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Album Review

by Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi


Review Date
25th May 2011
Reviewed by
Ricardo Kerr

Rome is the long-in-the-making collaboration between restless producer extraordinaire Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton and score composer Daniele Luppi. Danger Mouse is obviously the top cat in the equation - having worked with musicians as diverse as Beck, The Black Keys, Gorillaz, Ike Turner, and an upcoming album with U2 – but in Luppi he seems to have found a sympathetic partner. Together (and with the aid of some key players) they have made a stunning record that pays loving deference to the classic film scores from the golden age of Westerns.

It is obvious that this album was originally conceived as an instrumental album. It is in these magical, wind-swept soundscapes that the spaghetti western homage blooms. Sweetly plucked acoustic guitars bustle against reverb-heavy electric ones as well as pianos, xylophones, wordless choirs, sharps horns, and many others. Wisely though, Danger Mouse has made a concession to pop music’s accessibility by bringing a couple of world-weary troubadours with him to flesh things out. First off the mark is the magnate of 21st century Americana Jack White who adds much needed grit to the balladry of ‘Rose with the broken neck’, ‘The World’, and ‘Two against one’. The latter is particularly powerful if brief in describing a three-way Mexican standoff between only two people. His voice is as haunting, paranoid, and taut as you would want it to be given the dark themes he is covering. In fact his contributions feel so poignant and natural that you wonder how it took so long for him and Danger Mouse to work together. The other vocalist in tow is Norah Jones, playing the role of the bittersweet chanteuse. While this is her edgiest work since her infamous Peeping Tom contribution ‘Sucker’, she simply cannot escape her destiny as playing the nice girl in a grim world. Her three songs are lovely but lack the edge and force-of-nature intensity of White’s. Still, as far as conspirators go, Norah Jones holds up her end well especially on the silky ‘Black’. The danger of having two such high-profile singers on board is that they might threaten to overshadow the actual compositions. By the time you reach ‘Roman Blue’, the first instrumental song that isn’t an interlude or an intro, any such doubts will have evaporated. These numbers have titles that evoke such vivid images (try and listen to ‘The Gambling Priest’ without picturing just that) that tie into the rich mythology of cinema scores.

On paper this could have all turned into mush with so many hands in the kitchen, a self-serving “Brian Burton does Tim Burton” vanity project that would have been little fun for anyone who didn’t actually make it. But just like Danger Mouse’s “Dark Night of the Soul” album with the late Sparklehorse (and a myriad of guest artists besides) he has managed to keep the varying elements and influences in check and make the music itself the star. You might come for the marquee vocalists but you will stay for the atmosphere. This is Danger Mouse’s most daring album to date and he, along with his bevy of collaborators, have made an album that is both fresh and a loving synthesis of the music of times gone by. Ennio Morricone would be proud.


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