I first discovered the pop joy that is Gruppo Sportivo in, of all places, some random dude’s garage not far from my house. I was dropping off my car for an oil change and saw a sandwich board set up outside a neighborhood advertising records for sale. So after I got the car back I snaked through the neighborhood and eventually found the place, the garage completely slammed with records (and a thick layer of dust). Seems the guy used to own a store or something and still had all of this stuff. Now if I’m being honest it was mostly junk – the same old used rock records you can find anywhere, in generally marginal condition, and most of it overpriced. Even the one record I decided to buy, Gruppo Sportivo’s Mistakes, was probably too much, but I wanted to come away with something and it seemed interesting enough. And it was – Holly and I both enjoyed it, and we’ve kept our eyes peeled for Sportivo record ever since.
Needless to say we were quite excited to see a new Gruppo Sportivo comp on the Record Store Day 2019 list, and even more so when we found a copy at Seattle’s Silver Platters. Vinylly! is a 2 X LP on yellow vinyl in a sturdy, brightly colored gatefold in a numbered limited edition of 500 copies. My guess is that most copies ended up in the band’s native Netherlands – that’s where almost all of the copies for sale on Discogs originate, plus the liner notes are in Dutch (OK, I’m guessing here… they’re not in English, and I can also eliminate French and Spanish…). I can’t speak to the band’s popularity in the English speaking world, but I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned them to anyone here in the US and gotten anything but a blank stare in return. Their loss.
Vinylly! consists of 29 songs from the band’s 1979-1991 period (Gruppo Sportivo is still active, their most recent album being 2018s Great). At the most basic level their music is pop, though infused with elements of rock, ska, new wave, and even a bit of funk. High points include “My Old Coritina” and a cover of Wall of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio”. Sure, some of the songs are a bit dated – pop seldom holds up as well as rock, but it’s still a lot of fun. Gruppo Sportivo have released roughly a dozen comps over the decades and I can’t tell you how Vinylly! compares to the others, though it is the first to come out on vinyl since Greatest Hats in 1984.
At $30+ there are certainly less expensive entry points into the band’s music. Shoot, if you’re patient you might be able to pick up their first seven albums, which cover the time period of this comp, for roughly that price. But if you’re a vinyl junkie like me this is the perfect way to take a deep dive into the Gruppo Sportivo catalog.