I’ve just found this topic, so as I’ve reviewed this fine record when it was released on the webzine I write for, I tought it would be fun to include review here. Sorry if I’m being self assertive. Also sorry if the post is too long and for some awkward sentences as I have translated it to English via google translate.
“Rome” is a joint project of the Italian composer Daniele Luppi and American star producer Danger Mouse aka Brian Burton. Luppi is best known as a composer and arranger of film music for films such as the musical “Nine,” but he has also worked in pop music on albums by John Legend and Gnarls Barkley, one half of which, of course, is exactly Danger Mouse. Danger Mouse affinity to toying with the pop culture is evident from his “Grey Album” which mixed Jay-Z with The Beatles, and his soul mate Luppi similar fondness could be seen in his works such as music for pulp movie "Hell Ride "which was directed by Larry Bishop under the auspices of another pop-culture geek, Quentin Tarantino, or on Luppi’s solo album "An Italian Story ". “An Italian Story” was dedicated to the sounds to which Luppi grew up, the music of Italian films from the sixties and seventies of the last century. Luppi has also worked with Mike Patton on his last year’s album dedicated to Italian classics “Mondo Cane,”. Now it’s turn for the dedication to the best known Italian musical contribution to the world of pop culture - spaghetti westerns.
“Rome” is, therefore, an album inspired by and dedicated to the music from spaghetti westerns. While Luppi’s entire oeuvre shows his a direct successor of composers like Ennio Morricone and Alessandro Alessandroni, Danger Mouse is also not in music from spaghetti westerns since yesterday. The biggest Gnarls Barkley’ hit “Crazy” is based on the song of Gianfranco and Gian Piero Reverberi from spaghetti westerns “Preparati la bara” with Terence Hill in the lead role.
There’s fifteen songs on “Rome”, six of them with vocals, three sang by Norah Jones, and three by Jack White, so for this project this year’s best supergroup was made. The album opens “Theme of ‘Rome’” in which Burton and Luppi fully recreate the sound of the old spaghetti westerns, and it’s similar to other instrumentals on the album, which are dominated by melancholic and sometimes eerie melodies on instruments like celesta and a church organ, and are full of warm acoustic tones, strings, wordless vocal choirs, march rhythms, tremolo and vibrato effects on the guitars - which are all the tricks out of the bag of old spaghetti western masters. Songs with Norah and Jack are on the other hand more in the vein of classic mid-tempo pop song with Spaghetti Western effect added via use of spices like omnipresent celesta, acoustic guitar and orchestra.
The album is full of short instrumental interludes and repetitive melodies and has uniform atmosphere so it basically functions as a soundtrack for a nonexistent film. Danger Mouse is the author of lyrics for songs in which the singer is Norah and White lyrics for songs in which he sings himself. “Two Against One” is the best of them and is a typical example of White elliptical puns with theme about multiple personalities, and thus is a good fit with Burton’s verses similar to most of the Gnarls Barkley tracks which usually imply some psychological problems and disorders. Danger Mouse’s signature is felt not only in the lyrics, but in the music because the soft bass, warm melodies, acoustic and melodic percussion instruments, all these elements are present in all his works. Mouse already enjoys the status of a new era Phil Spector as a producer/author who has an equally creative role in the creation of music as composers and performers.
Spector’s creating of his own distinctive sound was both a blessing and a curse, since it has created the most famous producer of all time, but it has also limited him to a producer who has only one trick. Mouse has therefore timely started to wander across various genres and collaborate with a variety of performers from Cee-Lo Green, Beck and The Black Keys to Daniele Luppi. Also, today’s postmodern age in which such eclecticism is desirable is working for him - back in the days audiences and critics simply could not digest combination of Spector and Leonard Cohen or of Spector and The Ramones.
“Rome” is a cool album that slowly creeps under your skin and pulls you into its atmosphere. Although at first it acts as another half-serious toying with better past, its longevity is ensured by quality songwriting of Burton and Luppi, two authors who carry music from spaghetti westerns in their musical DNA.