Francesco De Gregori (Ita)

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aec.imt1160855.2 6/3/14 New
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Review Text This 1974 self-titled Francesco De Gregori release has many points in common with its predecessor, Alice Non Lo Sa. Often called "the Sheep Album" because of its cover, this record was also criticized for its obscurity and failed to produce any hit singles, although -- just as with the previous album -- its first track, "Niente da Capire," would eventually become a De Gregori classic. A wry but still affectionate portrait of a very peculiar ex-lover, "Niente da Capire" also manages to make fun of the accusations of hermeticism leveled at De Gregori, as each stanza features a good serving of surrealistic wordplay and ends with the emphatic title line "There's nothing to understand here." Clearly, the mixed reception of his first work greatly affected De Gregori, as several songs question or mock his own ability to write, in a manner that is sometimes ironic and sometimes self-deprecating, but which also points to a very telling fear of inadequacy or isolation. Not for the first time in his career, De Gregori would struggle with self-confidence. In fact, in a 1980 interview he identified this album as his worst, and mentioned that he should not have released it. Presumably, De Gregori has changed his mind since then and -- like most of his fans -- has reconsidered this album as the hidden treasure of his entire discography. While it is true that the record is bogged down by a few tracks that are simply too rambling, the vast majority of this material is as good as anything he has done. For one thing, the album has a more cohesive sonic identity than Alice Non Lo Sa, replacing the various arrangements of the previous record with a focus on the acoustic guitars parts. Moreover, if the first album occasionally recalled Leonard Cohen, here it is the influence of Bob Dylan that permeates many of the songs. This becomes particularly evident in a running thread of the album, the surreal nightmare song genre that Dylan perfected in pieces like "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" or "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream." In songs such as "Informazioni di Vincent" and "Cercando un Altro Egitto" (the latter would also become a concert staple), De Gregori magnificently adapts Dylan's absurdist catalogs into the Italian language and culture, albeit in a folk rather than a blues idiom. Other exceptional tracks include the miniature "Souvenir" (a test run for future gems like "Piccola Mela" and "Santa Lucia"), "Finestre di Dolore," and, above all, "Bene," an extraordinary (and extraordinarily sad) farewell letter to a lover, the type of song that would become De Gregori's specialty. Indeed, the following year he would release another tour de force of the genre in the title song of his breakthrough album, Rimmel. ~ Mariano Prunes

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Release Date
6/3/14 

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