Italo-disco

‘The Holy Grail Of Italo’ – Flemming Dalum And Jörg Gassmann (2009)

Italo-disco in a nutshell: a barer, more mechanical, synth-driven derivative of disco conspicuous for its amorous lyrics often sung in a twee foreign accent – most probably Italian! Belted out on predominantly Italian and German dancefloors during the 80s, it’s a genre that can be uplifting, ridiculously catchy and unashamedly great craic if you can accept the cheesiness and unblushing melodrama it often revels in.

Flemming Dalum, one half of the duo behind this outstanding mix, is renowned in the scene as the avuncular keeper of Italo with an enviable repository of records to this name. Apparently, he used to make road trips down to Italy from Denmark to get his hands on the latest records during the 80s. That’s true dedication! Much less info is available on Gassmann (I’m sure he’s a great comedian!) although we are reliably informed by Discogs that he is an ‘Italo-disco expert and collector from Germany.’

The mix consists of twenty-nine choice Italo cuts blended seamlessly over eighty minutes. What’s fantastic about it is it contains a selection of discerning tracks that will appeal to both newcomers of the genre like myself and to more astute heads too as Dalum and Gassmann discreetly include a series of records from 1986-1990, an oft-neglected period for Italo as the genre was on the wane commercially after ’85.

The lads get the ball rolling with the theatrical opening drumroll and bouncy beat of ‘Rondo Dance’ before we’re met with the sentimental, giddiness-inducing high provided by ‘Je T’Aime, Je T’Aime.’

 

 

This early hot streak is kept simmering with the heady vibe of ‘Hot Love’ and the euphoric synth melody of Oxo’s ‘Keep On Living’ before we’re struck by the saccharine, top-down-breeze-blowing-through-my-hair fervour of ‘I Can.’

Tired legs are given a breather after the buzz of that opening volley in the form of Moskow’s excellent ‘Come Back.’ Butterflies are guaranteed here thanks to a lovely, agitated, woozy beat.

 

 

‘Driving’ packs some heavy drums that set a tense backdrop for a searching, yearning synth before the pace is picked up again with the crazy ass synth and catchy hook on ‘When You Sing For Me.’ ‘Don’t Waste Your Time,’ a cheery, starry-eyed cut, follows suit. After this comes the sizzling BELTER that is ‘Midnight Girl.’ A fine, crisp snare on this one.

 

 

‘Cinema’ is another fetching crowd rouser with a smashing vocal. A cracking find by the two boys!

 

 

‘Magic Sound’ is a dreamy, playful cut, teeing up the irresistibly seductive ‘Il Mondo Da Una Nuvola.’ I have absolutely no idea what sexy, sweet nothings Patrizia Pellegrino is purring but it sounds hot! An electrifying track that packs a classy bassline.

 

 

‘Golden Queen’ is another enjoyable, spacey, pining, melodrama while ‘He’s Brando’ has a effervescent, chirpy stride to it. Manuel Kerry’s ‘Change Change’ boasts a riling hook that injects a new urgency into the mix halfway through. Meanwhile ‘Summer Desire’ is a light and pleasant number drenched in sunrays.

‘Thai Dance’ is a great track with a particularly heavy bass and alluring, mysterious synth.

 

 

Be prepared for Gatsby’s ‘Love Sign’ – it’s got a very addictive refrain: ‘Looooooove sign / You’ve got to know the riiiiiiiight time!”

 

 

‘She Is Liar’ is fun with a vocal that rises with enmity as it reaches its crescendo while ‘Cause I Love You’ have a very endearing, twinkling synth. Ken Laszlo is a man who gained a good deal of commercial success from Italo and he’s present here on ‘Spanish Run’ under his Jaco alias. It’s a beautiful record but the two minutes play time it’s given here doesn’t really allow enough time for its charm to shine

Some strange, spooky Halloween madness is offered on ‘Midnight Horror’ ahead of the tense and haunting ‘Black Fantasy.’ The punchy and exhilarating beat of ‘Movin’ On’ drops next, swaying to a distinct diva voice that would remind you of Kate Bush before the mesmeric Patrizia P. returns with another sultry, whispered vocal on the captivating ‘Musica Spaziale.’

 

 

‘Love And Magic’ is a schmaltzy cut that you can’t help but like just a bit while ‘Something You Forgot’ is darker and more sullen in tone. Neurox’s ‘A Raving Night’ sees the mix out on a fitting, reaching climax.

There you have it – a colourful, exotic, far-fetched trip through an assemblage of some of the very best goodies Italo has to offer, many of them existing in rare, expensive and hard to find forms as standalone, individual records. The mixing is solid throughout, although one minor criticism I have is that some tracks suffer a bit for their short playing time especially in the second half of the mix. However, I’m still grateful that I’ve been introduced to them via Dalum and Gassmann’s sharp eye which is evident in this varied and refined collection.

While a diversity is provided in regard to the genre, the overall style is steadfastly focused on Italo which if fine. Nevertheless setting the intention to sit/drive/trampoline through eighty minutes of this syrupy stuff might seem daunting… just like it would be with any mix as uncompromising in style as this beast. Despite this, anyone who undertakes the journey will be rewarded with a better appreciation for this zany genre and a wealth of scintillating Italo bombs verified by two of the leading specialists in the field.

Rating: 4.5/5

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