updated over 6 years ago
Italian boogie: The much ignored and frequently maligned sub genre throws up a tangled spaghetti of mysteriously elusive 12”s and obscure albums. Thanks to eBay (and the internet in general) it has become slightly easier to track down some of these strangely rare records, most of which never seemed to make the short journey across the channel to our import stores.
The boogie genre itself dates back to the dawning of the 80s. That’s when many producers moved away from the faster “disco” sound, with its octave bass-lines and open hi- hats to a slower, more soulful tempo. By ‘83, boogie had become more electronic with heavy use of synths in the instrumentation.
Any article on this subject has to start with detailing the work of the undisputed kings of Italian disco/boogie – the production team of Jacque Fred Petrus and Mauro Malavasi. In the late 70s the duo produced a string of successful records for various American labels under names such as Macho, Revanche and Peter Jacques Band. Some of this stuff is quite good but it is fast, percussive disco laced with campery and often verging into hi-NRG territory. However, in 1979 the duo completely revamped their sound and formed the aptly named Change.
Change’s debut album “The Glow of Love” was very much inspired by the Chic sound and was a universal success, scoring big chart action with the hits “Lover’s Holiday”, “Searching” and title track “Glow of Love”. Working with top quality American session singers really paid off as a strategy for both producers and indeed the main singer, with Mr Vandross soaring towards household name status thereafter.
Malavasi, along with collaborators David Romani and Paolo Gianolio appears to have been the actual musical mastermind behind Change. Malavasi’s classical training underpinned the music, giving the compositions, rich sophisticated arrangements, understated chords and tight production. Petrus, now sadly deceased, was more involved with the business function of the team, though also a musician himself.
Petrus and Malavasi followed this album up with the equally good, if slightly less successful “Miracles”, containing the popular “Paradise”, “Hold Tight” and more. Hot on the success of their new sound, the prolific duo put together several more acts, which they then signed onto various major labels stateside.
They were responsible for the classic early 80s soul/boogie of acts like High Fashion (Feelin' Lucky Lately, Break Up), BB&Q Band (“On the Beat/Time For Love/Starlite/Imagination”), Ritchie Family (“I’ll Do My Best”), Zinc (That’s the Way the Loves Goes/I’ll take my Chances), and Peter Jacques Band (“Mighty Fine”).
Malavasi and Petrus finally quit working together in ‘83 after the fourth Change Album – the weak “This is Your Time”. Petrus kept Change and BBQ going himself, sometimes outsourcing the production to others – most successfully with Jam and Lewis for the “Change of Heart” album
Back in Italy the Chic-aping success of Malavasi and Petrus didn’t go unnoticed and many of the country’s other producers started doing the same. Indeed many of these imitators went as far as using Change as their template.
There is quite a distinctive sound to Italian boogie, just as there was to early Italian house productions. It’s a sound that may be described as hovering somewhere between Change and UK Brit Funk. The variable quality of the vocalists used means that its highly unlikely that collectors will alight upon loads of undiscovered gems of the same calibre as “Glow of Love”. However for industrious vinyl addicts, there are still some interesting records to be found. Much of the best of this Italian material was licensed on to American labels, particularly Emergency, but also Brass, Sam and Easy Street, normally gaining far better worldwide distribution that way. So keep your eyes peeled, it may be Italian in disguise.