I’ve had a lot rumination to do when going back and listening to all these brilliant pieces of Brazilian music. Why aren’t they more widely known? Why aren’t they woven into our own fabric of culture? What’s stopping us from looking at places like Latin America or elsewhere for inspiration, whether artistic or personal? It is for these reasons, that I’m picking Lucio Battisti’s “Anima Latina”, a true ageless and timeless masterpiece released in 1974, as my album of the month.
Now here’s an artist who both answered and reflected back these questions. Lucio had always been a great Italian pop artist, gifted in writing some of the most endearing Sanremo-like songs, sometimes solely because of his aversion to melisma. However, by 1974, he was increasingly growing weary of writing songs that weren’t directly confronting what both his audience and what the fascist government of Italy thought was appropriate for him to release. He wanted to create an album that would be the demarcation line between his then music and his vision of a future music. Lucio knew it was necessary for him to escape the walls he had built up artistically. In the past, to remain viable he would look towards the US and England for inspiration. To break down those barriers he knew he had to look elsewhere.
Around 1973, he and his co-writer “Mogol” took a sojourn and decided to travel around South America, mostly around Brazil and Argentina. While traveling, he as a nascent listener, was just astounded by the rhythm and variety of music found in this continent. Returning back to Italy, looking at the music of his own country, Italian folk and prog, he found a new light of inspiration in them as well. Add to this his increased interest in the synthesizer sound of Germany and of his own Italian brethren like Franco Battiato, he finally saw a way to create this new beacon of sound. Truly, the most forward thinking album of the most forward thinking year in music, 1974’s release of “Anima Latina” or “Latin Soul” presents the kind of timeless music and heartfelt sound that can be conjured when we take some time to look beyond our walls. I’ll post my original review of this album below, but I’d rather you listen to the album and draw your own conclusions first:
“Albums as unique as these are rarely the product of one person’s/band single vision. It’s easy to forget how little by little Lucio was baiting his audience (mostly Italian and rarely big outside of mainland Europe) into letting him explore places his influences had gone. He did all this whilst using his background in what was true Italian pop music with Italian chord progressions and song structures.
The opening track prepares you for the rest of the album. It sounds like Talk Talk, only decades before they existed. It still astounds me with how modern it sounds. If you released this album, in any year from then onwards it would never sound out of that current time. So what’s to say about the album? This an album made up of all these wise sonic choices influenced by Lucio’s musical exploration. Just look at “Anima Latina”, perhaps the ultimate album track, which takes the swing of samba and combines it with Lucio’s Mediterranean horns. Its such a gripping song, when those horns hit you’ll know that it strikes a nerve in your body where no other music has before. Then there are tracks “Gli Uomini Celesti” which is essentially an Italian folk song enhanced with ambient textures that then dramatically explodes into a beat driven funk outro. “Anonimo” is almost the opposite of this a slow burning r&b-like half (full of electric piano and synth, acoustic guitar) that segues into a ramped up version of the intro full of Spanish/Gypsy music overtones.
Those “why haven’t they done that before” moments, are what makes this album so great. Lucio continues throughout the course of the album to walk an expertly fine line between experimentation and accessibility. Check out the second side of the album, after the title track, and see how he increasingly keeps exploring more ways to join his influences and tries to push them further forward. “Il Salame” sounds baroque but has those massive synths keeping you firmly in the future and interested. “La Nuova America” starts with a motorik beat that constantly tries to bring in ways to take that beat places Kraftwerk, NEU!, Brian Eno/David Bowie or a funk band hadn’t taken it yet (this was 1974, no sign of Station to Station or La Düsseldorf yet…).
I would imagine it was Lucio’s love of music that allowed him to create an album such as this. “Machina del Tempo”, for example, just keeps ramming the listener with twists and turns of style/sound that would sound disjointed if made by other people but not with Lucio. Lucio had an uncanny ability of keeping his songs structured and accessible. True musical geniuses are the ones who can find that balance effortlessly.
We might know, or guess at nowadays, that during his time Lucio heard some Jorge Ben, Milton Nascimento, or even in his own doorstep someone like Franco Battiato, or Fabrizio De André, and knew he couldn’t match their prowess, or single-minded experimentation, and said to hell with it. His one ace in the hole was that he wasn’t encumbered to feign an English sound anymore, or to be expected to push the ground experimentally. No one expected such a deep knowledge of music from Lucio, and for him to have such an ability to push it beyond his Italian pop beginnings; but he proved them wrong here. If you stick around with him albums like the next one “La batteria, il contrabbasso eccetera” or “Io tu noi tutti” show him comfortably expand his sphere of wise musical experiments… alterna-disco, punk, funk, and more await you.”
World Cup Prediction of the Day:
Argentina v. Switzerland: Argentina (Winner)
USA v. Belgium: USA (Winner)
Check out this promo video of Lucio Battisti’s “Ancora Tu” a track that came out on “La Batteria etc.” but was originally destined for “Anima Latina”: