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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 31 May 2011
Brian Burton, aka the composer/producer/collaborator extraordinaire Danger Mouse, is about as prolific as they come, helming a constant flow of inspired material since he first came to prominence in 2005 with "Grey Album", his audacious splicing of The Beatles' 'The White Album with Metallica's The Black Album..
Since then he has topped the charts with Gnarls Barkley and worked with the illustrious likes of Damon Albarn, Mark Linkous, Beck, David Lynch and, most recently, U2, all seemingly without breaking a sweat. However, his latest work has definitely been a labour of love, and an entirely self-funded one at that (hopefully the paycheck from Bono will help redress the deficit).
"Rome" is Burton's loyal and luscious tribute to the works of spaghetti western composers such as Ennio Morricone, Bruno Nicolai and Luis Bacalov, whose music he first encountered as a film student. He has sampled snippets of their soundtracks along the way on Gnarls Barkley tracks, but here he gets to indulge that passion on what he is happy to own as a vanity project, complete with its own "visual director".
His co-conspirator, the dapper Italian film and TV composer Daniele Luppi, was practically weaned on those soundtracks. The pair bonded over this shared infatuation when they first met and Luppi has subsequently worked on arrangements for most of Burton's projects, including last year's "Dark Night Of The Soul". Although the duo were on the same page musically, "Rome" wasn't built in a day, but incrementally over five painstaking years, using vintage equipment and hardware gathered from an arcane network of contacts. Fabio Pignatelli (Italian bassist of Italian progressive roc band, Goblin, known for their soundtracks for Dario Argento films (including Profondo Rosso (Deep Red [Blu-ray] [1975] [2010]) of 1975 and Suspiria [DVD] [1976] of 1977) rented out a bass for the price of a bottle of wine.
Luppi used his local connections to muster a group of veteran musicians, some of whom had not played together for decades.
This Italian equivalent of the "Buena Vista Social Club", almost all of whom were oblivious of Burton's international success, included the I Cantori Moderni choir who sang on the original Sergio Leone movie soundtracks, reassembled for the first time in 40 years.
The drive for authenticity extended to the recording process in Rome's Forum Studios, which were originally co-founded by Morricone, and the resulting soundtrack was eventually used to lure a couple of surprising but still prestigious guest vocalists in the shape of Jack White and Norah Jones - the former a prolific and voracious collaborator himself, as well as a lover of all things analogue, and the latter somewhat unfairly maligned as the poster girl for the middle of the road just because she favours a mellow sound.
All these carefully cast elements converge in a cohesive, luxuriant soundtrack, which is characterised mainly by languorous, sweeping strings, electronic exotica, including the eerie sweetness of the celeste, and the soothing, sensual sigh of the choir. Rome occupies the more romantic end of the spaghetti spectrum, favouring the intimate over the epic, and playing out like an extended, rapturous love panorama.
The scene-setting "Theme Of Rome" begins with the patter of kettledrum, delicately strummed acoustic guitar and the ethereal wail of veteran soprano Edda Dell'Orso, who sang on the soundtrack to "The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly [DVD] [1966]". The stately, swooning "Roman Blue" sounds like a close relative of "Nights In White Satin". Elsewhere, Burton and Luppi vary the template only slightly with the acid Spanish guitar of "The Gambling Priest" and the psychedelic Hammond swirl of "The Matador Has Fallen".
Having produced such a loving instrumental tribute, Burton took a year off to mull over his vocal leads. The intention was to cast a male and a female voice to sing three songs apiece, which would serve to evoke rather than supply a narrative. Jones meets the criteria for the softening feminine presence, melting into her trio of songs - the graceful, languorous and sultry "Season's Trees", the siren-like melodic hookline of "Black" and the more carefree-sounding "Problem Queen" - with the same sensual vocal tone.
White penned his own contributions and explores different voices, even duetting with himself at one point. The foreboding acoustic blues of "Two Against One" could have been lifted from one of his own albums, "The World" combines tolling bells, assured Eastwood swagger and the masculine angst Burton was looking for as an emotional counter to the seductive music. And who else but White would have come up with a title like "The Rose With A Broken Neck"?
Perhaps only Isobel Campbell, who has also flirted with this atmospheric territory on her exquisitely arranged collaborations with Mark Lanegan.
The wonder is that, after all that intricate effort, Burton and Luppi were still able to see the wood for the trees.
And yet "Rome" happily transcends mere pastiche to emerge as the kind of masterful composition Burton would make if he were asked to write a real film soundtrack.
Just don't count on a sequel. F. Shepherd

The Best of Goblin Vol.1
Performs Ennio Morricone
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on 16 May 2011
A short and sweet production which, at thirty-five minutes, doesn't seem at first glance to deserve all the hype surrounding it. However, the artistry that has gone into producing this album, a very modern homage to the best spaghetti-western soundtracks, makes it well worth buying. Norah Jones and Jack White provide throaty, sensual vocals for about half of the tracks, but the real stars here are the instruments. The album is sustained by beautiful strings, soft percussion and gently chirruping electronic additions that compliment the orchestra rather than reducing it to techno rubbish. Despite some very slick production the music retains a rawness which is a pleasure to listen to. This is clearly a labour of love, and after two listens I remain completely bowled over by it.
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on 25 July 2015
I came across this album after Googling to find out what the song was in the new TV trailer for Emmerdale. I don't watch the soap but found the music in the trailer to be so haunting and mesmerising. The track is 'Black' with vocals by Norah Jones and after downloading this I decided to listen to the rest of the tracks on You Tube. They are all equally good, many of them instrumentals that are relaxing, haunting and atmospheric. I've now downloaded the whole album which although quite short at approx. 35mins, doesn't give you time to get bored with the music like a lot of other albums do. I can see me listening to this a lot as I lounge around the pool on holiday!
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on 11 September 2015
Bought this after tracking down the song on it that featured on the trailer for the emmerdale funfair disaster. The track and the album is gorgeous and sounds gothic with traits of an Italian vibe. Sublime. There are instrumental tracks interspersed with vocals from norah Jones and Jack white. Definitely worth adding to your CD collection.
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on 4 May 2012
I will not attempt to deconstruct the album, the musicians or anything else. Suffice to say that this is an incredible album. There are not many these days which persuade me to buy the CD as well as listen to the album on Spotify, but this is one of them. In the last year the only other band that's had the same effect on me is the Neil Cowley Trio, which should give you an idea of how highly I rate "Rome".

Listen to it. I dare you not to love it.
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VINE VOICEon 7 February 2015
I absolutely love this album and cannot stop listening to it.I know it's short,but I find it so addictive that I drive everyone mad in the car playing it over and over again! Gorgeous music,just can't get enough.
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on 6 December 2011
Brilliant! At first I fell into the trap of just listening to the White/Jones tracks (which are cracking) but after repeated listenings I've decided the whole thing is beautifully crafted. You've just got to let those big harmonies fill you up and imagine the forthcoming mexican standoff.
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on 25 September 2013
I caught some of the buzz around this album when it was new, but got really intrigued when I heard some of it playing in a local music shop. The vinyl has that fairly common slight tattiness to the actual disc, but it plays great and has a lovely warm bass to it. I've not yet compared to digital, so can't comment on relative compression/eq.
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on 30 July 2015
I can't believe this passed me by on release - I can only thank the makers of Emmerdale for using Black in the TV advert! Such is the power of advertising, I bought the song not the TV programme!! Black is the stand out song, but there are also a couple of great songs featuring Jack White. The rest of the album is clever and atmospheric and just grows on you, its well worth a listen.
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on 9 January 2014
more of a fascination as to what dangermouse, jack white, nora jones, and daniel luppi, might sound together on the same album, answer is simply magnificient. production is awesome, album is quite diverse, but even the incidental music is spot-on!!
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