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Lucio Battisti - Anima Latina CD (album) cover


Lucio Battisti


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3.85 | 49 ratings

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5 stars Anima Latina looks like a warm album - glancing at the summer-scene on the cover, with all that gold and the dancing children, you might be surprised at the almost cold feel the keyboards and the generous reverb bring to this record.

Opener, 'Embrace...' (hope that's translated right) acts as an almost chilly introduction to the album, with the keys and the spacious beat leaving lots of space for reverb to build atmosphere. Even with the Latin-influence to the horns and the jump in tempo later on, this one has the sombre feel of a lost love, and serves as an impressive shift toward even more restless, exploratory material for Battisti. Not that he was a 'by the numbers' artist before. Even as a singer-songwriter firmly entrenched in the pop world, he was always inventive and his exposure to progressive music, as either participant or producer, had been creeping into previous albums, especially on Il Nostro Caro Angelo.

What this release (easily one of my favourites from Battisti) does so well is dispense with conventional song structure. It introduces almost haunting, restless pieces with a more linear feel, supported by reprises rather than choruses, in order to develop its musical themes. The use of horns and flute, while cheerful on one level, are soaked in reverb or treated in such a way to sound almost chilly, where they match the keyboards, which are in turn used to evoke an almost space-like feel, as if a samba band had been shot into the atmosphere, leaving Battisti and lyricist Mogol to pull them back down to earth.

Often compared in Italy to the partnership of Lennon and McCartney, Battisti and Mogol are a powerful song writing duo. Of course, I can't speak for the quality of Mogol's lyrics, but they're said to have an abstract feel, and the songs of food, love, sex and loneliness on Anima Latina have a tortured vibe that still comes through thanks to Lucio's mournful voice. Here, his at times strained but distinctive upper register is less in effect than on earlier albums and singles, but he's always wonderful. In fact, one of my favourite moments from Battisti is in the gentle and direct 'Due Mondi' reprise, where it's just Lucio and the piano.

Without a doubt the album is denser than his earlier works, especially in terms of layering - this is a complex collection of 'pop' music. While the acoustic guitar is important in providing rhythm and also more delicate touches when in a lead role, the ensemble feel to the music is just as vital. In addition to Lucio's voice, drums, bass and guitar, there are two piano/keyboard players, a horn section of trumpets and trombone and flute on top of several percussionists and backing vocalists. This larger cast is really welcome stuff, greatly enhancing the last half of the festive title track for instance, or feeding the faintly ominous tones of 'Anonimo.'

This album is the last of Lucio Battisti's before a disco influence crept into his work for a few records, and so anyone looking for progressive pop might like to start here then go backwards a few albums (including the amazing Amore e Non Amore) rather than move forward from here. RPI fans of the less aggressive end of the country's output might well enjoy this album too, or basically anyone who believes themselves to be a fan of Italian music and are up for an album that reveals its wonders after repeated listens.

dreadpirateroberts | 5/5 |


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