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Angelo Branduardi - Branduardi '81 CD (album) cover


Angelo Branduardi


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.23 | 7 ratings

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4 stars I've been reported that Angelo Branduardi himself doesn't like this album, and I remember that I was very disappointed, too... when it came out. When in the 90s Polydor Italy re-issued the studio-albums from "Alla fiera dell' est" to this one, I decided to buy them all in order to avoid a gap in my collection cause somehow this one, though I still regarded it as a lesser one, belonged in there. And nowadays I'm one of the people who are utterly happy to have got a CD of it, shaking my head at the fact that it hasn't been re-released like the others ( perhaps due to the master himself being unhappy with it - but he's also unhappy with "Pane e Rose" and thank god you can at least purchase that one nowadays ). Why ?

Well, first let me tell you what made it a disappointment then. Maurizio Fabrizio was missing ( for the first time since the second album ) and there was no replacement in the band that could live up to his brilliant guitar-playing. Franco di Sabatino, the keyboardist, stepped in as Branduardi's co-arranger and leader of the ensemble, while Godfrey Salmon and - on one track - Paul Buckmaster ( who also co-arranged some tracks with the band ) handled the orchestral arrangements, all of them delivering good work, but Angelo and Giorgio Cocilovo - the man who replaced Maurizio - seemed to always play the same, rather simple picking and strumming on their guitars ( Ovation was very popular at the time - so you get a lot of the typical Ovation-Stereo sound here and it's too typical and samey compared to the wonderful classical guitar-duetts that Angelo and Maurizio were so capable of ) and this made many songs - ballads such as "I tre Merchanti" and "Il Disgelo", rhythm-based "modern" tracks like "Barche di Carta" and "Musica" ( that not only offered a lack of melody but with "Musica" sounded like a poor recycling of old ideas - it was too obviously "La Serie dei Numeri Part 2" with the same chords and formerly lovely arrangement now being quoted by chirpy keyboard-sounds uaagh ! ) sound bland. When Branduardi was playing and singing alone - "L'Amico", "La Cagna" - he sounded tired and like being captured in an endless-loop of self-repeating without passion or spark. Worse to that: "La Collina del Sonno" sounded so sleepy and repetitive to me that I couldn't listen through it ! Even the over-long "Girotondo", an ear-wig for sure, didn't really deliver the joy, Branduardi's fiddling somehow sounded amateurish and straining here. This record seemed so bland and flat. "Vola", at the end, didn't make up for that, though the string arrangement is awesome. I listened over and over but after a while I gave up - even feeling cheated that the album had been released this way. I thought it was immature and unfinished. I remember that by 1986 or so I told a woman ( who had asked me about my opinion ) that I thought it feels like a bad joke that, in absence of inspiration and new ideas, had only been released in order to make some bucks but was of no artistic merit at all. I told her that Branduardi "needs Fabrizio" - that was my opinion then. But the record was very successful and "Musica" gave Branduardi another hit, the critics wrote good reviews and the fans who had been disappointed were made up for it later with Fabrizio returning and both successors of "Branduardi '81", namely "Cercando L'Oro" and "Canta Yeats", belonging to Branduardi's finest once more. Many still view it that way.

Now, having this CD since 1994, I can only say I was wrong - and Branduardi is wrong with ashamedly keeping it from the market. It's a grower. It's got different qualities. It's far better than anyone of us may think with the first listen(s). But you've got to free yourself from expectations first and not compare it with what came before or afterwards. I enjoy listening to it today just as much as I do with "La Pulce D'Acqua", "Alla Fiera dell' est" or "Cercando L'Oro", even more than listening to "Cogli la prima mela". It was a natural progression and it's a honest piece of work with genuine emotions. And the songs somehow hide their qualities at first or second listen. You've got to get familiar with them. You'll discover lots of love and care that went into their arrangements and performances. Little things. Many, many little things that are not obvious first. Once you have discovered them you don't wanna do without this album anymore because it's as much a classic as the other ones. And it has been produced without one note too much - unlike "Cogli". It's got a soft and mellow mood overall, it's not "straight in the face" and - mostly - not digging in the deep, it's flowing gently most of the time. It's perfect entertainment, a singer/songwriter's offering with some progressive moments in the arrangements, namely "Vola" and the one song I will return to when I come to close this review.

"I tre Merchanti" and "Il Disgelo" are breathtakingly beautiful. They were written in similar major-key-mood ( not in the same key, actually ) and their structure is related to one another, but they belong to Branduardi's best ballads. "La Cagna" is a gem of a song, the pan-flute intro amazing, the somewhat tired mood is not tedious at all, it makes it a haunting recording. The Ovation-sound gives the record a unique flavour and it's also great on the lovely "L'Amico", a song that isn't that far behind "La Luna" and has a beautiful string-score.

"Musica" and "Barche di Carta" are fun. I mean - songs like these don't change the world but they can lift you up just like "Girotondo", which should have been a hit in edited version. The only thing I argue about the record these days is: It's still over-long in unedited form.

What's absolutely making this album a must-have for Branduardi-Fans ( and therefore a must-re-release for Branduardi himself - please ! ) is "La Collina del Sonno". Oh my. I must confess to have had no ears for this by then. I believe I was deaf, at least insensitive. I can't stand myself for that now because - It's so amazing and beautiful, there are no words to describe. And, if only for once, this is really progressive music. Paul Buckmaster's arrangement is nothing less than divine. If you listen hard it's like... heaven's opening for you - and inside you. Meditation. Contemplation. Revelation. Everything. Music that can't be bettered so I doubt if Branduardi has ever recorded a better track than this. And I suspect that, given 8 more years of listening, this album may become my favourite at last. "Gulliver, La Luna e altri disegni" is hard to beat. The sole problem was that this one came afterwards ( for me ), and my expectations had misled me. It's different. It's unique. It's outstanding. "Vola" - one of the few "highlights" at first listen - did not grow, but it's a fine ending still.

I love this album now. It's less medieval and it's less blatant than the others. It's simply Branduardi. And although Maurizio Fabrizio is always welcome - this album is proof that Branduardi does not really need him so much as long as he has fine songs. There's plenty of fine songs here. And nothing, nothing to complain about - with the hindsight of years. 4 stars. At least !!!

rupert | 4/5 |


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