Danger Mouse, Daniele Luppi, Jack White…

Superstars create
homage to classic Italian film music using original musicians from classic
Morricone scores. It’s due out in March via Capitol.

 

By Blurt Staff

 

Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton and
Daniele Luppi met in Los Angeles
in 2004.  Burton
had just created a media storm with The
Grey Album
, begun work on Gorillaz Demon Days opus and was also embarking on his hugely
successful Gnarls Barkley project with Cee-Lo Green.  Luppi, a composer
from Italy,
was receiving acclaim for his album An Italian Story, which revisited the
cinematic sounds of his childhood.  (He has also written music for the
screen – Sex and the City, Nine – and later worked with Burton
on arrangements for Gnarls Barkley, Dark
Night of the Soul
and Broken Bells.)

United by their shared passion for classic Italian film music, they decided to
create something special.  After an intense songwriting period – writing
separately at first, and then together as the songs evolved – they travelled to
Rome in October
2006.  Luppi made some calls and they assembled the original musicians
from films such as The Good, the
Bad and the Ugly
and Once
Upon a Time in the West
– including the legendary Marc 4 backing
band and Alessandro Alessandroni’s ‘I Cantori Moderni’ choir.  Most of the
musicians were in their seventies and hadn’t worked together for several
decades.

They booked time in Rome’s
cavernous Forum Studios – formerly Ortophonic Studios, founded, amongst others,
by the great Ennio Morricone.  Burton
and Luppi scoured the city for vintage equipment, using bottles of wine as
payment.  Every effort was made to replicate the recording practices of
the 1960s/70s golden age, recording live and straight to tape, with overdubs
but no electronics, computers, 21st-century effects or studio trickery.

“The studio was a beautiful thing,” says Luppi.  “It sits
underneath a neo-classical church and is carved out of an ancient
catacomb.  The space is huge.  It has an echo chamber and a room full
of vintage tapes.  The vibe is really inspiring.”

Return journeys were made to record the choir and full orchestra. 
“I’m so happy with how it’s turned out, but it’s been a real labor of
love,” says Burton,
who funded the whole project himself, “It’s taken up a lot of time and
effort, not to mention the cost, but it’s because it had to be a certain
way.”  And that, ultimately, reflects what this album is built on:
perfectionism, patience, being ambitious and two people who were prepared to go
to great lengths to ensure the end result is exactly at it should be.

The next step was finding two lead vocalists who could do justice to the songs
– three of which been written for a man and three for a woman.  While on
tour with Gnarls Barkley, Burton
met Jack White of the White Stripes: “I played him some of the tracks, not
even thinking I’d be able to get him on it.”  A year later, White
recorded his contributions – The
Rose With The Broken Neck, Two Against One
and The World – in Nashville.  “We thought it would be
really interesting to combine his voice, which is very rock n’ roll, with this
polished and elegant music,” says Luppi.  “He nailed it
perfectly.”

White’s counterpart, in a revelatory turn, is Norah Jones, who flew to Burton’s LA studio from New York to sing on Season’s Trees, Black and Problem Queen
“I really love the way her voice sounds,” says Burton.  “I knew this was a little
bit different for her, but she was really up for it.”

Subsequently, acclaimed director and photographer Chris Milk was enlisted as
‘Visual Director’, and finally, after half a decade of hard work and unstinting
perfectionism, the album was mixed.  It opens with soprano Edda
Dell’Orso’s dramatic voice (used to haunting effect on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly 44 years ago) gracing Theme of
Rome
.  For all its cinematic qualities, what follows is not
the soundtrack to an imaginary movie, or a homage to the great Italian film
composers but a complex, nuanced pop record with intensity and darkness as well
as uplift and light.  (Luppi calls it “a small window on human life,
touching on love, death, happiness, desperation, and the visceral connection of
a man and a woman”.)  It’s an ambitious work with a uniquely modern
sound that has been achieved through traditional, vintage processes.  It
is, above all, a fully realized album, perfectly formed and hauntingly beautiful. 

 

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