The strap-line for this beautiful collection reads as follows: ‘Soul, AOR & Disco in Italy 1997 – 1986′ which pretty much tells you all you need to know – and when you add that to the fact that its from those deepest of diggers at Four Flies Records, then yessirree bob you know you’re in for an absolute aural delight.
What the guys have excavated from the archives is fifteen slices of pristine Italian dancefloor devastation, sparkly and shiny and lurid with the whispered promise of seduction. Curated by DJ and producer, David Nerratini, the spirit of Steely Dan and Quincy Jones looms large over the proceedings. Studio session-players lay down grooves so smooth they’d make a baby blush – warm and lush and right on time for summer.
Alberto Radius open with the classic, California Bill. A stone cold killer to kick off: Californian Soul reinterpreted by funky Europeans, laid back but boogie-fied, Alberto’s treated vocals giving it an aqua-fied feel that swims in the shiniest of seas. An early-morning gem for sure.
The press release plumps for Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins and Christopher Cross as further touchstones, and you’d be hard-pressed to disagree as Mario Lavezzi gives it plenty on In Alto Mare. This is kitchen-sink stuff – throw it all in there and whack it up to 11. Bumping bass? Check. Heartfelt vocal? Check. Huge backing vox? Check. Guitar solo? Check. Synth solo? Check. Teetering on the edge of pastiche but pulling it off with panache – a banger.
It’s easy to look back with jaundiced eyes and see these tracks as somehow coming from a gentler time, a siren call from childhoods long forgotten, a harking back to an unsullied paradise. The melodies and the swing and the love and skill of the musicians encourage such warm thoughts, but the truth is that the music on this album lives or dies on the strength of the grooves and – guess what – the grooves are damn fine.
Eduardo De Crescenzo‘s Alle Sei Di Serra rides a jazz-funk template: think Larry Carlton getting funky, a great main bass riff underscoring Eduardo’s vocal gymnastics – the underground cuddling up to mainstream and getting along just fine. Crossing genres and boundaries with ease, slinky but driving, proper dance-floor tackle.
Every now and then you might even make out the ghost of James Last lurking around the edges of some of the more mellow cuts. Barnaba‘s Bianco E Nero wouldn’t be out of place on one of the great man’s collections – a loping, Shakattacked groove, a hint of rock guitars, supple bass-lines and another full-on vocal performance – it’s all there, present and correct and ready to party, playing out with an Earth Wind & Fire vocal lick. Ace.
There’s a definite pop feel to a few of the cuts but that’s fine: it kinda adds to the end of the century feel, the party unwinding, guests heading home, a warm and fuzzy feeling enveloping one and all.
Franco Camassa‘s Non Andar Via is wrapped in strings so warm they could insulate your house. There’s a melancholic joy also lurking, a sense of time slipping away: how many parties are left? How many last dances will you have? How many more stolen kisses will pass your lips? All too few, we can surmise.
A lovely selection then from David and the Four Flies crew. An ode to a nation entranced by dance music, to warm summer nights spent in the embrace of a long-lost love, to youth and fun and dancing until dawn. Italians do it better, right? Right!
Paisa Got Soul is out now, on Four Flies Records.
You can hear some fine soulful musical selections from Cal Gibson, on the first Tuesday of every month, between 4 – 6PM UK time, on his Holy Rollers Radio Show, for Universal Rhythms. If you can’t catch it live, you`ll can find it archived here.