De André originally intended to continue his investigation of Mediterranean folk music, so successfully explored in 1984's groundbreaking Creuza de Mä. However, he felt that such a task would distance him from committing to record his opinion on the political upheaval going on in Europe and in Italy at the time of the fall of the Berlin wall. Since he was equally keen on both counts, he conceived a new project, loosely inspired on Aristophanes' play The Clouds. De André divided Le Nuvole into two mini-suites, one per each side. The first one, sung in Italian, deals with the desolate state of current affairs in Italy, where moral decadence and political corruption had managed to contaminate all ideologies, rendered now effectively meaningless. The second side, sung in Genoese, Sardinian, and Neapolitan dialect, consists of a series of folk tales, in the vein of Creuza de Mä. If De André had considerably slowed down his output since the early '80s, he compensated with a rise of his already notorious fastidious perfectionism. Le Nuvole involved a cast of dozens of musicians, as well as three arrangers, Mauro Pagani, Piero Milesi, and Sergio Conforti. Pagani, the musical brain behind Creuza de Mä also was also credited as co-composer, and Massimo Bubola and Ivano Fossati collaborated on the texts of three songs. Le Nuvole took four years to complete, but it was worth the wait: it is probably the most superbly arranged album of the entire De André discography. Musically, it spreads from Viennese waltzes and Neapolitan songs from the 18th century to orchestral pieces and folk songs played on ethnic instruments. While every track in Le Nuvole is ostensibly great, and the diversity of styles showcases De André's impressive versatility, the record's hybrid nature makes it sound like two different albums instead of a single cohesive masterpiece. The first side brilliantly updates De André's topical songwriter credentials, adding a few more classics to the catalog in the process such as "Don Raffae'" and "La Domenica Delle Salme." This last song is a perfect political counterpoint to De André's autobiographical classic "Amico Fragile," built around a similar tremolo pattern. It is also equally harrowingly sarcastic in tone, a seven-and-a-half minute clenched-teeth fresco of contemporary society plagued by organized violence, racial intolerance, immoral opportunism, and social and political indifference. The second side is less immediately impressive (or disturbing), but it is full of beautiful, reflective passages as well as superb vocal performances and arrangements. Indeed, as his simply gorgeous rendition of "La Nova Gelosia" (an ancient Neapolitan song rediscovered by Roberto Murolo) can attest, De André has seldom sung better than on this record.
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AllMusic Review by Mariano Prunes