It's rare when a new disc hits you with such force you just want to absorb it, to savour it, to stay in the moment and just enjoy.
Even more so when that disc has a twin, and you discover them both at the same time. In 2016, the veteran Neapolitan group issued Ennenne, followed by Ennenne Dub this year 2017. Sanacore could have issued these two together, so I'm reviewing them that way.
How to describe a Neapolitan-Jamaican mix of reggae, dub and Mediterranean sounds, a little Nico d'Angelo and a little Lee "Scratch" Perry.
There are many Neapolitan artists that mix international sounds and the Neapolitan language, among them 99 Posse, and world music maestro Enzo Avitabile, just to name two. That's a rich vein of music and Almamegretta is at the heart of it.
Almamegretta has been around at least a quarter century, making good music, but here all the elements come together, great songwriting, musicianship, production values, and a wealth of lyrics that are new Neapolitan poetry in song. 'Almamegretta' is Neapolitan for 'migrant soul' a name which has a lot of resonance in today's Italy. In Naples, the birth certificate of a child with no known parents indicates that fact with "Ennenne," -- possibly an acronym. It's part of the local lore. This is indeed a work of everyone and no-one.
Almamegretta is Raiz, a very creative Gennaro Tesone (drums), and Paulo Polcari (keyboards), Albino d'Amato, engineer, with Mario Formisano (bass) and Federico Forconi (guitar). We have Raiz -- Gennaro della Volpe -- at the height of his vocal powers, blending Neapolitan, blues, and reggae. The maestro of dub, dreadlocked Paolo Baldini, who can take a song, turn it inside out and back again. And the rest.
There's definitely overlap with the two discs, but the second isn't just dub versions of the first. On the second, various dubmasters take over the controls and remix the original, but more than that. A reggae cover of 'Ciuculatina d'a Ferrovia' (made famous by Nino d'Angelo on his least commercial record, Tempo) is the masterwork on Ennenne. But the dub version on Ennenne Dub is spectacular. Baldini aces it.
We don't get "Pray" until the second disc, and then we get "Pray Dub" at the end of that one. "Pray" can only be described as accomplished Neapolitan rasta soul, sung in English.
"Tempo Niro," and we get two dubs of it as well, features Lucariello on vocals. The rapper has been a big part of Almamegretta's sound from the beginning of the group's trajectory. On the undubbed version, Lucariello's rap, plus a powerful chorus melds with Forconi's searing guitar for a classic track.
A few more highlights: "On the Run" is another soulful beauty, featuring Raiz, leading off the first disc, and with Adrian Sherwood to mix it impressively on the second. "Music Evolution" featuring Perry, is a fun, funky reggae rap on the second. Formisano's reggae bass foundation, and Tesone's drumming, are first rate throughout.
Ten tracks on the first, 15 on the second. "Pray Dub" to finish up the second disc Ennenne Dub and suddenly it ends.
"Keep on the light, say a prayer for the night."