Various Artists

Easy Tempo, Vol. 1: A Cinematic Easy Listening Experience

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After compilation series like Ultra Lounge and The Sound Gallery respectively revived the popularity of classic American and English lounge pop, other European countries got in on the act with their own similar compilations. In Italy, the definitive Italian lounge compilation series began in 1997 with the release of Easy Tempo, Vol. 1. It was subtitled "a cinematic easy listening experience," but there is much more to this disc than mere mood music. In fact, the contents of Easy Tempo, Vol. 1 cover a wild array of styles within the generic bounds of the easy listening tag. Much of the material on this disc has a strong jazz bent to it: one of the best in this area is "One Fine Morning," a slick Augusto Martelli track that layers bouncy jazz horns over a rumbling and restless bassline. There are also some tracks that seem tailor-made for the dance floor: the clear winner in this arena is Armando Trovajoli's "Sessomatto," a gem that pits cooing female vocals against percolating horns, all over a hip-shaking rhythm section groove to create an irresistible slice of proto-disco. There are also some surprisingly heavy, rock-oriented tracks thrown in, the best of which is "Gangster Chase" by Guido & Maurizio De Angelis: this relentlessly rhythmic instrumental shoots out of the gate with chicken-scratching rhythm guitars dueling over lightning-paced drums, and just keeps building as swirling organ riff and scatting chorus vocals join the mix. In between all this excitement, the compilers wisely thrown in the occasional track of straightforward easy listening to give the listener a breather: the most memorable of these is Riz Ortolani's "Notte Di Grand Hotel," a lovely track that uses a lilting string arrangement to bring its ethereal, waltz-paced melody to life. The end result is a set of tracks that cut through enough genres to sustain the listener's interest, yet are similar enough in slickness and production style to hold together as a consistent compilation. This unique combination of the factors makes Easy Tempo, Vol. 1 a great introduction to Italian lounge music, and a surefire pick for anyone interested in the international lounge sound.

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