Archive for the ‘pop’ Category
Promise is debt. So here comes the long-time lost second solo album by Maurizio Monti, Diavolo custode (“guardian devil”).
For those who fell in love with his debut full-length, L’amore (posted here some time ago), this one could be a slightly different experience. Monti embraces a much more twisted songwriting here, with such negative, cynical and hopelessly ironic lyrics that he seems possessed by Mauro Pelosi‘s evil spirit; and while L’amore‘s signature sound was that of both acoustic and electric piano, most of the tracks in Diavolo custode are built around guitars (Adriano Monteduro is credited in the backing band, which also counts Paolo Rustichelli on keyboards, Carlo Bordini on drums and Glauco Borrelli on bass).
The subtly unconventional arrangements are by Monti himself together with Paolo Dossena – who’s in charge of the production as well – featuring staggering ambience shifts, breathtaking groove breaks (such as the coda to “La tessera del tram”, which people like Air would willingly give a couple of kidneys for) and also Italian folk hints, especially when the rythm section takes a marching band pace, like in “Ruote” or “Cuore di rosa”.
Here is the tracklist:
01, Io e la bambina (“me and the baby girl”)
02, Piccolo animale (“little animal”)
03, Ruote (“wheels”)
04, Cuore di rosa (“heart of rose”)
05, Rosmarino (“rosemary”)
06, Povero idiota (“poor idiot”)
07, La tessera del tram (“the tram pass”)
08, Il diavolo (“the devil”)
You can also check out his MySpace tribute page, mantained by his daughter Nina.
A kind of an identity disorder struck most of the Sixties’ teenage monstre popstars once entered the following decade, forced to face the evolution in young people’s music taste and the rise of rock bands, progressive, and cantautori.
Caught in this middle-age crisis, in the early Seventies Gianni Morandi was staggering between faint attempts to sound a bit more updated in music and engaged in lyrics, badly reviewed experiments in theatre and musicals, and fruitless efforts to win back his past success, when he decided to record a song written by Oscar Prudente and Mogol and already released as a single by Prudente in 1971: “Il mondo di frutta candita” (“the candied fruit world”), and everything suddenly seemed to fall in its place. An entire new album was built around this track, featuring the same Prudente and the young Ivano Fossati as songwriters.
You can feel his excitement and his trust and commitment in the project by the way he took over the songs with a yet unheard hoarse and almost raging voice, blessing overlooked jewels such as “Autostrade, no!”, “Io vado a sud” or “Io domani me ne vado” (just listen to this last one, and then consider that “Amarsi un po'” by Lucio Battisti will come two years later, in 1977). A promotional movie was also shot in the States to help launching the record (watch an excerpt here). And, guess what? Il mondo di frutta candita came basically unnoticed, worsening his crisis with the most bitter disappointment.
Here is the tracklist:
01, La caccia al bisonte (“the buffalo hunt”)
02, Sette di sera (“seven in the evening”)
03, Autostrade, no! (“highways, no!”)
04, Favole di mare (“sea fables”)
05, Il mondo di frutta candita (“the candied fruit world” also released as a 7″ b/w “La caccia al bisonte”)
06, Io vado a sud (“i’m going south”)
07, Due ore di polvere (“two hours of dust”)
08, Io domani me ne vado (“tomorrow i’m going away”)
09, La mia gente (“my people”)
Anyway, this sad story came to a happy ending: after a three-years retirement from the music business, during which he studied double bass at Santa Cecilia conservatory in Rome, Gianni Morandi managed to hit the charts again in 1980, just to stay there.
He has released more than thirty albums to date, and is still one of the most popular pop singer in Italy. You can find more info on his official site MorandiMania (in Italian).
Fabio Carboni from Die Schachtel lended me this album in a plain yet beautiful gatefold die-cut cover some time ago, saying something like: “it’s quite an interesting record, but there’s actually just one song which is worth the listening”. Oh, boy. Fabio, you definitely must have picky tastes – or maybe you were just kidding me. I brought it home, and I played it. Once and then again. And again. I was thunder-struck.
Is this an art pop female singer/songwriter? In 1970? Is she the same girl who wrote some songs for the popstar Iva Zanicchi? And that sitar-driven track? There are several reasons because Vola, vola in alto amore mio (“fly, fly high my love”, a line from “Se mi vuoi”) is astonishing. The most striking is perhaps its spectacular lack of impact on the early seventies Italian music scene, its being in vain, a grand miss; it’s like if the record, and Anna herself, imploded somewhere in outer space instead of burning like a bright sun at the centre of the star system as it, and she, should have done, undeterredly continuing to vanish for almost forty years.
Then come, of course, its strictly musical qualitites, such as the excellent songwriting (all tracks are credited to Arazzini and the producer Ezio Leoni), which spans classic ballads and torch songs, rarefied jazz, bloodless soul, bossa, Italian folk and world music (such as in the klezmer-like “Ballata di una bimba”) and seems not completely unaware of the recent achievements by Fairport Convention and Pentangle, Joni Mitchell, or Jefferson Airplane at their folkiest, while the lyrics astoundedly record in ecstatic surrender the beauty and pain of nature and love. Or the magnificent, ethereal and roomy arrangements by Enrico Intra, which shake and break their Morriconian mould by dint of insisting on the darkest and most troubled zones, eventually gracing the record with a pervading imaginary soundtrack mood (by the way, in 1969 Anna had performed the song “Un posto per un addio” – “a place for a farewell” – for the Piero Umiliani’s score to La morte bussa due volte by Harald Philipp – international title: Death knocks twice).
And, above all, the depth and intensity of her performance: starting from the positions of Mina or Patty Pravo she comes to expressive solutions and emotional lands that Italian female musicians such as Giuni Russo and Alice would have rediscovered after ages (try listen to “Quanti anni, ragazzo” or “Il mare è tranquillo”), approaching priestesses like Sandy Denny or Beth Gibbons (“Palden”, for instance, would have easily fit in the latter’s masterpiece with Rustin’ Man Out of Season).
Here is the tracklist:
01, Tu non sei più innamorato di me (“you’re no longer in love with me”)
02, Quanti anni, ragazzo (“how many years, boy”)
03, Sveglierai la luna (“you will wake up the moon”)
04, Sarà Emanuela (“it will be Emanuela” also released as a 7″ b/w “Lontano dall’inverno” – “far from winter” – in 1969)
05, Ballata di una bimba (“ballad of a baby girl”)
06, Come il vento notturno (“like the night wind”)
07, Se mi vuoi (“if you want me” also released as a 7″ b/w “Tu non sei più innamorato di me”)
08, Il mare è tranquillo (“the sea is still”)
10, Elegia (“elegy”)
11, Oggi il sole è il re (“today the sun is the king”)
12, Una volta (“once”)
After this largely unnoticed exploit, Anna Arazzini went on working as a theatrical actress, mostly in musicals, before vanishing without a trace in the late eighties. You can see and hear her in an excerpt from the original 1980 staging of Tito Schipa jr.’s Er Dompasquale after the Don Pasquale by Donizetti, in which she played the role of Norina.
Punk before you were. What made Enrico Ruggeri great, at least in his early moments, was his widely displayed conceit, his haughty attitude, a feeling of being outstanding, and that everybody should have acknowledged that, before having proved anything. A third-rate, polenta-flavoured Lou Reed, sunglasses after dark and dyed hair included; a wannabe John Lydon minus the proletarian background – and the rotten teeth – but plus a job as a literature teacher at a secondary school and a real python which he used to hang around with, together with his friend and bandmate Silvio Capeccia.
Yeah, the boy had nerves. And will. He steered his way into music business with a willingness to change (not to say betray) and a ruthless eagerness to climb success ladder, through launching, joining and remodelling outfits such as Josafat, Trifoglio, the “decadent progressive” Champagne Molotov (mark I) and, eventually, Decibel. The story of this latter band has been told several times, from any given point of view: their beginnings, the 1978 self-titled debut album (which is usually regarded as the first Italian “punk” LP), the synth-driven turn with the single “Indigestione disko” (“disko indigestion”, 1979), their striking and contested participation in the 1980’s Sanremo festival with the song “Contessa” (“countess”), the successful second release Vivo da re (“i live like a king”, 1980), up to the very moment Ruggeri suddenly quit the act and signed with SIF record company to pursue a solo career, with an aftermath of personal conflicts and legal quarrels.
Once out of the band, he needed to show everybody that he was the band, striving to fulfil the promises that Decibel, after all, had failed to keep. He recruited Luigi Schiavone from Kaos Rock as guitar player, around whom he were to build his new backing band Champagne Molotov (mark II), and started working hard with means pared to the bone night after night – Schiavone still had a regular job during daytime – eventually coming out with an explosive cocktail of wild self-assertion, performance anxiety, amphetamine-related nervousness, restrained rage, contempt and regret called, strangely enough, Champagne Molotov: camera shots of Magazine, Stranglers, Ultravox, Sparks, late seventies Roxy Music, XTC, and The Only Ones, sorted for an italo editing; sharp rock-wave blades (“Fingo di dormire”, “Sono proprio un infantile”, “Sempre giù”), edgy funk-punk numbers (“Travel cheque”, “Competitiva” ), hyperkinetic waltzes and minuets (“Con te, con me”, “Nostalgia”), minimal glam ballads (“…e sorride”, “Vecchia Europa”, “Passato, presente, futuro”); scattered hints of a refined yet unripe songwriting, influenced by Italian great classic melodists as well as french chansonniers, which would have shortly brought to flaming masterpieces such as “Polvere” (“dust”), “Nuovo swing” (“new swing”), or “Il portiere di notte” (“the night porter”).
Simply and perfectly, the record that post-punk Italy was missing.
Here is the tracklist:
01, Una fine isterica (“an hysterical ending”)
02, Con te, con me (“with you, with me”)
03, Competitiva (“competitive girl”)
04, … e sorride (“…and she smiles”)
05, Fingo di dormire (“i pretend to sleep”)
06, Vecchia Europa (“old Europe”)
07, Sono proprio un infantile (“i am really childish”)
08, Senorita (also released as a 7″ b/w “Amore isterico” (“hysterical love”), that is, “Una fine isterica” with different lyrics)
09, Travel cheque (“traveler’s cheque”)
10, Nostalgia (“homesickness”)
11, Sempre giù (“always down”)
12, Passato, presente, futuro (“past, present, future”)
Ironically, Ruggeri was not able to cash in. The album, in fact, was withdrawn from the stores during the promotion of the single “Senorita”, following a law suit by former Decibel’ label Spaghetti Records (it was reprinted only in 1984), and Enrico was forced by the court neither to record nor perform live for almost four years.
He killed time working in the backstage, like writing lyrics for the first two singles by Diana Est or shaping the concept behind the italo disco project called “Den Harrow”, and preparing his big comeback, which eventually came in 1983 with the successful Polvere.
Enrico Ruggeri has released more than twenty albums so far, winning two Sanremo festivals (1987 and 1993) and establishing himself as one of the most famous and respected pop musicians in Italy, also writing huge hits together with Luigi Schiavone for the likes of Loredana Bertè, Fiorella Mannoia, Anna Oxa. He works as a tv presenter too.
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).
The Italian book of the dead. Too much words for one man alone: breathless. Imagination in spite of hope, desire gone bad.
There’s a song in this record, called “Analfabetizzazione” (that is to say: the contrary of literacy), which reads: “Ed il lavoro l’ho chiamato piacere, perché la semantica è violenza oppure è un’opinione. Ma non è colpa mia, non saltatemi addosso, se la mia voglia di libertà oggi è anche bisogno di confusione. Ed il piacere l’ho chiamato dovere, perché la primavera mi scoppiava dentro come una carezza. Fondere, confondere, rifondere, infine rifondare l’alfabeto della vita sulle pietre di miele della bellezza” (“and the work, i called it pleasure, because semantics is violence, or it’s an opinion. but it’s not my fault, don’t you pitch into me, if my wish for freedom is now also a need for confusion. and the pleasure, i called it duty, because springtime was bursting into me like a caress. blending, blurring, refunding, finally re-establishing the alphabet of life on beauty’s honey stones”). In short, it’s all about fucking the meaning up. Work becomes pleasure, and pleasure turns into duty. What’s at stake is a complete revaluation of all dreams. Wait: that’s a downright treason. Despair is always subversive, and disappointment stinks like counter-revolution.
In 1977 Claudio Lolli was in an awkward position. Born in Bologna in 1950, he had established himself as one of the most radical among the politically engaged cantautori, yet all of his anti-establishment anthems – such as “Borghesia” (“bourgeoisie”) – had been released by a huge corporate record company like EMI, to which he was introduced by his fellow citizen Francesco Guccini (Lolli tauntingly recalled his early days with the major in “Autobiografia industriale”). Well, this is usually called a contradiction. So that when his record deal expired, he felt like jumbling it all up. The odd thing is that he had to switch to an alternative music label such as Ultima Spiaggia to record his requiem for the revolutionary movement: the new rallying cry was Disoccupate le strade dai sogni, “let’s clear the streets of dreams”. Too many comrades passed away, too many failures to come to terms with. There was anger to be wasted, there were mistakes to be repeated, and fallen to be honoured, such as Ulrike Meinhof (in “Incubo numero zero” – the album has the same title of the italian version of Meinhof’s biography by Prinz Alois) and Francesco Lorusso, a student killed by carabinieri during a demonstration in Bologna (in “I giornali di Marzo”, whose lyrics are a cut-up of those days’ newspapers).
And he twisted his own musical language to follow the lyrics’ edges (keeping on a path opened by Ho visto anche zingari felici – “i have happened to see happy gypsies too”, 1976) introducing jazz rock, progressive, impro elements which were typical of Ultima Spiaggia’s art-rock style, even inventing a funny dixie funeral march for social democracy which anticipated Vinicio Capossela, and eventually peaking his career and perhaps the entire singer/songwriters movement – even if the result was much closer to the R.I.O. scene or Dalla/Roversi’s work than to Guccini, Paolo Pietrangeli or Ivan Della Mea.
An enthusiastic melancholy and a subtle death drive had always been his key features, but negativeness reached a whole different level here. We are anywhere near Mauro Pelosi’s self-titled album, but the latter’s alarming vein of insanity turns into a ruthless lucidity. An autopsy carried out upon a still warm corpse.
Here is the tracklist:
01, Alba meccanica (“mechanical dawn”)
02, Incubo numero zero (“nightmare number zero”)
03, La socialdemocrazia (“the social democracy”)
04, Analfabetizzazione (“unalphabetization”, also released as a 7″ b/w “I giardini di marzo”)
05, Attenzione (“watch out”)
06, Canzone dell’amore o della precarietà (“song of love or of uncertainty”)
07, Canzone scritta sul muro (“song written on the wall”)
08, Autobiografia industriale (“industrial autobiography”)
09, Da zero e dintorni (“from zero and so on”)
10, I giornali di marzo (“the newspapers of march”)
Unfortunately, Disoccupate… did not manage to repeat his previous records’ success, and Ultima Spiaggia went bankrupt right before a live album project could be realized. Ironically, Lolli came back to EMI, releasing four other LPs with them until the early nineties.
He has worked as a teacher at secondary school and is still active as a musician and writer. His latest album is La scoperta dell’America (“the discovery of America”, 2006). You can learn more about Claudio Lolli at his Wikipedia page (in italian).
When a man loves a woman. L’amore is a kind of a strange concept album about every possible shade of a sentimental relationship – from falling in love to betrayal and separation, from frenzy to happiness and despair – as investigated by a talented pop songwriter. And, incidentally, an unexplored mine of rare grooves.
I share the same insane passion for Maurizio Monti with my dearest friend Francesco Bianconi, singer and main songwriter for Baustelle, writer, journalist, fine music connoisseur, who kindly accepted to write about how he ever happened to cross paths with him.
The original version of the post is available in the Found in translation page, as usual.
I first came in contact with Maurizio Monti many years ago, when I took my lyricist exam at SIAE (Società Italiana Autori ed Editori, “italian authors and publishers society”). I had to rewrite the lyrics of an existing song, following its metres syllable by syllable. And the song, on that occasion, was “Morire fra le viole” (“dying among the violets”) by, exactly, “M. Monti”. Lyrics which I partly already knew, after all it’s a quite famous Patty Pravo song, yet I didn’t know anything about its author. I changed the title into a nonsense such as “Risplendere nel sole” (“shining in the sun”), wrote new lyrics, and passed the exam. Playing this little creative rewriting game I realized how perfect those words were, with their terrific and, allow me, Prevertian synthesis of symbolism and pathos. Words of love, simple, easy to sing, but sound. A not at all banal lyricism. I remember thinking that perhaps the more titled Mogol had never been able of such perfection, but I guess this is a matter of taste. Apart from the SIAE exam, I owe my real musical encounter with Maurizio Monti to my singing teacher.
Fucking around after a lesson, he showed me this record in a white sleeve with a middle aged man sitting in an armchair, with his rollerskates on. The title was: L’amore by, exactly, once again, Maurizio Monti. I was stroke at once, starting from the cover. I’m afraid I’m made this way: my opinion about pop music is rather influenced by the superstructures, by the frills. The more I like the look of the singer, the way he smokes a cigarette, his photos, the more I like the music. On that cover Maurizio Monti may look like Betrand Burgalat on a record never released by Tricatel, or my uncle in 1973, had he been a singer. And I swear that this second possibility has the same coolness value for me. My teacher looked at me and told me: “it’s Maurizio Monti’s solo debut album”. He lended me it. I brought it home and, curious like a child, I dipped myself into this fantastic collection of songs.
The first side opens with “Bella mia”, another track later sang by Patty Pravo, and it knocks you out. Bass drum, bass guitar, hi-hat, and voice. Voice which starts with “certo, sembra un caso” (“sure, it seems an accident”). A non-singer shrill voice. The voice of a songwriter who gives it a go. Yet incredibly beautiful in its being awkward, Battisti-like, expressively out of line. The trivially seventies story is about a love triangle him-her-the other, but, just like in “Morire tra le viole”, it’s very effectively told. The melody and the words blend perfectly, and on the final “me ne sto andandooo” (“i’m going awaaay”), while the music fades, the hair rise on my arms and my heart beats. The “hair-rising effect” (which is a serious litmus test for pop tunes) always happens to me with at least three other songs in this record: “Amore”, with harmonic modulation and a drums-bass-Rhodes piano downbeat which anticipate Moon Safari and Virgin Suicides by Air twenty years before; “Nuda di pensieri”, that sublimates and exceeds the Pachelbelian canon, with a Battisti-like rhythm change in the bridge and a supercheesy Solina fake strings instrumental break on top; “Esco con Rosa”, a love triangle again, again a bright use of italian language on a harrowing melody.
Oh, I almost forgot that there’s “Morire tra le viole” as well, full of blaring synths. What could you ask for more?
In brief, it’s not a key record, not a milestone, not revolutionary. It’s a wonderful easy listening record. A record made of songs, and that’s nothing small: it’s not easy at all writing songs like these.
Here is the tracklist:
01, Bella mia (“honey”, also released as a 7″ b/w “Esco con Rosa”)
02, Dipendi da me (“you depend on me”)
03, Un uomo fortunato (“a lucky man”)
04, Nuda di pensieri (“thoughts-bared”)
05, Amore (“love”)
06, Esco con rosa (“i’m dating Rosa”)
07, Sorprendente (“surprising”)
08, Morire tra le viole (“dying among the violets”)
Get it: Maurizio Monti, L’amore (1973)
Maurizio Monti has released another solo album in 1976, Diavolo custode (“guardian devil”, avalaible on these pages anytime soon). He has been writing many successful songs, mostly alone or with his creative partner Giovanni Ullu, for the likes of Patty Pravo, Mina, Gianni Morandi, Anna Oxa. He’s a chemist too.
You can learn more about his most recent project, a musical called Isimilia, at isimilia.com (also in English).