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John Zorn - The Big Gundown: John Zorn Plays The Music Of Ennio Morricone CD (album) cover


John Zorn



3.07 | 18 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
3 stars John Zorn: The Big Gundown [1986]

Rating: 5/10

The Big Gundown propelled John Zorn into the forefront of the avant-garde musical community. This album was a significant departure from most of what Zorn had done before. While the majority of his early releases consist of harsh and unmusical avant-garde noodling, this album places him in a much more constricted musical seat. Every track here is a cover of classic pieces from legendary film composer Ennio Morricone. Perhaps "cover" is an unfair term; this is still Zorn, after all. These compositions are radically altered ("avantified", if you will). Zorn really shows his creativity as an arranger here. He creates a new identity for these pieces, but they still manage to retain an element of their original purpose. However, the album does have a bit of an aimless feeling, and some of Zorn's alterations feel superfluous.

The title track begins with a somewhat pointless montage of vocal noises, but it eventually transitions into a very cool "avant-western" sound. It's a neat track, but it could have been cut in half. "Puer Sur La Ville" continues with the western vibe. The main paino riff is excellent, and the avant-grade noises actually fit in well. "Poverty (Once Upon a Time in America)" stays fairly close to the original Morricone composition. It works, but fails to be fully interesting. The driving rhythm of "Milano Odea" works well with the zany avant-garde sounds. "Erotico (The Burglars)" is my personal favorite on the album. The guitar, organ, and jazzy drumming all sound superb. "Battle of Algiers" is a jazzy march that ends up sounding quite repetitive after four minutes. "Gui La Testa (Duck, You Sucker!)" is a minimalistic tribal piece with shamisen and some sort of ethic flute. There are interesting sounds at work here, but the track as a whole is underwhelming. "Metamorfosi (La Classe Operaia Va In Paradiso)" is intolerable; it consists solely of random noises and moaning. "Tre Nel 5000" continues with the haphazard noise. This is another fairly useless track. "Once Upon a Time in the West" is an ambient western-themed piece. This is a somewhat interesting closer, but it runs a bit too long.

The Big Gundown is a good album, and I can understand why it is so acclaimed. However, the stronger moments here are weighed down by a handful of utterly useless tracks. Many of the alterations Zorn imposes on these compositions feel superfluous and needlessly bizarre. These are amazing pieces of music, and Zorn is able to put a unique on interesting spin on many of them. However, he muddles others with irritating noises and other avant-garde silliness. The result is an inconsistent release with many uninteresting moments. Nevertheless, this is an important Zorn release that I can't help but recommend to anybody interested in his work. Proceed with caution and tread lightly, however.

Anthony H. | 3/5 |


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