Sunday, July 6, 2008

Dust off Those Grooves (Chapter 21) Ennio Morricone's Four Flies on Grey Velvet

Part of my Four Flies on Grey Velvet Tribute Week at Harry Moseby Confidential.

Despite it being a work that ended one of the most important collaborations between a director and composer in the early seventies, the music Ennio Morricone wrote for Dario Argento's Four Flies On Grey Velvet remains more than worthy of a reappraisal.
After scoring both The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and Cat O Nine Tails for Argento, Morricone was the obvious choice for Four Flies On Grey Velvet. The fact that the film featured the character of a young rock musician as its lead and that Argento himself was was falling more and more under the spell of harder and more progressive modern rock sounds perhaps made the collaboration doomed from the beginning on their third film together though.
Argento recalled in Alan Jones' essential Profoundo Argento that, "I had huge problems with Ennio Morricone on this picture. He had composed music I didn't like and I asked him to change it." Argento continued in recalling that the disagreement actually "caused a huge scandal in Italy" and that he "had to finish directing the music" after "Morricone walked out in disgust."
It was a sad ending to what had been an extraordinary team and the two wouldn't mend the break until more than two decades later with the triumphant The Stendhal Syndrome, one of Argento's masterworks joined together with one of Morricone's finest modern scores.
Four Flies on Grey Velvet was originally not given a full soundtrack release in Italy, with only a 45 appearing at the time to suffice. It would finally appear decades later courtesy of Italy's Dagored Records. Featuring seven tracks totaling just over half an hour including the first cut, one of the funkiest stabs at modern rock the Maestro had ever attempted, and the absolutely gorgeous "Come Un Madrigale", the soundtrack to Four Flies on Grey Velvet is neither one of the best nor the worst of Morricone's phenomenally prolific career. It is essential though and its dustbin status is unfortunate.
Cinevox released an extended version of the score a year ago featuring an additional three tracks. I haven't yet heard this version but Cinevox typically does fine work and I have no doubt this is one of their most necessary and essential releases from the past few years.
Past the soundtrack album itself, I find the music works perfectly fine in the scheme of the film itself. Morricone's stab at what he thought a young rock band in Italy might sound like works well in a film that seems itself to be a part of some strange alternate universe and, while it's not at the level of either Bird or Cat, the music composed for Four Flies on Grey Velvet matches Argento's unforgettable images quite well.
Argento's next project, The Five Days of Milan, would mark the first time he worked with composer Giorgio Gasilini and he would of course hit pay dirt just a few years after Four Flies On Grey Velvet when he would meet a young Italian band called Cherry Five, a astonishing group whose musical ideas would meld perfectly with his cinematic ones. They would change their name to Goblin and the rest is history.
Morricone's often overlooked Four Flies on Grey Velvet score can be ordered in both the Dagord and Cinevox version at Xploited. It's a recommended inclusion for your musical library if it's not already part of it.

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