[guests, music:] Flavio Giurato, Marco Polo (1984)
Hide and seek. Flavio Giurato: the man who uninvented himself.
Legend has it that back in 1982, right after the release of such an astonishing masterpiece as his second album, Il tuffatore (“the diver”), Flavio got completely hooked on the awesome tv series about Marco Polo, directed by Giuliano Montaldo and broadcasted by RAI. He would have sat at the piano after each episode, writing songs inspired by the story. This record would be the result of those automatic composing sessions.
We greatly thank our brother John Nicolò Martin, musician, lecturer, journalist, author of books about urban culture and revolutionary movements such as La luna sotto casa (“the moon just down the road”, 2007, written with the great, late Primo Moroni), and owner of the amazing John’s Classic Rock – perhaps the most exciting blog around dealing with Italian progressive and related – who supplied us with a passionate writing about this unique, daring, challenging work.
You can also check out the Italian version of this contribution in the Found in translation page.
We’re in the middle of the eighties. The capitalist frenzy reigns above big cities. Al Bano and Romina Power come first in Sanremo festival, Macintosh computer is born, Enrico Berlinguer dies, Berlusconi buys the tv station Rete4, and the masonic lodge P2 scandal breaks out. Communist party gives his last proof of life winning the european elections.
It’s the epic of Bettino Craxi, a modern equivalent of sixteenth century’s Milan Spanish governors: consumptions exceeding earnings, stellar mark-ups, rocketing corruption and fake progress based on virtual capital bound to crumble within a few years. There are fine urban brains, but they have to resist day by day, defending themselves against the new riches’ bullying: judges againt the PSI (the Italian socialist party), centri sociali against the evacuations, tram drivers against the mayors, workers against the “scala mobile” (the indexed wages scale) decree.
Showbiz is a social and media hotchpotch which flattens any transgression and from where only a handful of artists come out unharmed, and Flavio Giurato is one of them. Actually, otherwise than many of his colleagues, he insists in putting thought before materiality, risk before comfort, curiosity before habit: bearing a “clear creative madness” and alien to any compromise, the Roman artist makes his comeback after two years and two records as beautiful as mainly unnoticed.
The new album is called Marco Polo, that is, the story of the great explorer told through his feelings, his meetings and his passions. This release does not achieve the instant success it deserves either, yet, just like every single brick in a major city, it will remain grounded to its foundations, untouched by the ravages of time.
“Marco Polo è un bimbo, ma non così piccino” (“Marco Polo is a kid, but not that little”), that’s how the story begins of a just 17 years old twelfth century boy who moves to China to stay there more than fifteen years, discovering wonders never seen by the eye of a European man. From here on, Giurato captures each of his steps, each effort, each technical move obsessively repeated thousands of times, each peril and each marvel: from the origin of his passions (“I punti cardinali”) up to the court of the Great Khan and, finally, in the arms of his beloved Monica for a well deserved rest.
The poetical exposure is honest to such an extent that even fate and the randomness of events are exorcised by massively visual verses: “la provvidenza è vestita come un attore americano, e Marco destinato a ritornare andrà avanti” (“the providence is dressed like an american actor, and Marco, destined to come back, will go further”), while the horses fly.
At a certain point of the story, the listener is so involved in the plot that the music almost seems to slip in the background. But even under this aspect Giurato amazes everybody in “L’Oriente”, in which he condenses within few minutes all the different sounds and the stateless languages caught by the great explorer’s ears.
And the destination is near. There’s only the infinite armenian desert left to go beyond, the place where everything passes: heroes, plagues, wars, disappointments, and our springs as well. And where also our hero passes unhurt. Facing such a bravery even the cruel and magnificent Khan will loosen up and hug him.
In the end, the calm found in a love born in the shadow of a cave “sotto il morbido del mondo” (“under the soft of the world”). “Marco e Monica” is such an extraordinarily passionate song that it makes up for all the efforts endured by the listener in this fascinating, yet hard and sometimes clashing listening experience.
Unfortunately, we all know the album received little feedback. Flavio would have kept quiet for at least fifteen years, just to be reappraised later with all due honours. He travelled just like Marco Polo and has fortunately come back to tell us yet unheard and wonderful tales.
Here is the tracklist:
I, La teoria dell’orientamento (“the direction theory”)
01, I punti cardinali (“the cardinal points”)
02, Le funi (“the ropes”)
03, Vela e mare (“sail and sea”)
04, La provvidenza (“the providence”)
05, L’Oriente (“the east”)
II, La crescita (“the growth”)
06, Nel deserto armeno (“in the armenian desert”)
07, Il Gran Khan (“the great khan”)
08, Marco e Monica (“Marco and Monica”)
09, Marco Polo
Here’s the artist’s very good official site (in Italian).