Review Summary: John Zorn plays the music of Ennio Morricone.
'The Big Gundown
' was released in 1985. In the beginning, John Zorn didn't want to accept the project, that was suggested by producer Yale Evelev, because he thought that Morricone's music was already too perfect on itself. But fortunately, as Morricone was one of Zorn's major influences, he couldn't resist the temptation.
Now, John Zorn takes Morricone's music, strips it down to the bone, keeps only the essential and builds it up again, not so much a record of covers, but as re-incarnations. Zorn appropriates Morricone's music to himself. Most of the soundtracks present are from Western Spaghetti and Italian crime films, (except for 'Tre Nel 5000', the only track composed by Zorn).
But it is John Zorn, so all pieces are heavily reworked. Zorn uses different teams of musicians for each track, Bill Frisell and Fred Frith are between them. The musical width on 'The Big Gundown' is very eclectic mix of some original movie sound from the 60's and 70's, neoclassic minimalism, free jazz techniques, avant-garde noises, heavy-rock and blues moments as well. Some of the big moments for me are: a Free Jazz influenced nerve racking guitar sawing like: 'The Big Gundown'; a kind of medley 'Once Upon a Time in the West'; 'Erotico', a "erotic soul" with Big John Patton's great organ playing; the Japanese Music influenced 'Giu La Testa'; and the delicate 'Poverty' with Toots Thielmans on whistling and harmonica playing. On the Bonus Tracks, present on the 15th Anniversary Edition released in 2000, there is even a possible 'hit single': 'The Ballad of Hank McCain' with Mike Patton on vocals; and a "Bar Kokhba" version of 'The Sicilian Clan'.
All in all, the album is a brilliant re-interpretation of Morricone classics. Some pieces are beautiful, some noises are out of place, and almost nothing is in balance, just chaotically mixed. But all is build in a very strange way and in it's own manner beautiful atmosphere, when you don't need to see the films to listen this soundtracks. They are kind of art by itself.