" starring Clint Eastwood
1965 First collaboration with the Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio, "Fists in the Pocket"
1966 Composed his most well-known piece of film music, the theme to Leone's "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" (film released in the USA in 1968)
1966 First collaboration with Italian filmmaker Gillo Pontecorvo, "The Battle of Algiers"
1966 First collaboration with Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini, "Hawks and Sparrows"
1966 Reteamed with Leone and Eastwood with "For a Few Dollars More" (released in the United States in 1967)
1966 Scored ballet "Requiem per un Destino"
1968 First collaboration with Italian filmmaker Elio Petri, "A Quiet Place in the Country"
1968 Scored Pasolini's "Teorema"
1969 Collaborated again with Leone on "Once Upon a Time in the West"
1969 First collaboration with Italian filmmaker Dario Argento, "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage"
1970 First US feature credit, Don Siegel's "Two Mules For Sister Sara" (starring Eastwood)
1971 Scored Pasolini's "The Decameron"
1972 Worked on the score for Dario Argento's "Four Flies on Grey Velvet"
1973 Scored Damiano Damiani's "Il Sorriso de Grande Tentatore/The Tempter"
1975 US TV debut, scored and served as music director on the six-hour CBS miniseries "Moses – the Lawgiver" (also TV acting debut of Burt Lancaster)
1978 Received first Academy Award nomination for his haunting musical score for "Days of Heaven", directed by Terrence Malick
1979 Provided uncredited opera music adaptations for Bertolucci's "La Luna"
1982 Had more television success with the score for "Marco Polo" (NBC)
1984 Scored Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America"
1985 Conducted a series of concerts of his work throughout Europe
1986 Wrote the score to "The Mission", directed by Roland Joffe; garnered second Oscar nomination
1987 Composed and orchestrated the atmospheric music for "The Untouchables", directed by Brian De Palma; received third Academy Academy Award nomination
1989 Scored "Casualties of War" (helmed by De Palma) and "Old Gringo"
1990 Was the subject of an Italian TV documentary entitled "La Musica Negli Occhi"
1991 Composed and conducted the score for Barry Levinson's early mob tale "Bugsy"; picked up fourth Oscar nomination
1992 Scored the Roland Joffe-directed drama "City of Joy"
1993 Contributed the music to the Clint Eastwood action blockbuster vehicle "In the Line of Fire"
1994 Scored "Wolf", a modernized werewolf film starring Jack Nicholson; also composed the music for "Disclosure" and the remake of "Love Affair", produced by and starring Warren Beatty
1995 Wrote score for "Who Killed Pasolini?", a provocative feature film investigation into the murder of the famed director
1997 Composed and orchestrated the music for the controversial remake "Lolita" and Oliver Stone's "U-Turn"
1998 Created the sweeping music for "The Legend of 1900/The Legend of the Pianist on the Ocean"
1998 Scored the political satire "Bulworth", directed by Warren Beatty
1999 Wrote the music for Dario Argento's remake of "The Phantom of the Opera"
2000 Garnered fifth career Oscar nomination for the score to "Malena"
2000 Penned the lovely score for "Vatel", Roland Joffe's 18th-century romance
2000 Reteamed with De Palma for the score to "Mission from Mars"
Composed incidental music for various Italian plays including "La Pappa Reale" (1959), "Il Lieto Fine" (1960) and "Enrico 61" (1961)

The album

It’s easy to get a little confused over this album. There was a score to a 1999 television movie Guardians Of The Sky - a similar title that can be lost in translation, and then this album includes a couple of standard Morricone selections that appear on countless compilation albums. So is this another compilation, or a new score? It’s actually a concept album based around a unique folk instrument, performed by noted soloist Carel Kraayenhof from The Netherlands. The Bandoneon is a 142 note accordion, and Kraayenhof met Morricone during the recording of the ‘Dulce Pontes’ album in 2003; the song from that collaboration ‘Antiga Palavra’ is reprised here, the remainder being newly recorded material.

Opening with ‘Gabriel’s Oboe’ from The Mission, there’s no doubting the distinctive timbre; the Bandoneon being joined by other traditional instrumentation including Uilleann Pipes and Irish Low Whistle. Several themes - ‘Family Of The Poor’ (City Of Joy), ‘I Gelsomini’ (Dimenticare Palermo), ‘I Figlio Di Pan’ (Tempo Di Uccidere), and ‘C’era Una Volta Il Trenino’ were previously re-arranged by Morricone for Pan Flutes on his 1993 ‘Movie Sounds’ album. These are exceptional melodies in any arrangement, and this album with its Celtic feel does not disappoint (maybe you could imagine Morricone meets Braveheart).

The real highlights here are the six new, fully orchestrated themes composed especially for this album; the first of which (‘Mercato’) features a propulsive energy that could have been used for The Untouchables prequel (if only that could have been so…). The title cue itself begins with a few hints of The Mission before breaking out into its own glorious melody, backed with choir; music that makes this an indispensable purchase for all Morricone collectors. By the time of the final track (a solo version of the lyrical ‘Liricamente’ the only cue not to feature the Roma Sinfonietta), some listeners may have tired of the accordion, but in these days of mp3 players and multi-disc changers that should not be a problem at all. The album booklet features some nice colour stills, with notes (in English) from both the composer, and the soloist.

The Songs

01 Gabriel's Oboe (From The Mission)
02 La Tragedia Di Un Uomo Ridicolo
03 Mercato
04 Liricamente
05 I Gelsomini
06 Antiga Palavra (With Dulce Pontes)
07 C' Era Una Volta Il Trenino
08 La Commozione Dell' Addio
09 I Figli Di Pan
10 Family Of The Poor (From City Of Joy)
11 Guardians Of The Clouds
12 Teneramente Amore
13 Liricamente (Solo)

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