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Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi Rome

Released 13 May 2011

Danger Mouse,
Daniele Luppi
Label Capitol Records
Length 33:29

Soundtrack, alternative, classical
Website romealbum.com

Credibility is everything; if Bono or Chris Martin were to announce that their next album was going to be a spaghetti western themed tribute to Rome there would be widespread ridicule and scorn amid claims of disappearances up their own arses... not so with Danger Mouse. Be it through his Beatles / Jay Z mashup The Grey Album, his top notch production skills on Demon Days or his Grammy award winning work as one half of Gnarls Barkley, Danger Mouse has earned himself a reputation for turning strange ideas into great music, a knack that earns him a reprieve from ridicule at least until we’ve heard the music.

Rome is a musical collaboration between Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi; an Italian composer who has contributed work to films like Nine and Inside Deep Throat. Their aim was to pay homage to the works of Ennio Morricone, in particular his scoring of Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns. The album takes the form of a soundtrack to an imagined film set in the Eternal City with Danger Mouse taking the role of the Director. Jack White and Norah Jones are given the starring roles with three songs each to show off their versatility. In the pursuit of authenticity, some of Morricone’s own session musicians and members of the Cantori Moderni choir have been recruited into the supporting cast, adding something a little special to the recording. Great care and effort has gone into the making of this album and it shows.

The music itself has all the hallmarks of Morricone’s most recognizable works; the electric guitars mixing it with the orchestra, the use of voices as instruments, dramatic soaring strings and delicious chord changes. These reference points crop up throughout the album without ever feeling like they were just shoehorned in for the sake of it, a major pitfall avoided. Like any film score, most of the tracks are instrumentals; cleverly setting moods of tension, apprehension, lust or joy, suggesting the plot of the film without ever spelling it out. Though we might not know the exact story Danger Mouse is telling we are given hints through extremely evocative song titles like 'The Gambling Priest' or 'The Matador Has Fallen'.

White and Jones excel in their roles; with both singers having dabbled in the acting world there is a sense that they aren’t just performing the songs but are living the parts too. White’s songs suggest a mysterious stranger with a violent streak, a modern day Man With No Name, while Jones plays the feisty and sultry love interest to a tee. Both artists are kept separated for the duration of the album and perhaps a bit of interplay might have added another dimension but it does leave their relationship in the story less defined, giving the listener the chance to put their own interpretation on how the story may play out.

Rome is as slick as it is authentic, the attention to detail and the unusual background to the album makes for interesting reading but would count for little if the music is below par. Thankfully Danger Mouse delivers a soundtrack worthy of Morricone, remaining loyal to the original sound but still managing to make it sound fresh. Perhaps the one downside will come when you realise there is no masterpiece of film to accompany this soundtrack.

- Brian Kinsella