Ennio Morricone

Giu' la testa

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With classic films like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West, Sergio Leone built his reputation as a master of the Western. A key part of these film's unique style was their soundtracks, all of which were crafted by Ennio Morricone: his singular mixture of avant-garde quirks, pop instrumentation, and traditional orchestral romanticism played a crucial role in helping Leone redefine what audiences expected from a Western. Giu la Testa is the soundtrack to Leone's last foray into the genre, and as a result there is a certain bittersweet romanticism that infuses the typical quirks present in a Morricone score: the title track may have a cut-up structure and some bizarre choral vocals, but the true heart of the composition is an emotionally searing wordless solo from Edda Dell'Orso that communicates heartache far better than any lyrics ever could. The sweetly crafted heartache of that moment is further elaborated on in cues like "Mesa Verde," which uses a gentle bed of strings to cushion a fragile, sad melody built on stately horns and some Spanish-flavored acoustic guitar, and "Dopo L'Esplosione," a quietly tragic tune that layers a heart-tugging, whistled melody with subtle orchestration. However, the album isn't all somber melodicism: Giu la Testa's sense of melancholy is balanced by some playful moments like "Scherzi a Parte," a jaunty reworking of elements from the main theme that contrasts a carefree whistled melody with odd electric keyboard riffs, and "Marcia Degla Accattoni," a clever cue that tarts up its march-styled orchestral melody with quirks galore (singers croaking nonsense syllables, unexpected mandolin parts, unexpected whistle, and harpsichord breaks). The remainder of the cues mostly revisit melodic elements from the main theme, but none ever wear out their welcome thanks to Morricone's relentlessly innovative touch as an arranger. All in all, Giu la Testa represents one of the towering achievements in Ennio Morricone's catalog, because it represents the one-of-a-kind blend of romanticism and musical innovation that defines his finest work in the Western soundtrack genre.

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