"These albums are unique in the way they combine string-heavy European crooner pop with prog rock grooves and psychedelic guitar," notes Michael Saltzman, who penned the liner notes for the label's Umanamente reissue. When I ask Saltzman to name a favorite period in Battisti's career, he chooses Amore and Umanamente as peak examples of the stylistic cross-pollination that was occurring on other continents via Tropicália, perhaps most notably during the late- and initial post-Beatles years. Indeed, they are "comunque bella," to quote the chorus of one of Umanamente's hymnlike highlights, only in the sense that Battisti adds dissonant elements to counterbalance the abundant beauty of his voice and compositions.
Perhaps at my suggestion, Bianchi isn't averse to likening the deep artistic connection that Battisti had with his Amore and Umanamente lyricist, Mogol, to one that existed between a certain American troubadour and his wordsmith: "Mogol was the inner voice of Lucio like Larry Beckett was the inner voice of Tim Buckley," Bianchi observes. But in the end, he's insistent apologetically so that "no one but the Italians can understand" the "magic" of Battisti in full bloom: "In the early '70s, Battisti released his best albums, and the way he approached something we can call progressive was peculiarly Italian and peculiarly Battisti-like. If you know the other Italian progressive bands, you know that Battisti wasn't part of the scene. He was a great musician because he changed the face of Italian pop music."
To which I say, "Pace, Pace," or "Pace, pace." The most musical of all languages might float through Battisti's songs, but their space shadowy, sacred, alternately melancholic and frenzied is open to anyone who listens, Italian, American, Italian American, and otherwise.
After all, the glorious anthemic harmony at the close of Umanamente's "... E Penso a Te" speaks the universal language of pop, repeating variations of "la-la" until shivers shoot up the spine and tears form at the corners of one's eyes.*
For an e-mail Q&A with Amedeo Pace about Lucio Battisti, see the Noise blog at www.sfbg.com/blogs/music.
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