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Franco Battiato - Fisiognomica CD (album) cover

FISIOGNOMICA

Franco Battiato

Rock Progressivo Italiano


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5 stars This truly is a gem of Italian music, if not of worldwide music!

I got this when I was released, I was 13 and fell immediately in love with these songs; I knew Battiato from the songs of his early '80s pop period, but I was a kid and had no chance to investigate more and I had to live with what the radio passed on.

Here you find some of the absolute masterpieces of his career, not in a prog vein but I'd rather say techno-pop, with synthetic rhythms and orchestral arrangements: there are also piano ballads like "Il mito Dell'amore", a song sung in sicilian dialect (Veni L'autunnu) and one in arabic language (Zai Saman) but these are not new features in Battiato's discography.

Anyway, my favourite songs are the amazing "Oceano Di Silenzio", with no analog or digital drums at all, where the beat is given by the slow pulse of the synths reproducing the waves rhythm, and the more up-tempo "E Ti Vengo a Cercare", a sort of Battiato's "Red Rain"...

Hell, you know what? This is the italian "SO"... Battiato has surely been aware of Peter Gabriel's work, and I can hear lots of similarities here.

Truly worth investigating if you are not strictly addicted to odd time signatures and 20 minutes songs.

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Send comments to tortellino (BETA) | Report this review (#92474)
Posted Thursday, September 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
andrea
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This album is like the chronicle of an introspective musical and poetical "quest" in search for God and Peace, for Love and Silence; it's an effort to go beyond the appearances trying to reflect about the meaning of life... No more funny nonsense lyrics, like in some previous Battiato's pop works... Here the lyrics are full of mysticism and spirituality... Battiato's interest in classical music and opera brought on a change in his attitude to song-writing: "Fisiognomica" is an album that seem to stem from "Sulle corde di Aries", with musical influences going from Middle-East to "Mitteleuropa" and nevertheless it's not a prog one, it's just an album of songs and beautiful melodies with an "ethno- classical" touch and refined arrangements...

Fisiognomica means Physiognomy... "Physiognomy (Gk. physis, nature and gnomon, judge, interpreter) is a theory and a folk science based upon the idea that the study and judgement of a person's outer appearance, primarily the face, may give insights into their character or personality" (from Wikipedia)... "I can read into your eyes how many lives you have lived / From the cut of your mouth I can see if you are inclined to hate or to mercy / In the shape of your nose I can read if you are proud or vile..." The opener title track features a peculiar percussion work and an "oriental touch" blended with a church-like atmosphere while words sound like a warning about the inadequacy of a judgement based only upon appearances... "It's difficult to understand what's fair and that the Eternal has not begun / Because our mind is temporary and the body lives, rightly, only this life / But if you feel troubled, address yourself to the Lord / Believe me, we are nothing but mean creeks without a source..."

"E ti vengo a cercare" is one of the best known Battato's songs... Lyrics are about the search for God and spiritual Love... "And I'm going looking for You / Just to see You or to speak to You / Because I need your presence / To understand better my identity... This waning century / Fed up with parasites without dignity / Just push me to do my best / With more resolution..." This track has a beautiful melody and a suggestive arrangement... It was very successful and it deserved to Battiato the honour to perform a concert for the pope in Vatican City...

"Veni l'autunnu" and "Secondo imbrunire" are two delicate songs with a fresh Mediterranean flavour... The first one is sung in the dialect of Sicily (though the last verses are in Arab) and is a song of love for this Italian region... In "Secondo imbrunire" lyrics draw a beautiful Sicilian panorama in the twilight while melancholic thoughts about the need to be alone to meditate are rising...

"Nomadi" (written by Juri Camisasca) is more in the "pop" vein and lyrics are about the need to travel searching for interior peace... "Walker looking for peace in the dusk / You will find it at the end of the road... Stranger looking for the unfathomable dimension / You will find it out of the city, at the of the road..." At the end of this song there's a good (although short) guitar solo, one of the few moments in this album where you can really appreciate the technique of the guitarist Ricky Belloni (Nuova Idea, New Trolls)...

"Zai Saman" (partially sung in Arab) is the track of the album where the Middle Eastern influences are stronger, with an interesting mix of percussions, strings and electric guitar... Lyrics are almost prophetic... "Emptied of reason, the West is crumbling / It will suffocate because of his greediness / And of his absurd thirst of power / While from the East hordes of fanatics..."

"Il mito dell'amore" (The myth of love) and "Un oceano di silenzio" (An ocean of silence) are both clearly "classical inspired"... The first one is almost melodramatic, featuring a beautiful orchestral arrangements and a peculiar finale with an excellent organ work... "Un oceano di silenzio" features soprano vocals singing in German some verses of the writer Fleur Jaeggy taken from the book "Wasserstatuen" and opera-like choirs... "An Ocean of silence flows slowly / Without centre nor beginning / What would I had seen of the world / Without this light that lightens my black thoughts?"...

In the whole "Fisiognomica" is a very good album, short but without really weak moments... Although I think that it is not essential in a prog collection, it deserves a try...

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Send comments to andrea (BETA) | Report this review (#101510)
Posted Sunday, December 03, 2006 | Review Permalink
octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
3 stars This album has already two reviews and one of them is so good that I can hardly find anything meaningful to add. This album comes after the excellent "Genesi" and it demonstrates the definitive end of Battiato's pop period. It's not an opera like its predecessor. With this album Battiato is back to his successful songs format but the presence of a symphonic orchestra directed by Giusto Pio and the world music influences grown strongly, mainly from the middle-East, make it very interesting.

While Genesi was a "one shot" episode, a temporary excursion in a different musical realm, this album has some continuity with the recent past like in songs like "Secondo Imbrunire" and even more on "Nomadi", whose lyrics are cryptic but without the nonsense typical of his pop period. Another element of continuity is the arrangement of Giusto Pio and the mixture of electronics and strings. The 80s are ending but are not ended yet.

However, despite the previous collections of songs, the songs of this album have a common mystical and somewhat esoteric argument. So even if not properly a concept album, it follows a line.

Battiato sings in Arabic on more than one song, and when he does it, the orchestra supports his vocals with appropriate strings arrangements. Maybe because of this, but I think that "Zai Saman" is the best song of the album even though the "hit single" was "E Ti Vengo A Cercare".

The album is closed by two classically inspired songs. Not as operistic as Genesi have the classical influence highlighted by piano, cymbal and organ on "Il Mito Dell'Amore". "L'Oceano di Silenzio" is another great song for both lyrics and music. The best possible closer for this album and the only song featuring a soprano, the same Donatella Saccardi of Genesi and a full choir. A five stars song for an album that in its entirety is good but non-essential, or better, non- essential but good. (it sounds better).

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Send comments to octopus-4 (BETA) | Report this review (#754646)
Posted Friday, May 18, 2012 | Review Permalink

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