V/A - Italo Funk (2xLP)
Italo and Funk! A long standing relationship that goes back to American R&B artists connecting with the Italian audience in the 60's. At that time the Italian music market was still influential on a global scale and you could find an artist like Wilson Pickett singing in Italian (with a quite puzzling accent!) at the Sanremo Festival in 1968. The song he performed, "Un'Avventura", was written by Ludo Battisti the biggest Italian pop star of all time, a lover of all black American music, who has recently been re-discovered by global diggers, for his psychedelic, latin, funky period of the mid to late 70's. But the market was ready for that real funk: in 1971 James Brown performed "Sex Machine" live on national TV. Then Umbria Jazz festival opened for business in 1973 bringing the likes of Weather Report and Horace Silverto the more intellectual side of listeners. While the mainstream crowd was grooving in cinema theaters to the orchestral funk of masters like Piero Umiliani, Piero Piccioni and Armando Trovajoli and their soundtracks of the 'Poliziotteschi' B-Movies.
With the 70's giving us the Mediterranean soul-funk of Napoli Centrale, directly influenced by the nearby NATO American base dwellers, the picture was complete: it was time for the Disco revolution! From Moroder to Mauro Boncaldi the list of Italian pioneers that molded dance music into a new hybrid of electronic basslines and over the top melodies is endless. The enormous international success of Italo Disco created a market of independent labels and distributions that were the basis of the next mutation of funky dance music: House. Italo Disco influenced the birth of House in America and then House came back to Italy and gave a new generation of producers the kick in the ass to start their own thing.
And here we are today with this bunch of friends, mostly born out of the underground scene of the 90's. DJs and producers who don't fit into any conventional music scene and learned their music, by listening to avant-garde shades of Italo house, or by traveling abroad, trying to embrace the more daring sides of electronic boogies.
When I first met Christian from BOOT & TAX (the other half is studio wizard Claudio Brioski) in the mid-90's he was a devoted fan of the funkiest U.S. House music, before going on to discover the craziest and most psychedelic sides of machine produced music. ROCCA is also part of this mid-90's group of visionaries; we would travel the Al every week, I would go down to the legendary Maffia club in Reggio Emilia, where he was head and resident DJ and he would come up to Tunnel in Milan, where I was pushing all sorts of modern and alternative dance music. Age-wise LOWHEADS could be Rocca's kids and also coming from Reggio Emilia....well, you never know! They are at the forefront of the new Italian deep house scene. Only a few miles away, we enter the city of Bologna, Italy's long-time capital of students and creativity (our San Francisco?). If you stop a random dance music fan on the street and ask him to solve the equation Bologna + House Music the answer will be: Pastaboys. The rulers of soul, funk and latin intoxicated house in the 90's are here represented by MEMORYMAN (aka UOVO) and Rame in the 'live musicians meets DJ culture' project CAPOFORTUNA. The 'live' side of Capofortuna are FUNK RIMINI, named for their love of the genre and their home town, they also deliver a track for the comp. From the end of the 70's up until the early 00's the Adriatic summer clubbing season was invaluably influential in bringing the electronic underground dance sounds to the masses, so it's not a surprise to find another artist on this compilation coming from that area: DEEP88, a true analog house master.
Now It's time to catch a motorway: which one? Any! As you all know, all the streets lead to Rome! So it's time to meet the sample heavy sounds of TIGER & WOODS a studio recording and live project founded by cats that were laying down the best underground tunes just seconds after the rave craze hit the capital city in the early 90's. True music lovers and diggers the T&W sound lays on research of crazy samples, mostly coming from the heritage of Italo disco or on this comp 80's Chicago. I first met Southern (you know Puglia? It's the heel of the boot!) wonder kid JOLLY MARE in NYC a few years ago, he was attending RBMA and playing for the first time there opening up for his childhood heroes Masters At Work. I believe he was the most excited man on earth but you couldn't tell because Jolly is cool on every occasion. It's that coolness and a love for freeform lunacy that makes him a perfect inheritor of the 70's Italian soundtrack masters, which you can hear on his percussion and sampling. Ah, last but not least, myself: I had the luck and honor of spending hours with most of these gents over nearly 25 years behind all sorts of mixers trying to push what I always felt was quality mind-bending danceable AND un-danceable music. Here you can listen to my tribute to soulful stepping American funk, a sound that I love in all shapes and forms. Quite strangely I already gave the title Proud To Present (because of the vocal sample) to the track before longtime friend and music comrade ELI from SOUL CLAP asked me a song for this record and eventually to write these liner notes. So many many thanks Eli for releasing this compilation and bringing light to some of today's most notable Italian funk purveyors, I was really proud to present it!