Lino Agrò is a record collector for decades, he started working on private radio stations in Sicily since the age of 16, and a couple of years later was engaged by RAI to present music radio shows and all kinds of programmes. In the mid-90’ he contributed frequently to the evening radio shows “Weekendance” and “Planet Rock” on Rai Radio 2, sending his mixtapes of ambient house, 60’s pop and techno – sometimes featuring some of his own compositions – that were broadcasted all over Italy. From the late 80’s he started djing in various clubs, playing mostly new wave, electropop and early acid/house. Following his passion for rare and modern soul, as well as freakbeat and beat/garage, he sometimes still plays little pubs and local venues. Lino shared with us his 5 favorite rare Italian 7-inches from his huge collection so go and check it!
Kaleidoscope Band – I Get Lifted (7”, 197?) [Maximus]
See it on Discogs
I’ve been collecting tiny, little Italian labels for many years, concentrating in what could easily – and luckily! – be found in my hometown. So, while all the other vinyl junkies were obsessively looking for prog, psych, punk and classic rock, I kept on exploring more challenging fields, looking for the most unusual and bizarre sounds committed to vinyl. So, grabbing every little disc of the most – back then – obscure labels became my mission, as the logos of such labels like Voom Voom Music, Disco Soul, Magnus, The Dog, The Cat, Aris, Phantom, Dany, ASA, Music Power, Gulp! Catoca and many others became more and more familiar to my eyes. With Maximus soon becoming my favourite, thanks to its eclectism and veil of mystery it was – and still is! – surrounded by.
Take this, for example: the composing credits under the title say Casey-Finch and this links to the eponymous song off George McCrae’s first album. But, believe me, what you hear from these grooves is a totally different thing! A mad, infectuous, bass and string-driven intro, deeply rooted in funk, sanctified disco and psychedelic soul, leads to a mesmerizing chorus from which black and bewitched voices ascend, and then the female singer becomes the supreme priestess of a pagan rite burning with sex and ecxtasy. This sublime track has a one and only fault: just like life, it’s too short.
Boccaccio ‘71 – Guarda / Canta Carmen Rizzi – Fontane Bianche (7”, 1976) [Kansas]
Digging into 70’s Italian disco may be very rewarding. Be it lo-fi or smooth and rich production, surprises and good ideas are always guaranteed. As is the case of this cover of a 1968 song by The Rogers, a pop/beat group from Turin. Inspired by the disco craze and the trend to re-work old songs turning them into danceable numbers, perfect for the discothèque setting, this gorgeous piece of vinyl boasts an ace production, with a fantastic drumming, a frantic piano, all sorts of disco sound trickery, a killer bassline and even a sax solo, while the rather melodic singer and her background vocalists add that certain touch that make it a glorious new discovery for rare disco and modern soul fanatics.
Fantastic Soul Band – Per Qualche Dollaro In Piu / Disco Band – The Mexican (7”, 197?) [Maximus]
See it on Discogs
A very rare and obscure double-sider cut by the sessionmen behind Maximus and the semi-bootleg group of labels sharing the same generic sleeve bearing a Discoteque Sound logo. A deep curtain of mystery surround these recordings (maybe originally conceived as a sort of mash up of the two), and one wonders who the hell was playing in these mephistophelic renditions of such great songs that must have irritated the original composers to the point of bringing them to ask and obtain the immediate withdrawal of the record and its subsequent distruction (well, this is my theory, that would explain the ridiculously low number of copies in circulation). To the lucky few goes the pleasure to enjoy a Morricone-on-acid psychedelic trip through one of his signature tunes and an even-more-evil-than-the-original Babe Ruth classic. And if these versions may bring to mind the common 1978’s Bombers 12”, where has that madman’s voice over-dubbing the lead singer come from?
Valeria Mongardini – Son quella che sono/Tony Caprio – Manca L’Uomo (7”, 1971) [Rex 70]
I couldn’t believe my eyes when, last year, I stumbled into an unknown seven-incher by my beloved 60’s beat/r’n’b singer Valeria Mongardini, whose “Se Sapessi Mio Caro” has been spinned in every serious mod party the world over. In South America she’s even a star, having had her “Si supieras, amor mio” single issued in Argentina and Peru by the local RCA companies, which also put some others of Valeria’s songs into a couple of compilation LPs. She eventually retired from music to focus on her acting career, but only after recording what it seems to be her last single, this catchy midtempo beat tune that comes on the stylish Rex 70 label, but only – as it would seem – as a white label juke box promo split single. A cover of a rather dull tune sang by Tommy Roe, “We Can Make Music” (also perfomed by the Bay City Rollers), it becomes here a totally new and exciting, well produced number, thanks to Valeria’s rough voice and brilliant personality.
Sergio Nita Quartet – Fjuska/Yes I Know (7”, 196?) [Vermont]
It’s nearly incredible how brilliant the music scene was in Palermo, during the 60’s and early 70’s. The city was then pervaded by the most exciting sounds in circulation, reworked by a plethora of local musicians and bands that used to rehearse all day in basements and home-garages and then performed in night-clubs and discothèques in front of all kinds of audiences, from the snob, sophisticated jazz élite to the subversive beat and hippy communities, quenching their thirst at the many record shops spread around town. The peak of this era has surely been the Palermo Pop 70 Festival – soon called “The Woodstock of the Mediterranean”! -, held for three editions until 1972, and bringing down here such top artists as Aretha Franklin, Duke Ellington, Arthur Brown, The Pretty Things, Black Sabbath, Colosseum, among many others, including famous Italian prog-rock bands of the period, like Delirium and Osanna.
This cult 45 must have been issued in the mid/late 60’s, but no other information is known, except from the fact that the Sergio Nita (real name Caminita) Quartet regularly performed as a live band in local venues and eventually moved to Netherlands for a six-month deal in a Rotterdam club. The real killer track here is the B side, a raw garage freakbeat that will set your stereo on fire!
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Photos & words by Lino