Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Franco Battiato - Fetus (1971)

An internationally known artist, Franco Battiato has been everything in his long career, from beat singer to avantgarde performer, producer, contemporary music composer.
His beginnings lay in the mid 60's, with many singles released with no particular success, the first two under his real name of Francesco. He had left the native Sicily (he was born in Jonia, near Catania in 1945) moving to Milan around 1965.

In 1970 after his collaboration with Osage Tribe (that he quit before their only album Arrowhead) he had a record deal with Bla Bla, releasing his first solo album in 1972.
Fetus, housed in a outrageous cover (reproducing a foetus) was definitely a prog album, but a very original one, with a minimalist sound mainly based on the use of a VCS3 synth, unusual lyrics, complex arrangements. Two tracks, Energia and Una cellula were also released as single. Italian Prog

Franco Battiato is one of Italy's biggest pop stars. From just hearing that you might think he's just the kind of guy to appear on the Eurovision Song Contest. Not at all, not particularly his '70s material, like this one, Fetus, from 1972. This album has one of the more disturbing covers I have seen, this is definately the kind of album cover that would outrage the likes of Operation Rescue, the Army of God, or Neal Horsley. At this point, Battiato was exploring the world of avant garde electronic music on the VCS-3 synthesizer with the prog rock sound of the day. I just notice how much this album resembles Le Orme with an avant garde bent. Battiato's vocals even sound just like Aldo Tagliapietra, and some of the acoustic passages resemble Le Orme's acoustic-oriented material. But of course, while Le Orme's Toni Pagliuca did often include a bunch of bizarre electronic effects off his synths (like on Contrappunti or Felona e Sorona), it's nothing on the scale that Battiato had done on Fetus. The title track simply blows me away, just as Battiato starts really cooking on his synths, it suddenly stops. "Cariocinesi" features some American-style violin work (reminding me of Don "Sugarcane" Harris, of Don & Dewey and Frank Zappa fame), and it's only the Italian vocals that reveal that this is hardly American. "Energia" starts off with the recurring theme of the title track, with the sounds of kids and babies this time, but then the main song gets a bit cheesy, so it's not one of my favorite pieces here. "Meccanica" is another of the album's high points, with reminders of PFM, and perhaps a little of ELP, before you hear Bach (the same melody Procol Harum used for their classic hit "A Whiter Shade of Pale") and an excert of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It's strange how Franco Battiato became quite famous, especially with an album like Fetus (but then you have remember what he was doing in the '80s and '90s was a lot more mainstream and commercial). So if you like prog with an avant garde electronic bent, you're sure to enjoy this. By Proghead72

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