- Composed by Bruno Nicolai
- GDM Hillside / 2014 / 37m
A spaghetti western released in 1972, Mario Caiano’s Il Mio Nome e’ Shangai Joe sees a Chinese immigrant (Chen Lee) arrive in Texas and be greeted with less-than-open arms. He finds himself caught up in a battle to free enslaved Mexicans from their cruel master. It’s not generally considered to be very good, but I would love to see it, since the film features characters called False Teeth and Pedro the Cannibal; and frankly it’s hard to imagine that any film featuring characters called False Teeth and Pedro the Cannibal could be anything less than a masterpiece.
Bruno Nicolai’s excellent score opens with “Il mio nome”, a typical spaghetti western theme introduced by fluttering flutes before electric and acoustic guitars, Alessandroni’s choir and an explosive trumpet solo carry the dynamic melody forward. It’s a wonderful theme, propulsive and exciting as all the best themes in this genre tend to be. “La partenza” is a little more restrained, featuring a chilled-out melody for organ accompanied by more guitars, this time with drums and a distant choir; almost lounge music-like really, but soothing and relaxed and very attractive.
“Sfida” is a more complex piece, dreamy winds leading into a kaleidoscopic passage featuring organ and percussion which is beautifully dreamlike, becoming ever more dramatic and intense. The most attractive theme is the gorgeous “Richiami d’amore”, sunny strings soaring away carrying a melody with a distinctly south-of-the-border flavour. It’s such a lovely piece, one to light the darkest of days. “L’allegro becchino” is a jaunty little piece whose clip-clop style inevitably recalls Ennio Morricone’s Cheyenne theme from Once Upon a Time in the West. “Nubi” is at the less attractive end of the scale, dissonant string and piano textures creating a particularly tense atmosphere.
“Il Giuramento” sees the darkness continue, but this time there’s an interesting twist with a lilting melody playing over the top of the starkest of backdrops; it’s ingenious stuff, very impressive. “Shanghai Joe” presents a far darker take on the main theme than heard when it was introduced earlier, but it’s interesting because from that hard-as-nails start the track features the almost comically-clichéd first “Chinese” music for the main character. Clichéd it may be – but also massively entertaining.
“Caccia all’uomo” is an impressionistic piece featuring fascinating wind textures and more dissonance. The laid-back feel from earlier in the score is reintroduced in “Remoto”, a brief but lovely moment of calm. The calm doesn’t last – “Alternativa” has a definite edge to it, with a certain jazz influence. “Abissale” – the only previously-unreleased track – is actually one of the score’s finest moments, a lovely set of variations on the main theme. “Saloon” does what you expect it to; who doesn’t love a bit of honky-tonk? “Attimi” is another atmospheric track, little piano and brass phrases bursting forth from the slightly unsettling quiet of the strings and dreamy winds, before the score concludes with a terrific reprise of the main theme. It’s a very entertaining one, highly recommended to anyone who likes spaghetti western scores, with an array of excellent material from start to finish.