Archive for February 2009
Usually I don’t post “greatest hits” or “best of” stuff, but this is a whole other story.
Basically, it’s like if there were two distinct artists called “Alan Sorrenti”: the half Italian, half Welsh long-haired & long-bearded hippy vocal experimenter who worked with Luciano Cilio, Toni Esposito, Jean-Luc Ponty, Francis Monkman from Curved Air and Dave Jackson from Van der Graaf Generator versus the moustached, well hairdressed falsetto singing latin lover who recorded with Toto as a backing band and whose most successful songs are featured in almost every oldies collection released. The tiny minority of people worldwide who know and love his early folk/prog works (that is two albums released on Harvest Records: Aria – “air” – 1972, and Come un vecchio incensiere all’alba di un villaggio deserto – “like an old incense burner at a desert village’s dawn” – 1973) most of the time dismiss his post-1974 career, while those who enjoy singing along with his disco-pop tunes usually can’t even fancy of a time when Alan was called “the Italian Tim Buckley” – “Bach-who?”.
This amazing 1980 EMI anthology knocks down this barrier, compiling in no chronological order ten songs seemingly the most distant from one another – and leaving aside his major hits such as “Figli delle stelle” or “Tu sei l’unica donna per me” – perhaps aiming at recovering some kind of an aesthetically and emotionally consistent general picture of the artist’s path from the beginnings to 1977.
Well, the mission is accomplished. The result is a mesmerizing stream of uncosciousness which lines up on the a side with no prejudice and an excellent taste the late seventies italo drama hint of “Notte di stelle” (an excerpt from the bestseller Figli delle stelle, “sons of the star”, 1977) with the ethereal “A te che dormi” (from Come un vecchio incensiere…); “Alba” (from Sienteme, it’s time to land, recorded in the States and released in 1976) with “Vorrei incontrarti” (from the first album) and the thin, sensual “Poco più piano” (from from the 1974 self-titled full-length).
The b side instead revolves around three songs in Neapolitan dialect, two of which are renditions of standards from the classical melodic songbook: the wonderful “Dicitincello vuje”, which topped the chart in 1974 and costed Sorrenti heavy protests from the alternative scenesters (at its worst, he was forced to leave the stage at the Licola Festival in 1975, when people from the audience started throwing bottles and cans), and “Passione”, arranged in a funky-disco fashion. Plus, it includes the sumptuous “E tu mi porti via” from the 1977 album and a scattered gem like “Le tue radici”, released as a stand alone single in 1975.
Here is the tracklist:
01, Notte di stelle (“starry night”)
02, A te che dormi (“to you sleeping”)
03, Alba (“dawn”)
04, Vorrei incontrarti (“i’d like to meet you”)
05, Poco più piano (“a little slower”)
06, Dicitincello vuje (“go and tell her”)
07, Le tue radici (“your roots”)
08, Sienteme (“listen to me”)
09, Passione (“passion”)
10, E tu mi porti via (“and you take me away”)
Alan Sorrenti has released five other albums since 1980 – not counting the compilations – the last being Sottacqua (“underwater”, 2003), none of which managed to regain his late seventies success. Incidentally, his sister Jane “Jenny” Sorrenti is a gifted singer herself; she founded the short-lived folk/prog band Saint Just in 1973, and is still active as a live performer.
[edit February 16th, 2009: that’s an interesting case of synchronicity – whatever. I just noticed that Jim at Mutant Sounds released a download link for this long-time lost record a couple of hours before I clicked the “Publish” button for this post. Check out their version too, with huge front/back cover pics, and a different rip encoding.]
Cosmic joker nel blu dipinto di blu. Or: mediterranEurock. It’s not by chance, indeed, that this time the Couriers’ spacecraft is a flying marranzano (the italian for jew’s harp) floating on the cover. After all, there aren’t much italian musicians who had the chance to work at first hand with german krautrock gurus – the only other names which come to my mind are Baffo Banfi from Biglietto per l’inferno, who had a couple of solo albums produced by Klaus Schulze between 1979 and 1981, and Gianna Nannini teaming up with Conny Plank from 1982 until the latter’s death in 1987 for a series of europewide successful records, with Jaki Liebezeit from Can as a session drummer.
In 1974, when Roberto Cacciapaglia entered the studio with Ohr Records founder and cosmic rock éminence grise Rolf Ulrich Kaiser, he was mostly known as the guy who sat behind the keyboards for Battiato’s second album Pollution. Actually, the music which resulted from these sessions – edited and released as Sonanze (“sonances”) the following year – was more or less related with Battiato’s early Seventies works, and somehow recalled the coeval explorations of major kosmische achievers such as Popol Vuh, Tangerine Dream or the same Schulze; neverthless, it retained something unique and inherently personal: a peculiar upward structure, an esthetical rectitude, an almost classical composure which placed it out of the space/acid rock canon, and was likely to be an heritage of Cacciapaglia’s academic training as a composer (he graduated at Milan’s “Giuseppe Verdi” conservatory before joining the phonology research team at RAI – the italian national broadcasting system – and working with the CNR – “national resarch centre” – in Pisa).
To strengthen this impression, we’re having a complete orchestra here gliding its way into the stratosphere by drones and blows, which refer to early XX century atonal tradition, while the manipulation of processed vocals (such as in the 2nd Movement) anticipated the monomanic, mesmerizing Tail of the Tiger by Roberto Laneri’s Prima Materia, providing some gusts of high solar wind. When it comes to post-impressionistic/minimal piano patterns, then, such as in the 3rd Movement, there you find yourself effortlessy climbing a spiral staircase to the stars.
Here is the tracklist:
01, 1st Movement
02, 2nd Movement
03, 3rd Movement
04, 4th Movement
05, 5th Movement
06, 6th Movement
07, 7th Movement
08, 8th Movement
09, 9th Movement
10, 10th Movement
After the exploit of Sonanze (oddly released in Italy through PDU, the label founded by Mina and Augusto Martelli), Roberto Cacciapaglia went on experimenting with contemporary classic music and electronics, studying ancient sacred music and the non-musical power of sound and performing with the most diverse artists and in all kind of environments.
He also worked in the pop music industry as a refined and innovative arranger and producer for the model/actress/singer Ann Steel (in the legendary Ann Steel Album, 1979), Gianna Nannini (G.N., 1981), Giuni Russo (Vox, 1983), Ivan Cattaneo (Bandiera Gialla – “yellow flag” – 1983), Alice (Gioielli rubati – “stolen jewels”, a collection of Franco Battiato’s covers – 1985), and is a successful author of music for commercials.
His most recent effort is Canone degli spazi (“canon of the spaces”), recorded with the London Philarmonic Orchestra and released in January, 2009. You can visit his official website (also in english) for more detailed info.
Given its commitment for a musica totale (“total music”) and its endeavours to establish a new urban rock form supporting artists such as Eugenio Finardi, Alberto Camerini, Andrea Tich, the same Claudio Rocchi, it made somehow perfectly sense that in the late Seventies Cramps Records directed its attention to the then rising italian punk scene, releasing already in 1978 “Karabigniere blues/Io sono un autonomo”, a single by Skiantos, the “demented rock” band which I already mentioned in the post about Gaznevada’s tape, and then their LPs MONOtono (“MONOtone”, 1978 ) and Kinotto (1979).
Following these first steps, in 1980, during the difficult times after the death of Demetrio Stratos, in the middle of “riflusso” and when its founder Gianni Sassi was increasingly losing interest in the label’s events, a new series of coloured-vynil 7″ by seven (post)punk acts from Central-Northern Italy was launched, under the name of “Rock ’80”. The songs from these singles (with the exception of Skiantos’ b-side “Mi piaccion le sbarbine” and Kaos Rock’s “Oh! Caro amore/Policeman”) were then collected in the same name album, curated and mixed by Paolo Tofani. A record which I consider the most meaningful epitath for this daring, clumsy, glorious independent record company.
Bologna led off the dance with two bands which had debuted on Harpo’s tapes series: just Skiantos, with a bowel-moving delirious funky about beans (“i fagioli son la mia anfetamina, i fagioli saran la mia rovina”: “beans are my amphetamine, beans will ruin me”…) and street rockers Windopen, with their anthem “Sei in banana dura” and the sleazy “La testa”. Skiantos ended up being one of the most influential and long-lived outfits in italian rock history. They’re alive and kicking, and a new album, Dio ci deve delle spiegazioni (“god owes us some explanations”) has been recently released. Windopen founder Roberto Terzani later joined Litfiba as a bass player when Gianni Maroccolo left the band, in 1990.
The Stranglers/2-Tone-oriented Take Four Doses from Rome – featuring Stefano Pistolini, now a well-known journalist and writer – wheezing introduced the Milan contributions: Kaos Rock were Gianni Muciaccia’s band with Luigi Schiavone on the guitars, who later joined Enrico Ruggeri in his successful solo career. Their a-side “Basta, basta” was already included as the opening track in the live tribute to Demetrio Stratos 1979 Il concerto (“1979 the concert”, 1979), but not in their sole album WW3 (1980). Wavey-garage X-Rated also appeared in the legendary Gathered (1982) compilation, together with Diaframma, Pankow, Not Moving, Death SS, Victrola, and others, before disappearing. As for Kandeggina Gang, you can check out my post about Jo Squillo Eletrix’s Girl senza paura, which featured a different version of their b-side “Orrore”.
Dirty Actions from Genoa completed the line-up with their prodigious ironic, messy clang’n’roll (“siamo figli del demonio, vi spacchiamo le vetrine, vi bruciamo le officine, vi alziamo le cantine, vi traviamo le bambine, vi vuotiamo le piscine, vi turbiamo le vecchine”, “we are sons of the devil, we smash your shop-windows, we burn your garages, we lift up your cellars, we corrupt your baby girls, we empty your swimming pools, we upset your little old ladies”). Their song “Bandana boys” was later included in Gathered as well. They seem still active; you can learn more about them on their web page.
Here is the tracklist:
01, Skiantos, Fagioli (“beans”)
02, Windopen, Sei in banana dura (“you’re in a hard banana”, street slang referring to a drug-related state of confusion)
03, Windopen, La testa (“the head”)
04, Take Four Doses, Vita di strada (“street life”)
05, Take Four Doses, La notte che inventarono gli eroi (“the night they invented heroes”)
06, Kaos Rock, Basta, basta (“that’s enough, that’s enough”)
07, Kaos Rock, La rapina (“the robbery”)
08, X-Rated, Blockhead dance
09, X-Rated, Routine
10, Kandeggina Gang, Sono cattiva (“i’m bad”)
11, Kandeggina Gang, Orrore (“horror”)
12, Dirty Actions, Rosa shocking (“shocking pink”)
13, Dirty Actions, Figli del demonio (Dirty Actions S-Ha) (“sons of the devil (dirty actions s-ha)”)
Get it: AA. VV., Rock ’80 (1980)
A revolutionary avant-folk storyteller, an arte povera experimental performer, an “oggettista corpofonista” (“objectist bodyphonist”) as he defines himself, Enzo Del Re or Delre – as spelled on this album’s cover – born in 1944 in Mola di Bari, Apulia, South-East of Italy, has been one of the few italian artists, together with Francesco Currà, to apply to music, maybe unknowingly, the well-known Jean-Luc Godard’s plea: “it’s not about making political films, but rather making films politically” (I’m quoting by heart).
A restive anarchist, soon after graduating at the local conservatory he abandoned the academy to pursue a personal and unique musical language caught between roots and modernity, coherence and contradiction, folk singleness and cultured experimentalism, joined in his research by the ethnomusicologist Antonio Infantino; as a proletarian musician who merely had at his disposal his own sheer working force, his hands, his arms, his legs, Del Re chose to play only significant found objects and recycled materials, used as percussion instruments – mostly chairs, as a nonverbal and sorrowful protest against electrocution and death penalty in general, or a suitcase, as in Vittorio Franceschi’s Qui tutto bene… e così spero di te (“things are fine here… and so i hope with you”, 1971), a theatrical play about “emigration and imperialism” – and clicking his tongue and beating his own body and face. A radical, marginal sound worker, who in the Seventies used to take three shifts a day, playing two gigs for free at occupied factories, schools, universities, and getting for the last one a metal worker’s daily minimum wage. The same continuous and monotonous rythm he used as sole accompaniment to his songs seemed produced by a clapped out assembly line.
Il banditore (“the town crier”) – released in 1974 after his experiences with Dario Fo’s theatrical company Nuova scena (“new stage”) and at the legendary Derby Club in Milan with Enzo Jannacci, and following his 1973 debut album Maul (“Mola” in local dialect) – is a full and detailed report about the work of this postindustrial agit-prop cantastorie who tirelessly travelled all over the country, spreading his word and critically supporting the revolutionary movement.
The record testified his immutable and hieratic style, seemingly coming from an ancient past or from a far future, inducing a sort of ecstatic experience by iterativity; an uninterrupted stream which made live together tarantella with musique concrète, The Last Poets with his hometown fishermen’s screaming (even if Enzo’s voice tone and the way he offers lyrics remind insistently of Luigi Tenco). However, there are moments which stand out of the flow, as the title track with its comics’ onomatopoeias and the siren in the end, between an anti-aircraft alarm and a factory hooter; the ritual latin mixed with real and fake advertising claims of “Laudet et benedicitet (Infantino)”; the ironic thirdworldist namedropping of “Comico”: hints of a sadly unaccomplished mediterranean cannibalism – in the sense of the Manifesto Antropófago by Oswald de Andrade, which inspired the Tropicália movement. And, of course, the dazzling dyptich of “Lavorare con lentezza” and “Tengo ‘na voglia e fa niente”, written in an hotel room in Bologna, which represents one of the most revolutionary anti-work statements ever.
Here is the tracklist:
01, Il banditore (“the town crier”)
02, Lavorare con lentezza (“working slowly”)
03, Tengo ‘na voglia e fa niente (“i feel like doin’ nuthin'”)
04, Laudet et benedicitet (Infantino)
05, La fretta (“the hurry”)
06, La sopravvivenza (“the survival”)
07, Il superuomo (“the superman”)
08, Voglio fare il boia (“i wanna be a hangman”)
09, Scimpanzè (“chimpanzee”)
10, La 124 (“the 124”, referring to a FIAT car model)
11, Comico (“funny”)
12, La rivoluzione (“the revolution”)
Get it: Enzo Delre, Il banditore (1974)
Unbeknown to him, “Lavorare con lentezza” was used as broadcasts’ opening and closing signature tune by Radio Alice, the movement’s pirate radio in Bologna, from 1976 until March 12th, 1977, the day after the killing of the student Francesco Lorusso by a carabiniere during a streetfight, when the police burst in the studios and terminated transmissions.
In 2004, Guido Chiesa directed a movie about the story of Radio Alice, titled Lavorare con lentezza and featuring the song in its soundtrack. This led to a short-lived rediscovery of Del Re’s work, which anyway didn’t particularly affect his semi-retirement, as for the tribute that fellow musicians such as Eugenio Bennato, Daniele Sepe, and Etnoritmo paid him covering or sampling his songs.
He still plays concerts occasionally, where his self-produced tapes or cd-r’s are available to buy. You can happen to meet him around his hometown’s port, where he usually sits with old fishermen speaking, drinking, and playing cards.