This Italian-only CD release is probably the best single-disc survey we'll ever see of Ennio Morricone's music from Sergio Leone's Man with No Name trilogy. Actually, there was hardly enough music in A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and For a Few Dollars More (1965) to fill up a whole LP, much less a CD, but in the U.S., the music from The Good, the Bad & the Ugly (1967) has been the exclusive province of United Artists Records (and its successor company, EMI Records) since the movie's release. But on this disc, all three scores are represented on 26 tracks, seven for A Fistful of Dollars, eight for For a Few Dollars More, and 11 for The Good, the Bad & the Ugly -- the last lacks the bonus tracks present on the recent expanded edition of the soundtrack CD, but it does have everything that was on the original EMI America release and the old UA LP. There's no annotation, but there wasn't on any of the original releases of this material either, and the sound is first-rate. As to the listening experience, it's fascinating to hear Morricone and, by extension, Leone, extend their reach with each score. A Fistful of Dollars had hardly any music at all, but what was there was highly memorable, from the trumpet-dominated "Per Un Pugno Di Dollar" through the eerie "Quasi Morto" (which anticipates the main theme), and the offbeat "Square Dance" -- all of it is effect music, some actually presented within the perception of the characters and all offered with an operatic intensity. By the time of For a Few Dollars More, Morricone is incorporating a key sound effect from the plot into his music in his quiet way, and proving that less is more. And both scores offers as their respective centerpieces hauntingly beautiful and ominous themes driven by acoustic guitar, whistles, and wordless choruses. By the time of The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, director and composer alike are creating full-blown operatic pieces, with arias, interludes, and choral settings, still with one foot in the music of the west, but now the larger-than-life west of the imagination, on a seemingly boundless dramatic canvas. The transitions between the three scores make for an awesome listening experience, almost as profound as the viewing experience to be found by juxtaposing all three movies.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder