Hugo Montenegro - Lady In Cement (OST)

Because of Hugo Montenegro's strengths as an arranger, his original compositions were often overlooked in favour of his treatments of contemporary standards. Indeed, here was a man who took the instrumental theme tune of Ennio Morricone's highly memorable The Good, The Bad And The Ugly to the top of the UK pop charts. Montenegro also released dazzling production albums that covered many less-than-mainstream numbers. On his wonderful Moog Power album, Montenegro delved into new technology through songs from far-ranging stables as Nilsson, the Hair musical and even The Doors. You could even argue that his arrangement of the latter's Touch Me packed more to-the-punch excitement than the Soft Parade original.

Even so, Montenegro was just as skilled at scoring motion pictures with his own personal compositions, no matter how lightweight the films turned out. Take for instance, Lady In Cement, a tame comedy/detective picture serving as a Frank Sinatra vehicle at a time in which 'Old Blue Eyes' charms as an actor was seriously waning. The film itself is forgettable, save Raquel Welch's sexy turn as the wealthy 'woman involved' in the crime, and of course for Montenegro's wonderfully vibrant score which easily surpasses the film's own merits.

Whilst only consisting of around twenty-seven minutes of soundtrack material, Lady In Cement clearly has no intention to flow in a routine, incidental manner. Possibly, because of the hollow core to the film's plot, Montenegro felt the need to over-compensate by throwing in some deliciously exuberant instrumental numbers. The main title theme manages to combine big band orchestra, deep-bass lines key to the era and "ba-da-ba" chorus vocals that serve as a defining time-stamp. It's obvious, just by listening to this four-minute opener, that Montenegro is the master of seductive chord-progression. However, just when you feel lulled into expecting another standard detective-story film-score, Jilly's Joint, an arresting hybrid of electric underground rock and dizzying keyboard suggests that Montenegro intends for his contributions to stand-alone alone as well as act as accompaniment. You could extract many of the rockier instrumentals from Lady In Cement and they would act as decent backing-tapes for such late-sixties west-coast acts as Jefferson Airplane and Arthur Lee's Love, even if they originated from the opposite US coast.

A few choice standards crop up, such as instrumental versions of Love Is A Many Splendored Thing and a short, snappy, salsa take on Give Me The Simple Life. Even Lionel Newman's Again is delicately scored. If anything, it's a travesty that Montenegro wasn't enlisted to score more films than the ten or so that litter his career. It's possible Hollywood was sick of his psychedelic experimentation and edgier panderings and wanted more downbeat offerings from such early-seventies film-score pioneers as Lalo Schifrin. Even so, Montenegro proved with Lady In Cement that he can still carve out excellent instrumental themes for merely average films.

Even more, this wonderful Harkit release has the crystal-clear soundtrack in stereo and extended with two bonus variations of some of the film's themes. Even more interesting, is a 1968 WQAM radio interview with stars of the film Dan Blocker and Raquel Welch, which runs for ten minutes and a nice filler. Granted, only the small number of fans of the film will be likely to check out Montenegro's score, but it does possess distinct appeal to aficionados of the late-sixties who relish characteristic film-scores.

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