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Loving every night with the feeling of the moon?

July 30, 2013 Leave a comment

114680186“Moliendo Cafe” may not actually be a schlager, but the way the song has been covered, translated, and re-interpreted by global cultures over the years places it squarely into the schlager bracket of songs.  Originally created by Venezuelan composer Hugo Blanco and his uncle, Jose Manzo Perroni, wikipedia claims that over 800 recorded versions exist.  Having done a comparative analysis of a few versions of “Body And Soul” during university, and recalling how long that paper was, it’s clear that at this point I’m not brave enough to attempt to reconcile all of those versions of “Moliendo Cafe.”*  However, there is one version I’d like to highlight, and that is the version by the Italo Disco group Cheaps.

Existing squarely in Italo Disco’s sweet spot from both a musical (pulsing rhythm and lots of synths) and release year (1983) viewpoint, “Moliendo Cafe” was a one-off – an artist called Antonello Gabelli** has been stated to be the actual artist behind Cheaps, and it’s his name that appears with Manzo Perroni’s as the composer.  What’s especially interesting about it is that these lyrics seem to have been created by Gabelli specifically for this release.  They bear absolutely no relation to the original “Moliendo Cafe” lyrics in any language, in fact.   Gabelli’s new lyrics are effective at transporting us to some alternate reality where the cure for broken-heartedness is a trip back to the Cafe Moliendo, and “dancing every day to the rhythm of the compass” is a regular facet of life in Brazil, even if that phrase and the lyrics themselves make no sense.

I also want to call out the possibly-intentional screw up that occurs at 2:08-2:11, where half of the vocals seem to come in too early.  Shades of “Louie, Louie” across the decades!  It’s oddities like this that make Italo Disco records so charming and unique***, especially in the 1982-1983 time frame.  By the time you get up to the M&G “When I Let You Down” era in ’86, the homebrew aspect was lost, and even great tracks like that one are dead ringers for major label pop in production quality.  Time marches on, but we’ll always have the talented amateur era of Italo Disco to hold dear.

This track is digitized from the original Baby Records Italy 7″, sorry for a few pops here and there but I’m not a big believer in post-processing.

[audio http://www.divshare.com/direct/24331131-7f0.mp3]

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*one person braver than myself has an interesting take on a couple versions here.

**also co-writer of JD Jaber songs, as well as Chris Luis’ great “Heart Of The City,” but Gabelli was also an artist in his own right, with at least three releases under the “Duke Lake” pseudonym according to Discogs.

***See also Awesome Hall Of Fame’s post on Block Sistem and the dodgy tape edits that define the instrumental version.

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Categories: Italo Disco

202 Machine – Get Up (Rock Your Body)

July 23, 2013 Leave a comment

Get Up (Rock Your Body) 7"Originally Posted March 30, 2010.  I have learned in the intervening three years that this was a in fact a NYC production.  No matter, it’s still killer, and the intro to Italo Disco is relevant for other tracks on the blog.  I have updated the linkage and made some text edits.

When I mention Italo Disco to the uninitiated, a variety of responses ensue, but all hew to a similar theme.  “Why disco?” and “Italian?  Does it sound like ‘O Sole Mio’?”  are symptoms of an incurious mind aided by some historic reactionary propaganda.  Disco, in particular, got absolutely killed in most of America as Saturday Night Fever overkill set in – ever hear of Disco Demolition Night?  In fact it’s not been until the recent emergence of Lady Gaga that pure dance music has become socially acceptable in the US again.

Meanwhile the Europeans were taking back genres like disco, house, and electronic that had roots on the continent (ahem, Kraftwerk).  They had picked up some black influence (via the undergrounds of Detroit and Chicago mostly) while popular in the states, and the Europeans took them and ran, with sometimes-unrecognizable results.  All the stuff you love to hate in a European disco – the five million subgenres of techno – fall into that category.  (Well, except schlager night.)  And yes, a lot of it has had all the soul sapped out of it and drug influences dumped back in.

How does that line up with today’s track?  Well, discogs.com says its first release was 1979 (I had thought it was 1981), and this would put it on the absolute launching cusp of Disco’s appropriation by a bunch of unknown Italians.  Giorgio Moroder had, of course, put out his epic From Here To Eternity a couple years prior, but the independent scene really seems to explode starting in 1980-1981 (based on my records purely, I wasn’t there!).  Drum machines, vocoders, and fake “bands” that actually consisted of the two producers are all hallmarks of the genre – sometimes, as in the case of Kano, they would later add a singer to try and broaden their audience.

202 Machine didn’t actually get that far.  They put out just one 7″ single, and it turns out the B-side is awfully schlagery (appropriate since the Italian label Baby Records has about equal numbers of terrible Italian pop songs and Italian disco gems).  Producers Arnell and Loeb are credited with very little else on Discogs.  Wait – Arnell and Loeb?  Those don’t even sound like Italian names, you’re probably screaming.

My rationale: even if they aren’t Italian (and mind you, I’m not sure), their song fits into the genre so well that I’m going to ignore the actual provenance.

[audio http://www.divshare.com/direct/24310897-95a.mp3]

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Categories: Italo Disco

Rockets – On The Road Again

May 7, 2012 1 comment

Originally posted April 28, 2010 – updated link and additional text.

This has me pretty speechless, but I’ll try to get you interested enough to click: Italo Disco cover of old blues made famous by Canned Heat.  Robot costumes, bald heads, and silver face paint.  Silly rock and roll faces.  ENORMOUS head on that lead singer.  Click now…you know you want to.

Categories: Irony, Italo Disco

Talko – Psyko Flash

November 14, 2011 Leave a comment

clutterriffic!

Originally posted April 13 2010 – some edits to content and new link.

Vocoder!!! I love vocoder. I understand it’s somewhat overused in today’s hip-hop. Sadly, being that I tend to pay attention to hip-hop only when someone else points it out for me, I can’t say I’ve been burnt by its overdeployment (which I guess is good, in the end).
Given that information on Talko is relatively scarce (according to discogs, they put out three records in the 1983-1984 time period), I’ll concentrate on what scored me this record: Digging.

See photo at right: if you look closely, piled on the floor and clearly a second class citizen to the mighty book, are records.  This place, in downtown Sydney, had thousands of them.  And mostly it was a thrift store-y kind of collection – you know, with lots of Mantovani and Mitch Miller Sings Christmas albums (the kind of music your grandparents had in their record collections, in and amongst the classical).

But there’s something extra satisfying about digging through piles like that.  The thought that other record nerds might not have gone through the piles is always foremost on my mind.  Which leads to the second satisfaction – the sheer thrill of finding a gem amongst the stuff that should have been thrown in the dumpster ages ago.

Of course, you have to deal with a high signal-to-noise ratio to do real digging outside of a record store context.  Record stores are generally well-collated but usually (with notable exceptions) the people who price know what they’re doing.  Unless you’re going into a really bizarre genre, deals are hard to come by.  (This problem has been driven into my skull living in Switzerland, where good deals are completely few and far between, to the point that normal-high NYC prices now seem like bargains by comparison.)

So we ran across this store quite randomly in Sydney, and naturally I didn’t have my portable player with me, since it was vacation and I’m too lazy to bring it along anywhere.**   And I didn’t have time to go through everything since, you know, I was on vacation (and probably on my way to lunch).  But in the one pile I did have time to go through, I found 3 12″ singles worthy of purchase.  Talko’s magnum opus is the best of the three.

[audio http://www.divshare.com/direct/16170023-6d0.mp3]

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** P.S. – a portable is the best defense against taking fliers on random records and being disappointed, but they’re not cheap – get a rich uncle to give one to you for xmas.  But first make sure you like to dig – if dusty piles don’t appeal on some level, you won’t get enough use out of it.  Or you could leave it at work like I do for extra nerd cred…?

P.P.S. – I used a picture of the original Italian label for the metadata, but this record came on an Australian Carrere/RCA pressing.  It looks more or less like a French Carrere label.

Categories: Italo Disco

Vin Zee – Funky Be Bop

October 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Originally posted March 30, 2010 – some edits to content have been made.

Many 12″ and 7″ singles in the various dance genres come with “vocal” versions on side A and “instrumental” or “dub” versions on side B.  Some even come with bonus remixes.  But in the Italo disco genre, I tend to concentrate on the instrumentals, because I often find vocal stylings of our Italian friends aren’t great, and that has a tendency to distance non-genre-nuts from the music due to a perceived “cheese” factor.

There isn’t much downside to going right to the instrumental with Vin Zee.  While deep-sixing the crap main vocalist, “Funky Be Bop” retains the awesome background vocals from (and adds a jazz-artist-namechecking sax/vocal bridge to) the original vocal version.

Photo to the right is the picture sleeve from the Italian 7″ – some dude who looks like the love child of a lumberjack-rasta and Rollergirl, holding a toy monkey and a saxophone.  The monkey, BTW, is also wearing skates.  Unless someone’s got footage somewhere of him singing, I expect he was around for the photo session only.  (The dude, not the monkey – the monkey was the producer, actually.)

[audio http://www.divshare.com/direct/16169874-bc6.mp3]

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Note: vocal version available on iTunes if you want to get your Leonard Pinth-Garnell on.

Categories: Italo Disco

Marcella – Nessuno Mai

March 31, 2011 Leave a comment

NOTE: Repost from March 30, 2010 with updated picture and link.

OK, we’re going back a few years further now to cover the pre-history of Italo Disco…by bringing you an Italian disco track.  I make the distinction because this in no way resembles the later synth-vocoder-drum machine combination of Italo Disco, but it’s by a known Italian singer (well…at least Marcella Bella has more than one record to her name)  and it has a really Disco-y bass line and beat.  Lame parts?  There’s a bridge that may make the song more interesting but it interferes with the dance tempo.  That may be why the proprietor of Italo Deviance, Marcello Giordani, recently cut a  remixed version of it.  The original track seems like it may well be in print, meaning this is probably the least obscure tune I’ve posted about so far.  Also probably the track least likely to survive a takedown notice.  Get ’em while ‘er hot!

I really like the bass line and the string flourishes, though.  As for the title, Babelfish tells me that Nessuno Mai translates to Nobody Never, which I can only imagine is a terribly heartbreaking lament about how hard it is to be a single woman in Italy.  Or something?

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Categories: Italo Disco

You Are A Danger(!)

July 5, 2010 2 comments

Among the best and most successful Italo Disco songs, Gary Low’s “You Are A Danger” is a fine example of the playfulness of the genre at its peak, circa 1982-3.  It is also an exemplar of the old adage “less is more” – though more in the length department than the instrumentation (which has everything including what sounds like a highly tuned kitchen sink drip).

Any good Italo Disco song has some really sassy synths, and “You Are A Danger” is no different.  Right from the beginning some vocoder warbles combine with some whistle-like sounds to give the impression that the song is catcalling someone…perhaps you, the listener?

Though the backing track here is quite good, unlike some other Italo Disco songs, the instrumental would leave you missing some of the best parts of the song* – the chirpy, girl-group-ish chorus vocals, the absurd lyrics (“your sensibility is out of reach”), and not forgetting the relative lack of vocal skill of Mr. Low himself.  He’s no Gary Numan, that’s for sure.

Thematically, “You Are A Danger” mines the same territory as Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me,” with a lot less pathos (and detail, for that matter), as long as we assume that the female chorus vocals are this song’s “waitress in a cocktail bar.”  That’s no sure thing given how positively chirpy they are (I imagine a troika of hipster Italian faeries), but I’m out of coherent theories otherwise.

Unlike some of its more esoteric counterparts (c.f. Gay Cat Park’s “I Am A Vocoder”), the song is also available in a more-easily-digestible 7″ version clocking in at 3.5 minutes.  The 12″ version is over eight minutes and does not do much in the extra five that it hadn’t done already.  If you don’t believe me, or have a very patient crowd of dance partiers, you can grab the 12″ version on iTunes for 69 US cents (the original 12″, on il Discotto, will set you back considerably more).  This version is taken from a Swiss pressing on Baby Records – the picture is from the sleeve.  I got this in a nice haul from a local Zürich record shop that had a realistic view of single prices for once: this one cost 50 cents.  By comparison, every single 7″ single in the local thrift store is priced at CHF7.  WTF?

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*Though I will provide the instrumental by request.

Categories: Italo Disco