I’ve had a long standing love for Quentin Tarantino’s soundtracks. As much as the guy is a film buff (which we saw in my last post), he’s also a huge music fan, whose personal record collection is apparently enormous. His soundtrack selections can wind up being very influential too. Remember how huge Dick Dale’s “Misirlou” got after Pulp Fiction (and how it was subsequently driven into the ground by the Black Eyed Peas)? Or how about “Woo Hoo” by the 188.8.131.52’s? After Kill Bill: Vol 1, you couldn’t turn on the TV without hearing that thing on one commercial or another.
Anyway, the point is the soundtrack to Django Unchained is now available to stream (and buy) online. Before I get into what it has to offer (I’m actually listening to it as I write this), I’d like to do a completely off the cuff countdown of my top 10 QT soundtrack tunes. I’ve given this no advance thought whatsoever, so give me a moment to ponder…
Reservoir Dogs has some good tracks in it. My favourite two are most likely “Little Green Bag” by The George Baker Selection and “Stuck In the Middle With You” by Stealer’s Wheel.
Pulp Fiction‘s packed with great stuff… The aforementioned “Misirlou”, plus other surf rock goodness, including “Bullwinkle Part II” by the Centurions and “Surf Rider” by The Lively Ones. “Son Of A Preacher Man” by Dusty Springfield is great as well.
Interestingly, Jackie Brown doesn’t boast as many of my favourite songs. I say interestingly because the movie is also not one of my favourites among Tarantino’s other works. Maybe that’s related to the song choices. There’s still lots to like, including “Tennessee Stud” by Johnny Cash and “Across 110th St.” by Bobby Womack & Peace.
The Kill Bill films represent the high water mark of Tarantino’s soundtracks, I think. There are really too many great tunes to list, but here are a few of my favourites: “Twisted Nerve” by Bernard Herrmann, “Run Fay Run” by Isaac Hayes, “Green Hornet Theme” by Al Hirt, “Battle Without Honor Or Humanity” by Tomoyasu Hotei, “Summertime Killer” by Luis Bacalov, “A Silhouette Of Doom” by Ennio Morricone… etc. That list doesn’t even include stuff like “The Demise Of Barbara And The Return Of Joe” by Ennio Morricone, which appeared in the film but didn’t make the cut for the soundtrack.
With Death Proof, we’re back to a bit of a lull. The only song I really like on the official soundtrack is “Hold Tight!” by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. And half the fun of that track is saying the band’s name. That said, the movie itself featured a number of cool instrumental tracks that weren’t on the soundtrack for whatever reason. “Gangster Story” by Guido & Maurizio De Angelis, “Italia A Mano Armata” by Franco Micalizzi and “La Polizia Sta A Guardare” by Stelvio Cipriani are the three best, I think.
I said earlier that the Kill Bill movies were Tarantino’s best soundtrack-wise, but I have to say I really, really dug the soundtrack to Inglourious Basterds. It was so eclectic and weird, how could I not? “Bath Attack” from The Entity? “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” by David Bowie? “Zulus” by Elmer Bernstein? Plus the mandatory dashes of Morricone with “Mystic And Severe” and “Rabbia E Tarantella”? Swoon…
Alright, so narrowing all that down to ten will be nigh on impossible, but here I go. In no particular order…
10. “The Tennessee Stud” by Johnny Cash
9. “Kaifuku Suru Kizu” by Salyu
8. “Il Mercenario (L’arena)” by Ennio Morricone
7. “Little Green Bag” by The George Baker Selection
6. “Stuck In The Middle With You” by Stealer’s Wheel
5. “Misirlou” by Dick Dale
4. “Bullwinkle Part II” by The Centurions
3. “The Grand Duel (Parte Prima)” by Luis Bacalov
2. “Rabbia E Tarantella” by Ennio Morricone
1. “The Demise Of Barbara And The Return Of Joe” by Ennio Morricone
There it is, although realistically all ten could’ve been Morricone tunes. Tarantino knows how to pick ’em, man. I said that list was in no order, but numbers one and two are probably really my two favourites out of everything. I love the way “The Demise Of Barbara And The Return Of Joe” builds up nice and slow, right up to the last minute where the guitar and vocals kick in loud and clear. And Tarantino uses it absolutely perfectly toward the conclusion of Kill Bill: Vol. 2. As for “Rabbia E Tarantella,” it’s just a ridiculously catchy theme that I find myself whistling out of the blue still to this day. I left the theatre with a huge smile on my face when this song started playing over the end credits of Inglourious Basterds.
Anyway, Django Unchained. Typing all the above gave me time to listen to the soundtrack album. Much like with Inglourious Basterds, there’s an odd mix of genres going on here. Definitely wasn’t expecting to hear Jim Croce and James Brown together on one album! There’s also at least one reused song here (Riz Ortolani’s “I Giorni Dell’ira,” which Tarantino previously employed in Kill Bill: Vol. 2).
The album features a rare instance of rap appearing on a Tarantino soundtrack (“100 Black Coffins” by Rick Ross and the 2Pac/James Brown mashup titled “Unchained”). He’s probably used rap a few times before, but the only other song that pops to mind immediately is “Ode To O-ren Ishii” by The RZA, which was on the soundtrack to Kill Bill: Vol. 1.
Tarantino’s trend of using foreign language music in his soundtracks continues on this album with the inclusion of “Ancora Qui” by Italian singer Elisa Toffoli. No clue what this girl’s saying, but it sounds nice.
The standard inclusions from Ennio Morricone aren’t quite as good this time around, although to be fair, Tarantino’s proabably used most of Morricone’s best work in his previous films already, so he’s having to dig ever deeper as time goes on. Of the three Morricone tracks here, “The Braying Mule” is my favourite.
My other favourite discoveries on the album are “Freedom” by Anthony Hamilton & Elayna Boynton, and Brother Dege’s “Too Old To Die Young” (love that slide guitar). And the album opener (“Django” by Luis Bacalov, the title theme to Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 film) works quite nicely in its new context. The lyrics are pretty cheesy, but I still like it.
Those are just a few quick impressions following a first listen to the soundtrack for Django Unchained. I look forward to hearing and seeing these songs in the context of the film. And considering that many of my favourite songs in past Tarantino movies weren’t even on the soundtrack releases, I hope there are a few surprises still in store for me when I finally sit down to watch Django.
What are your favourite pieces of music from Tarantino’s movies? And what did you make of his newest soundtrack?