Silva Screen Records specializes in re-recordings of film score music, often using the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra (responsible for 13 of 17 tracks here), which it recycles in a variety of composer-based and thematic compilations. This one is devoted to music used in gangster movies, whether written by established masters like Nino Rota and Ennio Morricone or newer Hollywood names like Carter Burwell and Thomas Newman. If it can be taken to be typical of the kind of music the movies provide for big-time criminals, then that music tends to ennoble them instead of debasing them; you might call this album Gangsters in Love instead of American Gangsters. These pieces tend toward grand themes rather than addressing the more violent moments in the films, starting with "The Godfather Waltz" and "Speak Softly Love," another well-known tune from The Godfather series, both by Rota. Elsewhere the bad guys are serenaded by opera singers (Tito Beltrán warbles the Vesti la Giubba aria from Pagliacci in the service of The Untouchables) and accompanied by bluegrass picking (Earl Scruggs' "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" from Bonnie and Clyde, as performed by Michigan Music Works). Often, the style is Mediterranean, as in "Cops or Criminals" from The Departed, with its Spanish guitar, or "Main Theme" from Serpico (which, come to think of it, is not really a gangster movie), a bolero set to massed mandolins. Whatever the style, however, these gangsters seem to inspire the composers to lovely, thoughtful, melodic music that belies their violent, criminal activities. That's the glamour of Hollywood for you.
American Gangsters Review
by William Ruhlmann