Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
The Joys of Heaven & Hell
Elwood Conway | Frankfort, KY United States | 12/29/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Looking for a great window back into musical time? Look no further. This soundtrack combines all the elements that made the late 60s so much fun: Fuzz Guitar, Hammond B3 organ, wordless vocals, jazzy brass, funky jazz grooves, and the famous Mah Na' song in two different versions. The movie is a documentary and, if it is like the soundtrack, must be one wild trip. The recording has a real breath to it...it doesn't sound dated at all. Fidelity is excellent with clear highs and a decent low end, especially the bass drum. If you love soundtracks or just love cool funky late 60s music, then pick this one up. It's hard to find but worth the search."
5 STARS PLUS
Robert M | Clawson, Michigan | 04/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Much of Piero Umiliani's musical career seems to have been providing scores for the B-grade sexploitation films that had become a part of cultural life during the swinging 60's. I have not seen the movie that this score was written for but I take it that it supposedly was a documentary expose about the lives of those wild and sex crazed Swedes. (The Italians themselves have never been especial shirkers in the amorous lifestyle department.) At the time of the movie, Sweden was considered one of the most libertine societies on earth but unfortunately also boasted one of the highest suicide rates. Like most of these soft porn films of the time,"Sweden, Hell or Paradise" therefore was basically an excuse to show lots of naked people doing lots of vaguely pornographic goings on. Remember that this was just at the beginning of the sexually liberated era and only porn stars, never legitimate actors, appeared nude in films. It's therefore a bit of an irony that such an elegant and creative score should derive from such a bottom shelf movie.
The Italians were gaga over Bossa Nova and at least two thirds of the score is done in Bossa Nova rhythm. Preference for the rhythm is established right at the opening track with lyrics, in English, perhaps a little trite, and sung by the soprano, Lydia Macdonald, in perhaps a little too earnest and emotive a manner. A little lighter touch might have been more apt. (But Umiliani worked with this soloist on several of his scores and he must have thought her touch was just what he wanted so who am I to second guess the composer himself?) And the shape of the opening theme is haunting, with a stick-in-your-mind quality that will be with you for days afterward. And the title track is reprised five cuts later with the singer replaced by the pithy twang of a harpsichord. And then much, very much is made of the track and the bouncy,Loungey track two. We are treated to an exploration of all the possibilities inherent in a tune at the hands of a truly gifted and imaginative composer. Some tracks feature the full studio orchestra, others simply a hammond organ and rhythm, others the harpsichord again, two with just a whistler accompanied by a metronome and then the hammond organ again. Many of the tracks have wordless choruses in the background, an Umiliani signature sound, sometimes moaning suggestively, others burbulling brightly, still others bah-bah-BAHing to the forefront a la Esquivel. And like any heavily Lounge influenced movie score worthy of the name, the bluesy saxophone, vibes and other percussion instruments are prominent in many tracks.
Not every track is Bossa Nova. One or two are bebop acid jazz, (so we got just how wild and crazy those wild and crazy Swedes really were.) and a couple are influenced by early rock and roll, not surprisingly considering the time of writing. But throughout every track, the degree of invention and creativity is just amazing. Sometimes the arrangements take the music so far afield of the original tunes that you have to hear a given track four or five times before you realize that it's just the opening theme extensively reworked.
The most famous number from the score, "Mah na, Mah na" has been used in numerous ads (currently, April, 2007, it's running in a Saturn commercial.) and has even appeared in Sesame Street. Well, here it is in its original quirkiest form. If you know this quirky number, be advised that the rest of the score sounds nothing like its infectious silliness. Later, we get to hear the "Samba Mah na" which adds a truly manic quality to the quirkiness of the original. Did I mention that the tune is really quirky? It's reputed to be the composer himself doing the singing, if that is the right word, on these two tracks, and once again you just have to be amazed a the fecundity of the mind that created this suave and sophisticated score.
Because almost all of the tracks are fully worked out songs, rather than just being snippets of tunes like so many movie soundtracks, the CD runs well over sixty minutes, the playing is top notch throughout, sometimes so much so that it calls attention to itself by its sheer quality, and the sound is close to demonstration.
For the past fourteen months now I've been exploring Italian Lounge and Umiliani's name comes up fairly often but this is the first score of his that I've experienced in its entirety. So to make sure I'm not overrating this whole thing, I've listened to this soundtrack a number of times. But it just gets better and better with each hearing. In the end, I'm completely swept away by the originality, sophistication, and sheer inventiveness of the score. Five stars plus!
If you have trouble finding this on Amazon, just type in Piero Umiliani and see if it comes up with the title in another language. It's been released several different times with the Italian or English title and with different covers. At any rate, something this good is a must have. Absolutely top shelf!"