Many male schlock fans of a cer­tain age smile at the men­tion of the name Laura Gemser.  This is because many of them spent a good chunk of their teenage years watch­ing her in the Black Emanuelle (*) film series, a string of films that cap­i­tal­ized on the pop­u­lar­ity of Emmanuelle to cre­ate its own run­ning sto­ry­line of a glo­be­trot­ting pho­to­jour­nal­ist whose trav­els are always filled with erotic escapades.  Several of these film were main­stays of “Skinemax” pro­gram­ming and entranced count­less future schlock­ma­ni­acs with their T&A-filled Eurosleaze trav­el­ogues.  It also helped that direc­tor Joe D’Amato knew how to give it all a lovely visual gloss — and the occa­sional ele­ment of kink or shock that would leave the viewer with their jaw hanging.

However, Ms. Gemser and D’Amato’s knack for cre­at­ing well-photographed sleaze wasn’t the only appeal­ing ele­ment in these films.  They also had amaz­ing sound­tracks by Italian com­poser Nico Fidenco.  The music for a typ­i­cal Black Emanuelle entry wasn’t the typ­i­cal, generic porno-funk asso­ci­ated with this era of sex­ploita­tion film­mak­ing — it offered a mix­ture of sump­tu­ous orches­tra­tion, lounge-inflected melod­i­cism and exot­ica ele­ments that aided the films tremen­dously in cre­at­ing their dis­tinc­tive style.  Long after the illicit thrill of the images fade away, those lush sounds linger in the memory.

Black Emanuelle’s Groove cherry-picks the finest sound­track cues from Fidenco’s scores for four of the D’Amato/Gemser col­lab­o­ra­tions.  This music is exot­ica in the best sense of the term – com­poser Nico Fidenco had a knack for weld­ing the regional quirks and unusual instru­ments of many cul­tures to irre­sistible pop melodies.  For instance, “Samba Safari” welds a mock-Hawaiian melody that could have been plucked from a Lawrence Welk album (com­plete with kitsch-jazz horns) over a throb­bing bed of Brazilian-sounding percussion.

And Fidenco is as skilled at arrang­ing his mate­r­ial as he is at com­pos­ing it.  For instance, “Emanuelle In America Sweet,’ “Sweet’s Variations” and “Spellbound” are all rearrange­ments of the same theme but each sounds rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent – the first is a moody erotic piece that builds to a dra­matic fin­ish, the sec­ond is a funky shuf­fle with icy strings glid­ing over its top and the last is a spooky sus­pense builder that wrings plenty of ten­sion from synths and Spaghetti-western gui­tar riffs. The com­bi­na­tion of ambi­tious genre-bending and Fidenco’s musi­cal chops adds up a sonic trav­el­ogue that takes you to far-off places while still pro­vid­ing enough melodic hooks to ensure you still feel at home.

The only real flaws with this col­lec­tion are that it doesn’t cover all of the Black Emanuelle films  and it mostly avoids the film’s vocal-oriented theme songs (the omis­sion of the vocal ver­sion of “A Picture Of Love,” which sounds like the best Abba song that Abba never recorded, is a real loss).  That said, the album offers a strong col­lec­tion of mate­r­ial and is skill­fully pro­grammed for a smooth, lounge-y lis­ten­ing expe­ri­ence.  If you’re look­ing an entry point into the world of exotic 1970’s Italian sound­tracks, Black Emanuelle’s Groove is a great place to begin your journey.

(*) Note: the omis­sion of the sec­ond ‘m’ in Black Emanuelle isn’t a typo.  The pro­duc­ers pre­sum­ably did this on pur­pose to avoid copy­right infringement/plagiarism lawsuits