If Lucio Battisti was Italy’s answer to France’s Serge Gainsbourg, then Amore E Non Amore is his own Histoire De Melody Nelson, a concept album that’s widely regarded as a formative artistic achievement (if far from the most hit packed album) of his respective career. Both albums were released in 1971. For Battisti, the concept came from that dichotomous title: there’s a rocky ‘non-love’ side of the album, which has songs about obsession and adultery, and a ‘love’ side of dreamy, prog-rock instrumentals.
The album saw Battisti working with lyricist Giulio ‘Mogol’ Rapetti, with whom he’d collaborated closely since 1965, enjoying huge hits with the likes of “29 Settembre” and “Sognando La California,” an Italian version of “California Dreamin’”. It was Mogol who first convinced Battisti to perform his own songs, and who conceived the idea for this record. Mogol supplied the inspiration, the title and the titles of its songs, many of them evocative sentences that flesh out the visual picture where lyrics are absent. Take, for example, “Davanti Ad Un Distributore Automatico Di Fiori Dell’aereoporto Di Bruxelles Anch’io Chiuso In Una Bolla Di Vetro,” which translates as “In Front Of A Flowers Vending Machine In Brussels Airport I Am Closed In A Glass Bowl Too”.
In an incredibly rare English language interview accompanying this lavish reissue, Mogol speaks of the album’s conception. “I had an understanding that Lucio was a great musician, a great composer,” he says, “And in my opinion, I felt bad that he was limited exclusively to a pop genre. I wanted him to become a musician; I was really hoping, I had said to him, that he would become an orchestra conductor, a star who would make his own songs, and so I tried to convince him to make songs without lyrics.”
Amore E Non Amore was to be a watershed moment for Battisti. His label considered it to be too experimental and advanced for the Italian audience, and refused to release it. They were wrong: it instead set Battisti on a liberating course of artistic freedom and widespread success, and gifted the world one of Italy’s greatest musical exports.