Lorenzo 1997: L'Albero

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Lorenzo 1997: L'Albero opens a new phase in Jovanotti's career. After the success of Lorenzo 1994, Jovanotti did not release a new album for three years, the best-selling greatest-hits compilation Lorenzo Raccolta appearing in 1995. Instead, he took a deserved break to indulge in his favorite pastime, traveling all over the world. L'Albero is a conscious attempt to capture the sum of those experiences and to introduce a further development of the Jovanotti persona: the world citizen replacing the Italian rapper, a global conscience taking over national matters. While there had been hints of this new direction in his previous albums, L'Albero was obviously conceived as its definitive full-blown manifesto, both thematically and musically. The album was partly recorded in Johannesburg and the influence of South African music takes center stage, resonating in virtually every bass and guitar line. Curiously, while a few South African musicians participate on the record (mostly on percussion and backing vocals), the bass and guitar parts were performed by Jovanotti's faithful crew of Saturnino and Michele Centonze, who proved surprisingly adept at incorporating new elements into their playing. The mixture between rap vocals and drum tracks and African bass/guitar sounds works pretty well, for the most part. At its best, it takes Jovanotti's music to places he has never been before, as in the absolute gem "Per la Vita Che Verrà," a delicate (and very contemporary) love song that feels perfectly at home against a traditional African counter-vocal and bass pattern. This is certainly the finest and more original experiment in world music of Jovanotti's career. While few other tracks manage to blend traditions so creatively, the cultural interplay at least manages to add much needed variety and texture to a record that lasts for 19 tracks and 80 minutes. Editing is once more Jovanotti's Achilles heel, and the fact that all of the best songs are grouped at the beginning of the album does not help its second half. It is not that, individually, the last songs are poor, but that when you get to those you've heard one or two very similar songs already. As usual with Jovanotti's records, however, the singles taken from L'Albero are nothing but brilliant. "Questa é la Mia Casa" is the album's perfect calling card: an ecumenical statement in the name of universal brotherhood, respect, and tolerance for all races and cultures, it epitomizes all of L'Albero's concerns into a single track. Still, the best one is the instant singalong classic "Bella," another of Jovanotti's trademark, effortless, absolutely unassailable love songs, one of those simple tunes that sums up all that is grand about pop music. In sum, Lorenzo 1997: L'Albero is another strong effort by the restless Jovanotti, introducing a new global focus that also extended to distribution. Indeed, the album had an international release featuring exclusive Spanish versions of "Questa é la Mia Casa" and "Bella" -- no match for the originals, though.

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