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I Malamondo Ennio Morricone Main

I malamondo Album Review

Written by Richie Corelli

Released by CAM Sugar and Decca

i malamondo ennio morricone poster large

Composed by Ennio Morricone
1964
Released on March 21st, 2021

Review:

Ennio Morricone died on July 6th, 2020. In memoriam of the maestro, I’ve written reviews on four of his horror scores (I malamondo, What Have You Done to Solange?, Exorcist II: The Heretic, and The Thing, respectively). It’s a minuscule look at a mountainous career; a sliver of sound to represent Morricone and his expertise as a master horror-composer.

I’m starting this review tetralogy with one of Morricone’s first film scores, the 1964 oddball soundtrack for the movie, I malamondo. This is one of the few Horror DNA reviews I’ve written without seeing the accompanying movie. The film is long out of print. But luckily, the music was recently reissued on vinyl by CAM Sugar and Decca. And it’s a treat.

The mondo movies of the ‘60s and ‘70s were made to scare, titillate, and shock audiences with sensationalist stories of sex and death. The movies were billed as documentaries, though a number were staged performances. A few of these films were great; visually creative and conceptually original documents of alternative behaviors. A lot were awful; ethnocentric and exploitative trash that feverishly punches down.

Those who have written about Paolo Cavara’s I malamondo cite it as one of the better movies in the genre. It’s divided into different parts, including a piece on nude skiing, a clip on facial scarring, an overview of an Italian biker gang, and a document of a good old-fashioned graveyard orgy. It’s a diverse anthology, and that gives Morricone the freedom for sundry scoring. And whoa, does he take advantage of this opportunity.

There are a number of tracks that deserve calling attention to. “Penso a te,” with its slow, surf guitar and cool horn belts, sounds like a precursor to Merricone’s not-yet-developed Spaghetti Western style of music. “L’ultima volta,” the next track, is an earworm. It’s underlined by bouncing rhythms and sliding strings while male vocals ooh and aah and twirl alongside a jumping garage organ. Track 5, “La prima volta,” is ridiculous in the best way. This song features a military drum rolling alongside a rubbery bass line and perky xylophone as a cartoony chorus of vocals chant do-do-dos and ba-ba-bas. “Stanchezza” switches to something more romantic. An upright bass saunters with a slow, dim-lit, dance-floor tempo. Strings slide with a gentle undercurrent as brass croons a soft jazz lead. “Muscoli di velluto” is strange and wonderful. A joyous melody is repeated on different instruments. Interlaced through the jubilation are wordless vocal melodies and sharp chirps of falsetto laughter. “Party proibito” blares popping horns over Gregorian-esque chants for an unusual kind of ruckus. “S.O.S.” is a percussion piece, where all instruments clatter and rattle with nervous anxiety. “Matricole” marches forward like a one-sided cadence call. “Sospesi nel cielo” might be the best song on the album. It’s certainly the prettiest. Etherial vocals swirl around lush, soft instrumentation.

i malamondo ennio morricone 01

The tracklist on this album is long. Besides the nineteen tracks from the original release, CAM Sugar and Decca included nine bonus numbers. Supplemental material on records does tend to be a little gratuitous and the extras here are no exception. Most of these recycle or rework moments or melodies that were used elsewhere. And while these alternates aren’t of the same caliber as the final takes, they still offer interesting insight to Morricone’s process.

Besides including extra songs, CAM Sugar and Decca, put out a quality product. Released as a double vinyl LP set, the album is remastered from the original tapes and sounds clean. The casing is heavy, matte cardboard with a nice tactile feel.

The artwork by Eric Adrian Lee captures the over-dramatized nature of mondo films. A green-tinted collage of stills from the movie adorns the front cover. The layout is designed for certain images to stand out; a woman’s eyes, overstated in raccoon eyeliner, a man’s grimace as his face is cut with a blade, a woman’s body, barely wrapped in a bikini. Overtop this collage, in large watery letters, the title, i Malamando, stretches across the cover. Beneath this, in the bottom right-hand corner, sits a blue marble earth in a red wagon.

Inside the gatefold, over a black backdrop, is a monochromatic yellow picture of a man on a motorcycle. The smoke from the bike’s exhaust is illustrated to spell Malamando out in a way that mirrors the cover. Beneath the title, in a simple, block-letter prints, are the words, “A WAY OUT YOUTH… SEARCHING FOR A WAY OUT!” It’s intentionally overblown. What may have been scandalous to the squares in 1964 is silly to everyone in 2021. The artwork here seems to know this and plays it as kitsch.

Ennio Morricone had been writing and playing music since he was a child. He has ghost-written movie pieces through the ‘50s, but it wasn’t until 1961 that he earned his first feature film score. So when I malamondo came out just a few years later, Morricone was a relatively new name on the scene. I malaondo’s segmented structure gave Morricone an opportunity to play with different genres and find his footing stylistically.

As a result, I malamondo is all over the map. Morricone shifts from quirky pop to sultry bossa-nova to elegant classical to dusty jazz. The lightheartedness of some of these songs may turn off some traditional horror fans. The aesthetic here is a long way from the maestro’s typical horror scores. But those who are open to something a little sweater, should find a lot to enjoy.

So for horror fans, I malamondo is a maybe. For Ennio Morricone fans, it's a definitely. Overall, the album is unrefined, but not messy; scattered, but not unfocused. While I malamondo may not have the strong identity that Morricone’s later works have, the album is loaded with hints at the greatness that is to come.

Grades:

Music: Threeandahalfstars Cover
Buy Amazon Us
Cover
Buy Amazon Uk
Art: Fourstars
Physical Quality: Fourstars
Overall: 4 Star Rating

About The Author
Richie Corelli
Staff Reviewer - USA
Richie isn’t ignoring you. He just can’t hear you over the music. He’s been plugged in to his headphones for decades, diving into the zine culture of the 90s, blogging relentlessly through the 00s and beyond. He knows more about certain bands than he knows about himself. His love of music is rivaled only by his love of horror. If it’s creepy and spooky, he’s into it.

Horror DNA sutures his two passions together, giving him a platform to analyze and express his feelings on horror scores, soundtracks and live performances. It’s a celebration of all that goes bump in the night.
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