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Lucio Battisti - Anima Latina CD (album) cover


Lucio Battisti


Prog Related

3.83 | 44 ratings

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5 stars For Italians and fans of Italian music, Lucio Battisti needs no introduction. One of the most genuinely innovative musicians of the past few decades, he is one of those artists who have left their indelible mark on the whole scene - even on bands or artists that apparently belong to a very different musical world. On the other hand, those who are mostly familiar with his late Sixties output will wonder what he is doing on a prog site, even in the Prog-Related section.

As a born-and-bred Italian, and someone who grew up with Lucio's music - I remember anxiously awaiting every one of his new releases when I was little more than a kid - I can safely state that there is much more to Battisti's output, spanning almost three decades, than the light-hearted, pop-beat songs included in his first couple of albums. Much like Fabrizio De André, though in a less socially and politically conscious way, he was a ground-breaking figure - for his musical intuition (he was the author of the music of all his songs), for the often provocative lyrics penned by his long-time partner Mogol (who also wrote the lyrics for PFM's "Per Un Amico"), even for his distinctive vocal style, so sharply at odds with the Italian tradition of 'bel canto'. Many of his songs were censored by the official radio stations because of their too-frank references to sex, and traditionalists hated his thin, somewhat strained, yet highly effective voice. Progressive? You bet - though not always in the fashion that the average visitor to this site might wish.

After years of flirting with the all-pervasive influence of progressive rock on the Italian music scene of the early Seventies (as shown by his third album, "Amore e non amore", recorded with the collaboration of most of the members of PFM), Battisti finally surrendered to the lure of the hottest trend of the day with his eight album, released at the tail end of 1974, when the prog movement was still in full bloom, though slowly heading for a decline. Though initially as successful in commercial terms as most of his previous releases, "Anima Latina" is not as firmly rooted in the collective musical memory of Italians as most of the latter are. In spite of Battisti's connections with prog, such as his collaboration with Formula 3, his fans saw him more as a purveyor of pop songs (though intelligent, sophisticated ones) than a genuinely progressive artist. Indeed, the longer-than-average running time of most of the songs on "Anima Latina", coupled with the complexity of the arrangements and the lack of instantly catchy hooks - as well as the often cryptic nature of the lyrics, a celebration of 'innocence and experience' touching on such typical Seventies topics as free love, nature worship and anti-imperialism - make the album a definitely tougher prospect for those looking for more conventional material.

As the title implies, the album's structure revolves around a variety of Latin musical influences, reinterpreted in a manner that relies heavily on a rich, diverse instrumentation, emotionally intense vocal arrangements, and unpredictable alternations of slower, atmospheric passages with livelier ones. Not surprisingly, percussion plays a leading role on "Anima Latina", with the contribution of no less than four percussionists (including Toni Esposito, known to RPI fans for his collaborations with Alan Sorrenti and Perigeo) . While, as is the case with most RPI classics, the centuries-long tradition of the Italian 'canzone' provides the underlying structure, the disc displays many of the standard features of concept albums, such as the lack of actual breaks between the songs, and the presence of recurring musical phrases and themes. The lush orchestration guarantees a sense of well-rounded fullness to those moments when a powerful sound is required, yet is equally able to create sparse, suspended moods which seem to perfectly complement Battisti's distinctive vocals - not beautiful in any conventional sense, but possessed of an expressive force comparable to De André's deep, world-weary drawl. On this album, Battisti delivers the thought-provoking lyrics (undisputedly among Mogol's best work) in tones that range from the barest whisper to clear, careful enunciation, moulding his voice around the music

Even more so than many so-called concept albums, "Anima Latina" is a strongly cohesive effort, in spite of being technically divided into 11 tracks. At every listen, it will be perceived as a whole, perfectly conceived and executed, never flagging in terms of overall quality. Extremely innovative in a musical sense, it feels nevertheless somewhat different from the output of the conventionally prog bands active at the time. In some ways, Battisti's compositional approach on this album is closer to what we see now in the 21st century - a successful collision of genuine experimentation and mainstream tendencies. From the airy, atmospheric opening of "Abbracciala, abbracciali, abbracciati", with its triumphant horn section and jazzy overtones, to the upbeat, dance-like rhythm of "Due mondi", in which Battisti duets with Mara Cubeddu (who had also guested on "Il nostro caro angelo"), "Anima Latina" immediately shows its intriguing, multi-faceted nature. Then, it gradually unfolds in all its unabashed eclecticism, a veritable pot-pourri of sounds and influences, shifting from the hypnotic, rarefied electronics of Anonimo" to the avant-garde leanings of the endearingly naïve double-entendre of "Il salame".

Following the two-part suite "Gli uomini celesti" (featuring some splendid percussion work, as well as an ironic reference to another Battisti composition, "I giardini di marzo") and a slowed-down reprise of "Due mondi", the title-track brings the album to its natural climax in a triumph of exhilaratingly intricate rhythm patterns and magnificent lyrics celebrating the beauty and strength of Latin America - as opposed to the sterile, mass-produced nature of the Anglo-American model of society. Finally, "Macchina del tempo" sums up the whole album, blending electronics and Latin rhythms, laid-back melodic lines and experimental dynamism in a heady brew, with a brief citation from the title-track at its very close.

If Lucio Battisti (just like Fabrizio De André) had been born in any English-speaking country, he would nowadays be hailed as one of the greatest artists of our time. Multilayered and sophisticated, "Anima Latina" is his undisputed masterpiece, and an indispensable listen for every fan of vintage Italian progressive rock - as well as a very rewarding one for lovers of great music, regardless of tags or classifications. Five well-deserved stars for yet another gem from the Italian Seventies.

Raff | 5/5 |


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