Fabrizio De André

Rimini

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Rimini is Fabrizio De André's first record for Ricordi, and the first of the two co-written with Massimo Bubola. If in the preceding album, V.8, De André signaled a turn from the modes of European 18th century literature to surrealist poetry, here he changes another frame of reference, from Europe to the Americas. De André moved to the island of Sardinia in 1976, bought an estate, and became a farmer. The change in his lifestyle, as well as the fact that he finally started performing live (it seems this became necessary in order to finance his new home), affected his music in several ways. On one hand, he developed an interest in local dialects and realities that would dominate the later part of his career, as shown by the inclusion of a number in Sardinian, "Zirichiltaggia." On the other, he seemed to have equated, in an imaginary sense, his moving to the country with a mythical trip to the New World, most specifically the American West. For instance, the terrific "Coda di Lupo," one of De André's most political songs, surprisingly uses the Native American Sioux as a metaphor to talk about the weakening of opposition groups (in this case the Italian trade unions and parties of the left) by treason, corruption, or violence. Perhaps even more surprising are the American folk and country music influences of the song, very reminiscent of Johnny Cash's sardonic tales. In fact, the entire record often has a definite Tex-Mex flavor, thanks to the prominent use of fiddle, harmonica, mandolin, and ocarina, as well as male and female background vocals -- rarely employed by De André previously. The most obvious examples of these new leanings are the beautiful "Andrea," which sounds as if lifted straight from an Ennio Morricone Western score, and of course the excellent Italian version of Bob Dylan's "Romance in Durango." Reportedly, Dylan liked the cover so much that he sent De André a personal thank-you letter.

Furthermore, touring must have helped to shape the sound of Rimini: it truly sounds like a record made by a band, rather than a songwriter's compositions orchestrated by an arranger, something that would become even more evident in the live renditions of these songs with Premiata Forneria Marconi. In this sense, Rimini is perhaps the closest De André would come to making a rock album, as most tracks feature drums, electric guitar, and bass. Having said that, it should also be emphasized that this record sounds like nothing but a Fabrizio De André album, as abundantly made clear by its two finest songs. The first is the title track, a trademark 6/8 arpeggio ballad that establishes a stunning parallel between a sad young girl from the beach town of Rimini and Christopher Columbus. These two characters look longingly at the sea and share a common thread of disappointment, betrayal, and loss: one, a summer love that ended up in abortion and malicious town gossip that effectively ruined her life; the other, an entire continent taken from him, its inhabitants left to be massacred, and its discoverer sent to prison. Finally, in "Sally," De André revisits the fairy tale settings of his early work, but now infused with surrealism, in a coming-of-age story of a wide-eyed boy who cannot help leaving his home for a world of mystery and temptation, only to realize that he will never come back -- and he fully accepts this as his own will. "Sally," of course, can be related to De André's renunciation of modern urban society, but also to his desire to search for new musical directions that would become even more apparent in his later work. An often magical album, Rimini is hampered by the inclusion of two pleasant if inessential instrumentals, a spoken piece that drags on and on, and the aforementioned experiment in dialect. Since the last three tracks are among the less successful, the album seems to run out of steam toward the end -- a pity, because from track one to seven this may very well be the finest collection of songs De André ever put together.

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