Tuesday, 23 July 2019


«The dynamic genius of Dick Hyman, who has found unbelievably resourceful ways of using the organ to express the pulsing drama, the fun and the soaring beauty of today's vivid, new music, goes to work on the explosive themes inspired by the lurid adventures of the whole contemporary coterie of espionage agents: not only 007, the Man from U.N.C.L.E., Honey West, the Liquidator and their familiar colleagues but eyebrow raising surprises such as Agent Double-O-Soul.

Breathtaking, dazzling, sinuous and sensuous...
...bursting with driving rhythms...
...sparkling with humor that is sometimes sly, sometimes wildly exhilarating.

That's the inimitable Dick Hyman formula as this master of the modern organ combines the miraculous resources of this amazing instrument with a brilliant group of guitarists and percussionists to lure more excitement from these themes than anyone suspected was in them.

[from the back sleeve notes of "The Man From O.R.G.A.N."]

Richard "Dick" Hyman (born March 8, 1927, New York City) is an American Jazz pianist/keyboardist and composer, best known for his versatility with Jazz piano styles. Over a 50-year career, he has functioned as a pianist, organist, arranger, music director, and, increasingly, as a composer. His versatility in all of these areas has resulted in well over 100 albums recorded under his own name and many more in support of other artists. [1]

Hyman's career is pretty intimidating in its achievements and scope. He has scored, arranged and/or performend for Broadway, movies, television and live radio, and he's recorded in every format, from 78s to CD-ROMs. He's got a whole gamut of music genres covered, from Jazz and Blues to Classical to Pop and Electronic Psychedelia. Hyman is exceptionally renowned as a professional musician, and was inducted into the Jazz Hall of Fame in 1995. His articulate and wry anecdotes, commentary on the business, and techniques of making music have been published along with sheet music in a series of books. [2]

Beginning in the mid-1950s he started recording with his own name for MGM. His cover of "Moritat", on harpsichord with his trio, sold over a million copies in 1956 and was the most successful recording of the tune until Bobby Darin did it as "Mack the Knife". He was the musical director of The Arthur Godfrey Show from 1958 to 1961. He was an early staple of Enoch Light's Command label, for which he recorded light classical, swinging harpsichord, funky organ, and "now sound" combo albums. He also demonstrated his continuing interest in new keyboard instruments, releasing two of the earliest Moog albums. Hyman has stayed in demand as much as any musician around, working for TV, scoring film soundtracks for Woody Allen, and, more recently, as a Jazz pianist and organist. [3]

After taking care of Dick Hyman's Electronic / Experimental triptych consisting of the 1963 masterpiece "Moon Gas" - credited to him and Mary Mayo, and covered both in mono and stereo - and the two supercool and fresh - still fifty years later! -1969 Electronic Pop / Moog seminal albums "Moog - The Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman" and "The Age of Electronicus" (...available respectively, here and here...), it's now time to deepen our exploration of the large Hyman catalogue by dealing with The Great TV and Movie Spy Themes as offered on the gorgeous "The Man From O.R.G.A.N.". So, put on your shades, hat and raincoat and let the journey begin!


[1] from Wikipedia

[2] from the introduction to an interview with Dick Hyman conducted by Michael David Toth, published on Cool and Strange Music!, issue #7, 1997

[3] from Space Age Pop Music

"The Man From O.R.G.A.N." outer gatefold reconstruction (with sticker on front)

"The Man From O.R.G.A.N." inner gatefold reconstruction

The following liner notes, written by an unknown author, are included in the inner gatefold of "The Man From O.R.G.A.N.". They describe the evolution of both the characters and the music that Spy Movies underwent through since the early days of the genre, and delve into the tricks Hyman adopted to achieve some of the particular sounds featured on the album, which were performed on two different models of Lowrey organs.

«The indestructible James Bond and the other fictional espionage agents who have come along in his glamorous wake have inspired a set of television and movie themes which pick up where the earlier private eye themes of the Dragnet and Peter Gunn vintage left off. Just as Bond, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Honey West (to pick three quite different types) represent a more fantastically larger than life breed of agent than such relatively earthbound operatives as Gunn or the laconic sergeant of Dragnet, the music that goes with today's agents has far greater scope and range than the earlier private eye themes did. No longer is it enough to be sombre or menacing or broadly mysterious. Today's themes can also be tongue-in-cheek or completely dominating, exotic or explosive, gentle to the ear or blindingly intense.

"The Man From O.R.G.A.N.", original inner sleeve shows Command goodies...

Dick Hyman's explorations of the musical possibilities of the Lowrey organ, - explorations which have constantly added to the world's knowledge of what this unique new instrument is capable of (documented in his series of Command albums) - have made him familiar with the ways in which this organ can supply an inimitable sense of excitement for all kinds of music. Most particularly, he knows more about how to use it to create the tension and exhilaration that are an inherent part of so much of the music that gets people out on a dance floor these days. That very contemporary sound can be heard all through his unusual interpretations of these spy themes. But, since Hyman is a highly imaginative musician, every one of these pieces has unique, personal touches that come not only from his own musical creativity - the use of unexpected styles and tempos, for instance - but they carry an undercurrent of humor that is particularly appropriate in view of the element of fantasy inherent in the incredible activities of these agents. One of the advances that Dick Hyman makes in his development of the Lowrey organ in this collection comes through his use of a second organ, the Lowrey Theater Model, on two selections - on his integration of "The Third Man Theme" with the "Danger" theme and on "The Cat". Some aspects of the Lowrey Theater Model cannot be transferred to a recording. In design, it is a miniature version of those huge consoles that once rose out of the lower depths of movie palaces. The various tabs used for selecting special sound effects light up in multi-colored hues when they are put to use, just like those movie palace organs did. This, of course, you cannot see on a record. The aspect of the Lowrey Theater Model that can be heard on a disc is that, like those mighty movie theater monsters, it can simulate a wide array of sounds that are not available on the usual contemporary electronic organ. There is a marimba tremolo, the sound of wood blocks, of bongos - all of which Hyman uses for fascinating effects on these selections. On his regular Lowrey organ, Hyman ranges from a cathedral sound to the plaintive cry of the Nashville sound. He builds his arrangements on styles as varied as the Bossa nova, a 5/4 beat and an overwhelmingly hard-driving twist. Working with him is a three-man guitar section made up of Tony Mottola, Al Casamenti and Bucky Pizzarelli, a three-man percussion section - Osie Johnson, Bobby Rosengarden and Phil Kraus - and a one-man bass section, Bob Haggart.»

...and more goodies on the back!

"The Man From O.R.G.A.N." contains the following tracks:

01. The Liquidator (2:38)
02. The Third Man Theme & 'Danger' Theme (3:33)
03. The Man From O.R.G.A.N. (2:19)
04. Theme For 'Honey West' (2:28)
05. Theme From 'I Spy' (2:16)
06. A Man Alone (3:21)
07. Thunderball (2:44)
08. Mister Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2:23)
09. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2:32)
10. The Cat (2:43)
11. Theme From 'The Spy Who Came In From The Cold' (2:56)
12. Agent Double-O-Soul (2:52)

All tracks were remastered from the original vinyl in May 2019 and are available in FLAC lossless format along with complete artwork reconstruction and printable PDF files.

As usual, please have a look at the comments for the download links.

Dick Hyman, circa 1965-1966

Here's the complete credits and personnel list of the album:

Dick Hyman: Lowrey organ, Lowrey Theatre organ
Bob Haggart: bass
Tony Mottola, Al Casamenti and Bucky Pizzarelli: guitars
James "Osie" Johnson, Bobby Rosengarden and Phil Kraus: drums and percussion
Tony Mottola: piano on "Agent Double-0 Soul"

Arranged by Dick Hyman.

Associate producers: Robert Byrne and Julie Klages

Recording chief: Fred Christie

Stereo Mastering: George Piros

Monoaural mastering: John Johnson

Front cover drawing: Charles E. Murphy

Coming about halfway in the long series of albums that Dick Hyman released on the label, "The Man From O.R.G.A.N." was published by Command Records sometime around February 1966 with catalogue number RS 891 SD. The album was also made available as a reel-to-reel tape with catalogue number RS 4T 891.

All the Internet sources that offer information about this LP seem to place it in 1965, but I don't believe this is correct, even thought such date is printed on both the front cover and the back sleeve of the album...: the film "Thunderball" - whose theme is included on the album - was premiered in the U.S. no earlier than 21 December 1965 and the first adverts for "The Man From O.R.G.A.N." started appearing on Billboard in the first months on 1966... The 'Command New Direction / New Sound 66' ad that you can see below was published on the 4 March 1966 issue, so I would say that February 1966 is probably the most accurate release date.

As in the best Command tradition, the LP comes in a sturdy gatefold sleeve that offers plenty of information about the recordings. Some copies of the album - including mine - boast an oval red sticker with track titles affixed to the front cover. The artwork in uncredited in the liner notes, but the front cover lower right corner is unmistakeably signed Charles E. Murphy, who at the time was Command's Art Director.

Half of the tracks on "The Man From O.R.G.A.N." were also released as a 7" EP which featured the same title and cover. Oddly enough, for the German market the album was completely repackaged and had its original title changed to "Organ Tricks" thus omitting any reference to the theme that inspired it...

The following track-by-track commentary is a slightly edited version of the original liner notes included in the inner gatefold of the album.

Side 1 opens with "The Liquidator", a big, bright, driving theme for the film of the same name, written by Lalo Schifrin. On this number, Dick Hyman uses a rising, ringing sound in the introduction that is one of the basic musical techniques devised for background on radio mystery dramas. Notice the vast freedom with which he swings out on his organ as the piece builds in intensity and how his use of breaks under the organ serves to increase that intensity to a degree of almost unbearable exultation.

Hyman decided to combine "The Third Man Theme & 'Danger' Theme" not only because they seemed to go together in a very natural fashion, but because he had been impressed with the use made of montaging themes on The Defenders, a television series on which he has occasionally played. It was not until Hyman brought his arrangement into the recording studio that he learned from Tony Mottola, who plays guitar in Hyman's group and who wrote the "Danger Theme", that this was actually inspired by "The Third Man Theme". At the time Mottola wrote it, early in the Fifties, "The Third Man Theme" was at the height of its popularity. Yul Brynner, who produced Danger (this was before Brynner became famous as an actor and singer in The King and l) wanted a theme that was similar to The Third Man but he didn't want to use a zither, because that was the instrument in The Third Man, and he felt piano and organ were too usual. This led to the choice of a guitar and, when Mottola came up with the now familiar "Danger Theme", he became the guitarist on the long-running series. All through the changes in tempo in this arrangement by Hyman, Mottola is playing "Danger" on his guitar while Hyman, on organ, stays with "The Third Man". Hyman uses the Lowrey Theather Model organ here, creating the carousel effect with it and achieving the atmospheric fogginess during the shift in tempo through a discreet use of tremolo.

Written by Dick Hyman, "The Man From O.R.G.A.N." is the only original composition on the album. Hyman's keen ear for irony has led him to represent this fictional espionage agent in a Southern style. The Nashville sound seemed to him to be right for this piece primarily because it would catch the listener off guard by being the very opposite of what might be expected. Then, too, its brightness serves as an interesting contrast to the minor quality of most spy themes.

"Command New Direction New Sound '66", an advert published on the March 4, 1966 issue of Billboard

"Theme For 'Honey West'" follows. The feminine quality of Honey West, played by Anne Francis on television, is suggested by Hyman's treatment of her theme. Over an easy, bouncy introduction, the organ comes on in low, sinuous fashion, then suddenly rises to a lovely lyrical passage. The tinkling 'swoosh' that crops up several times toward the end is a Chinese bell tree, ministered to by Phil Kraus.

According to Hyman, "Theme From 'I Spy' is a bit of scored confusion - «sort of like Charles lves.» Although the 'I Spy' television series, in which Bill Cosby and Robert Culp are starred, usually uses Hong Kong as a locale, Hyman subtitled this arrangement 'A Tone Poem of a New York Traffic Jam' («My experience has been with New York traffic»", he explained). To supplement the confusion and clamor that Hyman and his group create instrumentally, simulating auto horns and a hubbub of nervous clamor, he added three girls to contribute some "oo-oo" accents to the melee. The other voices you hear are Tony MottolaMove over!») and Bob Haggart. Guitarist Al Casamenti churns a real ambulance siren and Phil Kraus caps the production by chiming out "Adeste Fidelis" and "The Bells of St. Mary" in keys that have no relation to anything else that's going on.

Closing Side 1, Hyman's bossa nova treatment of "A Man Alone" - from the film 'The Ipcress File' - is a distinct departure from the usual espionage themes... With Tony Mottola supplying an introductory bossa nova beat, underlined by the insistent rhythm of claves combined with a Chinese wood block, Hyman's organ moves into the melody in a richly romantic fashion. All through this piece, he makes very distinctive use of the warm, deep sounds of his organ, building an atmosphere that is broad and expansive over the usually miniaturizing effect of a bossa nova rhythm.

Side 2 starts with "Thunderball". The theme of the then most recent James Bond film roars out of Hyman's arrangement with a brilliant dramatic flair. The beat provided by guitars and percussion is intense and relentless, augmented by a beanbag ashtray held close to a microphone and tapped to create an effect somewhat like maracas. The galloping guitars are led by Al Casamenti who admitted that his right hand felt as though it was going to fall off before he got through three minutes of this driving pace. The high, piercing passages on the organ are played by the piccolo attachment - Hyman uses it to get something akin to the unworldly sound of an Ondioline.

"Mister Kiss Kiss Bang Bang", also from Thunderball, takes note of the name by which James Bond, because of his most egregious activities, is known in some sections of Europe. Both the breathless voice and the response to it by triangle and tympani were directly suggested by the lyric. «There is a sibilance in the title that appealed to me», Hyman declared. The result is, he says, «a sort of singing song title.» The singer, incidentally, is Dick Hyman.

The German edition of the album was re-titled "Organ Tricks" and completely repackaged...

Hyman plays the theme from "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." in the same way that it was done on the air (at least, the way it was sometimes done - the television version occasionally changed a bit). It is played in 5/4 time - even the gun-shots are orchestrated in that tempo. Although 5/4 is an extremely difficult tempo to maintain on this tune because the melody does not fall into it naturally (and consequently it is more apt to be played in 4/4), Hyman has stayed with the original tempo because it gives the tune the nervous, syncopated feeling it must have to achieve its dramatic effect.

"The Cat", Lalo Schifrin's composition for a movie called "Joy House" can be listened to from a variety of angles. On the surface, it is a superb and lively bit of music for twisting. Just under the surface, though, you will find Dick Hyman's sense of humor at work. "The Cat" was a big hit for Jimmy Smith, the jazz organist who is noted for his hip use of funky sounds. Hyman felt that he could create a striking example of 'camp' by applying an old fashioned sound to Jimmy Smith's funky way of playing the music. To get that sound, Hyman used the Lowrey Theater Model organ and, while he was at it, he threw in occasional sounds of wood blocks and bongos from the organ's array of extra effects. He did this even though he had live bongo and wood block players with him in the studio. But using the synthetic sounds, he felt, added to the 'camp' quality of the piece.

Even more of a departure from the espionage mood than the bossa nova treatment of "A Man Alone" is this sensitive and thoughtful approach to the "Theme From 'The Spy Who Came In From the Cold'", a tune which reminded Hyman of a Chopin nocturne. The music box effect with which it opens is produced by Hyman at the organ, using a piccolo sound with a great deal of reverberation added. The range of the organ is suggested by the sonic distance from this small, close-up effect to the huge cathedral sound which he later switches to. The gentle, subdued guitar passage is played by Tony Mottola.

The ringer "Agent Double-0-Soul" does not come from either a movie or a television series, and it is further evidence of Hyman's sly humor. He first heard the piece on a record by Edwin Starr which was brought to Hyman's attention by his 14-year-old daughter who keeps him au courant on musical matters directed at the teen set. Initially he was amused by the title but then it struck him that «this was a blues commentary on the whole James Bond scene.» So he shot the works on it: The Girls are back again to give a proper shouting quality to the roaring beat. There is the sharp, insistent rhythm of two drum sticks whacked together. And when Hyman decided that a pianist was necessary to carry out the total effect properly, Tony Mottola laid down his guitar and made his recording debut on piano.

The following clips offer a complete preview of the remastered album, enjoy!

More information about Dick Hyman and "The Man From O.R.G.A.N." is available here:













If you have any other useful information about Dick Hyman and "The Man From O.R.G.A.N." - especially corrections and improvements to this post - or if you spot any dead links, please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!

Sunday, 21 July 2019


Long time no see! There hasn't been any new posts here on Stereo Candies since late April... Unfortunately, sometimes life gets in the way and priorities change. I am still not calling it a day, but I won't be able to keep you entertained with at least one post each month like I did for about eight years, so expect only random posts from now.

Thanks to whose who worried about me and sorry if I wasn't able to reply to your messages and comments. A new post about Dick Hyman's "The Man From O.R.G.A.N." is coming very soon, probably there won't be any other new post until Fall sets in. Hope you will enjoy your Summer, have fun!!!

Tuesday, 30 April 2019


Pettegolezzi di madri ai fioriti balconi d'estate
lontano i suoni di tristi canzoni, organetti stonati
Le biciclette sui muri lasciate, quando poi pioveva
e quell'odore di strade bagnate che nel cuore scendeva

Fuggire, fuggire
indietro tornare
di nuovo scoprire
gli azzurri orizzonti
svanire tra i monti
e perdersi, perdersi...

E le stagioni a rincorrersi come in un gioco infinito
giù nei cortili, su quei verdi prati, così sconfinati
dove i bambini ci lasciano i sogni e gli amori innocenti
e margherite di giugno vestite alla terra strappate

Fuggire, fuggire
indietro tornare
di nuovo scoprire
gli azzurri orizzonti
svanire tra i monti
e perdersi, perdersi...


Mothers' rumors on flowering balconies during summer
sounds of sad songs and off-key squeeze boxes in the distance
Our bycicles left on the walls as it started to rain
and that smell of wet streets soaked into our hearts

Running away, running away
going back in time
and discover again
the blue horizons
disappear behind the mountains
and get lost, get lost...

And the seasons chasing each other just like in an endless game
down in the courtyards, on those green meadows, so boundless
where children leave their dreams and innocent loves
and daisies dressed in June teared off the ground

Running away, running away
going back in time
and discover again
the blue horizons
disappear behind the mountains
and get lost, get lost...

[from the lyrics of "Azzurri orizzonti" / "Blue Horizons"]

Maurizio Fabrizio is an Italian composer and singer; he was born in Milan in 1952. During his career he has written songs for a lot of renowned Italian artists. He is one of the most represented authors at the Sanremo Music Festival, with more than thirty songs including two first places (with "Storie di tutti i giorni" for Riccardo Fogli in 1982, and "Sarà quel che sarà" for Tiziana Rivale in 1983) and three third places ("Strano il mio destino" for Giorgia in 1996, "Sempre" for Lisa in 1998 and "Schiavo d'amore" for Piero Mazzocchetti in 2007). He is also the author of several musicals and soundtracks.

Fabrizio began studying music at the age of 11 at the "Giuseppe Verdi" Conservatory in Milan. He received a classical education (piano, composition, percussion, bassoon and double bass), and combined it with a passion for the guitar. In the meantime, during those years he also played drums in a band. At the age of 17 he finished his experience at the conservatory, and around the same time one of his uncles introduced him to the music business.

In 1970 he formed the duo Maurizio & Fabrizio with his brother Salvatore - also known as Popi. That year they participated to the Mostra internazionale di musica leggera di Venezia, finishing in third place with "Come il vento". In 1971 they also participated to the Sanremo Music Festival with the song "Andata e ritorno" without much success. They released a total of three singles before disbanding later during the same year.

After this experience with his brother Popi - who soon embarked in a successful parallel career in the music industry as a producer and A&R executive - from 1972 Fabrizio began an intense activity as an arranger and author, often teaming up with lyricist Luigi Albertelli. Among the singers who recorded some of the songs he wrote in the early '70s we remember Donatello ("Malattia d'amore"), Anna Identici ("Il dirigibile"), Mia Martini ("Amanti", "Dove il cielo và a finire" and "Il viaggio"), Al Bano ("La canzone di Maria"), Patty Pravo ("Incontro") and Ornella Vanoni ("Uomo mio bambino mio").

Sometime in 1974, Fabrizio teamed up with lyricist Sergio Bardotti to work on "Azzurri orizzonti" - his debut album which is the subject of this post. The making of the record also involved his brother Salvatore, who co-wrote two songs, and - among the other participants - Dario Baldan Bembo. The album was released at the beginning of the following year on Come il vento, a small label distributed by RCA Italiana which borrowed its name from the title track of the first Maurizio & Fabrizio single released back in 1970.

During the second half of the '70s Fabrizio collaborated as music director and arranger on the best-selling albums by Angelo Branduardi ("La luna" in 1975, "Alla fiera dell'est" in 1976, "La pulce d'acqua" in 1977 and "Cogli la prima mela" in 1979). On these album he also played guitar, piano and several other instruments. Fabrizio was also part of the band who accompanied Branduardi during his concerts, and this fruitful collaboration has continued over the years to the present day.

In 1978 Fabrizio recorded his second solo album, a Progressive Rock inspired record entitled "Movimenti nel cielo" ("Movements In the Sky"). In this entirely instrumental work, symphonic scores blend with Rock music, especially in the longer tracks which are separated by shorter interludes fulfilled with strings and keyboards. Acoustic moments ("Episodio Lunare") and Funk-ish numbers ("Sputnik Suite") are also present among the grooves, as well as atmospheres reminding the early works of The Alan Parsons Project.

1979 saw Fabrizio getting busy with the recording of his third solo release, oddly entitled "Primo" ("First"). The ten compositions on this LP were written by him in solitude, including the lyrics to all the songs. The album was recorded in London and was co-produced by Furio Bozzetti, who had already worked with him on his debut LP "Azzurri orizzonti" a few years back. "Primo" was released by Polydor and includes the friendly participation of Angelo Branduardi and Dario Baldan Bembo.

During the same year, Fabrizio met Giancarlo Lucariello, producer and talent scout of Pooh, Alice and Gianni Togni, who commissioned him the arrangements for the then latest albums by Togni and Riccardo Fogli (a former member of Pooh).

In 1980 Fabrizio recorded his fourth album, which went to be his last solo effort for more than thirty years. Just like "Azzurri orizzonti", "Personaggi" was released by Come il vento, and at the time of writing it has never been reissued in any form. All the lyrics on this record are by Guido Morra, a lyricist with whom Fabrizio has often teamed up with during the years. Just like his previous releases, this album didn't climb the charts, and Fabrizio didn't seem to be able to conquer on his own the success he helped to create for other performers...

During the '80s his songs won the Sanremo Music Festival twice: "Storie di tutti i giorni", sung by Riccardo Fogli in 1982, and "Sarà quel che sarà", sung by Tiziana Rivale in 1983. "Grande grande amore", written with Stefano D'Orazio and sung by Lena Biolcati, won the New Proposals section of the festival in 1986.

More and more of his songs were recorded by many renowned artists year after year. These include "Vai Valentina" and "Musica Musica" by Ornella Vanoni (both in 1981), "Bravi ragazzi" by Miguel Bosé (1982), "Sola", "Romantici" and "Arriva arriva" by Viola Valentino (1982-83), "Acquarello" by Toquinho (1983), "Amore stella" by Donatella Rettore (1986), "Brividi", "Destino" and "A che servono gli Dei" by Rossana Casale (1986-1989), and "L'odore del mare" by Eduardo De Crescenzo (1987).

His activities as an arranger / conductor and producer are also worthy of note. Besides the already mentioned works by Angelo Branduardi, Gianni Togni and Riccardo Fogli, since the late '70s he had been credited on Franco Segre's "Canti della strada" (1978), Ewa Aulin's "Il walzer finì" (1979), Toquinho's "Acquarello" (1983) and "Bella la vita" (1984) and Matia Bazar's "Red Corner" (1989).

Surprisingly enough, in 1985 Fabrizio also wrote and produced an entire Italo-Disco album by a duo named New Glory. This release almost seems to be a family affair: all songs are co-written by his brother Salvatore and one half of the duo is none less than their younger brother Leonida Fabrizio! This is a record that I would really like to explore in a future post, uhm...

"Azzurri orizzonti" outer gatefold reconstruction

In 1989 Mia Martini participated to the Sanremo Music Festival with "Almeno tu nell'universo" ("At Least You In the Universe"), a number written by Fabrizio in 1974 along with Bruno Lauzi. The song had been waiting for many years before someone decided to perform it. As a matter of fact, it had been rejected at least by Ornella Vanoni, Mietta, Paola Turci and, in the beginning, also by Mia Martini herself...

The story goes that Fabrizio composed the music on the guitar in the kitchen, the room that featured the best acoustical environment of his house. On such occasion he found a melody that immediately seemed very particular, and a few days later Lauzi wrote the lyrics in half an hour. "Almeno tu nell'universo" is the song that made possible the artistic rebirth of Mia Martini; it quickly became a great commercial success and is now widely considered one of the best Italian songs of all times. Fabrizio really has many merits, but he could easily go down in history even just for this song. If it doesn't give you goosebumps, chances are that you're not of this Earth!

During the '90s Fabrizio strenuously continued to compose - always keeping quite a very high profile - for many Italian performers. Among the many songs he wrote we'd like to remember: "Niente" for Mietta (included in the album "Canzoni", winner of six platinum records in 1990), "Bisognerebbe non pensare che a te" for Caterina Caselli (1990), "L'ultimo dei re", once again for Mietta (1992), "È la mia vita" for Al Bano (1996), "Strano il mio destino" for Giorgia (winner of third place at the Sanremo Music Festival in 1996) and "Sempre" for Lisa (once again winner of third place at Sanremo in 1998). For Lisa, as well as being an author, he also produced her first two albums ("Lisa", in 1998, and "L'essenziale" in 1999) which climbed the sales charts in France and Spain.

In 1995 Renato Zero recorded a number that deserves a special mention here: "I migliori anni della nostra vita" ("The Best Years of Our Lives"). The song has become an evergreen of Italian music both for its artistic solidity and for the reference to the personal and collective history it evokes. Its importance is so relevant that it also went to become the title and the soundtrack of the almost homonymous TV show conducted by Carlo Conti, "I migliori anni" ("The Best Years") about songs that belong to the memory of Italian people.

The song had been born several years earlier from an idea of the author of the lyrics, Guido Morra, who had got his inspiration from a 1946 American drama film which was precisely called "The Best Years of Our Lives". Fabrizio composed the music of the refrain with that title in mind and then passed it to Morra who wrote the verses and sent them back to him. This long-distance collaboration between the authors gave birth to the song which was initially proposed to Giorgia, who refused it.

As strange as it may appear, the piece remained unused for a long time - also rejected by several other producers and performers (including Ornella Vanoni) - until it ended up in the hands of Fabrizio Intra, Columbia managing director for Sony Music Italy, who immediately understood its potential and proposed it to Renato Zero. This song is another good reason why Maurizio Fabrizio will go down in history.

"Azzurri orizzonti" inner gatefold reconstruction

At the beginning of the new millenium Fabrizio has written two musicals: "Il grande campione" starring Massimo Ranieri in 2000, and "Rodolfo Valentino" starring Raffaele Paganini in 2002.

As usual, during the early '00s Fabrizio has composed many successful songs: "Tutti gli zeri del mondo" for the duet of Renato Zero and Mina (2000), "Alla luce del sole" for Josh Groban's debut album (2000, about 6 million copies sold worldwide), "Che fantastica storia è la vita" for Antonello Venditti (2003), "Un'emozione per sempre" for Eros Ramazzotti (2003) and "Che mistero è l'amore" for Nicky Nicolai, which won first prize in the Groups section at the Sanremo Music Festival in 2005. He was also involved in the launch of young artists such as Senit (2007), and Linda (for whom he wrote the single "Pasolini scrive" in 2008).

In 2008 he composed the music for three songs ("Anima nell'anima", "La libertà" and "Madre") with lyrics taken from Karol Wojtyła's poems, which were recorded by Plácido Domingo for his album "Amore infinito".

In September 2011, more than thirty years after the last record entitled to his name, Fabrizio finally released "Bella la vita" ("Beautiful Life"), a work made in collaboration with his wife, the actress Katia Astarita. The album features Fabrizio singing some of the most famous numbers he composed during his careeer, with minimalistic arrangements (classical guitar and piano, played by Fabrizio himself), and the help of Gigi Cappellotto on bass and Ellade Bandini on drums.

From 2013 Fabrizio returned to perform live as a singer in the show "L'arte dell'incontro" ("The Art of Meeting"), once again in collaboration with his wife Katia. The show gave birth to the album of the same name, which is available as a digital release only, and features nineteen pieces taken from his immense catalougue of songs originally brought to success by major Italian artists.

In the most recent years, Fabrizio has collaborated again with Angelo Branduardi, playing guitar for him both in studio and live in concert. He also renewed his collaboration with Renato Zero writing music for several songs included in his latest albums.

In October 2018 Fabrizio released a digital EP entitled "4 pezzi facili" ("Four Easy Pieces"). This new work includes four songs much loved by the author - who composed them many years earlier for important Italian performers, including Rossana Casale, Riccardo Fogli and Renato Zero - which were not much successful. Fabrizio reinterprets them with a minimalist touch, accompaning himself on the piano with a string orchestra.

"Azzurri orizzonti" contains the following tracks:

01. Azzurri orizzonti [Blue Horizons] (4:28)
02. Storia di qualcuno [Story of Somebody] (3:25)
03. Se non avessi Giulia [If I Didn't Have Julie] (3:48)
04. Wendy [Wendy] (3:39)
05. Mexico Mexico [Mexico Mexico] (2:46)
06. Angela D. [Angela D.] (5:45)
07. Campesino [Campesino] (3:09)
08. Piccola canzone [Tiny Song] (2:46)

All tracks were remastered from the original vinyl in April 2019 and are available in FLAC lossless format, along with complete artwork reconstruction and printable PDF files.

As usual, please have a look at the comments for the download link.

Maurizio Fabrizio, circa late 1974

Here's the complete credits and personnel list of the album:

Arranged by Maurizio Fabrizio.

Produced by Sergio Bardotti and Furio Bozzetti.

Strings arrangements on "Azzurri orizzonti", "Storia di qualcuno", "Angela D." and "Piccola canzone" by Gianfranco Lombardi.

Strings arrangement on "Wendy" by Piero Pintucci.

Guitars: Maurizio Fabrizio, Popy Fabrizio and Massimo Luca
Bass: Gigi Cappellotto
Drums and percussion: Andrea Surdi and Furio Bozzetti
Keyboards: Dario Baldan Bembo
Backing vocals: Maurizio Fabrizio, Popy Fabrizio, Dario Baldan Bembo and Furio Bozzetti

Production assistant: Michela Bardotti
Editions: Come il vento / RCA Musica

Recorded at RCA Studio D, Rome, and Fonit Cetra Studio, Milan.
Sound engineers: Rodolfo Grappa and Plinio Chiesa
Sound recordists: Stefano Taccaliti and Giancarlo Iametti
Mixed by Rodolfo Grappa.

As noted by Maurizio Fabrizio and Sergio Bardotti: «Gisella Fusi sang a wonderful vocal solo on "Wendy". Our musical choice was to not include it on the album, but we like to remember it anyway.»

As clearly marked on the center labels, "Azzurri orizzonti" was released by Come il vento, a small label distributed by RCA Italiana - in January 1975 with catalogue number ZSCVE 55743. The album comes in a sober gatefold sleeve which is laminated on the outside. The front and back feature a very simple painting, probably made with an airbush, that somehow reminds me of an even more minimalistic version of the best works by Mark Rothko: light blue turns to beige, and that's it. As is often the case, there is no credit for the artwork... The same goes with the big Maurizio Fabrizio picture that entirely occupies the inner gatefold, and we're only allowed to know the name of the printing plant, which is almost hidden in the lower right corner and gives us another confirmation of the album release date: Printed in Italy - Grafiche Boccadoro - 1/75.

It looks like "Azzurri orizzonti" was also released in Argentina by Music Hall with cat. number 13.133., but the pertinent Discogs entry doesn't make it clear if the album passed the promotional stage and really went into production.

My first encounter with this album almost happened by chance... Some years ago I purchased a copy of one of those budget box-sets in the "Progressive Italia - Gli Anni '70" series, just to be able to finally listen to Francesco Messina's "Medio Occidente" opus. Obviously, once the box was opened, that was the first CD I listened, and althought I was dissatisfied with the lack of the complete artwork, lyrics, liner notes, etc., I couldn't help to appreciate the audio mastering work that has gone into that release; the audio was probably sourced from the original master tapes and the quality is very good.

The second CD I listened to was "Azzurri orizzonti" and what a nice surprise it was! The great goodness of the compositions and arrangements immediately caught my ear, but during a second and more accurate listening session I realized that something was wrong, very wrong. The CD had been mastered from a vinyl copy of the album and it looks like whoever did the job didn't care much about it or, at least, had a bad day. Mastering from a vinyl source is fine of course, if the original tapes are not available anymore that's the only way... And by the way, 90% of what I offer on this blog is mastered from vinyl records. The problem lies in the fact that the source seems to be a battered copy of the original LP and very little has been made to restore it. If that was not enough, somehow the devil had a finger in the pie and the songs are also filled with digital errors that don't belong to the original rip/recording. Sometimes I really wonder who is in charge of the quality control... How can such a bad mastering job be approved and released?

Nowadays "Azzurri orizzonti" is available as a digital download on the usual stores that I'm sure you all know... Well, as I was preparing this post I took the time to check the previews and all of them, on every platform, seem to originate from the same master that was pressed on CD. Frankly, I'm speechless, this album is a small masterpiece and surely deserved to be treated fairier that this. Far from being perfect, I believe that my remastering finally brings justice to it anyway.

Side 1 opens with the album title track, which was written by Maurizio Fabrizio along with his brother Salvatore. The lyrics of "Azzurri orizzonti" ("Blue Horizons") deal with memories and childhood - a recurrent theme on the album - and the music perfectly matches such topics enhancing the powerful nostalgia effect, also courtesy of the strings arrangement by Gianfranco Lombardi and the various acoustic guitar parts. This song was also released as a single.

"Storia di qualcuno" ("Story of Somebody"), the first of six songs in a row (...or five, please see the note about "Campesino" on Side 2...) written by Fabrizio and Italian lyricist Sergio Bardotti that appear on the album, is a delicate number whose lyrics deal with childhood (...again...) and school memories: somebody attends lessons and is bored by the many notions given to him and gets more and more distracted, imagining fictious situations to escape boredom,... However, the burden of the future is about to weight on his shoulders when he will have to face real life. The different sections in the lyrics are supported by changes in music that aptly reflect them and the strings arrangement of Gianfranco Lombardi is poignant, to say the least.

"Se non avessi Giulia" ("If I Didn't Have Julie") is a way less dramatic tune with cheerful lyrics about the girlfriend of the protagonist who seems to be his one and only purveyor of wellness and the only reason why his life has taken a positive turn. The guitars in this song have a Country touch that clearly evokes rural music from overseas in the same way as in the two albums recorded by Italian duo Loy & Altomare just a few years earlier. This piece was also used as the flipside on the "Azzurri orizzonti" 7" single.

The first half of the album closes with "Wendy", an almost formal number whose minimalistic structure let Fabrizio's voice be the leading actor with Piero Pintucci' strings arrangement emerging in the second and final part. I must admit that I'm a little bit puzzled about the lyrics, which seems to be centered about a past relationship with an enigmatic woman who, in the end, decided to move on with someone else...

Maurizio Fabrizio, circa 2014

Side 2 starts with "Mexico Mexico", a lighthearted number whose music is clearly inspired by the Mexican tradition. The song features an uncredited trumpet player who steals the scene and ends up playing the lead. Unlike the more serious tracks on the album, the lyrics almost seem a divertissement that puts together one cliché after another: an expatriate fantasizes about sex and leisure with two gorgeous and easy Mexican women, but he has to take into account the reaction of a wife that, according to the lyrics, we imagine as beefy as possible...

"Angela D." is the longest track on the album, and also one of my favourites. The song starts with a persuasive simple groove that anticipate, matches and enhance the clever lyrics. This number is all about a very attractive and promiscuous woman, who is best described with an acronym that has entered the common lexicon during the recent years and is widely used - at least here in Italy, possibly because most of the people don't know the exact meaning: MILF. The young man speaking in the verses declares that "...for a boy living in a small town she was just like California ... She was two times a woman, the University... ". Musically, the song is divided in two distinct parts: halfway through it the rhythm stops and gives way to a section that introduces a dreamy strings arrangement, which then gives rise to a Moog synthesizer solo before returning to the original structure, adding a two-voiced verse just before the fade-out.

Geographically speaking, "Campesino" pairs up with "Mexico Mexico", but offers a completely different atmosphere. This short and melancholic number describes the simple and tough life of a poor Latin American farm worker who is somehow envied by a mysterious stranger whose story is not disclosed, but only hinted to as something that might - or not - refer to a European fugitive... The song is credited to Sergio Bardotti and Maurizio Fabrizio on the back cover, but on the center label for Side 2 it is credited to Bardotti and Salvatore Fabrizio... As a matter of fact, Salvatore recorded his own version as Popi Fabrizio, and it was released in 1977 as the flipside to the "Malattia d'amore" 7" single. On such record, the song is credited to him and Bardotti, so I'm inclined to believe that the credit Maurizio received on the back cover of "Azzurri orizzonti" is just a typo... Anyway, I left it untouched in my reconstruction of the original gatefold cover artwork.

The album ends with "Piccola canzone" ("Tiny Song"), its most delicate and intimate piece. Just like the opening number, this short song is credited to Fabrizio and his brother Salvatore. The music is mostly executed on acoustic and electric guitars with an heart breaking strings arrangement by Gianfranco Lombardi. The lyrics are nothing but a fragile - and passionate at the same time - declaration of love set to music.

As a last note: as far as I know "Azzurri orizzonti" was not successful at the time of its release, but it is rich of elegant musical ideas and fully soaked with poetry to the bone. In my opinion this is the best album that Maurizio Fabrizio has ever made, I truly hope you will appreciate.

The following clips offer a complete preview of the remastered album, enjoy!

More information about Maurizio Fabrizio and "Azzurri orizzonti" is available here:














If you have any other useful information about Maurizio Fabrizio and "Azzurri orizzonti" - especially corrections and improvements to this post - or if you spot any dead links, please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!

Saturday, 30 March 2019


Rita Chao, best known to her Mandarin-speaking fans as 凌雲 (…Ling Yun, Ling Ying or Seow Mei-Mei, depending on your preferred source of information…), was born in Singapore, probably sometimes in 1949 or early 1950; she grew up there, where she received her education.

Anyway, according to some reports, her family originated from the city of Hangzhou (杭州), which is located in the Zhejiang Province (浙江省) in Eastern China, not so far from Shanghai (上海).

Rita, the youngest of six children with three brothers and two sisters, started singing at the tender age of 8 and was already working as a singer and actress at 14. At school she was not very interested in her academic studies, instead she excelled with performance arts: singing and acting.

Luckily enough, she was born in a family of artists: her grandmother, Zhao Yongchun (趙永春), was a known Chinese Opera singer, and her mother Jing Yu Xian (荊玉仙) was a Chinese Opera singer too. Growing up in this environment allowed her to be familiar with life in the entertainment business, and helped to mentor her future career.

Her parents and relatives saw her potential as an artist quite soon, and decided to pull Rita out of school to follow the Opera troupe on their performances. Rita was given chances to perform Chinese Opera on stage and her performances were very good.

It is unclear when and where Rita embraced Pop music... However, at the end of 1965 - when she was just 15 - while touring Malaysia with her former group, she joined a band called Super XX.

In the meantime Zhao Yongchun, determined to turn her beloved granddaughter into a star, increased her vocal training, became her manager and successfully arranged for her to perform in various nightclubs in Singapore.

Rita was discovered on the local entertainment scene by Su Yin (舒雲), a.k.a. Henry Foo, a Singaporean singer, songwriter and lyricist, who at the time was also the A&R manager for the Chinese section at Columbia / EMI.

In 1966 she was signed by the label and released her very first 7" EP. On this record, she was paired with the top guitar band from Singapore, The Quests. The EP sold over 50.000 copies, and for Rita it was instant stardom.

During those days Rita met Sakura Teng (櫻花). As the story goes, Sakura was already a star singing at various Cabarets throughout South East Asia. On one occasion before going on stage, Sakura and Rita were backstage talking; they instantly clicked and started singing together. Sakura thought they had a very distinctive sound and that night she decided to add a segment to the show in which they would sing a duet. Obviously, they received a stunning reaction from the public and decided to join forces...

Well, probably that is just the romantic version of the story...: since both singers were doing quite well, it is an easy guess that EMI felt that pairing them would give both their careers a boost. In 1967 Rita and Sakura began performing as a double act and constantly toured Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan, building a fan base at each port of call.

During her heyday Rita Chao recorded many great Mandarin covers of popular English songs and she was part of the pioneers who launched the Rock Movement in Singapore. Along with Sakura, they were both known as 'A Go-Go Queens of the Sixties"; in those days, they used to perform at the now defunct New World Amusement Park and they both lived in Jalan Besar.

Rita's career lasted about ten years. In 1975, when her last solo album was released, she declared in an interview that she was about to make a movie in Hong Kong and that she was tired of singing all the time... In 1980-81 she briefly returned on the scene releasing two albums with Sakura, just before disappearing completely.

For more than three decades there has been no news about her in the media, only during recent years unconfirmed information appeared on the Internet that she may have been suffering from a psychiatric illness that required long-term treatment.

In early February 2015 the news about her death spreaded: Rita's 90-years-old mother confirmed that the former singer passed away in July 2014; she has been suffering from colon cancer for about three years when she died at the Singapore General Hospital surrounded by her mother, brothers and sisters. Her ashes were scattered at sea after a short wake and funeral attended by family and friends. The family did not inform show business friends as they wanted the past to be forgotten...

Most of the information included in this post was translated by our best friend Brian (...thank you!!!) from a rare article found in the May 19, 1970 edition of "Hong Kong TV Magazine" available in this post on the great macaenese5354 blog.

I am also in debt with Joseph C. Pereira, whose books "Apache Over Singapore" and "Beyond the Tea Dance" are a constant and invaluable source of information and inspiration, thanks!!!

"Rita Chao With The Quests" includes the following tracks:

01. 隔壁的冤家 (The Boy Next Door) (2:01)
02. 薄情郎 (He's Untrue) (3:23)
03. 別纏住我 (Only Friends) (3:35)
04. 搖搖搖 (Shake Shake Shake) (1:49)
05. Hanky Panky (3:11)
06. 愛人你變了 (I Know) (3:17)
07. 去年今天 (Lonely Heart) (3:36)
08. 媽媽的勸告 (Bachelor Boy) (2:07)
09. Sixteen Candles (3:16)
10. 小姑娘 (Let True Love Begin) (3:05)
11. 往日的舊夢 (Gonna Be Alright) (2:23)
12. 我不能沒有你 (Wooly Bully) (2:07)

All tracks were remastered in March 2019 and are available in FLAC lossless format, along with complete artwork reconstruction and printable PDF files.

Please have a look at the comments section for the download link.

Rita Chao as she appears on the front cover of the album

Preceded by four stunning 7" EPs - all available here on Stereo Candies - Rita Chao's debut album was released sometime in early/mid 1967 by Columbia / EMI in Singapore with catalogue number 33 ESX 603.

The album comes in a lovely flipback laminated sleeve with a two-colour printed matte back. The front cover uses a flipped picture of Rita Chao that earlier graced her 我不能沒有你 (The Boy Next Door) EP, while the back offers a slightly psychedelic collage of four different pictures that portrait her in three different outfits, including the one she is wearing on the front cover.

The vinyl copy in my possession is a first pressing with green labels that was manufactured in Australia, probably just weeks before EMI's Singapore pressing plant came on-line in June 1967. The second pressing has black labels similar to those that you can see in the post I dedicated to Sakura's debut album.

The colours on the front cover of my original copy are quite pale in comparison to the reconstruction that I'm offering in this post. You can catch a glimpse of the original cover in this picture available on the Stereo Candies Instagram account. I thought that somehow my copy was defective, or that maybe it had been exposed to direct sunlight for a long time but, as I was searching the Internet prior to compile this post, I discovered that other copies bear the same defect... The other record that appears in such picture is an infamous sounding bootleg that exploits this same cover, but features a different tracklisting that also includes tracks released a few years later.

As the title clearly implies, on this album Rita Chao is accompanied by The Quests, the legendary Singaporean group which was very active during the mid-late '60s, both as a backing unit - most notably for Rita herself and Sakura - and as performers in their own right with a very long series of singles and four full-lenght albums. It's about time that I also start taking care of their recordings, but that's another story, so let's move on to the usual track-by-track commentary...

Side 1 opens with "隔壁的冤家 (The Boy Next Door)", a song written by Johnny Madara and David White that was originally performed by American girl group The Secrets in 1963. The same year the song was turned into a huge hit in Singapore by The Crescendos, you can listen to their version own by clicking here.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to find any information about "薄情郎 (He's Untrue)", I would believe that it is an original composition, but the presence of a Mandarin + English title seems to prove the contrary... Maybe some reader of this blog can shed some light on the subject? Anyway, this track features Reggie Vergese in top form offering a great performance on acoustic guitar, including a mandolin-style solo.

"別纏住我 (Only Friends)" is a Mandarin cover of "Ton meilleur ami", a song originally performed by French singer and actress Françoise Hardy in 1962. An English version of this song was popularized in Singapore by Heather and The Diamond Four.

The very short and lively "搖搖搖" (Shake, Shake, Shake) was originally included in the 1966 movie "何日君再来" (Till the End of Time), which was a huge success in Singapore and launched the acting career of the young 胡燕妮 (Jenny Hu). The voice singing the original tune belongs to Chinese singer and dubbing artist 静婷 (Tsin Ting); you can watch the original music number here.

"Hanky Panky" is a song written in 1963 by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich for their group, The Raindrops. It was famously remade by rock group Tommy James and the Shondells, who took it to No. 1 in the United States in 1966. On this version, The Quests add their trademark guitar sound and wild drumming, turning Rita's performance in a Garage classic. Here's a link to The Raindrops' original version.

The original version of "愛人你變了" (I Know) was written by Robert Suriya of Naomi & The Boys and was included on the band's second EP released in 1965 by Philips. "快樂誕辰" (Happy Happy Birthday) was also included in the same EP, and is a cover of a 1957 Doo Wop number by The Tune Weavers (...original version is here).

Side 2 starts with "去年今天 (Lonely Heart)", a Mandarin cover of The Thunderbirds' "My Lonely Heart", one of the most popular original compositions in the history of Singapore Pop Music, which was written in 1966 by Harvey Fitzgerald - the band's lead singer - and Gerry Pasqual, their manager. The magic of the original version is reinforced by Rita's memorable performance and the evocative Mandarin lyrics would send shivers down the spine of the coldest human on Earth. This is a M-A-S-T-E-R-P-I-E-C-E!!!

"媽媽的勸告 (Bachelor Boy)" is a cover of a song written by Cliff Richard and Bruce Welch. Originally performed by Cliff Richard with musical accompaniment by The Shadows in 1963, it was also included on the successful movie "Summer Holiday".

"Sixteen Candles", the immortal youth anthem written by Luther Dixon and Allyson R. Khent, was originally performed by American Doo-wop group The Crests in 1958. On this release Rita sings a slightly adapted version of the original English lyrics; a version with Mandarin lyrics was also recorded and released during the same year.

While the "atmosphere" of all the other covers on the album is rather faithful to the original, this rendition "小姑娘 (Let True Love Begin)" - a 1961 number by legendary pianist and singer Nat King Cole - is clearly marked with Rock'n'Roll elements which are not present in the original. This song was written by Mark Barkan along with Sandy Baron and George Eddy. Another interesting version recorded by The Crests in the early '60s is linked here for comparison.

"往日的舊夢 (Gonna Be Alright)" is a Mandarin cover version of Gerry and The Pacemakers' hit. The song was written by Gerry Mardsen and originally performed by the group in 1964.

The album ends with "我不能沒有你 (Wooly Bully)", a cover of a popular song originally recorded by novelty Rock'n'Roll band Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs in 1965. Wikipedia offers much more information about the song here, and you can listen to the original version courtesy of YouTube. Another clip that shows the band performing a playback on TV is also available here.

The following clips offer a complete preview of the remastered album, enjoy!

More information about Rita Chao is available here:



















If you have any other useful information about Rita Chao and "Rita Chao With The Quests", or if you spot any dead links, please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...