Connoisseurs of 1960s she-pop have been very well served by Ace Records, particularly those with a predilection for American and British artists. But good music, of course, is not exclusive to the English-speaking world, as those familiar with our recent collections devoted to the female vocalists of Italy will be aware (not to mention similar projects focusing on Japan, France, Sweden, Hungary and Spain). In a country known for its song festivals, most notably the prestigious event held annually in Sanremo, highly orchestrated ballads have always been especially popular in Italy. For this celebratory 45, however, we have plucked a pair of exemplary uptempo tunes from our popular “Ciao Bella! Italian Girl Singers Of The 1960s” compilation CD.
Brunetta was one of the first Italian artists to record rock’n’roll. Among her early releases were the appropriately titled “The Explosive Brunetta” and “Ciclone Brunetta” EPs and the frantic ‘Precipito’, which she performed in the film Urlatori Alla Sbarra. New stars Adriano Celentano and Mina also appeared in the movie, so she was in good company. Fast forward a few lower-profile years, she released the record for which she would become best remembered. Backed by a group named after a tribe from the Congo, Brunetta performed the somewhat non-PC ‘Baluba Shake’ at the Pesaro Song Festival in 1966, scooping top prize. These days, the track is an underground dancefloor favourite, original copies of which change hands for a pretty penny.
A tiny girl with a huge voice, freckle-faced firebrand Rita Pavone debuted in late 1962 after winning the Festival Degli Sconosciuti talent contest. She went on to storm the Italian charts six times, all before the end of 1963. ‘Cuore’, her great version of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s ‘Heart (I Hear You Beating)’, was also successfully recorded by her in French and English. By the end of 1967 she had amassed many hit singles and had starred in six lightweight films. Among her releases were several aimed at the children’s market, so buyers beware. The punk-like ‘Il Geghegè’, here, was the theme song from one of her TV specials. Surviving footage of Rita belting out the breathless number is a hyperactive op-art sight to behold. – MICK PATRICK