Holly Beth Vincent

Holly & the Italians

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Returning to her adopted home of England after the breakup of her band Holly & the Italians during the sessions for their one and only album, Holly Beth Vincent was still contractually obligated to Virgin Records for another release. Lacking a band, Vincent hooked up with producer Mike Thorne, who introduced her to London session musicians Bobby Valentino (ex-Fabulous Poodles, violin and mandolin), Bobby Collins (ex-Automatics, bass) and Kevin Wilkinson (future China Crisis/Squeeze, drums). With Thorne on keyboards, the group recorded an album that had almost nothing to do with the buzzsaw pop-punk of Vincent's old band. However, Virgin released the album as Holly & the Italians by Holly Beth Vincent, promptly confusing almost everyone and disappointing many of the fans who were expecting The Right to Be Italian, Pt/ 2. Holly & the Italians has a dense, muddy sound; Vincent's distracted, deadpan vocals hover in the middle distance, always in danger of being swallowed up by the murk surrounding them. Rather than being a defect, the molasses-thick production actually benefits the album; Vincent's lyrics sound dejected when they're not completely abstract, and this musical miasma suits them perfectly. The helpless chorus of the opening "Honalu" sounds much more effectively claustrophobic in these surroundings, with guest John Gatchell's trumpet interjections the only musical element able to crest the morass of sludge. The results are almost like a new wave version of Sly & the Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On.

At the time, the album's most controversial track was its single, a version of Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" recast as a hypnotic, percussion-heavy dirge that's ten times doomier than the comparatively sunny original. On this track, as on the rest of the album, Valentino's mandolin and violin are mixed as high as Vincent's fuzz-toned guitar, giving the arrangements a unique feel. Although poorly reviewed and largely ignored upon its release, a small but dedicated cult has grown around this strangely beautiful album. There are notable differences between the U.K. and U.S. editions of Holly & the Italians. The U.S. edition replaces "Only Boy," the only song that even comes close to sounding like The Right to Be Italian, with the far superior "Dangerously," and completely rearranges the song order. Unlike most U. S. tamperings with U.K. releases, these changes actually improve the album's flow considerably.

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