Ciao Bella! – Italian Girl Singers of the 1960s
A really fun compilation, this – and great for playing to transport you up and away from the contemporary sheen; here are strings – glorious strings – and singers singing. So even if you don’t know who you are listening to here and aren’t in it for the history lesson this is good enough to just slap on and sit back and enjoy.
But as a history lesson it’s fascinating. Here are the best of the female Italian pop singers of the 1960s. These, then, are pop hits from an alternative universe. So much of it still sounds fresh, bursts with an enthusiasm and energy. And there are some fascinating and funny covers too – Sono Qui Con Voi is Van Morrison and Them’s Baby Please Don’t Go as interpreted by Caterina Caselli with Gil Amici. I loved hearing this – could spot it was a cover from the opening notes, but it still felt like something different too, an old song in a new space.
And so it is with many of the songs here – Piu Du Te by Mina, La Notte E Fatta Per Rubare by Catherine Spaak – you could be forgiven for imagining an Austin Powers dance going on in the background…
Sometimes there is this overt referencing of the British pop music of the day – a little snatch of Satisfaction filters through one track, at other times you can hear how this sound (along with the French pop of the same era) is, to this day, an influence on vocal techniques and production, particularly that gossamer sound.
Other times you hear traces of The Beach Boys or The Turtles, Sonny & Cher even and you fall under the spell of what is a strange, new sound – despite existing for 50+ years.
Nothing – really – is lost in translation though. These are twee-pop ditties and dramatic mini-epics about dressing to impress, about meeting the scene, about seeing and being seen and being part of whatever scene, these are harmless little pop songs that shine with a magnificence no different to the best that Dusty Springfield and Aretha Franklin and Sandie Shaw and Petula Clark were all offering at (around) the same time.
Ace Records is so good with this archival stuff – with not only the dig but the contextualising. And this is no exception. A wonderful compilation.