Spaghetti Westerns, known as Westerns all'Italiana, were a subgenre of American cowboy films that immerged in Italy in the mid-1960s. The movies were known for their low budgets and Italian language dialogue.
Iconic directors like Sergio Leone would scout locales in central and southern Italy that resembled the American southwest. Parks like Valle del Treja (between Rome and Viterbo) would be transformed into settings for the Mexican Revolution, all dubbed in Italian.
Though most of the films featured Italian scripts, most of the casts were multi-lingual. Leading parts would be played by fading Hollywood stars or rising unknown talent. A-list actor Clint Eastwood got his start by starring in three films by genre-leader Sergio Leone.
In addition to the recognizable directing, it was the soundtracks that typicalized the genre. Some of the best-known Spaghetti Westerns feature the musical scores of Ennio Morricone: A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966).
This classic film genre has now inspired a very modern music-making duo. American producer Danger Mouse and Italian composer Daniele Luppi teamed up to create ROME, a pop album based on the Italian Western legacy.
Born out of their shared love for vintage Italian movie sound tracks, the two musicians created an album based around the Spaghetti-Western genre, making ever effort to replicate the recording practices of the 60s and 70s.
Not only did they want to do their own version of the “cool, stylish sounds” from the movie soundtracks, they had the idea to use the original musicians who performed the film scores.
Danger Mouse, who is best known for his Grey Album, worked on transcribing the sheet music, and then caught a flight to Rome. His goal was to recruit the original musicians who inspired the album to take part in recording it. The players, now mostly in their 70s and 80s, reunited for the first time in decades.
Danger Mouse and Daniel Luppi were dedicated to maintaining as much musical authenticity as possible. After recruiting musicians from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, they booked Rome’s Forum Studios- founded by Ennio Morricone himself.
Skipping the modern conveniences of 21st century music making, the pair recorded songs live and straight to tape. Using vintage equipment, the album reflects true practices of the 70s, preserving the well-loved melodies of genuine Spaghetti Westerns.
The labor of love resulted in be beautiful song making. The only thing that was missing was the vocals. Danger Mouse and Luppi called on Jack White, of the White Stripes, and Nora Jones to lend their talents to the project.
The complicated melodies are a true tribute to the unique and beloved form of Italian filmmaking.
Visit the Rome Album website for a sneak peak at the songs. The album, which was 5 years in the making, is due out in May 2011.
For more information on the project, watch the video interview with Danger Mouse and Daniel Luppi below: