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Fat Man and Little Boy
  • Composed by Ennio Morricone
  • La-La Land Records / 2011 / Score 63:40 / Bonus 40:29

Roland Joffé’s had an odd career, starting out with a genuine masterpiece in The Killing Fields, then making the visually (and, thanks to Ennio Morricone, aurally) stunning but ultimately completely hollow The Mission, then the fairly low-key Manhattan Project movie Fat Man and Little Boy and then descending into absolute rubbish forever after.  Morricone worked with Joffé four times, this score being the second.  It’s a score which barely appears in the film, and never received an album release – well, until now, with a double-CD set from La-La Land.  The album begins with one of its four different takes on the piece Morricone recorded for the end titles, “Above the Clouds” – it features a lovely Edda dell’Orso vocal, with organ and the composer’s trademark edgy strings.  It’s nice to finally have it on CD, but I have to say that in the vast ocean of similar pieces from this composer over his glorious career, this one doesn’t do all that much to stand out.

The bulk of the score is made up of suspense music.  It is dominated by a militaristic theme, introduced for the main titles, which again is very familiar-sounding for those with a sizeable Morricone collection – saying that, it’s an effective piece, while not exactly making easy-listening.  The listening is even less easy on occasion, with some genuinely disturbing passages of music, originally highlighted in “First Accident” and coming to full fruition in the truly desperate “Hiroshima and Nagasaki”.  There is melodic material though, and the highlight for many will be the love theme, a relative of the “Above the Clouds”, but it goes off in its own direction – its fullest performance comes in “One Thousand Times Love / Love is Ended”, a wonderful piece blessed with a particular sense of longing; another in the actual film version of the end titles, which is a more straightforward piece, without the original version’s edge.  There’s a great core of material here, but it does feel a little thinly-stretched even over the hour of the first disc, let alone all the alternates on the second, and some of the suspense music – impressively-composed though it inevitably is – really doesn’t make for very nice listening.  The sombre tone is absolutely perfect, but in such large doses it becomes difficult.  Certainly an album which Morricone fans will want to pick up, but I suspect many will want to pare it down to a more palatable length if they’re going to listen to it with any great frequency.  *** 1/2 |

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  1. Mathias (Reply) on Friday 17 February, 2012 at 11:49

    What you think about the score, I suppose depends on how you listen to it. I always jump over the non-melodic pieces and listen to the melodic ones. For me the track “We must not forget” is worth the price of the cd alone and you James don´t even mention it. 😉
    I´m glad that La La Land Records released a two-cd set otherwise I maybe never had heard that gorgeous music.


  2. Kalman (Reply) on Monday 20 February, 2012 at 08:04

    I absolutely enjoyed listening to this double CD. The two atonal tracks mentioned in the review are probably the only ones I don’t like but the rest is wonderful – and not only the love theme.
    It is not romantic or soaring but definitely high quality Morricone music and a very emotional listen.