Francesco De Gregori talks about accounts not resolved with love

Francesco De Gregori talks about accounts not resolved with love

It was towards the end of January 2006 when Francesco De Gregori – fresh off the crown for his 1982 album, “Titanic”, as the best album of the last 30 years according to a poll by Repubblica – announced the imminent release of a new album. That album would have been released on February 17, 2006 and would have been called “Calypsos” “I wrote it in a month.

I am amazed myself, but it is clear that I needed it, art is a medicine against the evils of life. I’m discovering a belated tenderness for the tools of the trade, even a senile love for the recording room, a studio like the one in the past, large room, ample space for the physical bulk of the instruments, no cold technological miniaturization. They asked me how is the album? I replied: underwear. It speaks of unresolved accounts with love, which remains a moment of great indecipherability. Talk about the kidnappings of love. The reference is more to the nymph who made Ulysses fall in love than to the dance, even if a song is dedicated to the dance. And another, ‘Cardiology’, to the science of the heart, if it is a science at all…”. To celebrate the anniversary, here is the review of .“Calypsos” who wrote for us Alfredo Marziano.

Someone, in order to get noticed and not disappear into general indifference, has invented “event” records and concerts, special effects, parades of guests and media outbursts useful, when all goes well, to grab headlines from the newspapers and shake up the public by his, often justified, apathy. De Gregori, as a good contrarian, does exactly the opposite and has stubbornly returned to conceiving his profession as it used to be done. He goes to play with his band (always the same one) where they call him, he releases a record every time he has enough material in hand to justify renting a recording room. Low profile, in short, as an antidote to the schizophrenia of show business, “planning” and strategy at zero degree: can I confess that this is enough to make me like him, to make me immediately take his side?

That said, you need to know what you’re getting into. “Calypsos” are simply his “9 new songs”, as honestly underlined by the subtitle of a record that arrives less than a year after “Pezzi” in the most modest guise imaginable: “poor” and hyper minimal cover with name of the artist and album title reproduced on a white background (the only quirk is that lettering which, as someone else has already acutely underlined, refers to the late Battisti), essentially analogue sound, duration of less than 40 minutes like in the good old days of vinyl nostalgically recalled by the label printed on the CD.

In short, there is an ancient and familiar air circulating. With the cover of “A chi”, recorded for the “Mix” collection at the end of 2003, Francesco had confessed an unsuspected weakness for the years and the music of his youth. And this time too, keeping in check the rock and angular language that characterized so much of “Pezzi”, he returns on a couple of occasions to revisit the naive freshness of the Sixties: it happens in the delightful “La linea della vita”, light but thoughtful with lots of choruses and velvety pedal steel that would also look great in a juke box, if there were still any; and in “Love Anyway”, a kind of slow song if it weren’t for the lyrics that Rita Pavone or Nico Fidenco could never have sung. They are love songs, for the most part, as suggested by the references in the titles to heart diseases and the classic figure of the nymph Calypso, while the bitter and disoriented “politics” of the previous album also goes into the attic.

The band that accompanies him is the usual one, with Arianti, Svampa, Bardi, Giovenchi, Valle and Guido Guglielminetti (also producer) embroidering with skill and measure, while the owner plays very little and thinks about writing and singing: there are still many beautiful guitars, scrupulously noted by brand and model in the song-by-song credits, and a Mark Knopfler-style solo (in one piece, “Mayday”, which lives above all on that).

But there are also classic De Gregori-style ballads for voice and piano like “Cardiologia”, and light calypsos (here’s the title again…) like “L’angelo” in duet with Lucy Campeti, one of those carefree parentheses that the singer-songwriter has given us accustomed at least since the prehistoric times of “Banana republic”.

This is an album that prefers roundness to sharp edges, a certain composed melancholy to civil disdain, the universality of feelings to the relevance of the ideological clash. And it’s not that they are all masterpieces, the 9 new songs: the rock structure of the aforementioned “Mayday” is didactic, and the final “Three Stars” leaves no trace, an evanescent pop soul and a swing clarinet as a backdrop to metaphors all too predictable. But it is also the album of an Author, and every time a winning line emerges (“That nothing is thrown away from love”, sings Francesco with his beautiful plain voice in “Cardiologia”), a poetic glimpse, a flash of shiver.

For example, that raw, sunny and sleepy photograph that is “On the streets of Rome”, a lucid, bitter and affectionate homage to a city where “the Turks have arrived in Argentina” and the boys “dream of being politicians or actor/And they look at the present without amazement”. Or that little enchantment for a rock group and string quartet that is “La casa”, domestic DIY instructions and simple resolutions that are also valid for pop music: which can become a welcoming refuge for those who listen, with four doors at the cardinal points “that the dog can enter there/when he hears the storms”. This is also what songs are for, and the “extroverted” and generous De Gregori of recent years seems to have become increasingly aware of this.