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Viva l'Italia!

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Album Review

Francesco De Gregori came back with a vengeance from a self-imposed retirement with his outstanding 1978 album De Gregori. He immediately followed with a successful collaboration with friend and fellow pop star Lucio Dalla that extended over the hit single "Ma Come Fanno i Marinai" and a high-profile tour, and recorded the excellent live album Banana Republic. Not surprisingly, his 1979 release Viva L'Italia is the most "Dalla-esque" album of De Gregori's career, even if Dalla did not co-write any of the material (he is only listed as playing horns on two tracks). Both artists seemed to be on the same wavelength at the time, as a comparison between this album and Dalla's release of the same year (simply titled Lucio Dalla) will attest. In fact, the parallelism between Dalla's "L'ultima Luna" and De Gregori's "L'ultima Nave" is so obvious that it is very likely both singers were having some sort of private contest or joke. While Dalla and De Gregori complement each other beautifully, when the latter tries to adopt the more playful style of the former, he occasionally slips into blandness. While the album include some remarkable songs that manage to stay on the right side of cute, such as the impishly lovely "Gesù Bambino" and "Stella Stellina," it seldom reaches the heights of his previous work. Moreover, the sound is a bit generic, perhaps as a consequence of the curious decision to bring British session musicians to Rome to record it, including legendary producer Andrew Loog Oldham (whose influence here is impalpable) and arranger David Sinclair Whitaker. At any rate, Viva L'Italia is best remembered by its classic title track, a heartfelt song about the pain and pleasures of living in Italy, that achieved the stature of an unofficial national hymn. A bit like "Born in the U.S.A." for Bruce Springsteen, "Viva L'Italia" has given its notoriously engaged author many a reward and many a headache over the years, since parties at all ends of the political spectrum have tried to appropriate the song for their own purposes, including the ultra-nationalist right that De Gregori reviles. A pleasant album by De Gregori, Viva L'Italia nevertheless remains the least satisfying of his glorious '70s records.


Born: 04 April 1951 in Rome, Italy

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Born in 1951 in Rome, singer/songwriter Francesco De Gregori grew up listening to and being inspired by American musicians Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen as well as Italian artist Fabrizio De André. It was the latter who heard De Gregori recording songs at a famous studio in Rome, and was impressed enough to began helping the young singer. In 1972, after De Gregori signed to IT, Theorius Campus, an LP with Antonello Venditti, was released. Unfortunately, critics were unimpressed with the album, a sentiment...
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Viva l'Italia!, Francesco De Gregori
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