Midway through the first half of my life I found myself found in a beautiful wood. Which is a way of saying that I got lucky in my late teens and spent a year in Italy.
It was 1974. A Pizza Margherita cost 300 lira. Ghiberti’s doors (the real ones) hung a half a block from my pensione. There was a Donatello down the street, and a dark sky full of golden stars in the same building. At night we’d dance at Club Andromeda, or walk into Piazza della Repubblica and listen to a local band play “Volare” or “A Lighter Shade of Pale” at the outdoor cafe.
A year after I left I went back with the idea of opening a Mexican restaurant. It was a good idea. My sister, her husband Gianni and I planned to serve enchiladas, tacos, chips and salsa to homesick Americans beneath pictures of Babe Ruth and Johnny Carson. We figured Italians would like a good enchilada, too.
We never opened the restaurant. But while I was in Florence that second time I got a German Shepherd puppy that I named Nadine. When I left I gave her to my sister and her Italian husband. I can still hear Gianni singing “Nadine! Honey is that you?” with his Florentine accent.
All of which I remembered instantly as I drove through Seattle last saturday evening playing a new CD by Milan’s The Boogie Ramblers.
The album, called “Let it Rock,” features a number of Chuck Berry covers, including the title song, “Nadine,” and “Christmas,” but it doesn’t stop there. The Boogie Ramblers do Fats Domino’s “My Girl Josephine” with a Zydeco feel. Lead singer and guitarist Geno B. Goode sounds a bit like Bob Dylan when he sings the catchy “Dark Glasses.” On the Ramblers’ lilting version of Chuck Berry’s “Come On” his gravelly voice reminds me of Bruce Springsteen, and on the grittier “It’s My Own Business,” Dr. John. These are good influences. But there’s something else. It’s an album of American music for sure, but one that reflects Italy’s own incredible musicality. And that’s why I keep listening, dragging the cd back and forth between my car and the house. This record is addictive.
Goode, (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Milan based music writer and musician Carmelo Genovese-- read all about Carmelo HERE) plays perfect Chuck Berry licks throughout the record. Tito “Boy” Oliveto adds his sometimes wistful, sometimes blazing harmonica; Attilio Saini's strong bass lines are punctuated by drummer Maurizio Bevilacqua's interesting beats on songs like “Dark Glasses” and “Come On” (he sometimes loses the backbeat in favor of something more complex and vaguely latin.) A bunch of guests add piano, guitar, sax, organ and banjo, giving the record a really full, enjoyable sound. Tolo Marton and our own CB II give witness on the liner. All in all, a fun record, perfect for a car stereo, perfect for summer.