The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
Capitol Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Alfredo Narvaez
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/19/2000
There are many movie series, but the top three in my estimation are the James Bond series, the Star Wars series and the Man With No Name series. (There are many other deserving ones, like Indiana Jones, Star Trek and many others, but I think these stand above those in terms of longevity and influence.)
I'm sure you're all aware of the movies that made Clint "You feelin' lucky, punk" Eastwood into an international star. Eastwood portrays a lone bounty hunter that roams the plains of the Old West, dispatching a tough brand of justice to all types of outlaws and killers. Of course, as the title suggests, his true name is never revealed to the audience -- just nicknames like Blondie or Manco. (It was this character that Eastwood later renounced in his Oscar-winning film, "Unforgiven.")
In any case, a big part of Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns was the music of composer Ennio Morricone. He provided the films with twangy sounds and whistles that made as much sense for the characters and setting as the Imperial March was perfect for the Empire. Even to this day, we remember the very theme to the last movie of that trilogy, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. Here we'll take a look at it.
What most amazed me as I heard this album is how somber and melancholic it is. It's like Leone wanted the music to make a statement against the violence we see onscreen. Pieces like "The Strong," "The Carriage Of The Spirits," and "The Story Of A Soldier" are very sad and down-beat. This is due to how the main story has the Civil War as a background. Even tracks like "Marcia" -- which feature kids whistling - and "Marcia Without Hope" -- which combines "Marcia" with "The Story Of A Soldier" to create a cadence -- do not lift one's spirits. This is a story about dark characters living on the fringes and the music seems to follow that idea.
Another thing to notice is how vast several cues try to be. Starting with "The Sundown," which uses a wistful turn at the guitar and violins, the music also tries to encompass the dry dunes of the Southwestern deserts. Speaking of which, "The Desert" is very ominous and almost has a Lawrence of Arabia vibe. The piece follows Tuco and Blondie as they set off across the desert and it seems to be trying to capture the beating of the harsh sun.
Of course, I must speak of the well-known title track. Famous like the James Bond theme and the Mission: Impossible theme, this ranks among the very best of Morricone's career. It uses a male choir, some whistling and a guitar to establish the lead characters and their world. As you hear it, notice how it changes tone and becomes darker here or louder there - to encapture not only Blondie, but also Angel Eyes and Tuco.
Aside from the title track, only two other tracks do not follow the somber and sad route -- "The Ecstasy Of Gold" and "The Trio." Not only that, but they are also among the best tracks to be found here. "Ecstasy" builds towards its climax using a female choir and great orchestral work. (You might remember it from Metallica's S&M, where it is used to kick off the show). The final track, "The Trio," underscores the final duel between the three main characters. It starts ominously with the guitar strings and eventually brings in the rest of the orchestra to build to a final, loud and sudden stop. Both of these tracks work great in the movie and by themselves.
To this day, Morricone is still best known for his great scores to the Man With No Name trilogy. There is reason for that. The music plays a large part in these movies in capturing all of the plotlines, characters and places. That still doesn't mean that it's for everyone. If you are a fan of fast and loud movie scores and don't care much for some subtlety, then you might want to avoid it. However, if you can stand softer and somber music, you will find that the music in this disc is great. Then, you can crank out "The Ecstasy Of Gold" and simulate Tuco as he runs through the cemetery. Ooh-ahh-ooh-ahh-ooh!
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