Not Your Average Hit List

© Kathi Prosser/ Floria Sigismondi for the album cover.

© Dalbello/Dalbello & Dalbello Toonz/ EMI Music/Territory for the music (excerpt).

© Per A.J. Andersson for the text. Written July 2002, updated November 2011.

by Dalbello

With only a single album release over the last two decades, the Dalbello of today is far away from the public light. It's as if her dynamic scene personality, powerful voice and sometimes controversial compositions were too much for the musical scene. Her career bears witness of how artistic independence and the music business are two very different things, an experience built upon for her 1996 album "Whore".

— • —

Lisa Dal Bello was born in the Toronto area, Canada in 1958, of mixed British/Italian descent. In the house soul and rhytm-and-blues was being played. She became a self-taught guitar player, and also began writing her own compositions.

The young prodigy had begun singing professionally at the age of 13, taking part in the folk music scene. Before soon she was busy with background singing in TV shows and in making radio jingles.

In 1975 Dal Bello got her own recording contract with US based MCA Records. Her debut album, a soul and R&B record, was released two years later and mis-marketed only to fit in with the disco craze.

— • —

The first album and the follow-up, a more direct pop record released in 1979, were acknowledged back in Canada, both earning her the local Juno awards. Breakthrough in the US eluded her, however, and the recordings for her third album left Lisa feeling pushed around by a record company wanting to fit her into the general mould.

Eventually she took a long leave from the music business, studying at the university and using the time to write poetry. She promised herself to quit making music entirely, if she couldn't do it "her way".

One day she got a phone call from a Briton she didn't even know the name of. He presented himself as Mick Ronson, noticing her on a music documentary while recording in Toronto. This once-guitarist for David Bowie and Lisa Dal Bello immediately got on speaking terms, and the first result was their co-production of "Whomanfoursays" (pronounce as "human forces", as in the joint forces of Mick and Lisa).

— • —

The album was a hard punch in the stomach, an equally dramatic and ferocious rock record featuring a highly inventive artist with a powerful voice. The critics took to accolades, comparing her to a Canadian version of Kate Bush. With her new name Dalbello, she put across a message that this was a something different than her previous records.

During this period Dalbello got a following in northern parts of Europe, where "Black on Black" and "Tango" from her next album "She" became single hits. She went on to tour Germany and Scandinavia, collaborating with German group Nena and taking up other projects while in Europe.

Both Ronson and Dalbello hit hard rock with the record company, though, delaying the American release of the album for two years. Dalbello and the company went different ways, and she was back to writing songs for others. Further collaborations with Ronson had to be shelved, when he got ill and eventually succumbed to cancer in 1993.

— • —

New inspiration came from Lisa's brother Stefano, with whom she finally got her new project finalised in 1996. The co-production sounded very contemporary. It was as intense and bold as "Whomanfoursays", with a roller-coaster range of emotions further emphasized by a powerful use of sound distortions and processed vocals. This music was not for the faint of heart. But for those that could cope with its un-compromising attitude, it could be equally rewarding as, say, Kate Bush's "The Dreaming".

The album cover shows a sculpture of Dalbello's torso, mounted on a pedestal with the word "whore" on a plate. It's significance was explained by Dalbello when interviewed by Billboard:

"I wanted something reflecting what you can become when you place your self-esteem into the hands of someone else. It's the me I could become if I don't remind myself of the things I believe in. It speaks for the record and the path I went through to make it." //


(Spin/EMI, 1996)

• Heavy Boots
• Easy
• Whore
• Eleven (EXCERPT)
• Falling Down
• O L'il Boy (*)
• Deep Dark Hole
• Yippie
• All That I Want
• Revenge of Sleeping Beauty

Compositions: Dalbello/Stefano Dalbello
(* Stefano Dalbello/Dani Elwell)
Production: Dalbello/Richard G. Benoit

(first three as Lisa Dal Bello)
• Lisa Dal Bello (1977)
• Pretty Girls (1979)
• Drastic Measures (1981)
• Whomanfoursays (1984)
• She (1987)

• Whore (1996)

More to read

All Music Guide
Ectophile's Guide
Sleeping Beauty (short story inspired by Dalbello songs)
Yahoogroups (mailing list)

Related artists
Kate Bush (dynamic vocalist)
• Peter Gabriel (his fourth album)
• Heart (collaboration)
• Patti Labelle (collaboration)
Stina Nordenstam (like in "Dynamite")
• Rush (vocals for solo album "Victor")
• Toto (members played on first album)
• Gino Vannelli (fellow Canadian with prominent vocals)

Not Your Average Hit List 43 minutes... Alla är Ambition Consequences Door to Door The Dreaming Dzien i noc État d'urgence In the Spirit of Things Kaze no tani no Naushika Lights in the Night Martwa woda Nuit d'amour Once in a Million Open Door People Are Strange The Royal Scam Stationary Traveller Victim of Love Whore Music Up North Music Out West Music Far East Music Down South Films I Like a Lot Comic or Not On and Off TV About Me There's so much more out there ...