On Rome, Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi take us on a mind bending trip through the old West, channeling legendary composer Ennio Morricone’s Spaghetti-Western style to produce a truly majestic album with such breadth and elegance that it plays like the soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist. A fan of Morricone’s work (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Once Upon A Time in the West) Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) recorded the entire album in Rome, Morricone’s hometown. Lucky for us, he brought some friends along (Jack White and Norah Jones) to lay down the vocals.
With any other artist, the idea of making an album based on the music of Italian Western films of the 60’s wouldn’t sound all that promising. Indeed, it would most likely end up a novelty record, all camp and no substance. However, Burton has slowly been proving himself as one of the most capable and innovative producers in the industry, from the critically successful The Grey Album (a mash up of Jay-Z’s vocals off his Black Album and the instrumentals of the Beatles’ White Album), to his work on the Gorillaz’ Demon Days, being one half of Gnarls Barkley, and his work with The Shins front man James Mercer in Broken Bells. Now, teaming with Italian composer Daniele Luppi, Burton has constructed a record that would make Sergio Leone proud.
Vocally, Jack White is a perfect choice, singing with a sense of angst and urgency fitting for a lone gunslinger. His tracks (“The Rose With A Broken Neck“, “Two Against One”) evoke a sense of danger and desperation synonymous with the subject matter, building in anticipation like waiting for a duel at high noon.
Norah Jones is as graceful as ever, adding her own unique pop sensibility on “Season’s Trees”, a catchy track that, while not necessarily keeping with the flow of the rest of the album, is a welcome addition that warrants its own radio play as a single.
Though Rome features some big names, its true genius lies in the instrumentation, even on the short interludes tying it all together. More often than not, it’s the instrumental tracks (“Roman Blue”, “The Gambling Priest”, Theme of ‘Rome’”, “The Matador Has Fallen”) that really grab you. With beautiful string arrangements, Spanish guitars, well-placed percussion, and haunting chamber-choir harmonies provided by Cantori Moderni, Burton constructs a record in which the listener is easily swept away to another place and time.
Rest assured, Burton’s take on the Spaghetti Western is no cheap imitation. It’s the genuine article.