Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Barbara York - Tonight (1983, Smash One Music)

Note: FYI, this file has a much lower bitrate than what I usually post.

Although I've made exceptions in the past, I've had this rule for myself, especially when it comes to vinyl: to only post things that I actually have in my collection, as opposed to mp3s that I've downloaded or have been given. Although lately, after some of the great mp3s I've downloaded and that others have given me (like this one), I'll probably be breaking that rule more often now...

Anyway, on to the music...

Today's file is courtesy of a reader, Wayne, who very kindly sent me the file and cover scans to this delightful little slab of funky italo.. A great little record from '83, driven by that sharp, sleek guitar right up front, which along with those echoed vocal effects, just hook you instantly.. Additionally, that quintessentially 80's whistling synth along with Barbara York's (not her real name, I'm quite sure) vocal both work beautifully on this track. In this case, the singers' exceptionally full vocals more than made up for her thickly accented and at times incomprehensible English. It probably speaks to the fact that the singer on this record actually had some modicum of vocal talent, whatever the linguistic limitations.. Anyway, it hardly matters. It seems that was something common with many Italo-disco records (projects with American vocalists like Change excepted); if the record was musically strong, it didn't so much detract from it as much as add to the distinctive charm of the whole thing..

So maybe some might not agree with me calling this record 'funky', and okay, so it probably doesn't throw-down with some of the serious funksters out there; regardless of that though, there's a definite urbane, American aesthetic to this record. As far as Italo goes, it probably has more in common with the American influenced sound of Change or the B.B. & Q Band than say, Ken Laszlo, Klein & M.B.O, Tantra etc. I guess to put it more specifically, for me, "Tonight," sounds something like Easy Going meets Change, if you will.. It's probably no wonder, considering that this record was, along with Pino Toma, co-produced by Giancarlo Meo who, along with Claudio Simonetti, was also the producer behind Easy Going, Kasso, Vivien Vee etc.. Also, this track and a couple of the earlier Barbara York singles were produced with not only Meo, but with people like Davide Romani and Paolo Gianolio (who co-wrote this track) in prominent roles. Romani and Gianolio, aside from writing or co-writing a great deal of the tracks off Change's awesome "Glow Of Love" and "Miracles" albums are also alleged, given their prominent roles, to have deserved full production credit alongside Jacques Fred Petrus and Mauro Malavasi on those records.

Anyway, to me Italo is definitely one of the most interesting fields of disco out there.. I've explored it in bits and pieces so far, but so far it's not exactly something I've really explored in a great deal of depth. So far though, one thing I love about Italo is how diverse it was in it's own right, often going from the sleek, American influenced variety (i.e. Change, B.B. & Q Band and other Petrus/Malavasi productions) to the electronic disco of Tantra, Azoto and to the irresistably melodic pop music of, say Gazebo to name one example.. Also, not to exclude the contributions of Giorgio Moroder and La Bionda either.. Generally speaking, another thing I love is that great, inescapable sense of melody that many Italian records I've come across seem to have. In a way that applies to a great deal of my favourite European pop music as well. As far as European pop goes though, I'd have to say that both the Italians and the Swedes seem to have the greatest melodic sensibility out there..

All that aside, hope some of you out there enjoy this one. Again, special thanks to Wayne for the file and the scans.





Anonymous said...

Agreed. Like all subgenres, Italo had good and bad records. I doubt I've heard more than a small fraction of them, but the best I know all fuse tsense he melody you describe with this charmingly cockeyed approach to American aeshetics.

Those wonderful records by Change, BB&Q, Kano, Jimmy Ross, etc. were big hits on the street as well as the clubs: they were considered very "down," even though rap was already revolutionizing urban radio. But they are at once not-quite and more-than: literally, italicized!

Some goes for pure eurodisco: records by Tantra, Macho, Revanche, all the way up through Hemyl all sound like brilliant practical jokes that get to their essence as much despite as because their style. Whenever I hear any of these records I immediately feel the connection to Italian visual design values.

BTW, although the preference for the cream of black New York session singers was a master stroke, a number of Italian singers, obscure to me, were quite strong.

I'm thinking of Viven Vee (not for "Give me a Break," which I hated, but "Remember," which is a bitter masterpiece); whoever it was who sang "I'm a Man;" and Hemyl, for "Keep on Rockin." I hope to hear many more surprises as ItaloDisco becomes more accessible.

-Freddy in P'town

Tommy said...

Thanks Freddy for the comment and the insight! :) Summed everything up perfectly..

I don't really care for Vivien Vee's "Give Me A Break," either.. I just heard Vivien's "Blue Disease" though, which I quite like.. It's certainly got me interested in some of her other material.. I agree, that vocal on Macho's "I'm A Man" is excellent too..

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