Fabrizio De André

Tutti Morimmo a Stento

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Fabrizio de André's second full-length album offered an unexpected and very different listening experience from the singer's previous releases. Instead of the Georges Brassens-influenced folk songs that had built him a reputation as one of the most original voices of his generation, De André came up with a concept album, the first of its kind in Italy. Acknowledging the Moody Blues' Days of Future Passed as his main inspiration, De André conceived Tutti Morimmo a Stento as a "Cantanta in B minor for soloist, choir, and orchestra." This was a lavish undertaking, made possible by producer Antonio Casetta's faith in De André's talents, as it involved 80 musicians from the Orchestra Philarmonia di Roma and the P. Carapellucci choir. Once more, De André chose to work with maestro Giampiero Reverberi, whose role as director, arranger, and co-composer for this album cannot be underestimated, as he created an Ennio Morricone-like blend of string orchestra, acoustic guitars, and horns and percussion flashes. The album was very well received in Italy it reached number two on the charts. Time, however, has not been so gracious with Tutti Morimmo a Stento, arguably the less accomplished of the several concept albums that De André would make. Tutti Morimmo a Stento suffers mostly from a certain morose tone that is evident from its very title, which roughly translates as "We all died with great difficulty" (in the sense of slowly and/or painfully). The album presents a series of vignettes around the lives and deaths of desperate or mad individuals such as drug addicts (a veiled reference to De André's own problems with alcoholism) or those condemned to die by hanging, and concludes in a harsh indictment of those supposed pillars of society (judges, statesmen, bankers) who have no pity for the less fortunate. Structured as a cantata, with recitativos and instrumental intermezzos throughout, the album can occasionally become too solemn and admonishing for its own sake. This is particularly the case in its opening and closing sequences, when De André recites instead of singing, over strings and a mournful choir. Though overambitious and sometimes overbearing, Tutti Morimmo a Stento is not without brilliant passages that hint at the possibilities of the orchestral suite format that De André would so successfully explore in the future. Indeed, the middle segment of the album is quite wonderful, with "Inverno," a lyrical air not unworthy of the best Italian opera tradition (arguably Reverberi's finest moment), and the satirical childlike roundabout "Girotondo" that introduces a much welcome change of pace and tone. Those two tracks, and the chilling "Ballata Degli Impiccati," are as impressive as anything De André has recorded. As these make up more than a third of the record, it would be a great disservice to consider Tutti Morimmo a Stento a weak album, but it certainly pales a bit in comparison with later masterpieces such as La Buona Novella or Non al Denaro non all'Amore Nè al Cielo, and it often sounds like a dry run for those works. Granted, this is a common problem with artists of such high standards and consistency as De André: used to uniform excellence, one may feel a bit let down with merely partial brilliance. At any rate, on the evidence of his second LP, no one could doubt De André's multiple talents, as well as his ambition to transcend the singer/songwriter mould -- even at such an early stage of his career.

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