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Music from a country on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Posts Tagged ‘prog

[music:] Claudio Lolli, Disoccupate le strade dai sogni (1977)

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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”)

Get it: Claudio Lolli, Disoccupate le strade dai sogni (1977)

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).

Written by alteralter

March 11, 2009 at 11:00 pm

[requests, music:] Ultima spiaggia, Disco dell’angoscia (1975)

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Since many of you requested it, possibly time has come to make available this unidentified sound object swerving between musique concrète, pop, avant-garde, beat, rock’n’roll, old-fashioned melodies, progressive rock, which we already spoke of some months ago, in the post about Ricky Gianco’s Alla mia mam…: like continuously switching over the stations of a radio tuned on the distorted brainwaves of a man fallen in a coma after a car accident, who confusingly dreams of the Inquisition, of concentration camps, of war, torture, chain work, love, sex, painfully recovering splinters of his memory. Practically, the soundtrack of a nightmare. After all, it’s not called Disco dell’angoscia (“anguish record”) by chance.

But what really makes this record haunting and creepy to such extent is perhaps an immoderate and unreasonable expenditure, a raging emptiness hardly restrained, an extraordinary taste for bad taste, a morbid irony which results, for instance, in a children choir singing a nazi song, or a gloomy samba which cites Auschwitz.

Here is the tracklist:

01, L’incidente (“the accident”)
02, Voglio vivere (“i want to live”)
03, Motivo angoscia 1 (La religione e la morte) (“anguish theme 1 (religion and death)”)
04, Canto delle streghe e del demonio (“chant of the witches and the devil”)
05, Motivo angoscia 2 (Canto nazista) (“anguish theme 2 (nazi chant)”)
06, Samba della tortura e della guerra (“samba of torture and war”)
07, Che cosa è? (“what is it?”)
08, Motivo angoscia 3 (“anguish theme 3”)
09, Rock della ricostruzione (“reconstruction rock”)
10, Davanti al nastro che corre (“in front of the conveyor belt”)
11, Motivo angoscia 4 (“anguish theme 4”)
12, Zucchero mio (“sugar of mine”)
13, Piacere e potere (“pleasure and power”)
14, Motivo angoscia 5 (“anguish theme 5”)
15, L’incidente (“the accident”)

Get it: Ultima spiaggia, Disco dell’angoscia (1975)

The complete lineup counts – apart from Ricky Gianco (guitar, vocals), Gianfranco Manfredi and Ivan Cattaneo (vocals), Tullio De Piscopo and Ellade Bandini (drums) – Nanni Ricordi and Ninni Carucci on the vocals (the latter being a singer/songwriter which released an album through the label Ultima spiaggia in 1975, now a successful cartoon music author), Sergio Farina (guitar), Claudio Bonechi (keys), Hugo Heredia (sax), Gigi Cappellotto (bass).

Written by alteralter

January 16, 2009 at 12:14 am

[music:] Lucio Dalla, Il giorno aveva cinque teste (1973)

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It’s amazing to see how fans of italian music from the sixties and the seventies seem to know everything about forgotten, obscure beat or prog acts, and keep posting their lost albums all around the blogosphere, while they totally disregard the work of one of our greatest musical geniuses, which stays up there with Franco Battiato and Lucio Battisti.

Lucio Dalla, born in Bologna in 1943, began as a clarinet player in jazz band, at the end of the fifties. In 1963, while playing in the backing band for the popstar Edoardo Vianello, he met Gino Paoli, who picked him up and helped him kicking off a solo career.

After some 7″, in 1966 he released his first album, 1999: a collection of beat-psych tracks, which also contained an italian version of James Brown’s It’s a man’s, man’s, man’s world, whose lyrics were written by Sergio Bardotti and Luigi Tenco.

His first real masterpiece came in 1970 with Terra di Gaibola (“Gaibola’s land”), but it’s with his participation in the following year’s Sanremo festival with 4/3/1943 –  he came third – that a mass audience noticed him. The song became almost immediately a standard (among many others, Chico Buarque recorded it as “Minha história” in his 1974 Construçao), and was then included in the interlocutory LP Storie di casa mia (“stories from home”, 1971).

And then came 1973. Lucio Dalla had recently begun to hang out at the bookshop in Bologna where Roberto Roversi, the owner and one of the most important italian poets of the past century, used to gather with his fellow writers Pier Paolo Pasolini, Francesco Leonetti, Franco Fortini. Dalla and Roversi decided to start writing together, infusing civil poetry into a yet unheard popular song form which encompassed pop, rythm’n’blues, progressive rock, jazz, folk, musique concréte, contemporary classic elements. The first output of this dreamy collaboration was Il giorno aveva cinque teste (“the day had five heads”).

Never had high and engaged culture managed to deal such effectively with pop music, not giving up profundity and its experimental attitude; never had pop music attempted to such extent to bring to light the very roots of power, rage, pain, spirit, love, joy, without losing its entertaining qualities. Try listen to “L’auto targata “TO”, “La bambina” or “La canzone d’Orlando”, and when you’ll feel that shiver down your back, you’ll get it. Obviously the lyrics are crucial here; anyway you’ll also find some examples of  Dalla’s legendary scat singing and “fake english”, namely in “Pezzo zero”.

Here is the tracklist:

01, L’auto targata “TO” (“the car tagged “TO”)
02, Alla fermata del tram (“at the tram stop”)
03, È lì (“it’s there”)
04, Passato, presente (“past, present”)
05, L’operaio Gerolamo (“working man Gerolamo”)
06, Il coyote (“the coyote”)
07, Grippaggio (“seizing”)
08, La bambina (l’inverno è neve, l’estate è sole) (“the baby girl (winter is snow, summer is sun)”)
09, Pezzo zero (“track zero”, also released as the b-side of a 7″ featuring “Anna bell’Anna” in 1974)
10, La canzone d’Orlando (“the song of Orlando”)

Get it: Lucio Dalla, Il giorno aveva cinque teste (1973)

After two other milestone releases such as Anidride solforosa (“sulphuric dioxide”, 1975) and Automobili (“cars”, 1976), Dalla and Roversi parted their ways. Lucio has been writing himself the lyrics to his songs since then, beginning with the incredible Come è profondo il mare (“how deep is the sea”, 1977), perhaps the most important record in the history of italian pop-rock.

He has released more than thirty albums to date, selling millions copies and achieving a worldwide success with songs such as Caruso, Ayrton, Canzone (“song”).

It would possibly take an entire blog to tell all the lives of Lucio Dalla – for instance, he has been a nominee for the best actor award in the 1967 Venice Film Festival for his role in I sovversivi, by the Taviani brothers, and has been experimenting with opera and film and tv scores. Pay a visit to his official website Pressing Line (in italian) to know more about his recent projects.

[edit: I have just noticed (via Martini & Jopparelli) that a song by Lucio Dalla, “Ulisse coperto di sale” (“Ulysses covered in salt”, from Anidride solforosa) has been recently sampled by the mighty Timbaland for his “Indian Carpet”. Read the whole story.]

Written by alteralter

December 6, 2008 at 4:36 pm

[music:] Roberto Ferri, Se per caso un giorno la follia… (1977)

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In the seventies there’s been a passionate debate in Italy about mental illness and psychiatric hospitals, mainly promoted by great psychiatrist and philosopher Franco Basaglia. He began experimenting new and different methods in treating lunatics in Gorizia, Parma and Trieste’s asylums, which he directed between late sixties and early seventies. In 1973 he founded Psichiatria democratica (“democratic psychiatry”), a movement for a reform in mental health system.

The fight against psychiatric abuses such as electroshocks and sedatives overuse, and for a new way of considering insanity, became a crucial issue for the broader social movement who struggled against repression and total institutions such as prisons or the army. A true and deep revolution in italian culture started here.

Se per caso un giorno la follia… (“if, by chance, one day the madness…”) would have possibly never existed out of this climate. Roberto Ferri had been discovered by Mina in the late sixties, and had released a series of 7″ between 1967 and 1970, but he had to wait since 1977 for his first LP, which was something completely different from the pop tunes – sometimes covers of foreign hits – he had been recording since then.

It actually was a concept album about social labelling, marginalization and exploitation, portraying characters suffering because of their diversity: psychotics, of course, but also dropouts, kids, animals. The contrast between the music – which is basically soft progressive rock added with sophisticated, melodic pop in the french chansonniers’ style, with even some folk hints – and the stories Ferri told made tracks like “Io povero pazzo” or “Requiem per Boby” (a shocking crude song about vivisection) even more heartbreaking. But there’s also space for a love triangle (“Tu e lui”) and for the closest thing to an anthem for the Indiani metropolitani’s generation: “Anno zero”. Ferri is great giving a coherent emotional mood to the whole work which, in spite of some naiveties, remains touching and challenging even thirty years later.

Here is the tracklist:

01, Alla piazza deserta (“to the empty square”)
02, Io povero pazzo (“i, poor madman”)
03, Ritagli di giornale (“newspaper cut-outs”)
04, Col vestito da indiano (“in a red indian costume”)
05, Il pavone (“the peacock”)
06, Requiem per Boby (“requiem for Boby”)
07, Giovannino seme di mela (“little appleseed John”)
08, Anno zero (“year zero”)
09, Tu e lui (“you and him”)
10, La goccia (“the drop”)

Get it: Roberto Ferri, Se per caso un giorno la follia… (1977)

Italian asylums were closed in 1978 with the law number 180 (also known as “legge Basaglia”). Franco Basaglia died in 1980. Roberto Ferri continued his career as songwriter and performer, while teaching chemistry and working in the perfume industry. He collaborated with, among others, Fabrizio De Andrè, Adriano Celentano, New Trolls, Patty Pravo and Franco Battiato. He also wrote the 1983 Sanremo festival winning tune, “Sarà quel che sarà” (“what will be, will be”), sang by one-hit wonder Tiziana Rivale. In 2007 he returned to play live Se per caso un giorno la follia…

Check out robertoferri.it for more info and updates.

Written by alteralter

May 1, 2008 at 4:57 pm

[music:] Ricky Gianco, Alla mia mam… (1976)

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Most of the people outside Italy know very little about our pop music. Just few, usual names: Eros Ramazzotti, Laura Pausini and, as for the past, Mina, Albano e Romina, Toto Cutugno. And, of course, Adriano Celentano. Our own king of rock’n’roll.

Celentano has possibly been the first italian popstar to claim full control about his work and to rebel against the established rules of music business. When in 1961 he broke up with his recording company Jolly and founded his own label, Il Clan, together with a posse of friends, Ricky Gianco was there: a talented, very young guitarist and songwriter from Lodi, near Milan, who had already played and recorded with people like Luigi Tenco, Enzo Jannacci, Gino Paoli.

Even if he had left Il Clan shortly afterwards, in 1963, Gianco had for sure that lesson in mind when, more than ten years later, he founded with Nanni Ricordi and other friends Ultima spiaggia. One of the cult italian indie labels in the Seventies, together with Cramps and Bla Bla, which delivered albums by Jannacci, Ivan Cattaneo, Roberto Colombo, Francesco Currà, Gramigna.

At that time, Ricky Gianco was mainly known as a rock’n’roll prime mover in Italy and a hitmaker – by the way, he wrote “Pugni chiusi” (“clunched fists”), the greatest success of Demetrio Stratos’ first band, I Ribelli – but the label’s manifesto, a collective effort called Disco dell’angoscia (“the anguish record”, 1975) had little to do with pop. It’s one of the most challenging and gloomy italian records of those years. An art-rock/prog concept album about a man involved in a car accident, played by an all-star band featuring the same Gianco, Cattaneo, Gianfranco Manfredi, Tullio De Piscopo, and Ellade Bandini.

Alla mia mam… (“to my momm…”), released in 1976, was an attempt to bring somehow the madness and the experimental attitude of Disco dell’angoscia into a more traditional rock song form. The result fitted perfectly with the oblique protest lyrics that Gianco and Gianfranco Manfredi wrote for the album. The wave of ’77 was rising and Ricky Gianco rode it, giving his own peculiar contribution to the movement’s political songbook.

Rage and pride, freakiness and irony, counterculture epic and ordinary tales of alienation are in a perfect balance in tracks such as “Un amore” (a thrilling, acoustic guitar-driven ballad), “Fango”, “Un pipistrello in abito da sera” (an odd pastiche of tropicalism and roman folk songs) or “Davanti al nastro che corre” (already released in a different version on Disco dell’angoscia). And even if none of these ever managed to become a generational anthem, Alla mia mam… still remains one of the best records to come out in that climate, and definitely the best album Ricky Gianco never made.

Here is the tracklist:

01, Un amore (“a love”, also released as a 7″ b/w “Mangia insieme a noi”)
02, Campo minato (“minefield”)
03, Fango (“mud”)
04, repubblicA (“republiC”)
05, Mangia insieme a noi (“come eat with us”)
06, Ospedale militare (“military hospital”)
07, Nel mio giardino (“in my garden”)
08, Un pipistrello in abito da sera (“a bat in evening dress”)
09, Davanti al nastro che corre (“in front of the conveyor belt”)

Get it: Ricky Gianco, Alla mia mam… (1976)

More info and news about Ricky Gianco on his official website (in italian).

Written by alteralter

March 20, 2008 at 12:24 am