Mina-The Queen Of Italian Pop-Classic Ri-Fi Recordings 1963-1967.

Label: Ace Records.

Format: CD.

Mina Anna Mazzini was born in Busto Arsizio, in Italy, on the ’25th’ of March 1940, and by the time she was eighteen, Mina as she was now billed, had already embarked upon a career as a professional singer and released her debut single. In 1959, Mina made her debut on th,e variety shows that were popular on Italian television and would a familiar face right through to the late-seventies. By then, she was well on her way to becoming Italy’s most successful female recording artist.

Since releasing her debut single  in 1958, Mina has released over 100 singles and in excess of seventy albums. In total, she has recorded over 1,500 songs, and has sold more that 150 million records  worldwide. Mina has also enjoyed number one albums in Italy every decade since the sixties. She’s also enjoyed commercial success all around the world, but not in Britain where very few of her singles and albums were released. However, Ace Records have just released a new compilation The Queen Of Italian Pop-Classic Ri-Fi Recordings 1963-1967 which for newcomers to Mina’s music is the perfect introduction Italy’s biggest selling singer.

When Mina signed to Ri-Fi in 1963, she was seen as a controversial figure in conservative Italy and had been ostracised by the establishment. This came about after she had a relationship with married actor Corrado Pani and became pregnant. In Italy in the early sixties this fell foul of the Catholic church’s strict moral code and the nation’s moral arbiters were horrified. So much so, that the state broadcaster RAI had banned her from radio and television. This meant that the only time the public saw her was when she appeared on television commercials. Despite this, her popularity hadn’t been affected and neither had her record sales. Mina’s fan even campaigned for her return and the ban to be lifted. The twenty-three year old singer was just as popular as ever and after the after the birth of her son she signed to Ri-Fi which was the able to take a chance on Mina.

The signing made commercial sense. Mina was just as popular as ever and had fans all over Europe. Ri-Fi would exploit her emancipated bad girl image in an attempt to increase her popularity in Italy and further afield. To do this, they took time choosing the songs that she would release as singles and would feature on her albums. The twenty-four tracks on The Queen Of Italian Pop-Classic Ri-Fi Recordings 1963-1967 are taken from these albums.

Having signed to Ri-Fi, Città Vuota (It’s A Lonely Town) was chosen as her first single for the new label. The Gene Daniels composition   reached number three in the Italian charts in 1963 and remained on the charts for six months. Mina was the comeback Queen.

The success continued when she released a cover of Jodie Miller’s È L’uomo Per Me (He Walks Like A Man) for her second single for Ri-Fi. It reached number one on the Italian charts where it stayed for nine weeks. This was just the start.

More success came Mina’s way when her third single Un Buco Nella Sabbia which reached number ten in the Italian charts and gave Mina a hit in Spain and Japan. The followup  Io Sono Quel Che Sono then reached number four in Italy and was hit in Spain and Turkey. Ri-Fi’s decision to sign Mina had paid off.

Buoyed by the success of her first four singles for Ri-Fi, Mina released her first album for the label. It was very different to the albums she had released on Italdisc which were just collections of singles. Studio Uno was released in 1964 and was Mina’s first “proper” artist album. The album also reflected her musical taste and featured covers of songs by her idol Frank Sinatra and Jobim’s Bossa Nova classic Insensatez. It was joined on Studio Uno by her first four singles for Ri-Fi as well as So Che Mi Vuoi (It’s For You), L’ultima Occasione (Uno Come Te) and an impressive reading of Tu Farai..These tracks were part of a commercially successful album that helped lift Mina’s profile at home and abroad.

By the end of 1964, Mina was now one of the most popular television stars in Italy. It was hard to believe that she had just come in from the cold after being ostracised by the Italian establishment after her relationship with Corrado Pani came to light.

Meanwhile, Mina’s popularity was growing and in Europe and as far afield as Japan. She was one of Italy’s most successful musical exports, and that would continue to be the case.

In 1966, Mina returned with a new album Studio Uno 66. Eleven of the twelve songs had been released as singles she had released during 1965 and 1966. They were a mixture of ballads and uptempo tracks that showcased the twenty-six year old’s versatility. Some of the best tracks on the album were ballads. This includes her last single of 1965 Addio, which features an impassioned vocal. Two singles from 1966 find Mina living the lyrics of the songs. There’s her hurt-filled reading of Breve Amore (You Never Told Me) and a heartfelt and emotive cover of  Se Telefonando…Its B-Side No, is also included on the compilation and features a powerful vocal on a jangly slice of pop. It’s one of the hidden gems on Studio 66 which was the next chapter in the rise and rise of Mina.

During 1966, Mina and singer and guitarist Giorgio Gaber released a split sided album Un’Ora Con Loro. Mina’s six songs were on the first side and included Più Di Te (I Won’t Tell) Brava where she used her full vocal range during a stunning rendition of the song. It showcased a talented and versatile singer whose popularity continued to grown.

In September 1966, Mina released Sono Come Tu Mi Vuoi as a single and it was her biggest hit of the year in her native Italy. The single peaking at number two in October, and became the theme to the radio show Gran Varieta which Mina was often a guest on.

Mina also released her second album of 1966 late in the year. Her previous album Studio 66 was a collection of singles, while Mina 2 featured a number of cover versions of songs made famous by Frank Sinatra. Other songs included her powerful interpretation of Invitation which was originally recorded by American torch singer Dakota Staton. It was joined by her breathtaking version of Un’Ora Con Loro which Cuban band La Sonora made famous in the fifties. These are two of the highlights of Mina 2 which was an accomplished album that showed a different side to Mina who was maturing as a singer.

This was evident on her next album Sabato Sera Studio Uno 1967. It featured songs of the quality of the ballads L’immensità and Sabati E Domeniche. They’re two of the highlights of the album along with the poppy sounding Conversazione which was the theme to a television show Mina regularly hosted. However, the best known song was the single La Banda (A Banda) which reached number three in 1967. Its B-Side Se C’è Una Cosa Che Mi Fa Impazzire features and is a hidden gem in Mina’s discography

In October 1967, Ri-Fi released Tu Non Mi Lascerai as a single and on the B-side was Cartoline. It went on to become a favourite of Mina’s fans old and new. This was all in the future.

Just before the end of 1967, Mina moved to Lugano, in Switzerland, where she and her father founded the PDU label. It was a new and exciting chapter in the twenty-seven year old singer’s career and saw her take control of her music. Mina was a musical pioneer and led the way for future generations of singers to found their own record labels. Fifty-three years later and Mina  continues to release albums on her PDU label and is by far the most successful Italian female recording artist.

Before she founded PDU, Minawas  signed to Ri-Fi where she kick-started her career after being ostracised by the Italian establishment. She came back stronger than ever and her career went from strength-to-strength at Ri-Fi as she enjoyed hit singles in Italy and across Europe and as far afield as Japan. The albums she released during this period were commercially successful and showcased a successful and versatile vocalist who was just as comfortable singing ballads as uptempo tracks. Proof of this can be found on Ace Records new Mina compilation The Queen Of Italian Pop-Classic Ri-Fi Recordings 1963-1967 which was compiled by Mick Patrick. It’s a reminder of when comeback Queen Mina reclaimed her crown and was crowned the undisputed Queen Of Italian pop between 1963-1967 and beyond.

Mina-The Queen Of Italian Pop-Classic Ri-Fi Recordings 1963-1967.

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