Not only does 2015 represent the year we don’t have flying cars, it also marks 30 years since the release of Clio’s “Faces,” an absolute classic of the Italo Disco genre.
Some of you might recognize the song without ever having heard the original. Electric Youth reintroduced the cut with a slightly faster pace to new audiences on 2009’s Valerie and Friends compilation on David “College” Grellier’s Valerie Collective and Grand Blanc.
I love that version, but Clio’s original, written by Roberto Ferrante, is a highly precious commodity. The drum machine puts out a big, steady beat. You can feel the snare. The punchy and delicate synthesizers are gorgeous, colorful and full of catchy and bittersweet melodies. They slink and strut and adeptly wander in a way that keeps you at arm’s length just long enough to make you replay the song over and over.
Then there’s Clio’s vocals. They’re sufficiently dispassionate — in that way that Italo Disco vocals often are — but they’re also sweet, savory and serious in a way that perfectly complements the song. When the chorus kicks in, Clio grabs you by the face with her soft, Mediterranean hands and throughly reels you in.
Who is Clio? Clio, born Maria Chiara Perugini and known for her work with Clio & Kay, put out the “Faces” 12-inch on the excellent Crash label in Italy and Chic label in Germany.
I can imagine hearing this song at a discotheque in Rome or Milan in 1985 and, feeling inspired by the spirit of the song, approaching some sexy woman of Lo Stivale with a little more confidence than I’d usually have. I’d ask her to, at a minimum, dance. She’d probably decline, but at least Clio would give me the courage to try.
There’s also a festive bridge that shakes things up a bit, with a shinier incarnation of the melody that carries over into the chorus that closes the song on fade-out. Just like that, the faces are gone.
Clio’s original 1985 version
Electric Youth’s 2009 cover on the Valerie and Friends compilation
Clio, born Maria Chiara Perugini and known for her work with Clio & Kay, put out the “Faces” 12-inch (backed with “Feel the Fear”) on the excellent Crash label in Italy and German label Chic. It was written and produced by Ferrante, an esteemed Italo Disco producer who founded the Naples-based Planet Records, according to Discogs.
For more information on Electric Youth’s version, plus their unique intersection with Roberto Ferrante, when they sought his permission to use their cover in a TV commercial, check out this interview.
(Editor’s Note: The Beat’s Alive is my new, occasional column focusing on everything associated with the Italo Disco genre, from the artists and their music, to the culture and history that created them, and anything else that comes up. Because I’m so damn predictable, I got the column’s name from a Glass Candy song. Viva Italians!)