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Franco Battiato - Fetus CD (album) cover


Franco Battiato


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.43 | 67 ratings

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3 stars *after a bit of a long break.. time to return to finishing my first set of Battiato reviews.. there are some other groups and movements. Mainly Prog Metal I'd like to start reviewing... but I hate leaving loose ends*

Franco Battiato was active in music for years before the 1972 release of this his debut album. He struggled for years as a singers artist in Milan recording under the name of Francesco before getting together with some musicians he had played with and forming the group Osage Tribe. After a couple of singles he left to start his solo career before the release of the groups seminal Arrowhead album. Those singles being available on the CD release of the album as bonus tracks. Battiato was signed to Bla Bla records and the birth of an artist who would shape Italian music for the next 30+ years was born.

Fetus was released early in 1972. While it didn't have the commercial impact of his second album Pollution which went top 10 in the charts later in the year it was critically acclaimed and recognized as a defining point in the prog movement of the 70's. In fact an English version of the album was recorded to try to break Battiato in the english speaking world. Unfortunately the album was never released until the nineties. However Battiato did try to break into England and played two fairly high profile shows at London's Roundhouse, supporting first Magma and later Ash Ra Tempel. And it was at this time that Frank Zappa, on hearing Pollution, famously called Battiato's work 'genius'. Fetus is such an interesting album because from the start is spotlights two defining aspects of his music that endured through the 70's even as his sound and his style mutated. One is his passion for exploring minimalism. The other being his incredible sense of melody. Both would be expanded upon ..refined and improved upon as the years went. While his explorations with minimalism would culminate in his late 70's albums, his superior sense of melody would take him past the days of prog.. serve him well into the realms of pop.. then back to prog.

Now for the album itself... as his albums of the 70's this is not what you would call a traditional prog album. Only his next album, Pollution will you find Battiato accompanied by a true backing band. Battiato is the only credited musician here.. signifying that this album is his... an expression of his musical ideas and talents and I can really dig that. The 'star' of this album is Battiato and his VCS3 synthesizer. For texture sakes there are other instruments of course but his synth is the prevalent sound on the album. The album is a short one.. about 30 minutes which is letter perfect. The album is a nice mix of psych elements, folk, and symphonic. Effective twists and turns in mood and dynamics like any good prog album should have. Songs with melodies of such beauty that they just latch onto you and catch yourself hours later humming them out loud. The compositions and instrumentation as noted about are in the minimalist vein. Rather than being bludgeoned with scores of galloping instruments or excessive and pointless complexity. We have an album that is truly progressive and forward thinking without falling victim to being 'prog for prog's sake'.

The album starts with the title track to the album that begins with.. of course... a beating heart then goes into a bombastic VCS3 workout before ended ending in a reflective acoustic and vocalized section that will be reprised later in the album. Una Cellula is another synth driven song, accompanied by pounding tom-toms, with lovely singing by Battiato on it. Love the harmonized vocals on that. Very inviting and warm. The next one, Cariocinesi, is a wonderful change of pace with a violin taking the melodic lead on this one. Very catchy folk inspired track. The next two are my favorites on the album. Energia has a catchy as hell synth melody after a reprise of the theme of the theme and melody form the album's opening track. The track ends with a organ outro that reminded me of something right out of Pink Floyd's Cirrus Minor. Fenomenologia begins with an mellow acoustic guitar and vocal section that raised the hair on my arms the first time I heard it.. just hit me hard. Beautiful stuff. The tempo picks up with an an organ and pounding tom-tom section with Battiato singing in a harsh strained manner but ending with the section that closed the opening track on the album. Good stuff. Meccanica is the longest on the album.. a real collage of music.. synths.. piano.. guitars. and violins battle it out. I have seen this album called by some the ..pardon the pun... fetus that would grow into his masterpiece Sulle Corde di Aries. ON this track you can really see it. Anafase is next up and is a bit of psych synth workout. Interesting to say the least.

As far as rating the album... for the site going for 3 stars. A good addition to your prog collection but not the one I would start your Battiato collection with. This is a good album.. but truth is.. there are others far better.. and far more interesting. Nothing against this album... it's just a reflection of how good the others are. For me 3 stars. Don't listen to it much.. but still is a real treat to put in every once in awhile.

Michael (aka Micky)

micky | 3/5 |


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