Quentin Tarantino has a history of producing fantastic soundtracks. ‘Soundtracks’ almost doesn’t do them justice: they’re more like mix-tapes. As a rule the only original content they contain is sound-bites or lines of dialogue from the film they represent and everything else is an eclectic mix of obscure, forgotten or brilliant songs that get a breathtaking second life after being used during some madly memorable Tarantino set piece.
The film is inspired largely by ‘spaghetti westerns’ and the soundtrack is equally reminiscent. It’s full of Luis Bacalov and Ennio Morricone, who may be unfamiliar names but you’d probably recognise their work.
The jangling guitars and operatic swells propel the soundtrack at a reassuringly western-feeling gallop and, where the film takes the traditional concept of a western and drops it into a very contemporary debate, the album manages the same trick, effortlessly mixing the mood of a cowboy film with modern soul, blues and even some rap.
In some respects Tarantino’s soundtracks perfectly represent his film-making style. They’re a mishmash of influences and seemingly random pieces that somehow fit together to form something completely original. They’re as much tributes as they are a new creation. His knowledge of cinema and music is encyclopaedic and many of the songs he uses in his soundtracks are taken directly from his own collection of vinyl records.
When asked why he insisted on using his own vinyl Tarantino said ‘I wanted to use the vinyl I’ve been listening to for years – complete with all the pops and cracks. I even kept the sound of the needle being put down on the record. I wanted people’s experience to be the same as mine when they hear this soundtrack for the first time,’ which is a rather tender sentiment.
This soundtrack is not like all his others, however, because for the first time there’s some original music written and recorded specifically for use in Django Unchained.
Rick Ross teamed up with the film’s star Jamie Foxx on the track ‘100 Black Coffins’, which works surprisingly well and John Legend lends his wonderfully soulful voice on ‘Who Did That To You’ which is a good song in any context.
Morricone himself worked with vocalist Elisa Toffoni to produce the beautiful ‘Ancora Qui’ and Elayna Boynton and Anthony Hamilton got together on ‘Freedom’, a wonderfully catchy, soulful duet that can be disappointed at not getting an Oscar nod for Best Original Song.