Alan Sorrenti's first album, dense and inspired as never before

Alan Sorrenti's first album, dense and inspired as never before

It was released on 8 June 1972 “Air”the first album by Alan Sorrenti. A record that our music critics, practically unanimously, recognize as one of the best examples of Italian progressive music, if not (even) one of the best albums of Italian pop ever. On the anniversary of its release we invite you to listen again “Air” and to read the album review he wrote for us Ivano Rebustini.

It's a shame that in the transition from vinyl to CD, the label of this album was lost, that unmistakable green label with the Harvest logo that fans of the time – we are in 1972 – had become accustomed to finding on Pink Floyd's albums and Deep Purple, but also the Third Ear Band and Kevin Ayers. That label acted as a certificate of guarantee, even though Alan Sorrenti's first album wouldn't have needed it, dense and inspired as it was.

Anyone who met him in his last known domiciles, whether it was an episode of “Anima mia” or the cover of “Miami” (yet another attempt to find – like a good Neapolitan – a place in the sun), will have wondered if he really existed, that handsome, thin boy with flowing hair and a discreet beard, dressed now like a young beat, now like a hermit, a voice that no one had ever had the good of listening to before and perhaps would never be heard after under these skies.

So much so that those who know, immediately start looking and looking elsewhere: far away like Los Angeles and its surroundings, where a certain Tim Buckley had attracted attention; in the nearest Great Britain, homeland of Alan's mother, the Welsh singer – and future lieutenant of the English navy – Jenny Gwendalin Thomas (her father, Francesco Sorrenti, is a Neapolitan painter), where those Van De Graaf Generators are agitated that they would have lent the flautist Dave Jackson to Alan's second album, but in Sorrenti's dreams they had already sent the dark singer Peter Hammill; and also a stone's throw from home, Positano, where for some time another lord of the octaves, the former Donovan guitarist Shawn Phillips, had taken root.

But if these are the names that are always mentioned about Alan Sorrenti, perhaps it would be time to stop and recognize that “Aria”, both the very long suite (for the paltry seven seconds it doesn't cross the twenty-minute mark) and the album whole, it shines with its own light, a light – indeed – so dazzling that it ended up ruining the boy Alan's eyesight. Which will no longer be able to see clearly from the third ellepi, after the tiring, painful confirmation of the second, with the kilometric title “Like an old censer at dawn of a deserted village” (recorded in London with the aforementioned Jackson and the keyboardist of Curved Air Francis Monkman among others) and the amazing vocal cameo of “A little girl”, a song that appeared on the first self-titled album by Saint Just by her sister Jenny, released in '73 as “Incenser”, also for Harvest.

“Aria, in every corner of my room I am looking for you”: introduced by a reassuring carpet of arpeggiated guitar, Sorrenti's voice immediately makes us understand what awaits us and what he has prepared for us in cahoots with the keyboardist and arranger Albert Prince ; Alan manipulates it and stretches it like plasticine, caresses it and mistreats it, throws it and picks it up, a boomerang that before returning to the thrower's hand draws a furrow in our hearts and in our brains.

This voice sings words that are sometimes unintelligible, but it is certainly not the lyrics – not even despicable, that of the delicate “Vorrei meets you” above all – that will make her remembered. Indeed, let's face it: who cares about the lyrics, she never stops agreeing with Jonsi Birgisson of Sigur Rós. Also because words often deceive – what is it, or perhaps better yet who is this Aria on whose body Alan's body moves slowly? -, music never. Especially if you put holy hands like those of the jazz violinist Jean Luc Ponty (who knows how much they paid him, money still well deserved), the vigorous arms and legs of the drummer and percussionist Antonio (later Toni) Esposito, the loose wrist of Vittorio Nazzaro (bass and guitar). And Jean Costa's trumpet and André Lajdli's trombone, Tony Bonfils' bowed bass also have their say, even the Spanish dancer Martin Paratore must have done something otherwise they wouldn't have included her in the credits. To finish – last but not least – with Prince: the fabric is shiny, the cut is imaginative, but if the dress fits well it is largely thanks to his piano and his Hammond, the mellotron and the Harp.

After a couple of violent storms and a few precarious moments of calm, the album ends in (apparent) glory with the birds chirping and the bees buzzing, but they are immediately noises from outside and hallucinating noises from inside: the “Quiet River” perhaps it is not so calm after all, Alan's mind “full of things, full of screws, screwdrivers, full of nails” will too soon abandon the music to its fate, and “Children of the Stars” and “Donna Luna” will come, perhaps ” Sexually magical”, but real magic will not return. There is no one outside the factory gates; in fact, if you look closely, the factory isn't even there anymore.