Rome opens like a Tarantino movie, with toms slowly trotting along, inversed minor chords strumming, and presumably, tumbleweeds rolling by. As such, Rome paints scenery like a soundtrack should. It stands to reason that the project was inspired by the work Ennio Morricone, who received an honorary Academy Award in 2007 and whose film score repertoire includes “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” and “The Untouchables,” among countless others. His work is also sampled in “Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2” and “Inglourious Basterds,” hence the Tarantino tinge to the sound. But the oddball collaboration of masterminds Daniele Luppi and Danger Mouse might be a surprising discovery in the credits. Nevertheless, the Italian composer and American producer have put forth 35 minutes of theatrical splendor that, while conceptually interesting, doesn’t quite live up to its promise.
The album carries the feel of a big-budget movie, with precise (cheesy) flourishes, crisp (predictable) cohesion and a star-studded cast, with the likes of Jack White and Norah Jones as supporting players. Despite these vocal ringers, the music commands center stage, with the aforementioned White and Jones appearing on three (out of 15) separate songs apiece with instrumentals filling out the rest. The instrumentals provide sweeping landscapes of emotion: “Theme of Rome” provides an opening credits stage-setter, the lugubrious strings and ethereal vocals that provoke a setting of solemn grandeur on “Roman Blue,” and “Morning Fog,” which aptly describes the interaction of the casual, pensive background vocals with the softened, yet resilient glockenspiel.
Meanwhile, White and Jones break this up by adding strong melodies and character to the otherwise vacant landscapes. What results is a picture of pathos related by White (“The Rose With A Broken Neck”, “Two Against One“) only to be relieved by Jones’ musings (“Season’s Trees,” “Black”).
This release is far from essential for fans of either Danger Mouse, Jack White or even Spaghetti westerns. Yet it is still impressive in a few ways, more contextually than sonically, namely, the fact that this collaboration melds into anonymity a supergroup of conspicuous journeymen who have made brilliantly successful careers of late by leaving distinct marks on every project they touch. While you can argue that White’s voice or Jones’ romanticized contributions take over their respectable tracks, their presences are fleeting; you cannot say that they detract from the cohesive endgame of the project. Yet despite bringing to fruition a vision shared by two talented composers and embraced by two talented musicians, the project still fails to strike on anything completely innovative to the ear.
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