Five years in the making, ‘Rome’ is the brainchild of, Danger Mouse and Italian composer, Daniele Luppis who together share an obsession for classical Italian movie music. On the back of an intensive period of songwriting, they traveled to Rome where they sought some of the original musicians (one example, Ennio Morricone) who performed on scores for films such as ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’.
Played and recorded live, straight to tape and maintaining the recording values and traditions of the 1960s-70s, this ambitious creation of a record seals it with vocal contributions from Jack White and Norah Jones. With such an amazing cast, expectations are high. The combination of such a group of talented composer/arrangers/producers/vocals is incredibly exciting in theory and thankfully it does not disappoint in practice. It alternates brilliantly between old school cinematic sounds and instrumentals with some wonderful cameos from, White and Jones.
Jack White is undoubtedly a musical leader of his time and I haven’t been shy in showing my admiration for what he has given to modern music thus far on this blog. Since, ‘The White Stripes’, ‘Elephant’ sent shock waves across the UK, I have been an avid fan of him and pretty much everything he’s been involved in musically (including his extensive back catalog with the White Stripes). With tens of millions of records sold (complimented with a number of Grammy’s), Norah Jones is clearly talented. This album may well provide the facelift her vocal qualities required and deserve. She channels the wounded hostility similar to that of ‘Portishead's’, Beth Gibbons, but maintains her own softer and more subtle approach.
Well worthy of a mention also is, Edda Dell'Orso who crops up on the fantastic opening track, ‘Theme of Rome’. Dell’Orso provided her quaint and beautiful sounds to, ‘The Good, The Bad And The Ugly’ soundtrack back in ‘66.
With fifteen tracks comprising this album, some of which are interludes, I will hand pick my top several tracks. ‘Theme of Rome’ really does set the scene…listening to this track, I immediately envisage scenes from historic movies and in particular, ‘The Good, The Bad And The Ugly’, but also Tarrentino movies, such as, ‘Sin City’ and ‘From Dusk ‘Til Dawn’ as well as perhaps, to a lesser extent, Coen Brothers, ‘No Country for Old Men’. Immediately following this solid opener, we are provided our with our first, Jack White track. Continuing to set the theme, his vocals compliment, ‘The Rose With The Broken Neck’ perfectly. Accompanied by harpsichord and twinkling celesta, the quivering and unique voice of, White work a dream on this track.
‘Season’s Trees’ is track four and the first appearance of, Norah Jones. She is smooth, sultry, moody and chilled on this heavily strings backed track. Parallels to, Dido, Gibbons and ‘Metric’s’, Emily Haines can easily be drawn on this enjoyable little number. ‘Two Against One’ is the second track featuring, White and probably my favourite on the album (‘though I need to give the album a few more listens in its entirety to confirm this). This is more like the, White of, ‘The Dead Weather’. Delightful in the delivery of his lyrics, “I get the feeling that it’s two against one…I’m already fighting me, so what’s another one?” Love the clever little guitar riff that features cunningly during this one.
‘The Gambling Priest’ is an instrumental with a devilish riff accompanied by softer celestial sounds. It triggers the imagination. In my mind, it’s the quiet, riding away on ones horse scene following a mass massacre at the local town, sound. ‘Black’ is the second of, Jones’s tunes and this one is far darker (no pun intended) than ‘Season’s Tress’. It’s dreamy, yet powerful. Her final vocal offering on the album comes in the more fun and upbeat, ‘Problem Queen’ which at times is a bit of a diversion from the rest of the albums tone. I do however enjoy the slick, more psychedelic sound of this track.
In the curtain call, ‘The World’, White takes us home on this album in a manner that only, Jack White can. This track does well to provide us with flashbacks to rolling credits at the films end.
I highly recommend you take a walk in the past and enjoy the amazing collaboration of a group of today’s musical legends. Prior to picking this record up, I really didn’t have an album that I can readily compare to this offering (Portishead’s, ‘Dummy’ coming a distant, closest). It’s happy, it’s sad, it’s chilled and it’s gruesome. The orchestral and theme variation coupled with the musical talent and epic vocals is deeply compelling.
From ‘Gorillaz’ and ‘Gnarls Barkley’ to ‘The Black Keys’ and ‘Beck’, Danger Mouse is the gift that keeps giving. The inclusion of such high profile acts in the cast in, White and, Jones were arguably something of a gamble…it’s a gamble that I suggest has paid dividends to the style of this album. Rating 8/10
The entire album can be streamed here - http://www.vevo.com/watch/danger-mouse-daniele-luppi/rome/GBAYE1100586