Balearic Mike’s Musical Diets  / Week 69 (sexy): 17/08/2023

Super selections & Wonderful words by Balearic Mike.

I`ll start with some uber-sexy Italian reissues …

Gianni Oddi – Dreamin’ / Geronimo – Four Flies Records 2023

Balearic Mike Gianni oddi

A little while back, Dr. Rob published an article that was rather intriguing. Rob regularly writes posts called “Looking For The Balearic Beat” which are roundups of recent ‘Balearic’-ally inclined releases. They`re generally very interesting (and expensive) reviews. I’d just written some posts about Italian Balearic records from the late `80s / early `90s, and I think this may have shaped his thinking slightly, as Rob decided to theme this particular installment of the series around new Italian releases, with the help of Amnesia legend, Leo Mas. The subsequent “Looking For The (Italian) Balearic Beat” article has cost me a few quid but resulted in some very fine recent purchases. Such as this stunning 12”! 

Saxophonist Gianni Oddi moved from Genoa to Rome in the early 1970s and quickly established a reputation as an imaginative arranger, while recording a series of cover albums for RCA Italia. He surreptitiously managed to smuggle the odd original composition onto these LPs, and that’s what we have here. On the A-side we get the gorgeous Dreamin’ from a 1974 album, entitled 3. A sumptuous slice of cinematic library-music-come-spy-soundtrack. Opening with a crisp, shuffling break beat and killer wah-wah guitar riff, the track builds as the strings and sax slowly join the party – all beautifully climaxing with the breathy, orgasmic vocals of Isabella Sodani. This is a masterpiece.

Over on the flip we get, Geronimo, Oddi’s tribute to Manu Dibango’s Soul Makossa. A superb, panoramic, Italian take on afro-funk from the previous year`s LP, 2. Another wonderful track. This record actually sounds as good as it looks. Go seek!

Well, I say reissues, but actually, this fabulous early `80s recording has never previously been released…

Franco Esse – Pelle DI Luna / Peluche – Four Flies Records 2023

Balearic Mike Franco Esse

So, the Gianni Oddi record led me to the Bandcamp page of Four Flies Records, an Italian label dedicated to the reissue of rare, lost and lesser-known Italian music… and what a rewarding task that must be, as a quick visit to their page reveals an incredible amount of music that I did not know I needed in my life.

I think it was the sleeve which drew me to this particular release. I’d never heard of Franco Esse, an alias of Francesco Semproni, and that’s because not many people have. His brief career in music was restricted to working as a music and recording assistant in a couple of well-known studios. His attempts at a solo music career never got past the demo stage, and he ended up leaving the music industry and working in a toy shop in Rome. It’s a shit business, eh! Anyway, the musical archaeologists at Four Flies unearthed these previously unreleased demos and quite rightly realised that they deserved to be made available to the world. 

What we have here are 2 wonderful slices of dreamy Balearic pop-gold! Warm, gentle synths, plucked, jazzy guitars, a gorgeous synth melody, subtle percussion, and a sparse, minimal vocal make Pelle Di Luna a future Balearic classic. On the flip, Peluche is slightly slower and more sombre, but still has a beautiful, warm, cinematic synth backdrop, and sounds like the perfect sunset / sunrise accompaniment. My only criticism is that I want both tracks to last a lot longer than their barely 3 minutes runtime, but hey, that’s what re-edits are for, right! Can someone get on that for me?

A wonderful release from a label I’ll have to keep a close eye on.

I was sad to hear of the passing of Simon Emmerson a.k.a. Simon Booth, so in tribute I`ll finish with 3 of my favourites from Simon…

Working Week – Venceremos (We Will Win) – Paladin Records / Virgin 1984

Balearic Mike Venceremos

Formed by Simon Booth and Larry Stabbins from the ashes of the Rough Trade band Weekend, prompted by the departure of their lead singer, Working Week were prime movers in the burgeoning UK jazz dance scene in the early-mid `80s, releasing a series of excellent singles and LPs, and collaborating with a wide range of musicians and singers.

Unfortunately, the scene had a much larger club following than chart following, and the band’s singles never broke the top 40, with only their debut album doing slightly better. Regardless, they made some bloody great music, and here are a few of my favourites.

I owe Balearic Wife for getting me hooked on Working Week, as she had a couple of their albums and played them to death… until I got them!

This, their debut single, would be their highest charting, reaching #64. It’s an absolutely astonishing 10-minute jazz-dance epic. A wonderfully sinuous bassline powers along, accompanied by beautiful piano chords, and rapid-fire percussion… and over the top of this we have a heavenly combination of voices, as Tracy Thorn’s lead is first backed by Robert Wyatt, and then the pair become a duet, before giving way to Claudia Figueroa’s Spanish portion of the track. The song is a tribute to Chilean protest singer Víctor Jara, and it’s incredibly beautiful. A version also appears on their debut LP, Working Nights, but it doesn’t hit the same heights as this wonderful version.

When I first moved to Brighton in 1988 there was a pretty vibrant jazz scene, and we used to attend the odd club night or event, including the Brighton Jazz Bop’s held at the top rank and hosted by Russ Dewbury. This record was obviously huge there.

(It was also a favourite of Mr. Mancuso`s, and a Leo Mas Amnesia spin – big big tune all round – Rob)

Working Week – I Thought I’d Never See You Again (Hot Samba Mix) – Virgin 1985

Balearic Mike I thought Id never see you again

Another from the Working Week’s superb debut Album, Working Nights. A beautiful, rolling, laid back affair, with subtle hints of bossa-nova and Latin / Brazilian influences. This always makes me think of Balearic Wife, and our trip to Paris in September 1988.

This is a simply gorgeous love song, delivered with a powerhouse vocal performance from the wonderful Juliet Roberts, years before she`d get “Caught In The Middle”. It seems to wash over you like tropical waves, before building to an almighty crescendo, changing tempo, and going quite ‘jazzy’, towards the end.

It maybe a bit challenging for pop radio, but why this wasn’t a huge hit, and much more highly regarded is quite beyond my comprehension. Just lovely. The lyrics alone are just so beautiful!

“Hot nights, Turn the living up loud,

Summer days, Drinking wine in the sun,

White sands, Scent of pine in the sun,

Blue water, Meeting endless skies,

Swifts calling, In the heat of the day,

You’re my lover”

My copy is a nice 2×12’ UK release with a bonus 12” of 3 live tracks recorded at The Montreux Jazz Festival, which includes a great version of another of my favourite songs from their debut album, the track Sweet Nothing. 

Working Week – Apocalypse / Surrender – Virgin 1987

Balearic Mike Apocalypse

Although a fan of Working Week, this track had evaded me until about 10 years ago, when I heard Amnesia resident and all-round Balearic legend, Italian DJ Leo Mas play it. I knew it was Working Week, and also knew that I didn’t have it, but Leo very generously pointed me in the right direction. Hence this German 12’ pressing was purchased for about €1 and very cheap shipping (remember the times before Brexit kids?). It’s a weird, wonderful, quite dark, atmospheric track. Its production is much more “80s” than the previous tracks I’ve posted, with an ominous, twisting bassline, and suitably ‘apocalyptic’ lyrics. 

I’m delighted that this song, and indeed the band Working Week, were included in the soundtrack to those long Balearic nights at Amnesia in Ibiza in 1987. I just wish I’d been there to hear it in the that context myself. I can imagine it sounded superb!

The A-side is a really good pop-dance number as well. They were obviously trying to cross over a bit at this point, so again, it`s a quite `80s sounding production from Les Adams, not a million miles away from that Dhar Braxton / Joyce Simms vibe, but obviously missing the Mantronix component. Good song though, and great vocal performance again from Juliet Roberts.

For more from Balearic Mike you can find him on both Facebook and Instagram – @balearicmike. 

Mike has a Mixcloud page packed with magnificent, magical, music, and you can catch him live on 1BTN, from 12 noon until 2 (UK time) every 1st and 3rd Friday.

Balearic Mike 1BTN

You can also check out the super silk screen prints of “Balearic Wife” over at @jo_lambert_print


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