Published on December 14th, 2015 | by Hondo0
Soul Rock – Ezy & Isaac
Last week I was honoured by the Italian city of Livorno. I said nice things about them in a couple of my books so they invited me over for a ceremony in the historic Mercato Centrale. One of the butchers got a little irate that it was being held right next to his stall and periodically hurled abuse at me and the assistant mayor. But other than that, it seemed to go pretty well. I was declared a friend of the city and given a bottle of olive oil for my troubles.
It’s not clear what brought Ezekiel ‘Ezy’ Hart and Isaac Olashugba to Italy in 1974. While most Nigerian musicians were heading to London they ended up in Milan, recording an album called Soul Rock with the Funky Fella and spending the next twenty years touring Italy, Switzerland and Monte Carlo.
Both Ezy & Isaac were respected musicians back in Nigeria. Isaac had played with Fela Kuti for five years. Ezy had written songs for the Koolio Lobitos. So it should be no surprise that that Soul Rock is regarded as the holy grail of Italo-Nigerian Funk. The good news is that Hot Casa have just re-issued Soul Rock in all its tutti-frutti, retro glory. And with the original cover that must go down as one of the best album covers ever.
Soul Rock is an album that is impossible to listen to without a grin on your face. Word has it that Tamla Mowtown wanted to release it, but the deal fell through because of ‘technical issues.’ It’s the super-funky sound of Italian TV, where women sound like men, the men look like Silvio Berlusconi and the dance troupes are impossibly glamorous. It’s slinky, groovy and slightly ridiculous.
Soul Rock is an album that is impossible to listen to without a grin on your face. It’s slinky, groovy and slightly ridiculous.
Have a listen to ‘Not All Bad, Not All Good’ and you’ll know exactly what I mean.
I’d like to think that one of their tours Ezy and Isaac stopped by Livorno. Maybe they played a stripped-back set under the football pennants in Bar Civili, impressing the old dudes playing dominoes with Afrobeat chops honed on hot sweaty nights in the Shrine in Lagos with Fela.
I know that the Livornese would have loved their music and appreciated their funky threads. They are so much more accepting than their uptight neighbours in Pisa and Lucca.
I’ve got the olive oil to prove it.