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Franco Battiato - L'Era Del Cinghiale Bianco CD (album) cover


Franco Battiato


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.37 | 34 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars When this album was released, back in 1979, it came as a surprise to those who knew Franco Battiato as a wacky, avant-garde artist known for near-unlistenable records - such as its predecessor, the notorious L'Egitto prima delle sabbie. However, L'era del cinghiale bianco (a title referring to both Celtic and Hindu mythology, in which the wild boar was a symbol of spiritual renewal) took the Italian music scene by storm, even if it did not become a massive hit like its followers eventually did. Neatly packaged in a stylish cover brimming with all kinds of esoteric symbols, it features music that is at the same time accessible and sophisticated, Battiato's distinctive vocals, redolent of the Middle East, and his trademark lyrical style, a brilliant mixture of the nonsense and the cultivated. While you do not need to understand Italian to appreciate Battiato's music, it is undeniable that, if you don't, you are missing out on something - though his voice is fascinating even without having a clue of what he is singing about. I believe not enough has been said about how innovative Battiato's singing style has been for the Italian music scene, where singers are usually expected to have either very pleasant and melodic, or very theatrical voices. In some ways, Battiato's style can be compared to another great innovator's, Lucio Battisti (not yet included in the database at the time of writing) - neither gifted with powerful lungs, but both aware of the effectiveness of using one's voice as an additional instrument, and of the frequent superiority of expressiveness versus mere power.

One of the things I have always loved about Battiato's lyrics is their strong visual quality, very evident on the album's title-track (introduced by an awesome, utterly memorable violin riff), which conjures up images of exotic cities like Tunis and Damascus; while Strade dell'Est (whose strong rhythmic beat is vaguely reminiscent of a train) takes us on a journey through Central Asia, though hidden cities, crowded markets, and ancient legends. On the other hand, the mellow, hypnotic Il re del mondo references the theory of René Guénon about the 'spiritual centre' of the world, and its negative effects on free choice. Album closer Stranizza d'amuri, sung by the artist in his native Sicilian dialect, is somewhat older than the other tracks, having been written in 1975 (it is also included in the compilation La convenzione). Luna indiana is a beautiful, mostly instrumental, piano-based track, and the atmospheric Pasqua etiope is basically a prayer sung in Latin.

While prog purists may frown upon Battiato's move, open-minded music fans will find a lot to love in this intriguing, sophisticated album. In spite of its superficial 'poppy' feel, L'era del cinghiale bianco has many layers, which will unfold upon repeated listens. Granted, it is not 'conventional' prog by any means, and as such may be found disappointing by those who expect 20-minute epics, or wild time signature shifts. Knowledge of Italian is a bonus (unless one day I decide to translate the lyrics), but in no way essential to enjoy Franco Battiato's mesmerising musical world. Four solid stars from this reviewer.

Raff | 4/5 |


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