ITALY: Liberi Liberi - Vasco Rossi
Updated: Jan 20
The Italian Rock God proves that great rock music can be just as much down to its energy and style than virtuoso musical talent
When a voice paints a picture it can often be a beautiful thing. In previous albums that have been reviewed on this site, certain vocals have been said to have evoked striking images of nature, the purity of hope that exists in this world and even the splendour of the heavens above. Yet, Vasco Rossi’s vocals on his 1989 album Liberi Liberi, instead conjures up an image of the man behind the voice; far less wholesome than any of the previous visualisations other artists featured on Around the World in 200 Albums had triggered. The man one might imagine is by no means holy or pure. Instead, picture Keith Richards, Iggy Pop and Lemmy fused into one rebellious rock monster.
“Vasco lit a fire up inside my belly that needed to be satisfied and revealed to myself a deep yearning for unadulterated Italian rock bangers that I didn’t even know I had.”
It may be a challenge to listen to the album and not visualise the singer in a leather jacket, racking up metre long lines of cocaine with a bottle of Jack Daniels always at hand. There are some questions to be asked regarding how ‘Italian’ this particular image is, starkly different to the stereotypical idea of 'la dolce vita', yet thoughts of anything in the realm of tranquillity and traditional Italian self-respect are not in Rossi’s playbook. Perhaps one could make him more Italian in one's visions were he instead holding a bottle of Limoncello ready to escape on a Vespa, as opposed to the classic two-wheeled machine of choice of a Harley Davidson that most conventional rockers would go for. However, this is exactly Rossi’s charm. He seems to transcend his nationality and rather be in expert in only one universal language…. not Esperanto, but Rock.
Full disclosure, I have never been a huge rock fan. I am much more likely to be spotted with a glass of red wine in hand listening to Miles Davis than I am to be seen headbanging to the Mötley Crüe. Nevertheless, I am not so pretentious that I can’t enjoy great hard rock it when I hear it – and this is exactly what this album is. Within 30 seconds of the opening track Domenica Lunatica, Vasco lit a fire up inside my belly that needed to be satisfied and revealed to myself a deep yearning for unadulterated Italian rock bangers that I didn’t even know I had. Something just clicked, whilst I could not understand what he was singing about, nor did I think it was musically masterful, I did not care one iota.
As the first track came to an end, I was already hooked. Fortunately, Rossi had me covered and gave me a sweet dose of his gruff, rasping voice, that seems to have been a by-product of the 50 Marlboro Blues he might have chomped down on every day, as the next song commences with him belting out ‘Ormai È Tardi’, a vocal riff that has been stuck in my head for the best parts of two months. I could give an individual run down of each of the songs and tell you how great they are, but that might be slightly redundant as they are all basically the same. They show very little formal musical education but instead transmit an energy that is incredibly powerful and somewhat uplifting usually thanks to the perfect accompaniment of his fiery voice with explosive electric guitar sounds. That said my favourite track of the album, Vivere Senza Te, features a superb saxophone solo, as well as Rossi’s aforementioned vocals and his band’s powerful electric guitar.
There are not many songs on this album, it is just eight tracks long and he certainly left me wanting more. Whilst this album may not be high art, it is not trying to be. It is overtly catchy and fun. It is no wonder that Rossi was the main event of the highest-attended ticketed concert of all time, even 28 years after the album was released as more than 225,000 people gathered to see him in Modena Park. So even if you think you are an angelic being and rock just isn’t for you, why not test your theory and give Vasco one opportunity to try and corrupt your soul with hard rock. I promise you he will succeed, and even if you are scared of this rock'n'roll devil, awakening the beast will feel amazing when you do it.